Bucket-List Experiences You Must Have in the USA

From experiencing Las Vegas decadence to dining on tender Southern food, your US bucket list should be incredibly diverse
From experiencing Las Vegas decadence to dining on tender Southern food, your US bucket list should be incredibly diverse | © lucky-photographer / Alamy Stock Photo
Chloe Thrussell

Production Assistant

As the third-largest country in the world, the US contains a lifetime of adventures. Discover the charm of its 50 distinct states, which range from rolling prairies in the Great Plains to Pacific-lapped tropics in Hawaii. For a true stateside adventure, Culture Trip has compiled some unmissable star-spangled additions to your bucket list.

Go off-grid in the Colorado Rockies

If you love pastoral landscapes, bucolic backroads and wildlife encounters, there’s nothing quite like the Rocky Mountains. Stretching from northernmost British Columbia all the way to New Mexico, this astounding range peaks in Colorado; the 30 highest summits culminate in the Centennial State. In summer, hiking, biking and rafting are the name of the game; come winter, swap climbing shoes for snow for a bracing plunge down white-washed slopes. If you’re seeking alpine-swept solace, we have just the off-grid adventure for you.

Let the live blues & jazz scene of New Orleans wash over you

Go wine-tasting in Napa Valley, California

Do you know your riesling from your rioja? Don’t miss out on touring the hundreds of vineyards that call Napa Valley home. Sovereign of sauvignon, this California region produces some of the world’s leading wines, infamously surpassing French Bordeaux in the Judgment of Paris blind-taste test of 1976. Since then, its reputation has only grown. With its balmy climate created by the proximity of the Pacific and local mountain ranges, this vineyard-strewn slice of California dreamin’ should be high on your list. And, if you’re looking to mix your barrels with some backcountry, check out our tailored trip to Northern California.

Eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich at Graceland

The US may not have royals, but the iconic King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, comes pretty close. With his buoyant rise from poverty to momentous fame, Presley’s success epitomised the American Dream. His legacy lives on at Graceland, his 14 acre (6ha) estate in Memphis, Tennessee. This is where you’ll find the jewelled jumpsuits, gold records and classic cars, but for the biggest fans, you can honor Elvis with a taste of his favourite snack – a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Try your luck in Las Vegas

PEEAKN Las Vegas strip skyline

A city steeped in lady luck legends and high-roller stakes, Las Vegas is one of a kind. With its colossal casino-hotels, Elvis impersonators and drive-thru weddings, the so-called Sin City lives up to its self-billed title of entertainment capital of the world. Its desert temperature matches the tension of the roulette-wheel, but if gambling isn’t your thing, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy, from helicopter rides to the pinball hall of fame, or even a visit to the neon boneyard – the final resting place of once-luminous signs.

See fish fly at Pike Place Market

Not your average farmer’s market, the legacy of Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle is as much about performance as it is about produce. What started out as a prank on one employee has now become the draw for thousands; fishmongers routinely hurl 3ft-long (1m) fish to one another behind the counter amid a chorus of chants before they’re wrapped. Watch out for the foam fish that occasionally get thrown into unsuspecting crowds. And don’t miss the participatory gum wall downstairs.

Eat a real New York slice

With over 400 pizzerias in New York City, the craft behind the perfect dough is serious business. Hand-tossed with thin crusts and sold in wide slices to-go, the iconic NYC slice first appeared in the Little Italy neighborhood during the early 1900s, as a derivation of classic Neapolitan pizza. It’s hard to choose between the two, but there is one clear winner when it comes to portion sizes: the average New York-style slice can reach a whopping 3ft (90cm) in radius. Traditional toppings are simply tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella – you can’t improve perfection.

Eat soul food in the South

If you love fried comfort food, you’ll never tire of the celebrated African- American cuisine of the South. Originating from the rations of enslaved peoples in the Antebellum period, soul food has been strongly influenced by the traditional practices of West Africans and Native Americans since its inception. Today, soul food is a staple of mainstream American food culture. Think crispy fried chicken, smoked ham hocks, stewed collard greens, candied yams, fried okra, baked cornbread, boiled grits and deep-fried hushpuppies. Good for the soul. Even better for the tastebuds.

Drive Route 66

Originally running through eight states from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, Route 66 is as much of an American icon as the US cities it connects. Although it was officially removed from the US highway system in 1985, its enduring legacy in popular culture – from The Grapes of Wrath (1939) to Cars (2006) – has cemented its popularity with travelers. At its peak it gave rise to a burgeoning trade of roadside attractions, from frozen custard stands and reptile farms, to teepee-shaped motels and the first ever McDonald’s (now a museum). In 2021, the Mother Road will celebrate its 95th anniversary.

Go to an American sporting event

If you live for stadium thrills and courtside commotion, don’t miss out on spectating a game in one of the most sports-crazed nations on the planet. Whether football, basketball or baseball, you can expect some world-class sporting entertainment – as well as outrageous mascots, mandatory Star-Spangled Banner sing-a-longs and tailgate barbeques. And for an all-out, bang-for-your-buck American experience – we’re talking fast cars, fierce competition and the occasional explosion – don’t miss Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway if you’re a NASCAR enthusiast.

Compare Philly cheesesteaks from rival restaurants Pat’s and Geno’s

For a newcomer to Philly, it’s important to know that cheesesteaks are both tourist attractions and cultural icons. The top lunch pick of Pennsylvania consists of a long, crusty hoagie roll filled with thinly sliced sautéed beef, smothered in melted cheese and served “wit” or “witout” fried onions. Pat’s and Geno’s, situated directly across from one another on East Passyunk Avenue, are the two most popular places to sample Philly’s famous sandwich, making the shops longtime rivals. Both are open 24 hours a day should you wish to tuck in after dark.

Go to Burning Man in Nevada

Not for the faint of heart, Burning Man is an annual, week-long festival that transforms Nevada’s Black Rock Desert into a temporary metropolis where anything goes. Under sweltering sun and freezing nights, the dried silt lays host to themed camps, interactive installation art and mutant vehicles, all populated by 70,000 strangers. Renowned for its radical policies of sexual liberation, Burning Man promotes principles of decommodification, participation and civic responsibility. The event’s eponymous main attraction, a giant tinder effigy, is set on fire and left to burn on the penultimate night. After which, attendees return to their normal lives, leaving no trace in the dust of this semi-arid region.

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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

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