My American Bucket List

Road

I think most of us are guilty of not properly exploring the areas around where we live. Instead we jet off to new and exciting destinations, forgetting that some of the best places are close to home. I live in the United States, a wonderfully large and diverse country that would take a lifetime to fully explore, if that’s even possible. While I’ve seen a lot of America, there is still much to explore and here are some of the places I most want to visit but haven’t yet found the time or opportunity.

1. Route 66 – If there’s an American dream, the road you take to get there is Route 66. This stretch of road originally ran from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California and along the way the sights and sounds have come to exemplify everything that is great about the US. Our adventurous and free spirited personalities are best suited to cars and there is perhaps no better road to recapture this American spirit than this famous road. Made truly famous after World War II when millions of families finally found the time and money for vacations, the kitsch that made it great remains and you will find a classic cross section of American life if you follow the route all the way through. I’ve never done a great American road trip and it’s something that has been nagging at my travel soul for a few years now. My dream is to drive the entire length of the route slowly, taking in the life along the way and hopefully rediscovering what makes America both so weird and great at the same time.

Photo courtesy of Rachelle Lucas, TheTravelBite.com

2. Key West – I’ve been to Florida probably hundreds of times and have explored much of the state, all except for Key West. The part of the state I would probably enjoy the most has been elusive for me, although it’s not from a lack of desire. The image I have of the Keys is a relaxed, slow paced part of the world firmly divided between worlds – the frenetic US and the not so frenetic Caribbean. Key West has a long history of accepting into its borders those who didn’t quite belong anywhere else, social pariahs that couldn’t seem to live in modern society found their own paradise in the Keys. That tradition has created a warm, accepting community that fits well against the tropical paradise it is so well known for. See! I know a lot about Key West, now the next step is to actually spend some time there.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Yoder, Twenty-Somethingtravel.com

3. Alaska – If there’s a last great American frontier, then it is Alaska. This massive state dwarfs its nearest competitor in size and scale, even if only a relative handful of people call it home. Perhaps one of our greatest acquisitions, Alaska has come to personify escapism for many. It’s removed from the rest of the country and the shocking size and beauty of the state are unparalleled. I would love to spend some time exploring as much of Alaska as possible, from the remote towns accessible only by plane to the parks and open space that make it the stuff of legends.

Photo courtesy of Dave Bouskill, ThePlanetD.com

4. The National Parks – In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, efforts were led to conserve certain areas of the nation as permanent areas of protection. In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was created as the world’s first truly national park. Over successive generations and the integral leadership of men like President Theodore Roosevelt, a new concept was introduced to the world; one that has benefited man in ways few of us truly appreciate. The North American model of conservation and wildlife management was a new and exciting concept and is one that has been replicated by countries and regions around the world. As Americans this model saved our cultural inheritance from loggers, miners and speculators and it is because of this that we can still enjoy areas of the country so special and so important that without them part of our American identity would be gone. There are now 59 national parks in the United States and many more national monuments and sites that together have saved the physical reflection of what it means to be an American from certain extinction. The national parks of the West in particular have always captured my imagination and I’m sad to say that I haven’t visited even one of them. I would love to one day see the wonders of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Arches and others to witness firsthand the remarkable natural beauty of our country and to say a silent prayer of thanks to those who toiled to make sure they still exist for me to enjoy today.

These are just a few of the many places on my American bucket list – what are yours?

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

20 Responses

  1. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

    I’ve done Route 66 a couple of times and loved it! The Keys are so special too!!!

    Reply
  2. Sofie

    I’d love to go to the Keys and I’d like to do a trip through the national parks from Grand Canyon to San Francisco, and then of course visit this great city again

    Reply
  3. Steph

    There is so much to see in the US! I’ve got Chicago, Hawaii and Key West also on my bucket list!

    Reply
  4. UWTMobile

    The keys are so great. Do the road at sun down to enjoy the amazing ocean road

    Reply
  5. Nicole @ Suitcase Stories

    We are not from the US but we did a 3 month road trip and saw much of it early last year. We did many of the national parks (which were awesome) and a fair bit of Route 66. But we didn’t get down to the Keys or up to Alaska but both are HIGH on our ‘list’.

    We are guilty of not exploring our own country as much as we’ve explored others. Australia is beautiful but for us its not the same as exploring a country you have not lived your whole life in. But if we ever go back, we will definitely see more of our home country!

    Reply
  6. Cristina

    I would love to go to Alaska, pretty high up on my list. Not to worries if you don’t make it to Key West. It is way overrated! Go kayaking along the smaller Keys, so much more worth it!

    Reply
  7. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista

    Great list! I too would love to visit Key West and Alaska. I’ve been to many National Parks and have loved them. There are always many more to visit.

    Reply
  8. Islandlife

    Alaska truly a wonderful place! I think the Russians regret the area.

    Reply
  9. Jenna

    My husband keeps telling me that I should forget the thousands of dollars it would take for us to fly to Europe and travel more in the U.S. Every time we do, I am thankful–it is so beautiful, and there is so much to see. Visiting California’s less-known sights, driving from California to Seattle, and traveling by train and car in New England are some of my U.S. travel plans.

    Reply
  10. Sally

    I see no mention of Buffalo on this list. What gives? I mean, come on, there’s Niagara Falls, Buffalo wings and ME! What more could you want in a tourist destination???

    Reply
  11. chinamatt

    I’ve only been to the southern part of Alaska. I really want to see Anchorage and Denali. And I really should see more national parks–I need to fill up my parks passport.

    Reply
  12. Andi

    Route 66 is definitely on mine and Yellowstone and the Outer Banks…

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      I LOVE the Outer Banks. In college beach week was there and I fell in love with the area.

      Reply
  13. Kevin

    One of my bucket list items (probably because I am an East coaster) is to take my wife back to one of the Northgate hotels in Seattle that we used to go to as a younger couple each year. But this time, I want to enjoy the things that I have learned in the interim that I had always missed. The young me wanted to experience the city life, the food and the fast cars. The older man in me is mystified that I missed seeing all of the natural beauty around me while I was immersed in that concrete jungle. I love your “About me” by the way. Somehow I just realized I can work from anywhere in the world with a wifi connection and I’m still sitting right here. Thanks for the reminder that I don’t have to!

    Reply
  14. Dotti Cunningham

    Two states left for me to see, Alaska and south Dakota. But would also like to do California route 1, as well as the national parks you mention above.

    Reply
  15. Samantha Joyce

    One year I visited Key West and Homer, Alaska in the same week. That makes two ends of the highway system. Something profound happens when you travel to the end of the road, maybe a challenge to see how much further you can go (on many different levels). Matt, I enjoy your adventures, here’s an invitation to stay at my cabin in Alaska when your travels take you north. !buen viaje!

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Now that’s a great challenge and one I’d love to take on! And thank you so much for the kind invitation, I hope to make it up there one day!

      Reply

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