Best Places to Visit on the West Coast: Planning the Perfect Trip Out West
When it comes to visiting the West Coast, there are so many unique and fun destinations. There are beaches, national parks, city life, mountains, and so much more. It really has something for everyone. This also means that it wasn’t easy to make this list of the best places to visit on the West Coast. But even though it wasn’t easy, we believe these top 20 places are a must-visit and sure to impress.
The other great thing about these West Coast vacation spots is that they are perfect for all kinds of travelers. Whether traveling solo, as a couple or a group, or with the family, you can find the perfect destination and trip for you.
With many of these locations relatively close to each other, you could also plan a fun road trip that allows you to visit a few of these top West Coast destinations. This would allow you to get a better understanding of all that the West Coast has to offer. And if you live out West already, you can save money on travel expenses to get to your destination and, in turn, use that to better enjoy your stay. This means better hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, and more!
After you find your perfect West Coast destination, take advantage of our lists of the best travel blogs, best travel sites, and best travel accessories. These travel-related lists will help you save time and money and provide all the expert information and travel items for your trip.
Top 20 Places to Visit on the West Coast:
Highlights: Stunning nature, amazing gardens, museums, and a lively art scene.
About Destination: When you hear Portland, you probably think “quirky” and wouldn’t be wrong, but you’d be selling this little city short. Portland is known for its amazing gardens, interesting art scene, and fascinating population.
It is not a city for the automobile enthusiast, so pack your walking shoes and head over to this little gem. Locals love the outdoors, and you would be wise to adopt that mindset when visiting this town.
Highlights: World-class destination, once-in-a-lifetime views, and amazing hiking trails.
About Destination: You haven’t lived if you have not visited the Grand Canyon. It is one of the best national parks and comes with a number of once-in-a-lifetime views. Don’t forget to pack your lunch and make a full day of exploring trails and seeing the sights.
Pick up a guide at one of the numerous trailheads, and remember to take lots of pictures. There are views for miles and wildlife you won’t find anywhere else.
Highlights: Celebrities, beaches, iconic locales.
About Destination: You haven’t lived if you haven’t been to Los Angeles. Not only is this one of the favorites on our list of best places to visit on the West Coast, but it’s also a destination for celebrities across the globe. With the iconic Hollywood sign, the star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the beautiful Getty Center, LA offers a number of great spots for those that love to take selfies.
If you have kids, they will love Disneyland (Bonus if you also stay in the Disney Resort!) and the Natural History Museum. Throw in Santa Monica and its beaches, and LA is certainly overall one of the best West Coast vacation spots.
State: New Mexico
Highlights: Wildlife, hiking, unique destination.
About Destination: Now, these caverns are just cool. Located beneath the Chihuahuan desert in New Mexico, they are home to over 400,000 Brazilian free-tailed bats. Visitors can join one of the ranger programs to see the entirety of them erupt from the mouth of the cave like clockwork each evening.
Visit in the spring or autumn before the bats migrate south for the winter. Otherwise, you might miss this phenomenon of nature. If bats aren’t your thing, the caverns also preserve a wonderful sample of desert flora and fauna as well as exposed fossil reef, strangely making this one of the most beautiful places on the West Coast.
Highlights: Pedestrian-friendly, great attractions, historical relevance.
About Destination: San Francisco is one of our favorite vacation spots on the West Coast because it has something for everyone. Like Portland, it’s weird, largely because of the Beat Movement from the 1960s.
Also friendly to pedestrians, you can access any part of the city on foot. Before you leave, check out Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory. And venture just a little bit out of the city to find some great hiking trails.
Highlights: Casinos, museums, all-day fun.
About Destination: A road trip through all the best places to visit on the West Coast would be incomplete without a stop in Las Vegas. Keep in mind that whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. And if you don’t already have a place to stay, our list of the best Las Vegas hotels will have you covered.
Obviously, you will want to walk up and down the strip, but don’t forget to ride the High Roller at The LINQ and take a tour or visit the famous Madame Tussaud’s Museum. If you feel a little stir-crazy in the casinos, venture out for an ATV tour or even a helicopter ride.
Highlights: Hiking, skiing, beautiful scenery.
About Destination: Lake Tahoe is the largest mountain lake in North America, and you can tell. Standing on its bank makes you feel like you are at the shore of the Pacific Ocean itself. However, you’ll quickly notice that you are surrounded by snowy mountain peaks.
There are a lot of things that make Lake Tahoe one of the best places to visit on the West Coast, but one of the main reasons is that it is also one of the best skiing destinations in the US. People come from all over the world to ski its surrounding slopes. In the summer, you’ll also find some great hiking amongst the tall evergreens.
Since the lake is up in the mountains, it can take a while to drive out there, so you would be wise to bring plenty of entertainment for the kiddos.
Highlights: Tech hub, great museums, unique culture.
About Destination: Like Portland and San Francisco, Seattle is another one of those quirky cities on the smaller side. Only a few hours from Canada, it’s one of the northernmost cities in the western United States. When you visit, make sure you ride to the top of the Space Needle and visit the Museum of Pop Culture while you are there.
One thing that makes Seattle stand out as another one of the best places to visit on the West Coast is its booming tech industry. Amazon and Microsoft are both headquartered there. Seattle is also one of the friendlier cities, so get your icebreakers ready and be prepared to make some lifelong friends.
Highlights: Scenic, hiking, wedding destination, national park.
About Destination: You may not have been to Zion National Park, but you have most certainly seen it in pictures and movies. This destination makes our list of best places to visit on the West Coast because it is as iconic as any national wonder of the world. It has unique colorful cliffs and rock formations, plus its chock full of scenic hikes and campsites.
More than one book or song has been written in honor of its majesty. In fact, Zion National Park has so many picture-perfect backdrops; all you need are your place settings and your song for a fairy tale destination wedding.
Highlights: Historical sites, wine tasting, and once-in-a-lifetime shopping.
About Destination: If you like wineries, then you will love Napa Valley. Nestled a few hours north of San Francisco, Napa Valley is home to dozens of world-renowned vineyards. Little boutique shops litter its downtown area, and there is no shortage of amazing spots to dine.
Since it is such a well-known locale, wine from any Napa Valley vineyard makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for family back home. If shopping and wine-tasting aren’t your jam, then go for the history. Many of the vineyards double as historical buildings and museums that capture the history of California as it was hurriedly settled during the Gold Rush days.
Highlights: One of the most inhospitable places on earth, temperatures that regularly top 100 degrees, and a variety of landscapes.
About Destination: Death Valley is one of the most breathtaking and inhospitable places on earth, but it’s an essential stop for anyone exploring the best of the West Coast. With temperatures that regularly top 100 degrees, pack plenty of water and sunscreen when you visit. But with its towering red mountains, postcard-perfect valleys, and eerie salt flats, Death Valley is well worth the effort.
Highlights: Plenty of sunshine, mild temperatures all year round, plenty of activities, and delicious food.
About Destination: Looking for a laidback and sunny vacation destination? Look no further than San Diego. With mild temperatures all year round and plenty of sunshine, San Diego is the perfect place to relax and explore.
From the beautiful windswept beaches to the exciting whale-watching opportunities, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city. And don’t forget to indulge in some of the delicious foods that San Diego offers.
Highlights: Awe-inspiring landscape, dramatic cliffs, and has been featured in movies and TV shows.
About Destination: Monument Valley is a must-see destination on the West Coast. This beautiful and majestic area was made famous by John Ford and has been featured in movies and TV shows like Stagecoach, Rio Grande, Forrest Gump, and Westworld. With its awe-inspiring landscape and dramatic cliffs, Monument Valley is not to be missed.
Highlights: Hiking trails, camping, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife.
About Destination: We’re excited to introduce you to one of America’s most stunning natural wonders: Yosemite National Park. Here, visitors can explore miles of hiking trails, go camping, marvel at soaring waterfalls, and much more. With its incredible scenery and abundant wildlife, Yosemite is a must-visit destination on the West Coast.
Highlights: Dramatic scenery, miles of unspoiled coastline, and an abundance of outdoor activities.
About Destination: Looking for a breathtaking West Coast vacation destination? You’ll find it all – and more – in Big Sur. With its dramatic scenery, miles of unspoiled coastline, and abundance of outdoor activities, Big Sur is a nature lover’s paradise. Soak up the majestic beauty of this unique region while enjoying hiking, camping, whale watching, and much more.
Highlights: Rests on top of a volcano, is home to the deepest lake in America, and you can boat ride across its surface.
About Destination: If you’re looking for an awe-inspiring destination on the West Coast, look no further than Crater Lake National Park. This incredible park rests on top of a volcano and is home to the deepest lake in America – with bright blue water that is absolutely stunning.
Whether you choose to drive, bike, or hike around the 33-mile Rim Drive that surrounds the lake or take a boat ride across its surface, you’re sure to be amazed by this natural wonder.
Highlights: Stunning orange sandstone formations, canyons, and over 2,000 arches.
About Destination: For those who love the great outdoors, Arches National Park is a must-see destination on the West Coast. With its stunning orange sandstone formations and canyons, this park is home to over 2,000 arches – including the Delicate Arch, Fiery Furnace, and Double Arch. Whether hiking or camping in the park, there’s plenty to explore and experience here.
Highlights: Unspoiled terrain, 75 miles of breathtaking scenery, easy and challenging hikes, and waterfalls.
About Destination: The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places on the West Coast. With 75 miles of breathtaking scenery, this nature preserve offers something for everyone. From easy hikes to more challenging trails, the Gorge offers something for all levels of hikers. And don’t forget the waterfalls. The Multnomah Falls are a must-see, and there are plenty more waiting to be discovered.
Highlights: A few hours south of Seattle, it features stunning views of an active volcano, and plenty of outdoor activities.
About Destination: If you’re looking for an incredible West Coast National Park to visit, look no further than Mount Rainier. Just a couple of hours south of Seattle, this beautiful park features stunning views of an active volcano and plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. Hiking, camping, and skiing are all popular pastimes in Mount Rainier National Park.
Highlights: Home to the tallest living creatures on earth – the redwood trees, about 132K acres of land, and activities such as hiking and camping.
About Destination: Enter a world where time stands still and giants tower above. The tallest living creatures on earth, the redwood trees, stretch their branches skyward in Redwood National Park. Originally 2 million acres of the California coast, due to over-logging in the early twentieth century, there are only about 132K acres left today.
But it’s not too late to explore this breathtaking landscape. Whether you’re hiking through old-growth forests or camping beneath the stars, Redwood National Park is an unforgettable destination on the West Coast.
Best Places to Visit on the West Coast Conclusion
If you’re looking for the perfect West Coast vacation, look no further than the above destinations. The variety this list provides should allow you to find a destination that speaks to you. From city life to beaches to mountains, there’s something for everyone on the West Coast.
And while you could choose between these different options, you could also enjoy some of all of them. Many of these destinations are close to each other, but also the West Coast has many different national parks, beaches, and cities all spread out between each other. So if you cannot decide on which type of vacation you want, don’t – do some of everything and experience what the West Coast is really all about.
Have you visited any of these West Coast destinations before? If you have, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.