Quirky Take on the American Travel Bucket List

Salamander Resort Virginia

Like many folks, I’m guilty of not exploring my own backyard when it comes time to travel. With one exception that is; I’ve extended this personal failing to an entire country. I’ve been to all 7 continents and 90 countries and yet there are many adventures in my own country I have yet to enjoy. It’s not from a lack of desire, just a lack of planning on my part. That’s one reason why today I want to share some quirky American destinations I would love to visit. They aren’t all the mainstays of the American tourism world, far from it, but that’s the point. By sharing these places where I’d love to visit I hope that it will encourage others to take a closer look at the country and to discover the width and breadth of experiences offered in the U.S.

Washington DC

Space Camp

While on a Context Travel tour of the National Air & Space Museum I learned a very important fact: There exists a Space Camp for adults. Growing up in the ‘80s, I remember very well the slightly hokey and fairly awful movie “Space Camp” and wanting more than anything to spend a week enjoying this incredible experience. My parents would have none of it though and I passed through into adulthood without ever having visited and I frankly forgot all about it. But then the tour guide mentioned that adults can go to Space Camp too and I was immediately thrust back to the ‘80s and the wide-eyed dreams of a youngster. I don’t know what’s involved, how much it is or anything really, but attending Space Camp has now very quickly made it to the top of my American travel bucket list.

Pawnee, Indiana

I’m pretty sure that this isn’t a real place, but if it is then I want to visit. A huge fan of the sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” I’ve spent far too many hours watching the show in reruns and over time have come to completely and totally fall in love with what is in all likelihood a fictional city. JJ’s Diner, Indiana’s smallest park and more all are beckoning to me but one thing is for sure, I will never, ever visit Eagleton.

Nevada Road Trip

Route 66

Steinbeck once called it The Mother Road and from the Dust Bowl to the American Renaissance in the 1950s, this road has held a special place not only in the hearts of Americans, but of people around the world. It hearkens back to an era when anything seemed possible, when taking to the open road was an adventure and the fun truly was in the getting there. While Route 66 technically doesn’t exist anymore, it’s still possible of course to drive huge parts of it as you meander from Chicago to the pier in Santa Monica, California. Along the way are quirky roadside attractions, strange motels and national wonders that rank amongst the top in the world. Yes, I want to see and experience all of those things but I also want to reconnect with my own country, one I love dearly and of which I am fiercely proud. Just as people did in the 1950s and 60s, I want to experience a great American road trip and to discover aspects to the American experience that I don’t even know exist.

Kelvingrove Museum Glasgow Scotland UK

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Ultimately I’m just a big kid at heart, which is why I’m fairly surprised that I still haven’t visited the Harry Potter theme Park in Florida. I remember in grad school reading the new books the night they were released to the public, pre-ordering my copies at the local bookstore well before Kindles were even in existence. I’ve long loved the books and credit them with providing a much needed escape during some tough times in my life. That’s just one of many reasons why I’d love to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida, to live out moments I’ve read about and seen in movies. And of course there’s the butter beer too.

Doughnut Tour of Portland

I’ve always had a sweet tooth and certainly a fierce love of pastries, but in recent years that love of doughnuts and fritters has turned into near obsession. I’ll travel out of my way just to try a new bakery or doughnut shop, which is but one of many reasons why I’d love to eat my way around Portland, Oregon. For a variety of reasons, Portland is home to some of the best doughnuts in the country and I can imagine nothing better than spending a day wandering around, trying them all and seeing which one I like best. Of course Portland itself has a lot more to offer than just amazing pastries, and since it’s been at least 15 years since my last visit I think it’s time to get reacquainted with the City of Roses.

Alta Norway

Anywhere in 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.

Waimoku Falls

Pacific Territories

I love Hawaii and have long ached to see some other Pacific possessions, many of which most Americans don’t even realize are (sort of) part of the country. The territories in the Pacific include: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands as well as many other reefs, islands and atolls that are dependent areas. The problem so far is that these places are all far away, small, hard to reach and expensive to do so. Still, I’m very curious about them, their cultures and how being (sort of) a part of the US has affected them – or not. This is a long-term goal, but one I hope to someday achieve.


Key West

I’ve been to Florida scores 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.

What quirky places in America would you like to visit?

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.

3 thoughts on “Quirky Take on the American Travel Bucket List”

  1. Loved this list! Sometimes we can forget about the quirkier places in the U.S., with so many touristic destinations and huge landmarks its nice to go a bit off the beaten track. I fell in love with Alaska when I visited – and was lucky enough to see the glaciers from above from a little plane! A highly recommended experience and one that will stay with me for a lifetime.

  2. This is a great list. I think it’s really easy to overlook your own country. I’m not sure if it’s the same for you because America is so huge, but in the UK it’s easy for me to feel like I could see it any time I wanted to, and put it off and see “more exciting” places instead.
    It would be great if Pawnee was real! I’m up to the end of season 2 and I love it.

  3. I have been making a diligent effort to see more places in the US the past few years aftereffects I realize I had trAve led more abroad that I had at home.

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