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Happy independence day, America! They say it takes leaving home to appreciate the beauty of your own backyard, and in my evolution as a traveler, I’ve found that to be true. There was a time when not a single one of the fifty states seemed adventurous enough to quench my thirst for all things exotic, but over time I’ve come to appreciate the breadth, diversity and awe of all the places I can visit without ever having to crack open a passport. In honor of the USA’s big day, here are my thirteen favorite domestic travel destinations, in no particular order.

USA Travel Blog

1. Martha’s Vineyard

I’ve yet to find a more charming domestic destination than this one. Taking the ferry over to this quaint, chain-store-free island is like stepping back in time. Each of the island’s five towns has a distinct character, and there are endless hidden beaches and backroads to explore. I grew up making annual summer trips to Martha’s Vineyard and now that my family owns a home there we fall more and more in love all the time.

Perfect day: A morning bike ride from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown, an afternoon at State Beach, and an evening at Red Kat Kitchen followed by ice cream on Circuit Avenue.

Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard

2. New York City

My last permanent American address was in Brooklyn, and it’s hard for me to truly imagine ever settling back down anywhere else in the US. New York City is the measuring stick from which I size up every other city in the world, and there are very few places on the planet in which I feel so alive. How else can one sum up the city that never sleeps?

Perfect day: The best part about New York is that every day can be different, but for fun let’s say – a crazy fitness class, brunch somewhere painfully hip, a few hours strolling across a bridge and amongst some skyscrapers, and sunset on the roof of an apartment building before setting off for a warehouse party in Brooklyn.

New York City

New York City

New York City

3. New Orleans

I’ve got big love for the Big Easy. The live music seeping from every bar, the flavors wafting from every restaurant, the joy of Mardi Gras that lingers throughout the year, the sense of resilience that sits with every resident… damn if this city doesn’t just have soul. Though my sister relocated to Boston and so I no longer have an in-town crash pad to land in, I have a feeling New Orleans hasn’t seen the last of either of us.

Perfect day: A morning wandering the Garden District, a twenty-five cent martini lunch at Commander’s Palace, an afternoon taking in the French Quarter and the evening dancing to a big brass band at The Maple Leaf.

New Orleans

New Orleans

New Orleans

4. Miami

A city on the sea, what more could a girl ask for? With its stunning beaches, bustling art scene, pristine art deco architecture, amazing nightlife, outdoor-loving community and infusion of Latin culture and flavor, Miami is one of my favorite cities in America. Don’t get me started on the low cost of living and the strategic location for flights to Latin America and the Caribbean. I’ve entertained many a daydream about moving here!

Perfect day: Paddleboard yoga on South Beach, an afternoon stroll along the art deco wonders of Ocean Drive, and dinner and drinks in Little Havana, Wynwood Arts District or South Beach, depending on the vibe of the day.

Miami

Miami

Miami

5. Nashville

How could this country music lover not list Music City among her must-visit vacation destinations? Nashville hits all marks on the travel trinity of music, food, and Southern hospitality. And yes – I’m addicted to the TV show of the same name.

Perfect day: Whatever my dear friend and Queen of Nashville Kristin Luna tells you to do.

Nashville

Nashville

Nashville

6. The Hawaiian Islands

Naming a whole state is a bit of a cop out, but I just couldn’t choose! Oahu and Maui are the islands I’ve spent the most time on and the likely candidates for ones I’d chose to set up camp if I ever made good on my promise to someday live aloha full time. Hawaii is so much more than honeymooners sipping overpriced drinks aside an exclusive pool. It’s the beauty of the land, the spirit of the ocean, the strength of the culture, and the way you feel when the islanders treat you like ohana.

Maui perfect day: A morning surfing off the Honoappiilani Highway, kalua pig lunch in Paia and an afternoon driving around the upcountry farms

Oahu perfect day: A morning kayaking in Kailua, shave ice for lunch, an afternoon at the Honolulu Museum of Art and a night checking out the hip bars and clubs in Chinatown

Hawaii

Hawaii

Hawaii

7. Las Vegas

Las Vegas is one of those destinations I just can’t seem to quit – and I don’t even gamble! The food, the nightlife, the people watching and the pool parties – there’s simply nowhere in America greater at entertaining. Need a break from the bright lights? Options for day trips are unreal – drive to Valley of Fire State Park, Red Rock Canyon, the Hoover Dam, or Seven Magic Mountains, or just pop up to the hip Downtown.

Perfect day: Spend the day poolside at a party or on a lounger depending on your mood, watch sunset from the High Roller, and then head downtown for dinner, drinks, and a tour of the Neon Museum.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

8. The Finger Lakes

I may be biased considering I call Upstate New York my original home (I hail from Albany!) but I’m obsessed with the beauty of The Finger Lakes region. Glamping in Ithaca, glass-blowing in Corning, hiking through Watkins Glen, and wine tasting along the shores of Keuka and Cayuga Lakes – there’s much more to New York State than our famous five boroughs!

Perfect day: Wake up at Firelight Camps, hike down to Buttermilk Falls in the morning, and reward yourself with a trip around the wineries in the afternoon. Cap it off with an Antioxidant Wine Trail Wrap at August Moon Spa!

Finger Lakes New York

Finger Lakes New York

Finger Lakes New York

9. Black Rock City

You may only be able to visit Black Rock City for about a week per year, but the crazy urban planning experiment that takes place in the northern Nevada desert at the end of each August is arguably the most unique, fascinating place in America. Burning Man is more than a festival — it’s a ticket to another planet, no passport necessary.

Perfect day: A Mimosa and Motown Brunch, an Acro Yoga Workshop in a yurt, an art-spotting bike ride around the playa, sunset at The Man, and dancing the night away at a Britney Vs. Madonna dance party at Planet Earth.

Black Rock City

Black Rock City

Black Rock City

10. The Everglades

I’ve spent less time in The Everglades than anywhere else on this list – literally just a day – but I’d be remiss to leave it off considering I think it is one of the most underrated natural wonders in America. Maybe I’ve just read one too many Carl Hiaasan novels, but I’m obsessed with this quirky, wild, untamed corner of the Sunshine State.

Perfect day: A morning riding the Shark Valley bike loop, lunch in Everglades City, and an afternoon on an airboat tour.

The Everglades

The Everglades

The Everglades

11. Myrtle Beach

Everyone has one — that nostalgia filled, guilty-pleasure destination of their childhood. For me, it’s Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to where I’ve pilled in a minivan and made the thirteen hour drive down the coast more times than I can count. Miles of sand, a cooler full of beach snacks and a non-existent to-do list? It’s the perfect low-drama dose of Vitamin D.

Perfect day: A morning at the beach, and afternoon by the pool, and an evening strolling around Broadway at the Beach watching fireworks and enjoying the happy glow of people on vacation.

Myrtle Beach

12. San Diego

San Francisco is a little too cold and Los Angeles is a little too sprawling, but for this newly-minted certified California addict, San Diego is just right (Golden State runners up definitely include both Palm Springs and Disneyland!) I fell in love with San Diego’s charming city’s surfer vibes, dog friendly mood and good-life loving energy — this would absolutely be the city I’d settle in if I ever deflected to the West Coast.

Perfect day: An acai bowl for breakfast and a day at the Ocean Beach dog beach with a four legged friend, capped off with an early dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter and a late-night candlight yoga class in Mission Beach.

Joshua Tree Road Trip
Joshua Tree Road Trip

San Diego

13. Lake Powell

Grand Canyon gets all the attention (and for good reason!) but if I had to pick one piece of paradise in this corner of the country it would be Lake Powell — a body of water marked by surreal beauty and surrounded by natural treasures like slot canyons, Horseshoe Bend, the Colorado River, and more. Next trip, I’m renting a houseboat!

Perfect day: A morning tour of the slot canyons, an afternoon stand up paddle tour of the lake, and an evening in the hot tub at Wahweap Campground (yes, this lakeside campground has a hot tub and a pool!)

Lake Powell

Lake Powell

Lake Powell

And A Few I Can’t Wait to Get To

The crazy part is how hard it was to narrow down this list – and I’ve only been to 21 of the country’s 50 great states! I’m super enthusiastic about a Colorado River rafting slash Lake Powell houseboating trip, and I have my eye on the Denali Star. I want to hop over to my Martha’s Vineyard neighbor Nantucket, take a dog-friendly road trip to the wineries of Santa Barbara, and go diving in the Florida Keys. Among cities I’m itching to visit, Austin, Seattle, and Portland top the list (along with Denver and Atlanta, which I’ve been to but far too briefly or too young).

Considering my propensity for visiting the same destinations over and over and over again, there’s no doubt that I’ll tick off my “new place” wish list slowly. But man, I can’t wait for all the homegrown adventures ahead.

What’s your favorite US travel destination?

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103 Comments...
  • Dominique
    July 4 2016

    I don’t know why, but I get super excited reading about all these destinations in one list! I’ve not a planned a big US trip because – like you initially thought – more exotic destinations are much better. However, reading your list I’m starting to get a bit of a travel bug itch 🙂
    Dominique recently posted..Ir.D.F. Woudagemaal – A UNESCO Heritage Site

    • John
      July 6 2016

      I was also under the impression that the US is not such an exotic location. It seems we were all wrong:)
      John recently posted..Best Rio Getaways: Amazing Places To Visit

      • Alex
        July 7 2016

        Me too! (or three?) It’s a pretty cool country after all 🙂

      • Tonya
        July 8 2016

        I’ve always known it’s the best place to travel. It’s incredibly diverse and awesomely beautiful. I want to see everything it has to offer. I’ll be 36 states by the end of the summer, and even in those states I have so much else to see. I would rather see and be an expert at my own country than anywhere else.

        • Alex
          July 8 2016

          Thirty six is a ton of states, Tonya! Kudos to you for so thoroughly exploring your own backyard 🙂

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Woo hoo, that’s what I like to hear 😉 America is a beautiful travel destination indeed!

  • Amanda
    July 4 2016

    Love it! Though you’re definitely missing out on some Midwest destinations! If you ever want to come and explore Cleveland, you let me know. 😉
    Amanda recently posted..Travel in the Time of Zika: How to Avoid Mosquitos on the Road

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      I will be heading to Chicago and Decatur this summer! That’s Midwest, right 😉

  • Katie
    July 4 2016

    Seattle and Denver are two of my favs – hope you make it there soon. I am dying to go to Austin and New Orleans

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Seattle I keep trying for — I’m dying to get there! One of these summers the stars will align 🙂

    • Tonya
      July 8 2016

      Seattle is one of my favorites, too. I like Denver. Don’t know if it’s a favorite––yet.

  • Maria
    July 4 2016

    Wow those are some gorgeous pictures! I am going to the States next year and just can’t wait – Starting in New York, hope I’ll reach New Orleans and maybe even Nashville on the way?!

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      That sounds awesome! I’d love to do a long road trip in the USA someday. So far mine have only been a couple of days, tops 🙂

  • Vicks
    July 4 2016

    I’m also in love with Las Vegas! I’m hoping to visit next year as part of a road trip from New Mexico, via the national parks of Utah, and end up in Vegas for a few days. I would love to visit all the states, a bit more of a challenge being from the uk, but I’ll get them all ticked off eventually.

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      That sounds like an amazing trip, Vicks! The National Parks in Utah have really crept up on my list, hoping to make some magic happen there in the next few years!

  • Mary B
    July 4 2016

    Portland/Oregon/the PacNW and New Orleans are my favorites so far, both as (temporary) homes and as destinations that I keep returning to. I also loved hiking Southern Utah, and eating my way through Austin and New York. I have to also give a shout out to my home state, North Carolina, which has beaches, mountains, craft beer and the BEST barbecue all within a few hours’ drive of each other.
    Mary B recently posted..A Different Kind of Travel

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      I definitely feel like I’m missing out on all the Pacific Northwest fun so far — hopefully that’s remedied soon 🙂

  • Lili
    July 4 2016

    I was too distracted by the cute 4th of July photo of Tucker to read the rest. Will do once my excitement has died down. Such a cute pup!
    Lili recently posted..Travel Missteps: The 4th of July Parade

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Ha, I can totally relate, happens to me all the time 😉

  • Cate
    July 4 2016

    My favorite domestic destination by far is Santa Fe! I feel like you would love that destination Alex. Don’t forget the Midwest, omaha has one of the top zoos in the world and a quirky downtown- let me know if you’ll ever need a guide!!!
    Cate recently posted..The Surf and Sun of Mancora

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Aw, thanks Cate! I might just take you up on it someday!

  • Kathryn Allen
    July 4 2016

    We miss you on Martha’s Vineyard today!!!!! We just discovered Jetty Beach, even closer than State Beach, and it was awesome!

    XOXOXOXO

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Can’t wait for August!

  • Alaina
    July 4 2016

    You should definitely check out Detroit if you haven’t already! I live here and it’s just a beautiful, vibrant city. I never want to leave (except to travel of course 😉 )

    Alaina recently posted..Top Five Reasons to Travel Solo

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      I hear so many amazing things about Detroit, it’s totally on my list too!

  • Melinda
    July 4 2016

    I hope you get to visit Santa Barbara and the central coast wine region. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful ans serene spots in the U.S. Give us a shoot before you come and we’ll share our favorite spots.

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      It’s super high on my list — if I don’t make it happen in early fall, it will definitely be a must-do for next summer!

  • Sarah
    July 4 2016

    If you’re in Santa Barbara wine country, make sure to go visit the miniature horses (Quicksilver Ranch) and ostriches (Ostrich land), as well as visit the trying-so-hard-to-be-Danish town of Solvang. Also, continue driving up the coast to the amazingly beautiful and underrated Big Sur area!

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Another vote for Santa Barbara, I love it! And you know how to get my attnetion — mini horses and ostriches?! I’m in!

  • Ijana
    July 4 2016

    The US does have a lot of great destinations that some people tend to forget about, because there’s a whole giant world out there waiting to be explored! But it certainly is a big country with a lot of great places. My list would look a lot different from yours, including many colder places and smaller cities, but you’ve interested me in a few of these places as well 😀

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Smaller cities I could get into, colder places not so sure 😛

  • Gemma
    July 4 2016

    I love the States – so varied. It mesmerises me that you can drive for under an hour and be in a different landscape. I love that hot mess NOLA but would also add Austin, Texas (baby). Loved it so much we returned the next year to get hitched after SXSW. The Everglades look stunning – a new one to me! Happy 4th.
    Gemma recently posted..Three Weeks in Peru Itinerary

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Thanks Gemma! I just KNOW I will fall in love with Austin, can’t wait to get weird with that city someday.

  • Yay! Nashville made the list!

    I agree with you on most of these (no surprise there), though I *really* need to make it to the Everglades and Lake Powell still. Come with me?
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted..The Cutest House on Martha’s Vineyard

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Heck yes! And so excited to have a repeat trip to Tennessee on my hypothetical calendar 🙂

  • Kaya
    July 5 2016

    The Rocky Mountaineer is in Canada! I’ve done it, it was amazing. 🙂

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Whoops you’re right, I was thinking of the Denali Star — my friend Angie just does so many cool train trips that I want to copy, I mixed them up 😛 Corrected now!

  • What a great list! We just went to Portland last weekend and loved it!
    Bethany @ Dose of Discovery recently posted..Weekend Getaway to Portland

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Jealous — and off to read your post!

  • Lauren
    July 5 2016

    Austin is incredible! I think you’ll love it there 🙂

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Oh man, I do too! I just have a feeling we are meant for each other!

  • Emma
    July 5 2016

    This list gives me such itchy feet! I’ve only been to GA and FL, and those have mostly been for relaxing family time (and Disneyland of course), I really haven’t done a lot of exploring. San Francisco and NYC are right at the top of my wishlist, and a road trip is the ultimate dream – especially since you did your JUCY trip!
    Emma recently posted..A Weekend Video and Mum’s Pavlova Recipe

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      I feel ya, until relatively recently my only US travel was really Florida and Illinois and most of it was for family time. Most of my US travel is still centered around visiting family and friends! But it’s fun branching out and turning those into bigger trips.

  • Marc
    July 5 2016

    We made the list !!!

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Duh! I’m just angling for a repeat invitation! 😉

  • Jordan
    July 5 2016

    Great list!

    If you haven’t you have to make it to Seward, Alaska and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Two of my personal favorites!

    I have to make it to Lake Powell soon. Looks awesome!

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      I haven’t been to either — thanks for the recommendations!

  • Laura
    July 5 2016

    Yes! Love Carl Hiaasan! His books are total guilty pleasures 🙂 Great list, you’ve certainly seem more of the US than I have! I really need to get out and start exploring the 50 states!
    Laura recently posted..A Two Week Northern Thailand Itinerary

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Oh man, me too! Love his stuff! I pick up a new one every time I go to Florida.

  • I will always have a soft spot for NYC, but to be honest I am dying to go to New Orleans and the surrounding areas. I’m pretty sure I would fall head over heels!
    Brookylyn @ justbeingbrooklyn recently posted..Travel Gear We All Need

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      I feel that way about a lot of cities on my wishlist — haven’t been there yet, but feel confident I’d be obsessed with them! I guess when you know, you know 🙂

  • Justine
    July 5 2016

    Yay, glad to see my hometown of San Diego made the list. This post is reminding me of how little US traveling I’ve done. I swear someday I’ll do some traveling in my own country!
    Justine recently posted..Bye Bye Beijing, Hello Bali!

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      It’s crazy how many of these destinations I’ve only hit up in the last few years — US travel has been a recent adventure for me 🙂 It helps having family and friends spread out all over!

  • Kamil
    July 6 2016

    Very nice places! Thanks 🙂

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      You’re so welcome! Happy fourth!

  • Heather
    July 6 2016

    Great list. Consider adding Minneapolis and Stillwater, MN to your future travels – not in winter, of course. Lots of great outdoor hikes, water activities, restaurants and fab music scene.
    Heather recently posted..Our Travelationship in Review: June 2016