Visiting the best local legends and up-and-coming attractions in each state
If your New Year’s resolution is to celebrate the many cultures and characters that call America home sweet home, then this is the bucket list for you. From sea to shining sea and everything in between, the Nifty 50 are brimming with brand new shops, ancient landmarks, beloved local events, and unexpected treasures. We’ve curated a powerhouse list of attractions and activities that celebrate each state’s signature flavors, unique festivals, and vibrant faces. Check out the 51 best things to do in the United States this year. Ready, set, go travel!
Alabama: Visit Africatown in Mobile
This historic district is the site of a ghost town where Timothy Meaher illegally smuggled people from Ghana into Alabama with plans to sell them into slavery. Meaher was apprehended and the people he tried to smuggle formed a community here with many of their traditions from home. Plan your trip around a riverboat tour and float through history.
Alaska: Experience the Aurora Borealis in Fairbanks
Wanna see the best attraction in Alaska? Just look up. This scientific wonder is a beauty to behold, and the area around Fairbanks offers clear skies and limited light pollution. Embark on the 6-Day Northern Lights Overnight Getaway Package from Salmon Berry Tours for an incandescent weeklong adventure in the Alaska wilds.
Arizona: Walk in the footsteps of wild west legends in Old Tucson
Grab an Old Tucson Theme Park admission and get a little dirt on your boots on the set of cinematic classics like “The Bells of St. Mary’s” and “Gunfight at OK Corral.”
Arkansas: Make Art in the Ozarks in Fayetteville
Inspired by spectacular surroundings, the artists at Terra Studios will wow you with their sculptures, blown glass, jewelry, and more. Take a class or enjoy a peaceful walk in the art garden.
California: Eat burritos in San Diego and San Francisco
Yep, The Golden State’s burritos are so good that you’ve got to visit two cities and take a bite out of their dueling signature dishes. Get the french fry-loaded “California burrito” all over San Diego County at Lolita’s or nosh on a vegan version at Plant Power Fast Food in Ocean Beach. Then take the scenic route north to San Francisco and devour the Mission burrito in its namesake Mission District at Taqueria La Cumbre, which is said to serve the first of these simple masterpieces filled with beans, rice, and roast beef or pork.
Colorado: Hit the powder in Telluride
If you’re heading to the Centennial State, chances are you want to hit the slopes and enjoy some craft beer (just a guess). Grab your gear and go snowboarding in Telluride with Christy Sports. This charming town is the hideaway of celebrities and culture connoisseurs alike, as it hosts festivals year-round, including the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival in September.
Connecticut: Enter a “Gilmore Girls” state of mind in Litchfield County
This enchanting corner of Connecticut inspired the show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, with its small-town characters and gorgeous scenery. Rewatch the revival season and see the state Rory and Lorelai-style with a visit to Averill Farm in Washington Depot and eat at Community Table.
Delaware: Bike the beaches in Fenwick Island
You might not think of beach-hopping when you plan a trip to the Diamond State, but the sparkling coastline awaits. Pedal along the Ocean to Bay Bike Tour this April 29.
Florida: Take a sunset cruise in Tampa’s Boca Ciega Bay
The folks at Dolphin Landings will whisk you away to the peaceful bay for a glowing evening. Bring a bottle of Champagne and toast to an amazing experience in the Sunshine State.
Georgia: Mingle with ghosts in Savannah
Hop on a vintage trolley for a guided ghost tour of the city’s exquisite architecture and haunted history with the local Cool Savannah Tours & Gifts.
Hawaii: Wind through the waterways in Kauai
The Aloha State is hands down one of the top U.S. destinations, and each island is unique and gorgeous. These days, Kauai is having a moment—a peaceful, picturesque moment. This island is glorious by land, sea, or river. See some of Hawaii’s most pristine landscapes, including Waimea Canyon, on a riverboat tour all over Kauai.
Idaho: Dance your way down the streets of Coeur D’Alene
On the second Friday of every month, join the lakeside city of Coeur d’Alene for Music Walk, a riff on the more common first Friday art walks that take place around the country.
Illinois: Remember a presidential romance in Chicago
Visit the site where Barack and Michelle shared their first kiss at the Obama Kissing Stone in Hyde Park, near the corner of S. Dorchester Avenue and E. 53rd Street.
Indiana: See the world in Valparaiso
The World Cultural Festival 2017 gathers Indiana’s many international traditions in one place, and the more the merrier. Surrounded by flavors, dance demos, and arts from all over the globe, you might forget you’re in Northern Indiana. But make no mistake, this is the face of The Hoosier State.
Iowa: Take in a filming location in Dyerville
In 1987, the owner of a rural plot of land got a knock on the door. Today, that location is a legend. Stand on Homeplate at the “Field of Dreams” baseball field near Dyerville.
Kansas: Relax at Lake Shawnee in Topeka
With babbling brooks, boating, swimming, and more, Lake Shawnee is an outdoor destination for the whole family. The Huff ‘n Puff Balloon Rally takes place there every September and fills the sky with a rainbow of colors.
Kentucky: Make new friends at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farms in Georgetown
Here retired racehorses run free in peaceful paddocks—the perfect reward after a fast-paced career.
Louisiana: Eat crawfish and dance to Cajun music in Breaux Bridge
The lively hum of accordions and violins pair perfectly with the delicious local crustacean. Find both—and lots of cayenne pepper—at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival in May.
Maine: Take a seaside hike in Bar Harbor
Take in the coastal views and fresh air on the Ocean Trail and treat yourself to a malty, chocolaty Coal Porter at Atlantic Brewing. Cheers!
Maryland: Stand beneath waterfalls at Swallow Falls State Park
What’s more refreshing than the mist of waterfalls on your face? Sipping an orange crush cocktail—Maryland’s signature twist on the classic screwdriver—after exploring a park brimming with cascades.
Massachusetts: Get nautical in Plymouth Harbor
Visit the Mayflower II in Plymouth Harbor and stop for some famous “chowdah” at Cabby Shack. There’s nothing like early American history to make you crave New England comfort food.
Michigan: Eat apple cider doughnuts in Greenville
When the first leaves of the year fall, run—don’t walk—to Klackle Orchards for their scrumptious pastries. It’s a family-favorite among locals, and the orchards are a lively outdoor destination for kids both tall and small.
Minnesota: Go to an avant-garde theater in Minneapolis
The Mini Apple has one of the biggest theatre communities in the U.S. and The LAB Theater is known for premiering world-class contemporary and experimental productions. It can get a little weird…in a good way.
Mississippi: Learn about Mississippi’s rich modern history along the Freedom Trail
If you’ve ever geeked out about the Constitution and American civilian life, then follow the 444-mile path from Natchez to Nashville. This path, known as the Natchez Trace is lined with history from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.
Missouri: Follow the Pony Express through the state
Set your auto-reply, put down the smartphone, and drive along the Pony Express National Historic Trail, starting in St. Joseph.
Montana: Kayak the Madison River, starting near Three Forks
The moderate currents and breathtaking views of the Madison River are the perfect thing to carry through the sprawling Treasure State.
Photo via Flickr/Nicolas Henderson
Nebraska: Go museum hopping in Lincoln
Home to the National Museum of Roller Skating and the Museum of American Speed, Lincoln’s cultural scene is fun, quirky, and always on the go.
Nevada: Fly-board on Lake Lahontan
You’ve already heard there are plenty of fun things to do in Nevada. When you want to kick things up a notch, gather your friends, grab your GoPro, and flip over Lake Lahontan on the fantastic hybrid of a skateboard and a jet ski. Do it for science!
New Hampshire: Go pumpkin crazy in Milford
When autumn rolls around, your pumpkin spice latte—bless it—doesn’t hold a candle to the Milford Pumpkin Festival. Games, pumpkin carving, and pie, oh my!
New Jersey: Sip and swim in Cape May
You can go beach hopping and wine tasting all in the same place: Cape May. Take a tour of the vineyards at Willow Creek Winery and swirl and sample your way through their top sellers (and cellars).
New Mexico: Wander among an ancient civilization in Taos Pueblo
Explore the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America at Taos Pueblo, near the charming modern town of Taos. Local artisans and bakers set up shop in picturesque adobe homes passed down through the generations.
New York: Find your chill in Syracuse
Hit snooze on the City that Never Sleeps, and eat and drink your way through Syracuse instead. Embark on a food and wine tour with The Sommelier Company and travel deeper into the Finger Lakes.
North Carolina: Boogie and booze at the Brewgrass Festival in Asheville
Drink some award-hoarding craft beers from all over the state and dance away your troubles at the Brewgrass Festival in Asheville in September.
North Dakota: Dance a Native jig in Belcourt
Get swept up in KeplinFest, a family-inclusive Native American cultural celebration with hiking, dancing, and plenty of eating in Sunnyside Trails, Belcourt.
Ohio: Eat Buckeye candy
Named after the beloved Buckeye State, this peanut butter and chocolate confection was created by Gail Tabor to serve at college football game parties. These days, you can find Buckeyes all over the state, and if you can’t get your hands on some homemade treats, find the nearest Esther Price storefront.
Oklahoma: Shop The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska
Opened in late 2016, The Pioneer Woman Mercantile is already one of our favorite one-stop shops for home décor, gifts, and hospitality. The retail space is inspired by writer, TV personality, and rancher, Ree Drummond.
Oregon: Go spelunking in a lava cave in Bend
Don’t worry; the lava in Bend’s caves isn’t molten by any stretch of the imagination. But Lava River Cave will still thrill you with its long tunnels once hollowed out by flowing lava. Need to cool off? Order some River Ale at Deschutes Brewery after your adventure.
Pennsylvania: Eat homemade whoopie pies in Lancaster
Since the late 18th century, Lancaster Central Market has been a gathering place for shopping, eating, and exchanging gossip. Pick up one of the region’s iconic Amish treats and take a bite out of history.
Rhode Island: See WaterFire light up Providence
With blazing torches and public art, the people at WaterFire hope to illuminate and enliven downtown Providence. Make sure you see the city glow in the new year.
South Carolina: Eat barbecue in Charleston
Other states claim to serve the best saucy, smoky meat, but SC’s mix of mustard, brown sugar, and tangy vinegar rises to the top. Grab some extra napkins and chow down at Smoke BBQ on King Street.
South Dakota: Go on safari in Custer
A buffalo Safari, that is. Join a Jeep full of wilderness-craving travelers like yourself and get up close and personal with these majestic creatures of the American west. Safari groups meet up at Custer State Park Resort for an unforgettable ride.
Tennessee: Walk in Memphis
There’s nothing like stepping into a new year to inspire your sense of nostalgia. Stroll along Memphis’ historic Beale Street Entertainment District and make your way to the National Civil Rights Museum nearby.
Texas: Graze your way through Wurstfest in New Braunfels
If you missed Oktoberfest, don’t worry. Go to Wurstfest for a German cultural experience like no other—the perfect storm of Bavarian and local beers and lederhosen—and it takes place in November. Wurstfest is the best.
Utah: March in the Utah Pride Festival in Salt Lake City
If you’re surprised to hear that this is the second-largest annual parade in the whole state of Utah, don’t be! Each June, Utah Pride fills the streets of downtown Salt Lake City with celebrations of the LGTBQ community, including a charity run, family-friendly activities, and interfaith services.
Vermont: Watch the seasons change in Okemo Valley
Get behind the wheel, turn up Billie Holiday’s “Moonlight in Vermont,” and drive through the colorful trees along scenic Route 100 Byway in Okemo Valley.
Virginia: Make a wish at the Luray Caverns in the Shenandoah Valley
Look into the depths of the Wishing Pool and make your wish for an awesome year in 2017!
Washington: Set sail on the Lady Washington in Grays Harbor
Featured on “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Star Trek: Generations,” and more, the Lady Washington is a replica of the original Pan-Pacific trade ship of the same name. Today you can learn to sail or enjoy a little jaunt into the harbor on these vintage decks.
West Virginia: Soak in Berkeley Springs
Built around natural mineral springs, this small but luxurious city is an indulgent destination, and you have lots of treatments and spas to choose from. To soak in the natural springs, wander over to the Berkeley Springs State Park.
Wisconsin: Eat beer cheese soup in Milwaukee
For those who love comfort food—who doesn’t?—Wisconsin is seriously one of the coolest places to visit in the U.S. Why? Because Wisconsin knows beer, cheese, and cold weather. Eat the famous beer cheese soup at Milwaukee’s Rumpus Room.
Wyoming: Ride the Aerial Tram over Jackson Hole
This state is huge and beautiful. See the Equality State from the sky. The Aerial Tram takes you up into the mountains—perfect for reaching the slopes in the winter and hiking trails during the warmer seasons.
Washington, D.C.: Raise your voice in the Capital
It may not be a state, but the District is the place to have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of rallying for your cause among the nation’s most powerful people. Peaceful demonstrations take place year-round. Find fuel for your march in the form of brunch at Dupont Circle’s Rebellion.
Whether you’re gearing up for a cross-country road trip or looking for an unforgettable experience close to home, 2017 is a great year to travel through the United States. Add some of these fun places to go in the U.S. to your next itinerary.
What do you love to do in your home state?
Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.
Latest posts by Expedia Local Expert (see all)
- 10 unique ways to see the world - November 10, 2017
- Halloween destinations: 13 of the spookiest places to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve - October 23, 2017
- Best ways to experience the wonders of Waikiki - August 8, 2017