2021 Travel Restrictions: Safest Destinations in the US

Makena Secret Beach at sunset in Maui, Hawaii. (photo via paulacobleigh / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Patrick Clarke
by Patrick Clarke
Last updated: 6:00 AM ET, Mon March 1, 2021

Places for Peace of Mind

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact travel and likely will for the foreseeable future with vaccines and testing aiding the long-awaited transition to a new normal. However, travel is still possible and very much safe when you adhere to local restrictions and requirements and follow guidance from health experts, much of which has become common sense at this point-wear a face mask when in public, practice social distancing and wash or sanitize your hands frequently.

For Americans, domestic travel continues to be one of the least complicated and safest ways to experience new destinations. While you'll want to work with a travel advisor and thoroughly research your destination to stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 numbers as well as be aware of any local travel restrictions and requirements, there are some destinations that stand out in terms of offering a safe experience with minimal resistance.


Hawaii boasts the lowest positivity rate of any U.S. state heading into March and has established strict entry requirements to keep both visitors and locals safe, including COVID-19 testing within 72 hours of travel for out-of-state visitors. The Aloha State also offers travelers an abundance of outdoor activities to choose from, including world-class beaches epic national park experiences.

Washington, DC

Like Hawaii, the nation's capital has handled the coronavirus crisis better than most destinations of late and has reopened indoor dining, museums, parks, gardens and other can't-miss sites and attractions with limited capacity and strict face mask and social distancing protocols in place. As of November 2020, Washington, D.C. is requiring anyone traveling into the district for more than 24 hours from a jurisdiction with more than 10 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people to test negative within 72 hours of traveling and to get tested within 3-5 days of arrival if visiting for more than three days.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Colorado has one of the lowest rates of positive COVID-19 tests of any state in the country as of late-February and scenic Rocky Mountain National Park offers visitors a whopping 415 square miles to explore while they practice social distancing. In addition to hundreds of miles of hiking trails, the park offers an array of nature and wildlife that travelers can experience from the safety of their vehicle, including Trail Ridge Road, a beloved route that crests at over 12,000 feet.

Door County, Wisconsin

Wisconsin currently has no statewide travel restrictions and one of the lowest rates of positive COVID-19 tests of any U.S. state. Door County, better known as the peninsula that separates Green Bay and Lake Michigan, is perhaps one of the most overlooked destinations in America and offers travelers a whopping 300 miles of shoreline and seemingly endless serenity. From Sturgeon Bay to Washington Island, visitors will have plenty to see and experience, including a handful of state parks and historic lighthouses where social distancing can be easily achieved.

Lake Havasu City, Arizona

Dubbed Arizona's Playground or West Coast, Lake Havasu City is a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts and thrill-seekers who won't have to worry about navigating strict travel requirements or crowds if visiting this spring. The city, which is home to hundreds of miles of shoreline and endless sunshine (300 days a year), strongly encourages face masks and social distancing and offers a plethora of physically distant activities, including boating, beachcombing, off-roading and golfing. Tourists can even visit the famous London Bridge, which spanned the River Thames in London nearly two centuries ago before being relocated in the 1960s.

Santa Barbara, California

The American Riviera is an oasis for travelers wary of restrictions but also conscious of safety amid the pandemic. Santa Barbara is a city best experienced outdoors, boasting inviting beaches and historic outdoor attractions like Stearns Wharf and countless options for outdoor dining. Travelers can even visit SantaBarbaraCA.com for tips on how to visit safely and responsibly in the time of COVID-19. After you've conquered Santa Barbara, you'll want to take the scenic drive (roughly 45 minutes) through the Santa Ynez Mountains to the Danish village of Solvang, also known as "Little Denmark."

Outer Banks, North Carolina

North Carolina is one of more than two dozen states with no statewide travel restrictions heading into March and the Outer Banks provide visitors with plenty of sand to spread out on. The barrier islands also boast plenty of spacious vacation rentals to choose from so families and groups can travel in privacy with limited contact. The Outer Banks is even pet-friendly so visitors won't have to leave their furry friends behind.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Home to the spectacular and historic Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park boasts 100 square miles of open water and inviting islands that travelers can only access via boat or seaplane. To visit, you'll have to head to Key West and then make the roughly 70-mile journey west into the Gulf of Mexico. The Yankee Freedom III has resumed normal capacity daily scheduled service to the Dry Tortugas and continues to follow CDC safety guidelines, including requiring masks, enhanced cleaning procedures and reconfigured seating and onboard movement to allow for proper social distancing.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

For travelers enticed by Tennessee's lack of restrictions but wary of visiting a bustling locale like Nashville, Chattanooga offers an excellent alternative. It's a city best experienced outside as it's home to natural wonders like Lookout Mountain and Ruby Falls and no shortage of open-air attractions, including the Chattanooga Zoo, countless hiking trails, Civil War sites and the scenic Tennessee Riverpark.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Like Tennessee, Virginia can be accessed with no restrictions and Shenandoah National Park offers more than 200,000 acres of nature and wildlife, much of which can be experienced from the safety and comfort of your vehicle as you cruise the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive. The scenic route features almost 70 overlooks so visitors will have plenty of opportunities to stop for photos and side adventures.

Whitefish, Montana

The Montana resort town of Whitefish offers visitors a slew of exciting outdoor experiences no matter the season, including world-class skiing during the winter and hiking, mountain biking and tubing when the weather gets warmer. Currently, Whitefish requires face masks in all indoor public spaces and during outdoor activities where social distancing is not possible.

Davis, Oklahoma

If you're searching for an off-the-beaten-path destination with no travel restrictions this spring, look no further than Davis, Oklahoma, a charming family-friendly small town of fewer than 3,000 people that's home to the state's oldest park and largest waterfall in Turner Falls. Whether hiking, picnicking or zipping high above the Arbuckle Mountain Range, Davis provides no shortage of outdoor fun and entertainment for vacationers looking to keep their distance from others in the Sooner State.

Black Hills and Badlands, South Dakota

Social distancing is not only easy but a blast in the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota where travelers won't be tempted to take risks with large crowds indoors. Visitors can also cross iconic Mount Rushmore off of their bucket list and experience this beautiful region from a hot air balloon. Like many local businesses, Black Hills Balloons has implemented several enhanced health and safety measures to combat COVID-19, including providing complimentary face masks and anti-fog safety glasses for all guests.

St George, Utah

Utah, which has a mask mandate in effect but no statewide travel restrictions, offers an abundance of exciting outdoorsy destinations but St. George stands out and is often overlooked. Beloved for its eye-popping red rock canyons, St. George provides convenient access to Zion National Park in addition to a handful of other parks and natural attractions as well as plenty of history and stellar spots for outdoor dining.

Wilson, Wyoming

Located just west of Jackson across the Snake River at the bottom of Teton Pass, Wilson is another underrated destination travelers can experience safely and without restrictions in 2021. Visitors can look forward to scenic drives, hiking, mountain biking, skiing and so much more. One of the village's top attractions, the Teton Raptor Center, is being impacted by COVID-19 and on-site construction but is still offering virtual bird encounters for passionate visitors.

You can travel with confidence in 2021.

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CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

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