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It’s the land of big cities, historical icons, gorgeous mountain ranges and of course, all-American diners. Holidays to Hawaii, the USA and Canada can be as fun and bustling, or as relaxing and casual as you want them to be, particularly since there’s no struggling with the language barrier.
On the east coast of America visit New York, Miami, Washington D.C and Philadelphia then head to the west coast to see Los Angeles, San Francisco and of course Las Vegas! If you are embarking on a holiday to North America for the first time, here are some of the best places and attractions of North America to visit and a list of things you should do that will truly have you behaving like an American!
In many ways, Vancouver is the Sydney of Canada. It is a young, metropolitan coastal city with scenic views, a mild climate (in the summer, anyway) and a multicultural population. Where Vancouver becomes more like Melbourne is in its layout: the streets are arranged in a grid so it’s very easy to get around.
For chic cafes, shopping and fine-dining head to the West End. A hippie hangout in the 1960s, Kitsilano is a beach-side suburb with plenty of parks and a vibe that’s urban meets indie – organic foodies should definitely make a beeline for this neighbourhood. According to Vancouver’s official website, the city boasts the world’s longest continuous waterfront route. The best way to take it in is to walk, jog, bike or even rollerblade along the Seawall, a paved routed that wraps around 8.8 kilometres of Stanley Park.
For travellers who love the hustle and bustle of the city, but also want to explore natural wonders, Toronto is the ideal destination. Situated in eastern Canada, not far from major cities like Montreal and Ottawa, Toronto has a charm all of its own.
The world famous CN Tower is a sight to be seen and with spectacular views of the city from the top it's worth the ascent. It is over half a kilometre high! Shoppers will enjoy exploring the St Lawrence Market, a historical area filled with artisan foods and specialty stores.
For those keen to escape the city, Niagara Falls is less than two hours away. The falls can be seen from both the US border in New York state and Canada, however most Canadians will attest that the view from their side is superior. Aside from the falls, the trip also offers visitors the chance to glimpse the Canadian wilderness and perhaps some of the wildlife the country is well known for.
Montreal is a predominantly French-speaking city, in Canada's province of Quebec. A unique meeting of European and North American culture, it’s quite unlike any other city in the world.
Shoppers will love the Underground City, a below-ground complex with a wealth of stores whilst St Laurent Street, is a nightlife hub. It’s well worth a visit for its multitude of bars, cafes and restaurants.
No trip to Montreal is complete without a big serve of poutine – a famous Canadian dish consisting of French fries and cheese curds topped with gravy. It’s available at any hour at La Banquise, a 24-hour poutinerie and restaurant that has become a Montreal institution. When you need to walk the poutine off, check out Mont Royal – a mountain in the middle of the city! Within one of the largest parks in Montreal, it’s lush and green in the summer and blanketed in white in the winter.
United States of America
New York holidays are often the pinnacle of travel to USA. It is a phenomenal city with a fast paced and exuberant atmosphere. It’s the point of origin for trends across the world, from fashion to food and economics. New York is bursting with iconic locations and is one of the most filmed cities in the world.
New York's status as most filmed city is unsurprising, with the wealth of breathtaking places and architectural marvels, including the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Central Park, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Times Square, The American Museum of Natural History, Grand Central Terminal, Wall St, Rockefeller Centre, the Brooklyn Bridge, Columbus Circle, the Chrysler Building and Coney Island (to name just a few!). On top of this, the city offers some of the world’s best entertainment with Broadway shows, restaurants and late night shopping.
The Big Apple is also famous for its top sporting teams, including the New York Giants (NFL), New York Knicks (Basketball) and the New York Yankees (Baseball). This city is a must for every traveller’s to-do list.
A beautiful capital city, Washington is a wonderful introduction to the culture and history of America. The city may be small, but it sure packs a punch when it comes to history and monuments.
When we think of Washington D.C. one of the images that pops into most people’s heads is the wide avenue of green leading up to an impressive obelisk, the Washington Monument. This avenue is the National Mall and along it you’ll find numerous landmarks and museums, such as the National Museum of American History and the National Air and Space Museum. Tour the White House, visit the Smithsonian, explore the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials or witness the changing of the guard at the Arlington Memorial.
Washington D.C also has a lot to offer beyond politics and monuments. You’ll also find cultural institutions such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and The National Theatre, which first opened its doors in 1835.
Feel like living it up a little? Las Vegas is the hedonist’s idea of heaven; a glittering, bombastic fantastic rising out of the Mojave Desert. Everything is themed and in big lights. Truely the city that never sleeps, the dazzling strip of restaurants, casinos, hotels and theatres will swallow you up.
A Las Vegas visit requires stamina to get through your preferred shows, concerts, theme parks and rides, gardens, aquariums, museums, comedy and experiences. Many of the world’s best restaurants have a Las Vegas outpost so you can also tick off a few dining bucket-list items. We haven’t even got to the casinos or nightlife, yet!
Try your hand at blackjack or poker, indulge in a $100 cocktail or catch a Cirque de Soleil or musical show. Those seeking adventure can take a ride on the New York Rollercoaster and those who want to relax can do so with a spa treatment at the Venetian. For a charming experience, make sure you visit the Bellagio Fountain at night, perhaps after a dinner at the Wynn, the MGM or Caesar’s Palace.
It doesn’t have to all glitz and glamour, though. Some of the more down-to-earth activities include kayaking and hiking down the Colorado River, horseback riding, scenic drives and rock climbing. Of course, it is also important to take a trip to the Grand Canyon too. It is not far away from the city, and will be somewhere you never forget!
If Las Vegas is for you, ask a Travellers Choice agent for help booking your trip.
If you need a break from the chaos of the big cities, the seaport hub of Seattle is a beautiful and serene place where you can explore things at your own pace. Visit the Space Needle (especially at night, for some amazing views), the grave of Jimi Hendrix or treat yourself to a spot of shopping at Pioneer Square or the Pike Place Markets.
Get out on the water and enjoy magnificent scenery on one of the many Seattle ferries, or aletrnatively, take a tour to see the now underground streets and shops of the old city. It was destroyed in a fire in 1889, and it is a fascinating activity for any visitor to the city.
How could we not mention La La Land? Los Angeles is like a dream, not just because of its hallucinatory landscape, which is vast and flat with a persistent smog and a mountainous backdrop. It is a city with so many different faces who have just one thing in common: they all feel out-of-this-world.
Of course, some of the best sights here all revolve around Hollywood and its associated stars, from the Hollywood Walk of Fame to the movie studios, to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and Madam Tussauds, L.A. lets you get up close and personal with all your favourite celebrities.
If you need to regain a sense of groundedness while in Los Angeles, take a hike in Runyon Canyon Park, which offers fantastic views of the city, wander through the seminal Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or see a performance by the world-renowned Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at The Hollywood Bowl. More unique activities to try while on your holiday here include, attending a TV show taping, relaxing on Catalina Island or the Malibu Coast and its beaches, checking out the views from Griffith Observatory and visiting the stainless steel Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Boston is central to American history and has the cultural facilities to show it. Important national landmarks in the city include Boston Common, which is America’s oldest public park, Boston Public Library, and the site of the first public school in America. If you want to see all the main landmarks, the Freedom Trail is a famous walking tour that takes visitors to 16 historic sites around Boston, all in a few hours.
It is a very large city made up of unique historic neighbourhoods. While it’s not as easy to navigate on foot as New York - most of Boston’s streets are very old and mazelike and this actually gives the city an old-world charm as it is so picturesque. Boston is a proud championship sports city, so catching a Boston Red Sox (baseball), Celtics (basketball) or New England Patriots (American football) game is a must. Even those who shy away from sport won’t be able to escape the thrill!
During autumn, winter and spring, the acclaimed Boston Symphony Orchestra performs classical music at Symphony Hall. Boston’s Theatre District is also worth adding to the list as many Broadway shows preview there, as well as local productions that are fantastic in their own right.
The famous ‘Windy City’ is the capital of America’s midwest. A sprawling city, Chicago is comprised of charming neighbourhoods, and is peppered with famous landmarks. For visitors, there’s some of the world’s best shopping on the Magnificent Mile, an incredible stretch of flagship stores, hotels and restaurants.
The Shedd Aquarium, situated on the awe-inspiring Lake Michigan is one of the world’s best, with an array of sea life to discover. Culture enthusiasts can’t miss the famous Cloud Gate (also known as ‘The Bean’), an incredible reflective sculpture situated in Grant Park. The Art Institute, just a short walk away, is also world-class, with a collection of famous works.
To visit all these great attractions, the elevated train lines, known as ‘the L’, makes getting around the city easy. Chicago is a city bursting with potential, so get out an explore it!
There can never be a day in San Francisco that is the same. Between treetops and rolling fogs over the great Golden Gate Bridge, the possibilities of exploration are endless. At the hub of the city lies Union Square – named for pro-Union Civil War rallies held there more than 150 years ago. Key fashion brands line up against each other from high end department stores to local boutiques, all reviewable from the centre square benches. During festive seasons, the Square lights up in abundance of decorations and lights.
For culture enthusiasts, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art does not adhere to traditional art museum layouts, and the California Academy of Sciences located in the Golden Gate Park is a hands-on museum suitable for all ages.
A drive up to Colt Tower will always be a memorable one, with the whole of downtown San Francisco spread out below you. Other famous sites include Pier 39, Lombard Street, the Painted Ladies and of course, the island jail of Alcatraz.
The sun-drenched city of Miami is where America goes to party, and with good reason! World-famous Miami Beach is not just one stretch of beach; it’s a whole area filled with entertainment, nightlife, and of course, sun and sand. South Beach is another destination to head to if you want to enjoy the water. Thousands flock there for a dip when the mercury rises.
With a large Cuban population, Little Havana is well worth a visit for plenty of reasons, not least of which is the incredible food! A vibrant area filled with special sights, sounds and flavours, it should certainly be on any Miami visitor’s must-visit list.
Located in the south-east of the sprawling state of Louisiana, New Orleans is one of the true gems of the USA. A city filled with history, Bourbon Street should be the first port of call for travellers. It is a famous strip that runs through the city’s French Quarter and along it visitors can take in the amazing architecture, and enjoy some of the best food and drink in the south.
It’s been well over a decade since Hurricane Katrina brought the city to a halt, and it is thriving once more – especially its cuisine. With its French-Creole influence, and rich southern tradition, travellers can feast on the most authentic dishes, such as gumbo, jambalaya and beignets (a sort of powdered doughnut). New Orleans is a city with a sugar fixation, and visitors simply must try king cake, a multi-coloured specialty of the town. Although the city is dotted with bakeries, two particular establishments – Haydel’s and Gambino’s - have emerged over the years as the premiere bakers, with fierce rivalries.
Memphis has strong links to not one but three musical genres. People say it’s the birthplace of rock and roll, and also the home of soul and the blues.
There’s plenty to see and do in Memphis beyond Elvis’ mega residence, Graceland. In its heyday, the legendary Sun Studio was the recording studio of choice for Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. Take a guided tour and you’ll be privy to hearing some of these famous recordings and at the end you can pick up some ‘50s-style souvenirs and refreshments.
Memphis also had a significant role in America’s 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Re-opened in 2014, the National Civil Rights Museum is a collection of museums and historic buildings based around what used to be the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. The museum houses impressive interactive multimedia exhibits where you can access audio, photos and videos about the civil rights movement.
The old saying goes that everything's bigger in Texas, and Dallas, the state’s largest city is certainly a testament to that. The Arts District is among the largest in the United States, with so much to see and do, from opera and theatre to live music and an incredible collection art.
Well worth a visit is Victory Park, a major events centre for the city, where big names in entertainment routinely play in the world-class arena. Dallas hosts the Texas State Fair annually, the largest event of its kind in the country. The State Fair includes an annual food creation competition, with previous winners running from the ingenious (‘Deep-Fried Breakfast-for-Dinner’) to the downright odd (‘Deep-fried Beer’). Only in America!
The city is also home to some sobering history, including Dealey Plaza, the site of President John F. Kennedy’s death in 1963. At that site, the Sixth Floor Museum chronicles the events that changed the nation, and it is a must-see for history buffs.
Travellers Choice knows, and loves, the USA and Canada. Let us help you plan and organise your customised holiday today!