Inspiration Destinations USA Icons of the USA: 5 Legendary Landscapes You Need to Experience

Icons of the USA: 5 Legendary Landscapes You Need to Experience

February 22, 2023

From the snow-capped mountains of Yosemite National Park to the urban metropolis that is New York City, the diversity of the USA is a traveller's dream.

A trip to the USA is a dozen trips rolled into one – its width and breadth of landscapes matched only by the sheer volume of bucket-list experiences to be had. Here, scenes shift from world-class skiing resorts to rugged national parks and glittering cityscapes from one blink of the eye to the next. Whether you’re a keen trekker, surfer or a train enthusiast, follow your wanderlust to some of the country’s most legendary destinations.  

Ready to explore the USA for yourself? Check out our handpicked USA deals here.  

1. Hike in nature’s playground 

Yosemite National Park ©

Nature shamelessly steals the spotlight at the USA’s plethora of national and state parks, where you can explore everything from ice-covered glacial wonderlands to red-rock canyons and neck-craning sequoia trees. If you’re passing through Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park’s volcanic terrain is made up of striking canyons, alpine rivers, hot springs and geysers. Follow the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring trail for an easy 2.4km hike to view the psychedelic-coloured hot spring. The jewel in California’s crown – Yosemite National Park – is renowned for its ancient, giant sequoia forest and craggy monoliths. Hike to the top of Yosemite Falls for jaw-dropping vistas.   

For a change of scenery, the iconic Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, is a non-negotiable bucket-list item, with its world-famous layered red rock formations dating back millions of years. In winter, the carved valleys, icy glaciers and huge alpine lakes of Glacier National Park in Montana take on an otherworldly quality. For awe-inspiring night skies, Utah’s Zion National Park is a certified International Dark Sky Park; the dark steep-walled gorges create a silhouette against mesmerising views of the Milky Way.  

2. Take a cosmopolitan city break 

New York City ©

The USA has an impressive list of iconic cities that travellers from all over the globe yearn to visit. Little needs to be said for New York City. From a picnic in Central Park to skyscraper views atop the Empire State Building or a heart-warming Broadway show, there’s a reason it’s called the city that never sleeps.   

Sitting pretty on the west coast is San Francisco, a dazzling cityscape whose steep roads lead to must-visit destinations including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Haight Street with the stunning Painted Ladies Victorian-style houses, Coit Tower and North America’s oldest and largest Chinatown.  

Neon signs, bright lights and uninhibited fun is what you can expect when you make the trek into the desert to Las Vegas. With celebrity chef restaurants, Cirque du Soleil shows, glitzy casinos and A-list entertainers, a night of shimmering anti-reality is bound to ensue.  

Heading south to Texas, follow the scent of sizzling BBQ to Austin, where the food truck craze has been making delicious waves with mouthwatering morsels of Texas BBQ, spicy fried chicken, sugared churros and Tex Mex. 

3. Go skiing in the mountains 

Vail, Colorado ©

If you’re planning on tackling the slopes when visiting the USA, go big at some of the nation’s most legendary ski resorts. Vail, Colorado, crops up time and time again as one of the best ski resorts in the USA, largely thanks to its sheer size and plentiful après-ski opportunities.

Aspen-Snowmass Ski Resort features four ski areas and one upscale town with luxury hotels, ritzy restaurants and après-ski. A six-hour drive from Denver, and surrounded by soaring snow-capped peaks, is Telluride– once Colorado’s best-kept secret. The terrain is high quality and delightfully varied, making it suitable for all levels of skiers, from novice to piste pros.  

Park City in Utah caters to both skiers and snowboarders. With a quaint resort town reminiscent of a 19th-century western mining town, it features one of the best whiskey distilleries in the Rockies.  

Chasing that adrenaline high? Jackson Hole in Wyoming – coined ‘The Big One’ – is considered one of the country’s toughest ski resorts with its challenging ski runs, extreme free falls and enormous snowfall.   

4. Spend a day at the beach 

Waikiki Beach ©

From snow to sand, warm up at some of the best beaches in the USA. Splash about at Waikiki Beach, once the stomping ground for Hawaiian royalty turned hotspot for surfing and swimming. San Diego’s long coastline accommodates every type of beach lover with kayaking, world-class surfing, cliff walks and beach volleyball. World-renowned Laguna Beach in Orange County is blessed with turquoise waves and golden sand, and boasts dog-friendly areas, tide pools, sea caves and an abundance of safe swimming spots, making this the ideal family beach escape.  

Over on the east coast, Florida boasts coastal gems well worth the visit. Palm Beach exudes class, home to historic landmarks, grand mansions and luxury shopping boutiques framed by swaying palm trees and white slices of coastline. Meanwhile, Hollywood Beach boasts a buzzing boardwalk where locals stroll, jog and skate across, passing countless restaurants, street performers, live music and a children’s water playground.  

5. Embark on some of the world’s best rail journeys 

Denali Star Train ©

Rocky Mountaineer has launched a rail journey through the ‘Unseen West’, a two-day sojourn through the jaw-dropping landscapes between Moab in Utah and Denver in Colorado. The beauty of rail travel lies in its ever-shifting views outside the carriage windows – it’s almost impossible to tear your eyes away. See the ancient rust-rock formations of Ruby Canyon, the stony peak of Mount Garfield and the Colorado River, all while indulging in mouthwatering onboard meals and signature cocktails. 

If you’ve always wanted to visit Alaska, experience it aboard the Denali Star Train. From Anchorage to Fairbanks, this striking journey traverses the birch forests, mountains and rivers that make up Denali National Park and Preserve. Look out for the hulking Mount McKinley as well as the odd caribou or two and, if you’re very lucky, a brown bear.   

Ready to explore the USA for yourself? Check out our handpicked USA deals here.  

For more USA inspiration, read Carefree Luxury Escapes USA: 6 of the USA’s Best Beaches

Feature image: Yosemite, ©

About Felicia Arhontissas
A keen traveller and a margarita enthusiast, Felicia is all about getting to the nitty gritty of each destination she visits and discovering its hidden gems (and then running home to write about it).

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