This is why you should visit the USA in 2024 TEST

New music trails, Indigenous experiences and the Great American Eclipse are just some of the incredible reasons to plan a trip to the USA in 2024…

Team Wanderlust
06 February 2024

The sheer diversity of the USA’s cities and landscapes means they have endless appeal – whether you want to lose yourself in culture-rich urban neighbourhoods or beat into wild, forest-trimmed backcountry. Music is America’s lifeblood and new trails and artefact-packed museums will shine a spotlight on its distinct sounds this year, while poignant Indigenous heritage sites are benefiting from new designations and attractions. Vast swaths of the country will fade to black during the Great American Eclipse too.

Here are all the reasons you should visit the United States in 2024…

To connect with Indigenous communities in new ways

Ocmulgee Mounds is anticipated to be the USA’s newest national park (Shutterstock)

Georgia’s Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park – a sweeping landscape knitted with earthen mounds built during the Mississippian era – is gearing up for designation as the USA’s newest national park this year. The site, which forms part of the ancestral homelands of the Indigenous Muscogee (Creek) Nation, will be the first national park to be co-managed by a removed tribe and will expand to include further land along the Ocmulgee River Corridor, including the Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, Ohio’s Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks – a patchwork of eight sites home to Indigenous earthen features –became the USA’s latest UNESCO World Heritage Site at the end of last year, putting it on the world stage. 

Strike out to the country’s most northeasterly reaches and Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument unfolds over 87,500 forest-stitched acres, covering the traditional homelands of the Indigenous Penobscot Nation. Set for a fall 2024 opening date, a new cultural and visitor centre, the Tekαkαpimək Contact Station, is being built in conjunction with the Wabanaki tribes (Mi’kmaq Nation, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Passamaquoddy Tribe and Penobscot Nation). It will include detailed exhibits honouring the heritage and history and modern cultures of the region’s Indigenous peoples.

For astronomical delights

Look to the skies in Arizona, as the Lowell Observatory opens a new astronomy centre (Shutterstock)

On April 8 2024, great parcels of the USA will experience total darkness during the Great American Eclipse, which will beat a northeasterly path from Texas to Maine. Destinations in the path of totality include Carbondale, Illinois – which will host presentations and a craft fair at the Southern Illinois Crossroads Eclipse Festival – and Cleveland, Ohio, where the Total Eclipse Fest will include talks from NASA experts and epic viewing opportunities on the lakefront.

The New England states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine will get front-row seats too: a highlight will be The Whiteout at Jay Peak Resort in northern Vermont. The event will include tram rides to prime viewing spots and plenty of live music. After this, the next total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous US won’t be for another two decades.

If you miss the eclipse, there are other ways to be awed by the cosmos. Head to Arizona where you can gaze at the skies at Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory: the celestial wonders will be placed in further context with the debut of the Astronomy Discovery Center, opening later this year.

The USA sounds better than ever

A new music trail is set to launch in Louisiana in 2024, including stops at iconic jazz halls (Alamy)

There’s arguably no other country on Earth with a musical tapestry as richly woven as America’s – and tuneful new attractions are showcasing this heritage. 

First, there’s the new Go-Go Museum in Washington, DC’s Anacostia neighbourhood, whose exhibitions will focus on the dawn and influence of this rhythmic sub-genre of folk. Meanwhile, some established favourites are undergoing makeovers: the final phases of an ambitious overhaul of Detroit’s Motown Museum – including interactive exhibits housed in a glittering gold building – will be underway this year, while ground has broken on a mega expansion of Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Opening early 2024, the new ‘Left of Centre: Revolutionaries’ exhibition, which focuses on pioneering female artists from Annie Lennox to Olivia Rodrigo, is another reason to visit the Hall of Fame.

Music lovers should also push south, to Louisiana, where a brand new music trail will launch this year. The route – bolstered by a website and, eventually, cultural markers – will join up intriguing pieces of Louisiana’s musical jigsaw, from veteran jazz halls to record stores peddling everything from swamp pop to zydeco. You’ll also find a shrine to Britney Spears in her hometown of Kentwood.

Virginia’s little-known heritage music trail, The Crooked Road, celebrates its 20th anniversary too: hit the highway to explore sites such as the Carter Family Fold, a temple to old-time music and to its namesake, dubbed the ‘first family of country music’.

America’s wild places celebrate big milestones and new designations

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Alamy)

If you’ve looked over the Grand Canyon’s red-rock ocean and marvelled at the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone, this is the year to discover America’s lesser-known parks. Begin with Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a patchwork of forests and meadows bisected by the snaking Cuyahoga River. It’ll steal the spotlight as it celebrates 50 years since its designation, marked with special events (details to be announced). There’s another big birthday over in New York State too: the anniversary of the New York State Park service should give you fresh impetus to explore the state beyond the Big Apple and new attractions include the state-of-the-art Ralph C Wilson Jr. Welcome Center at Niagara Falls State Park. 

Meanwhile, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge – a sprawling, cypress-darned wetlands area in southeastern Georgia – has made its own bid for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Watch this space…

Art and design is in the spotlight

Art seeps into every corner of the States and new designations, galleries and cultural projects set the tone for 2024. One of the most exciting developments is Destination Crenshaw in South LA: the mammoth project will celebrate Black art and culture with new, thoughtfully landscaped park space and more than 100 public artworks, from bold sculptures to murals.

Meanwhile, farther south in California, San Diego will step onto the international stage as 2024 World Design Capital, along with Mexico’s Tijuana – April’s WDC Design Festival will unfold in a jamboree of live concerts, open houses and art exhibitions. Across the border in Arizona, Tucson’s Barrio Viejo is also entering the limelight: this culturally diverse 19th-century neighbourhood is known for its attractive Sonoran row houses and abundant galleries, and it’s poised to receive a National Historic Landmark designation this year.

Santa Fe’s already robust art scene has also been kicked up a gear with the arrival of Vladem Contemporary, the New Mexico Museum of Art’s second location, in the city’s Railyard Arts District. The new venue will focus on avant-garde contemporary art and join existing institutions such as the Faust Gallery, which showcases Native American works, and creative hubs such as the Santa Fe Indian Market, a landmark art show that attracts artisans from tribes across the nation.

Also keep your eyes peeled for new exhibitions at Penn State’s Palmer Museum of Art, whose enlarged new location is tipped to open this summer, and at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, which is undergoing another major expansion.

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