A visit to the United States, the third largest country in the world, offers a lot of experiences and unforgettable opportunities for backpackers.
The USA is a vast country and each state has its own unique personality, culture, and sights.
You can spend an afternoon on top of the Empire State Building in New York City and by the next day be relaxing on Venice Beach in California or jamming to the fantastic music scene in Austin, Texas.
The United States is so big and packed full of sights that you need at least three months to get the feel of the country.
Before ever traveling overseas, I traveled America extensively, and every month I am still discovering quirky festivals and odd sights to add on my bucket list.
Let’s talk about some cities that you can’t miss when backpacking America.
For this list, I used the same criteria as I did for my first Top 5 European Cities for Your First Backpacking Trip.
1- Backpacking friendly – Are these cities friendly to backpackers and easy to navigate?
2- Location – Is it easy to travel from one city to another?
3- Cost – Can you travel these cities on a budget?
4- Ease – Are these cities simple to get around?
5- Atmosphere – How many historical landmarks, entertainment, and adventures does the city offer?
Miami is on the list for all beach lovers out there, but it is also the gateways to beautiful Southern Florida!
Southern Florida is the closest that the American mainland gets to the tropics.
With year-round sunshine and a host of budget-friendly activities, visitors to Miami are sure to have a fantastic time.
Miami boasts world-class beaches right in the heart of the city making it incredibly easy for backpackers to enjoy a beach holiday.
There are also many another thing to do in Florida. The state has some of the best theme parks in the world, from Jungle Island to Disney World, visitors can high-five Mickey Mouse or observe vibrant pink flamingos up close.
Another perk is that the Florida Keys is a short drive from the city. These little islands are an experience unto themselves and one of my favorite places in America.
New York, New York
The Big Apple, the city that never sleeps is a marvel to behold with its towering skyscrapers, colorful locals, and fantastic food.
Backpackers will feel right at home amongst the city’s diverse population.
Grab some delicious and cheap food from on the popular street vendors and wander along the Highline or through the East Village and you fall in love with the New York vibe.
From Highline Park to Brooklyn, New York is home to a host of free activities so backpackers can experience a lot of the city while spending very little on sightseeing.
However, New York isn’t the cheapest place to visit because of expensive accommodations, but no trip to the USA is complete without visiting the Big Apple!
Home to what is fast becoming known as one of the best music festivals in the world,
South by South West (SXSW), Austin is craving out a name for itself.
The city has become synonymous with words like incredible music, delicious food, and loveable locals.
Whether you’re in town for the festival or just passing through, Austin is a taste of Texas that backpackers are sure to love.
There are lots of cheap options here for food, accommodation, and entertainment, and it’s not unusual for backpackers to end up staying in Austin longer than expected.
The fact that Austin is full of culture, great music, and is cheap makes it a fantastic city for backpackers!
Los Angeles, California
I’m sure I will get a lot of complaints about putting LA on the list, but there are a few things that make L.A. fantastic for travelers.
One reason is the location. You can get to so many places from Los Angeles it makes sense to stop in the city for a few days.
From the city of angles, you can easily get to Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, and Mexico.
Of course, we all love movies, and for a sampling of the glitz and glam of Hollywood, LA is worth a stop.
You can enjoy walking under the palm tree-lined streets of Beverly Hills, and people watching the collection of curious characters in Venice Beach, and marvel as you stroll down the sidewalks full of history on Hollywood Boulevard.
While the more glamorous side of town might be slightly out of financial reach of the average backpacker, there’s still tons to see and do around town on a reasonable budget.
With the Pacific coast on your doorstep and a city full of celebrities, sometimes just going for a walk can be a day’s worth of entertainment.
Situated in the stunningly beautiful Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon is a picturesque and modern city for the foreign backpacker. With a whole range of budget friendly restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops,
Portland has a cool counter-culture that lives life to the fullest on a shoestring. From the charming streets to the surrounding wilderness,
Portland is a great place to put the backpack down for a bit, unwind and explore.
Honestly, there are some many great cities to visit when backpacking across America coming up with the top 5 was hard.
There is no right and wrong list it all depends on how you travel and what you want to see. A couple other cities I would recommend not missing when traveling across America are Chicago, San Francisco, and Denver.