Public transportation veries widely from place to place in the United States. Here in Minneapolis it is less than ideal, to say the least, but in areas with decent public transportation, using it as a means of getting around can connect you to the city in a way that driving in a car cannot.
In San Diego we took the train from my mom's house in Oceanside to Old Town San Diego. In both directions we started conversations with other passengers, getting tips on places to visit and stories of their lives growing up in the area. By the time we reached our destination, we had made new friends and learned more about the city we were visiting.
The views were spectacular and everyone got to enjoy them. No one had to fuss about which exit we needed to take or where we were going to park. It's a good way to travel.
Talk to the Locals
The cousins at the base of Sandia Peak, Albuquerque, NM
This is easier to do, of course, if you are visiting the locals, but striking up conversations with people can lead to some interesting experiences. The flavour of a place is in the people who live there. Getting to know them helps you to understand the heart of what makes a location tick. It also gives you ideas for places to go and things to do that you woudn't have thought of before.
The tram up to Sandia Peak in Albuquerque. I had never heard of it until my cousins suggested it. Absolutely amazing.
Keep America Weird
Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum, Rawlins, WY
The Carbon County Museum, Rawlins, WY. The main attraction at this museum is shoes made from the skin of a murderer, Big Nose George.
The United States is full of weirdos, and I mean that with all love and respect. We are a creative bunch, that is for sure, and along any given road in this beautiful country there are gems like these; mystery spots, fiji mermaids, The World's Largest Ball of Twine (made by one man), Carhenge, a waterslide through a shark tank. I love this country. Roadside America is a good resource for finding these oddball treasures and many of them are cheap or free.
Any theme would work for this, like restaurants you've visited, city or state welcome signs, state capitals or public artwork. It's a fun way of remembering the trip when you are done and it's good, cheap fun.