Oh Say Can USA: Amazing Things To Do When You Visit All 50 States - Part 1

Last updated on: May 26, 2020

(Last Updated On: May 26, 2020)

The US is a spectacularly beautiful country from sea to shining sea. There are so many incredible places to see, you could spend a lifetime traveling in the US alone. During my travels, I’ve managed to visit all 50 states. I’ve put together a list of 50 amazing things to do in each state. Part 1 shows the first 25 states from Alabama to Missouri.

Part 1: Amazing Things to Do When You Visit All 50 States – the First 25 States from Alabama to Missouri

Alabama: Walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

On March 7, 1965, nearly 600 people, including John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr. set off to march from Selma to Montgomery in support of civil rights for African Americans.

Along their route, they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they encountered such brutal violence that the date became known as “Bloody Sunday”.  So visiting this bridge will allow you to trace the footsteps of the civil rights movement and appreciate the courage of humanity and the freedom to travel.

Alaska: View the Aurora Borealis.

From Prince William Sound to Denali National Park, Alaska has so much beautiful natural scenery that you could spend months trying to take it all in.

If you can brave the bitterly cold temperatures, one of the most remarkable things to do in Alaska is viewing the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.

The experience will likely top anything you’d see when you visit any of the other 50 states.

Alaska Aurora Borealis - Visit All 50 States

Prime viewing season for this spectacle of solar wind and colliding electrons takes place from September to March, and the most reliable place to view the aurora borealis is in Fairbanks.

To take the guesswork out of navigating Alaskan winters, join an Aurora Borealis viewing tour that visits the Arctic Circle.

Where to stay

Originally founded in the early 1900s, Chena Hot Springs Resort offers a relaxing place to enjoy natural thermal waters amidst the intense Alaska winters.

Arizona: Road trip through Arizona.

For the outdoor lover, there’s no better state than Arizona, and the dry weather all but guarantees great conditions.

Go hiking in the Grand Canyon, Four Peaks Wilderness Area, Lake Havasu Falls, Camelback Mountain, and the Red Rock Country, all of which offer some extraordinary scenery.

Even if you don’t want to visit all 50 states, put Arizona on your list!

Related post: Top 5 Day Trips from Sedona, Arizona

Related post: The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip

Chapel of Holy Cross, Sedona - Visit all 50 states - Best things to do in each state

Arkansas: Bathe in natural American hot springs.

Nicknamed “The American Spa”, at Hot Springs National Park, you can bathe in the soothing thermal waters of natural mineral springs.

For the quintessential Hot Springs experience, try a thermal mineral bath at Buckstaff Bathhouse, the only remaining fully operational bath house in the Park. There’s nothing like soaking in nature’s spa.

While Hot Springs is more famous, Eureka Springs is more picturesque. Located in the Ozark Mountains, the town is lined with Victorian houses and an air all its own.

Where to stay

For a relaxing stay in Hot Springs, look no further than Hotel Hale. This historic site was originally built in 1892 and refurbished to its Classic Revival style in 1912.

In Eureka Springs, 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa is the place to stay. This mountaintop spa resort was originally built in 1886 and features 72 rooms with upscale suites and 4 luxury cottages.

Dubbed America’s most haunted hotel, the hotel offerings also include ghost tours.

California: Drive the Pacific Coast Highway through California.

California offers a ton of bucket-list activities, and one to add to the top of your list is driving the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

A road trip is one of the best ways to visit all 50 states, and California is full of scenic road to explore. So when I ended up where Malibu meets the Pacific Coast Highway, I never wanted so much to follow where the road would lead.

I’ve only driven a small portion of California’s section of the 650-mile Pacific Coast Highway. However, I plan to return to complete this road trip, as the portion of road I did see was absolutely spectacular!

So to complete the drive, begin in San Diego and stop in Malibu, Santa Barbara, Big Sur, and Santa Cruz to allow ample time to see the many scenic overlooks and coastal towns along the way.

If you don’t want to drive it yourself, this 3-day tour from San Francisco to Los Angeles offers a seamless way to experience this unforgettable journey.

Pacific Coast - Visit all 50 states - Best things to do in each state

Colorado: Visit canyons, parks, and rivers.

Colorado is fantastic for nature lovers, offering plenty of amazing places to explore. One such place, Garden of the Gods, located outside Colorado Springs, has a setting that truly feels divine.

Garden of the Gods in Colorado - Visit All 50 States
Garden of the Gods

Other fantastic parks to visit include Mesa Verde National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Colorado is well known for its rivers and streams, so why not take part in an adrenaline-filled adventure while white water rafting one of its rivers.

There are rapids for all ages and abilities, so for the beginner, try Browns Canyon on the Arkansas River.

For the experienced rafter, passing through the Colorado River’s Gore Canyon will certainly provide the thrill of a lifetime.

Connecticut: Do a museum walking tour through Hartford.

Hartford should be called HARTford, given the city’s numerous art galleries, museums, community arts centers, and performing arts venues.

Through itineraries, such as City Walks offered by GPSMyCity, you can actually do a self-guided walking tour of Hartford’s art galleries and museums, including the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art–the nation’s first public art museum.

Hartford Children's Museum - Visit All 50 States

Delaware: Visit Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach is a beautiful, family-friendly summer destination on the Eastern Shore.  Walk the boardwalk, try carnival-type food like funnel cakes or Thrasher’s famous fries, and hang out on the beach. 

The neighborhoods in the city are beautiful and typical of the nautical style of this part of the US.

Related post: 4 Awesome Things to Do in Rehoboth

Rehoboth Beach - Visit all 50 states - Best things to do in each state

Florida: Go island hopping in the Florida Keys.

There is certainly no shortage of things to do in Florida from Disney World to the Everglades. However, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of the miles of coastline in this peninsula state.

The Florida Keys offer a welcome break from the Florida mainland. Pop the top on your convertible and drive the Overseas Highway to serene shores and island time or sail the Keys, another great alternative.

‘The Keys’ are known for their local foods, too, from conch fritters to the famous key lime pie.

Key attractions throughout the Keys are lighthouses, Ernest Hemingway’s House, the Southernmost Point landmark, and of course, the ocean!

Georgia: Visit Savannah.

If you’ve never visited Georgia before, you should definitely visit Atlanta first, because there is so much to see in this mecca of the South.

It’s the peach capital of the world, a music capital, and the location of numerous sites honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

However, Savannah should be next on your list. Take a cooking class with your where you can gain skills in Lowcountry cooking and traditional Southern cuisine. Chef Joe Randall offers hands-on classes where you can “put a little South in your mouth.”

Take a hop-on, hop-off trolley tour through the city, and do some shopping at City Market, Whitaker Street, and Shop Scad, which features goods designed at Savannah College of Art and Design.

Where to stay

Stay in one of Savannah’s historic mansions turned bed and breakfast, such as Galloway House Inn or Hamilton-Turner Inn.

Hawaii: Take a sightseeing flight over Kauai.

Each of the Hawaiian islands is worth a visit. However, head to Kauai for rugged beauty at a relaxed pace.

Kauai has incredible waterfalls, mountains, and beaches, and one of the best ways to get a glimpse of this stunning scenery is a helicopter or plane flight over Kauai.

Feel like you’re riding over clouds as you soar over the beautiful coastlines of Napali and Hanalei Bay witnessing truly unforgettable views.

Napali Coast

Idaho: Drive Idaho’s scenic highways.

I knew Idaho was famous for potatoes, but I wasn’t sure what else I’d discover in the state.

Driving around this state is epic! It’s one of the most beautiful states to take a drive, with at least 25 amazing scenic highways.

The most notable highways are the International Selkirk Loop & Wild Horse Trail Scenic Byway, Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway, Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, Thousand Springs Scenic Byway, and the Teton Scenic Byway.

Take the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway to Hells Canyon National Recreational Area, a ten-mile wide canyon that borders Oregon.

Take the Scenic Byway to Shoshone Falls, a waterfall on the Snake River, which is taller than Niagara Falls.

Illinois: Bike through downtown Chicago.

One of my favorite experiences in Chicago began at Navy Pier, where I rented a bike to ride around downtown Chicago, a great biking city!

The 18.5-mile Lakefront Trail has some of the best big-city biking you’ll find, providing gorgeous views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan. Roam at your own pace or take an exciting guided tour through Lakefront neighborhoods.

Chicago - Visit all 50 states - Best things to do in each state

Indiana: Complete the Indiana Cave Trail

Ride a boat through caverns, brave the rugged terrain, and visit shimmering waterfalls and impressive formations along the Indiana Cave Trail.

The four amazing caves—Bluespring Caverns, Indiana Caverns, Marengo Cave, and Squire Boone Caverns—just might awaken your inner “Indiana” Jones!

Iowa:  Explore the bridges of Madison County.

Popularized by the movie of the same name starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, the bridges of Madison County are beautiful covered bridges built between 1850 and 1900.

Originally, there were more than 100 covered bridges in Iowa, but only a few are still standing.

The Madison County Chamber of Commerce offers online itineraries to do your own self-drive tour with numerous photo ops and sites of interest along the way.

Madison County is about an hour’s drive from the capital, Des Moines, which also hosts the Iowa State Fair every August.

Within two hours driving of Madison County, you can snap a photo at the American Gothic house, which is modeled after the famous painting of the same name.

Kansas: Stand in the geographic center of the U.S.

In the tiny town of Lebanon, KS, lies a small national monument called the Geographic Center of the Contiguous United States.

Snap a photo here so you can say that you’ve actually been to the heart of America. It makes a great stop on a road trip during your quest to visit all 50 states.

A three-hour drive from Lebanon, KS, brings you to two natural wonder Stonehenge-like chalk formations worth visiting: Monument Rocks and Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park.

Kentucky: Attend the Kentucky Derby.

Don your best fascinator and look prim and proper at the derby. While Kentucky is famous for bourbon, basketball, and bluegrass, it’s horse racing that put Kentucky on the map.

Plan to spend all day at the Kentucky Derby, as it will be a marathon, but one of the most exciting sporting events of your life.

Don’t be afraid to place a bet—it just might be your lucky day!

When attending the state’s most famous event, you must try its signature drink—the mint julep, which is a bourbon-based cocktail mixed with sugar syrup, ice, and fresh mint.

And if you fancy more bourbon, also try the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Mint Julep

Louisiana: Party at Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras has all the bells, whistles, and more—literally. This epic street party is a big part of the Crescent City’s cultural identity, with the French Quarter in New Orleans being the epicenter of activity.  

As everyone know’s there’s a lot of flashing, parading, dancing, and drinking in the streets! #beststreetpartyever

Where to stay

Located at the corner of Bourbon Street and Toulouse Street, Four Points by Sheraton French Quarter is the perfect location to observe all the action. With gallery balcony rooms, you can join the party right from your room!

Maine: Try Maine lobster.

Lobster is to Maine what barbecue is to Memphis.  From lobster bisque to lobster rolls to lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, lobster is ubiquitous in Maine, appearing on practically every restaurant menu. 

If you visit the charming town of Kennebunkport, head to Port Lobster,a counter-style establishment specializing in lobster rolls, and Alisson’s Restaurant for some seriously good clam chowder!

Maryland: Eat Maryland crab cakes.

Head farther south to Maryland to try its signature food—Maryland crab cakes. And there’s no better place to go than historic Faidley Seafood in Baltimore’s Lexington Market.

This modest seafood establishment began in 1886 as an open-air fresh fish business, so its history is just as memorable as its crab cakes.

Massachusetts: Walk the Freedom Trail.

No visit to Massachusetts would be complete without visiting Boston. The city is one of the oldest places in the US, so it’s full of history and beautiful colonial architecture.

Spend a day on Boston’s Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile red brick path through 16 historically-significant locations is your own walking history lesson on Revolutionary America.

Sites such as Paul Revere House, Faneuil Hall, Boston Common, and the USS Constitution are just some of the historical highlights.

Outside of Boston are a number of incredible places to visit as well, including Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Berkshires, where, in autumn, the fall foliage is a breathtaking sight.

Michigan: Visit Hitsville USA.

Motown Records is one of the most revered music institutions in our nation’s history, so it’s a must-do stop when you visit all 50 states.

The legacy of Motown will remain forever, having given us timeless music and legends such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson 5 to name a few. That’s why no visit to Detroit is complete without seeing this iconic place.

Motown - Visit all 50 states - Best things to do in each state

A lesser known fact is that Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Corporation, also created Motown Records’ Black Forum Label, which served to capture the words of notable African-American speakers, poets, and orators such as Langston Hughes and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every March, the Black Forum Label hosts Motown Mic. a spoken word competition that brings together talented poets from around the US.

Would you believe that Michigan is also known for its beaches? Yes, beach towns on Lake Michigan are a popular vacation spot.

Related post: 9 Midwest Beaches You Should Visit This Summer

Minnesota: Shop ‘til you drop at the nation’s largest mall.

Where else in the US, can you shop ’til you drop and then plop on an indoor roller coaster?

The Mall of America, of course! It’s one gigantic amusement mall with more than 500 stores, including a Lego store and an aquarium. If a store exists, you’ll probably find it in the Mall of America.

Mississippi: Cruise the Mississippi River on a steamboat.

Mississippi is known for its namesake river, cotton farming, and riverboats, and one authentically Mississippi activity is cruising the river on a steamboat.

In their heyday, steamboats were the most luxurious form of travel from south to north, and you can ride on one of these beauties when visiting Tunica. A visit to Tunica also offers your pick of several casinos, good restaurants, and a lovely Mississippi River Museum.

And if you’d like to see the entire river, American Queen Steamboat Company and American Cruise Lines offer multi-night packages ranging from 5 to 23 days along the entire stretch of the river from New Orleans to Minneapolis.

Now that’s a unique way to see this part of the country!

Missouri: Ride to the top of the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

The best part about visiting the Gateway Arch is the ride to the top. I felt like I was being transported to outer space while watching the interior cables hoist the four-person, windowed capsules inside the curved structure.

The views from at the top are fabulous, too!

St. Louis Arch - Visit all 50 states - Best things to do in each state

Do you want to visit all 50 states? In Part 2 of this post, I’ll give some exciting bucket-list activities for the remaining 25 states! 

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small amount of income if you click the link and purchase something we have recommended. Clicking these links won’t cost you any extra money, and all opinions remain our own. 

Author Profile

Taryn White
With 75+ countries and all 50 U.S. states crossed off her list, Taryn's wanderlust and wanderlist continue to grow! She loves historic places, off-the-beaten paths, and beautiful beaches. Follow her pursuits on Instagram and www.tripwishlist.com.

8 thoughts on “Oh Say Can USA: Amazing Things To Do When You Visit All 50 States - Part 1”

  1. This post is amazing! You could probably send a lifetime journeying to all the unique spots around the US. Looking forward to Part 2!! 🙂

  2. So many wonderful places. I can wait to see the next part of this series. I’ve only been to New York and while I crossed some places off the list, there’s so much more to see.

  3. There are a lot of places to see in America and you have compiled a great list here with the main attractions for each of them. Mardi Gras in Louisiana sounds like a great place to party while Idaho seems perfect for stunning views.

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