The USA is a diverse country. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it can be completely different depending on which state you visit. Form places like Hawaii, Washington and Florida – the expanse of places to explore is totally mind-boggling to me. Now, one place I always love returning to is the West Coast, with some of the best places to see, it’s an area of the USA that’s got everything you could think of. And a place you have to think about exploring whilst in the USA (especially if it’s your first time).
The whole region is filled with glitzy cities, stunning national parks, beautiful drives and In-N-Out Burgers (which are still my guilty pleasure). Ha! Anyway, before I embarrass myself by articulating the number of burgers I actually eat, I wanted to share some of the best places to see on the west coast. Some spots I’ve mentioned are right on the Pacific Coast of the US, whilst others require a drive in the western region of the country and further from the coast, I just couldn’t miss them out. 🤣
Take a look at 12 of the best places to see in and around the west coast and western regions of the USA. 🇺🇸
1.) Seattle, Washington
I keep wanting to label Seattle as an ‘alternative’ US city, but it’s so much more than that. We spent 5 days here and loved every second! The city itself is brimming with an impressive coffee culture that doesn’t just involve Starbucks, an amazing live art scene (I name you, CoCA and Venue) and loads of micro-breweries (like Georgetown Brewing Company) where you can wet your whistle. 🍺
If you’ve never been to Seattle before, spend some time at the Pike Place Market, sip a cappuccino at the first Starbucks outlet that opened here in 1971, pop to the top of the Space Needle for some killer views and gorge on all the clam chowder you can find.
If you do have time, take a ferry to go whale watching and explore the magnificent Mount Rainier or take the commuter ferry over to Bainbridge Island (a sleepy little community that’s so gorgeous to explore).
2.) San Francisco, California
When it comes to the best places on the West Coast to visit, San Francisco is firmly up there and I place I’ve returned to twice – it really is that amazing!
If it’s your first time, you’ll want to see some of the popular spots like Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, Haight Street, Lombard Street and see the Golden Gate bridge – but there’s lots more to the city than just this. Just watch out for all the seals in Fisherman’s Wharf… they have some funky smelling breath! 💨
One of my favourite things to do is to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and head to Muir Woods to see some of those massive redwood trees. There are loads of trails here too – so take your walking shoes.
For one of the tastiest breakfasts on the west coast, head into Acme Bread. They make an epic apple turnover, just be prepared for some queues if you’re visiting on the weekend.
3.) Los Angeles, California
I’ve gotta be honest, I’ve visited Los Angeles twice and still not truly found my place in the city. I’ve heard people rave about the city but I just never had that experience. That being said, you have to head to Los Angeles for a little jaunt around the city. Now, the city itself isn’t ‘walkable’ like places like London but you can easily get around by car. 🚙
For some of the top places, pop over to Hollywood Boulevard, the Walk of Fame, and the Hollywood sign for some views of the city. If you’re feeling more cultural, pop into the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Center.
I’m definitely heading back to Los Angeles and hoping to ‘find my tribe’ so to speak but don’t let my disappointment put you off – it’s definitely a spot you should experience.
4.) Death Valley, California
Okay, technically quite a distance from the coast itself, but Death Valley is most certainly still within the west of the USA and a spot I just had to share with you. Oh, and don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. In fact, it is pretty damn magnificent.
Considered to be one of the hottest places on earth (literally), this desert is located between California and Nevada and about 8 hours drive from LA. On my first visit, I was actually refused entry for not carrying enough water (in hindsight, I was silly) so make sure you plan before you visit.
Once there, head to Dante’s View to get uninterrupted views of the Death Valley, explore Zabriskie Point, visit Badwater Basin which is the lowest point in North America, and drive through Artists’ Drive. Remember to carry plenty of water! 🌵
5.) Napa Valley, California
Ah, a wine lover’s paradise… I can already hear my wine glass clinking. Ha!
Truthfully though, Napa Valley has some of the best (and tastiest) wineries and vineyards in the country and has some stunning views to boot. To be honest, the thing I find hardest about Napa Valley is what vineyards to actually choose to visit. There’s a huge array of options, like; Pride Mountain Vineyards, Modus Operandi Cellars, V Sattui, Castello di Amorosa, and the St. Clair Brown Winery & Brewery (which are all great starting points).
Just make sure to get a designated driver as you will get sloshed. No joke… it’s almost inevitable you won’t be tipsy! 🍷
6.) Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe changes so much depending on the time of year you visit, it can get bitterly cold but also a gorgeous summer haven. Whatever time you visit though, Lake Tahoe is gorgeous and has an almost hippie/chilled-partying vibe that just seems to work for the area.
I visited in summer (and lounged around quite a bit on the beach) but there are no excuses not to explore the area in deepest winter. The lake is gorgeous and there are so many walking trails, sports and even a little beach to enjoy on the lake.
Oh… and if you’re hungry, head over to Evan’s American Gourmet Cafe that serves up some of the tastiest pies in the state. 😋
7.) San Diego, California
With some pretty mild temperatures all year round and caked in the sunshine, San Diego has a totally laidback vibe that is top-notch to experience! Enjoy the windswept beaches, go whale watching on their migratory path or try hang gliding and surfing and explore the historic harbour front district.
For some grub, there’s literally every food you can ever imagine but my favourite has to be at Casa Guadalajara who is one of the best Mexican eateries in the city. I swear they make the biggest fajitas you can imagine. Side note, and slightly controversial, I still feel that the UK doesn’t do Mexican food well. Well, this is my excuse to gorge when I’m in San Diego anyway. Ha!
If you’re looking for a day trip from the city, pop over to Salvation Mountain. It’s one of the more unique places to see in the USA and about 3-4 hours away.
After all that exploring, pop over to La Jolla Cove to watch the sun go down. It really is a special place. ☀
8.) Yosemite National Park, California
Honestly, with five totally epic waterfalls, gorgeous hiking trails, masses of wildlife, and stunning views, Yosemite National Park is what dreams are made of (well, for me anyway).
Some of the best must-visit sites include; Glacier Point, Taft Point, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite Valley, Sentinel Dome, El Capitan and Half Dome (which I swear I found so tough to hike). You can take a guided astronomy walk or go on a night bike ride to experience the amazing night sky here.
Oh, and don’t forget your camera! If you’re looking for a place to rest your head, stay at The Majestic Yosemite Hotel for a totally sumptuous experience.
9.) Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Yup, you’re gonna know this one for sure… after all, it’s probably the most famous canyon in the world! Although it’s not on the coast itself (Actually it’s quite far), it certainly is situated within the western region of the US and an amazing spot to discover.
The National Park covers a huge area, while the Canyon itself is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and an epic 1 mile deep. Wow!
Hiking to the Horseshoe Bend is a must-do if you’re into earning your views and let’s not forget seeing Havasu Falls, too. While there’s no denying that the Grand Canyon is spectacular, watching the sunrise and sunset here is something else altogether. You’ll love it.
10.) Redwood National Park, California
Feel like a dwarf among the majestic Redwood trees at this National Park (well, I did anyway). Some of them are over 2000 years old and almost five times the size of the Statue of Liberty. Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, the Big Tree, and drive through the trunk of the Chandelier Tree. It’s an experience you won’t forget easily – these trees are iconic! 🌳
You can also join a ranger-led program that features experiences like Kayaking, nature walks and even tidepool walks. Best of all, they’re all free. You can see the most up-to-date schedule, here.
11.) Portland, Oregon
Portland is known for its hipsters, indie food scene, funky neighbourhoods and independent coffee shops that are just amazing for a first-time visit. If you’re looking to earn your calorie intake, explore the city on a bike, then try some amazing (and cheap!) food at one of the many food carts (Aybla, Bing Mi, and Koi Fusion are yummy BTW), grab a doughnut at the iconic Voodoo Doughnut, and slow down to match the pace.
Also, if you’re a literary fiend, you’ll love Powell’s bookshop (which seems to have every book under the sun). If nature is more your thing, head to the impressive Multnomah Falls. Either way, Portland is a stunning city that that has a totally cool identity.
12.) Las Vegas, Nevada
Cheesy or glitzy, whatever your take Las Vegas is one spot that always catches our eyes. 🎉
After visiting twice, I’ve gotta say I love Las Vegas but it does feel like a bubble somewhat, so I’d always recommend a quick jaunt out to Hoover Dam/Lake Mead or to see the Grand Canyon or Death Valley during your stay.
If it’s the glitz you’re after, pop into the casino and spend a few dollars. My luck is always terrible and I leave empty-handed. Ha! After a night at the slots, pop to see one of the iconic shows or explore some of the other experiences that each hotel offers – they’re a world of their own.
For the tastiest breakfast in the city, pop into The Egg & I. You won’t be disappointed. 🍳