There’s a reason big-budget films like Tropic Thunder and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides feature this lush location as a backdrop. This tropical paradise is home to some of the most gorgeous scenery on the planet, from the spectacular Mt. Waialeale crater, which gets more rainfall than anywhere else on earth, to the stunning Mana Waiapuna falls featured in Jurassic Park, the towering spires of the Nā Pali Coast, and the resorts of Princeville. A great way to see it all is via this helicopter tour taking you over the island of Kauai, as well as the Nā Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon, and Poipu’s gorgeous beaches. Pro tip: Make time to check out the snorkeling, rafting, and kayaking experiences around the Nā Pali Coast and its famous sea caves, too.
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
It’s not hard to see why this six-hour excursion in Kenai Fjords National Park is one of Alaska’s most popular wildlife and glacier cruises. Glide past alpine and tidewater glaciers, spot abundant marine wildlife, and visit seabird rookeries at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Drifting past the jagged icy cliffs along the Kenai Peninsula, you might catch breath-taking glimpses of humpback, minke, and orca whales, among other creatures that flock to the plankton-rich waters. No matter your adventure style, there are plenty of tours available for exploring Kenai Fjords National Park.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
There are so many ways to take in the majesty of the Grand Canyon. Bus trip, helicopter tour from nearby Las Vegas, or travel the way visitors did in the early 20th century: by train! This iconic American destination is celebrated for its Colorado River views and awe-inspiring red rock formations stretching as far as the eye can see. Also worth exploring are Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, both of which are about two hours away from the popular South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Pfeiffer Beach: Big Sur, California
As the Beach Boys crooned, Big Sur is a place of crimson sunsets and golden dawns. Pfeiffer Beach is an especially picturesque stretch where the waves roar as they hit the white sand of the beach. One TripAdvisor reviewer was particularly taken with the sight of the rocks perforated with holes, allowing water to splash through making for some spectacular camera shots. McWay Falls and Bixby Bridge get tons of deserved Big Sur hype, but Pfeiffer Beach is more of a hidden gem—check out its purple sand and amazing rock formations
Colorado’s Blue Lakes
The Blue Lakes Hiking Trail near Telluride, situated above the tree line at about 12,400 feet, offers a gorgeous hike past alpine lakes and the peaks of Yankee Boy Basin. Hikers often tackle it as a day-long excursion, taking in the sight of colorful wildflowers and everything from marmots to mountain goats or sheep. If you’re staying in Denver and want to try something similar, you can take this private day tour of Mount Evans, which includes spectacular views from the top of the famous ‘14er’, as well sightings of wildlife like bighorn sheep, elk, and bison.
The Brooklyn Bridge, New York City
New York City is truly an incredible metropolis, worthy of many superlatives. While Central Park or the Statue of Liberty could certainly be considered beautiful, our pick here is the Brooklyn Bridge thanks to its stunning architecture (one reviewer claims it’s an “iconic engineering marvel“) and unique skyline views. Opened in 1883 and spanning nearly 6,000 feet, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the world’s most recognizable suspension bridges and a classic New York sight. Travelers rave about waking across the bridge at sunrise or sunset, or alternatively taking the view in at nighttime on a boat cruise—which also includes views of One World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, and the Chrysler Building.
Fall Foliage in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Anyone planning a getaway who loves history, New England, mountains, and dazzling fall colors, should put Bretton Woods in autumn on their travel wish list. It’s actually a point within the town of Carroll, New Hampshire. In fall, this place is simply spectacular. Hike up West Mountain for amazing views or ride The Cog, a cog railway carrying tourists up Mount Washington.
Forsyth Park: Savannah, Georgia
The thirty-acre site of Forsyth Park, dating from the 1840s, is one of the most iconic spots in the city of Savannah. The park’s fountain is probably its most recognizable landmark, and the benches and Spanish moss-covered oaks that surround it have helped make it a romantic focal point for photography. Outside the park, TripAdvisor reviewers particularly love Savannah’s historic churches and cathedrals, this museum dedicated to the history of Prohibition, and sites like Bonaventure Cemetery, nestled on the bluff of the Wilmington River and famous for its old tree-lined roadways and historic architecture.
Maui’s Honokohau Falls and the Sea Cliffs of Molokai from the air
Taking a flight across Hawaii’s most dramatic landscapes will really make you sit up and appreciate the world around you. On this helicopter tour over Molokai and Maui you’ll see a panorama of cliffs, jungle, ocean, and volcanoes, perhaps interrupted by a majestic whale or two. Take in those massive sea cliffs and that serene North Shore bathed in sunlight—you simply won’t want to leave.
Driftwood Beach: Jekyll Island, Georgia
Amateur shutterbugs flock to Driftwood Beach, a distinctive spot on the north end of Georgia’s Jekyll Island that looks, quite simply, like a graveyard for trees. Trust us, it’s a lot more beautiful than it sounds. It often shows up on lists rounding up the most romantic beaches in the country, due to its landscape of sun-scarred driftwood that makes you feel like you’re in another world. Catch it early in the morning or at sunset for a view that will take your breath away.
Views from Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee
The views at Lookout Mountain are nothing less than breathtaking, looking over the city of Chattanooga, as well as parts of neighboring states. There’s a powerful sense of history here, as several TripAdvisor reviewers note, as you stand on ground where Civil War soldiers fought and died. Also seek out Ruby Falls (which includes a cave and waterfall underneath the mountain), the rock formations and gardens in Rock City, and Point Park, memorializing the 1863 Civil War Battle Above the Clouds. Visit in the fall for the added bonus of colorful foliage!
Views from the Stratosphere Observation Tower in Las Vegas
When people talk about the Stratosphere in Vegas, they could be referring to the hotel or the casino, but there’s a better chance that they really mean the roughly 1,150-foot-tall freestanding observation tower. This distinctive Sin City landmark includes two observation decks, the revolving Top of the World restaurant, and several bookable rides and attractions, such as this open-air leap from the tower via the SkyJump experience. This unlimited ride pass also lets you experience the thrills of rides like the Big Shot.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis: Missouri
This St. Louis cathedral, the mother church of the St. Louis archdiocese, is home to one of the largest collections of mosaics in the Western hemisphere. This beautiful structure turned 100 years old in 2014 and is perhaps best known for its interior mosaics, which took almost 80 years to complete, using more than 41 million pieces of glass tesserae. The interiors are stunning, for sure, but its incredible exterior architecture also gives it a nod on our list of beautiful sights in America.
Views from the Willis Tower Skydeck in Chicago
If it’s a dizzying height with an epic Chicago view you want, head straight to the Ledge at Skydeck Chicago, housed in the second-tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. A quintessentially Chicagoan and perfectly Instagrammable moment can be captured 103 floors up the Willis Tower, where you step out onto the glass balconies of the ledge, extending more than four feet outside the building. Enjoy those 360-degree views then turn your gaze down to your feet to see the slightly stomach-churning sight of everything 1,353 feet below you. Skydeck admission is listed at $22, and you can also enjoy dinner on the 103rd floor.
The Lighthouses of Coastal Maine
It doesn’t get much more storybook perfect than this: a two-hour excursion into Casco Bay aboard a vintage lobster boat, offering sublime views of the Maine coastline dotted with lighthouses. Each charter includes a captain and deckhand to guide you, regale you with local color, and tend to your needs, but it’s the lighthouses that are the stars of this show. You’ll see four in total, including the Ram Island Light, the Spring Point Ledge Light, Bug Light, and the iconic Portland Head Light, which was commissioned in 1791 by none other than George Washington himself.
Mauna Key Summit, Hawaii’s Big Island—from the air
Once-in-a-lifetime moments don’t get much more epic than watching the sun rise from the top of a volcano. In this case, it’s the Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, which is what this sunrise excursion is built around. Watching the purple, blue, orange, and red rays of the sun peek out over the horizon is the culmination of this six-hour trip to the volcano’s peak. For a perfect bookend to this experience, take this small-group sunset and stargazing tour of Mauna Kea, during which you’ll use powerful telescopes to observe constellations from the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station.
Boston’s Historic Neighborhoods
William F. Buckley once quipped he’d be happy to entrust the entirety of the United States government to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone book. It was a rumination on the one-of-a-kind nature of the people here in Beantown, a truly iconic American city. Here, history and modernity coexist beautifully, and you feel it everywhere you go. In neighborhoods from Southie to Beacon Hill, with its cobblestone streets; in the foodie paradise of the North End; from the tree-lined streets of Back Bay to the pubs, taverns, and institutions such as Boston and Harvard universities; in beautiful public spaces like Boston Common and historic landmarks like Faneuil Hall and the Old State House.
Saint Augustine, Florida
Saint Augustine is a city that stands alone. Sure, it’s got all the trappings the average vacationer would want: charming hotels, intimate restaurants, pristine beaches. But it’s the history that gives this city its unique feel—it’s the oldest European settlement in the US. If you’re so inclined, you could pull a Ponce de Leon and taste the waters in the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park (let us know if it makes you feel any younger). Beyond that, there are tons of ways to explore the city, from ghost and trolley tours to sunset cruises and craft beer tastings.
Chapel of the Holy Cross: Sedona, Arizona
The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a distinctive, almost otherworldly-looking edifice built into the red rock formations of Sedona. It’s been featured in architecture magazines, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and it’s just one of many memorable spots in this desert oasis, where you’ll also find resorts, spas, and canyons. The beauty of the desert scenery is only surpassed by the grandeur of the night sky. Once the sun dips, you’ll see it in all its glory, free of the illumination of city lights. If you want to explore the area, there are tons of experiences to choose from, like this small-group tour of Sedona and a tour of the chapel itself.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The Midway Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, while not home to the famous Old Faithful Geyser, is still arguably Yellowstone’s best area to explore, particularly for photographers. One reviewer states: “This is a must-see location within the park. The area is simply beautiful and very unique. The colors are truly magnificent.” Due to those stunning colors, the Midway Geyser Basin is one of the most photographed walks in Yellowstone. It includes the Grand Prismatic Spring, the Excelsior Geyser, plus the Turquoise Pool and the Opal Pool. This tour is a good way to experience all these sites and more—led by an expert guide, you’ll be able to see several impressive geysers, along with the natural beauty of canyons, cascades and more.
Niagara Falls, New York & Ontario
One guaranteed way to feel the awesome power of nature is to visit the inimitable Niagara Falls. There are three magnificent falls here, two American and one Canadian. On this tour of the American side of the falls you’ll get aerial views from the observation deck at Skylon Tower, get up close to Horseshoe Falls on the Maid of the Mist boat ride, and also reach the closest accessible point of the falls at Cave of the Winds.
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina Mountains
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile scenic drive offering world-famous, breath-taking views. The road links the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Park and you can explore the scenery here a number of different ways. There’s this photo tour and hike led by a local guide along the parkway, or you could try an alternative guided hike that also passes by three lovely waterfalls.
Wild Horses Grazing On the Beaches of Corolla, North Carolina
Now here’s a sight that’s unique to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Ancestors of the wild Spanish Mustangs who wander free here were brought over in the 1500s on Spanish vessels. The horses you see today make up the last remaining wild herd. This two-hour tour of the Outer Banks transports you through the sand dunes in open-air four-wheel drive vehicles to see the wild horses in all their splendor. You’ll also visit a maritime forest and a historic Coast Guard station.
Multnomah Falls: Bridal Veil, Oregon
There’s an old Native American story that says Multnomah Falls was created for a young princess who wanted a secret place to bathe. This is certainly a place of beauty, with a roaring cascade of over 600 feet, making it one of the tallest waterfalls in the US. If you’re feeling particularly gutsy, walk up the trail to Benson Bridge, which spans the falls and gives you an unobstructed view up to the top—and a stomach-churning view down the roughly 70-foot drop. Tours like this show you around Multnomah Falls and the Columbia River Gorge as part of a half-day excursion from Portland.
The Mansions of Newport, Rhode Island
New England oozes an irresistible storybook charm, and there’s no better place to experience it than in Newport, Rhode Island, with its yacht-lined harbor and Gilded Age mansions. You can take a guided trolley tour or simply admire these castles of wealth from the water on a harbor sightseeing cruise. Most tours include a stop at The Breakers, a mansion that housed the Vanderbilts and is among the most impressive of the city’s historic abodes. Alternatively, walk along the famous Cliff Walk and see the mansions from a unique, picturesque perspective.
Charleston’s Historic District: South Carolina
harleston’s history dates back more than three centuries, so there are plenty of opportunities to explore the fascinating past of this handsome port city. Wander among its antebellum mansions, old churches, and graceful homes, and try a tour of the historic district by horse-drawn carriage. It’s a delightfully old-school experience—you’ll be pulled along by the same kind of horse that worked American farms in the 1800s, while learning about the founding of the city.
Utah’s National Parks: Arches, Zion, Bryce and More
The Beehive State is home to so many beautiful parks and other stunning natural wonders that it can be a little tricky to narrow down your itinerary. One way to check off several points on your list in one go is this epic seven-day tour of some of the top protected wilderness areas in the country. Along the way, you’ll see Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park, as part of a thrilling week of hiking and exploring the rock pillars, rivers, and cliffs this area has to offer.
Ruby Beach: Olympic National Park, Washington
Ruby Beach is one of the most visited beaches along the coastline of Olympic National Park in Washington, and is well-known for its reddish sand and little islands of rock, known as ‘sea stacks’. The rugged shoreline, peppered with rocks and driftwood, makes for a memorable afternoon of beachcombing accompanied by gorgeous views.
Snoqualmie Falls, Washington
One of the most visited attractions in Washington state is Snoqualmie Falls, attracting more than 1.5 million people a year. The site includes a two-acre park, an observation deck, the Salish Lodge, and, of course, the beautiful 270-foot waterfall. A few tours in the area include visits to the falls, such as this falls and wineries tour and this excursion that also includes Seattle city center.
The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
One of the most iconic, easily recognizable landmarks in the US is the Golden Gate Bridge, stretching 4,200 feet and towering as high as a 65-story building. It’s an imposing monument and a marvel of engineering skill, as well as a gateway into San Francisco, but you don’t have to just admire it from afar. You could try this cruise departing from Fisherman’s Wharf and gliding close to the bridge, or a guided bike tour from San Fran to Sausalito, taking you right across the bridge itself.
Kiva Beach: South Lake Tahoe, California
Kiva Beach is a little bit of a hidden gem, and it’s totally worth the trip. Here you’ll get great views of the mountains around it, including Mount Tallac, and it’s also one of the few truly pet-friendly beaches in the area, making it a great place to enjoy the sun, surf, and sand with a furry four-legged companion.
Views From the Griffith Observatory: Los Angeles, California
This public observatory is set on Mount Hollywood within Griffith Park, housing a planetarium, exhibits, public telescopes, and a bookstore. Walk around the back to get sweeping, unobstructed views of the Los Angeles skyline—especially breathtaking at night, when you can see the bright lights of the city sparkling in the distance. There’s a bust of actor James Dean on one side that’s positioned so you can capture it and the famous Hollywood sign in the same shot. The observatory is packaged in multiple tours that take in a variety of Los Angeles landmarks.
Yosemite National Park, California
Tucked into the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Yosemite National Park is known for the natural beauty of its granite cliffs, waterfalls, and ancient sequoia trees. Half Dome and El Capitan are two of the granite cliffs made famous by photographer Ansel Adams. Especially worth a visit are the 317-foot Vernal Fall, beautiful Mirror Lake, and Yosemite Falls, the fifth tallest waterfall in the world. The shops and restaurants of Yosemite Village are also popular.
Bluebonnet Blooms: Spicewood, Texas (Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area)
Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area has plenty of active fun in store for visitors, including a 6.5-mile mountain bike trail. But if you’re after a beautiful display of nature at its best, come in the spring to see the ground blanketed in gorgeous bluebonnet wildflowers. There’s nothing quite like it to make you appreciate the dazzling colors of nature.