Bucket List-Worthy Hotels

Everyone has a different idea of what quantifies a hotel as being bucket list-worthy, but what the hotels on this list share are unexpected, over-the-top or one-of-a-kind experiences that won’t be forgotten any time soon. From underwater bedrooms to snow igloos, these hotels offer something for everyone’s bucket list. 

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Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite takes approximately five to six hours driving north from Los Angeles. Upon arrival, hiking to Inspiration Point is highly recommended for outdoor photography. 960 1280

Beth Rucker  

Yosemite's Allure

Yosemite's Allure

"No temple made with human hands can compare with Yosemite," wrote John Muir, naturalist and early advocate for the creation of the park. 960 1280

Patricia Klarner  

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

At 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is the park’s tallest waterfall as well as the highest in North America. 960 1280

Patricia Klarner  

Half Dome

Half Dome

Rising 5,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley, Half Dome is perhaps the park’s most recognized landmark. Its summit is on the bucket list for most adventurous hikers and experienced rock climbers. 960 1280

Beth Rucker  

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Roughly seven hours east of Los Angeles, travelers flock to Grand Canyon to see one of our nation’s most breath-taking natural wonders.  960 1280

John Mulloy  

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Though stark and rugged, the portion of Joshua Tree in the Colorado Desert is speckled with alluring gardens of flowering ocotillo and cholla cactus. 960 1280

Kelly Smith Trimble  

Skull Rock

Skull Rock

Right off Joshua Tree’s main road, visitors can see the eerie yet spectacular human skull shaped rock, aptly named Skull Rock. 960 1280

Kelly Smith Trimble  

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

Straddling California and Nevada, Death Valley is a land of extremes. This below-sea-level basin is the second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere as well as the hottest and driest of our nation’s national parks. 960 1280

David Parsons  

Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park

This park is made up of five of the eight Channel Islands off the coast of California in the Pacific Ocean. Recreation options for island visitors include backpacking, camping, scuba diving, spear fishing and kayaking through the islands' sea caves. 960 1280

Kelly Smith Trimble  

Offshore Diversity

Offshore Diversity

With more than 2,000 different species of plants and animals, the Channel Islands are filled with a spectacular array of wildlife. Visitors are attracted in winter and spring by migrating gray whales and blooming wildflowers. In season, island-goers can go whale watching on the short ferry ride from the mainland.  960 1280

Kelly Smith Trimble  

I Am a Rock

I Am a Rock

Alcatraz Island lies out in the bay a mile and a half off the San Francisco shoreline. For many years, that was enough to keep prisoners like Al Capone on the rock and tourists off it. More than an infamous lockup, Alcatraz was also the first U.S. fort on the West Coast and the site of a 19-month occupation by Native Americans to reclaim disused federal land. Now you can buy a Property of Alcatraz T-shirt and take a selfie in Machine Gun Kelley’s cell.  960 1280

ROBYN BECK  

Torch of Freedom

Torch of Freedom

Once upon a time, newcomers to America would huddle en masse under the gaze of the great green colossus on Liberty Island before entering the country. Times have changed, but the Statue of Liberty is still a go-to American symbol of freedom and inclusion. Employees of the National Park Service have been caring for the lofty lady of the harbor since 1933.  960 1280

  

Port of Entry

Port of Entry

From 1892 to 1954, some 12 million immigrants set upon a path to citizenship that led them to Ellis Island in New York Harbor. The Great Hall remained largely vacant until 1990 when it was reopened to the public as the country’s largest museum devoted to our history as an immigrant nation.  960 1280

  

Our House

Our House

You don’t have to win 270 Electoral College votes to get into the White House, you just have to ask your Congressman for a pass. Free, self-guided tours of the East Wing run five days a week and include permanent exhibits and a short film. Requests must be submitted at least 21 days in advance and sorry, you can’t use the bowling alley. 960 1280

  

Steel Rainbow Connection

Steel Rainbow Connection

Like a giant staple holding the country together at the Mississippi River, the St. Louis Gateway Arch is the nation’s tallest and most silvery monument and embodies Thomas Jefferson's vision of the westward expansion of the United States. Yes, you can go up in it.  960 1280

  

Kentucky Underground

Kentucky Underground

The Bluegrass State is famous for its coal mines, but Mammoth Cave National Park takes subterranean pride to new depths. Located in the Green River Valley, Mammoth Cave is the world’s largest known cave system, with more than 400 miles of explored chambers and labyrinths. To paraphrase an early guide, it is a grand and gloomy grotto.    960 1280

Zack Frank  

Private Islands

Private Islands

Head 70 miles away from Key West by boat or seaplane and you’ll come upon Dry Tortugas National Park, a 100-square-mile paradise composed of seven small islands and the majestic 19th-century Fort Jefferson. Yes, this tropical paradise belongs to you. Even more majestic are the eerie blue waters and jutting coral reefs that make for ideal snorkeling territory. Above water, you can enjoy the innumerable species of birds that inhabit the park, as well as the turtles for which it is named.   960 1280

Lorraine Boogich  

Take a Bath

Take a Bath

In the middle of Arkansas, the town of Hot Springs, well, sprang up around what is now Hot Springs National Park, an area known for thousands of years as the “Valley of the Vapors” for its medicinal steaming waters. Since 1921, it’s been a national park nicknamed "The American Spa.” Architecture buffs flock to Bathhouse Row to appreciate the collection of ornate, preserved bathhouses.  960 1280

  

Swamp People

Swamp People

Admit it, you’ve always wanted to wear gumboots and race an airboat through the Florida Everglades National Park. Spend your days deep in sawgrass, clocking manatee, dolphin and alligators. Watch in awe as a giant heron struggles to take flight in a mangrove swamp. Or maybe you just want to hang out at the historic Nike Hercules missile base. Whatever you want to do, you can do it in the Everglades.  960 1280

Terry J Alcorn  

Let's Go to the Mall

Let's Go to the Mall

The Great Emancipator sits in contemplation some 19 feet above you. It’s a sight every American should see in their lifetime. The Lincoln Memorial on the western end of the National Mall in Washington is, unsurprisingly, the most visited site in a space rich with monuments, museums and historical points of interest. It has also been the backdrop for historical events, most notably MLK’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. For an added layer of historical context, visit the Memorial at night.  960 1280

ChangCheng  

American Virgin

American Virgin

No one needs an excuse to visit the Virgin Islands, but if one did, one could do worse than the Virgin Islands National Park. Comprising roughly 60% of the island of St. John, plus another 5,650 acres of submerged territory, the park protects and preserves countless species of tropical and migratory birds, fish and other marine and plant life. Who needs a yacht when you’ve got leatherback turtles?    960 1280

  

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Not more than 175 miles from the Atlanta metropolitan area, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is by far the most visited national park in the country. 960 1280

Beth Rucker  

A Park for All, and All Seasons

A Park for All, and All Seasons

Most park visitors explore by car on one of the major scenic roads such as Cades Cove Loop or Newfound Gap Road. To beat the crowd, you can avoid busy times of year like July, August and October. 960 1280

Katie Hausauer  

How to Escape the Crowds

How to Escape the Crowds

Fortunately, with 384 miles of mountain road, the Smokies offer plenty of space to escape the crowd. Hiking is also enjoyed all year where the park'€™s old-growth deciduous forests bring a different reward with each season. 960 1280

Kelly Smith Trimble  

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Stretching approximately 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail is the premier hiking trail of the Eastern U.S. The trail is so popular that there is an entire subculture of books, memoirs, websites and fan clubs for passionate enthusiasts. The southern terminus of the trail is Springer Mountain approximately two hours north of Atlanta; many thru-hikers choose to start there. 960 1280

Beth Rucker  

Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park

As an important bird sanctuary, visitors to Congaree National Park, one of our nation'€™s newest parks, can stroll boardwalks watching wood duck, wild turkey, barred owls, and whippoorwill amongst cypress trees. 960 1280

Eric Foltz / iStock  

Cherokee National Forest

Cherokee National Forest

Though not technically a national park, Cherokee National Forest is well worth nothing. A truly notable feature of Cherokee National Forest is the Ocoee River, used during the 1996 Summer Olympics; the Ocoee has some of the greatest whitewater rafting and kayaking destinations in the Southeast. 960 1280

Tim Doyle  

Chattahoochee National Recreation Area

Chattahoochee National Recreation Area

This national park north of the city gives access to a 48-mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River. Residents of large northern suburbs like Marietta and Roswell can access the recreation area within minutes, while those living downtown or other coordinates along the city’s perimeter can be there in less than an hour. 960 1280

Sebastien Windal / iStock  

The Lowcountry

The Lowcountry

Made up of a stretch of coastline that extends through South Carolina and into Georgia, the Lowcountry is a region bustling with natural as well as cultural beauty. One national park is Fort Sumter outside Charleston, S.C. 960 1280

Will Hollerith  

The Lowcountry

The Lowcountry

Tidal marshes, rivers, estuaries, barrier islands and the Atlantic Ocean make the Lowcountry rich with national forests, wildlife preserves, and cultural heritages sites that provide a bounty of recreation and accommodation options to visitors. One such site is Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia's largest barrier island and former Carnegie family escape. 960 1280

Will Hollerith  

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