I don’t know exactly when we’ll be off on our next adventure right now, but I’m already making plans for down the road.
I was the first person in my family to develop a desire to see the United States! So far, I’ve travelled to 33 states and plan to see as many as possible before I leave this Earth!
So I’m sharing with you some of my favorite adventures across the United States.
My mother used to say she wasn’t sure why I always felt the need to see and do more than what was right in front of me! She never understood my strong desire to always see and do more in life.
Heck, I’m not even sure I understand why I’ve always felt this way! But I have always been more adventurous than others in my family. And probably more curious, too!
I can certainly relate to this quote by Matthew McConaughey, given in a 2015 graduation speech, because I’ve always feel like there are so many paths you can take along this journey of life!
“The adventure never ends because we are always on our way.”Matthew McConaughey
So in my mid-thirties, along with my two young children (ages 8 and 10), we set off on our first big adventure!
For 22 days, the three of us travelled through Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and California. My husband joined us on Day 15.
My mother and father joined us on Day 13. It was the first time my father had been on a plane or anywhere west of West Virginia! It was only my mother’s second plane ride!
We made some absolutely amazing memories on that trip! I will always cherish the time spent with my husband, children, and parents on this family adventure!
Related Article: Adventure Quotes to Inspire Your Youthful Spirit
Travel for Learning Experiences
Since then, I’ve travelled alone for work and with friends around the country. Plus, my husband and I started travelling more when our children were grown.
The cultural and historical experiences have been phenomenal! I’ve visited places I thought I’d only ever see in photos and been awestruck by the beauty. I’ve learned about lifestyles that are vastly different than anything I could imagine.
And I’ve learned that I pick up accents very easily when I’m travelling – especially a southern accent!
When you live in one place your whole life, you don’t realize just how different the rest of the country lives. Or what amazingness is out there in this big ole country.
“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.”Mark Twain
Sometimes, if you’re like me, you don’t even realize where the states are located until you’re sitting on a plane and pull out a map from the seat-back in front of you!
But it’s all good because that’s part of what makes a great adventure! Learning new things, meeting new people, experiencing new experiences, and having lots of fun! Even laughing at yourself for not knowing where Illinois is located in the United States!
How To Decide On Your Adventures
There isn’t really a science to deciding where to travel or what you want to see and do. I choose my travel adventures based on places I’ve seen on television, or places friends have recommended.
I have also chosen adventures based on places I’ve read about in books, magazines, or on the Internet. Sometimes an interesting history of a place is why I decide to visit.
Thankfully, the Internet makes planning travel of any kind much easier than it has been in the past. So it really makes it quite easy to plan your bucket list ideas!
Safety, Accessibility, and Location
But I also choose which adventures to go on based on my comfort level with activities and location.
When I was travelling alone with the children, I chose activities and places that I felt comfortable with. I conducted extensive research into hotel locations and ease of accessibility.
Safety was my first priority. Nowadays, you can learn everything you need to know from places like TripAdvisor and travel blogs.
I chose car rental companies that were right at the airport since those would provide more safety.
As I’ve gotten older, my husband and I have to consider whether activities are too strenuous or exhaustive. Therefore, when we are planning our next adventure, we choose places where we anticipate a great adventure without creating unsafe health conditions.
Our bucket list destinations have naturally changed over the years with age! But we are still consumed with wanderlust!
“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for a newer and richer experience.”Eleanor Roosevelt
The Cost of A Trip
We also consider cost when we are off on our next adventure.
It’s not unusual for me to select a Days Inn over a Hilton if something we want to do on that particular trip is expensive. Nowadays, I generally find Hampton Inn accommodations to be safe, easy, and affordable. But I will also look at specific locations for safety factors and ease of access.
I may choose to stay farther away from an attraction because it’s closer to stores, restaurants, gas stations, etc. Or in a safer area.
When I was travelling with the children, I also made arrangements to purchase breakfast foods and snacks to keep with us in a fold-up cooler so we weren’t eating out as often.
There are many ways to make travel adventures affordable! You can even stay close to home and visit all the places you’ve never seen right in your surrounding area!
“Jobs fill your pocket, but adventures fill your soul.”Jamie Lyn Beatty
When to Travel
When to travel is often another major consideration. You should consider the best time to travel based on the usual weather, safety and health issues, and personal schedules.
We researched and discovered the best time to travel to Alaska specifically to see BEARS was during salmon mating season in late July or August. Unfortunately, we had bad weather and were unable to fly into the interior of the Tongass National Forest to see the bears, but you’ll read more about that adventure below!
Favorite Adventurous Places to Visit
Given my chosen parameters, I have never ventured into the wilderness to live under the stars for an adventurous vacation! No way! That’s not for me! (Just in case you haven’t figured that out yet:)
I prefer planes and cars and hotels!
But I still enjoy a variety of outdoor adventures across this great country! Let me share some of those with you here, and then as times goes by, I’ll be adding more posts to the website with details and photos of my adventures.
Since my bucket list travel plans included 17 more states, I hope to have many more stories to tell!
These are just some of my favorites! I’ve experienced so many phenomenal adventures across the United States that it’s really hard to choose favorites. But I do have special memories and favorite experiences for a variety of reasons.
I would LOVE to know about your favorite adventures in America! You can comment below, email me at [email protected], or contact me on any social platform to share your adventures!
Caves and Islands
I am briefly going to mention two honorable mention adventures for this category! I will be writing about my personal experiences and sharing my photos from these adventures as soon as time permits, but meanwhile, you may want to check out Howe Caverns and Boldt Castle in Upstate New York.
Luray Caverns, Luray, Virginia
Luray Caverns is the closest adventure to my home in Southern Maryland that I’ve included in this post. I chose to include it because of the many wonders of the caves and incredible structures.
It’s proximity to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive is another draw for this outdoor adventure.
Luray Caverns is the largest caverns in the Eastern United States. It’s also the only step-free, paved cavern, thus making it more accessible to visitors.
It’s sometimes hard to believe the 10-story high ceilings and towering stone formations are all natural structures that were created over millions of years.
Some experts and geologists say there is no other cavern in the world that is as beautifully decorated with stalactite and stalagmite structures.
A trip to Luray Caverns in the Fall is ideal because you can travel Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah Mountains during peak season when leaves are changing colors.
But plan accordingly because it can get very crowded in this region during the Fall.
Alcatraz Island, San Fransisco, California
Is it strange that Alcatraz Island is another one of my favorite places to go in the USA? I find its infamous and notorious history as a federal prison fascinating.
But did you know the island had quite a history even prior to 1934 when it became a federal prison? It played a key role in both the Mexican-American War and Civil War in the mid-1800’s.
Even the boat ride out to the island is full of amazement and awe-inspiring moments. The San Francisco Bay is the largest Pacific estuary in the Americas. Looking back on the Golden Gate Bridge from the middle of the Bay is reason enough to take the boat ride! But be prepared because those waters are ROUGH!
There are a total of five islands in the San Francisco Bay, each with its own history and unique characteristics.
You can spend hours navigating Alcatraz Island – hiking, exploring, reading, wondering, reflecting, thinking. It’s not an easy trip given the rough waters of the Bay, the terrain of the island, and complexities of the buildings. But it is well worth the trip.
Make plans far in advance to visit Alcatraz Island because once in San Francisco, it’s nearly impossible to get a tour over to the island.
Animals and Wildlife
Bear Watching and Float Plane Ride, Alaska
This adventure vacation should have been in my TOP TWO favorite all-time adventures! Unfortunately, things did not go as planned!
Anan Creek is an area deep in the Tongass National Forest where brown bears and black bears gather during salmon mating season to fatten up for the winter.
There are very few permits granted to visit the area and your visit must be coordinated by one of just a few licensed tour guides because the bears are wild. And you can only reach the area by boat or float plane.
I should add also that brown and black bears do not normally co-exist. This is one of very few areas in the world where this phenomenon occurs.
So we started planning a year in advance!
We were spending two weeks in Alaska and ending our trip with a float plane ride 45-minutes into the national forest to hike 1/2 mile to Anan Creek to spend the day watching the bears catch salmon.
Well. Not so much.
The weather that day made it impossible for the pilot to take the float plane deep into the forest where it was foggy and wet, so the pilot had to keep the plane close to Ketchikan where the weather was a bit clearer.
Thus, we got to ride on the float plane, experience this unique Alaskan form of travel, and see the beauty of the Ketchikan landscape beneath us. But we only went as far as Traitors Cove Bear Viewing Observatory on a small peninsula closer to Ketchikan.
And we didn’t see any bears!
We saw a huge eagle who watched us look for bears for hours, but no bears!
Anyway, the next time we’re in Alaska, we are going to try to see the bears again! It was an incredible experience that provided much insight into the Alaskan way of life and geography of the land. And it was a beautiful day of hiking and enjoying the wonders of Alaska.
Anytime you can be in Alaska is an adventure of a lifetime! We have cruised a few times through the Inside Passage of Alaska, plus spent a week exploring this vast territory on our own.
Cruising is a wonderful way to see Alaska! In fact, you can follow this Alaska cruise guide for all the essentials to planning your Alaska vacation. It’s written by a great travel blogger!
Animal Adventure Park, Harpursville, New York
I can’t say enough great things about the amazing Animal Adventure Park in Broome County, New York! I have written about my experiences in other detailed posts where I include lots of photos.
Without a doubt, this is one of my all-time favorite animal adventures in America! I can honestly NOT say enough good things about this adventure!
You can read about the many reasons you will want to visit Animal Adventure Park during all four seasons of the year. They have hundreds of animals that represent species from all over the world and they are passionate advocates for animal conservation.
You can also read about the fabulous Jungle Bells Holiday Lights event held every November and December.
Both articles have lots of pictures from my visits to the park!
Whale Watching, Juneau, Alaska
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something new and miraculous peaks your curiosity and you have to go find out more!
The whale watching was supposed to be good in Juneau, but I had never been particularly interested in whales.
Until I was in Alaska!
My husband and I chartered a small boat with a reputable whale watching company and had the most magical day! We saw a pod of 5-6 killer whales (aka: Orcas), a momma blue whale and her baby swimming through the waters like they were synchronized, sea lions, and eagles.
Our guide taught us about the land, the waters, and the animals in the area. He showed us where his partner lived on the shoreline off-grid with no electricity or running water. (Face-palm here!)
Eagles flew overhead while we cruised from place to place in the vast waterways searching for more whales. It started raining, but we kept going! No one wanted to return from this adventure just because we were getting soaked!
At one point, the orcas were breaching close enough to the boat that we all got wet from their splashes anyway! Who would ever have thunk?!?
During our visit to Juneau, we also hiked around the Mendenhall Glacier area and attended a salmon bake in the rain forest. We genuinely got a taste for life in Alaska on this adventurous trip!
Culture and History
Maine Lighthouses, Lobster, and the Shoreline
The family of my best friend from childhood was from Maine, so when we had an opportunity to go visit, my husband and I were thrilled!
The coastline of Maine is truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere! The rocks and boulders that line the Atlantic Ocean look like scenes from a movie. Standing atop the stories-high boulders, looking down into the ocean below, certainly puts life in perspective.
Walking on boulders out into the middle of an endless body of water to reach a historic lighthouse challenges you both mentally and physically. It can be scary and exhilarating at the same time.
And standing at the site of the most photographed lighthouse in the world creates an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Not everyone gets to experience these opportunities.
I’ve never been a fan of lobster, but I can attest to the fact that lobster bought right off the boat and cooked outside on your friend’s deck is unlike anything you will find in restaurants in Maryland!
We spent four days exploring the parks, shoreline, lighthouses, beaches, and small towns of the Portland area. It was another fabulous adventure that provided insight into the hard-working, down to Earth people of this state.
Rocky Mountain Region, Colorado
Growing up near the Shenandoah Mountains on the East Coast, I always thought I understood the concept of mountain height. Until I arrived in Colorado!
I’ve been to Colorado several times and something new always amazes me. But I quickly came to realize the Shenandoah Mountains are really just foothills compared to the Rocky Mountains!
After flying into Denver, we travelled by car through much of central Colorado, from Denver to Estes Park to Colorado Springs to Royal Gorge. One highlight of this adventurous trip was staying at a traditional Dude Ranch in the Rockies. We rode horses in the Rocky Mountains and hung out on the ranch for a few days before driving to the continental divide area near Estes Park.
During this family trip, we also travelled south to Colorado Springs, Red Rocks Park, Garden of the Gods, Cave of the Winds, Pike’s Peak, Royal Gorge, and ultimately ended up white water rafting down the Arkansas River.
This outdoor adventure was the trip of a lifetime!
It was 94 degrees at the bottom of Pike’s Peak. The roads were narrow and windy, with cliffs at many twists. And it was 34 degrees at the summit! We called my parents and felt like we could see them in Maryland because the land and sky went on forever!
Standing atop that mountain, I developed a newfound understanding of “from sea to shining sea.” I reflected on what it must have been like for Katharine Lee Bates when she was inspired to write the lyrics to America the Beautiful while visiting Pike’s Peak in 1895.
Again, I beamed with gratitude for being able to experience the magic of a land and culture so vastly different than what I had known my whole life.
There is so much to see and do in Colorado! If you are planning an adventure to this beautiful state, make it as long as possible so you can see and do as much as possible!
My Best Adventure Trips
It’s really hard to choose my favorite Adventure U.S.A. trips because I’ve had so much fun everywhere we go! But these two outdoor adventures were pretty amazing and definitely at the top of my list!
White Water Rafting, Arkansas River, Colorado
One of my all-time most memorable adventure vacations included a white water rafting trip down the Arkansas River near Royal Gorge, Colorado!
Let me start by sharing that white water rafting in the eastern United States does not compare to white water rafting in Colorado! The white waters in the eastern states are like pools compared to the Arkansas River.
It was my two children, ages 8 and 10, and me in the front of the raft. There was a guide in the middle and a young couple in the back of the raft. We had extensive instruction before we left and knew the rules.
But silly me… I thought those rules and instructions were “just in case” kind of rules! I had no idea we would be going into Class VI and V rapids, over a water fall in the river, and people would really be getting tossed out of the raft!
To be fair, I doubt if I would have known exactly what Class VI and V rapids were really like even if I had known what we were about to do!
And to be honest, I would do it again in a hearbeat!
There is nothing quite so liberating and empowering as the feeling of success after you have tackled the challenge of those rapids with nothing but a stick!
When you are in the middle of a Class V rapid, you don’t have time for fear or anticipation… you just do what you have to do to survive!
Or if you are like me, you squeal and laugh and almost pee your pants as you hold on to the straps of your kids life vests and pray that no one falls out!
In case you have never been white water rafting, you should know the rapids ebb and flow. During parts of the trip, the waters are calm and you row like you would row a boat on a lake. That’s when you can enjoy the vastness of the lands around you, the animals on the cliffs, and the skyline around you.
The real adventure comes when you are approaching the rapids and have to get your raft in position to pass through that section safely, or when you have to maneuver the raft to reach someone who has been tossed into the water!
Or, when you have to reposition yourself and pull your sticks in the raft to reduce risks as you go over a waterfall!
Does all this sound fun yet? You betcha it is fun! And if you have an opportunity to go white water rafting in Colorado, DO IT! You won’t be disappointed!
ATV Tour, Talkeetna, Alaska
Another favorite adventure was our trip to Talkeetna and an all-day ATV tour through miles of Alaskan wilderness and homestead land!
—Our Visit to Talkeetna
We stayed in Talkeetna for a couple of days at Denali Fireside Cabins, just a short walk from town. We even got to meet Stubbs, the honorary town mayor!
In case you haven’t heard of Stubbs, he was an 18-year old cat with a broken tail! Yes, a CAT!
We enjoyed the small restaurants and shops in this tiny town of 900 and spent time chatting with friendly locals. Many of the locals sell beautiful original Alaskan artwork that represents the Alaskan land and lifestyle!
We spent a day with Dennis DeVore of Talkeetna ATV Wilderness Tours. The ATV was easy to ride even when it started pouring down rain as we returned to town!
After ATV riding instructions, we headed off into the wilderness for a day of adventure. We began by heading into the forest to the Historic DeVore Homestead, the original home where Dennis’ father moved his family in 1959. Dennis shared the hardships of moving to Alaska as a child, building the small log cabin with his father and siblings, and living off the land.
Standing at the gravesite of his father, just feet from the original family home, listening to Dennis describe the Alaskan way of life, provided much insight into a very different way of life.
—Miles Into the Alaskan Wilderness
Then we travelled deeper into the wilderness to where Dennis now lives in a large log cabin he built himself.
We spent the rest of the day at Dennis’ off-grid home. We practiced target shooting, played croquet, picked wild berries, and panned for gold right on his property. He provided a yummy lunch in his home before heading back through the wilderness to town.
This is without a doubt something everyone should experience in their lifetime! It’s an experience that leaves you with a sense of wonder, gratitude, and amazement.
“Travel doesn’t become adventure until you leave yourself behind.”Marty Rubin
More Adventure Travel Tips
Usually you head off on your next adventure with certain activities and places in mind. But it’s always fun to find something unexpected on your travel adventure, too.
If you are travelling, consider checking out some of the local traditions, historical facts, and cultural experiences that happen behind the scenes around the popular tourist attractions, national parks, or places of interest.
These are some of my favorite unexpected adventures!
Salt Lick BBQ, Austin, Texas
The Salt Lick BBQ is actually 45-minutes outside of Austin where you get an authentic feel for Texas living and all things Texas MEAT! When you enter the rustic building, you immediately see a giant barbecue pit filled with sausage, brisket, turkey, and pork ribs.
You are now experiencing exactly what you always thought Texas would be like!
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, Ketchikan, Alaska
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is more than just a gimmicky attraction for cruise ship visitors. I only did this because my husband wanted to see it. But I was super surprised!
I was entertained but also amazed by the strength and power of the lumberjacks. I walked away with a newfound respect for the work of the Alaskan people who live off the land!
Royal Gorge Area, Colorado
When in Colorado, you need to see the Royal Gorge suspension bridge because it’s the highest and most famous suspension bridge in America. But we talked to the locals and learned that you can stop and feed the wild deer in the area leading to the bridge!
It was an unbelievably magical experience! We have deer all around our home but you can’t get near them. So watching the children feed the deer and seeing them interact so naturally together was pure joy.
Jefferson Pools, Warm Springs, Virginia
Jefferson Pools is currently closed for renovations, but it is a breathtaking place to visit. It’s the oldest spa structure in America, located on a small, windy backroad in the Allegany Mountains. Historically, the springs have been used for 9000 years.
The Gentlemen’s Pool House, a large, octagonal, white wooden building, with the springs feeding the pool inside it, was built in 1761. A similar, but separate building, was built in 1836 for ladies. The spring waters remain a natural body temperature all year and contain an unusually high level of minerals that are believe to heal. It’s not so much a traditional adventure as it is a spiritual adventure.
Benefits of Adventure Vacations
Good question! And I have a dozen or more great answers for you!
I can personally and unequivocally say that my mental and physical health is better when I am travelling, exploring, and spending time outdoors in nature. Admittedly, I am not typically an outdoor person.
But these adventures across America are like fuel for my soul. They ignite the passion in me to see more, do more, live longer, and not miss anything!
You may enjoy reading about our family adventure to Nashville, Tennessee recently! We had 6 of us stuffed in a Tahoe for the 12 hour drive! What an adventure! We had loads of family fun with 4 generations of family members!
Below, you’ll find just some of the reasons the “experts” say adventurous travel is beneficial to your wellbeing:
- offers personal growth and challenges
- provides a sense of accomplishment and achievement
- helps improve mindfulness and positivity
- helps develop gratitude
- improves brain activity and overall mental health
- you return healthier and energized
- improves quality and quantity of life
- nature helps rejuvenate your soul
- spending time outdoors reduces stress
- strengthens relationships
- improves sleep
To learn more reasons why travel is beneficial to your health and wellness, check out this in-depth article I wrote about 30 reasons why traveling is important to your overall wellness.
And if you’re still not convinced about the benefits of adventure travel, you can check out the travel blog, Active Travel Adventures, and read their blog post here about 15 Key Benefits of Adventure Travel.
My husband and I have travelled in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Canada as well as the United States. We love to explore the land and meet people everywhere we visit.
I’ve cuddled with wild monkeys in Roatan, jet skied in the blue waters of the Caribbean, swam with dolphins and manatee, played with star fish and stingrays in the waters of Grand Cayman, and so much more.
We have wonderful memories of people we met on a road trip through the vast Yukon territory of Canada. Meeting people on our adventures reaffirms to me how truly kind people can be!
But the adventures outside of the United States are for another time since we are talking about adventures in America right now.
And my bucket list of adventures in America still includes visiting the last 17 states I have not seen yet.
So when we are off on our next adventure, it will be to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and Black Hills National Park.
Then we’re driving across Wyoming to visit Yellowstone National Park and visit some of the places mentioned here in this blog about 8 BREATHTAKING PLACES TO VISIT NEAR YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK.
And if money allows, we’re going to add Utah to this adventure! Hopefully coming in early Fall 2022!
I’m going to close with this inspirational quote because I think it’s perfect!
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”Susan Sontag
Love to ALL! ~Susan