Planning a trip to the West Coast and not sure where to go? I’ve got you covered with this list featuring the best places to visit and things to do in the West Coast that need to be on your USA bucket list.
Bucket List Places to Visit on the West Coast
Many people say West Coast is the best coast. I am not taking a side in the debate, but I love visiting the West Coast. It has so many beautiful natural attractions, including beautiful beaches and stunning coastline, national parks and mountains as well as charming towns and fun cities.
Some of these must see places I have already visited and recommend and the rest are places that look so beautiful or sound so interesting that I have added them to my personal West Coast bucket list. So read on if you are looking for inspiration and ideas for the best places to visit on your West Coast USA road trip.
(And make sure to check out my complete road trip packing list and road trip music playlist to make sure you have all your road trip essentials before you go!)
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California Bucket List Places to Visit
- Explore San Francisco. Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge and visiting Alcatraz are at the top of my Northern California bucket list. Read: 2 Days in San Francisco: The Perfect Itinerary (As Written By a Local!)
- See the majestic Redwood forest at Muir Woods, home to some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world. While you can drive there you can also book a full day or half day tour from San Francisco.
- Visit Sausalito, an old ship-building town in San Francisco’s North Bay packed to the brim with art galleries, fancy restaurants, boutique fashion and homewares stores, and some expensive places to live.
- Explore Yosemite National Park. If you don’t have a car you can book a one-way transfer from San Francisco.
- Go wine tasting at Napa Valley and Sonoma in Northern California.
- Visit Santa Cruz, a city in Northern California known for its moderate climate, natural environment, coastline, redwood forests, alternative community lifestyles, and socially liberal leanings. The main attraction is the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where you’ll find an amusement park right on the beach.
- Visit Monterey. Highlights include Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Old Fisherman’s Wharf for a meal and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
- Explore Big Sur. Highlights include Bixby Bridge (famous for being the tallest concrete bridge in the world and is one of the most photographed in the western United States), McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach, and Ragged Point.
- Visit the seaside town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, a beautiful seaside city famous for its fairy tale buildings.
- Drive the 17-Mile Drive, a short but scenic drive through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula which passes famous golf courses, mansions and scenic attractions.
- Visit the beautiful 129-foot Burney Falls at McArthur-Burney Memorial Falls State Park which are always full of water year round.
- Visit Los Angeles. There are a lot of bucket list things to do in and around LA including hiking to the Hollywood sign, shopping on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Sunset Boulevard, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Read: 3 Days in Los Angeles: The Perfect Itinerary
- Visit Joshua Tree National Park and adjacent town of Joshua Tree. Explore the arid desert landscape, incredible rock formations, and groves of the unique Joshua trees that give the areas its name.
- Visit Palm Springs.
- Enjoy sunny San Diego.
- Visit La Jolla, a beach town just outside San Diego, which is a playground for surfers, beach bums, volleyball players, and others who enjoy the endless Southern California sun.
- Visit Laguna Beach, a small coastal town in Orange County and one of the prettiest beach areas in California.
- Visit Solvang, a charming historic Danish village.
- Visit The Sequoia & Kings Canyon national parks. These adjacent parks are home to the world’s largest trees.
- See giant California redwoods at Redwood National Park.
- Visit beautiful Lake Tahoe.
- Explore Death Valley National Park.
- Visit the beautiful city of Santa Barbara known for its great vineyards and delicious wine, as well as its great combination of classic Southern California architecture, nature, and charming museums.
Read: California Bucket List: 35+ Best Places to Visit in California
Oregon Bucket List Places to Visit
- Visit Portland, a city that likes to keep it weird.
- Explore the Columbia River Gorge. Don’t miss the beautiful Multnomah Falls just a 30 minute drive outside of Portland.
- Drive the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, 12 miles long stretch of highway through thickly forested steep and rugged coastline and small sand beaches.
- Visit Bandon, a quintessential beach town, with incredible ocean vistas, charming stores and restaurants and historic lighthouse.
- Visit Cannon Beach, a beach city known for Haystack Rock, Ecola State Park trails, Hug Point caves & art galleries.
- See Crater Lake National Park. The highlight is the vivid blue Crater Lake (America’s deepest lake).
- Drive the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, a 66 mile drive on a historic highway that offers stunning views of mountains and alpine lakes.
- Visit Smith Rock State Park to enjoy views of towering rock spires. This is a popular area for rock climbing but also has miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.
- See the Painted Hills, considered one of the seven wonders of Oregon.
Washington State Bucket List Places to Visit
- Visit Seattle.
- See beautiful Snoqualmie Falls, on a day trip from Seattle.
- Explore Mount Rainier National Park.
- Explore Olympic National Park.
- Explore North Cascades National Park.
- Visit Leavenworth, a Bavarian-styled village in the heart of the Cascades and one of the best Christmas towns in the USA.
- Attend the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival held annually in April.
Need more travel bucket list inspiration? You might enjoy our other travel bucket lists:
- USA Travel Bucket List: 100+ Best Places to Visit
- The Best Road Trips in the USA For Your Bucket List
- Ultimate Travel Bucket List: 100 Things to Do Before You Die
Definitely planning a major West Coast trip sometime soon Patti. Humboldt County, Oregon and Washington are 3 must visit spots. I love the pristine nature of each place. Quite magical. Excellent post.
I grew up in the Pacific NW and you’ve hit on the most amazing locations to visit. My favs are Crater Lake, Multnomah Falls (they just started a reservation system in the summer) and Snoqualmie Falls (best in the Spring when the water levels are high). Somewhat embarrassed I’ve never heard of Painted Hills in Oregon. I’m adding that to my list!