Top travel experiences in the United States - whitewater rafting in West Virginia

Make 2024 Great With These Unforgettable Travel Experiences

Do you want to up your vacation game this year? National Geographic released their “Best of the World” Top 20 Travel Experiences for 2024. Five of the spectacular adventures are in the United States. Make this year one to remember with these unforgettable travel experiences.

Find Your Wild Side

Brown bears feeding on salmon at Katmai National Park
Katmai National Park and Preserve. Photo credit: NPS

Experience: Bear watching in Katmai National Park and Preserve

Located near Kodiak Island on the Alaska Peninsula, Katmai National Park and Preserve is known for sport fishing and bear viewing. Over 2,000 bears inhabit the Alaska park, comprising 4 million acres of tundra, forests, mountains, and lakes.

Brooks Camp provides viewing platforms for a front-row seat of brown bears feeding on salmon, a surreal glimpse of wildlife in the untamed wilderness. The salmon runs typically occur in July and September.

Home to the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, Novarupta, the park also has an extensive area of ash and lava flows to explore. Guests regularly spot wolves in the park and humpback whales and sea otters along its shores. The combination of rugged landscapes and exotic wildlife feels like a real-life nature documentary. 

Get Your Kicks

unforgettable travel experiences - road trip on Route 66 in New Mexico
Neon signs and retro motels await you on Route 66 in New Mexico. Photo credit: mkopka via Deposit Photos

Experience: Road trip on Route 66 in New Mexico

Take a trip down nostalgia lane by driving historic Route 66 through the Land of Enchantment. The journey through New Mexico features stunning vistas, neon signs, retro motels, and old-fashioned diners. Like a time machine, the route transports you to the past, where you glimpse what the Mother Road was like in its heyday. 

Several attractions are old gas stations converted into diners or gift shops with groovy souvenirs. Be sure to visit the 66 Diner in Albuquerque, which has one of the world’s most extensive PEZ collections. Take a selfie along the famous Continental Divide. With so many historic and eclectic spots, this road trip promises to be monumental.

Look to the Skies

Corona during a total solar eclipse
Total solar eclipse with visible corona. Photo credit: PiLens via Deposit Photos

Experience: Observe the total solar eclipse in Niagara Falls

A list of unforgettable travel experiences would only be complete with the total solar eclipse. Travelers will get one crack at the celestial event. It occurs on April 8 and is only visible briefly on the path of totality and only if Mother Nature keeps the skies clear. The route heads north from Texas to Maine.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the next visible total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States will be August 23, 2044. The experience will be the most accessible total solar eclipse in the lifetime of many North American residents.

New York’s Niagara Falls State Park sits directly on the path of totality. Guests get to experience a once-in-a-lifetime event and one of the nation’s top natural wonders at the same place.

Take a Bumpy Ride

top travel experiences - whitewater rafting in WV
Rafters navigate the rapids. Photo credit: vilevi via Deposit Photos

Experience: Raft the rapids in West Virginia

What do you get when you combine the country’s newest national park with one of the world’s oldest rivers? It is one of the year’s top travel experiences! 

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in southern West Virginia earned its national park designation in 2020, but the region has drawn more than one million visitors annually since 1993. Whitewater rafting on the New and Gauley Rivers puts the East Coast park on the map and the list of top 2024 adventures. 

The Upper New River offers mild waters for families with children, while the Lower New River yields more intense excursions for thrill-seekers. In autumn, the Gauley River challenges the most experienced rafters and extreme adventurers with its wild rapids. No matter what level of thrills you seek, West Virginia delivers an unforgettable adventure with breathtaking scenery and a wild ride through deep canyons in the Appalachian Mountains.

Hunt for Treasure

Bridges over the Hudson River at night
Hudson Valley. Photo credit: mandritoiu via Deposit Photos

Experience: Go antiquing in Hudson Valley, New York

Hudson Valley boasts charming mom-and-pop shops, unique eateries, and antique stores for days. Antique collectors may find treasure by browsing flea markets and boutique stores carrying everything from colonial furniture to rare books.

Beyond hunting for treasure, travelers can explore historic landmarks and outdoor sculpture parks. The region is also renowned for its culinary scene, specializing in farm-to-table fare. 

After shopping and eating, complete your New York getaway with stunning mountain and river views on a scenic drive. Although leisurely, the combination of antique shopping, art, panoramic views, and tasty food yields one of the world’s most fulfilling travel experiences.

Plan Your Adventures and Make 2024 Memorable

top travel experiences - watch total solar eclipse at Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls. Photo credit: Aivolie via Deposit Photos

Five United States travel experiences earned a place on National Geographic’s coveted “Best of the World” list. There is something for everyone within the iconic destinations. Whether you seek adventure, treasure, a rare event, a road trip, or a front-row seat to nature in all its glory, an unforgettable travel experience awaits you. 

Featured image credit: sepavone via Deposit Photos

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Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey

Scott And Julie McConkey

After 30 years, Scott and Julie McConkey left the corporate world for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year became a second act, and they are now full-time travel bloggers!