Travel Inspiration

Bucket List Busters: Best Things to do in North America

Bucket List Busters: Best Things to do in North America

North America is big. Life is short. So big (and so short) in fact that even we’ve resolved that we won’t get to it all. But, to console ourselves, we’ve put our heads together to make a bucket list of its very best. From worldly wonders like the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls to the slightly more obscure Newfoundland – which, trust us, was found for good reason – the continent is a smorgasbord of striking natural and man-made sights. One saunter down Washington DC’s National Mall and you have the USA’s history laid out for you like a catwalk, while across Mexico you’ll be greeted to a series of powerhouse pyramids that put today’s architects to shame. And if that’s not enough, we’ve thrown a road trip in from Canada’s coastal Vancouver to perhaps the slickest snow resort in the world, Whistler – because how can a list of the best things to do in North America not include a highway adventure.


  1. See the Grand Canyon
  2. Road trip along the Sky Highway
  3. Sink into Yucatan’s Cenotes
  4. Walk the National Mall
  5. Discover Newfoundland
  6. Feel the mist of Niagara Falls
  7. Feel the power of Mexico's Pyramids

Grand Canyon

See the Grand Canyon

The USA is known for going large or going home – a notion the Grand Canyon took and ran with. Because, as natural wonders go, nothing really compares. A vertical mile deep and 277 miles long, you could plonk the whole of Rhode Island in it and it still wouldn’t touch the sides. Yet, despite its grandeur, it is one of the only places on earth that us civvies can come close to experiencing the overview effect. Feel the immensity and sheer intensity of this vast valley as you teeter on the edge of its glass-bottom Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, go rafting on the mighty Colorado River or simply watch the sun sink behind Horseshoe Bend. The Grand Canyon may be one the best things to do in North America but it’s also one of its – and the world’s – greatest sights.


Road trip along the Sky Highway

According to Tom Cochrane ‘Life is a Highway’ and in Canada, the Sky Highway is its mothership. Spanning 234 miles from the US border at White Rock to Cache Creek, this cliff-hugging highway traverses rugged fjords and soaring mountains, dramatic waterfalls and silent sounds. Give yourself a couple of days to embrace it and every road trip cliché possible (convertibles and epic playlists aren’t just advised, they’re obligatory) before finishing in Whistler, the world’s snow sport capital. Hit the slopes (if visiting in winter), hike its word-class trails and sink into luxury at its Scandinave Spa and museums.


Mexican cenote

Sink into Yucatan’s Cenotes

Magical, mystical and mysterious, cenotes are signature to the Yucatan peninsula. Formed by the collapse of soluble limestone, these natural sinkholes have played a vital part in Mexican history. Once believed to be the home of the god of rain, Chaac, their sheer walls of plunging vines, crystal-blue waters and underwater formations mean they feature on almost every traveller’s bucket list. With over 6,000 to choose from, you will be truly spoilt for choice as well. Enjoy serene swims in the lesser-known Cenote Oxman, snorkel in Cenote Manantí and dive in Cenote Dos Ojos – which promises to delight with schools of vibrant fish and freshwater turtles.


Walk the National Mall

It would be remiss for a list of the best things to do in North America to not include Washington DC’s National Mall. Linking the USA’s most recognisable monuments – the Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial – together, this is where America’s history resides. Start with Abe and the Reflecting Pool, where you’re sure to catch a glimpse of yourself (or the odd duck). Pause at the World War II Memorial and Washington Monument and set your sights on the Smithsonian museums and courtly Capitol for the history of all history lessons. To reward your brain for its educational endeavours, we recommend a stop at the most fitting bars of them all, Hamilton’s.


Discover Newfoundland

The Rockies may be the poster child of Canada, but with fame comes crowds. So, if you’re after a more diluted and authentic slice of the country’s epic wilderness, look no further than Newfoundland. The land of Vikings, it is best seen aboard a boat – naturally. Step back in time as your traverse domineering cliffs, waterfalls and jagged icebergs. Spot rafts of otters, Atlantic puffins and whales – if you’re lucky – and become a local at a ‘screech-in’ ceremony in St John’s. We’ll let you google that one for yourselves…


Niagara Falls

Feel the mist of Niagara Falls

Sure, it’s one of the USA’s biggest tourist traps. But if you’re really wanting to complete your North America bucket list, then the Niagara Falls are a no brainer. Straddling the US and Canadian border, they are one of the world’s greatest forces of nature – literally. Listen to the roar as three-quarters of a million gallons of water crash 160ft and create dramatic plumes of icy mist. Hop on board the Maid of Mist for the ultimate wet and wild adventure or tower over it atop the Skylon Tower and its revolving restaurant. Niagara town itself can feel slightly tacky in parts but love it or loathe it, there is nowhere quite like it.


Feel the power of Mexico's Pyramids

Pyramids are Mexico’s trump card. Exuding more culture and history than feels physically possible, the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán is the closest you can get to heaven – at least that what its ancient rulers thought. If heights don’t bother you, head to the top for stellar views, pass by the Avenue of the Dead and admire the ornate decorations adorned on the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. For an even more humbling experience, a visit to the Pirámide Tepanapa should do the trick. Bigger than the Great Pyramid in Egypt and largest by volume in the world, it boasts a series of tunnels and temples that date between 200 AD and 400 CE. If that doesn’t make it one of the best things to do in North America, we don’t what does.


Header image by Samantha Faivre