In 2020, the best places to visit in the USA are set to be a mix of adventurous, lesser-known, rejuvenated towns and cities, off-grid and off the charts. Discovering a hidden gem is an incredible feeling, right?
With this list, you’ll find all the best US destinations for the year ahead, from the Grand Canyon alternative of Moab to the buzzing cultural hub of New Orleans.
Whatever you’re after – adventure, city slickin’, foodie delights – there’s something here for all types of traveller. Scroll down for 10 of the best places to visit in the USA without having to go to same cities or the same landmarks. Let’s go.
Best place for: Adventure sport
Moab is fast becoming one of the hottest places to go in the US right now. The town is often described as home to the world’s best ‘adventure playground’ – and an alternative to it’s better-known neighbouring landmark The Grand Canyon – being sandwiched between two national parks: Arches and Canyonlands.
Here you’ll find over a thousand miles of mountain bike trails (said to be some of the best in the country), stunning canyons, ravines and red rock walls for climbing and the Colorado River, providing the ultimate water highway for rafting.
Best place for: A sense of occasion
Of course, the capital makes the list for many reasons but that famous building isn’t the only reason Washington DC is one of the best places to visit in the USA for 2020. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Some of the city’s best museums will have on special exhibitions celebrating this incredible milestone.
It’s also home to US politics which, of course, will host the stage for 2020’s presidential election. That aside, a rejuvenated waterfront, booming foodie scene and increased focus on becoming a green city (including a smart new floating wetlands system) provide the backdrop to an incredibly culturally diverse destination.
San Francisco/Yosemite, California
Best place for: Hybrid adventures
If you want to mix the bustle of a US city escape with the rugged outdoors, California’s San Francisco is going to tick the bucket list. Yes, the city itself is cool, vibrant, creative and full of legendary stories – from the gold rush days of the Wild West to Silicon Valley’s tech superstars. But it’s also a great jumping off point for the hiker’s mecca: Yosemite. National Parks have been trending up for sometime already but 2020 will see wellness-seeking travellers drink in these areas of breathtaking beauty.
In Yosemite, there are the giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove, colossal redwood trees that tower overhead and amongst the largest trees in the world. And, naturally, the park is a hiker’s paradise, with trails for days, but, if hiking hard isn’t your thing, you could try forest bathing instead.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Best place for: Immersive musical culture
New Orleans is known for Mardi Gras but the Big Easy is much more than just a party town. A legendary jazz and blues musical heritage, mouth-watering Creole cuisine and the fabled Manchac swamp put this destination firmly on the list for the best places to visit in the USA.
This year it was ranked second in Travel + Leisure’s annual ‘Best Cities in the U.S.’ reader survey for it’s nightlife and food: think jazz bars and mouth-watering gumbo. And, in 2020, this buzzing, musical hub, filled with rhythm and rich history, will make for the perfect long weekend of jazz beats and swamp adventures.
Charleston, South Carolina
Best place for: Southern charm
Voted America’s no.1 small city for six years and counting, Charleston mixes well-preserved urban architecture with a forever evolving and vibrant cultural scene, from innovative food and drink to pin-worthy style and design. Candy-coloured Rainbow Row. Huge and luscious plantations. The Charleston dance. This town is the sweetheart of Southern charm. It’s showing no signs of slowing down as one of the best places to visit in the USA, with events like the 44th Spoleto Festival USA (17 days of theatre, music, dance and and opera) and the Volvo Car Open, the largest women’s only tennis tournament in the world, returning in 2020.
Best place for: Tropical escapes
Long, white beaches, colourful art deco, Cuban mojitos and a Caribbean sea – this is the only tropical region of mainland USA. Miami has been firmly on the map for decades and there’s no reason this iconic city shouldn’t continue to top the bucket lists of travellers everywhere in 2020. There’s Little Havana, it’s multicoloured buildings reminiscent of the 1930s,
Everglades National Park for wetlands, gators and mangroves – and Key Largo, a laid-back tropical island off the coast surrounded by picture perfect white beaches. Miami gets good weather all year round – you’re in the tropics – and it’s vibe is just as fun-loving and vibrant as you can imagine. It’s also been paving the way for sustainable holidays recently, with local businesses and initiatives focused on preserving it’s world-famous oasis as well as providing lots of options for eco-friendly travellers in 2020.
Cape Canaveral, Florida
Best place for: Space-age exploration
Are we on the brink of a new space age? With Virgin Galactic getting closer to space tourism (having sent its first test passenger into space earlier this year) and NASA soon to launch its 2020 Mars Exploration Programme, Cape Canaveral makes for an in incredibly interesting place to be next year.
This might not be the most off-the-beaten-track destination on the list but space adventure – that’s about as off-grid as it gets. You might not head into space – but you can certainly visit the Kennedy Space Centre and Cape Canaveral’s Air Force Station, which is dedication to space exploration. Soak up Florida’s Space Coast here and all the atmosphere as NASA prepares to launch to Mars.
Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Best place for: The great big adventure
Aside from having a pretty cool name (see nickname: ‘The Smokies’), Great Smoky Mountains National Park is what the phrase ‘the great outdoors’ was made to mean. It’s big. And it’s full of adventure.
A trip here in 2020 will see you exploring 500,000 acres of majestic mountains, cascading waterfalls and dazzling displays of both plant and animal life. There are over 800 miles of trails to follow, either on foot or horseback. In Autumn, it’s a photographers wonderland and throughout the year you’ll spot elk to fireflies to black bears. Whether it’s a wilderness retreat you need or some rugged exercise, this is the place to do it.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Best place for: Arts and organic vibes
In the 1980s it was famous for howling coyotes and southwestern decor, in 2019 it’s famous for limitless adventure and a rich Native American and New Mexican cultural history. You’ll find a heavy Spanish influence downtown, with pueblo-style architecture and twisty streets, as this was once part of the Spanish empire in the Americas. But Santa Fe is also known as ‘The City Different’; the oldest state capital in America, it ranks as the USA’s third largest art market, with nearly 300 galleries and dealers to discover, and has a focus on healthy living, organic food and sustainability – all set to be even bigger in 2020 than right now in 2019.
Best place for: Jaw-dropping scenery
Alaska should be on every list for the best places to visit in the USA – if not purely for it’s visceral beauty and epic, well, everything. Huge glaciers, jaw-dropping vistas, some of the largest National Parks and most extreme temperatures make Alaska a (pleasurable) onslaught for the senses. To put its ethereal vastness into context, you could fit California, Texas and Montana inside Alaska, it’s that big. Large cruise ships are already taking note of Alaska’s gaining popularity but there are more adventurous ways to discover this state – it could be small ship cruises, the Alaskan Railroad or by car on Alaska’s dramatic highway. There are peaceful fjords to visit, brown bear country in Katmai National Park,