You could spend a lifetime exploring the USA and still not see it all. The world’s third-most populous and fourth-largest country offers every imaginable opportunity for travellers. You could see the beaches of California or the mountains of Colorado, the farmlands of the Midwest or the cities of the East Coast. With so much to see, it helps to have a game plan. Pairing some of the country’s most iconic 2020 events with each of the major regions across America, here are seven of the best states to visit in the USA in 2020. Just remember: you can save the other 43 for next time.
From rural villages to cities and mountains to ocean, you can discover every bit of America within the borders of California. There's almost 40 million people spread out across a diverse landscape more than twice the size of Great Britain. The Golden State offers travellers a miniaturized version of America paired with some of the best year-round weather in the country.
Start your excursion in sunny Los Angeles before road tripping into the desert for the iconic Coachella Festival in April. Or, make your way south to the immaculate beaches of San Diego for the world-famous Comic-Con fan convention23-26 July.
For one of the best drives in America (and the world), cruise with the windows down along the Pacific Coast Highway all the way from Southern California to the breathtakingly romantic city of San Francisco. Then, then head inland to taste some of Earth’s finest wine in Napa Valley. Head further east to experience the serene natural beauty that is the mountain-rimmed Lake Tahoe before ending your journey in the jaw-dropping Yosemite National Park, celebrating its 130th birthday in 2020.
Bixby Bridge on California's Pacific Highway One © Bmstockstudio/Shutterstock
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With the exception of maybe California, few states are as beautiful as Colorado. The Centennial State has long been known for its stunning natural beauty – with 53 mountains rising up at elevations beyond 14,000 feet across the state. Nowadays, however, Colorado is becoming increasingly synonymous with culture.
Denver is one of the fastest-growing cities in America – and one of Rough Guides' best places to travel in 2020. It's packed with cultural institutions such as the Denver Art Museum, which is currently showcasing the most comprehensive U.S. exhibition of Claude Monet paintings in more than two decades until 2 February.
Meanwhile, the Aspen Art Museum is helping to prove there is more to the world-famous town of Aspen than skiing. Of course, the skiing there continues to be phenomenal. Year-round festivities continue in smaller towns across the state such as the Montrose Wine and Food Festival 30 May and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival 18-21 June. The only place better to see a concert than surrounded by the gorgeous mountain peaks of Telluride? Maybe the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside Denver. And even that’s a toss-up.
The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge just outside Denver, Colorado © Dr. Alan Lipkin/Shutterstock
Florida takes a lot of flack in American culture, and rightly so. The state has its fair share of problems, with the popular meme “Florida man” synonymous with idiotic behaviour for a reason. But few can deny it’s one of the most beautiful states in the USA, especially in winter when most of the country is frozen yet South Florida remains tropical.
As such, it is a wildly popular winter getaway for “snowbirds” across the country. Many tourists head to the theme parks of Orlando to experience American consumerism at its most absurd. Yet Miami remains one of the most interesting cities in America, with an undeniably global flair. The city's packed slate of events in 2020 includes the granddaddy of them all: the Super Bowl.
The king of American sporting events will be held 2 February in Miami Gardens, yet the city is worth a visit any time of year. Enjoy its glorious beaches and raging dance parties (check out the Winter Music Conference 16-22 March and Ultra Music Festival 20-22 March.) The Florida Keys are another popular party spot, with a thriving LGBTQ scene. For a calmer experience, head across the alligator-filled everglades to Florida’s lesser-visited west coast. Kick back on the beach in quiet coastal communities like Marco Island and Sanibel to bask in the full serene beauty of the Sunshine State.
Ocean Drive - Miami's Art Deco heartland © Richard Goldberg/Shutterstock
2020 marks the 400th year since the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the state remains as integral to the fabric of American life as ever. In terms of historical significance, it's undoubtedly one of the best states to visit in the USA.
History is everywhere you look in Boston, founded in 1630 as one of America’s oldest cities. Today it's a thriving coastal metropolis that continues to push forward as a leading engine of cutting-edge technology and higher education. The sports-crazy town (home to the iconic Red Sox and New England Patriots) has also become something of a craft brewing powerhouse. Boston is home to signature American events such as the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade on 15 March 15 and the Boston Marathon – one of the "Big Six" races – on 20 April.
Be sure to get out of the city and explore the windswept coastal beauty of Cape Cod, home to iconic island retreats such as Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Cape Cod offers an endless assortment of charming small towns such as Provincetown (or P-town, as the locals call it.) You’ll never want to leave.
Summer in Harwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts © J.A. Johnson/Shutterstock
To truly 'get' the USA, you must experience all of its regions. And while the Midwest isn’t high on most international traveller’s agendas, it's as essential to understanding America as New York City or Washington DC.
Wisconsin is one of the region’s most beautiful states (most notably in summer), bordering lakes Michigan and Superior. The largest city, Milwaukee, is ready for its close-up on the world stage as host of the 2020 Democratic National Convention on 13-16 July. Long known for cheese and beer, the state has taken on an increasingly important role in American politics in recent years, but that doesn’t mean the Badger State isn’t ready to have fun. Quite the contrary. Milwaukee’s Summerfest – the world’s largest music festival – returns 24 June-5 July, and the Wisconsin State Fair offers a family-friendly taste of American agriculture from 6-16 August.
Get out of the cities to enjoy a true slice of Americana by fishing, hunting, or snowmobiling in small towns like Eagle River. Or, relax lakeside with a cold drink in hand at resort communities like Lake Geneva and Door County. Then keep the party going in the state capital of Madison, one of the best college towns in America.
Downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin © F11photo/Shutterstock
There’s far more to Utah than Mormons and Mitt Romney. Take note, travellers: the Beehive State is cool now. Its capital of Salt Lake City is one of America’s more underrated mid-sized cities, boasting a booming contemporary food and drink scene paired with spectacular mountain scenery and some of the best skiing in the country nearby.
Speaking of what’s nearby, the gorgeous mountain town of Park City is the state’s premier ski community, which also plays host to the star-studded Sundance Film Festival 23 January-2 February. Yet Utah is also one of the most diverse states in the country, with the southern section of the state boasting a red-hued desert landscape diametrically opposed to the more urban and mountainous northern part.
The de-facto capital of this region is the fast-growing town of St. George, from which you can explore an abundance of outdoor adventure. This includes five of America’s most scenic national parks (known as “the Big Five” including Zion and Arches.) Don’t forget to check out small towns like Kanab and Moab along the way, which are full of surprises and ready to recalibrate all of your Utah misconceptions.
Zion National Park – one of our best states to visit in the USA © Calin Tatu/Shutterstock
No exploration of America is complete without a visit to the culture-packed American South. And no city in America is more unique than New Orleans, Louisiana. The Crescent City brims with a sense of life and diverse culture that is impossible to replicate anywhere in the world, most famously (and flamboyantly) brought to life during Mardi Gras – held on 25 February in 2020. Yet any time of year is a wonderful time to visit New Orleans, where you can take in history and explore its offbeat charms while enjoying some of the finest food and drink in the country.
Head away from the French Quarter to experience less tourist-dense areas of the city such as hip Bywater or the more residential Uptown. Both areas are dotted with their fair share of A-list bars and music clubs like Vaughan's Lounge and The Maple Leaf. Then make your way north along the mighty Mississippi River to the state capital of Baton Rouge to see a football game at Tiger Stadium (a.k.a. Death Valley) on the campus of Louisiana State University (LSU). Suddenly, you’ll understand all you need to know about the USA.
A paddle steamer on the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Lousiana © f11photo/Shutterstock
Top image: Bixby Bridge on California's Pacific Highway One © bmstockstudio/Shutterstock