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Have you been dreaming about the American Dream and looking for some places to add to your USA bucket list? Then you’ve come to the right place!
In this guide, we’ve compiled the best USA experiences that offer unique family adventures.
These are activities that stretch your comfort zone a little, teach you something special about the place you are visiting, and ultimately create those long-lasting memories.
If you’re traveling with young kids or teenagers, these activities will make you laugh, cry, scream, and smile together. There is no better way to bond as a family than exploring those off-the-beaten-path locations in America, wandering in stunning natural environments or in quirky small towns.
So if you’re ready to explore the USA, be sure to add some of these places to your family USA bucket list.
- The Best USA Bucket List Adventures for Families
- 1. Airboat and Kayak the Wacissa River, Florida
- 2. Hang Gliding in the Outer Banks, North Carolina
- 3. Skiing in North Idaho
- 4. Jet Boating the Rogue River, Oregon
- 5. ATV Exploring in Sand Hollow State Park, Utah
- 6. Sea Cave Kayaking in the Channel Islands National Park, California
- 7. Scalloping in Steinhatchee, Florida
- 8. Bike the Route of the Hiawatha, Idaho
- 9. Hike to a Glacier, North Cascades NP, WA
- 10. Upper Grinnel Lake Hike, Glacier NP, Montana
- 11. Night Swim with Manta Rays, Big Island of Hawaii
- 12. Off Roading Pink Jeep Tour, Sedona
- 13. Horse Riding through the Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho
- 14. Jeep Rock Crawling in Moab, Utah
- 15. Explore the Wilderness of Alaska
- 16. Experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans
- 17. Enjoy Country Music in Nashville
- 18. Learn About the American Revolution on the Freedom Trail
- 19. Explore the Iconic Sites of Washington D.C.
- 20. Marvel at the Rocky Mountains
- 21. Be Wow-ed by Yellowstone National Park
- 22. Go Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains
- 23. Gaze Upon Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
- 24. Experience the National Parks of Las Vegas
- 25. See the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia
- Final Word on USA Bucket List Adventures
The Best USA Bucket List Adventures for Families
This list of USA bucket list adventures focuses on the fun, adventurous, and out-of-the-ordinary. You’ll find everything from world-class museums to iconic natural landscapes. You’ll find no Disney World in Orlando or boring tourist attractions on this list!
Whether you like the outdoors or learning about history and culture, there’s a bucket list activity for every family on this list.
1. Airboat and Kayak the Wacissa River, Florida
The Wacissa River is a first-magnitude clear, spring-fed stream that is fed by about 20 springs at the headwaters.
We joined Captain Brad Cooley from 5 Rivers Adventure who took us on an 11-mile airboat adventure zigzagging over the eelgrass and bright green lilies covering the river.
We navigated through narrow channels canopied by Spanish moss cypress and oak trees, chasing egrets and bald eagles, and fast-diving alligators.
We traded our airboat for kayaks and set off on a thrilling and challenging adventure through the Slave Canal which connects the Wacissa to the Aucilla River.
The Slave Canal is marked but you could get lost and despite the quickly moving water assisting your paddling, it’s quite a technical paddle as you navigate narrow spaces, fallen logs and the overhanging branches of ancient oaks, cypress, and palmettos draped with Spanish Moss.
While most people visit Florida Keys or Orlando in, this adventurous kayak trip is beyond stunning and a must-do when you visit Monticello, Fl. This is one of the best things to do in the USA with kids, and I’m guessing you’ve never heard of it!
Video: Wacissa River Adventures
2. Hang Gliding in the Outer Banks, North Carolina
When we visit a destination, we like to experience what is unique to the area. Without a doubt, hang gliding with Kitty Hawk Kites is a unique North Carolina attraction that helps tell the Outer Banks story!
There is a long history of flying in the Outer Banks. It was in the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina that the Wright Brothers took the first flight in the early years of the 20th Century.
Today, kite flyers and hang gliders from all over the world visit the Outer Banks to have their own flying experiences.
Hang gliding with Kitty Hawk Kites in Jockey Ridge State Park is the story you’ve been looking for. A Beginner’s Dune Hang Gliding lesson will take you on five solo flights (with an instructor running beside you) soaring over the dunes with beautiful views of Roanoke Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s a unique USA bucket list adventure for sure!
Video: Hang Gliding in the Outer Banks
3. Skiing in North Idaho
For a family that seeks flip-flops and humidity, skiing was something we always avoided. There was the lingering fear of being too cold to enjoy myself, but also of snapping a few bones.
But, we’re adventurers and know that you should never let fear get in the way of a good story or experience.
So we bought our thermals, registered for lessons, and had one of our best family adventures yet – skiing in three North Idaho ski resorts.
Y’all know how much we LOVE Idaho. We couldn’t have chosen a better place for our first family ski experience – spectacularly beautiful, with lots of fresh powder, long runs, and limited crowds. In fact, many times we had the whole runs to ourselves.
This is the kind of adventure every traveler dreams of: complete newness, thrills, spills, laughter, and growing together as a family. It’s the adventure where I can home and said, “I’ve changed for the better.” There are so many moments from this trip that I’ll remember and share forever.
4. Jet Boating the Rogue River, Oregon
One of the best adventures on your Oregon road trip is to spend a day jet boating on the wild and scenic Rogue River on the South Oregon Coast.
The girls will never forget this adventure squealing and waving their hands in the air with their friends as we bounced over rapids and did some fast 360-degree turns.
The scenery is rugged and spectacular and it’s highly possible you’ll see lots of wildlife along the way.
Bears are commonly spotted and the odd mountain lion. We didn’t get lucky with those animals but we saw plenty of deer and birds.
Commentary along the six hour tour is informative and entertaining.
There are long (104 miles) and short (80 miles) tours. I recommend the 104-mile Wilderness Whitewater tour with Jerry’s Rogue Jets so you can experience the thrill of the rapids which is mostly featured on the longer tour.
It travels into the ‘Wild’ section, an area only accessible by jet boating, rafting, and hiking.
You will stop along the way for lunch and a brew if you feel up to it. OR, you can take your own picnic lunch like we did. The picnic spots above the river are serene.
This is a wild, rugged, and unique thing to do in the USA with kids. They will LOVE it! It’s thrilling without them having to exert too much energy. But enough, that they’ll be worn out by the end of the day.
Video: Jet Boating Rogue River
5. ATV Exploring in Sand Hollow State Park, Utah
How does zipping around magnificent red sand dunes in an ATV or quad bike sound?
Not only is it an epic Southwest USA activity, but it’s also in some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen.
Sand Hollow State Park in St George, Utah is renowned for its 6,000 acres of ATV and OHV off-road trails that take you to 3,500ft in elevation.
The sand areas are divided by incredible rock formations into the upper areas and bounded by the blue man-made lake at the lower edges.
This is a USA Bucket List adventure that will get the kids squealing and giggling. Finish it off with a magnificent sunset over the sand dunes.
I will never forget Kalyra yelling at me from the back of the ATV, “Show them what you’re made of Mum!” as I pressed my foot down on the accelerator and roared up the sand dune!!
The cheered as we came flying back down the other side!! A family who adventures together, stays together.
Video: ATV Tour St George
6. Sea Cave Kayaking in the Channel Islands National Park, California
One of our favorite family travel moments was kayaking around the cliff faces of Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park and snorkeling amongst the kelp forest.
We loved discovering sea anemones and urchins and the friendly seals that popped up to say hi.
There’s not much over on the Channel Islands except for you and remote beaches, cliff faces, valleys, and canyons for hiking, and sea caves to explore on kayaks.
This park makes for a perfect one-day trip while driving the Pacific Coast Highway, and provides a striking contrast to the hustle and bustle of Southern California. And it’s one of the most beautiful places in California we have visited, even more so than Napa Valley.
Video: Channel Islands National Park
7. Scalloping in Steinhatchee, Florida
Every year, from June to August, those in the know flock to Steinhatchee on the Florida Gulf Coast to go free dive in the shallows for wild sea scallops.
This region is known as the scallop capital of the US, making it a unique US bucket list attraction. The girls dubbed it “the most fun ever!”
We spent four hours snorkeling among the turtle grass, spying on the scallops camouflaged and grabbing them with our hands. Pretty soon you get the hang of it and can spy their mouths opening and closing.
There are limits on how many each person can catch, and we didn’t even come close to that, making sure we only grabbed as much as we could eat.
Our private charter captain, Captain Mike was a fantastic guide with an easygoing, friendly nature.
He took us to a sand bar on the way home – again waist deep, where we could swim and hunt through the sand for sand dollars.
Thankfully, he was able to find a couple and we got a closer look at these beautifully designed animals.
Captain Mike organized for our sea scallop bootie to be shucked back at the marina, and then Fiddler’s Restaurant at our resort cooked them up for us and we enjoyed them with a cold drink and live music on the newly built deck overlooking the river.
This is definitely one of the best things to do in Florida with kids!
Video: Wild Scalloping, Florida
8. Bike the Route of the Hiawatha, Idaho
This is probably the gentlest of all the USA adventures on this list.
No matter how new your kids are to adventuring, they can easily manage a bike ride on the Route of the Hiawatha.
Now I know you may think a 15-mile bike ride is not for novices, but this one makes it easy for you – it’s 15 miles on a flat, well-maintained path that is mostly downhill!
There is a good chance you may see deer along the way, and with 9 tunnels and 7 high trestle bridges spanning the steepest parts of the valley, the kids will LOVE it. You will LOVE it.
The forested Bitterroot Mountains provide a spectacular setting as you cycle one of the USA’s most famous rail-to-trail paths taking in stunning Idaho scenery.
Be prepared for the first tunnel which is almost 1.7 miles long – that is over 10 minutes at least riding in the pitch black. Flashlights are essential, as is a jacket as temperatures sit in the 40s.
You can take your own bikes or hire them from the Lookout Pass ski area.
We hired bikes including a tag-along for Savannah. She’s 8 and probably would have made the entire bike ride on her own bike, but we didn’t want to risk it. She had a blast singing the entire time.
You can catch the shuttle back to the first tunnel, or if you really like adventure, cycle the 15 miles back uphill. We opted for the shuttle.
Video: Route of the Hiawatha
9. Hike to a Glacier, North Cascades NP, WA
We set out for what we thought was to be the biggest hike with the kids: 7.4 mile return with an 1,800ft elevation gain – thankfully gradually over a series of 35 switchbacks.
The Cascades Pass Trail is meant to be the most popular of the North Cascades national park hiking trails with beautiful views of the surrounding mountain peaks and glaciers.
The hike took us through old-growth forests, that gave way to clearings with views of the surrounding glacier-covered jagged peaks. A short walk across a rocky open path took us to the end of the trail at the Pass, a place where verdant meadows curved down to a saddle that offered sweeping views of nearby valleys, glaciers, mountains, and passing wildlife.
Some saw bears in the distance, others marmots.
Then the kids had the idea to continue on. They wanted to touch a glacier. It turned our 7.5 mile hike into a 15 mile hike, with a total elevation gain of over 4,000 feet.
The trail to Sahale Glacier started with steep switchbacks, and black bears munching berries just off the trail. It turned into valleys, forests and meadows, stunning glacier lakes (Doubtful Lake), and even more black bears, including mothers and babies.
And the views. 360-degree panoramic views of jagged mountain peaks and glaciers. I’ve never seen anything like it!
It was one of the most challenging hikes I’ve done and I was blown away by how well the kids handled it. I did have to carry Savannah for most of the last hour back down. But, boy is this a story she loves to talk about now all the time.
Sometimes let the kids guide you on your USA bucket list adventures and be prepared to be amazed. North Cascades National Park is in Washington State, just over two hours north of Seattle.
10. Upper Grinnel Lake Hike, Glacier NP, Montana
Can you imagine our surprise and elation as we came up from the last of the steep climbs after a 5 mile hike, trying to grasp our breath and asking, “Are we there yet?” to see a milky turquoise lake completely covered in bopping icebergs.
No one had told us this is what we’d see in Upper Grinnell Lake on the 11 mile return hike.
The highlight was supposed to be Grinnell Glacier but we were like, “what glacier?”
Grinnell Glacier was there on the mountain face standing guard over the chunks of ice it released into the water. It was mesmerizing.
What’s even better about the Grinnell Glacier hike is that the views all the way there and back are absolutely stunning. You get panoramic views down into the valley over the brilliant aqua of the famous Glacier National Park Lakes: Grinnell Lake, Swiftcurrent Lake, and Josephine Lake.
You walk through huckleberry gardens and forested sections. It’s just beautiful.
The Grinnell Glacier hike is in Glacier National Park in Montana. It was our favorite hike in this national park.
Like the Sahale Glacier hike, this is one of the best things to do in the USA with kids so they may understand the importance of caring for Mother Nature. And to see these precious glaciers firsthand before they sadly disappear for good.
11. Night Swim with Manta Rays, Big Island of Hawaii
WOW…I’m not sure there is anything else to say. This was definitely our favorite things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii.
It didn’t hit me until our traditional Hawaiian 40-foot double-hulled Hawaiian sailing canoe pointed towards the setting sun and it hit me what we were about to do.
Swim in the ocean, in the dark, with manta rays and my five-year-old child!
I wasn’t expecting anything like we experienced.
Here came these gentle butterflies of the sea, flapping over to where we lay on our boards, snorkeled face in the water. They barrel rolled over and over again so close that we could peer into their stomachs.
They glided by so close to our faces that we could have easily planted a sloppy kiss on their horned fins. Their eyes looked into mine, “I see you. Stay still and let me show you how beautiful we are.”
Swimming with the manta rays AT NIGHT was one of the best USA Bucket List experiences for our family.
While Savannah refused to put her snorkeled face into the water and see the manta rays, she definitely saw them swimming below illuminated by the lights.
The lights attract the plankton which attracts the manta.
12. Off Roading Pink Jeep Tour, Sedona
The Broken Arrow Pink Jeep tour is a renowned Sedona attraction and a definite USA bucket list activity to do with family.
Sedona in Arizona is one of the most beautiful and spiritual regions in the USA. There is no better way to see it than in the back of a pink jeep as you bounce around over rock faces and down the 45-degree graded rock face called the Devil Staircase.
At the time, this was the most thrilling adventure our girls experienced. I loved watching their eyes widen in disbelief as we navigate some scary passages, squealing with a mixture of terror and delight.
This tour also combines education, with a few stop-offs as your guide informs you about the history and geological richness of the Sedona area.
Their next crazy rock-crawling adventure happened in Moab, where we really turned up the thrill dial!
13. Horse Riding through the Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho
We all agreed that our horse ride through the Sawtooth Wilderness in Stanley, Idaho was one of the best horse-riding experiences we’ve ever had.
Our horses were so gentle and steady. Our guide was very friendly, encouraging, and knowledgeable about the Sawtooth Wilderness and the surrounding Stanley area.
And the scenery was simply stunning. It was WOW at every turn.
The final stretch was when we had panoramic views of the jagged Sawtooth Mountain peaks and Redfish Lakes, one of my favorite lakes in the country. We say life is all about the memories, and this outdoor family adventure gave us a great one.
The Stanley region in Central Idaho is one of our favorite places in the USA (and we’ve seen a lot!)
Video: Horse riding Sawtooth Wilderness
14. Jeep Rock Crawling in Moab, Utah
We didn’t realize we’d be rock crawling when we joined this guided jeep tour of the surrounding rock country in Moab.
If we had known we may let fear stop us from going on this American Southwest activity!
Rock Crawling in a Jeep was an incredible family adventure we continue to talk about. There was loads of laughter, a few tears, and plenty of screams.
This is an exercise in trust. Jeeps are the most versatile and trustworthy vehicles. There’s probably not a rock they can’t spread their wheels over in all different directions to climb up and over with more skill than a crab.
But letting go to trust that jeep when you’re laying back in your seat at a 90 degree angle hoping you’ve given enough gas to get up, or to leaning right down to almost kiss the ground hoping that the Jeep will stick and then right itself up is difficult.
Adding to the thrill of the adventure were the stunning views that surrounded us of Moab, Utah.
What a wonderful way to explore the backcountry and an EPIC USA Bucket list travel adventure for sure!
15. Explore the Wilderness of Alaska
Alaska is a wild and untamed state in America and a wonder to explore. You’ll find remote towns, some that can only be reached by air or sea, as well as snow-capped mountains, glacial lakes, and expansive wilderness.
On the coast, you’ll be able to see whales, sea lions, and dolphins in their natural habitat. Inland, there’s the possibility of seeing bears and bald Eagles.
For nature and outdoor lovers, skipping Alaska off your USA bucket list would be a real shame! It’s also one of the few places in North America where you can see the Northern Lights and go dog sledging!.
16. Experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans
New Orleans is a unique city and one of the most underestimated family destinations in the USA.
Many families opt for big cities like San Francisco or New York City for their USA city breaks, but while the Golden Gate Bridge and Empire State Building are a marvel to witness, there’s nothing quite like a Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana!
The festival lasts for two weeks starting on the 6th January, so if you plan to visit during the winter, this is definitely something to add to your list of things to do in New Orleans with kids.
Dress up in bright costumes, head to the French Quarter and partake in the culturally rich festivities and watch one of the many parades.
While many people flock to Bourbon Street for Mardi Gras, it’s not always the most appropriate place to see the parade with kids. Royal Street on the West Side of the French Quarter is much more family friendly.
17. Enjoy Country Music in Nashville
For those looking to experience real American hospitality and culture, you’ll want to head to Nashville, Tennessee. It’s the birthplace of country music, and is where you’ll find some of the most iconic music venues such as the Grand Ole Opry House.
You can also learn about the musical roots of Nashville at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and Johnny Cash Museum.
Experience the authentic nightlife of the United States by visiting honky-tonks and saloon bars. Or spend the day walking around Nashville and soak in the street art and visit the chocolate factories!
18. Learn About the American Revolution on the Freedom Trail
American history is vast and turbulent, but perhaps the most important part of American history that any visitor to the USA must educate themselves on is the American Revolution.
The Freedom Trail is a unique collection of sites and attractions across Boston, Massachusetts, that tell the story of the American revolution and the activists and iconic figures who played a part in it.
It spans 2.5 miles, connecting 16 nationally significant sites.
Another important trail in Boston for learning about America’s history is the Black Heritage Trail.
19. Explore the Iconic Sites of Washington D.C.
The White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian Museum, and the Capitol Building, are just a few reasons to add Washington D.C. to your USA bucket list.
Sure, it’s the center of politics, being the home of the President and Supreme Court, but it also has the largest museum in the world. The Smithsonian Museum complex is so big and interesting, it is split into 19 separate museums, and it would take days to see it all.
Washington D.C. is also full of memorials and statues, such as The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
If you’re interested in American history and culture, this is your number one place to visit.
20. Marvel at the Rocky Mountains
If you love nature and are looking to be wow-ed by mother nature, then you should make a stop by the Rocky Mountain National Park.
Cutting through Colorado and the Continental Divide, this mountain region is home to protected mountains, dense forests, and alpine lakes. It’s also where the Colorado River starts.
It’s a popular hiking region and has some of the most scenic drives in the USA, including the Trail Ridge Road and the Old Fall River Road.
For those who love to turn their adventure up a notch, consider rock climb the vertical rock faces to Longs Peak, the park’s tallest mountain.
21. Be Wow-ed by Yellowstone National Park
Perhaps the most well-known National Park in the USA is Yellowstone, home to geysers, volcanic pools, and dramatic canyons. It spreads from Wyoming into parts of Montana and Idaho and is where you will find some of North America’s most elusive animals; wolves, elk, antelope, and bears.
It’s most famous for its wild bison. Its bison herds travel through much of the park, and it’s quite common for those driving through the park to get stopped by them at some point.
Perhaps the biggest attraction in Yellowstone though, is the geysers. It has the largest concentration of geysers and hot springs in the world, and the largest geyser is famously named, Old Faithful.
Watching these natural wonders shoot hot water into the air is a sight you’ll never forget.
22. Go Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains, or the Smokies, is a vast forested region on the North Carolina border and is best known for its misty, foggy mountain scenery.
The are part of the Appalachian Mountain range and connect to the Blue Ridge mountains, home to the Appalachian Trail, the longest hiking trail in the Eastern United States.
The Smokies is full of hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls, and rivers. It’s also where you’ll find unique and endangered species of wildlife, including the hellbent salamander!
For families looking for unique USA bucket list adventures, you will find there’s so much family fun to be had in the smokies. You can go hiking, fishing, horse-back riding, camping and so much more.
- Cades Cove bike ride, Great Smoky Mountains National Park – we saw bears!
- 27 Best Places to Visit In Tennessee on a Road Trip
- 21 Exciting Things to Do in Bryson City for 2022
- Grandfather Mountain & Linville Falls: A Day Trip On The Blue Ridge Parkway
- A Mountains & Music Road Trip (Tennessee + North Carolina)
- Top Places To Go in the North Carolina Mountains (Western NC)
- 49 Unique + Fun Things to Do in North Carolina Bucket List
- Asheville NC: Rock climbing, breweries and stunning waterfalls
23. Gaze Upon Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
While South Dakota isn’t the most visited state in America, it’s home to one of the most iconic attractions; Mount Rushmore.
The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a huge sculpture carved into the side of a cliff on Mount Rushmore. The sculpture is of four former U.S. presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
It was created by Gutzon Borglum in 1941 and sits at roughly 60 feet high.
The monument is considered one of national importance, and is seen as a symbol of peace, freedom and hope for the local people.
24. Experience the National Parks of Las Vegas
Of course, many people visit Las Vegas to gamble in the many casinos, but this is not the only reason to visit the city. It’s also close to several national parks, including the iconic Death Valley National Park – the hottest place on Earth.
After a visit to Vegas, you won’t believe how beautiful this world really is. If the red rock gorges and cliffs of Zion and Death Valley don’t blow your mind, make sure to swing by Bryce Canyon National Park, and even the Grand Canyon which is just a couple of hours drive from Vegas.
Exploring these canyons and deserts should be at the top of your list of USA bucket list adventures.
- 5 Best Kid-Friendly Hotels in Las Vegas (+ how to save money)
- 14 Fun Things To Do In Las Vegas with Kids (adults enjoy these too)
- 14 Classic and Fun Things to do in Downtown Las Vegas
- Exploring the Valley of Fire State Park – so close to Las Vegas!
- How To Visit Las Vegas on a Budget – Tips to Help You Save Money
- A Complete Guide to Visiting Horseshoe Bend, Arizona for 2022
25. See the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia
Another monument and symbol of American independence is the Liberty Bell, which sits outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia. This is a must-see attraction on any USA bucket list for those interested in American history.
It became an important monument after abolitionists who petitioned to end slavery used it as their symbol.
But the Liberty Bell is not the only reason to visit Philadelphia. Any visitors of Philadelphia should not leave until they have tried a Philly cheese steak!
Kids will also love the interactive science exhibits of The Franklin Institute.
Final Word on USA Bucket List Adventures
So there you have it, those are some of the best USA bucket list adventures to add to your America itinerary. As you can see, there’s a lot of family fun, thrill and adrenaline to add to your adventures, as well as some inspiring history and culture.
Wherever you decide to visit, and whatever you decide to do, we hope this guide has helped inspire you and given you some ideas for what to do in the USA.
What are some of the best things you’ve done in the USA with kids? Leave a comment below on your epic adventures, we’re always looking for those USA bucket list unique experiences!