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Top 13 Graduation Vacation Ideas Within America

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Graduation is a time for new beginnings. It's a time to celebrate your accomplishments and set your sights on the future. Before you move on to the next phase of your life, take some time to relax and enjoy yourself. The memories you make during this time will stay with you forever, so why not make them count?


Here are 13 great ideas for graduation vacations within America:

1. New York

Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan at Sunrise, New York City

Of course, a list of graduation vacation ideas within America would not be complete without mentioning the Big Apple. From the bright lights of Times Square to the iconic Statue of Liberty, there is no shortage of things to see and do in New York City. And with a wealth of hotels and restaurants to choose from, you can easily find accommodations to fit your budget. You have many options for getting around the city, but we recommend taking a ride on the subway for an authentic New York experience.


Here are some things to explore on your trip:


Visit the top of the Empire State Building

New York City Aerial Skyline at Dusk, USA

Enjoy stunning views of the city from one of the most famous landmarks in the world.


Go to a Broadway Show

Time Square, New York, USA

Seeing a Broadway show is a must-do in New York City. There are tons of great shows to choose from, so you're sure to find one you'll enjoy.


Take a tour of Central Park

Aerial shot of Central Park, Manhattan, New York

Central Park is one of the most iconic places in New York City, and it's definitely worth taking a tour. You'll learn all about the history and culture of the park while getting some exercise at the same time.


Visit the Museum of Modern Art

Modern art museum (MOMA) in New York

The Museum of Modern Art is home to some of the world's most famous works of art. It's a great place to spend an afternoon if you're interested in art and culture.


Explore Chinatown

Busy streets of Chinatown in New York City

Chinatown is one of the most vibrant and exciting neighborhoods in New York City. There are many great shops and restaurants to check out, where you'll get to try authentic Chinese food.


2. Hawaii

The dormant volcano known as Diamond Head located adjacent to downtown Honlulu, Hawaii

Of all the graduation vacation ideas in America, Hawaii is one of the most popular destinations. And it's no wonder why - with its stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and active volcanoes, Hawaii is a natural paradise. Whether you're looking to relax on the beach or explore some of the island's thrilling outdoor activities, Hawaii has something for everyone.

You may want to consider the following activities:


Visit Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona, Pearl Harbor Historic Sites in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Pearl Harbor is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hawaii. It's also a very moving place to visit, as it commemorates the site of the attack that led to America's involvement in World War II.


Explore Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island

Volcanoes National Park is home to some of the most active volcanoes in the world. You can tour the park and learn about the history and science of these fascinating natural wonders.


Go Surfing

Three people on a beach, running into the ocean with surfboards in a tropical climate, with mountains in the background.

Hawaii is one of the best places to go surfing, so if you're looking for an adrenaline-pumping activity, this is it. There are plenty of great surf spots around the island, so you're sure to find one that suits your skill level.


Take a Hula Dance Lesson

Hula dancer, dancing on a Hawaiian beach

Hula dancing is a traditional Hawaiian dance that is fun to watch and even more fun to do. If you're interested in learning this unique form of dance, consider taking a hula lesson while in Hawaii.


Hike to the top of Diamond Head

Trail to Diamond Head Crater, Oahu, Hawaii

Diamond Head is one of the most popular hiking trails in Hawaii. The trail takes you to the top of a volcanic crater, where you'll be rewarded with stunning views of Honolulu.


3. Orlando, Florida

Orlando Florida, skyline, Lake Eola

Orlando, Florida, is home to some of the most popular theme parks in the country, making it a perfect destination for a graduation vacation. Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld are all located in Orlando, and there are also numerous golf courses and other attractions to keep visitors entertained. In addition, the city is known for its warm weather, so it's an excellent choice for those who want to avoid the cooler temperatures of the Northeast or Midwest. Best of all, plenty of affordable hotels and vacation rentals are available in Orlando.

Here are some of the best activities to enjoy in Orlando:


Visit the Theme Parks

Visitors on Main Street, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Of course, no trip to Orlando would be complete without spending some time at the city's famous theme parks. Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld are must-sees, plus plenty of smaller parks to explore.


Play a Round of Golf

Orlando, Florida golf course

Orlando is home to some of the best golf courses in the country, so if you're a fan of the sport, be sure to hit the links while you're in town. There are courses to suit all skill levels, so you're sure to find one perfect for you.


Check out the Kennedy Space Center

Family enters the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral.

The Kennedy Space Center is one of Florida's most popular tourist attractions. It's a great place to learn about the history of space exploration and see some of the spacecraft used by NASA over the years.


Visit Gatorland

Aligators at Gatorland Orlando, Florida

If you're looking for an Orlando attraction a little bit off the beaten path, check out Gatorland. This park is home to hundreds of alligators and other animals such as crocodiles, turtles, and snakes.


4. Alaska

Community of Halibut Cove across Kachemak Bay from Homer, Alaska

Alaska is a land of extremes, making it the perfect place to celebrate graduation. Alaska is a truly wild place, from its towering mountains to its pristine forests. And what better way to celebrate your graduation than by getting away from it all? Alaska offers you an adventure-filled trip or a relaxing getaway, or both.

These are some of the best activities to enjoy in Alaska:


Hiking in Denali National Park

The impressive bulk of snow covered Mount Denali rises majestically from the surrounding mountains.

Denali National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Alaska. The park is home to Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America. There are also plenty of hiking trails to explore, so don't forget to pack your hiking boots.


Wildlife Watching

A Brown Bear mother and cubs in Katmai National Park in Alaska

Alaska is home to an incredible array of wildlife, including grizzly bears, moose, eagles, and whales. Many tour operators offer wildlife-watching excursions if you're interested in seeing some of these animals in their natural habitat.


Fishing

Fisherman holding an Alaskan Silver Salmon

Alaska is world-renowned for its salmon fishing, so if you're a fan of the sport, give it a try while in the state. But, of course, plenty of other fish, such as halibut, trout, and cod, can be caught too.


Visiting Glaciers

The Mendenhall Glacier located in Mendenhall Valley near Juneau in the southeast area of Alaska.

Alaska is home to some of the largest glaciers in North America. If you're interested in seeing these massive chunks of ice up close, plenty of tour operators offer glacier-viewing excursions.


5. Yosemite National Park, California

Beautiful view from the Yosemite National Park with a deer.

No American graduation is complete without a road trip. Yosemite National Park, with its soaring mountains, pristine forests, and rushing waterfalls, is the perfect place to celebrate this milestone. Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks in the country.

These are some of the highlights:


Hiking

People hikers hiking in Yosemite National Park on sunny day

Yosemite is home to hundreds of miles of hiking trails, so you're sure to find one perfect for your fitness level. Whether you want to take a stroll or go for a challenging hike, there's a trail for you.


Climbing

Woman rock climbing high above river in Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite is a mecca for rock climbers, with its towering cliffs and world-renowned routes. If you're interested in trying your hand at this exhilarating sport, plenty of guides and outfitters can help you get started.


Rafting

Rafters float down the Merced River in Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is also home to some of the best whitewater rafting in the country. So if you're looking for an adrenaline-filled activity, this is it. There are plenty of tour operators that offer rafters of all skill levels.
Explore the Mariposa Grove. The Mariposa Grove is one of the most popular attractions in Yosemite National Park. This grove is home to over 500 giant sequoias, the largest trees on earth.


6. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

One of the most popular graduation vacation ideas in America is Niagara Falls. Located on the border of Canada and the United States, Niagara Falls is one of the world's most beautiful and awe-inspiring natural wonders. Each year, millions of people see the falls, which are made up of three separate waterfalls: the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls. Visitors can view the falls from both the Canadian and American sides, and boat tours offer up-close views of the rushing waters.

You could easily spend a week exploring Niagara Falls and the surrounding area, but these are some of the highlights:


Visit the American Falls

American falls in Niagara

The American Falls is the largest of the three waterfalls at Niagara Falls. Visitors can get up close to the falls on the Maid of the Mist boat tour, which takes passengers right into the heart of the action.


Explore Goat Island

Goat Island at Niagara Falls

Goat Island is located in the middle of Niagara Falls, between the American and Horseshoe Falls. The island offers up-close views of both waterfalls and plenty of hiking trails and photo ops.


Visit Cave of the Winds

Niagara Falls - Cave of the Winds

The Cave of the Winds is a series of wooden walkways that allow visitors to get right next to Bridal Veil Falls. The walkways are located at the base of the falls, so you'll be sure to get soaked.


Take a Helicopter Tour

Aerial view of Niagara Falls

Take a helicopter tour for a bird's eye view of Niagara Falls. These tours offer breathtaking views of the falls and the surrounding area.


7. Colorado

Denver Colorado skyscrapers snowy Longs Peak Rocky Mountains summer

Do you love the outdoors? Then you'll definitely want to consider Colorado for your graduation vacation. This state is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country and a plethora of outdoor activities. The Rocky Mountains offer endless hiking, biking, and camping opportunities, and there are also plenty of towns and cities to explore.

You can easily spend a week or more in Colorado, but these are some of the highlights:


Hike in the Rocky Mountains

Family standing on top of the mountain enjoying the view of Dream Lake, Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado, USA

The Rocky Mountains offer up endless opportunities for hiking and backpacking. There are trails of all difficulty levels, so you're sure to find one perfect for your fitness level.


Visit Boulder

Aerial view of Pearl Street Mall in Boulder Colorado

Boulder is a vibrant college town located at the base of the Rocky Mountains. There are plenty of things to do in Boulder, from hiking and biking to shopping and dining.


Explore the Smaller Towns

Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake - autumn colors at sunrise, near Aspen, Colorado, in the Elk Mountains

Colorado is home to several charming small towns, each with its unique personality. Some of the most popular include Aspen, Breckenridge, and Telluride.


Go Whitewater Rafting

White Water Rafting, Colorado

Colorado is also home to some of the best whitewater rafting. There are plenty of tour operators that offer rafters of all skill levels.

Go Skiing in the Mountains

Female skier standing with Rocky Mountains in the background in Vail, Colorado

People flock to Colorado every year for the incredible downhill ski slopes and snowboarding. It's great fun for the family and makes for a nice family tradition.


8. Las Vegas

Aerial view of Las Vegas strip in Nevada

Haven't you always wanted to see the bright lights of Las Vegas? Then consider making this city your destination if this is a college graduation celebration. Sin City is known for its casinos, hotels, and nightlife, but there's much more to see and do. While many people immediately think of Las Vegas as a place to gamble and party, the city has a lot to offer graduates looking for a fun and unique vacation. In addition to the myriad of casinos and nightclubs, Vegas is home to world-class restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. And if you're looking to get away from the city, there are plenty of nearby hiking and camping options in the stunning Mojave Desert.

Some top spots you can explore are the following:


The Strip

Las Vegas Strip at night

Las Vegas Boulevard, also known as "the Strip," is the main drag in Vegas and home to most of the city's hotels and casinos. While you're here, check out some famous casinos, such as the Bellagio, Caesar's Palace, and the Venetian.


Fremont Street

Fremont East Las Vegas

Fremont Street is the older, more historic part of Vegas. This area is home to vintage casinos, hotels, and the famous "Fremont Street Experience" light show.


The Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam on the border of Arizona and Nevada, USA.

Just a short drive from Las Vegas is the Hoover Dam, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area. The dam is located on the border of Arizona and Nevada and offers tours, a visitor's center, and stunning views.


9. Los Angeles

Urban sprawl fills the foreground leading back to the skyscrapers of Los Angeles skyline with cloudscape, California

Los Angeles is the perfect graduation vacation spot for those who enjoy the sun and surf. LA offers something for everyone with its miles of beaches, world-famous boardwalk, and various outdoor activities. Visitors can spend their days lounging on the beach, exploring the many shops and restaurants, or enjoying the nightlife. There are also many museums and cultural attractions to explore, making LA an excellent destination for those who want to learn more about the world around them.

Best of all, LA is easy to get to from most major US cities, making it a convenient choice after graduation.
Consider the following attractions:


Venice Beach

Venice Beach, California

Venice Beach is one of the most popular spots in LA, and for a good reason. This beach is known for its eclectic atmosphere, street performers, and Muscle Beach outdoor gym.


Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier on the background of an orange sunset, calm ocean waves, Los Angeles, California

The Santa Monica Pier is a historic landmark home to many shops, restaurants, and attractions, including an amusement park and aquarium.


Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, USA

No trip to LA would be complete without a walk down Hollywood Boulevard, home to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This iconic street also has plenty of shops and restaurants for visitors to enjoy.


10. Miami Beach, Florida

Aerial drone view of South Beach and Ocean Drive in Miami Beach

Miami Beach, located on the southeastern coast of Florida with its art deco architecture and vibrant nightlife, is known for its excellent white-sand beaches. The city also has a large Cuban population, giving it a lively and festive atmosphere. Graduates looking for a graduation vacation destination that is both exciting and relaxing will find that Miami Beach fits the bill perfectly.


When you're planning your trip, be sure to consider the following attractions:


The Everglades

Tourists in hovercraft, Everglades National Park, Florida, USA

The Everglades is a unique ecosystem that is home to a variety of plant and animal species. Visitors can take airboat tours or go hiking and camping in this natural wonderland.


Bayside Marketplace

View of Bayside Marketplace in Miami, Florida

Bayside Marketplace is a waterfront shopping and dining complex located in downtown Miami. It's the perfect place to find souvenirs, grab a bite to eat, or enjoy live entertainment.


South Beach

Aerial view of the beach and skyline at South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA

South Beach is the most popular spot in Miami Beach, known for its art deco architecture, white-sand beaches, and nightlife.


11. New Orleans, Louisiana

French Quarter nightlife - New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is a historic city on the Mississippi River in southeastern Louisiana. It is known for its French Quarter, music scene, and annual celebrations, such as Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. Graduates looking for a graduation vacation spot that is full of culture and history will find that New Orleans is the perfect destination.


You can't visit New Orleans without trying to see the following attractions:


The French Quarter

French Quarter, downtown New Orleans

The French Quarter is the oldest and most historic district in New Orleans. It is home to several shops, restaurants, attractions, and the famous Bourbon Street.


Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras Mask in New Orleans

Mardi Gras World is a tourist attraction that offers visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the world-famous Mardi Gras celebration.


The National WWII Museum

The exterior of the new National World War II Museum located in downtown New Orleans, Louisiana

The National WWII Museum is one of the most famous museums in New Orleans. It tells the story of the American experience during World War II through interactive exhibits and artifacts.


12. The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon landscape at dusk viewed from desert

Located in Arizona, the Grand Canyon is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. With its breathtaking views and a multitude of hiking trails, the Grand Canyon is a perfect place to unwind after a hectic year of classes and exams. For those seeking adventure, there are plenty of opportunities for rafting and kayaking on the Colorado River.


Here are a few options to explore:


The South Rim

Family looking at view Grand Canyon National Park USA

The South Rim is the most popular spot at the Grand Canyon and offers some of the best views of the canyon. It is also home to several shops, restaurants, and attractions.


The North Rim

Grand Canyon North Rim

The North Rim is less crowded than the South Rim and offers unique canyon views. It's also excellent for hiking, camping, and wildlife watching.


The Bright Angel Trail

The Bright Angel Trail to the Grand Canyon

The Bright Angel Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Grand Canyon. It is a strenuous hike, but the views from the top are well worth the effort.


13. Austin

Downtown Austin Texas with capital and riverfront

Austin, the capital of Texas, is known for its eclectic live-music scene, which spans from country to punk rock. It's also home to a vibrant arts community and many parks and outdoor spaces. In addition, the city has a laid-back vibe and is welcoming to all, making it a great place to celebrate your graduation with friends.


Here are some ideas for things to do in Austin:


Visit the State Capitol

Texas State Capitol Building in Austin, Texas

The grand building houses the offices of the governor of Texas and the state legislature. Take a tour to learn about the history and architecture of the building.


Browse the Austin City Limits Music Festival

Festival in Austin, Texas

This annual event features more than 150 bands performing on eight stages over three days. It's one of the largest music festivals in the country and a great way to experience live music from a variety of genres.


Go Kayaking on Lady Bird Lake

Austin Texas Skyline with people kayaking on Lady Bird Lake

In downtown Austin, Lady Bird Lake is a popular kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding spot. Rent a boat and explore the water at your own pace.


Check out the Zilker Botanical Garden

Austin Zilker Taniguchi Gardens

This 35-acre garden features a wide variety of plant life, sculptures, fountains, and a koi pond. It's a great place to relax and take in the beauty of nature.

Final Thoughts

A group of graduates throwing their caps in the air in celebration

With so many unique places to visit in the United States, it can be tough to pick just one place for your graduation vacation. Hopefully, our list of top thirteen destinations will help you narrow down your options and find the perfect spot to celebrate this milestone.
Happy travels!

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