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Who is ready to put 2020 behind them? I know I am. Each year I make a goal for how much I want to travel. Especially since I have teenagers and only a few years left with them, we focus on travel in the US.
In 2019, I wanted to travel once a month. And we did. And it ended up being fun, but exhausting by the end of the year.
In 2020, my plans were for one to two big trips. I wanted to slow down and travel with more intention. Obviously, the universe had other plans. We slowed down, that’s for certain.
We did find ways to incorporate travel at home, however.
Now that there is a vaccine on the horizon, experts predict we’ll have most of the country vaccinated by the middle of 2021. I believe this will launch more places to lift restrictions, and more people will begin to travel. That said, I also think road trips are going to remain strong and travel in the US will be done largely by car.
The following are my choices for the top places to travel in the United States for 2021. Many of these are perfect road trip destinations and include wide open spaces.
As with every place you visit right now, be sure to check what restrictions are ahead of time as they change frequently during these uncertain times.
Since we’re talking road trips through the US, there’s no better place to get started than Route 66. Yes, it’s iconic. And very likely, many businesses along the route have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and have shut down. But for that reason, revitalizing these small businesses and small towns along Route 66 is a beautiful way to show your support and travel at the same time.
Choose any part of the route from Chicago to Santa Monica. This guide from Roadtrippers will give you inspiration in each state. Better yet, sign up for Roadtrippers Plus and build your won attraction and dining must-see list.
Use Code BTR5QTP to get $5 off your membership.
National Geographic named Tulsa as an up and coming destination in 2021 as an important hub for discussions on race in the US. Greenwood Rising, Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, is home to one of the worst incidents of racial violence in 1921. 100 years later, the Greenwood rising historical center, expected to open in the fall of 2021, will host speakers, concerts, events. You can shop at black-owned businesses and restaurants and learn more about Tulsa’s history.
Nearby Tulsa, also pay a visit to the Cherokee Heritage Center. This living history museum is a cultural center for Cherokee tribal history, way of life, and arts. We have visited there and I’m anxious to return. Currently, they are closed, so be sure to check their website for updates here.
Taos, New Mexico Pueblo villages
Another of National Geographic’s recommendations, the Pueblo villages in Taos New Mexico should be on your US travel list this year. The Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit to learn about the unique sovereign nations, the living community, and distinct traditions.
I guarantee a visit to Taos with your kids will be unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. These adobe homes and dwellings have been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years.
Grand Canyon of Texas
Along Route 66, the Palo Duro Canyon State park in Texas may not be as well known to outsiders as Arizona’s Grand Canyon, but it is impressive nonetheless.
Quite possibly the second largest canyon in the United States, the Palo Duro Canyon is 120 miles long and 20 miles wide. It is located in the Texas Panhandle. There are hiking trails and campsites. This is an incredible chance to get into the great outdoors and one of the countries hidden gems.
Crystal River and Weeki Wachee, Florida
If you want to see the real Florida, and maybe even some historic Florida roadside attractions, head to the Western coast of Florida to Crystal River and Weeki Wachee.
Crystal River is home to springs such as the Three Sisters springs, and in the winter is home to manatees. One of Florida’s beloved creatures, manatees seek refuge in the springs in the winter as the temperature remains about 72 degrees year-round. There are outfitters where you can dive and swim with the manatees, as well as boating and kayaking along the river.
Manatees are not the only mermaid-like creatures in the area, however. Real mermaids find a home in the Weeki Wachee Springs state park. One of Florida’s older attractions, this state park gem puts on underwater mermaid shows. As things begin to open up, visit Weeki Wachee in the summer and take a dip in the cool springs as well. You can also launch canoes and kayaks from here as well.
Alaska may be a bit far to drive for a US travel road trip, however, I’ve known families who’ve done it. (From Florida no less!)
However, if you’re looking to explore the last frontier, this is it. In the largest state, explore the coastal towns of Ketchikan with busy harbors and colorful buildings. It reminds me of something you may see in Norway, honestly. Or go north to the interior and Fairbanks and Denali National Park. Head west to Nome and learn more about Alaskan Native culture and wildlife.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
If you really want to slow down, go to a place that doesn’t allow cars. (I know, I know, I’m recommending road trips here!)
Mackinac Island (pronounced mackinaw) is an island in Lake Huron between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. You can drive to Mackinaw city and take a ferry across to the island. Stay for the day or overnight in one of the many charming hotels, the island is charming. ride around in a horse drawn buggy or rent a bicycle and circumnavigate the island.
Currently Michigan has a pause on social gatherings, so be sure to check Mackinac Island’s website for current restrictions and openings. I’d recommend visiting in the summer, as I’m hopeful more things will be open. Additionally, ferry service is limited from November through April due to the extreme weather.
Where will you travel in the US in 2021
Do you have plans to travel this year? Please keep in mind safety and the safety of others when traveling. Be mindful of restrictions and be flexible in your travel plans.
Check out Airbnb for stays and experiences wherever you decide to travel.