I write a lot about a lot of places on this site. From Iceland to Thailand to New Zealand, I've covered more than 30 countries spread across 4 continents on this blog.
But no matter how many amazing landscapes or temples or cities I see, I will always maintain that my home country is really special. The U.S. is HUGE and diverse, and there's more to see and do here than most people (Americans included!) realize.
Over the past couple of years, I've made a point of taking at least one (or two) big trips in the United States each year. And, the more I travel in the U.S., the more I realize just how much of it there is to see. I still haven't been to Yellowstone or New Orleans or the smaller states in New England. I have only seen a tiny slice of Texas, and have a huge amount of California left to explore. And then there are the places I always want to go back to — places like Savannah and Chicago and the whole of the Southwest.
Even though I have SO MUCH more to see, here are some of the highlights from my US travel so far, in photo form:
When it comes to the American Southwest, I always tell people that Monument Valley is my favorite spot. It's not a national park — but only because it's a Navajo tribal park instead. Take your own car to drive the 17-mile loop, or book a tour with a local guide. You can even do hot air balloon rides here!
Chilling in Dolores Park
If you're heading to San Francisco, don't skip the Mission District. More specifically, if it's a nice sunny day, don't skip Dolores Park, which is like a little oasis in the city.
On one of my trips to Alaska, I got to go hiking on the Matanuska Glacier, not far from Anchorage. The face of this glacier is just unreal — looks like something straight out of a fantasy novel!
Lake Erie beach sunset
As an Ohioan, I have a special relationship with Lake Erie. The great lake used to get a bad rap — but there are actually some gorgeous, tranquil beaches up here, like this one in Huron.
Avenue of Oaks
There are quite a few former antebellum plantations in the Old South, but my favorite so far is Boone Hall, located just outside of Charleston in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The driveway leading up to the plantation house is known as the Avenue of Oaks, being lined with these massive moss-draped oak trees.
The Bean in Chicago
Chicago is one of my favorite large cities in the U.S., and no matter how many times I visit, I always find myself stopping by to see the Cloud Gate (AKA “The Bean”) sculpture in Millennium Park. It's just so COOL.
White Sands in New Mexico
One of the biggest surprises in my travels in the U.S. has been New Mexico. The entire state is very pretty – often in a stark, desert-like way. One of the most underrated places has to be White Sands National Monument, a 275-square-mile field of gypsum sand dunes. This place is GORGEOUS.
Touristy as it is, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay is one of my must-dos in Honolulu. Doesn't this photo just scream Hawaii?
I visited Yosemite National Park for the first time a couple of years ago, and it remains my favorite national park in the U.S. Mostly thanks to views like this. (To read about Yosemite in winter, check out this blog post from My America Holiday.)
Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall
Washington, DC, is worth a visit for so many reasons — the memorials and museums being chief among them. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is striking in its simplicity, and I love this photo I took there last year, with an American flag reflected on the wall.
You definitely can't visit Arizona and NOT see the Grand Canyon. Here's a look at the South Rim (the more-visited side of the canyon) just before sunset.
If you want Southern Charm, go to Charleston — the city just oozes it. Take a carriage tour to see historical homes, go to the market, and be sure to take a stroll down the aptly-named “Rainbow Row.”
Portland Head Light
If you find yourself in Maine, be sure to check out Portland Head Light, the state's most-photographed lighthouse.
As much as I complain about winters in northeast Ohio, there's no denying that they are pretty darn beautiful sometimes. This was taken in my parents' backyard last year after an overnight snowstorm.
Port of Skagway
The small Alaskan port of Skagway is in a pretty epic location, nestled in between mountains like this. The town itself feels like something out of the Old West — which is apt, since it was a gold mining town before it became a popular stop for cruise ships.
Arches National Park
Utah is full of national parks filled with incredible rock formations. Arches National Park is the only one I've visited — so far. But it definitely left me wanting to see more.
Strawberry Fields in Central Park
Instead of the typical shot of skyscrapers or Times Square, here's a shot of the memorial to John Lennon in New York City‘s Central Park. I love visiting this spot — there are always flowers laid out, and it feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.
Alamo Square Park
No visit to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to see the “Painted Ladies” — the string of pastel-colored Victorian homes that line one side of Alamo Square Park. From the far side of the park, you get a really cool view out over the city.
If you find yourself in northern Arizona (perhaps to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon), don't skip the town of Page. Here you can visit Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon on Navajo land that is famous for its light beams. Visit in the summer for the best viewing.
In Yosemite National Park, not everyone makes it up to Glacier Point. But I promise that the views are absolutely worth it! (And yes, you can drive up here… no rock climbing required!)
This shot of the Duquesne Incline climbing up Mount Washington is one of my favorite photos from Pittsburgh. And Pittsburgh is one of my favorite cities in the U.S. It's usually underrated (and skipped) by most tourists, but it's well worth a visit.
St. Joe Beach
Every few years, my family heads down to Florida's Gulf Coast for a reunion. We stay on this beach — possibly one of my favorite beaches in the whole world! The sand is soft and it's NEVER crowded.
Okay, so this one doesn't quite fit in with the other epic landscapes and vistas in this post, but the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, is probably my favorite roadside attraction along old Route 66. You can bring a can of spraypaint and leave your mark on these half-buried old cars in the desert.
I LOVE old cemeteries. Call it creepy or morbid, but I find something beautiful in the crumbling statues and tombstones. Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia, is by far my favorite cemetery in the US. The old trees dripping with Spanish moss definitely add to the atmosphere.
I may not have *technically* been in the U.S. when I took this shot, but it's of the American Falls at Niagara Falls, which lies in Niagara Falls State Park in New York. So I'm going to say it counts.
Which photo makes you want to travel in the U.S. the most?