The USA is a huge country with a vast array of things to do and planning a holiday in North America can sometimes mean that you’ll have to pick and choose, unless you have unlimited time obviously! How do you decide what and where to go?
Whether you love big cities, natural wonders or thrills and family fun, read on for travel tips and inspiration.
Bright lights, big cities
The United States of America has many big cities, and visitors usually head to Los Angeles, New York City, Washington D.C. and Chicago, but there are far more to explore including Boston, Seattle or Philadelphia.
In Los Angeles you can drive the California coast, hit the shops along Rodeo Drive, star-spot in Beverley Hills or even venture into the Mojave Desert. When you want to escape the city, head to Big Sur along the coast road. Wildlife, mountains, waterfalls, and beaches can all be discovered on the drive, and travellers can choose to stop-over in various destinations (such as one of the state parks) or simply drive the route all in one go, before heading further north to Half Moon Bay or San Francisco.
New York City could be considered a region in itself and it has many ‘must-sees,’ such as the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park and the Empire State Building. Most people who visit find that they could happily stay there for weeks on end; there’s just so much to do, see and experience. From here, you can also day trip to Boston, Philadelphia and even Washington D.C which also offer tourists many options including plenty of American history.
From the founding of the colonies to the civil rights movements, the American story can be found all over the country. The sites of the Boston Tea Party, the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, the site of Martin Luther King’s famous speech in Washington D.C. are all spots that defined the United States. Go see one!
For those who love high rises, head to Chicago the birthplace of the skyscraper. Check out the amazing architecture and shops along the Magnificent Mile and State Street, and then catch a Chicago Cubs or White Sox baseball game! Baseball is one of America’s most iconic national sports and going to a baseball game is one of the most quintessential ways to ‘live like a local’.
See it, to believe it
If you prefer to focus on natural wonders, it’s hard to go past the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It is one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World, and is a must-see. Try and visit at sunrise or sunset to make the most of the beautiful desert colours, or embark on a helicopter flight to get a birds eye view of this natural wonder.
Niagara Falls in upstate New York should also not be missed. Spanning three waterfalls on the border of the USA and Canada, this breathtaking sight is best viewed aboard a ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat tour.
If you love the idea of nature and animals, the USA has many National Parks for you to explore including California’s Yosemite and Joshua Tree. Probably the most famous, Yellowstone National Park extends through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho and is home to amazing wildlife such as grizzly bears, wolves, bison and elk. Try white water rafting, outdoor rock climbing or fishing, and visit the geyser known as ‘Old Faithful’ – it erupts once every 91 minutes or so!
In the middle of this massive country there is much variation: deserts, snow-capped mountain ranges, prairies and plains. A good way to see it is to drive it.
Looping for 375km through south west Colorado, the San Juan Skyway has hairpin turns that can seem a little daunting, but it’s worth it for the scenic mountain vistas this drive brings. The San Juan Mountains, Lizard Head Peak and Red Mountain are all popular stop-off points on the San Juan route and even ancient Native American ruins and hot springs can be discovered along the way.
Another great state to explore is Utah. Rust-coloured terrain, sweeping canyons and desert plateaus are all on offer on the 100-mile White Rim Trail. It’s one of the more challenging American drives, taking several days to complete and marked by the National Park Service as “moderately difficult for high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles.” If getting to know the desert is on your agenda though, definitely add this to your list.
Americans love national pride and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota is about as patriotic as you can get! A monumental sculpture of four United States presidents carved into a granite mountain, Mount Rushmore has become a globally recognised icon, yet few tourists embarking on a holiday in North America make an effort to see it. Visiting the huge 60-foot carvings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln is definitely something you won’t forget!
Thrills and Chills
Keen for an adrenaline rush on your holiday? If you’re travelling with family, or simply cannot go past a great theme park, then the USA is for you! The young at heart can ride rollercoasters at theme parks such as Disneyland in California, Six Flags Great Adventure Park in New Jersey or Universal Studios in Florida.
Las Vegas provides more grown up thrills, with casinos galore and a fantastic nightlife but also caters well to the family market, and there are plenty of kid-friendly things to do. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity!
Another great place for the grown-ups is New Orleans in Louisiana and here, you’ll find strong jazz and French colonial influences. Also in the ‘South’ you’ll find Nashville, the country music capital of the world and Memphis, the birthplace of blues as well as delicious food such as Cajun Gumbo.
Don’t forget about Hawaii or Alaska just because they are not located with the rest of the US states. Alaska offer travellers the chance to get up close and personal with glistening glaciers, striking woodlands, incredible wildlife and towering mountain scenery, and a good way to see it is by tour, cruise or self-drive.
Alaskan cruises usually start from cities like Vancouver, Seattle or San Francisco, or from Anchorage and Seward in Alaska itself. Onboard, you’ll most likely see Humpback whales, visit thje Glacier Bay Basin and maybe even witness the the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights.
Alaska has a range of National Parks, including Denali, Wrangell St. Elias and Kenai Fjords. Many feel that Kenai Fjords is the must-see and is a remarkable meeting of ice, oceans and mountains – and most Alaskan cruises will sail here. Popular sights and destinations here include Resurrection Bay, Fox Island, Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield.
If you decide to set your own route and drive yourself, then make sure you travel on the Alaska Route 8, or the Denali Highway. Known for taking travellers through the untouched beauty of Alaska, this 217km route will introduce you to dazzling vistas, including gorgeous, close-up views of Mount McKinley and Denali Park. Lucky tourists may be able to spot Alaskan wildlife, such as moose, grizzly bears, reindeer and wolves.
Need more suggestion? Browse our North American holidays or contact your local Travellers Choice agent.