Great tourist attractions - walking across the Golden Gate Bridge

Some tourist attractions are worth every penny, while others leave you wishing you would have spent your money elsewhere. I have compiled a list of the best tourist attractions – each of these are well worth the admission price. Some are even free; you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot to have a good time!

I have picked destinations from various regions of the country so everyone has a chance to visit at least one. Have you visited any of the following tourist attractions? Which would make your Top 20 list? Feel free to comment with your top tourist attractions! Note that as I come across new wonderful attractions, I will be comprising another list. Stay tuned for Part 2! Happy travels!

The 20 Best US Tourist Attractions

1. Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California
Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California
Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California
San Francisco skyline

Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge is an awe inspiring experience; however, walking across it is even more exhilarating! Take the unique opportunity to walk across one of the most beautiful and photographed bridges in the world. This scenic 1.7 mile walk features views of the San Francisco skyline, Alcatraz, the Pacific Ocean, and the surrounding mountains. The walk across the bridge and back to the parking lot is about 3 miles.

Tip: Dress warm, San Francisco is windy and cold even during the summer months! Have you ever heard the Mark Twain quote, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” Visit during September and October for the best chance of warmer temperatures as the foggy skies begin to disappear this time of year.

Cost: Free!
Hours: Pedestrian sidewalk operating hours (varies by season).
Address: You can park (meters) at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, located at 201 Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA 94123.

2. Cave of the Winds – Niagara Falls, New York

Cave of the Winds - Niagara Falls, New York
Cave of the Wind - Niagara Falls, New York
Cave of the Winds - Niagara Falls, New York

The Cave of the Winds attraction in Niagara Falls allows you to get up close to the falls. First, you will put on a special poncho and shoes to walk around several sets of stairs. Next, you will arrive at Hurricane Deck, which takes you within 20 feet of the falls! I loved the opportunity to get so close to such a powerful force of nature. Cave of the Winds is a very exciting tour which is definitely worth the small admission fee! Definitely the best activity on a first timer’s Niagara Falls to-do list!

Tips: Go on a hot summer day – you are going to get soaked! Also, bring with a waterproof camera as there will be endless opportunities for fantastic photographs!

Cost: $11 for adults, $6 for children 6-12
Hours: 9:00am-7:30pm
Address:Goat Island Niagara Falls, NY 14303

3. Redwood National Forest – California

Redwood National Park - California
Giant redwood tree in Northern California

The Redwood Trees are one of the most majestic sights to see in the US, if not the world. Pictures do no justice – visiting these trees in person at Redwood National Forest is the only way to truly appreciate their majesty (the average height is 200 feet!) and natural beauty of these trees, many of which are thousands of years old. The oldest redwoods date back 2000 years! In addition, the 33 mile “Avenue of the Giants” drive includes a portion where you can drive through a redwood tree! Pretty cool if you ask me!

Tip: Plan for an afternoon picnic – what better way to spend the afternoon then eating a picnic lunch surrounded by the most beautiful trees on Earth?

Cost: Admission to Redwood National Forest is free!
Address: 1111 2nd St, Crescent City, CA 95531

4. Times Square in New York, New York

Billboards in Times Square - New York, New York
All the lights in Times Square - New York, New York
M & M ad in Times Square - New York, New York

I was impressed with my visit to Times Square, despite hearing it was overrated from many people. The sights, lights, people watching, architecture…it’s all fantastic! Yea, it’s over-the-top for sure, but so are many great destinations like Vegas and Orlando! It’s fun to simply be entertained every once in a while! For the history buffs and nature lovers, there is much more to do in NYC including gorgeous Central Park and many world-class museums! There are so many fun restaurants, shops, and activities available in the area. Planet Hollywood is a really fun, themed restaurant located in the heart of Times Square.

Tips: Bring with a camera – there are plenty of fantastic photo ops. Also, I recommend planning out restaurants and activities in advance as there are hundreds of options

Cost: Free!
Address: Broadway and 42nd St. New York, NY 10036

5. The gondola ride at Heavenly Village – South Lake Tahoe, California

Heavenly Village gondola ride - South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Village gondola ride in South Lake Tahoe, California
Views from Heavenly Village gondola ride in South Lake Tahoe, California
Views from observation deck Heavenly Village gondola ride in South Lake Tahoe, California

Lake Tahoe is one of the country’s most gorgeous vacation destinations, especially for hikers and nature lovers. Summer is the time for non skiers to enjoy a range of scenic activities including boat rides, beaches, and scenic gondola rides. The gondola ride at Heavenly Village is a must-do on any summer visit to Lake Tahoe. This ride provides amazing views of the forests and lake, taking visitors from a base altitude of 6255 ft to 9000+ feet in just 15 minutes. The views from the observation deck are truly breathtaking!

Cost: Adults (18-64) $38, Teens (13–17) $32 Child (5–12), $20 Seniors (65+) $32, Kids 4 and under are free.
Hours: May 25-27, 10:00am-4:00pm, June 14 – Sept 2, 10:00am-5:00pm, daily, Sept 3-29, 10:00am-4:00pm(Fri/Sat/Sun)
Address: 1001 Heavenly Village Way South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

6. Walt Disney World theme parks – Orlando, Florida

Magic Kingdom - Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida
Epcot - Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida
Hollywood Studios - Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida
Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida

You are never too old to visit Walt Disney World! My boyfriend and I visited for the first time in our late 20’s. Walt Disney World offers plenty of activities for everyone from the young to the young at heart. Everyone will be satisfied with the variety that Disney has to offer: rides, entertainment, shows, restaurants, water parks, spas, and so much more. I loved all of the theme parks, especially Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios! Do check out my full guide to visiting Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom.

A quick run down of the best rides & attractions:

Magic Kingdom – Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, The nightly fireworks spectacular, Thunder Mountain Coaster, Peter Pan, It’s A Small World, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Space Mountain

Animal Kingdom – Kilimanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest, Kail River Rapids

Hollywood Studios – Aerosmith Rock N’Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror

Epcot – The World Showcase, Soarin’, Spaceship Earth, Mission Space

Cost: Visit the following site for a listing of ticket prices and packages for each park.
Addresses: 1200 Epcot Resort Blvd Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830 (Epcot)
3111 World Dr Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830 (Magic Kingdom)
351 S Studio Dr Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830 (Hollywood Studios)
2901 Osceola Pkwy Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830 (Animal Kingdom)

7. Griffith Observatory – Los Angeles, California

Griffith Observatory - Los Angeles, California
Views of the Hollywood Sign from the Griffith Observatory hike - Los Angeles, California
Views of the Hollywood Sign from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California
Scenic views from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California

Griffith Observatory is a beautiful planetarium located on top of Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles, California. The highlight here is the prime location, the perfect destination for photography of the Hollywood sign and Los Angeles. The on-site hiking trails provide fantastic views of the Hollywood sign; in fact, you can take your picture almost right under the sign!

Tip: I recommend taking a late afternoon hike and then heading over to the observatory to stargaze and take in the beautiful night views of Los Angeles – stunning! You will also get the chance to look through a telescope.

Cost: Free! (Exhibits are free, planetarium shows require a small fee)
Address: 2800 E Observatory Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

 8. Brookfield Zoo – Brookfield, Illinois

Dolphin show at Brookfield Zoo in the Chicago suburbs
Tropic World at Brookfield Zoo
Brown bear relaxing at Brookfield Zoo
Polar bear in the underwater viewing area at Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo is the best zoo I have ever visited. This 216 acre zoo features beautifully landscaped grounds, an interactive dolphin show, an amazing underwater polar bear viewing area, and plenty of unique indoor exhibits. My favorite indoor exhibit is Tropic World – a beautiful primate exhibit which takes you through Asia, South America, and Africa. The visit to the zoo is worth it for this exhibit alone, in my opinion. Don’t miss out on the Zoo Lights held every holiday season – over a million lights brighten up the zoo, along with carolers, ice carving demos, and more!

Tips: Plan for an all day outing – this is a big zoo! During the summer months, buy your dolphin show tickets early as they often sell out!

Cost: Adults $15, Children, 3-11 & Seniors, $10.50 (Attractions like the dolphin show can be purchased for an extra fee).
Hours: The zoo is open year round. Monday-Saturday 9:30am – 6:00pm and Sunday 9:30am-7:30pm.
Address: 8400 W 31st St, Brookfield, IL 60513

9. The Las Vegas Strip – Las Vegas, Nevada 

Las Vegas, Nevada - The Strip
Eiffel tower replica Vegas Strip
Bellagio Fountains - Las Vegas, Nevada
The Mirage volcano show in Las Vegas
Gorgeous views of The Strip from the Eiffel Tower Experience in Las Vegas

Everyone has to see The Las Vegas Strip at least once in their life – the only place where you can see France, Italy, and New York in the same day! 😉 Dazzling free shows (love the Bellagio Fountains and The Mirage Volcano eruption shows), great restaurants, and great entertainment are just a few of the reasons to plan a trip even if you are not a gambler! Just walking down the strip and people watching is a once in a lifetime experience; you will see everyone here! Flying or driving into Vegas and seeing the landscape transform from a desolate desert into the bright lights, sounds, and craziness of The Vegas Strip is truly mesmerizing!

Check out my full guide to the best of the Strip!

Tip: A really cool, yet often unnoticed experience, is the CBS Television Research Center inside MGM Grand. You will get to watch a pilot for a new TV show and give your honest feedback.

 Cost: Free!
 Hours: Always open!
 Address: Las Vegas Blvd Las Vegas, NV 89109

10. Yellowstone National Park – Idaho, Wyoming & Montana

Scenic views at Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park
Bison crossing the road in Yellowstone National Park
Bison walking across the road at Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone, the first national park, is one of the natural wonders of the world. Beautiful waterfalls, geysers, hot springs, mountains, and wildlife surround you at every turn. A drive through the park during the early summer months is a magnificent experience. We were able to see bison walking right across the road, but unfortunately did not spot any bears during any of our trips. The Grand Loop will take you past all the park’s major attractions and give you endless opportunities to see wildlife, both upclose and in the distance!

Tips: Make sure to plan time to see the Old Faithful Geyser eruption, which occurs every 90 minutes. Stop in the West Yellowstone Visitor’s Center for a free map and info on the best routes for spotting wildlife.

Cost: $25 per car  or $12 by foot, bike, or ski (Visit during National Park Week for free!)
Address: 48-122 Yellowstone Ave West Yellowstone, MT (West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center)

11. Southern California Beaches

Santa Monica State Beach - Santa Monica, California
Laguna Beach, California
Manhattan Beach Pier, California

Southern California is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. My favorites include Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove State Park, Huntington Beach, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica State Beach, and Will Rogers State Beach. One of the best ways to explore a variety of beautiful beaches in a single day (while avoiding traffic and parking hassles) is by taking the 22 mile ride along the South Bay Bicycle Trail. On this path, you will pass through Redondo, Hermosa, Venice, and Santa Monica Beach. This is the best bike path I have ever done – scenic, flat, and plenty of fun stops along the way.

Tip: Don’t miss out on a ride on the Santa Monica Rollercoaster!

Cost: Free!

12. The Field Museum – Chicago, Illinois

The Field Museum Chicago

The Field Museum in Chicago is an impressive sight – one of the top museums in the world to add to your bucket list. Highlights include a world-class dinosaur exhibit, including “Sue”the most complete and preserved T-Rex fossil ever found. The Inside Ancient Egypt Exhibit is also a must see as it includes one of the largest collection of mummies. Another bonus is the location on beautiful Lake Michigan. From the museum, you can access the Chicago Lakefront Path, which runs 18 miles along Lake Michigan, while passing through major attractions such as Navy Pier, Soldier Field, The Shedd Aquarium, Alder Planetarium, beaches, and more.

Tip: Bring with or rent a bike and spend the whole day exploring the many attractions found downtown! This is a great way to get around downtown without paying for parking.

Cost: Adult: $15, Child (ages 3-11): $10, Senior (65 years +): $12 Student (w/ valid ID): $12 (Basic admission prices).
Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm
Address:1400 S Lake Shore Dr Chicago, IL 60605

13. The Virginia Beach Boardwalk – Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach boardwalk - Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach Boardwalk - Virginia Beach, Virginia
Neptune Statue on Virginia Beach Boardwalk in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach Boardwalk at night - Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach is the ideal summer destination. A beautiful boardwalk spanning 3 gorgeous miles along the Atlantic Ocean is the perfect place for a bike ride or stroll. The boardwalk is clean, beautiful, and most importantly features a separate biking and walking path! One of the best features of the boardwalk is that it is lit up at night, which makes it feel safe to take a nice night stroll along the ocean.

The boardwalk is lined with hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops. The bronze Neptune statue is a great place for photos! During the summer months various concerts, attractions, and events will keep you entertained.

Tip: Visit during the spring months if you are looking for less crowds and cooler temperatures.

14. Zephyr Cove Cruises – Zephyr Cove, Nevada

Views from Zephyr Cove cruise in Lake Tahoe
 Zephyr Cove cruise in Lake Tahoe
Lake views from Zephyr Cove cruise in Lake Tahoe

This Lake Tahoe cruise aboard the M.S. Dixie II features tremendous views of Emerald Bay, one of the most scenic places in the US. The largest cruise vessel in Lake Tahoe has also been rated the “Best Cruise in Nevada” by Nevada Magazine. A relaxing cruise where you get to take beautiful photographs while also learning about the history of Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay.

Tip: Don’t forget to bring a jacket on-board even during the summer months – it gets cool on the water!

Cost: Adult – $47 Child, (Age 3-11) – $10
Hours: Click here to see the cruise schedule.
Address: 760 U.S. Hwy 50 Zephyr Cove, NV 89448

15. CliffWalk – Newport, Rhode Island

Cliff Walk - Newport, Rhode Island
40 stone steps Newport, RI CliffWalk
A mansion in the distance - Newport, RI CliffWalk
Scenic views from Newport, RI CliffWalk

Most people know about the famous Newport Mansions, the extravagant early 18th century Vanderbilt mansions which are now National Historic Landmarks and popular tourist attractions. However, if you only tour the opulent mansion tours you are missing out on Cliffwalk, a beautiful 3 mile walk with incredible views of the ocean and rocky coastline.

Tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes, bring with a camera, and visit either during the morning or early evening for the best photos!

Cost: Free!
Address: Memorial Blvd & Eustis Ave Newport, RI 02840

16. Wrigley Field – Chicago, Illinois

Chicago Cubs - Wrigley Field
Chicago Cubs - Wrigley Field
Chicago Cubs - Wrigley Field
Chicago Cubs - Wrigley Field

Historic Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs, is the second oldest ballpark, right behind Fenway Park. This classic park was built in 1914 and has been home to the Cubs since 1916, which makes watching a game here feel like a step back in time! You cannot help joining in on all the excitement as passionate locals sing the catchy “Go Cubs Go” song.

Tip: Sit in the bleachers for a true Chicago experience!

Cost: Ticket prices vary by date/time. Visit Stub Hub for the best prices.
Address: 1060 W Addison St Chicago, IL 60613

17. Trees of Mystery – Klamath, California

Trees of Mystery SkyTrail ride - Klamath, California
Scenic overlook at the Trees of Mystery - Klamath, California
Huge, old redwood tree stump at Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California
Paul Bunyan statue at Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California

Although many consider the Trees of Mystery attraction along scenic Hwy 101 as a “tourist trap,” I was actually quite pleased with this attraction. A gondola ride takes you up 1570 feet through the giant redwood trees to an observation deck with breathtaking views. There is also a unique museum with Bigfoot collectibles and clips of reported area sightings. You can also take your photo by the famous Paul Bunyan statue. On the small trail to the gondola, there are plenty of unique trees and odd facts to keep you interested. Worth every penny in my opinion!

Tip: Bring with a camera for the observation deck – lots of great photo opportunities here!

Cost: Adults (13-59) $15, Seniors (60+) $11, Kids 7-12 $8, Kids 6 and under are free Admission includes SkyTrail, Forest Experience Trail, Wilderness Trail, Trail of Tall Trees & the Kingdom of Trees)
Hours: Summer and winter hours vary. Click here for the operating hours.
Address: 15500 U.S. 101 Klamath, CA 95548

18. Downtown Chicago – Chicago, Illinois

Cloud Gate Sculpture at Millenium Park in Chicago
Milennium Park Ice Rink in Chicago, Illinois
Chicago Lakefront Path

Chicago is one of the best cities in the country with the best skyline, food, and museums imo. It is the perfect destination for either the summer or the winter. Summer is a great time to visit the world renown museums, walk or bike along the beautiful Chicago Lakefront Trail, stroll around Navy Pier, visit beaches, and take in the great skyline views. Winter is also a great time to visit with numerous holiday events including the Daley Center tree lighting, ice skating at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, Christkindlmarket Chicago, Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo and more! Whichever time of year you visit you will be sure to have a great time!

Tip: Take public transportation like the “L” to get around. It is cheaper and less of a hassle then driving around/seeking parking in the city.

Key Address:
Navy Pier – 600 E Grand Ave. Chicago, IL 60611
Millennium Park – 201 E Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60686
Magnificent Mile – 625 N Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60610
Lincoln Park Zoo – 2200 N Cannon Dr. Chicago, IL 60614

19. Camden Hills State Park – Camden, Maine

Camden Hills State Park in Maine
Cliff scenery at Camden Hills State Park - Maine
Views of the Bay from Camden Hills State Park - Maine
Scenic views of the Bay via Camden Hills State Park - Maine

Camden Hills State Park is a scenic state park located in Camden, Maine whose fitting slogan is “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea.” The hiking trails vary in intensity from easy flat paths to the more scenic, uphill climbs. The steep, short hike up Mt. Battie offers rewarding views. The summit of this hike leads you to beautiful panoramic views of Camden Harbor, Penobscot Bay, the lakes, and the beautiful hilly forested landscape. Bring your camera!

Tip: Make sure to check yourself for ticks after your hike and wear long sleeved clothing. Ticks are very common in this area.

Cost:$3 for residents, $4.50 for non-residents
Address: 280 Belfast Road, Camden, ME 04843

20. The Atlantic City Boardwalk – Atlantic City, New Jersey

The Borgata casino resort in Atlantic City
Borgata Casino - Atlantic City, New Jersey
Bird on boardwalk - Atlantic City, New Jersey
Borgata Casino - Atlantic City, New Jersey
Taj Mahal Atlantic City, New Jersey

Unfortunately, I have only visited Atlantic City during the colder spring months. However, taking a stroll or renting a surrey along the boardwalk is a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s a different experience than Las Vegas, but offers its’ own benefits including pretty views of the ocean, unique people watching opportunities, and lots of weird shops. Lots of themed restaurants and quirky attractions to explore. Also, a great walkway for traveling between the casinos! The best casino to stay at is located off the boardwalk: the beautiful Borgata which is the only property to come close to a Vegas casino. Check out my full guide to staying at The Borgata.

 Address:Pacific Ave, Atlantic City NJ 08401