A week ago, I wouldn’t have touched the topic of the top US travel destinations. A week ago, Donald Trump was president and nobody knew who would lead the United States into 2021 and beyond. A week ago, the United States of America was still on my travel blacklist, a place I hadn’t visited in more than four years despite it being a thirty-minute flight or a two-hour drive away. I have limited vacation time and limited dollars, and I have always chosen to spend both in ways that I believe are ethical and responsible.
All of that changed on Saturday, November 7th, when news agencies around the world broke the news that Joe Biden was confirmed as the nation’s President-Elect, and that Kamala Harris would soon become the country’s first female Vice President. Suddenly, the USA seemed like a plausible travel destination for my upcoming trips: a place that has the potential to turn itself around in a positive way, and where I can spend my time and money without feeling guilty afterwards.
I immediately reached out to my friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook, to ask how the 2020 election results changed their US travel plans. I heard from so many travelers who, like me, had boycotted US travel during Trump’s presidency, but who were suddenly inspired to rethink their US travel plans. I asked ten of them to share their ideas in more detail, and I’m proud to say that I’m now sharing their stories about 2021’s top US travel destinations.
The Top US Travel Destination for Carly from Fearless Female Travels
I’ve only visited Hawaii once, and it was on a high school class trip. In retrospect, I can’t imagine how our chaperones managed a group of almost a hundred Canadian teenagers on the loose in Honolulu! My most vivid memory of that high school trip was the morning we spent snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. It was the first time I snorkeled on a coral reef and it was the precursor to a hobby I would pick up almost ten years later: scuba diving. Since then, I’ve been scuba diving in Honduras, Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia, South Africa and Colombia… and in 2021, I’d like to return to my coral reef roots with a scuba diving trip to Hawaii!
Because I’ve already visited Oahu, I would probably travel to one of Hawaii’s other islands. The crescent-shaped Molokini Crater near Maui looks amazing (apparently it’s the ideal dive site to see mantas, sharks and whales!), while Moloka’i is equally attractive for its high chances of seeing hammerhead sharks (one of three sea creatures that I’m still dying to see “under the sea”, along with a whale shark and a seal or sea lion!). When I’m not scuba diving, I would spend my time eating tropical fruit, relaxing in a hammock between palm trees and learning more about the native Hawaiian culture. Hopefully I will be able to travel to Hawaii in 2021… keep your fingers crossed for me!
The Best US Travel Destination in 2021 for Maureen from “So Many Places! So Little Time!”
My name is Maureen and I’m from New Zealand, which is about 14,000 km from Washington DC – the first place I’ll be heading to in the US in 2021 when it is safe to travel. We all followed the news coverage of the USA elections on TV with great interest down here in New Zealand and a fascinating watch it was. It has really inspired me to now go to Washington DC to see for myself the many interesting places, buildings, and monuments that we glimpsed on our screens.
A tour of the White House has to be top of my list of places to see and a glimpse of the new president, or even the old one, would be a bonus! After that, we would love to stroll the National Mall and see as many of the grand and historic sights as we could including the US Capitol Building, Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln Monument, the National Gallery of Art, and Georgetown. My husband is a history buff and museum nerd so I’m guessing we’ll be spending plenty of time in many of the 18 world-class Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC and especially in the National Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the International Spy Museum is the one that fascinates me! All we are waiting for now is the “all clear” to travel. Let’s hope it’s not too long!
The Top US Travel Destination in 2021 for Christina from Travel2Next
Watching the unfolding drama of the 2020 US election on television from Queensland in Australia reminded me of the five years I grew up in Pittsburgh. As the vote count progressed, Joe Biden claimed the Presidency after winning Pennsylvania. I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s second-largest city, for the first five years of my life, but I only have vague memories of the city as my family left Pittsburgh in the 1970s. So much seems to have changed since then and I would love to visit.
Pittsburgh has over 400 bridges, a cluster of skyscrapers and an industrial history that brought it the nickname of “Steel City” for its steel-related businesses and past as a centre for manufacturing, electronics, and automotive industries. I’d love to spend time discovering the city’s past by visiting museums to learn more about American history. Pittsburgh has excellent museums, such as the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Andy Warhol Museum, the John Heinz History Center, and the Carnegie Science Center. Our family lived in Oakland Square, which has changed a lot since I lived there. So, a walking tour of public art in the Oakland district is another thing I would love to do.
One of the things I do remember vividly is attending baseball games, and that’s because one of our neighbours was a player on the Pittsburgh Pirates team. For sporting fans, the best time to visit Pittsburgh is during baseball season, and spending time in a ballpark like PNC Park is a popular pastime for locals and visitors. Pittsburgh has three professional teams (the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates), so Superbowl, hockey and baseball fans love visiting this city to catch a game.
Read more from Christina at Travel2Next
The Top US Travel Destination for Claudia Tavani of My Adventures Across The World
Colorado is one of the most scenic states in the United States, and any nature and adventure lover like myself should be aching to visit. I lived there for more than two years a long time ago, and have been wanting to go back since the day I have left. Denver is inevitably the first port of call in Colorado – international flights land there, after all, so you should definitely take the chance to explore it. This is an incredibly underrated city, with much more to offer than what meets the eye. There is a fantastic range of attractions in town to suit all taste and budgets. In fact, there are many free things to do in Denver – not to mention great dining opportunities, and breweries to taste the best craft beer.
My recommendation is to start exploring from downtown, visiting the State Capitol Building and taking a photo by the mile high signpost. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself short of breath, it’s the altitude! Close to downtown, there are a few historic homes that are worth visiting; if you pick just one, make sure to go to Molly Brown House Museum. Plus, Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Nature and Science are both truly well curated. If you want a bit of nature in the city, head to the Botanical Garden.
Aside from the many attractions, what you are bound to enjoy the most in Denver and in the rest of Colorado is the incredible vibe. People are amazingly friendly and welcoming, very easygoing and always up for a chat. They love nature and adventure, and they take pride in keeping their state pristine for the enjoyment of locals and tourists alike.
The Top US Travel Destination for Paulina on the Road
As a Master’s student in Germany, I had to write my thesis about cultural exchange. I have already been attracted to beautiful places in the US and the country took its place in my mind even more when I visited there for studies. I visited Wisconsin in the year 2015 for my graduate studies. My topic was to investigate the cultural heritage of Luxembourgish emigrants to Wisconsin. I am still not over the beauty of that place, and now that the country is going to have a new president in 2021, I want to visit Wisconsin once again.
Wisconsin is the first place I would want to visit in 2021 because there is still a lot I need to explore. This time, I also want to take my dog on the trip because it will be great company. Moreover, there are a lot of pet-friendly cabins in Wisconsin where I can stay with my pet and enjoy the vacation. Wisconsin is a must-visit destination because it offers picturesque sights along with undiscovered experiences. In the winter, Wisconsin offers adventures like snowmobiling. Rolling through the countryside in amazing fall foliage, taking a stroll in streets under the trees in spring, and staying by the lakeside in a cottage… all of these moments are calling me again to visit Wisconsin. With the great food and diverse culture, Wisconsin is a vacation destination for all.
Los Angeles, California
The Top US Travel Destination in 2021 for Dymphe from Dymabroad
My name is Dymphe. I’m a travel blogger and influencer, and I’m always traveling to many places in Europe. I love to share my travel stories with others and help others with their travels. I live in Amsterdam, which is the capital city of the Netherlands.
In 2021 I want to visit the beautiful Los Angeles, California on the west coast of the United States. I have heard so much about it and I think it will be a place that I will really enjoy. Some of the reasons I want to go to LA include the famous sights, the beauty of the place, and the culture. For example, I really want to visit Venice Beach, see the Hollywood sign and admire the beautiful viewpoints. Besides that, there are many places for photography in Los Angeles. For me, as a travel influencer, that is especially beneficial and allows me to create more content.
Also, from Los Angeles I am planning to explore more places in California, such as San Francisco and San Diego. Combining these places in one trip means I can see much more of the United States at the same time (since I’ll be coming to the USA all the way from Europe!). Hopefully, the situation will get better soon and travel will be possible again so that I can visit this amazing city!
Follow Dymphe at Dymabroad
Key West, Florida
The Best US Travel Destination for Nichola from Globalmouse Travels
I’m Nichola and I live in Bath in the UK. I absolutely love travelling and have been to the USA a number of times, but I have never made it down to the very bottom of Florida! Next year, Key West is firmly on my bucket list plans.
I imagine it to be the best of Florida with beautiful beaches and long stretches of sand, great local food and a bit of a Cuban vibe. With some great family resorts in Florida located in Key West I know it will be somewhere my children will love to visit too. This part of Florida will be a place to swim in the azure waters, to see all the amazing sea life, to have a go at stand up paddle boarding and to visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Since my favourite dessert is Key Lime Pie I feel it’s only fitting that I should get to sample it in the place it was first created and discover the best restaurant to eat it in (which may involve a lot of taste testing, a challenge I am more than ready for!).
Having visited Florida before, and fallen in love with its warmth and great food, I would really like to make it to Key West… which I imagine to be more beautiful than any other region of the sunshine state.
Joshua Tree, California
The Top US Travel Destination for Vivien from The Dharma Trails
My partner and I are from Australia, though we have been living in the Caribbean over the last few years. We absolutely loved our last visit to the USA, though brief, we got to explore some of the unique and mind blowing landscapes. For us the one that really stood out as “must return” is Joshua Tree, California.
There is so much more to Joshua Tree (and the area around it) than just the national park. It’s a feeling. Remote, quirky and beautifully styled all at the same time. There is something about driving over the high-desert peaks and down through the Yucca Valley that instigates a true sense of awe. The infamous trees scattered along arid hillsides catch afternoon sunlight and cast eerie shadows while locals go about their business in boots and cowboy hats. Pioneer Town is an interesting stop just fifteen minutes from the national park entrance. It’s a western movie set that has a few operational stores and a restaurant. You can stroll down the dirt “main street” and get a glimpse into an old world of gunslingers and pioneers. Salvation Mountain makes for an interesting day trip. Drive past the Salton Sea to a place called Slab City. It’s a makeshift town, completely off-grid in the middle of the desert. This unlikely community has a centrepiece that has attracted visitors from around the world: a handmade mountain that is built entirely out of scrap material and that has been painted in a wonderful array of colours.
One of the best thing to do in Joshua Tree is catch the desert sunset and sunrise. There are so many amazing places to stay in Joshua Tree that are wonderfully styled and completely remote. You can wonder the open planes and get a real understanding of desert life at its core. For the reasons above (and many more!) Joshua Tree will be our first USA destination in 2021.
The Great Smoky Mountains
The Top US Travel Destination for Lara from Best Travel Gifts
My name is Lara Hartog, I’m a 26-year old native Dutchie and I am obsessed with World Heritage Sites. There are so many beautiful UNESCO sites in the United States that I haven’t visited yet, but the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is definitely on top of my USA wish list. This giant mountain range (it covers an area of over 200,000 hectares) in Tennessee and North Carolina earned its place on UNESCO’s world heritage list due to its outstanding universal value.
First of all, the landscape is exceptionally beautiful. One only has to look at the beautiful photos of a misty, colorful, mountain range to see its beauty. Second, the national park is also home to over 3500 plant species and many animal species, such as salamanders, bobcats, and black bears, making it an important, dense, and diverse eco-system in the US. One thing I would love to do at the Great Smoky Mountains is to climb the Clingmans Dome for the best views of the park. Besides that, hiking, visiting waterfalls, and checking out the wildflower-filled meadows are some of the things I will surely do when I get a chance to visit the US again.
Hopefully, climate change and environmental protection will be higher on the policy agenda with the new democratic president. Hopefully, Joe Biden will ensure a well-preserved Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a healthy eco-system and beautiful plants, animals, and sceneries for travelers like me to admire in the future!
The (Other) Top US Travel Destination for Carly from Fearless Female Travels
I decided to wrap up the list with another option, courtesy me, that has been on my trip-planning radar for years. I’ve always wanted to visit Austin, Texas, which I imagine is what my own hometown could one day be: a bastion of quirkiness and independent spirit in an otherwise conservative, oil-obsessed state (or, in my case, province). In particular, as someone working in international education, I’ve always wanted to attend SXSW EDU, an annual education conference focused on innovative teaching and learning. While I’m there, I’d like to indulge in some mindblowing vegan interpretations of famous Southern dishes, shop local at the city’s many independent boutiques and simply walk along the Colorado River, escaping the cold winter back home in Canada. A girl can dream!
Which of these top US travel destinations do you plan to visit first in 2021 or beyond?
Let us know in the comments!