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Travel News 25 of the most surreal places to visit in the US in 2022

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25 of the most surreal places to visit in the US in 2022

Times are tough for travelers. But with the world preparing to reopen, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure — whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

We’ve seen some amazing natural wonders around the world. It turns out there is a plethora of surreal places to check out for yourself in the United States, too. Don’t believe us? Well, just feast your eyes on this list of some of the best places to visit in America.

Here are 25 of the coolest and eeriest places to visit in the US:

  1. The Grand Prismatic Spring in Wyoming
  2. Gorge trail within Watkins Glen
  3. A unique “firefall” over El Capitan
  4. Fly geyser’s rainbow colors in Nevada
  5. The otherworldly Mono Lake in California
  6. Blue Ridge Parkway’s ethereal drive
  7. A trippy sandstone wave in Arizona
  8. A colorful glass beach in California
  9. Glowing northern lights in Alaska
  10. The largest living trees in the world
  11. A roaring fountain from a collapsed sea cave
  12. Majestic ice caverns in Juneau
  13. A fairytale visit to Savannah
  14. Panoramic river gorge views in Oregon
  15. A secluded fortress off Key West
  16. Salt flats in Utah
  17. A string of famous lighthouses in Maine
  18. Eerie driftwood on the beach
  19. Sand that looks like snow in New Mexico
  20. The Great Lakes across multiple states
  21. Blooming tulip fields in Washington
  22. Roaring falls in Niagara, New York
  23. Leaf peeping in Shenandoah
  24. A natural swimming pool in a canyon
  25. Surreal slot canyons in Arizona

1. Grand Prismatic Spring – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

This scorching beauty is the largest hot spring you’ll find in the United States, and third largest in the world behind New Zealand’s Frying Pan Lake and Boiling Lake in Dominica. The colors of the spring come from pigmented bacteria in the waters. Can you dip a toe in it? No, but the views you get from the boardwalks and nearby overlook will make you quickly understand why Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is one of the best places to visit in the US.

aerial view of Yellowstone Grand Prismatic Spring, one of the coolest places in the US

2. Watkins Glen State Park – Finger Lakes State Park, New York

Located in New York’s Finger Lakes State Park, Watkins Glen is a hidden gem famous for its 400-foot-deep gorge with breathtaking cascades and scenic views. Whether you want to explore as a day visitor or an overnight camper, Watkins Glen offers several activity options for visitors with its picnic facilities, tent and trailer campsites, and nearby fishing opportunities to catch rainbow trout during spring.

3. Horsetail Fall – Yosemite National Park, California

This seasonal waterfall (flowing during the winter and spring) at Yosemite will make you think of Mordor from Lord of the Rings with its fiery sunset glow. But don’t fret, its yellow-red cast on the famous Horsetail Fall that flows over El Capitan is caused from the sun shining upon the falls during February—one of the coolest places in the US!

El Capitan Horsetail Fall in Yosemite is one of the best places to visit in the US

4. Fly Geyser – Nevada

Drive 2.5 hours from Reno, Nevada and you’ll find yourself at Fly Geyser. This surreal site was created in 1964 as a result of drilling done in search of sources for geothermal energy. Minerals sprang from the hole to create this wonderfully odd formation. The geothermal geyser is on private property, so don’t try to climb the tall fences that surround it. Luckily, it’s large enough that you can get a good picture from the road.

5. Mono Lake – California

California is one of the best places to visit in the US because of its diverse topography. The moment you see Mono Lake in person you’ll totally understand why—it feels like you’re on another planet! Snowcapped mountains surround this salty blue lake with plenty of Tufa, which are columns of limestone formed by the salinity of the water.

Mono Lake is approximately a 3-hour drive from Reno, Nevada.

Mono lake in California

6. The Blue Ridge Parkway – Virginia and North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the east coast’s most popular places to visit in the US—and its longest linear park. It’s also a favorite for a relaxed, slow-paced scenic drive through Virginia and North Carolina. With a distance of 369 miles, you can find multiple campgrounds, 360 miles of hiking trails, 13 picnic areas, biking trails, boating on Price Lake and an opportunity to join a park ranger for guided walks, hikes and campfires.

7. The Wave – Arizona

It took millions of years for winds to erode Navajo sandstone and create this trippy formation in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness of Arizona. Permits are required to visit The Wave and are awarded via a lottery system online.

The Wave is located in a very remote area—on the border of Arizona and Utah—and the easiest way to get there is to fly into Las Vegas or Phoenix and then rent a car for the 4+ hour drive to Antelope Canyon.

The Wave at Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, one of the most beautiful places in America

8. Glass Beach – Fort Bragg, California

In the early 1900s, Cali locals tossed all sorts of household garbage over the cliffs and onto the beach below. Fast forward a few decades and the only thing the Pacific Ocean didn’t take was the glass and pottery left on the coastline. Now that the sharp objects are smoothed out from years of erosion, the beach has become one of NorCal’s colorful tourist spots.

Glass beach in California is one of the state's popular USA tourist spots

9. Northern Lights – Alaska

The Northern Lights will make your jaw drop the moment you encounter its glowing aurora—no wonder scenic Alaska is considered one of the best places to visit in America.

Want to experience them for yourself? Be sure to visit Fairbanks or Anchorage, Alaska from September to April and consider securing one of many Northern Lights photography tours to learn how to get the best nighttime shot.

Glowing aurora in Alaska tops must see places in the US

10. Sequoia National Park – California

Nothing will make you feel smaller than standing next to sequoia trees that are as tall as the length of a football field. The biggest of the bunch is the General Sherman Tree, which stands 275 feet tall and is said to be around 2,500 years old, making this California tree the largest living tree in the world.

Sequoia trees in California (more must visit places in USA)

11. Thor’s Well – Oregon

If you head to Oregon’s Cape Perpetua an hour before or after high tide, you’ll be able to see one hell of a show at Thor’s Well. This saltwater fountain gives a powerful ocean spray, caused by built-up waves underneath. The sight, while definitely one of the coolest places in the US, is also quite dangerous—so try to enjoy it from a safe distance.

12. Mendenhall Glacier Caves – Alaska

If you travel to Alaska to see the northern lights, be sure to make a stop in Juneau, Alaska, to these chilling ice caverns. The ice caves in this 12-mile glacier at the heart of the Mendenhall Valley will make you feel as if you’re walking through a tunnel of brilliant blue clouds. For many, this is one of the most beautiful places to see in America, so definitely add it to your travel bucket list.

Mendenhall Glacier Caves in Alaska is one of the best places to visit in the US if you seek ice caverns

13. Savannah – Georgia

Decorated with fragrant magnolia blossoms, Spanish moss and 18th-century cobblestones, Savannah, Georgia is one of our top recommended cool cities for a road trip. It’s also a beautiful place to visit in the US for celebrated cuisine, art, architecture, history and even a fair share of ghost stories. Savannah feels right out of a storybook, so ride a carriage or trolley and make your way to Tybee Island to enjoy the sandy beaches and maybe even a sea turtle sighting.

14. Oneonta Gorge – Oregon

This may look like it should be in a fairy tale, but it’s actually in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. This natural beauty is great to walk through on a warm summer day just to admire the fern and moss that coat the walls.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon waterfall

15. Dry Tortugas National Park – Florida

Yes, there’s something even cooler beyond the fun of Key West. Head 70 miles west from the popular Florida destination and you’ll find Dry Tortugas National Park, which is home to 19th-century Fort Jefferson, an unfinished fortress that the U.S. Navy began building in 1847. This place can only be reached by boat or seaplane, making it not just one of the most beautiful places in the US, but also one of the most secluded. It’s a fine place to unplug from the rest of the world.

Dry tortugas national park in Florida

16. Bonneville Salt Flats – Utah

You’ll be hard-pressed to find someplace flatter on earth. The Bonneville Salt Flats are what’s left of a prehistoric lake that covered the area until about 14,500 years ago. Now it’s the home to Speed Week in mid-August, where racers look to break land speed records. The Flats can get awfully hot in the summer (120 degrees Fahrenheit), so maybe stay away during that time of year. We wholly recommend heading out to The Flats after a bit of rain, which turns the area into a giant mirror.

Woman taking a photo in the Bonneville Salt Flats

17. Maine Lighthouses – Portland, Maine

The Portland Lighthouses in Maine are a significant part of the city’s location. Visit the area’s six famous lighthouses: Portland Head Light, Ram Island Ledge Light, Two Lights State Park, Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse. All within a 20 minute drive from each other, the lighthouses offer a valuable insight to the maritime location as well as its rich history.

Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse in Maine

18. Driftwood Beach – Jekyll Island, Georgia

There’s a creepy beauty about this destination. You can take a walk or horseback ride along this secluded beach that’s dotted with limbs and roots of tree that have tossed about due to erosion on the north end of the island. It’s a great place for a sunset and very popular for weddings. You can even stay in a hotel on the island!

Warped trees and roots at the shore of Driftwood Beach

19. White Sands National Monument – New Mexico

This stunning desert destination has sand that looks as white as snow. Besides maxing out your camera’s memory card with endless photos, you can take various tours to find out how the area formed and what creatures make the dunes their home.

White Sands, New Mexico

20. The Great Lakes – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin (and Ontario)

The Great Lakes, the largest group of freshwater lakes, is a beautiful landscape filled with indigenous wildlife and offering activities for every type of traveler.

Are you an adventurer seeking an adrenaline rush? If so, you should visit Lake Superior. Or maybe you are someone who enjoys the great outdoors and natural beauty. If that’s the case, you should check out Lake Michigan. Are you looking for a place to relax? Lake Huron is the lake for you. History enthusiasts? Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are where you can fulfill your curiosity. There truly is something for everyone around the Great Lakes—and the charming towns that border them.

21. Skagit Valley Tulip Fields – Washington

No need to fly to the Netherlands for tulip season. Hundreds of thousands of visitors head to these Washignton tulip fields in April to see the colorful flowers in bloom. The mountain landscape in the distance are a blissful bonus.

Tulip field in Washington state

22. Niagara Falls – New York

Niagara Falls State Park is full of scenic attractions and activities for any visitor. From renting bikes to visiting aquariums, there’s something for every type of traveler. Experience the grandeur of the falls from every angle and, if you dare, hop on a boat tour to get front-row seats in the splash zone.

Niagara Falls and maid of the mist boat

23. Shenandoah – Virginia

Just outside of the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is a beautiful recreational escape into nature where you can enjoy scenic hiking trails, dreamy waterfalls, vineyards and stunning vistas. Whether you want to enjoy an annual festival or a picnic under the stars, there’s plenty of fun to choose from. Plan a trip for autumn if you want to see leaves changing colors across the park.

Most beautiful places in America: Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

24. Hamilton Pool Preserve – Dripping Springs, Texas

This natural pool just outside of Austin, Texas, is a popular summertime hangout for tourists and locals alike. So how did it come to be? It used to be an underground river before erosion caused the dome to collapse.

25. Antelope Canyon – Arizona

It took millions of years for water to carve out these crevices, permitting us to hike through them today. The colors you see on the walls will change depending on the time of year you visit. There are no self-guided walks allowed in the area, as the Navajo Nation requires tours to enter the canyon. The allows for a mindful, safer and more informative experience.

Antelope Canyon in Arizona

Which amazing places in the US will you visit first?

All of these surreal destinations are definitely must-see places in the US. However, if you can’t decide which place to visit first, consider planning a road trip to explore a string of them—or get started by visiting the site closest to you!

Be sure to double check COVID travel guidelines and related fees before you go, and remember that some things are just better seen with the naked eye. No need to step off the designated trail or risk your safety for the sake of a photo.

Discover where you can go

Making plans to get back out there? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

Interactive travel map graphic

FAQs about cool places to visit in the US

What is the number one vacation spot in the US?

According to World Atlas stats, Times Square in New York City is the most-visited destination in the United States and the world. More than 40 million people visit Times Square per year.

What are the top 10 states to visit in the United States?

Here are the top 10 places to visit in the USA right now. This list includes Sedona, Moab, Fredericksburg, Breckenridge, Yosemite National Park, Columbia River Gorge, Gatlinburg, Outer Banks, Cape Cod and Key West.

Which US state is most visited?

California is the most-visited state in the United States, thanks to its geographic size, diverse landscape, coastal access and abundance of large cities.

Where to vacation right now in the US?

Your options are endless. In addition to this list of some of the most beautiful places in America, try these US camping spots and more US hidden gems.

Want to read more?

  • Find up-to-date coronavirus travel guidance information, travel restrictions and airline cancellation policies.
  • Plan an epic road trip to see a chunk (or all) of these must-see places in the US—and keep these expert road trip tips in your back pocket. 
  • Reduce your environmental impact and live like a local by visiting one of these destinations that let U.S. citizens stay a while.