Holiday in the USA - updated!

Hi all. A friend and I are planning a trip to the USA. I know there are one or two Americans on here, so I thought I'd ask for some ideas of what to do/see.

At the moment, we definitely want to visit NYC. We would also like to visit Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, LA, Niagara Falls, perhaps the Rockies. It seems there is just SO much to see and do. I've never been to the USA before. What do you think are the must sees/must dos?

Obviously the list I've got so far of places to visit fall pretty much on either the East or South West, I think. I apologise for my total ignorance and uselessness, but what are the big attractions of the 'middle part'? Basically, we are trying to figure out whether we should fly from the East to the West or what is best to do.

How much do you think we should expect to pay for accommodation? I guess that question is a bit 'how long is a piece of string'. We are just after something clean and safe.

Do you have any tips for visiting/anything I need to know?
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Last edited by Piglet; 03-14-2009 at 05:01 PM.
Not sure how long you have. Amtrack offers unlimited rail passes. May be a good way to "see" the country.
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I agree with kathymack--this all depends on how long your visit will be. I don't know if you realize this already, but Las Vegas and New York are really far apart. By plane, we're talking probably 5 hours; by train, several days. NY and Niagara Falls naturally can be done together, as can Las Vegas and LA.

To be honest, I haven't explored the US that much! I haven't been to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, or Niagara Falls. A great place to visit in the "middle part" is Chicago. I haven't spent more than a few days there, so maybe someone more familiar with the city can weigh in about specific attractions there.

Are you more of a city person or a nature person? What are you hoping to get out of the trip? I think you might end up having to limit your ambitions, maybe choosing a region (Northeast, Southwest, West Coast, etc).

As for accommodations: I drove across country about 5 years ago and stayed in cheap but relatively clean motels and hotels along the way. I made reservations on travelocity or expedia, using the customer reviews as my guide. I spent between 50 and 100 dollars a night for each hotel. I wouldn't recommend hostels; they're not as nice in the US as they are in Europe.
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I would also pick a region and agree that it would be really cool to travel by train.
I think it would be pretty stressful and not as enjoyable to be hopping from one place to another when they're pretty far from each other. In the Northeast, aside from NY, you can visit Boston, and Pennsylvania, or maybe go to D.C. for more of a historical tour of the country. In NY, obviously see Central Park and try to go to Ellis Island aside from all the usual places people visit.

If you go to the west coast, why not check out Yosemite National Park?





And also, if you do go to Colorado, Wyoming is right there and with it Yellowstone National Park, where Old Faithful and other geysers are to be seen.




I think if I chose, I'd go with that area and see Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah. Lots of beautiful scenery. But that's if you're more interested in nature than big cities.

Last edited by Saria; 02-15-2009 at 09:44 AM.
NYC is very expensive, but probably comparable to London. How about DC? you can visit the Smithsonian, and many of the historic landmarks of our nation's capitol.

Chicago is a great, large city but with a different vibe than NY. And it's closer to the "middle". The south/southeast is very neat as well, a completely different, much more laid back and genteel feel than a harried place like the northeast. American SouthWest is beautiful and unique, especially if you are interested in Native American culture and history.

What types of things do you want to see? museum, natural landmarks, shopping, sports...
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I'd suggest you pick an area and concentrate your travel within that area. The USA is too large to see it all in just a week or two.

Pacific Northwest
Southwest
Northeast
Mid-Atlantic
Southeast

Forget the middle of the country...nothing to see there.
Thanks everyone! At the moment, we are thinking about 2-3 weeks. It will cost a fair just to get to the USA, so we want to maximise our time there. Obviously cost is a major factor in what we eventually end up doing. At the moment we are like kids in a sweet shop.

I suppose you could say that we want an adventure. We like cities, but would like to see natural wonders or just generally big attractions. Where's the mountains with the faces? Again, sorry for the ignorance. I know, logically, we are going to have to 'drop' some sights. Yosemite National Park looks gorgeous. Yellowstone isn't exactly ugly either! Sports wouldn't interest either of us. There is just toooo much to see. I think we're going to have to be brutal about chopping things out.

I wonder how much flights would be from the North East to the South West? We were not planning on hopping huge distances just to see one thing or place. On the other hand, I probably don't appreciate just how big the USA is.
Yes, my tail is naturally curly.
No, it was NOT me who cried 'wee wee wee wee wee' all the way home.
Mount Rushmore is in South Dakota, which also has the gorgeous Badlands National Park.


If you're going for that long, it seems plausible to pick two different regions and spend a week or so exploring each one. I think more than that would be too much.
And San Francisco is another place to visit in terms of cities if you're going to be on the west coast.

Last edited by Saria; 02-15-2009 at 12:44 PM.

Forget the middle of the country...nothing to see there.
Originally Posted by RedCatWaves
Well, gee thanks

Actually Chicago does have a lot of nice touristy places. Maybe not two weeks worth but at least a week. Especially if you come during the Spring and summer. Also, venture out of the touristy places, go into other neighborhoods of Chicago. There are lots of nice places which are not in the touristy neighborhoods with great restaurants, beautiful parks. Obviously, be careful where you go at night some areas can be rough. But overall this is a really nice city.

There's museums, shopping, theater (not Broadway but really good productions). Lots of site seeing.

Here's a couple of links on museums.
http://www.choosechicago.com

http://tinyurl.com/b4doz6

http://tinyurl.com/bu3o8x


If you like street fairs and such here's another link to arts and crafts, music fests and such. I like the Buck town Arts fest They have some really cool stuff.
http://tinyurl.com/atlopv


If you like hiking or biking here another site.
http://tinyurl.com/b45hof

The lake front is nice but way too crowded. I prefer a less crowded area where you could speed up for a good workout or take a leisurely ride without having to constantly dodge people. Out in a suburbs not too far from Chicago there are some really nice trails.

Maybe some one from WI Or IN can tell you about their state.

If you come here, I'd gladly meet up with you for a day of site seeing.
Location: Chicago

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Here is an idea:

Since you plan on being here for at least 3 weeks, how about renting a small RV and driving cross-country? You can stop a lot of scenic destinations and also have a place to sleep. Only drawbacks: driving, gas and time for driving.
Life shrinks or expands according to one's courage. Anais Nin
Where's the mountains with the faces? Again, sorry for the ignorance. I know, logically, we are going to have to 'drop' some sights. Yosemite National Park looks gorgeous. Yellowstone isn't exactly ugly either! Sports wouldn't interest either of us. There is just toooo much to see. I think we're going to have to be brutal about chopping things out.
Originally Posted by Piglet

Mt. Rushmore, in South Dakota. It's beautiful and definitely worth seeing, but there's not a whole lot else close by...well there are the Badlands, but that's not enough to fill a week...and the distance between SD and Yosemite or Yellowstone is huge. I've done it, in a camper, and it's a lot of driving. Sounds like you'd like a western vacation...try looking for bus tours that will take you to those sites. It's less exhausting to let someone else do the driving for you, and probably cheaper too.

http://www.tours4fun.com/7-day-yello...-bus-tour.html
I would land in NYC, spend 3-4 days, then fly out west, to LA or Washington and drive up or down the west coast. Absolutely gorgeous, and you'd get a good sense of our culture by hitting both coasts.

A west coast drive would give you temperate rainforests, mountains, ocean drives, the central valley of CA, vineyards, Yosemite, cities like Seattle, Portland, SF, LA, San Diego, possibly Vegas — all depending on how you plan it.

SF is a must. It's our most beautiful city, imo. "The Paris of the Pacific."

Please avoid the things you've always heard about that you think you need to see, like Mount Rushmore. 99% of them are overrated. I mean, I've been to Mount Rushmore, and it's cool and all, but it ain't no Machu Picchu [where I've also been and it's totally worth the day+ it takes to get there]. There are places in the world where it's worth the time spent in getting to them, but a lot of our U.S. tourist destinations are not among them. NYC is one of them, however.

Get a Rough Guide or something and work it that way— that's my advice.

I do agree about DC, if you're really into history, there's just no match for it. Make sure to visit Monticello if you get to that region.

Last edited by wild~hair; 02-15-2009 at 02:43 PM.
What my English cousins usually do when they come here is fly in to Seattle over the polar route (8 hours), fly south to California and/or Las Vegas (2.5 hours), then fly east (5-6 hours). They fly home out of NYC. This is usually a 3-4 week trip. They fly in to Seattle, rather than out, because we're here so they can stay with us while they're getting over their jet lag. You could go the opposite direction, obviously.

The problem is that this is a big country and flying is expensive, especially in and out of smaller cities and towns like Rapid City, SD. If you try to hit too many places, you'll waste a lot of time in airports and spend a lot of money in the process.

If you want to see southern California (I recommend it), you could fly into L.A. and drive to Las Vegas in about 4 hours.
I would land in NYC, spend 3-4 days, then fly out west, to LA or Washington and drive up or down the west coast. Absolutely gorgeous, and you'd get a good sense of our culture by hitting both coasts.

A west coast drive would give you temperate rainforests, mountains, ocean drives, the central valley of CA, vineyards, cities like Seattle, Portland, SF, LA, San Diego, possibly Vegas — all depending on how you plan it.

SF is a must. It's our most beautiful city, imo. "The Paris of the Pacific."

Please avoid the things you've always heard about that you think you need to see, like Mount Rushmore. 99% of them are overrated. I mean, I've been to Mount Rushmore, and it's cool and all, but it ain't no Machu Picchu [where I've also been and it's totally worth the day+ it takes to get there]. There are places in the world where it's worth the time spent in getting to them, but a lot of our U.S. tourist destinations are not among them. NYC is one of them, however.

Get a Rough Guide or something and work it that way— that's my advice.

I do agree about DC, if you're really into history, there's just no match for it. Make sure to visit Monticello if you get to that region.
Originally Posted by wild~hair

It's all in the interpretation I guess. Having lived next to NYC for most of my life, I don't think it's worth the trip. It's just a city..crowded, dirty, confusing, expensive, etc. Monticello (and Mount Vernon) are cool.

To the OP...if you like white sand ocean beaches and old lighthouses, there is a great ferry boat system in North Carolina's Outer Banks area that is a lot of fun. You can travel around the barrier islands on (free or mostly free) ferries for a couple of days, not crowded, very relaxing, and beautiful.
What my English cousins usually do when they come here is fly in to Seattle over the polar route (8 hours), fly south to California and/or Las Vegas (2.5 hours), then fly east (5-6 hours). They fly home out of NYC. This is usually a 3-4 week trip. They fly in to Seattle, rather than out, because we're here so they can stay with us while they're getting over their jet lag. You could go the opposite direction, obviously.

The problem is that this is a big country and flying is expensive, especially in and out of smaller cities and towns like Rapid City, SD. If you try to hit too many places, you'll waste a lot of time in airports and spend a lot of money in the process.

If you want to see southern California (I recommend it), you could fly into L.A. and drive to Las Vegas in about 4 hours.
Originally Posted by mrspoppers
The only problem with going England ---> West Coast is that your jet lag is going to be SOOOOO much worse than if you flew England ---> East Coast.
"Well I love that dirty water. Oh, Boston, you're my home!"
Pretty much agreed with the others here... You couldn't realistically see all the places you mentioned in one trip, unless you'll be here for a while. And even then you'd be tuckered out, I think.

Las Vegas is an experience. It's not my cup of tea, but it's good to go just to say you went. The casinos, food, shopping, it can be sensory overload. There's a reason why it's called Sin City.

Middle of the country: you've got Kansas City, Missouri. Not usually seen as a tourist destination, but I like it. Blues music, barbeque, Pres. Truman's birthplace a few miles away, and a big ice cream cone shaped church.

New Orleans, Louisiana. It's a world unto its own. The food, music, accent, architecture, history, you name it.

New York, you could spend a week there or more...and your life savings.

That's all I got...Have fun!

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Last edited by Phoenix; 02-15-2009 at 03:57 PM.
What my English cousins usually do when they come here is fly in to Seattle over the polar route (8 hours), fly south to California and/or Las Vegas (2.5 hours), then fly east (5-6 hours). They fly home out of NYC. This is usually a 3-4 week trip. They fly in to Seattle, rather than out, because we're here so they can stay with us while they're getting over their jet lag. You could go the opposite direction, obviously.

The problem is that this is a big country and flying is expensive, especially in and out of smaller cities and towns like Rapid City, SD. If you try to hit too many places, you'll waste a lot of time in airports and spend a lot of money in the process.

If you want to see southern California (I recommend it), you could fly into L.A. and drive to Las Vegas in about 4 hours.
Originally Posted by mrspoppers
The only problem with going England ---> West Coast is that your jet lag is going to be SOOOOO much worse than if you flew England ---> East Coast.
Originally Posted by newcurly
In my experience, it's all about the same once you get to 5 hours time difference. But yes, as I said, you can go the other way. The time differences are all the same, no matter which way you go.
What my English cousins usually do when they come here is fly in to Seattle over the polar route (8 hours), fly south to California and/or Las Vegas (2.5 hours), then fly east (5-6 hours). They fly home out of NYC. This is usually a 3-4 week trip. They fly in to Seattle, rather than out, because we're here so they can stay with us while they're getting over their jet lag. You could go the opposite direction, obviously.

The problem is that this is a big country and flying is expensive, especially in and out of smaller cities and towns like Rapid City, SD. If you try to hit too many places, you'll waste a lot of time in airports and spend a lot of money in the process.

If you want to see southern California (I recommend it), you could fly into L.A. and drive to Las Vegas in about 4 hours.
Originally Posted by mrspoppers
The only problem with going England ---> West Coast is that your jet lag is going to be SOOOOO much worse than if you flew England ---> East Coast.
Originally Posted by newcurly
In my experience, it's all about the same once you get to 5 hours time difference. But yes, as I said, you can go the other way. The time differences are all the same, no matter which way you go.
Originally Posted by mrspoppers
Not really - if you go from London to the West Coast you have to make an 8 hour shift! It's only 5 if you go to the East Coast!!!
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I would suggest San Francisco rather than LA. LA is not very interesting in my opinion.

If you want to see beautiful scenery, I would agree with Sairis' suggestion of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah. If you like to camp, that is a real money saver.

The only problem with going England ---> West Coast is that your jet lag is going to be SOOOOO much worse than if you flew England ---> East Coast.
Originally Posted by newcurly
In my experience, it's all about the same once you get to 5 hours time difference. But yes, as I said, you can go the other way. The time differences are all the same, no matter which way you go.
Originally Posted by mrspoppers
Not really - if you go from London to the West Coast you have to make an 8 hour shift! It's only 5 if you go to the East Coast!!!
Originally Posted by newcurly
Are you serious?

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