The Kacey Musgraves is queued. You've got two bags in the trunk because you couldn't help but overpack. The snacks have been purchased, the tank is full, and the people you love are crammed into the backseat. Where are you going? The US is crazy expansive, with mountains taller than Mount Everest, states that could fit the entire population of Canada, and buildings with their own zip codes. Yet there's only one state that grows coffee — the world is a mystery. This country is so beautiful that you could spend your whole life moving and never see everything worthwhile, but these 20 must-see spots are a great place to start, from Yellowstone to Dollywood to all of the weird American charm you'll find in-between.
The tiny, strange town from Twilight is a real place, and it's comes exactly as advertised. (Minus the vampires, as far as we know.) But Forks is the tiniest town you never should have heard about. Since Stephenie Meyer's novels came out (if you can really call them "novels"), the formerly desolate town has become one of the strangest tourist attractions in America. Forks has fully embraced its notoriety, propping up strange Twilight photo spots throughout the town like Bella Swan's pick-up truck (complete with cardboard cutouts of Edward Cullen), a house appointed the Cullen House where you can leave fan mail for your favorite vamps, and a massive unlicensed Twilight merch store. Try to go during the annual Forever Twilight festival in September if you want to be scarred for life, and make sure to drive through the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest towards another famed Twilight site, La Push beach.
Go Lake Tahoe twice this year: once to enjoy the Winter skiing and again to experience summer by the lake. Bachelor fans will remember when Arie Luyendyk Jr. took his bachelorettes to the Edgewood Resort on South Lake, just minutes away from the popular Heavenly Mountain Resort skiing base. Heavenly is one of the largest ski resorts in North America, and its 2.4-mile gondola ride runs in both the winter and summer, taking vacationers nine-thousand feet into the sky — and to a bar on the observation deck. Summertime activities at the resort include tubing, a zip line, a ropes course, and a mountain side roller coaster.
Voted the top vineyard in the United States by Travel + Leisure, the Vincent Arroyo Winery is open by appointment only, so be sure to plan this stop in advance. Another good reason to think ahead when venturing into California's sprawling wine country? Not drinking and driving, ya dummies. Groups of four or less can book a free wine tasting, and larger groups will only need to cough up ten dollars for a reservation in a land where fifty dollar rates are the norm. The family-owned winery sits on 84 acres of land and specializes in Cabernet and Petite Sirah.
This Mojave Desert state park is only sixty miles outside of the Las Vegas Strip, making it an easy detour as you leave Sin City and begin the Middle America portion of your treck. The Valley of Fire is perfect for drivers looking for the quintessential road trip aesthetic à la the movie Cars or "Life Is A Highway" by Rascal Flats. The area is rich with history dating back to the Mesozoic Era, back before it could even really be called "history" at all. Sites in the valley include the Seven Sisters boulder formation, petroglyphs on Atlatl Rock, and Elephant Rock (which is exactly what it sounds like, an elephant-shaped rock), but the area is most notable for its classic road trip vibe.
Another site right out of Vegas is Seven Magic Mountains, a desert art installation that's nearly impossible to miss when approaching the city from Los Angeles. The photo spot is popular with the Instagram Influencer set for its vibrant colors set against the barren backdrop of the Nevada desert. You don't need to spend more than a few minutes taking a good 'gram before continuing on your way, but it's worth the stop for some added travel clout. The installation will only be on view until the end of 2021, so visit soon for bragging rights once it's gone.
Nature-lovers blame Instagram culture for the influx of visitors to Antelope Canyon that's threatening the integrity of the space, but it's likely that the Apple desktop background from inside of the canyon had a little more to do with the site's widespread popularity. Travelers who have already seen the Grand Canyon (or with enough time to do both) should journey through Upper Antelope for breathtaking views of the pink and orange sandstone. Upper Antelope is where you'll experience the light beams that have become so famous with the added bonus of avoiding the stairs that make Lower Antelope less accessible for some visiters, but photo tours will be more expensive in Upper Antelope for those exact reasons.
In 1947, a UFO crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, and life was never the same again. Just kidding! The alleged incident actually happened closer to Corona if you want to get technical about it, and aliens wouldn't be dumb enough to crash their space car in the middle of Scorpion country. Because we can't get into Area 51, Roswell is the best place for intraterrestrial-enthusiasts to spend a few hours gawking at the International UFO museum, perusing alien-themed merch, and antiquing. Not in an interstellar-paraphernalia way, Roswell just also happens to have quality antique stores.
Montana is probably the last place to expect a famed Buddhist temple, but the Garden of a Thousand Buddhas outside of Arlee doubles as a center for Tibetan Buddhist studies when it's not functioning as a roadside attraction. The thousand Buddha statues are arranged in an eight-spoked Dharma wheel meant to awaken altruism and wisdom. The site hosts yoga teacher trainings, retreats, and festivals throughout the year, but guests can also opt to take a guided tour of the garden from April through October.
Only in America would a prolific country singer wake up one morning and decide to open an Appalachian-themed amusement park. Dollywood and later its neighboring waterpark Dollywood's Splash Country were opened by Dolly Parton as a rebranding of a smaller theme park called Rebel Railroad. Dolly opened the park as a way to give back to her Tennessean community, and Dollywood has become the largest employer in the area. That's what we call "following through on your promises," everybody. Dollywood features nine rollercoasters, a spa, a full-sized steam train, Dolly-themed shows, a replica of her childhood home, and five of the South's largest seasonal festivals.
Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only place in the world where members of the public can attempt to mine their own diamonds. In 2018, a woman found a 2.63 ice white diamond while visiting the park, the largest of the 405 diamonds found by travelers that year. Over 75,000 diamonds have been found at the crater since the first discovery in 1906. Visitors trying their luck can rent mining equipment at the park or bring their own. You never know what you might find.
If you were a child in 1997, you've seen You're Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley's Mall Party. Nothing has ever looked better than The Mall of America in that film, except maybe Hawaii in You're Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley's Hawaiian Beach Party. Those twins really knew how to have a good time. The Mall of America does not disappoint, with over 500 stores, 50 restaurants, an indoor theme park, and an aquarium. Terrifyingly, the Mall of America is only the world's twelfth largest mall, but good luck finding somewhere else you can make your own crayon color, play mini-golf, do a ropes course, and bowl all in the same place.
The go-to place for hip youngsters in Texas is definitively Austin, either because of Austin City Limits or because it's *supposedly* the only place in the state that isn't overrun with bigotry. That leaves the small arts hub of Marfa as an unfound gem, complete with unexplained light orbs, niche art galleries, and the boutique hotel and campground El Cosmico. The city's motto is "Tough to Get Here. Tougher to Explain. But Once You Get Here, You Get It," which honestly does sum it up. Matthew McConaughey and Beyoncé have been known to vacation amongst Marfa's teepees, beer gardens, and spas, and the El Cosmico campgrounds feature an annual music and arts festival, open-air yoga, and wellness-centric community events.
Somethings are classic for a reason, like Yellowstone National Park's rainbow of geothermal spas, it's skyrocketing geysers, and mythic vistas, all settled on top of a volcanic hot spot. The park spans canyons, rivers, and forests with hundreds of animal species and hot springs in a natural wonderland. It's more than just Old Faithful. The park offers boat rides, rafting, and horseback riding, but this is the type of place where travelers can be content just looking up at a starry sky. The park offers a handy "What To Do For 48 Hours" guide to the park to make the endless land more manageable.
Do you want to be scared? Like, through to the bone, shivers down your spine, never sleeping again kind of scared? Check out the real-life inspiration for Stanley Kubrick's horror classic The Shining, The Stanley Hotel. The proprietors don't necessarily advertise the estate's connection to the underworld, but they don't hide it either, offering a night tour that takes you to the hotel's haunted rooms. Legend has it room 217 was home to a gas explosion in the 1910s, and the maid caught in the fire came back to haunt the room in death.
It may not be 1980 anymore, but the spirit of Hawkings, Indiana lives on in Jackson, the real-life filming location of Stranger Things's hometown. Jackson also hosted The Originals for a time, if a vampire-themed trip is what you're seeking, but the pop cultural clout combined with its small-town charm make Jackson an off-the-beaten-path stop on your way to Atlanta. Focus on its historic downtown area, which serves as the city center and is the most recognizable filming location.
There is truly too much to do in Vermont. The state boasts a renowned cheese trail, a plethora of maple sugaring factories, and over 100 covered wooden bridges. Oh, and more resorts than the sixth-smallest state in America should need. If you still have room after filling up on cheese, wine, and maple syrup, Vermont also houses the Ben & Jerry's Factory. Take a tour of their facilities with plenty of tastings, buy some fresh ice cream at their shop, and check out the Flavor Graveyard, where you can see every dearly de-pinted flavor and vote on which one you'd like to see brought back.
There is no place calmer than the The Mayflower Grace Inn and Spa in Washington Depot, Connecticut. Setting aside the merits of the inn itself, The Mayflower is a must-see spot because it's where Amy Sherman-Palladino developed the idea for Gilmore Girls. The Mayflower Grace inspired the Independence Inn, and the collection of small towns in the area served as the inspiration for Stars Hollow. New Milford is where fans can find the original gazebo, Washington Depot has a small bookstore and plenty of Connecticut charm, and there are plenty of detailed Gilmore Guides to the surrounding area online.
This one's for the road trippers with a sense of humor. Sure, the name is funny in and of itself. When you pair it with the town's location in the heart of Amish country, it goes from funny to hilarious. The town is used to tourists and embraces them, offering homemade root beer and pretzels for sale, horse and buggy rides, and Amish craft stores. It's a nice place to see real Amish people without truly imposing, and it's near a handful of other strangely named towns in Pennsylvania Dutchland for those who want to make a day of it.
Sure, you can't technically drive *to* Martha's Vineyard, but you can drive to a ferryboat that will take you to Martha's Vineyard, and that's good enough. Just south of another oasis for wealthy WASPs, Cape Cod, Martha's is a slice of New England summer charm with a lighthouse on the bluffs, summer movie nights, frisbee golf, a historic carousel, and the hilariously-named Gay Head cliffs. Make the "Jaws Bridge" jump off of the American Legion Memorial Bridge, eat some shellfish, and relax like the one percent for an afternoon.
It's surprising Hersey, Pennsylvania isn't a more talked-about tourist attraction. It boasts a walk-through zoo, a 23-acre botanical garden, and, you know, a theme park dedicated entirely to Hershey's chocolate. NBD. Hersheypark has 70 rides including 16 roller coasters, and in 2020 they'll be adding an ice cream parlor, a 2,200-square foot Starbucks, and a gigantic themed restaurant in an expansion called Chocolatetown. Hershey's Chocolate World across the street includes a chocolate factory-themed tour ride, an arena, and a stadium, and naturally, there's one of the largest Hershey's candy stores in the world complete with a Dessert Creation Studio and niche products.