Lonely Planet says there are 51000 things to do in North America so narrowing down that list to a list of 10 is a pretty tough task. Instead of listing things to do, I decided to go with cities to visit. I want you to get the most out of your time and money and that is so much easier when you visit a specific city that is packed with things to see and do.
What I was going for with this list is places that you could easily travel to if you live in the United States.
New York City, New York- USA
-Central Park (843 acre oasis from the busy metropolitan city. It is a beautiful place to have a picnic, go for a walk, enjoy the zoo, or gaze at the skyline.)
-Empire State Building (102- story skyscraper located in the middle of Manhattan and the tallest building in New York. You have to buy tickets to get to the top but the spectacular view is worth it- just make sure you get there before it closes at 2 PM. The Empire State Building was also named the 7th wonder of the world by the American Society of Civil Engineers.)
-Statue of Liberty (Lady Liberty stands 150 ft tall and is an iconic symbol of freedom in the United States. Gaze at it from Battery Park or get up close by taking a ferry. It’s something you can’t miss!)
-Time Square (Busy and hectic but well worth the visit. Go into all of your favorite shops, enjoy the street hotdogs, snap some selfies, and enjoy the neon lights at night.)
-Broadway Shows (What is a trip to New York without seeing one of the famous Broadway Shows. Get your tickets in advance to ensure that you can see the show you have been dreaming of. My personal favorite is Wicked or Les Miserables.)
-9/11 Memorial (An incredible memorial for those that lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Reflecting pools etched with the names of those who died stand where the 110-story buildings once did.)
Vancouver is home to amazing parks, top-of-the-line restaurants, and beautiful coastal scenery. If you decide to visit Vancouver make sure you check out:
-Stanley Park (Over 1000 acre park is home to some of the cities best loved and most visited attractions)
-Granville Island (This former industrial site that has become a charming neighborhood. Best spot for trendy restaurants, galleries and theaters. Don’t miss the Granville Island Public Market, often described as one of the best open-air markets in North America.)
-Queen Elizabeth Park (You’ll feel like you are walking through a fairy tale as you stroll through nearly 130 acres of rose gardens, a meticulously manicured quarry garden, and an arboretum with about 1,500 native and exotic trees.)
-Kitsilano Beach (A beautiful place to enjoy the view of the ocean and the skyline of Vancouver. It is often compared to California’s Venice Beach. There are many activities to enjoy on this beach such as sand volleyball, a playground, tennis courts, and a swimming pool.)
-Grouse Mountain (A retreat from the city that offers popular year-round activities. Plenty of hiking, skiing, parks, and an unbeatable view.)
-Capilano Suspension Bridge (For those seeking more of a thrill. This 450-foot long, 230-foot high bridge the oldest tourist attraction in the city (originally constructed in 1889), and the offers spectacular views of the Capilano River below.)
-Chichen Itza (Just a couple hour drive from Cancun and the best preserved archeological site in Mexico. The stepped pyramids, temples, columned arcades, and other stone structures of Chichen Itza were sacred to the Maya and an urban center of their empire from A.D. 750 to 1200.)
-Isla Mujeres (Generally quieter and more affordable than what you would get in busy Cancun. It has perfect turquoise-blue water and a great place to snorkel or scuba dive, visit a turtle farm, or sit and relax on the beach.)
-El Rey Ruins (These ruins are not as well preserved as Chichen Itza but they are incredibly convenient in location. They are located just off of the Cancun hotel strip. The entrance fee is cheap and you can climb on these ruins. A definite must see if you are staying in Cancun)
-Swim with Dolphins (Check with your hotel to see if they can get you a good deal with a chance to swim with dolphins. They are incredibly loving and smart creatures and anybody would be lucky to check that off their bucket list.)
-Beaches of Cancun (Cancun is famous for its white sandy beaches and warm, turquoise-blue water. Make sure you spend a lot of your time soaking up some sun and playing on the beach. Cancun is a great place for water sports, snorkeling, and scuba diving.)
-Xcaret (A natural park with more than 40 attractions for all ages and perfect family-friendly environment. You can swim in underground rivers, walk through the middle of the jungle and explore the caves. Keep an eye out for the the fauna that inhabits the park; like deer, jaguars, flamingos and other exotic birds.)
Honolulu on Oahu Island, Hawaii- USA
Honolulu itself would not be my first pick for places to see on Oahua, but the island is so small that you can easily reach anything within an hour or two.
-Pearl Harbor (An incredible historical destination. Plan on spending all day here as there is so much to see. Take the FREE ferry out to see the USS Arizona- part of this sunken monster is still peeking above the surface of the ocean. Tickets for the ferry ride are first come for serve so try to arrive early in order to avoid waiting a long time for your turn.)
-Hanauma Bay (The bay is the perfect place to go and spend a day. It is beautiful and green and the snorkeling is the best on the island. About 400 species of fish are known to inhabit the bay PLUS it is also known for the popular green sea turtles. It can be crowded but there is still plenty of space to go and explore. Snorkeling equipment can be rented near the beach.)
-Polynesian Cultural Center (There is so much to experience and do at the Polynesian Cultural Center. It is divided into different “country” sections in which you see a presentation and enjoy hands on activities that help you learn about each of the different islands. At night there is a Luau and a performance that you wouldn’t want to miss.)
-Diamond Head (This is Oahu’s most famous landmark- the iconic volcanic crater that stands majestically over Waikiki. If you take the 0.8 mile hike from the base of the crater, you can see an incredible view overlooking the southern side of Oahu. It is well worth it!)
-Nu’aunu Pali Lookout (The Nu’uanu Pali Lookout is one of the most stunning views of Oahu’s Ko’olau Mountain Range. The lookout is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily as weather permits. Admission is free and there is plenty of parking.)
– Hike to Waimea Falls (If you want to see a beautiful Hawaiian waterfall, then this is a great place to go. The hike through Waimea Valley is paved and beautiful- someone in a wheelchair or small kids could easily complete it. Once you reach the falls you can grab a lifejacket and dive into the pool the falls create. There is a small entrance fee to get into Waimea Valley (on NorthShore) but it is well worth it.)
– Scuba Diving (This is my favorite thing I did while on Oahu. There are so many different companies to choose from when it comes to scuba diving the beautiful waters of Hawaii but I recommend THIS one.)
– Waimea Beach (This was by far my favorite beach! But it is also the most famous big wave surf site in the world during the winter months. During the summer months it is much calmer and a great spot to play in the waves, cliff jump, snorkel when water is calm, and watch the sunset.)
Other Spots to see in Oahu: Honolulu Zoo, Sunset Beach, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints LDS Temple and Visitor Center, Manoa Falls Trail, Dole Plantation, and the Waikiki Aquarium.
Chicago, Illinois- USA
Willis Tower– (The Willis Tower is commonly referred to as Sears Tower. If you want a great view of the city, head to the 103rd floor and challenge your fear of heights by getting on the glass deck that extends four feet out and gives you a view of the streets under your feet. )
Millennium Park- (The perfect place to go for free events and programs including art installations, outdoor concerts, films screenings, and more. Make sure you take a picture in front of the monumental Cloud Gate, most commonly referred to as “The Bean” which is featured in the picture above.)
Shedd Aquarium– (This aquarium is the largest, indoor aquarium IN THE WORLD and has over 8000 aquatic animals to see. It is a very popular place and the wait in line for tickets can be 2 or more hours! Purchasing your tickets online can save you time and money. Make sure you look at their website for updates on operation hours and deals- http://www.sheddaquarium.org/ )
Navy Pier– (No trip to Chicago is complete without a trip to the Navy Pier- a 3,300-foot-long pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. It is known for its fun atmosphere and plethora of museums, activities, restaurants, and shops. Make sure you ride the ferris wheel which offers an incredible view of the skyline!)
Field Museum– (One of the largest natural history museums in the world located in the heart of Chicago. There is so much to see and do so I would suggest taking an entire day to explore all that it has to offer. You can’t miss the largest and most complete t-rex which you will see right as you walk in! It is open every day- except Christmas Day- from 9-5. Look at their website to learn more- http://www.fieldmuseum.org/)
Walk down the Magnificent Mile- (An upscale shopping district along North Michigan Avenue. Whatever you want to do- shop, eat, sightsee, and explore- it’s all there!)
Other Places to Visit: 360 Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Wrigley Field, Grant Park, and Chicago Theatre.
Mexico City- Mexico
Templo Mayor– (One of the main temples of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City. It was built in the 14th century to honor the Aztec Gods of War and Water. It is a worth while venture to check out these ruins and the museum.)
Teotihuacan – (Also known as the City of the Gods, is an archeological site 25 miles (40 km) from Mexico City. Teotihuacan is home to some of the largest ancient pyramids in the world. It was also the largest Pre-Columbian city in the Americas. Definitely worth the short trip which you can take by taxi or bus.)
Zocalo- (Also referred to as Plaza de la Constitucion and featured in the image above. It is the city center of Mexico City and one of the largest public squares in the world. It is a lovely open space where you can enjoy the atmosphere and energy of the city. I suggest seeing it at least once at sunset because that is when Mexican soldiers march out into the square to take down the flag, and because Zocalo is particularly stunning at night.)
Metropolitan Cathedral- (Located in Zocalo Square, this cathedral is one of the oldest and largest churches in the western hemisphere. It is breathtakingly beautiful and has an interesting variety in styles due to it taking over 250 years to build.)
National Palace– (Also located on Zocalo Square, it is the official residence for the president. It has incredible court yards, a museum, a parliamentary chamber, the State Archives, and one of the largest and most important libraries in the country.)
Other Places to Visit: Chapultepec Forest, Central University City Campus, Palacio Bellas Artes, El Angel de la Independencia, and many of their other museus
Orlando, Florida- USA
Orlando, Florida is all about family activities and the best place to take kids if you want to keep them busy and entertained.
Universal Studios– (Definitely a unique and fun experience. When you come here you will feel like you have stepped into some of your favorite movies. One of the most popular parts of this theme park is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on Universal’s Island of Adventure.)
Walt Disney World– (Walt Disney World itself has 4 theme parks and 3 water parts and each one could be listed individually. I actually did list EPCOT and Animal Kingdom below. However, in this I am specifically referring to the fairytale-like Magic Kingdom. It is the perfect place for children to live out their dreams and meet some of their favorite characters. It really is magical.)
Sea World- (A popular theme park featuring sea creatures, water playgrounds and animal performances. It will be a fun and unforgettable experience for the entire family.)
Kennedy Space Center- (This NASA wonderland is a place for learning and exploring. There is so much to do including the Apollo/Saturn V Center, the new Space Shuttle Atlantis, Shuttle Launch Experience, Journey to Space films, Astronaut Encounter, and much more. Go to their website to learn more- https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/)
Discovery Cove- (Voted the #1 Orlando attraction on Trip Advisor. Here you can enjoy an all-inclusive tropical getaway, swim with a dolphin, and snorkel a reef while swimming with a great variety of tropical fish. It will make you feel like you have left Florida and gone to a tropical island.)
Other places to visit: Walt Disney World EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Everglades National Park, Gatorland, and any of the many waterparks!
Montreal is perfect for those who want to experience the feel of Europe without having to leave the United State’s backyard.
Notre-Dame Basilica- (The Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal is a magnificent Neo-Gothic church, dating back to 1824. The size of it will shock you- it is big enough to hold 4,000 worshipers and breathtaking how intricate and beautiful the craftsmanship is. If you can, try to match your visit with a musical performance that will sometimes take place inside.)
Mount Royal- (A good way to get out of the city and enjoy a spectacular view. The hike is easy and short but worth the view from up top. Finish off a perfect day in Montreal by arriving in the evening to enjoy the park and set up a picnic, and then hike to the top to watch the sunset.)
Old Montreal- (You will feel like you are walking through a town in France as you experience the cobblestone roads and streets lined with buildings dating from the 17th through 19th centuries.)
Montreal Botanical Garden- (Arguably the most beautiful location in the city, the Montreal Botanical Garden’s ten indoor greenhouses are open year-round. Meanwhile, spring, summer and fall feature several outdoor theme gardens. You will feel like you just walked into a fairytale.)
Los Angeles, California- USA
Disneyland- (Disneyland is the perfect place for children to live out their dreams and meet some of their favorite characters. The rides are fun, the atmosphere is happy, and there is a good mix of low key rides for children and exciting rides for adults with Disney’s California Adventure. It really is “the happiest place on earth.”)
Universal Studios Hollywood- (Definitely a unique and fun experience. When you come here you will feel like you have stepped into some of your favorite movies. The excitement never stops- make sure you plan to spend a full day here.)
Griffith Observatory- (The Griffith Observatory offers a planetarium, interesting exhibits, public telescopes, plus a cafe and bookstore. When you are there enjoy the view of the Los Angeles basin. The best part is that admission and parking are free!)
Santa Monica Pier- (Arguably one of the most beautiful places in LA. It will be busy but there are plenty of shops and restaurants and it is a nice escape from the crowded city. There is also an oceanfront theme park and when you get tired of the pier you can go play on the beach!)
Hollywood Sign- (Honestly, I’ve heard the Hollywood sign is not much to look at, but in my opinion it is just one of those things you have to see and take a picture of!)
Other places to visit: Hollywood Walk of Fame, Griffith Park, Dodger Stadium and the California Science Center.
Key West, Florida- USA
The Florida Keys are known for their tropical weather, white sandy beaches, and turquoise blue water. Although there are not necessarily a lot of places you have to see here, there certainly is a lot to DO! And anyone can enjoy this tropical paradise without even leaving the United States 🙂 Below I have listed a few places you will want to see in addition to all of the time you spend relaxing on the beach, playing in the water, watching the sunrise, and eating divine food.
Make sure to do something adventurous and check it off your bucket list! Here are some suggestions: 🙂
-Take a boat tour
-Rent a kayak or canoe and go explore
-See the beautiful coral and tropical fish by scuba diving!
-Go fishing with the professionals
-Dolphin and whale watching excursions
-Rent a jet ski for the day
-Take an air tour
Dry Tortugas National Park- (Dry Tortugas is well known for its fascinating history and tropical beaches. The island is only accessible by ferry or seaplane but the trip to the stunning island involves a chance to cross clear waters where shipwrecks and sea life are usually visible. Divers, snorkelers and nature lovers visit the area for its coral formations, loggerhead turtles, French angel fish and many rare birds.)
Duval Street- (This is the tourist hub of the Key West and the first stop in key west for many tourists. Duval street is lined with bars, restaurants, hotels, and shops. Key attractions for many visitors on Duval Street include Sloppy Joe’s, Hog’s Breath, Margaritaville, Irish Kevin’s, and the Southernmost Point. Also take a walk down Sunset Pier at night for a breathtaking view!)
The Overseas Highway- (The Overseas Highway is a 113-mile highway carrying U.S. Route 1 through the Florida Keys. You will feel like you are driving on the ocean as you take the trip from mainland Florida to the Key West. It is quite possibly the most beautiful stretch of road in the world. You will also be shocked that such a road could have been built!)
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum- ( A 327 Foot ship from WWII and Viet Nam that has been turned into a museum. INGHAM served the U.S.A from 1936 to 1988 and in 1985 was the most decorated ship in United States Service. The museum is open Tuesday- Saturday from 10am – 4pm. You can learn more about it here: http://uscgcingham.org/