Special Report

30 Experiences That Should Be on Every American's Bucket List

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From coast to coast, the United States offers a wealth of unique experiences waiting to be embraced. From exploring national parks to savoring regional cuisine, there are many way to celebrate the spirit that defines the U.S.

24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of activities in the U.S. Americans should do at some point in their lives, serving as a bucket list for every citizen seeking to deepen their connection with their homeland. We assembled our list from multiple online sources focusing on history and culture, as well as the official travel sites for various states. This is by no means a comprehensive list – rather a catalog of some of the activities people may not be able to enjoy anywhere else.

Spanning across states, these activities encompass a range of interests, catering to adventurers, history buffs, nature enthusiasts, and culture seekers. Each item on the list holds its own significance, representing the rich tapestry of American culture, heritage, and natural wonders. (Here are 38 places in the U.S. every American should visit.)

Whether it’s hiking the majestic trails of the iconic Angels Landing or indulging in some authentic moonshine in Tennessee, these experiences are windows into the vibrant mosaic of American life.

By embracing these experiences, Americans have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the nation’s history, appreciate its remarkable landscapes, and engage with the diverse communities that shape the American identity.

Click here for the 30 experiences that should be on every American’s bucket list

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Ride airboats at Everglades National Park
> State: Florida

Experience the thrill of gliding through the air on the airboats available at Everglades National Park, which protects the ecosystems of rare and endangered species, including the manatee, the American crocodile, and the Florida panther. The park boasts a distinguished status as a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance.

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Hike in the Zion National Park
> State: Utah

Every American should experience the beauty of Zion National Park through a hiking adventure. The park offers breathtaking landscapes of towering sandstone cliffs, narrow slot canyons, and lush forests. Hiking trails like the iconic Angels Landing and The Narrows provide unforgettable experiences and a connection with nature.

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Drive on the Kancamagus Highway
> State: New Hampshire

This legendary route traverses the picturesque White Mountain National Forest, treating drivers to breathtaking vistas of colorful foliage in the fall, majestic peaks, and crystal-clear rivers, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and road trip aficionados. The winding road offers a captivating journey through nature’s wonders, with ample opportunities for capturing stunning photographs.

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See the first sunrise in America
> State: Maine

The first sunrise in the continental U.S. is considered unique due to its symbolic significance. Being the easternmost point in the country, it is the first place where the sun’s rays touch American soil each morning, marking the beginning of a new day. This natural phenomenon holds a sense of wonder and serves as a powerful reminder of the beauty of nature and the cyclical nature of life.

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Go on an Alaskan cruise
> State: Alaska

Every American should traverse the waters surrounding Alaska, to witness the awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur of the country’s largest state. A cruise or other water voyage offers a unique opportunity to explore Alaska’s stunning glaciers, fjords, and wilderness. From spotting whales to observing otters and eagles in their daily lives, wildlife encounters are common and sure to be unforgettable.

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Go on a bourbon tour around Kentucky
> State: Kentucky

A trip to Kentucky is a journey into the heart of America’s bourbon heritage. The state is renowned for its distilleries and rich bourbon-making traditions. A bourbon tour allows you to explore historic distilleries, learn about the craftsmanship behind this iconic American spirit, and sample a wide array of bourbons.

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Go snorkeling off Shell Island
> State: Florida

Unlike many heavily developed tourist destinations, Shell Island remains relatively untouched, providing a rare opportunity to explore an ecosystem unspoiled by human activity. The island’s vibrant coral reefs, diverse marine life, and crystal-clear waters provide an authentic encounter with marine life.

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Visit a haunted house tour in Salem
> State: Massachusetts

Visit a haunted house tour in Salem to delve into the chilling history and folklore associated with the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Salem holds a dark past, and the haunted house tours offer an opportunity to immerse in the eerie atmosphere. It’s a chance to experience spine-tingling thrills, embrace the macabre history, and gain a deeper understanding of the events that unfolded in Salem centuries ago.

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Scaling Mendenhall Glacier
> State: Alaska

Scaling Mendenhall Glacier is a unique experience due to its breathtaking beauty and the increasingly rare opportunity to explore a living ice mass. Located in Juneau, Alaska, Mendenhall Glacier offers a mesmerizing landscape of towering ice formations, blue ice caves, and dramatic crevasses. The glacier’s constantly changing nature makes each visit a truly one-of-a-kind adventure.

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Take a Ride in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park
> State: Louisiana

Riding an airboat near Jean Lafitte National Historical Park offers a unique experience immersed in the natural heritage of Louisiana’s swamplands. The airboat ride allows you to glide through the picturesque marshes, providing close encounters with wildlife like alligators, herons, and turtles. Visitors can learn about the historical significance of the area, including its association with the legendary pirate Jean Lafitte.

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Go on a Napa Valley wine tour
> State: California

Napa Valley is renowned for its world-class vineyards, picturesque landscapes, and award-winning wines. A tour is an opportunity to visit and taste wines from a wide variety of wineries, each with its own distinct character and winemaking techniques. The region’s rich history, dedication to sustainability, and commitment to producing premium wines make a Napa Valley wine tour a truly special and enriching journey.

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Go whale watching in Monterey
> State: California

Monterey Bay is known as one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world due to its incredibly rich marine ecosystem and diverse whale populations. What sets it apart is the unusual possibility of year-round sightings. The bay is home to humpback whales, blue whales, orcas, and various dolphin species.

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Try line dancing in Texas
> State: Texas

Line dancing in Texas is sure to create lasting memories. The artform combines influences from various American dance traditions, including Western, country, and folk dances. The relatively structured, often synchronized routines common to American line dancing emerged in the early 20th century, reflecting the spirit of community and celebration found in American social gatherings. It is often associated with country music and Texas cowboy culture.

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Camp at Cape Kiwanda
> State: Oregon

Cape Kiwanda, located along the rugged Oregon coast has some of the most stunning coastal vistas, towering sand dunes, and picturesque sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. For viewers, the Cape may evoke the American ideals of exploration and a new-found appreciation for the diversity of the nation’s landscapes.

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Scuba dive in Florida Keys
> State: Florida

The Keys are renowned for their vibrant coral reefs, diverse marine life, and crystal-clear waters, making it a premier scuba diving destination. The warm waters and accessible dive sites cater to divers of all skill levels, making it an ideal destination for beginners and experienced divers alike.

Go rafting on the Colorado River
> State: Utah

Perhaps among the most iconic adventure activities, rafting along the Colorado River allows people to immerse themselves in the beauty of towering canyon walls, the exhilaration of riding rapids, and the serenity of floating on calm water.

The Colorado River holds historical significance as it played a crucial role in shaping the exploration and settlement of the American West. The Colorado River carved out the Grand Canyon, which became a symbol of America’s natural beauty, and remains a popular tourist destination.

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Visit Colonial Williamsburg
> State: Virginia

A visit to Colonial Williamsburg brings an experience of living history. The historic district recreates the atmosphere and lifestyle of 18th-century Williamsburg, providing a journey back in time. By exploring the carefully restored buildings, interacting with costumed interpreters, and participating in hands-on activities, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of early American life, the struggles of the Revolutionary War era, and the ideas that shaped the nation’s founding.

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Hike Ruby Mountain Wilderness
> State: Nevada

The Ruby Mountain Wilderness is uniquely American due to its preservation and protection under the National Wilderness Preservation System. Designated as a wilderness area in 1989, it is part of the now over 109 million acres managed by the USDA, which aims to safeguard and conserve America’s most pristine and natural landscapes for future generations.

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Go skiing Jackson Hole
> State: Wyoming

Jackson Hole, an iconic American ski destination, is renowned for its challenging terrain, vast open bowls, and legendary snow conditions. The Teton Range, where the resort is located, is known for breathtaking natural features any outdoor enthusiast wouldn’t want to miss. The town embraces its western heritage, reflecting the traditions, values, and spirit of the American West. It preserves the legacy of cowboys and pioneer life, offering a glimpse into America’s frontier past.

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Try ziplining in Maui
> State: Hawaii

Consider ziplining in Maui for a thrilling and unforgettable adventure in one of the most picturesque areas of any U.S. territory. Maui, which was inhabited by polynesians for centuries before western traders arrived in the late 19th century, is deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture. Many zipline tours incorporate storytelling, cultural traditions, and historical insights, providing a deeper appreciation for the island’s indigenous history and traditions.

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Mountain biking in Sedona
> State: Arizona

With diverse trails for all skill levels, riders can experience the unique geology and natural beauty of the Sedona region. The physical and mental benefits of mountain biking, coupled with the opportunity to connect with nature, make Sedona a must-visit destination. It’s one of America’s most captivating outdoor adventure meccas.

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Stargaze in Death Valley
> State: California

Death Valley, the lowest point in North America, is known for its exceptionally dark skies, providing optimal conditions for stargazing and allowing visitors to witness a multitude of stars, planets, and celestial phenomena. The remote location and minimal light pollution create a sense of solitude and tranquility, enhancing the overall stargazing experience.

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Ride the white sand dunes
> State: New Mexico

Located in the White Sands National Park, expansive, distinctively white, dunes offer breathtaking landscapes of pristine, soft white sand. Riding across the dunes on sleds, boards, or even just by foot is an adventure into one of the more surreal environments available to U.S. residents.

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Meet sled dogs at Denali
> State: Alaska

Meeting sled dogs at Denali National Park offers an experience that highlights the cultural significance of these animals. They play a vital role in park operations, assisting rangers in winter patrols and providing transportation across the snowy terrain. Visitors may interact with the dogs and gain a deeper understanding of the crucial role sled dogs have played in the park’s history and exploration of the Alaskan wilderness.

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Taste moonshine in Gatlinburg
> State: Tennessee

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is renowned for its rich moonshine heritage and offers an opportunity to sample a variety of flavors and recipes crafted by local distilleries. From traditional classics to creative innovations, sipping moonshine allows you to embrace the region’s Appalachian culture, indulge in the history of American prohibition, and appreciate the craftsmanship behind this iconic spirit.

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Witness sandhill migration
> State: Nebraska

The sandhill crane migration is one of the world’s greatest wildlife events. Thousands of cranes travel to their breeding grounds through Nebraska from mid-to-late February to mid April, once a year. The cranes are known for their massive symphonies of bird calls.

In Nebraska, one of the best places to witness the sandhill crane migration is along the Platte River, specifically, the area around Kearney.

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Visiting Thomas Edison’s factory
> State: New Jersey

Every American should consider visiting Thomas Edison’s factory for a glimpse into the ingenuity and pioneering spirit that shaped America. Edison’s factory, designated the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, is in West Orange, New Jersey. Exploring the site allows visitors to witness firsthand the laboratory where numerous inventions and technological advancements were developed, including the phonograph and the practical electric light bulb.

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Try a lobster roll in Maine
> State: Maine

Maine is renowned for its fresh Atlantic-caught seafood, and the lobster roll is a beloved local specialty. Savoring a lobster roll allows you to indulge in the rich and sweet flavors of freshly caught lobster meat. Typically, the meal is served on a buttered and toasted roll with minimal additional ingredients.

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Attend a rodeo
> State: Oklahoma

Rodeos capture the spirit of the American West. They showcase the skills and traditions of cowboy culture, featuring events like bull riding, roping, barrel racing, and bronc riding. Witnessing these displays of athleticism helps you appreciate the horsemanship and teamwork involved, and celebrate the resilience and grit that embody the cowboy spirit.

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Ride through a coal mine
> State: West Virginia

While coal is still the second-biggest electricity source in America, its use has declined to nowhere near where it was a century ago. Many coal mines in West Virginia, home to some of the oldest and largest extraction operations in the country, are now tourist businesses. A ride through one of these coal mines can make it easier to understand the challenging and sometimes dangerous work environment that coal miners have faced throughout history, and of the sacrifices made by workers to power the nation’s growth and development.

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