Oftentimes, when vacation planning time rolls around, international airfare prices and top tropical resorts are some of the first topics we Google. But the truth is, there are countless vacation-worthy destinations that don’t require a passport. The U.S. is brimming with awe-inspiring national parks, engrossing museums and historic sites, and thrilling amusement parks ideal for a family getaway or even a solo road trip. From a vintage motorsport museum to a sky-high observatory to the world’s largest carousel, these are the top attractions in each of our great 50 states.
Alabama: Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
Alaska: Kenai Fjords National Park
Alaska’s natural splendor is the stuff of legends, and it’s on full display in Kenai Fjords National Park, a glacier-filled wonder on the Kenai Peninsula.
Arizona: Grand Canyon National Park
Arkansas: Hot Springs National Park
Arkansas is famous for the beauty of its many parks, including Hot Springs. As its name suggests, the national park, nicknamed “The American Spa,” is rich in natural and healing thermal waters. Guests can stay at nearby Lookout Point Lakeside Inn.
Narrowly edging out Yosemite and Death Valley, our top pick, Disneyland, welcomed nearly 18 million visitors in 2016. There is no shortage of quality hotels in the area, but we’d recommend the Hilton Anaheim or Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort.
Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park
The spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park, which beckoned 4.5 million visitors last year, is a true paradise for hikers, skiers, and wildlife enthusiasts. If you’re not camping out, we recommend bunking at the fables Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining.”
Connecticut: The Mark Twain House & Museum
Arguably one of the country’s most important authors, Mark Twain (also known as Samuel Clemens) lived with his family in this American High Gothic-style Hartford home from 1874 to 1891. It’s where the author lived when he wrote “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “The Prince and The Pauper,” and “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.”
Delaware: Rehoboth Beach
Summer is the season to visit Delaware. Its famous Rehoboth Beach and boardwalk comes to life and offers swimmers, sunbathers, and beach readers an ideal venue for oceanside amusement and R&R. We recommend an overnight stay at the Victorian-style Boardwalk Plaza Hotel.
Florida: Walt Disney World
Just as its sister park claimed the top spot in California, the famed, character-filled Walt Disney World in Florida is our pick for Florida’s number one attraction. Our local hotel recommendations include Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando.
Georgia: Stone Mountain Park
This park, spread across 3,200 acres, makes our list for three reasons: It’s rich in history, it’s incredibly family-friendly, and it offers numerous recreational and educational activities.
Hawaii: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii’s top attraction is, of course, one of its many stunning natural wonders. We’ve selected the Big Island’s aptly named Volcanoes National Park, which is home to two active volcanoes, a museum, and trails overlooking lava. You might not want to stay too close to the volcanoes, so we recommend the Four Seasons Hualalai, located just over a two-hour drive from the park.
Idaho: Craters of the Moon
This national monument and preserve is the result of major volcanic events that took place almost 20,000 years ago. Comprising massive, photogenic lava fields, the park was established by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924.
Illinois: Willis Tower
Chicago is a veritable treasure trove of architectural wonders, and its iconic Willis Tower takes our top spot. Originally known as the Sears Tower, this 1,450-foot skyscraper was designed by Bruce Graham and is famous for its glass-bottom Skydeck. Nearby lodging options include the W Chicago – City Center and the JW Marriot Chicago.
Indiana: Turkey Run State Park
This truly majestic state park is famous for its deep ravines and canyons and sandstone gorges. It can be explored by foot, canoe, or on horseback.
Iowa: State Fair
Though technically an event and not an attraction, the famous Iowa State Fair, held every August, is a time honored tradition. The fair welcomes approximately one million visitors each year, and it’s one of the country’s largest agricultural expos.
Kansas: Botanica, The Wichita Gardens
This whimsical botanical wonderland is comprised of 30 picturesque gardens, including a Shakespeare Garden, a Peony Collection, and an enchanting Railroad Garden with operational model trains.
Kentucky: Mammoth Cave National Park
The world’s longest cave system, Mammoth is an adventurer’s paradise. Like something out of “National Treasure,” the subterranean park features dark, winding labyrinths and immense, spooky chambers.
Louisiana: National WWII Museum
There is no shortage of must-visit attractions in New Orleans, and the WWII Museum chief is among them. The museum highlights how and why the war was fought, and its enduring impact, and is located near the Hotel Modern.
Maine: Portland Head Light
A quintessential Maine experience often involves seafood dinners, beach walks, and visits to towering seaside lighthouses. Portland Head Light is one of the state’s most historic lighthouses — it dates back to 1787 and is the most photographed lighthouse in the country. For a luxurious stay in town, consider the Westin Portland Harborview.
Maryland: Camden Yards
Massachusetts: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Visitors to this major U.S. museum — the fourth largest in the country — can experience one of the most comprehensive art collections in the U.S. Local lodging options include Hotel Commonwealth and the Inn at St Botolph.
Michigan: The Henry Ford
American car culture is engrained in Michigan history and a visit to the Great Lake State isn’t complete without exploring the sprawling and educational museum campus of the Henry Ford. The museum is a short drive from the Doubletree.
Minnesota: Mall of America
A shopper’s delight, the goliath Mall of America celebrated its 25th birthday this year. The mall is accessible via a skywalk from the Radisson Blu.
Mississippi: Vicksburg National Military Park
Civil War buffs will likely appreciate a visit to this Military Park, the site of the Civil War Battle of Vicksburg, which took place in the summer of 1863.
Missouri: Gateway Arch
St. Louis’ famous arch is the world’s tallest man-made national monument. Visitors can ride an enclosed tram to its peak and experience remarkable views of the city. Visitors can consider a stay at the charming Cheshire Hotel, or the nearby Drury Plaza Hotel.
Montana: Glacier National Park
A true paradise for nature lovers, this stunning national park is home to 700 miles of prime hiking trails and is ideal for camping, backpacking, and mountain biking. For those who don’t wish to camp out, there are a number of rustic, no-frills hotels nearby, like the Glacier General Store and Cabins.
Nebraska: Pioneer Village
Comprising 50,000 pieces of Americana spread over 26 buildings, this roadside attraction was founded by Chicago manufacturer Harold Warp. The complex features an original Pony Express station and a schoolhouse. Visitors can experience the traditions of yesteryear.
Nevada: Las Vegas Strip
Nevada is home to many historical and natural treasures, but the famous Vegas Strip is truly the state’s calling card. There is no shortage of hotels there, but our top picks include the Mandarin Oriental, the Four Seasons, and the Wynn.
New Hampshire: Mount Washington
A winter wonderland perfect for ski bunnies and snowboarders, Mount Washington is the highest peak in the northeastern United States. The Omni Mount Washington Resort is a convenient local lodging option.
New Jersey: Liberty State Park
New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns
A network of nearly 120 caves makes up this national park in the Guadalupe Mountains. Its main attraction is its wondrous, stalactite-filled Big Room.
New York: Empire State Building
North Carolina: Biltmore Estate
Famous for its superlative, America’s Largest Home, this Vanderbilt mansion is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and features an on-site inn and winery. The Residences at Biltmore and the Omni Grove Park Inn are a short drive from the property.
North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
A quintessential piece of America’s natural history, this park is home to craggy badlands, rugged trails, the famous Painted Canyon, and majestic bison and elk.
Ohio: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
A music lover’s delight, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland is both a performance venue and museum that celebrates rock’s greatest, most legendary acts. Nearby is the historic, Victorian-style Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade.
Oklahoma: National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
A celebration of the adventures, folklore, and history of the American frontier, this museum is home to nearly 30,000 Western and American Indian art objects.
Oregon: Crater Lake National Park
With a landscape so stunning it’s almost surreal, Crater Lake was formed 7,700 years ago when a volcano collapsed. The lake is the deepest in the country and is regarded as one of the most pristine bodies of water on Earth.
Pennsylvania: Independence Hall
Philadelphia is, of course, famous for the pivotal role it played in the American Revolution. One of its most notable historic sites is Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Local hotels include the Franklin Hotel and Hotel Monaco.
Rhode Island: The Breakers
The most famous of Rhode Island’s many Gilded Age mansions, the Breakers was the palatial summer home of the Vanderbilts. Visitors can stay at the seaside Chanler at Cliff Walk or the historic Mill Street Inn.
South Carolina: Fort Sumter
South Dakota: Mount Rushmore
Can you name the four famous faces carved into this iconic sculpture? If not, perhaps a South Dakota sojourn is in order. Completed in 1941, this National Memorial is an homage to four U.S. presidents and was built to symbolize freedom and democracy. Nearby lodging options include The Rushmore Hotel & Suites and the no-frills Mt. Rushmore’s White House Resort.
Tennessee: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
With cascading waterfalls and awe-inspiring vistas, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the country’s greatest natural treasures. Glenstone Lodge and Old Creek Lodge are easily accessible from the park.
Texas: The Alamo
Utah: Zion National Park
If Utah is an outdoorsman’s kingdom, then Zion National Park is its crown jewel. Punctuated by bold, ancient sandstone cliffs and narrow canyons, this postcard-perfect park is near the Zion Lodge and Zion Mountain Ranch.
Vermont: Ben & Jerry's Waterbury Factory
Ice cream lovers flock to this legendary Vermont landmark to get the inside “scoop” on Ben & Jerry’s ice cream-making process. Local lodging options include the luxuriant Stowe Mountain Lodge.
Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg
Time machines might not exist yet, but you can still get an authentic taste of the past at Colonial Williamsburg, where time seems to have stopped in 18th century. Want a historic hotel option? Consider the Historic Powhatan Resort, just five miles away.
Washington: Space Needle
Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle was once the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. It welcomes more than 1 million visitors per year, which makes it the top tourist attraction in the Pacific Northwest. Our local hotel picks include the Fairmont Olympic Seattle and the Four Seasons.
West Virginia: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
If John Denver’s classic song taught listeners one thing, it’s that West Virginia has some unforgettable natural scenery. Among the state’s natural wonders is Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which is brimming with both history and charm.
Wisconsin: House on the Rock
A whimsical — and at times puzzling — construction, Alex Jordan’s astounding House on the Rock boasts the world’s largest carousel, along with engrossing gallery spaces and a floating infinity room.
Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park
Famous for being the world’s first national park, Yellowstone technically spreads into parts of Montana and Idaho, though it’s primarily located in Wyoming. This park has got it all: rivers, hot springs, geysers, and remarkable canyons. Visits can camp in the park, or consider local, no-frills lodgings like the Canyon Lodge and Cabins.
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