When wanderlust strikes, certain exotic locales are the first to come to mind: Bali, Paris, Prague, Kyoto. But jetting off across the world isn’t always a feasible plan. The costs, the coordination, and the stress that comes with planning an international trip is enough to deter even the most enthusiastic traveler. One simplified compromise? Take a trip somewhere within the United States. Believe it or not, some of the top spots to visit in the USA are enough to satisfy even the wildest urge to travel. Whether you’ve heard of these destinations or not, you can set off with the confidence of knowing your trip will fulfill your most wondrous travel dreams, taking in a pristine, tropical island or UNESCO World Heritage Site without ever crossing the US border.
For the Explorer: Mammoth Cave National Park
With the longest known tunnel cave system in the world, Mammoth Cave is a must-visit spot for longtime explorers and Indiana Jones-inspired newbies alike. Anyone visiting Mammoth Cave will enjoy the cave tours, camping, hiking, and horseback riding, and other activities that make Mammoth Cave National Park a highlight of Kentucky tourism. Park grounds are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so you’ll find plenty of options for you and your fellow explorers to experience.
For Instagram Pros: Olympic National Park
In today’s day and age, it’s no surprise that the aesthetic appeal of a travel destination—and the ability to add that aesthetic to your social media feed—is a major consideration for many globetrotters. If impressing your friends in the digital realm is a motivation behind your wanderlust, Olympic National Park will bring you the breathtaking shots you’re dying to capture. Pack your all natural mosquito control (the National Park Service warns that mosquitoes, horse flies, and other pests can be a nuisance for warm-weather visitors) and be ready to take in the wildlife, coastal views, and natural beauty that make Olympic National Park one of the most photogenic spots in the nation.
For the Beach Bum: Key West
If you’re happiest surrounded by sea and sun, look no further than Key West, Florida for the stateside beach retreat of your dreams. Lounge on the glistening white sand or gaze out over the crashing waves. If you’re feeling more adventurous, dive into some of the island’s tourist-focused activities, on the water or on land. Set out on a sunset cruise, sink into a snorkeling lesson, or float through the sky on a parasail wing. Keep an eye out for dolphins or take to the tropical gardens. Here, as well, it would be best to consider mosquito control when you’re packing your suitcase. Wherever you go, and whatever you choose to do, the only aspect that might top the fun on Key West is the views you take in along the way.
For experienced climbers: Denali National Park
Day-dreaming about standing at the top of the world? Look no further than Denali National Park, home to the highest mountain in North America. Put your climbing expertise to use and take time to research the seasonal factors and other qualities that might affect your climb. Denali offers remote climbing experiences, wilderness sights, and all the peace and tranquility you could ever need, whether you reach the summit or savor each discovery you make along the way.
For history buffs: St. Augustine
Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States of America, and has centuries of history to satisfy even the most knowledgable researcher. Take in historical sites and living history attractions for an inherently historical trip or compromise with a visit to an alligator farm or a night of dinner and dancing to appease your travel companions who are less scholarly minded.
Whatever you’re looking for in your bucket list-worthy travel destination, know that you can find it right here in the United States. Pack your bags with mosquito and tick repellant, climbing gear, or your favorite bikini, and set off in search of your new favorite vacation spot—or one of many.