30 “Quintessential American Experiences” That Tourists Should Try, As Shared By Internet Users
Open roads, a good hamburger, and freedom aren’t all exclusive to the US, but America is a pretty unique place, through its size, history, and diversity. So it’s no wonder that visitors from around the world want to visit and see if it’s all it's cracked up to be.
One netizen wanted to know what “quintessentially American experience” any tourist to the US-of-A should try, and the internet delivered. National parks, aggressive cops, and portions larger than some European countries are all featured, so strap in, scroll through, and be sure to upvote your favorites, and don’t forget to comment your own suggestions below.
Visiting a national park. United States has a lot of things good and bad but it's abundance of breathtaking and well taken care of national parks is probably one of its biggest strengths..... next to its number of aircraft carriers ofcourse lol.
My first USA tourist experience was watching two soccer moms fistfight in a Walmart in Florida, 10/10 would watch again
The quintessential American Experience for tourists from Europe is discovering you can't combine all the ideas in these comments in one week because there's so much distance and traffic between them. You're better off thinking of the state you land in as the "country" you're visiting.
Many of the top suggestions point towards the United States’ natural beauty and this is overwhelmingly correct, Americans should feel proud not only for the abundance of outdoor activities but the world-famous national park system, which includes 85.1 million acres of land for Americans and visitors alike to enjoy. This is literally more land than some entire nations and includes some of the most breathtaking places on Earth.
The national park service, which maintains and manages the parks that we can all enjoy, was established in 1916, though the first “park,” as in an area set aside for preservation, was created in 1872, and protected by a nearby fort for US troops. This park was Yellowstone, known for its canyons, forests, and downright breathtaking views.
Drive the coast! Highway 101 from Oregon to California. Beautiful beaches. Great camping. Small towns quite often. Redwood Forest.
See the redwoods. My family went to a lot of national parks when I was young, but the redwoods stuck with me or stayed in my head for some reason. My wife had never been so we went one year and same thing happened to her. I don't really believe in supernatural things but there's something about those trees.
I’m not American but felt like an honorary one in the best kinda way when I hiked the whole Appalachian Trail. For me the creation and ongoing survival of the Trail, plus the community who walk it and protect it and celebrate it are a great American achievement.
Diners, restaurants, and good food aren’t limited to the US either, but pop culture, Hollywood, and even paintings have made the 1950s-style diner absolutely iconic. Some have been preserved in the same condition since then, serving the same dishes, a piece of vintage Americana for anyone to enjoy. Some have become famous landmarks, due to showing up in films and TV shows.
Have a cheeseburger and fries in a 24 hour diner, ideally one that has a lot of chrome and looks unchanged since the 1950's.
As a Brit, I can guarantee that the scale of the whole thing will blow your mind.
A road trip. For all the hate cars get online, there's something truly amazing about the freedom of movement enabled by the automobile, the road, and the sheer scale of this nation. Doesn't matter what route you take; go down the coast or up to the mountains, and just watch the scenery change. It's beautiful, and really hammers home how *big* America is. Along the way stop at parks, or museums, or whatever touristy things you desire. Get lunch at a fast food place, and dinner at a proper local restaurant.
I think for a foreigner, that's the best way to encapsulate what America represents to most people. It's big; it's untamed. It's beautiful, and there's no other nation like it.
Others point to state or county fairs, which typically include a bizarre arrangement of attractions, some unique to each state, and the sort of food that looks like it’s designed to give you a heart attack in under five minutes. As always, Americans do things big, and that includes health risks. Statistically, the largest is in Texas (figures,) where the State fair reported over two and a half million attendees. They really do things bigger in Texas.
Go to the museums in NYC or DC.
Americans have a real way with museums, it might be a mix of the love of big spaces, a certain kind of insatiable curiosity, and incredible avarice. There are few places in the world this many truly amazing museums of so many kinds in just one place, and pretty close.
Even the museum stores at some of these places are better than the best museums in other cities.
EDIT: I want to add here that I am a real museum hound and go to every museum I can everywhere I travel or live. I’ve lived or spent multiple long visits in probably about 15 different cities including Chicago, San Francisco, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Montreal, Toronto, and Buenos Aires. For art, there are several cities that equal or even excede NYC and DC, but if you want science and history as well, you really cannot beat these two cities.
1) Visit any of the National Parks. Glacier, Yellowstone, or Yosemite are the big ones. Just leave the animals alone.
2) Find a BBQ shack made out of corrugated metal (bonus points if the floor is dirt). Go nuts on pulled pork, ribs, and brisket.
3) A beer and a hot dog at a baseball game is a must.
4) Go to a rodeo. Not one held in some major city. Go find a county fair or rural rodeo.
5) Develop a stance on the best type of pie. Different regions have VERY strong opinions on this. (Pecan is the best. Fight me)
6) Tour the Bourbon trail
7) Eat a bison steak.
Go to a live performance of blues, jazz or bluegrass/country, all are unique American music styles
Another quintessentially American festivity is the tailgate party, where people gather in the parking lots (Americans have a lot of these) of sports stadiums before a game to barbecue, drink, and just party. It’s so ubiquitous that certain teams even have tailgate snacks associated with them, such as palmetto cheese, which originated at Atlanta Braves tailgate parties. Expect games like beer pong and the wonderfully American cornhole.
Go to a county fair, eat a bunch of fried Oreos, and then ride sketchy carnival rides until sick.
On October 31 dress in costumes, attend parties, visit haunted houses and eat Halloween candy.
Speaking of sports, many foreigners are surprised to see just how seriously Americans take high school and college sports, football in particular. Small towns might have stadiums that rival major teams and college football is a multibillion-dollar industry. Rivalries are ancient and fierce, but without the unpleasantness of, for example, European football hooliganism. Viewing parties are a normal state of affairs and a fun time, generally, for all around.
Check out a minor league baseball game! They have awesome stadiums, great fans and it's usually pretty inexpensive!
Check out any of the Smithsonians in DC
Edit: National Air and Space is my favorite. I could spend multiple days there if I read and pondered everything on display.
I'd also like to plug Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH if you're an aviation nerd. It's another multi-day museum
Driving through a loooooong stretch of wide open highway with nothing but fields and trees on either side of you as far as the eye can see.
It’s something that we take for granted, but Europeans especially are always kind of shocked by.
Here's what I'd reccommend from my trip to the U.S back in 2015.
Grand canyon and Yellowstone national Park, eat at a 50s themed diner, eat BBQ ribs, go to vegas, don't gamble but do other stuff, go to Texas and feel like a big man at the gun range (so many guns, I wanted to shoot them all, my favorite was the 44 magnum, it's got style) go to new Orleans, eat some good home-style southern food made by an old black woman who calls you "sugar", go gator hunting in the bayou on an airboat with rednecks, if you snag one, eat some gator steak. Get drunk in Alabama, get drunk in Georgia, go to Miami, smoke some Cubans while losing at dominoes to Cubans, hit the Miami beach, see the sights, go north, go to New York, get followed 2 blocks by a group of guys yelling s**t at you, have a civil conversation with one of the many crazy subway guys, see a few shows, then go home broke but cured of your depression.
Was in a really dark place in my life, my friends had all moved away, gf just got sick of me and left, job got taken over by a new guy who fired me cos he considered my job redundant (I used to drive the delivery truck for lumber and plumbing supply deliveries, did all the loading and unloading while the trades handled instalations and whatnot) but I'd saved up a good bit of money, mom told me that I can move back with her if I go broke but I should travel and do something to get me outa that rut. I came back broke but happy. Best damn month and a half of my life.
My favorite moment was actually in New Mexico, I was staying the night in the spare room of this crystal shop owner lady she was using as an airbnb, we were sitting around her back yard fire pit, me, her, her boyfriend, one of her friends and me, drinking a few beers, smoking a few cones and talking. Dunno why but, I guess since the part of Australia I'm from which is usually really cold, rainy, cloudy and very pastoral, being out in the desert, such an alien place to me, with these really chill people, I felt at peace.
Were it not for the U.S's f****d up healthcare and... all the rest, I think I'd move out there.
- Eat a s'more if you are going camping... It is a pleasantly simple treat: marshmallow, graham crackers, and chocolate.
- go to a national park if you can. Camp if you can.
- if snow cones are available, get ice cream on the bottom &/or a bit of condensed milk on the top. It's another simple treat
- Go to a Costco and check out the giant bottle of ibuprofen
- look and see if there are any local events going on in the area you are staying at... Farmers market, fairs, berry picking etc
- if you haven't had Mexican food, get it at a family owned restaurant. Ask locals about this one.
- if you smell good BBQ, try it.
- go to a sporting event, maybe tailgate
- go to multiple states across the country so you can see the differences... (Hawaii is going to be vastly different from Montana, which is going to be different from Louisiana, which is going to be different from Oregon... Ect)
As a tourist that visited USA in 2019 I can highly recomend three things.
1. Visit a diner and order pancake stack
2. Go to Walmart
3. And finally go to BBQ grill, bbq in europe does not even come close
If you can, go to a national park or nature preserve. It doesn't need to be a big name one. Wherever you go, there will always be something unique about it, especially since each state has its own ecosystems.
Go to southern california and you can experience most biomes of the entire country. Sunny beaches, rainy forests, snowy mountains, sandy dunes, boggy swamp lands, rolling grass lands. All of these things are more or less within 3 hour drives of eachother.
The weather is the best, plenty of shopping and recreational activities and many historical landmarks.
I'd say driving Route 66, I'm from NM and wanted to do it after high school but never did. Still on the bucket list!
From a West Coast perspective - if you make it over to our beautiful side of the country, I highly recommend a road trip from the Mexican border to the Canadian boarder, up on the 1 and back on the 5. It's an AMAZING trip that will take you into pretty much every climate you can think of other than tundra. The views of the Pacific from the 1 are unforgettable. It also takes several days so it's understandable if it doesn't fit into your itinerary.
A road trip to Las Vegas from southern California is also a great, classic drive. Anywhere from 6-12 hours depending on traffic. Rent a convertible & drive at night (or at least, time your arrival in LV for after dark). The excess of Las Vegas is a sight to behold and should be experienced at least once. (Put $5 on black for me!)
I also recommend trying your hand at surfing, bowling, pickleball, frisbee golf, or other "American" sports.
Have a great trip!!!
Lots of folks from overseas, when visiting in the central Texas area, want to eat TexMex, shoot guns, ride a horse, eat BBQ, actually drive a long highway at 80mph+, and visit some museums like NASA or even the Alamo.