The United States comprises 50 states, as well as the city of Washington, D.C., a federal district and the nation's capital. The country also has a few territories, including the commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Below is a rough grouping of these states into regions, from the Atlantic to the Pacific:
|New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont)|
Home to gabled churches, rustic antiques, and steeped in American history, New England offers beaches, spectacular seafood, rugged mountains, frequent winter snows, and some of the nation's oldest cities, in a territory small enough to tour (hastily) in a week.
|Mid-Atlantic (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C.)|
Ranging from New York in the north to Washington, D.C., the Mid-Atlantic is home to some of the nation's most densely populated cities, as well as historic sites, rolling mountains, the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the Lehigh Valley, and seaside resorts like the Long Island beaches and the Jersey Shore.
|South (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia)|
The South is celebrated for its hospitality, down-home cooking, and its blues, jazz, rock 'n' roll, bluegrass and country music traditions. This lush, largely subtropical region includes cool, verdant mountains, agricultural plantations, and vast cypress swamps.
Northern Florida is similar to the rest of the South, but this is not so in the resorts of Orlando, retirement communities, tropical Caribbean-influenced Miami, the Everglades, and 1,200 miles of sandy beaches.
|Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin)|
The Midwest is home to farmland, forests, picturesque towns, industrial cities, and the Great Lakes, the largest system of freshwater lakes in the world, forming the North Coast of the U.S. Known for their simplicity and hospitality, Midwesterners are a welcoming people.
The second biggest state is like a separate country (as, indeed, it once was), with strong cultural influences from its Spanish and Mexican past. The terrain ranges from southeastern swamplands to the flat land and cotton farms of the South Plains to the sandy beaches of South Texas to the mountains and deserts of far West Texas.
|Great Plains (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma)|
Travel westward through these supposedly flat states, from the edge of the eastern forests through the prairies and onto the High Plains, an enormous expanse of steppes (shortgrass prairies) nearly as desolate as in the frontier days, but filled still with pockets of quirky and diverse history.
|Rocky Mountains (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming)|
The spectacular snow-covered Rockies offer hiking, rafting, and excellent skiing as well as deserts, and some large cities.
|Southwest (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah)|
Heavily influenced by Spanish and Mexican culture, as well as Native American remnants, this area is home to some of the nation's most spectacular natural attractions and some flourishing artistic communities. Although mostly empty, the region's deserts have some big cities.
Like the Southwest, California has a history under Spanish and Mexican rule and is heavily influenced by those civilizations, with a great import of Asian culture, especially cuisine. California offers world-class cities, deserts, rainforests, snowy mountains, and beautiful beaches. Northern California (anchored by the San Francisco Bay Area) and Southern California (anchored by Los Angeles and also including Orange County, San Diego, et al.) are culturally distinct.
|Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon)|
The pleasantly mild Pacific Northwest offers outdoor pursuits and cosmopolitan cities. The terrain ranges from spectacular rainforests to scenic mountains and volcanoes to beautiful coastlines to sage-covered steppes and deserts.
One fifth as large as the rest of the United States, Alaska reaches well into the Arctic, and features mountainous wilderness, including North America's tallest mountain, Denali, and Native Alaskan culture unseen elsewhere in the United States.
A volcanic archipelago in the tropical Pacific, 2,300 miles south west of California (the nearest state), laid-back Hawaii is a vacation paradise.
Politically, the U.S. is a federation of states, each with its own rights and powers (hence the name), with laws varying slightly from state to state.
The U.S. also administers a motley collection of non-state territories around the world, by far the largest of which is Puerto Rico. Other territories include the U.S. Virgin Islands, also in the Caribbean, and Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Wake Island and islands without permanent inhabitants such as the Midway Islands in Oceania. As these are, from a traveler's point of view, quite different from the 50 states, they are covered in separate articles. While there are legal categories for their relations to the U.S. mainland, they are mostly sui generis for each one and don't affect travelers all that much. Where it is relevant, those issues are handled in the individual articles on each territory.
The United States has over 10,000 cities, towns, and villages. The following is a list of nine of the most notable. Other cities can be found in their corresponding regions.
- Washington, D.C. — the national capital, filled with major museums and monuments, along with multicultural communities
- Boston — best known for its colonial history, its passion for sports, and its university students
- Chicago — heart of the Midwest and transportation hub of the nation, with massive skyscrapers and other architectural gems
- Los Angeles — home of the film industry, musical artists, and surfers, with beautiful mild weather, great natural beauty from mountains to beaches, and endless stretches of freeways.
- Miami — attracts sun-seeking northerners and home to a rich, vibrant, Latin-influenced, Caribbean culture
- New Orleans — "The Big Easy" is the birthplace of Jazz, and is known for its quaint French Quarter and annual Mardi Gras celebration
- New York City — the country's biggest city, home of the financial services and media industries, with world-class cuisine, arts, architecture, and shopping
- San Francisco — the City by the Bay, featuring the Golden Gate Bridge, vibrant urban neighborhoods, and dramatic fog
- Seattle — rich museums, monuments, and recreational opportunities, and five distinct climates within 200 miles (320 km), check out the Space Needle as well
These are some of the largest and most famous destinations outside of major cities.
- Denali National Park — a remote national park featuring North America's highest peak
- Grand Canyon — the world's longest and most visited canyon
- Mesa Verde National Park — well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings
- Mount Rushmore — the iconic memorial of four former presidents carved into a cliff face
- Niagara Falls — the massive waterfalls straddling the border with Canada
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park — national park in the southern Appalachians
- Walt Disney World — the most popular vacation resort destination in the world
- Yellowstone National Park — the first national park in the U.S., and home of the Old Faithful geyser
- Yosemite National Park — home of El Capitan and the famous Giant Sequoia trees