There's so much beauty, history, and significance in the United States, from the tallest mountains to the most hidden waterfalls. Monuments, memorials, museums, and more add to the poignant and exciting adventure that is travel, and travel is never more important than it is in your youth. So pack a bag and head out on the ultimate vacation to discover 20 places to see before you're 20!
1. Lincoln Memorial - Washington, D.C. - There are a few places every American should see, regardless of age, and the Lincoln Memorial is one of them. Visit and reflect on Lincoln's legacy and the countless men and women who stood on those steps asking for equality and peace during the Civil Rights Movement.
2. Grand Canyon - AZ - A national landmark in the extreme, the Grand Canyon is a bucket list topper for international travelers as well as Americans. However, when you're young you may be more inclined to hike your way to the base and find the hidden waterfall coming from the rockface.
3. Key West - FL - The largest city and the furthest south on the Keys, Key West is famous for its pastel-colored homes, famous residents, and excellent diving opportunities. Ernest Hemingway openly adored Key West for the endless sun and the Caribbean feel. Enjoy the beach, laid back attitude and stunning scenery beyond the turquoise blue ocean.
4. Pacific Coast Highway - CA - Arguably the most scenic stretch of highway in the entire country, the Pacific Coast Highway takes you on an incredible journey from the Los Angeles area to the Bay Area. The road passes through Big Sur, magnificently charming cities like Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey, finally ending in San Francisco.
5. Hot Springs National Park - AR - This is one attraction that most people probably haven't heard much about, but it's certainly worth seeing. Although it's a small park, less than ten square miles, Hot Springs brings in thousands of visitors to bathe in the hot, clear waters in the thermal pools.
6. Freedom Trail - Boston - A 2.5 mile stretch through historic Boston, the Freedom Trail stops along 16 significant attractions including Paul Revere's House, the Old South Meetinghouse, Old North Church, and Faneuil Hall and Marketplace. The trail ends at the Boston Harbor where the famous Boston Tea Party occurred.
7. Navy Pier - Chicago - Perhaps Chicago's most iconic and inviting attraction, the Navy Pier is a boardwalk of fun and excitement. Walkout over Lake Michigan and experience the magic of being a kid again at the carnival-like rides and games, Crystal Gardens conservatory, concert venues, and restaurants, and the Chicago Children's Museum.
8. Yellowstone National Park - WY, MT, ID - Our first national park, Yellowstone remains one of the most significant parks in regards to geological study and wildlife preservation. Explore the geothermal features, over 10,000 of them, including the Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful, sulfur pools and boiling mud pools, all the while navigating the bison and deer that live freely in the park.
9. Mount St. Helens - WA - Visible from both Portland and Seattle, Mount St. Helens is a spectacular sight to behold. Enjoy the mountain from afar or charter a guide and hike your way to the top and become a mountaineer! Learn about the devastation that occurred when the volcano erupted in 1980 and more.
10. Disneyland - Anaheim, CA - While many would head directly to Florida for Walt Disney World, Disneyland came first. There is something special about the park being designed top to bottom by Walt Disney himself who lovingly crafted every aspect before his death. Many of the original attractions are still in use today!
11. Denali National Park - Alaska - Home to the incomparable Mt. Denali, formerly known as Mt. McKinley, Denali National Park is an incredible adventure waiting to happen. Charter a guide to take you deep into the heart of the park or stick to the trails and roads and find wildlife and Alaskan scenery galore.
12. French Quarter - New Orleans - One of the staple attractions of the U.S., the French Quarter consistently draws in tourists for its vibrant personality and extensive history. Meet new people, experience the culture of New Orleans, and see amazing sights like the St. Louis Cathedral, Bourbon Street, and more!
13. Ellis Island - New York City - More than 25 million immigrants came into the United States through Ellis Island. Today it's now a museum recording the history of the era, the practices and tests that immigrants had to pass, the hardships they faced and the hope for obtaining the American dream that came with the New World. Find your own families among the names!
14. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - The Big Island - Where else are you going to witness an active volcano spewing lava? On the Big Island of Hawaii, you'll encounter the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with two active volcanoes, acres of hiking trails, historic buildings, and more.
15. Epcot - Orlando - Though we've already suggested you go to Disneyland, you can't pass up Epcot. Home to the World Showcase, Epcot brings together eleven nations complete with authentic building styles, foods, museums, and souvenirs. See everything from Mexico to China, Morocco, Germany, Italy, and France among others in one place.
16. Vegas Strip - NV - While you may not be old enough to gamble, simply seeing the Vegas Strip all lit up at night is something to behold. It's kind of magical to witness the grand Bellagio fountains, the replica Eiffel Tower, a pirate ship and luxurious resorts all in one strip. There are plenty of free shows to enjoy as well!
17. Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Washington, D.C. - One of the most significant memorials in our nation, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial commemorates the thousands of soldiers who fell during the conflict, their names etched forever in the mirrored marble. Pay your respects and reflect on their sacrifice as you tour the memorial.
18. Hollywood Walk of Fame - Los Angeles - It's undeniably fun to walk down the 15 block stretch along Hollywood Boulevard and pick out your favorite stars' names. See everyone from Bradley Cooper and Michael Keaton to Cyndi Lauper, Steve Carell, and even Mickey Mouse and Kermit the Frog. Also along this stretch is the Chinese Theater, a hotspot for Hollywood travelers.
19. Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York City - Arguably the best museum in the entire country, the Met showcases art and history from around the world. Ancient times to contemporary art are represented on the massive, multi-floor institution showing such artists as Leonardo DaVinci, Vincent Van Gogh, and El Greco among others.
20. Redwood National Parks - CA - All but extinct, the redwood trees used to cover millions of acres along the West Coast. Now they're preserved in a handful of state and national parks in California. There are four parks now that preserve the majority of the state's massive trees and all are worth visiting.