United States Travel Guide

Full of hopes and dreams, the US is unarguably a popular tourist destination. New York, the iconic Big Apple, and other cosmopolitan cities enchant visitors with a wide range of attractions and activities. The US also caters to lazy sun-loungers with its gorgeous beaches both on the east and west coasts. The country’s infrastructure is impressive, with plenty of five-star hotels, hospitals and millions of shopping malls. The only drawback is that the country is usually mobbed with tourists, particularly during the summertime.

Make sure you are very hungry as American food is all about large-portion meals. Those on diet should never enter a diner, a typical American restaurant that opens 24 hours and famous for greasy dishes that could feed a family of four. Motorists shouldn’t miss a truck stop, which provide cheap dishes such as burgers and fries. BBQ is also a must. Think wood-smoked ribs and brisket, roasted corns and butt-kicking sauces. California wines are second-to-none, beer is also popular.

The country’s infrastructure is one of the best. Five-star hotels with first-class facilities are ubiquitous, while motels and youth hostels are aplenty. Coastal towns feature a variety of resorts. B&Bs around the country offer an alternative for those bored with uncharacteristic, ho-hum chain hotels.

Why You Should Go

What’s Cool: Trendy shops and hip bars in New York City, extensive shopping along 5th Avenue, impressive skyscrapers in Chicago, beautiful beaches in Miami and Hawaii, star-studded Hollywood, Disneyland, colorful festivals in New Orleans, winter wonderland in the Rockies, world-recognized brand names, Californian sun, friendly locals, good transport services, lip-smacking BBQs and the big portions of food!

What’s Not: Long lines for fun parks in the summer, crowded tourist spots, occasional hurricanes, bad traffic in big cities, pickpockets and panhandlers, illegal drugs, prostitutes, dodgy neighbourhoods and an obese nation.

When to Go

The overall climate in the United States is variable. The south is tropical, while the north can get quite chilly. Californians seem to be the luckiest with regards to weather, with plenty of sun, warm summers and cool winters.

Southerners see long summers, while those in the north experience long winters. However, snowfalls on the Rockies start early and finish late both in the north and the south, so ski bunnies can linger a bit longer.

The US is packed during the summer as tourists flood every single mall and fun park, making it more practical to come here in the spring and autumn when the weather is pleasant. What’s more, you don’t need to wake up 2 hours earlier to beat the traffic in front of Disneyland’s ticket office.

Getting There & Away

Traveling to the United States of America is a simple task by air, with countless international flights. The main centers to arrive in the country are New York, Boston, and Miami if you fly from Europe and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle for those traveling from Asia Pacific. Tourists from Mexico and Canada can easily get here by car. Another option for Canadians is the Great Lakes ferries that connect the two neighbors. Trains and long-haul buses serve most destinations in the country and neighboring areas, and are usually reliable and in tip-top condition.

Health & Safety

Normally, the bigger the city the higher the crime rate. Practice common sense and don’t carry too much cash. Those driving rental cars should always remember to lock their doors. Picking up a hitchhiker is unsafe and illegal in some states, while street drugs are illegal in all states, no matter what other people tell you. Prostitutes are only legal in rural Nevada so make sure you respect the law and save yourself from an embarrassing arrest. There are no major health risks, and clinics and hospitals can be found everywhere, but they cost the earth. Don’t even step off the plane without travel insurance.

Itineraries

The US is packed with a myriad of things to see and do. Six weeks is enough if you only want to cover the major cities and the highlights of the country. Northeast

Three days in Boston.
One week in the city that never sleeps – New York.
Four days in the country’s capital, Washington DC.

Southeast
Four days to laze around on Miami’s beaches.
Three days to join festive events in New Orleans.

Southwest
Ten days to spot Hollywood stars, watch the shows and get on heart-stopping rides in Los Angeles.
Four days in San Francisco to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, the city’s scenic spots and shop until you drop.

Midwest
Three days in Chicago to see notable architectural wonders.
Two days in Detroit, the Motor City with its famous Motown sound.
Two days to rock ‘n’ roll and visit the Great Lakes in Cleveland.

Extra time
One week in Hawaii for soaking up the sun and island-hopping.
One week in the Rockies to enjoy hiking, rafting and skiing.
Four to five days to explore the exquisite Pacific Northwest.

Highlights

Chicago: in the heart of the Midwest is home to a wide range of architectural marvels and impressive skyscrapers including the Sears Tower, also a great place to base stories on the ‘da mob’.

Boston: has a great mix of modern sophistication and colonial charms. Beautiful old buildings boast fascinating history while top-class universities such as Harvard welcome the crème de la crème of the academic world. Fell out of favour with the English after tossing all their tea in the harbour!

New York City: probably the country’s most famous and talked-about city. Sex in the City New York is fashionable, fast-paced and sophisticated. The city features famous sights such as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park and 5th Avenue. And, of course, there is groud zero – spoken about in obligatory sobre tones.

Washington DC: the capital of the United States and home to numerous significant public buildings including the White House, the city is tourist-friendly and has a plenty of charming parks and museums.

Miami: Will Smith once made a catchy song of out Miami, the fun city with Florida sun, gorgeous beaches and Art Deco architecture. Miami has a thriving, diverse community and oozes sprightly Latino feel.

New Orleans: this friendly city will delight those into music and festivals. New Orleans hosts the annual Mardi Gras and other notable music festivals.

Los Angeles: step into the shiny world of Hollywood movies and fame. Explore Hollywood, Malibu, Beverley Hills and Santa Monica while keeping an eye out for celebrities. Disneyland and Universal Studios will please the young and the young-at-heart.

San Francisco: home to the world renowned Golden Gate Bridge, this city is one of America’s most photogenic and famous for its steep hills and active flower power community.

Hawaii: was once all about coconuts and pineapples, but is now a very touristy destination. About 2,300 miles from California, Hawaii has long been known as a vacation paradise, popular among divers and beach loungers.

Activities

Shopping: shopaholics might find it hard to breathe when they find out about the endless shopping malls across the country, especially in New York City, Boston and Washington DC. Hit 5th Avenue for malls and high-end boutiques, or rub shoulders with famous shoppers in West Hollywood.

Nightlife: New York City is the place to seen when the sun goes down (and anytime of the day, actually). Put on a glittery little number and hit some of the bars and clubs scattered around the city, or for beachside enjoyment, hit Miami.

Beaches: time to show off your body in skimpy bikinis or surfer shorts. Miami’s beaches are gorgeous and perfect both for tanning and swimming. Lake Tahoe on the border of California and Nevada offers many water activities, or swim in crystal clear waters in Hawaii. The Great Lakes on the west of Cleveland and southeast of Detroit also have great beaches.

Fun parks: trips to Disneyland and Universal Studio will wow your kids away. Make sure you don’t plan to come here during the summer though, as an army of happy families are ready to fight their way to the rides.

Hiking: hike on the some of the impressive peaks in the Rocky Mountains or visit the country’s remarkable national parks.

Skiing: the Rockies turn into a winter wonderland each year, making them the perfect location for skiing.

Festivals & Events

Home to fun-loving and happy-go-lucky people, the US celebrates everything from strawberries, tomatoes and lobsters to countless music extravaganzas and national celebrations.

January: count down to the New Year and rock the party after midnight. Witness series of spectacular fireworks.
March: watch colorful parades on St Patrick Day and enjoy an array of kicking parties in the evening.
May: Memorial Day is traditionally all about patriotic observances, but now it’s mostly about fun.
July: watch the skies turn into various colors in breathtaking firework shows on the Fourth of July.
November: celebrate Easter with a Turkey dinner.
December: it’s Christmas time! Time for joy, jingle bells and exhaustive shopping.