Top 12 Fun Vacation Spots in the US to Visit in Your 20s (Updated 2023)

Traveling in your 20s should be a fun and unique opportunity to explore new places and learn about other cultures and perspectives. 

The United States offers a range of destinations from east to west that each offer something different for travelers in their 20s.

From the Pacific Northwest to the Deep South, cities throughout the US do not disappoint when it comes to history, culture, food, outdoor activities, and/or nightlife.

The top 12 fun vacation spots in the US to visit in your 20s are:

1. San Francisco, California 

2. Austin, Texas 

3. Portland, Oregon 

4. New York, New York 

5. Maui, Hawaii 

6. Boston, Massachusetts 

7. New Orleans, Louisiana 

8. Nashville, Tennessee 

9. Denver, Colorado 

10. Los Angeles, California 

11. Las Vegas, Nevada 

12. Miami, Florida 

In this article, readers will discover the top 12 fun vacation spots in the US to visit in their 20s, including must-visit attractions, local cuisine, and other essential travel tips.

Key Takeaways

  • The article lists the top destinations in the US for people in their 20s.
  • Each destination offers a unique mix of history, culture, and entertainment.
  • The reader will gain insights into must-see attractions and essential tips for visiting these locations.

Top 12 Fun Vacation Spots in the US to Visit in Your 20s

1. San Francisco, California

The Golden Gate Bridge at San Francisco, California.

San Francisco is a must-visit destination for travelers in their 20s. 

The city is home to a variety of unique neighborhoods, each with its distinct charm, food, and culture. 

Visitors can easily fill five days or more in San Fran riding the trams, exploring Chinatown, seeing street art in the Mission District, partying in the Castro, visiting Alcatraz Island, walking Fisherman’s Wharf, shopping in Union Square, or enjoying fine dining in the Embarcadero.

The best time of year to visit is September to November, when there’s less fog and warmer temperatures, but ultimately San Francisco is fun any time of year. 

Just keep in mind that you can visit San Francisco on a budget, but the city can be pricey – accommodation, dining, transportation, and entertainment add up quickly in the Bay Area.

2. Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas, boasts a thriving music scene, diverse culinary delights, and excellent outdoor experiences.

You can take a tour for almost anything in Austin, from boat, bike, and segway tours to food, wine, brewery, ghost, and street art tours.

If tours don’t interest you, Austin offers tons of attractions and activities, such as art galleries and museums, amusement parks, escape rooms, beaches, zip lines, kayaking on the river, indoor skydiving, live rodeos, and car races (just to name a few).

Austin’s culinary scene caters to various tastes, from classic barbecue joints to innovative eateries and locally brewed craft beers.

Visitors can see live music every night in venues throughout the city, and the best area for nightlife is South Congress Avenue.

Travelers should aim for three to five days in Austin, and the best time to visit is in the spring or fall, as the weather is more comfortable.

Remember that Texas can get quite warm, so wear sunscreen and hydrate.

3. Portland, Oregon

A neon signage that reads. "Portland Oregon OLD TOWN"

Portland, Oregon, is known for its thriving arts and culture, friendly locals, and sustainable living ethos.

Foodies will enjoy Portland’s vast culinary options, ranging from the iconic Voodoo Doughnut to the city’s bustling food cart scene to the Portland Mercado showcasing Columbian, Cuban, Peruvian, Oaxacan, and Yucutan cuisines. 

Visitors of legal drinking age can explore Portland’s thriving craft beer industry and/or indulge in cheap food and drinks during happy hours.

Portland’s music venues range from current and pop music acts to classic performances by the Oregon Symphony, Portland Opera, and Oregon Ballet Theater.

Neighborhoods worth visiting include Northwest Portland’s trendy Slabtown, with walkable streets, plentiful shopping, coffee, restaurants, and art galleries, and the Entertainment District in the heart of Old Town Chinatown, where you can find Portland’s nightlife.

For nature lovers, Portland boasts scenic parks and outdoor attractions within the city and within 100 miles (160 km).

The best time of year to visit Portland is from June to September when the weather is warm and dry – but this is also peak tourist season which means larger crowds and higher prices. 

The off-season in Portland is great, too – it just might be a bit wet, as the rain starts mid-October and doesn’t really let up until mid-May. 

We recommend no less than three days in Portland, especially if you want to get the best of both worlds and experience the city and the surrounding nature.

4. New York, New York

New York City is an iconic destination that should be on every 20-something’s bucket list. 

The Big Apple is home to must-see attractions like the Statue of Liberty and Times Square, and there is no shortage of diverse food from around the globe. 

The local culture in New York is unmatched, with a world-famous arts scene, fascinating museums, multiple sports teams, and the always incredible Broadway theater district. 

Every borough has something to offer, whether it’s food, shopping, culture, or nightlife – or some combination thereof.

The best time of year to visit New York City is during the spring and fall months when temperatures are mild and crowds are (more) manageable. 

Aim for April to June or September to November – but remember Manhattan is always buzzing with people and activity, so ‘quiet’ is a relative term in NYC.

Spending four to six days in New York allows just enough time to experience the city’s highlights, but you could live there your whole life and never see it all.

Also note that accommodation in the city can be expensive, so keep that in mind when planning your trip.

5. Maui, Hawaii

White sunbeds, white umbrellas, and people swimming at a beach in Maui, Hawaii.

The towns on Maui in Hawaii offer a mix of vibrant nightlife, beachfront fun, and cultural experiences. 

Lahaina’s lively Front Street is full of shops, art galleries, restaurants, bars, and nightlife.

Meanwhile, Kihei boasts pristine beaches like Kamaole Beach Park, inviting you to soak up the sun and try water sports like surfing or paddleboarding. 

In the quaint town of Paʻia, visitors can stroll through small boutiques, sample local food, or get in the water for surfing and snorkeling.

Visitors can also book a snorkel trip to the Molokini Crater, embark on whale-watching tours (November to May), zip-line through lush forests, or hike in the scenic West Maui Mountains. 

Haleakalā National Park is also a must-see, with its breathtaking views and lush ecosystem. 

The best time of year to visit Maui is April and May or September through November, with fewer crowds and pleasant weather.

You’ll get a good grasp of the Maui vibes in a week-long trip – although many tourists often stay two weeks or more.

Note that Maui can be pricey for flights, accommodations, and dining (especially in the peak winter season), but there are plenty of free or inexpensive areas to visit once you’re on the island.

It’s important to obey all safety warnings, especially if participating in water sports, as the Pacific Ocean can be somewhat unpredictable, and remember to hydrate and wear sunscreen throughout your visit.

6. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts, is a dynamic city with lots to do, eat, and see. 

Boston’s must-experience amenities include its various museums and art galleries, local food, thriving nightlife, live music scene, and, of course, sports.

The Boston area is home to professional baseball, basketball, hockey, football, and soccer teams, so there’s always a game going on at Fenway, TD Garden, or Gillette Stadium.

Several areas throughout the city have great bars, clubs, and pubs, including Quincey Market, Faneuil Hall, the North End, and Boylston/Newbury.

The best time to visit Boston is from June to October, when the weather is warm and various outdoor events occur – just be prepared for crowds.

We recommend three to five days to truly enjoy Boston, but it’s the kind of city you can visit multiple times and always discover something new.

7. New Orleans, Louisiana

People walking in the street in the middle of tall buildings.

New Orleans, Louisiana, is a top travel destination with its totally unique food, society, and history.

Visitors can immerse themselves in the rich local culture by exploring the famous French Quarter, with its lively music scene and iconic architecture; riding the St. Charles Streetcar for a taste of nostalgia; visiting St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, where many notables are buried; and experiencing the nightlife of Bourbon Street for at least one evening.

Additionally, in February, Mardi Gras attracts huge crowds and offers an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

No trip to New Orleans is complete without trying the local cuisine, which is an attraction in itself, and you should taste the famous beignets, jambalaya, and gumbo at different eateries around town.

Most guests visit NOLA for three to four days at a time, and the best time of year to visit is during the late winter and spring when the weather is more pleasant. 

The summers there are extremely hot and humid, and hurricane season runs from the beginning of June to the end of November, which could put a damper on your plans.

New Orleans can be a budget-friendly destination as there are affordable accommodations and food options – but expect higher prices during peak seasons and large events. 

8. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee, is the beating heart of country music, offering visitors a blend of iconic attractions and exciting nightlife.

The city has a rich musical heritage seen in the honky-tonk bars and lively street performances; the recording studios, radio stations, and record labels on Music Row; the concerts at the Grand Ole Opry and the historic Ryman Auditorium; and the icons inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Nashville’s culinary scene also has plenty to offer, including mouth-watering Southern comfort dishes, fiery hot chicken, fried fish, and desserts.

Most people visit Nashville for three to four days, and the best time of year is spring and fall when the weather is pleasant, and the city hosts various music festivals.

Crowds can be intense during peak seasons and events, so try to book accommodations and transportation well in advance.

Additionally, Nashville can be a bit pricey, especially for hotels, food, and attractions; however, you can get a deal if you book far enough in advance, find local diners and dive bars, or visit in the off-season.

9. Denver, Colorado

A brown brick building with a flag of the USA on top.

Denver, Colorado, offers a mix of natural beauty, engaging attractions, and a rich culinary scene. 

Outdoorsy visitors can experience the stunning landscapes of the Colorado Rockies in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park or drive down the Mount Evans Scenic Byway.

In the city, the Denver Art Museum and Sculpture Park showcase local art and history, and the vibrant music scene offers an array of genres performed by both local talents and renowned artists. 

Denver’s culinary scene is a highlight for food lovers, known for its local craft beers, burgeoning food truck scene, and numerous food festivals throughout the year.

A trip to Denver can be cost-effective, as the city offers a range of budget-friendly food and accommodation options as well as free activities. 

It’s recommended to spend at least 4-5 days in the city, and the best time to visit is between April and October – the local climate is pleasant, and many outdoor attractions are more accessible. 

That said, travelers should be prepared for unpredictable weather, with sudden rainstorms and temperature changes.

In addition, altitude sickness can be a concern for some, so it’s essential to stay hydrated and acclimatize gradually to any elevation.

10. Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, California, is famous for its food culture, arts scene, famous attractions, and nightlife.

Hollywood has established itself as the most fun area of LA, with famous attractions like the TCL Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood sign itself, and the neighborhood’s numerous bars, clubs, restaurants, comedy clubs, and live music venues.

LA’s local culture includes iconic art installations at the Broad or the Los Angles Contemporary Museum of Art, music at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, studio tours of well-known production companies, or visits to Universal Studios Hollywood.

The diverse local food scene in Los Angeles offers international cuisines and fresh, farm-to-table Californian dishes available everywhere, from street food vendors to Michelin-starred chefs in high-end restaurants. 

An ideal visit to Los Angeles lasts anywhere from three to seven days, depending on how much of the area you want to explore. 

The best time of year to visit LA is during spring or fall, avoiding the summer crowds and heat.

Also, LA can be expensive, depending on what you do and where you stay – but there are always tips and tricks for visiting the city on a budget.

11. Las Vegas, Nevada

"Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada" signage.

Las Vegas, Nevada, is well-known for its entertainment, world-class casinos, and live shows. 

The city also boasts a diverse range of restaurants and cuisines suitable to any budget, making it a food lover’s paradise without breaking the bank. 

The Strip is probably the busiest area in Las Vegas, home to famous casinos like the Bellagio, the Venetian, Caesar’s Palace, the Tropicana, and Planet Hollywood.

However, if you’re looking for that “old” Vegas feel, venture up to Fremont Street and experience Sin City from an old-school point of view.

Most people only spend two or three days in Vegas – it’s just enough time to eat, drink, and gamble your way down The Strip multiple times.

The best time to visit Las Vegas is spring or fall when the weather is milder, and the streets are less crowded. 

Just note that Vegas is usually pretty busy year-round, so book tickets in advance if you want to see a show. 

Additionally, Las Vegas is one of those cities where you can easily spend thousands of dollars – or have a great time on a budget.

The easiest way to save money is by snagging a deal on flights and accommodation and finding affordable places to eat off the Strip.

12. Miami, Florida

Miami, Florida, is a culturally diverse city with beautiful beaches, world-class cuisine, vibrant art scenes, and a non-stop party vibe.

First-time visitors shouldn’t miss the iconic South Beach, known for its lively nightlife, colorful Art Deco architecture, and pristine sands. 

Explore Little Havana for local Cuban culture, authentic cuisine, and live music, and visit the numerous galleries and street art in the Wynwood District, where creativity thrives.

Miami is known for its bustling scene, so expect crowds, especially near popular attractions.

Ideal visits to Miami should last four to five days, allowing ample time to explore various neighborhoods, indulge in the local food scene, and relax on the beach. 

The best time to visit Miami is between March and May when temperatures are warm but mild – just keep in mind hurricane season runs from June to November, which may impact travel plans.