Okay, so obviously there is way too much to see in the States than what you can cram into 4 weeks, but consider this Audrey’s Starter Guide to the 50 States of America. For much of my life, I have taken for granted how much beauty is a long drive or quick-ish flight away from me (let’s be real, I’m from Indiana– not much happens here). I have seen a lot in this country, but there is still sooooo much more to see. There always will be.
When I meet non-American travelers who say they’ve only been to New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, and LA, an inner part of me cries (I usually can keep that part quiet for the duration of the conversation), but I always suggest new places to visit during their next trip. Those big cities are great and are on the list (minus Orlando, I’ve never been there, but I have a weird hostility towards it and Disney), but there are plenty of underrated places you need to check out. Also, please note that this is not exactly a budget-friendly trip. There are a lot of flights and car rentals involved. It’s a big country. BUT we do have hostels here! They aren’t inexpensive, but they’re here.
Depending on where you’re coming from, I’d start in New York City. If you’re coming from the other side of the world, start in LA and travel backwards. Keep in mind that this is a short trip. I’d suggest staying in all of these places for at least twice as long as my guide says, but a few days is usually enough to get the vibe of a city and decide if it is somewhere you’d like to come back to on your next trip.
- Boston, Massachusetts, 3 days– I’ve actually never been to Boston, but everyone I know who has loves it. From what I’ve heard, the food is great, so this is a great place to splurge on a few nice meals. Go on a walking tour of The Freedom Trail to learn about the American Revolution, or take a walk around the city and explore for yourself.
- New York City, 3 days– Go to Times Square once, get a picture, and never return. Go to Central Park, the Met, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. Once you’re done with the touristy stuff, go to Brooklyn and check out the art galleries, coffee shops, and restaurants.
- Charleston, South Carolina, 3 days– Go on a Ghost Tour or the Gullah Tour, wander through the city and admire the architecture, and take a trip through the market. Go out to Mount Pleasant and visit the beaches on Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island.
- Nashville, Tennessee, 2 days– Nashville is a good place to get a taste of country music, but you don’t need more than a couple days for your first trip. Remember, this is just to get a taste of the city! Have coffee or a meal at Frothy Monkey, then go out for a night on the town on Broadway, and expect to run into plenty of bachelor and bachelorette parties. If you are interested in budget accommodations, here is the hostel I stayed in during my last visit– it was in a great location, very clean, and a decent price for the area.
- New Orleans, Louisiana, 3 days– The city of New Orleans has a feel to it that can’t be matched. Check out the French Quarter and have a beignet at Cafe du Monde, wander along Bourbon Street (during the day), and enjoy the sounds of street performers. If you’re brave, go out at night and experience the infamous New Orleans night life.
- Denver, Colorado, 3 days– If you’re interested in skiing or snowboarding, then Colorado is the place for you! There are plenty of cities in Colorado for winter sports, but most are a drive outside of Denver. Rent a car and go hiking, or take a drive to a ski resort and spend a couple days hitting the slopes.
- California, 7-14 days– I put the entire state on here because I think that there are so many interesting things to see that you’ll miss if you stay in LA. Rent a car and drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, making sure to stop at Joshua Tree National Park, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Redwood National Park. You could spend months traveling and camping throughout the state, but if you don’t have a lot of time, make sure you at least visit a couple of the parks as you’re making your way from big city to big city.
The USA is so diverse, it is easy to feel like you’ve traveled to different countries as you’re traveling from state to state. Again, this is a highlights trip– there are sooo many places (and entire states) that I’ve left out. Do some research and make sure you plan a trip that is full of the adventures that you want to take and not full of places you feel like you have to see because it’s where everyone else goes.
Make sure to wave as you’re flying over (or possibly driving through) Indiana!