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12 Great American Bucket List Ideas

It’s a great big world out there, and most travelers dream of jetting off in search of the globe’s most exotic, far-flung locales. But the US of A has plenty to offer in the way of travel inspo, from otherworldly landscapes to thrilling animal encounters and heart-racing outdoor adventures. And considering that domestic travel accounts for 85% of Americans’ vacations, there’s a real case to be made for developing more high-end, sustainable, and experiential concepts here at home. To stoke your wanderlust and get your creative juices flowing, we’ve come up with a sampling of 12 bucket list ideas in the United States. Read on.

The Natural Wonders of the Southwest

America’s Southwest is an arid, Mars-like dreamland — a place that has been immortalized in the paintings of artists like Georgia O’Keefe and Fritz Scholder. And luckily for travelers making the trip out west, the landscapes really do live up to their on-canvas representations. Beyond the Grand Canyon, there are countless other bucket list ideas, starting with the stunning Zion National Park, one of Utah’s most dramatic natural wonders. With red-and-white cliffs towering high above the rushing Virgin River, Zion is renowned for its hiking and camping. And save for a few hotels lining the road leading into the park, there are very few lodgings (and none that are up to the five-star standard). North of Zion is the majestic Bryce Canyon National Park, created from millions of years of erosion, and famed for its spire-shaped rock formations called hoodoos. Horseshoe Bend (pictured above), a bucket-worthy landmark that snakes around the Colorado River, and Monument Valley, a cluster of russet bluffs and pinnacles on the Arizona-Utah border, are two pilgrimage-worthy sites for photographers. And we’re willing to bet that more high-end travelers would also make the trip if, say, a camp of tented abodes were to open on the barren but breathtaking land.

12 Great American Bucket List Ideas
An example of an innovative Luxury Frontiers concept, exhibiting how canvas can meet rammed earth.

The National Parks of Greater Yellowstone

Greater Yellowstone has it all: picture-perfect landscapes, elusive wildlife (bison, bighorn sheep, and grizzly bears), and every outdoor adventure imaginable, from skiing and hiking to fly-fishing and mountain climbing. The mothership is Yellowstone National Park, which is not only America’s first national park, but also one of its most popular, with more than 4 million visitors annually. The main attraction is Old Faithful, a geyser that erupts every hour and a half, but there are also numerous mud pots, hot springs, and dense pine forests. A six-hour drive north brings you to Glacier National Park, where more than 700 miles of trails make it a true outdoorsman’s paradise. The landscapes here are much more frost-bitten, with chilly lakes, alpine meadows, and 25-some glaciers. With scenery this beautiful, all that’s missing is a design-forward geodesic dome or igloo-style pop-up in which travelers can hole up in after a day of conquering the terrain. The region’s two other must-stops: Jackson Hole, which is flanked by the Teton and Gros Ventre mountain ranges and known for its world-class skiing, and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, spread over 3 million acres and stretching across the Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming borders. Can’t you just picture a pop-up chalet nestled in the woods?

12 Great American Bucket List Ideas
Glacier National Park offers four seasons of outdoor activities.

The Nature-Filled Regions of New York and Massachusetts

Harried city dwellers are ever in need of weekend escapes. And for travelers who call New York City and Boston home, there are plenty of bucolic landscapes primed for regenerative getaways. Even Governor’s Island, a sliver of an isle off the Southern tip of Manhattan, has become a recharge destination now that a high-end “glamping” concept has popped up on its shores. But for complete nature immersion, travelers should head north to the Adirondack State Park, which is larger than Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon combined. With over 2,800 lakes and ponds and the 46 peaks that comprise the Adirondack High Peaks mountain range, the park is a favorite forest-bathing and hiking destination for nature-starved New Yorkers. (Sounds like the perfect location for a treetop hotel, wouldn’t you say?) In Massachusetts, The Berkshires is a beloved all-seasons destination for multi-generation families, offering nature, art, and plenty of great restaurants. Culture vultures can see art at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art or Clark Art Institute while nature-lovers can hit the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, home to 1,000 acres of trails.

12 Great American Bucket List Ideas
The vast Lake George in New York’s Adirondack region.