USA’s Hidden Gems

USA Hidden Gems header image

The best attractions and landmarks that are off the beaten path

The USA is a vast country with so much to see and do. In fact, you could probably make an entire bucket list purely consisting of the nation’s most famous tourist attractions.

From the Golden Gate Bridge and Las Vegas Strip on the West Coast to Times Square and Walt Disney World Resort on the East, the options are endless.

But what about the tourist destinations that you might not have heard of? Being such a huge country, the USA is full of hidden gems, perfect if you want to avoid the crowds or just try somewhere different.

So, which parts of the country are home to most of these hidden gems, and which are the best to visit?

List of states with the most hidden gems

The states with the most hidden gems

1. Alaska – % of hidden gem attractions: 10.95%

Hidden gem attractions: 309

Total attractions: 2,823

Known for its dramatic landscapes featuring icy glaciers and fjords, Alaska is famously the most remote US state.

This remoteness means that many parts of the state are very hard to get to, meaning that it’s packed full of lesser-known places waiting to be discovered.

According to listings on Tripadvisor, just over 1 in 10 of the state’s attractions are deemed to be hidden gems, including the Mendenhall Glacier and Kodiak Island.

2. Wyoming – % of hidden gem attractions: 7.67%

Hidden gem attractions: 114

Total attractions: 1,486

Second is the state of Wyoming, which is the least populated state in the country but clearly has a lot of attractions to entice visitors.

Like Alaska, Wyoming is a state popular with tourists who love the great outdoors and a sense of adventure.

In total, 7.67% of its attractions are listed as being hidden gems, such as Devils Tower and the Midway Geyser Basin.

3. Utah – % of hidden gem attractions: 6.98%

Hidden gem attractions: 217

Total attractions: 3,108

Completing a top three of states located in the West of the USA is Utah, where just under 7% of attractions are listed as being hidden gems.

Utah has three distinct geographical regions and a history stretching back thousands of years, which means there’s an adventure to be found in every corner.

Some of the attractions you might not have heard of include: Capitol Reef National Park, Kanarraville Falls, and Fifth Water Hot Springs.

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USA's top 3 landmarks

The USA’s best hidden gems

1. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming – 9.51 out of 10

Annual search volume: 4,184,000

Google review score: 4.9 out of 5

Taking into account the number of searches on Google as well as reviews by visitors, the most popular of the US’s hidden gems is the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

While it’s undoubtedly a popular place, Grand Teton is often overlooked by visitors in favor of the neighboring national parks of Yellowstone and Glacier.

The park stretches over 300,000 acres and is home to the Teton Range of mountains as well as the Jackson Hole valley.

2. Badlands National Park, South Dakota – 8.57 out of 10

Annual search volume: 1,295,000

Google review score: 4.9 out of 5

Second place goes to another national park, the Badlands in South Dakota. Similarly rated 4.9 by visitors, the Badlands miss out on the top spot due to a lower search volume than Grand Teton.

Like Grand Teton, the Badlands is one of the more underrated national parks in the country but has some jaw-dropping scenery.

It can also be visited as part of a wider trip to South Dakota to see a more recognizable landmark: Mount Rushmore.

3. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan – 8.13 out of 10

Annual search volume: 886,900

Google review score: 4.9 out of 5

In third place is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan, located on the shores of Lake Superior.

Known for its dramatic multicolored cliffs and unusual sandstone formations, there is lots of natural beauty to explore here.

There are over 100 miles of trails to follow as well as guided tours led by the rangers, such as the one from Twelve mile Beach through the beautiful white birch forests nearby.

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Methodology

The states with the most hidden gems

For each state, the number of total attractions listed on Tripadvisor was sourced. The number that is listed as being ‘hidden gems’ was then also sourced and calculated as a percentage of the total.

The USA’s best hidden gems

Using a number of articles we built a list of over 150 hidden gem attractions and landmarks across the USA.

For each, we then found the number of global Google searches between June 2021 and May 2022 according to Google Ads Keyword Planner as well as the average review score on Google Maps.

Finally, we gave each attraction a normalized score out of ten for both of these factors, before taking an average of these two scores to reach our overall score out of ten.

Picturesque Viewpoints

Where are the most beautiful viewing points in the world and the US?

Our planet is filled with captivating wonders and spectacular views. While some are man-made and others are naturally formed, the world’s best viewing spots attract thousands of visitors each year.

From the Chicago skyline to the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, the world’s best viewing points offer panoramic views of natural landscapes and bustling cities. But where are the world’s most picturesque viewing spots?

We looked at the most popular viewpoints across the world, and in the US, to see which has the most tagged Instagram posts. If you love to travel, and get that perfect Insta-worthy shot, here are some of the world’s most picturesque views to add to your bucket list. 

The most picturesque viewpoints in the US

1. Grand Canyon, Arizona: #GrandCanyon – 4,133,265 posts

The Grand Canyon National Park has unbelievable views from almost any point, proving popular across Instagram with 4,133,265 posts. The Grand Canyon itself is around 446 km long, up to 29 km wide, and 1,857 meters deep. The destination’s endless viewing points offer awe-inspiring views of one of the world’s original seven natural wonders.

2. Golden Gate Bridge, California: #GoldenGateBridge – 3,152,966 posts

When the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed in 1937, it was the tallest and longest suspension bridge the world had ever seen. Today it is a symbol of the United States and is one of the best high places to see the city of San Francisco. Visitors that arrive at San Francisco International can take the subway, a bus, or a taxi to reach the Golden Gate Bridge in under two hours. 

3. Empire State Building, New York: #EmpireStateBuilding – 3,064,351 posts

In third place, the Empire State Building stands 102 stories tall and is one of the most famous buildings in the States. The observation deck is located on the 86th level and offers views of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts on a clear day. 

The most picturesque viewpoints in the world

1. Eiffel Tower, France: #EiffelTower – 7,016,648 posts

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic landmarks on the Parisian skyline, offering unparalleled views of the world’s most romantic city. Accessible via a glass lift, the top of the tower is 276 meters off the ground and the views of Paris are unrivaled. Perhaps it’s no surprise to see that the Eiffel Tower comes in first place as the most picturesque viewpoint, with 7,016,648 tagged posts.

2. Burj Khalifa, United Arab Emirates: #BurjKhalifa – 6,001,463 posts

In second place, the Burj Khalifa offers one of the world’s most picturesque viewpoints, with 6,001,463 tagged Instagram posts. At over 828 meters tall, with over 160 stories, the Burj Khalifa holds the world record for the tallest building, the tallest free-standing structure, and the building with the highest number of stories. At the Top is a Burj Khalifa experience where visitors can visit level 124, which is over 400 meters above ground, and enjoy views from the observation deck. 

3. Grand Canyon, Arizona: #GrandCanyon – 4,133,265 posts

As one of the world’s seven wonders, it’s no surprise that the Grand Canyon is one of the most picturesque viewpoints in the world. The most Instagrammed of all the viewpoints we looked at in the States, the Grand Canyon has endless viewing spots. Many are located at the South Rim, which is one of the most popular locations for visiting tourists.

Methodology

We wanted to find the most picturesque viewing points in the world and throughout the US, so we used lists from Cheapism, Insider, LoveExploring, FarandWide, and Insider.

We then used Instagram to find the total number of posts uploaded with each viewpoint’s hashtag on June 8th, 2022.

Sustainable USA Travel Index

Sustainable Travel Index header

The USA’s most eco-friendly cities to visit

As pressure mounts for cities around the world to do their bit when it comes to fighting climate change, travelers are increasingly conscious of the impact they could be having on the planet.

From using more renewable energy or encouraging residents and visitors to use public transport, cycle and walk, cities are doing their best to be more sustainable.

So, which are the most sustainable destinations in the US? To find out, we’ve analyzed some of the country’s most visited cities on a range of sustainable factors.

The USA’s most sustainable destinations

USA most sustainable cities

1. Portland, Oregon

In first place is Portland, Oregon, which is well known for being a progressive city, so it makes sense that sustainability would be important here.

The state of Oregon has the highest rate of renewable energy usage of any on our list (43.1%) and also scores highly for its low light pollution (6,590μcd/m2) and the number of sustainable hotels (9% of total hotels).

Portland has regularly ranked highly in lists of the Greenest Cities in America and was one of the first to introduce a comprehensive plan to tackle CO2 emissions.

2. Seattle, Washington

Not too far from Portland is the second-placed city of Seattle, Washington. The city is known for being a technology hub and has experienced rapid population growth, but it was also the first to pledge to become climate neutral, doing so back in 2010.

Like Portland, Seattle scores highly for its usage of renewable energy (38.4%) as well as for its average air pollution (6μg/m³), people who walk or use public transport (44.8%) and sustainable hotels (9.19%).

Seattle relies heavily on hydropower and only uses fossil fuels for a very small percentage of its electricity.

3. New York City, New York

Despite being one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world, New York takes third place.

NYC was the top-scoring city for not one, not two, but three factors: sustainable hotels, people walking or using public transportation, and length of cycle paths.

The sheer size of the Big Apple has forced it to tackle its carbon footprint head-on, investing in a comprehensive public transport network, constructing green office buildings and pledging to drastically reduce emissions.

The USA’s least sustainable destinations

USA's least sustainable destinations

1. Nashville, Tennessee

Coming bottom of the rankings is Nashville, Tennessee, one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. 

Nashville is the lowest-scoring city when it comes to its air pollution (14.3μg/m³) and also scores poorly for its cycle path infrastructure, with just 0.6 miles of protected pathways.

2. Columbus, Ohio

The second-lowest scoring city is Columbus, the most populated city in the state of Ohio.

Ohio has a very low rate of renewable energy usage (4.4%) and the city of Columbus has a high level of air pollution, at 13.6μg/m³.

The high levels of pollution in the area are largely caused by the Ohio State University’s McCracken Power Plant, the landfill operated by the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO), and the Anheuser-Busch Columbus Brewery.

3. Houston & Dallas, Texas

Two Texas cities are tied in third place, Houston and Dallas. The two are amongst the biggest in the state and both scored poorly for their public transport use and air pollution levels.

Both are very busy cities, with Houston having one of the highest levels of automobile usage in the country, while Dallas is also a major transportation hub with numerous highways converging in the city which is also home to a major port and one of the world’s busiest airports.

The destination with the most sustainable hotels

New York sustainable. hotels

New York City, New York – 14.33%

Staying in a sustainable hotel can help to somewhat offset the effects that travel can have, as they make an effort to keep their energy consumption to a minimum.

The city that has the highest percentage of properties marked as being sustainable by Booking.com is New York, with 14.33%.

The destination with the highest public transport use

Sustainable Travel Index transport new york

New York City, New York – 71.6% of people walk, cycle, or use public transport to work

Using public transport, walking or cycling is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, and by far the city where car usage is at its lowest is New York.

Here 71.6% of people use something other than a car to get to work (or work from home), with the city having the largest single-operator rapid transport system in the world, providing 24/7 service to 472 rail stations.

The destination with the greatest renewable energy use

Sustainable Travel Index portland

Portland, Oregon – 43.1% renewable energy consumption

Unfortunately, renewable energy data is only available at state level rather than city, but the state where renewable energy makes the largest share of consumption is Oregon, at 43.1%.

Oregon’s electricity supply is dominated by hydroelectricity, with over 80 renewable hydropower facilities in the state. 

The destination with the lowest air pollution

sustainable travel Tucson

Tucson, Arizona – 4.8μg/m³ annual air pollution

Air pollution is a serious problem in many cities around the country, but the destination with the cleanest air is Tucson, Arizona.

Located in the Arizona desert, Tucson is the second-biggest city in the state but averages just 4.8μg/m³ a year.

The destination with the lowest light pollution

Sustainable Travel Index

Tucson, Arizona – 3,530μcd/m2 artificial brightness

Light pollution is a form of pollution that perhaps gets less attention, as not only does it take away the beautiful night sky, but it also makes it much harder for some species to survive when they’re impacted by so much artificial light.

Once again, Tucson comes top here, with the city establishing dark sky ordinances way back in 1972 to limit the levels of light pollution.

The destinations with the lowest carbon footprint

Houston and Los Angeles

Houston, Texas & Los Angeles, California – 14.6t CO2 per person

Two cities are tied with the lowest CO2 emissions per person, with both Houston and Los Angeles producing 14.6 tonnes per person.

While they’re both extremely busy cities, both have high population levels too, so their per capita emissions actually aren’t as bad as many other places.

The best destination for cycle paths

new york

New York City, New York – 124.19 miles

By far the city with the best infrastructure in place for cyclists is New York City, with just under 125 miles of protected cycleways to use.

The traffic congestion and relatively flat terrain make cycling popular in New York, not just for the many delivery cyclists who make use of the paths, but increasingly, commuters too.

The destination with the least congestion

Minneapolis

Minneapolis, Minnesota – 10% congestion score

Traffic congestion is an obvious cause of emissions and air pollution, but the city that struggles with this the least is Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Here, the average journey in peak traffic takes just 10% longer than it would do without any traffic.

Most sustainable US destinations

Methodology

A list of 50 of the most visited cities in the US was studied, with any that didn’t have full comparable data for each factor being removed.

The remaining cities were then analyzed on the following factors, with each one being given a normalized score out of 10 before an average of these scores was taken.

Sustainable hotels

The percentage of the total hotels listed on Booking.com that have been designated ‘Travel Sustainable properties’.

Public transport use

The percentage of people that either walk, cycle or use public transport to get to work, or work from home, according to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Renewable energy use

The state’s renewable energy consumption as a percentage of total consumption according to the EIA’s Primary Energy Consumption Estimates. Note that this factor relates to the wider state rather than the city itself.

Air pollution

The annual air pollution in the city for 2021 according to IQAir’s world’s most polluted cities data.

Light pollution

The artificial brightness in the city center according to LightPollutionMap.info.

Carbon footprint

The total carbon footprint per person according to the Global Gridded Model of Carbon Footprints (GGMCF).

Cycle paths

The total length of the city’s protected bike lanes according to PeopleForBikes’ Protected Bike Lanes 101.

Congestion

The city’s congestion score according to TomTom’s Traffic Index 2021. This shows the average journey time compared to those in free-flow conditions.

Celebrating all things Red, White and Blue this Independence Day

Millions of Americans are expected to travel for Independence Day this year, take a look at some of our top destinations inspired by all things Red, White and Blue.

Red

Red Canyon – Utah

Part of the Dixie National Forest, Red Canyon is a great place for a hike this Independence Day! Following the red theme, this location is perfect for the avid explorer, with deep canyons to walk or bike through. The Visitor Center offers free maps, which show where to hike or bike in Red Canyon, as well as where to stop for a festive 4th of July picnic. If you’re traveling to Red Canyon for Independence Day, make sure to pre-book your airport parking lot space from your departure airport with ParkSleepFly!

Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco

One of the tallest and longest suspension bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge is a sight to be seen at any time of year, but extra special on Independence Day. The red hue of the bridge allows passing water vessels to see this extraordinary addition to the San Francisco Bay. This remarkable structure becomes an even better place to spend the 4th of July, with a magnificent firework display over the water. If you’re flying to San Francisco from Chicago, check out the ParkSleepFly parking options available from O’Hare Airport.

White

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Celebrate true Independence by visiting South Dakota and seeing the iconic Mount Rushmore. This 60-foot Memorial features George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Each president represents one of the four key characteristics of the U.S. including, birth, growth, development and preservation. This once in a lifetime trip features the monument itself, a half-mile walking trail and a museum and dining area. Flying to Mount Rushmore from New York has never been easier, and ParkSleepFly has a range of parking options available at JFK. Pre-book now to avoid disappointment!

Big Snowy Mountains, Montana

Experience the true white of the American flag by exploring the Big Snowy Mountains in Montana this Independence Day. The ‘Big Snowies’ are the perfect place for an activity-filled weekend, whether walking with the family or taking snaps of the spectacular mountains. There are many different hiking options, including the Ice Caves Loop, or for something less strenuous, the Promontory Point via Crystal Lake. If you’re heading from Detroit to the Big Snowies, check out the options available on ParkSleepFly for your airport parking lot space.

Blue

Crater Lake, Oregon

For a more serene option for celebrating American Independence, we highly recommend a boat out on Crater Lake. This volcanic crater in south-central Oregon is the perfect place for a gentle boat trip. The deep gorgeous blue water can be misleading, however, as it is known for being very cold! Designated swimming areas are available for those wanting to explore out on the lake. For a family-fun affair, taking a boat out for fishing activities is also highly recommended, with both Kokanee Salmon and Rainbow Trout available for catching. Flying in from Boston Logan airport? Check out pre-booked airport parking options available with ParkSleepFly before you jet off.

Lake Tahoe, Michigan

This serene lake is the perfect place for a picnic by the water, summer paddleboarding or, for the more adventurous, jet skiing. Lake Tahoe crosses over both California and Nevada, so traveling from both sides is always an option. This family-fun day out is a must to take advantage of the perfect weather conditions for Lake activities, as well as enjoy a delicious Independence Day-themed lunch together. If you’re traveling into the US for Independence Day, flying from Canada is a great choice. Make sure to pre-book your airport parking at Montreal Airport to not delay your trip. 

Other Activities for Independence Day

Visiting the White House is the ultimate day out on Independence Day. Expect a historic tour of the grounds and a spectacular fireworks display later in the evening. From BBQ hotdogs to sweet treats for dessert, you don’t want to miss out on this ultimate 4th July celebration in the Capitol. 

Things to Remember for Independence Day Travel

The biggest thing to remember if you’re traveling by plane this Independence Day is to pre-book your lot space at the airport. You can make big savings by booking in advance. Here at ParkSleepFly, we have a range of airport parking options available for you to choose from. Being prepared with a lot space already booked means you can relax, knowing your vehicle is safe at the airport, allowing you to escape, explore and celebrate this 4th July weekend!

The Top Memorial Day Parades to attend in 2022

Memorial Day is fast approaching, and there are many ways in which you can gather with family this year to honor those lost. One of the most popular activities on Memorial Day is attending a parade. There are a host of parades which take place in cities across the country.

Washington D.C

The biggest and most popular Memorial Day parade occurs in the center of Washington D.C. Led by a marching band, this three-hour display alongside the National Mall on Constitution Avenue, features veteran units from each state along with those who were involved in other past conflicts. The procession showcases large floats and balloons. If you can’t make it to view the parade, you can live-stream the event via YouTube, meaning you can sit back and enjoy the parade with your loved ones at home. Travelling into Washington for the parade? Don’t forget to pre-book your airport parking lot space with ParkSleepFly.

Rochester, Wisconsin

The Rochester Area Memorial Day Parade of Heroes begins at 11:30am on May 30th. Following the procession starting at 1:30pm, a ceremony will be held in Pioneer Park at the Rochester, WI Memorial Day Parade. The Rochester parade will have approximately 20 parade entries, including fire trucks, marching bands and individual participants. Invocations, songs and speeches are also to be expected at this event. If you have an early flight into Rochester for the parade, adding a ParkSleepFly hotel only stay at the airport guarantees you a good night’s rest the day before you travel.

Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Alongside the Rochester parade, Sheboygan has its very own Memorial Day activities. Located on the Lake Michigan side of Wisconsin, this parade travels through downtown and ends with a ceremony at Fountain Park. The parade includes stunning musical performances and pays homage to veterans and active-duty men and women. If you need a room the night before your flight into Sheboygan with an added parking lot space, check out the options available through ParkSleepFly.

Ironton, Ohio

The first ever procession was held in 1868 and has continued every year since. The parade begins at 10am with the route beginning at Center Street and finishing on 6th Street and Park Avenue. The parade includes 12 divisions, floats, fire trucks and marching bands. ParkSleepFly have a variety of different airport parking options available to guarantee your lot space if you’re flying out to Ohio this Memorial Day weekend.

Doylestown, Philadelphia

Dating back 145 years, this parade is older than the Ironton and Brooklyn parades. The Doylestown parade sets off at 10am, much like the Ironton procession. Entertainment for the whole family includes individual participants, marching bands and community groups. For hotel only stays the night before flying to Philadelphia, ParkSleepFly can help you find the best price for your overnight stay at the airport.

Little Neck-Douglaston, New York

The Little Neck-Douglaston parade has been a tradition since 1927, proceeding at 2pm each year. It is led by Division 1, which includes the Grand Marshal, Division Marshals and other elected officials. This parade is more of a traditional memorial, with the addition of an opening and closing ceremony.

Other things to do on Memorial Day

As well as traveling to see the local parades, there are also a host of other activities to participate in for this long weekend, including: 

  • Checking out any Memorial Day sales
  • Getting together with family on a Memorial Day weekend getaway
  • Planning events with loved ones, such as cookouts or picnics and taking trips or days out are a good way of taking advantage of that extra day off work
  • If you’re in the area why not go to the Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC? The scenic park allows for a leisurely walk around the gardens, whilst also remembering those lost

If you’re wanting to just gather family and friend groups for the weekend, why not host a BBQ with Memorial Day themed treats? Baking at home in preparation for a BBQ is a great way to bring the family together, especially children, you’re also guaranteed a sweet treat at the end of the day. Baking recipes we recommend include New York Cheesecake, Berry Cobbler and Punch Bowl cake. If you have family out of state and are traveling to see them, pre-booking airport parking has never been easier with Park Sleep Fly.

Things to remember for Memorial Day:

  • From sunrise until 12 noon, the U.S. flag is flown at half-staff to remember those who have been lost
  • Rochester, WI has a very popular Memorial Day parade every year and has been a yearly event since 1867
  • Americans are encouraged to participate in a minute silence at 3pm on Memorial Day afternoon in remembrance