Top 25 Things to Do in North America: 2015 Viator Travel Awards

December 15, 2014 by

North America, Press & Publicity, Things to Do, Viator Travel Awards

Welcome to this year's Top 25 Things to Do in North America!

Welcome to this year’s Top 25 Things to Do in North America!

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Viator Travel Awards, an annual awards competition where we – along with our readers, travelers, and fans – select the top things to do and see in each of the major regions we serve, the top things to do in our most popular tour categories, and more.

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Welcome to the 2015 Viator Travel Awards: North America Edition! In this list, we’ve gathered a list of 25 of the most interesting and entertaining places to visit and things to do throughout North America. We think it’s the perfect place to begin brainstorming your next trip – and it also makes a lovely virtual vacation from wherever you are right now.

The tours and activities we’ve highlighted were chosen based on traveler reviews, data from the millions of people who check out Viator.com during the year, and information on which tours travelers book most often. We think there’s something for everyone here, no matter what destination is next on your list, and it might be the best place to start brainstorming your next trip.

You’ll find all kinds of activities listed below, including helicopter flights over New York City, archaeology tours of Mayan ruins, Niagara Falls visits from two different countries, icefield walks in Alaska, and guided tours of the Grand Canyon. Join us for this tour of the Top 25 Things to Do in North America!

1. See New York City from above

Manhattan Skyline

Manhattan Skyline

Every city is packed with sights, but when it comes to Manhattan — one of the true world cities — the skyline is a sight unto itself. And there’s no better way to see that skyline than from above it. Get panoramic views of some of the world’s most famous buildings from 70 stories up at the Top of the Rock observation deck, or go even higher to 86 stories at the Empire State Building Observatory and Skip the Line Tickets. To trade the panoramic view for a bird’s eye view, a Big Apple helicopter tour of New York gives you a viewpoint like no other.

2. Seeing the Grand Canyon

Visit the Grand Canyon

Visit the Grand Canyon

It took millions of years for the Colorado River to erode the colorful rocks of the Grand Canyon, and it only takes one look to fall in love with this incredible natural wonder. It’s also the perfect natural antidote to all the neon of Las Vegas. Choose a bus tour of the Grand Canyon South Rim to see the majesty of the national park. Go for a combination Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam day trip from Las Vegas, with optional “Skywalk,” to experience two major sights and take a thrilling walk. Take the better part of a day explore the Grand Canyon West Rim from both ground and air, with an airplane ride over the canyon and even an optional helicopter flight. Soar over the landscape with a Grand Canyon All American helicopter tour, landing deep in the canyon for a champagne picnic.

3. Visiting Washington, D.C.

See the Nation's capital at night

See the Nation’s capital at night

The capital of the United States has a powerful energy which isn’t found elsewhere in the country. The history, the monuments, the political happenings — they’re all a part of the D.C. fabric which make it such a popular place. While it can be overwhelming choosing where to visit in a city with so many sights, a good way to get your bearings is with a Washington, D.C. hop-on hop-off tour – there’s even a Washington, D.C. hop-on hop-off trolley tour, if you don’t love those giant double-decker buses. One magical way to see this unique city is at night when all the monuments are illuminated. Try a Washington, D.C. Monuments by Moonlight Night Tour by Trolley, or a guided night tour of Washington, D.C. by coach. To really see the best of the city, upgrade to a VIP “Best of D.C.” tour including the White House, Lincoln Memorial, and reserved access at the U.S. Capitol and National Archives.

4. Experiencing New York

Explore the Big Apple

Explore the Big Apple

New York City has an energy unlike anywhere on the planet. It’s the hum of businessmen walking to work, the smell of food trucks in the early-morning air, and the pulse of visitors touring the sights in this city that never sleeps. There’s always something happening in New York, and on a New York City hop-on hop-off tour you can get your bearings and jump off whenever you like. Bundle up for a winter must-do: Central Park ice skating at Trump Rink, followed by a private ride in a horse and carriage in Central Park for the perfect romantic NYC day. See the city from a different perspective with a New York dinner cruise around the harbor. Combine two of the city’s most iconic symbols with an exclusive tour of the Statue of Liberty Monument and special access to the 9/11 Memorial.

5. The diversity of Hawaii

Sunrise over a volcano

Sunrise over a volcano

The islands of Hawaii are the most isolated landmass found anywhere on Earth. These volcanic outposts teem with adventure from the summits on down towards the sea, and exploring the islands of the Hawaiian archipelago is a magical dance with nature. Start the day with a spectacular Haleakala Maui sunrise tour, watching the sun come up from the rim of a volcano. Get into that gorgeous water with a half-day snorkeling adventure on Hanauma Bay on Oahu. Take in some of the islands’ history with a visit to the Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor and Punchbowl sightseeing tour that also passes by the Iolani Palace — the only Royal Palace on U.S. soil. To wrap up a day, you’ve got your choice of luaus — including the Paradise Cove Luau on Oahu and the Old Lahaina Luau in Maui.

6. Las Vegas

Head to Vegas!

Head to Vegas!

Las Vegas isn’t meant to be sipped slowly. Sin City is like drinking from a firehose. Everything about this city is meant to be over the top, right? So plan your trip accordingly with some excellent activities. Get to know this fantastically bizarre city with an ultimate Las Vegas city tour. Learn more about the neon that have become so synonymous with this landscape on a Las Vegas lights night tour. Take in the surreal “O” by Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio Hotel, marveling at the acrobatic stunts performed in water. Surprise your sweetie with a Las Vegas “Romance Package,” including Madame Tussauds, a gondola ride, and lunch or dinner at the Venetian Hotel. Or live like the high rollers do with a Las Vegas Strip night flight in a helicopter.

7. San Francisco

Ride the trolleys in San Francisco

Ride the trolleys in San Francisco

Foggy, hilly and full of stories, San Francisco has the unique ability to be trendy, historic, outdoorsy and urban all within the course of a day. When visiting the West Coast’s iconic city, get started with a San Francisco hop-on hop-off tour to get to know the city by its most important landmarks. Take to the water for a fun adventure with a San Francisco Duck Tour, in a vehicle that can run on both land and water, or — for something a little more romantic — you could choose a San Francisco Bay sunset cruise. Don’t waste time in a queue — instead get a skip-the-line ticket to the California Academy of Sciences and spend more time seeing the sights than waiting for them. And to really get priority treatment, opt for a VIP early access visit to Alcatraz, plus an exclusive cable car sightseeing tour.

8. Theme parks

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World

Whether you’re traveling with kids or you’re indulging your inner child, amusement parks and theme parks make an excellent addition to a travel itinerary. In North America, there are plenty to choose from, too. Take care of just about everything you need at one of the world’s iconic theme parks with Disney’s 5-Day Magic Your Way ticket. Get your Universal Orlando tickets in advance to avoid last-minute scrambling. Even better, get a Front of the Line Pass at Universal Studios Hollywood and skip the line of people waiting to get in. You can plan a day of fun at Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure from Los Angeles. You can even take a break from your Cancun holiday with a day trip to Xcaret, an eco-archaeological park.

9. Florida

Everglades airboat tour

Everglades airboat tour

One of the things that makes Florida such an excellent vacation destination in North America is its variety. In one state, you can visit exciting cities, world-class beaches, famous amusement parks, unique natural scenery and an iconic part of the U.S. space program. Get to know one of the most popular islands of the Florida Keys with a Key West day trip from Miami. Marvel at the history that has been made at the Kennedy Space Center on a day trip from Orlando. Take a tour of the gorgeous Everglades on an airboat with transport from Miami. Enjoy the sights on a Miami city tour, the Bayside market, and a Biscayne Bay cruise. Check off several things on your list in one go with a Miami combo tour that includes city sightseeing, a Biscayne Bay cruise and an airboat ride in the Everglades.

10. Southern culture in Savannah

Historic Savannah

Historic Savannah

The city of Savannah may not be huge, but it looms large on the southern landscape. It’s full of history, intriguing (and sometimes hard-to-believe) stories, lots of character, and a lush beauty you can’t ignore. Get to know the overall city with an introductory Savannah hop-on hop-off trolley tour. Dig a little deeper with a Civil War walking tour of Savannah, or a black history tour of Savannah. Combine educational elements with scandalous tales (and tips on where to go drinking later) during a historic Savannah tavern tour. Tempt your taste buds with a Savannah historic and secret East Side food tour.

11. See the Los Angeles area

Hollywood sign in L.A.

Hollywood sign in LA

There are two awesome reasons to hang out in Los Angeles: to enjoy the year-round gorgeous weather and to get a peek at how (and where) the other half lives. Either one is reason enough — and when you combine the two you have the makings of a very LA vacation. Sign up for the “grand tour” of Los Angeles or a Los Angeles hop-on hop-off double-decker bus tour to start to make sense of this sprawling and complex metropolis. Indulge your tabloid-reading side on a TMZ Hollywood celebrity hot spot tour in Los Angeles. Enjoy a bit of the beach bum life on an electric bicycle tour of Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Get out of the city for a day trip from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, Solvang and Hearst Castle and you’ll really understand why so many people around the world flock to this part of California.

12. Exploring the Bay Area

Explore the natural beauty around San Francisco

Explore the natural beauty around San Francisco

San Francisco is such an exciting city to explore that it can be easy to forget how close nature’s grandeur is to the city center. The number of day trips you can take is staggering — especially when you consider that some of those day trips are to world-famous locations. Oenophiles will love a Napa and Sonoma wine country tour through two of the world’s most beloved wine regions, or hop aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train for gourmet lunch, wine tasting and vineyard tours. To the south of the city, out towards the horizon, you’ll find the scenic romance of the Pacific coast on a visit to Monterey, Carmel and 17-mile driving day trip from San Francisco. You can explore the Muir Woods, see Giant Redwoods, and Sausalito on a half-day trip, or take a day trip to see Yosemite National Park and the giant sequoias.

13. New Orleans

New Orleans historic French Quarter

New Orleans historic French Quarter

For many travelers, New Orleans may be synonymous with drunken debauchery, but the famous “let the good times roll” attitude of the city isn’t just about enjoying a night out at the bar. In fact, if you visit New Orleans and don’t get beyond Bourbon Street, you’re missing out on the array of activities that the city and region have to offer. You can begin your exploration into the city with a New Orleans hop-on hop-off city tour, but don’t stop there. Board the famous Steamboat Natchez for a jazz dinner cruise on the famous Mississippi River. Get into the unique Louisiana wilderness with a swamp and bayou sightseeing tour and boat ride from New Orleans. Explore the inhabited countryside, too, with a Cajun Country Experience, a swamp boat adventure and plantations tour from New Orleans.

14. Culinary experiences

Classic New York Pizza

Classic New York Pizza

From New York City to San Francisco and everywhere in between, one great thing about North America is the variety and diversity of food. Decades of immigrants making this their home and incorporating their cuisine with what they found locally means eating your way across the continent is truly a multi-cultural experience. In New York City, hit the streets with Italian flavor on a New York Pizza Tour to Brooklyn and Coney Island. In Seattle, enjoy a Food and Cultural Walking Tour of Pike Place Market where you may even get to try your hand at catching the fish the vendors throw. In Quebec City, join a small-group food tour to explore the individuality of French-Canadian cuisine. In South Beach, take a cultural food and walking tour to learn something about the city while you nibble on local snacks. In New Orleans, taste the melting pot on a food walking tour of the French Quarter. In San Francisco, combine history with dining on a Ferry Building food tour and Alcatraz combo tour.

15. Historical Mexico

Chichen Itza is waiting to be explored!

Chichen Itza is waiting to be explored!

Before the fancy beach resorts there were boatloads of conquering Spanish, and before the Spanish was the ancient culture of the Maya. Though much has changed over the ensuing centuries and the Maya are no longer in power, the fascinating ruins which they once constructed still sit in the Mexican forests. Escape the bustle of Mexico City on a day trip to Taxco and Cuernavaca to bask in the beauty of the Spanish colonial architecture. You can take a break from your beach resort to visit these ruins and reach into the past on a Chichen Itza Day Trip from Cancun or an all-inclusive day trip from Cancun to Tulum and Xel-Ha. And if you’re a traveler who really knows your history or have a keen fascination to learn, an exclusive early access tour of the Tulum ruins with an archaeologist or an early morning Teotihuacan Pyramids tour with a private archaeologist is an all-access pass to knowledge.

16. Montreal

Beautiful Montreal

Beautiful Montreal

Do you have a hankering for a trip to Europe but can’t quite justify the cost? No worries – head for Quebec. The whole province gives visitors a chance to hone their French skills, and Montreal is one of the most charming European cities not actually in Europe. Get acquainted with this fascinating city on a Montreal hop-on hop-off tour, or a guided sightseeing tour of Montreal. Learn more about the city’s history with a walking tour of old Montreal or downtown Montreal, whichever part of the city is more interesting to you. Visit the city of Quebec and Montmorency Falls on a day trip from Montreal to see French Canada’s historic heart and a waterfall taller than Niagara.

17. Vancouver

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Mountainous, forested and incomparably scenic, British Columbia is where the world’s second-largest nation meets the big blue Pacific. Most of the action is in the southwest corner in the immediate vicinity of Vancouver, which you can enjoy on its own or use as a base for exploring nearby attractions. Begin your stay with an introductory Vancouver city sightseeing tour or a hop-on hop-off trolley tour of Vancouver. Spend a day in the city’s gorgeous wilderness with a day trip to the Vancouver North Shore, including the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain. The Vancouver to Victoria and Butchart Gardens Tour by Bus visits the immaculate garden on Vancouver Island that is one of Canada’s National Historic sites. For a full day adventure in the surrounding wilderness, a Whistler Small Group Day Trip from Vancouver will visit Shannon Falls — the third tallest waterfall in Canada — and spend time in Canada’s most famous ski resort which was once the host to the Olympics.

18. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is an impressive sight to behold no matter whether you’re on the American or Canadian side — and it’s even more impressive when you can see it from above. Tour the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to see Horseshoe Falls and Queen Victoria Park. Cover both sides of the mammoth waterfall in one visit with a two-day Niagara Falls tour from New York by bus. Get a bird’s eye view of this natural wonder on a Niagara Falls Day Trip from New York by Air or — for a truly luxury addition to your vacation — fly to Niagara Falls from New York on a private plane.

19. San Diego

Sunny San Diego

Sunny San Diego

With over 265 days per year of famous California sunshine, plus plenty of variety when it comes to things to do, San Diego is the perfect city for exploring with the entire family. Get a feel for the highlights of the city on a San Diego coach tour. Dive into military history with a visit to the USS Midway Museum, a naval aircraft carrier with more than 60 exhibits on board. See local wildlife up close (while working up an appetite) on a kayak tour of the La Jolla sea caves, where you may see sea lions, seals and dolphins. See even more animals — more than 4,000, in fact — with a visit to the famous San Diego Zoo. If you’re visiting the city without the kids, then turn up the romance factor on a San Diego Harbor dinner cruise.

20. Chicago

See the Windy City

See the Windy City

You may not know it, given the prevalence of skyscrapers in cities around the world today, but Chicago is considered to be the birthplace of the skyscraper. Sure, there are plenty of great reasons to visit the Windy City, but to skip the chance to learn more about its trend-setting architecture would be a shame. Many tours will cover some aspects of Chicago architecture, but to get a fuller picture sign up for a Chicago Architecture River Cruise. You can also do a Chicago City Hop-on Hop-off Tour for a more DIY tour experience, or go 103 stories above the Chicago streets with the Skydeck Chicago Admission. Learn how the city’s architectural history fits in with other elements of its past on a grand half-day tour of Chicago. You can also explore some of the Windy City’s more scandalous stories on a Chicago crime and mob tour.

21. Banff and surrounding nature

Head to the great outdoors

Head to the great outdoors

The town of Banff is almost impossibly picturesque, situated in the Canadian Rockies within the boundaries of Banff National Park. It’s both a lovely place to spend a vacation and a great base from which to explore the gorgeous wilderness surrounding it. Get to know the city itself during a Banff city sightseeing tour, and then begin plotting your day trips. You could see the wet and wild side with a mountain lakes and waterfalls day trip from Banff, or see the incredible Columbia Icefield and Glacier Skywalk on a tour from Banff. Get a feel for the amazing array of animals that live in the park with an evening wilderness safari in Banff. Cap it off with a bird’s eye view of the stunning park with a helicopter tour over the Canadian Rockies.

22. Route 66

Historic Route 66

Historic Route 66

Nothing evokes the nostalgia of the great American road trip quite like the Historic Route 66. It was one of the country’s first highways, and much of it has been preserved so that you can still see it through eight different states. Start in Chicago with a Prohibition tour to put yourself in the 1920s era when Route 66 was built. Stop in the beautiful desert of the southwest to explore Arizona’s ghost towns and historic “wild west,” including a drive along the historic highway and a stop at the Hoover Dam. Don’t miss the opportunity to spend a day visiting the Grand Canyon South Rim by Tour Trekker with a personal guide, including lunch at the Bright Angel Lodge. Once you’re in pretty California, you can see the sights of Route 66 on two wheels — with a day trip from Anaheim to Los Angeles by bike with a guided tour to LA’s main attractions. You can up the ante with a three-day independent Harley Davidson motorcycle tour from Las Vegas, during which you can explore the roads of the Mojave Desert and Death Valley — including Route 66.

23. Pacific Northwest

Seattle Skyline and Mt. Rainier

Seattle Skyline and Mt. Rainier

The Pacific Northwest cities of Seattle and Portland have long been known for the laid-back attitude of residents, the proximity to spectacular natural attractions, and a heavy focus on great food and wine. The cities have similarities, but to get a real taste of the whole region you’d be smart to visit both. Let Mother Nature’s mountains impress you with a Mt. Rainier Day Tour from Seattle. Treat your inner engineering or aviation geek with a morning tour of the Boeing Factory from Seattle. Cover all the highlights of the Emerald City with a sightseeing tour of Seattle in one day, including the Space Needle and Pike Place Market. In Oregon, you can smell the salt on the ocean breeze with an Oregon Coast Day Trip from Portland to Astoria and Cannon Beach, or head inland on the Columbia River on a Portland Sightseeing Tour Including Columbia Gorge Waterfalls.

24. Adventure activities in Mexico

Swimming with whale sharks

Swimming with whale sharks

Sure, Mexico is a great place for a thatched-roof palapa and a cold, tropical drink, but not everyone is content to sit and bake beneath a layer of scented coconut oil. Travelers to Mexico who want outdoor adventure have no shortage of it to choose from, and many are found in the same beach towns which are notorious for lounging and lazing. On the Yucatan Peninsula, fly above the turquoise ocean on a Cancun Parasailing Adventure or choose to soar though the tropical tree tops on a Cancun Extreme Zipline Canopy Tour. Take part in a Sightseeing, Snorkeling and Dancing Catamaran Cruise from Cancun that combines the party and adventure. Play in the water all day long with a Playa Mia Grand Beach and Water Park day pass. Get your adrenaline really pumping with a small-group snorkeling tour from Cancun to swim with whale sharks.

25. Shore excursions in Alaska

Explore Alaska's wilderness

Explore Alaska’s wilderness

Alaska. The Last Frontier. Land of the Midnight Sun. Whatever you call it, the 49th state is one of the most scenic outposts in America. Even in the capital city of Juneau — a popular cruise stop in Alaska — there are wild experiences you can have that will blow your mind. Take a Juneau shore excursion to go whale-watching and tour the Mendenhall Glacier. Learn more about the historic city, too, with a Juneau shore excursion that includes a city tour, whale-watching cruise and Mendenhall Glacier visit. You can even soar above the city and surrounding wilderness with a Juneau shore excursion that includes a helicopter tour and guided icefield walk. The town of Skagway is further north along the Alaska Panhandle, another very popular stop for cruises in the summer. You can do a Skagway shore excursion to White Pass Summit that includes a Skagway city tour, or you could head inland for a Skagway shore excursion that’s a full day tour into the Yukon in Canada (don’t forget your passport).

- Viator Travel Team

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One Response to “Top 25 Things to Do in North America: 2015 Viator Travel Awards”

  1. Enterjohn Says:

    I will perform “Top 25 Things to Do in the USA & Canada” when I traveling to Canada, next time.

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