Australians visiting the USA - best states to visit
Step 1 - decide to take a holiday to the USA. Step 2 - get your head around the finances. Step 3 - choose an airline to fly with. Step 4 - where to actually go. If you didn't realize, America is kind of a big place!
For those who have never seen I'm smarter than a 5th grader, there are 50 US States. Technically. Throw in the District of Columbia (where the Capital, Washington DC resides - hence the 'D' & 'C'!), and there's plenty of land to cover. 9,826,675 sq km to be exact (3,794,101 sq miles). So where to start?
Most Aussies start at what comes to them first, literally - Hawaii or California. Hawaii is only a 10 hour flight from the East Coast, California another 4-5hours after that. But maybe you aren't a water person, perhaps you don't like sunshine and beach. Where should YOU go?
I can't cover all 50 states, this hub would become an essay. I'm going to pick my top 6, which coincidentally are probably the most popular/visited (in not particular order, except maybe geographical...)
There's no question, Hawaii is one of the most sought after holiday destinations on the planet. Whether you're after some sunshine, surf, sand, history, culture, shopping or relaxing, the Hawaiian Islands offer it all. 8 major islands in total, Hawaii's most popular isles are Oahu, Maui and Hawaii (otherwise known as the 'Big Island'). And despite the fact that they're all 'Hawaii', they're also very different.
Oahu is the most populated, the most visited and the most congested. On it you'll find the Capital, Honolulu, infamous Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head, historic Pearl Harbor and every surfer's mecca, the North Shore. Each is as popular and worthwhile visiting as the next, yet each offer something a little different to a tourist.
Honolulu is the main business district of the 50th state, with Iolani Palace a good place to start. The former residence of Hawaii's royalty (yes, the US did have royals at one point), it's now a museum and a great way to learn about some of the state's history. You'll also find the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, the island's veteran's cemetery and home to Veteran's Day and Memorial Day ceremonies (it also offers an unbeatable 180 degree view of the island).
Waikiki Beach - what more to say? Beautiful beaches, crystal clear water, fantastic cocktails and wonderful hotels. This is where most visitors stay and it's obvious why - the coastline is dotted with hotel after hotel after hotel. And quite honestly, at pretty reasonable prices, especially for families. Of course the number one drawcard is the beach, where you can swim, surf, snorkel or simply sunbake (with sunscreen of course), but there's other things on offer in Waikiki - shopping, eating, the Honolulu Zoo and Aquarium and nearby Diamond Head, where after a 30-60min walk/hike, you can be greeted by some of the best views of Oahu.
Then there's the other islands, Maui and the Big Island being the most popular. Maui boasts amazing beaches, beautiful resorts and the magnificent 'Road to Hana' roadtrip, which offers the state's best waterfalls, forests and views of the Pacific. The Big Island is home to Kilauea Volcano, which has basically been spewing lava for a couple of decades.
For more information, check out www.gohawaii.com
One of the US' premier tourism states, California really does have it all. Sun, surf, desert, mountains, snow, lakes, cities, towns. You name it, Cali has it. Theoretically you could spend your entire holiday in California and still see a vast array of entertaining, historic and beautiful things!
Like many states, California's Capital city isn't its most well known, nor its most visited. Sacramento is the Capital, but no offense to Sacramento-ans, well...it's just not really a tourist destination I'd recommend. Don't despair, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego (and everything else in between) make up for Sacramento's 'short comings'.
Los Angeles = City of Angels. City of Hollywood, of Beverly Hills, of Venice Beach, of Disneyland. A week in LA and you probably won't see it all. Personally, I would recommend staying at the beach - Santa Monica, Venice, even Malibu or Santa Barbara. They're on the outskirts of the main metropolis and all the better for is - less traffic and less smog (yes, one of the first things you'll notice about LA is the smog!) These beach cities are just as they're described; cities on the beach, with great restaurants, wonderful shopping, fantastic hotels and magical views of the Pacific Ocean. The downside? The drive anywhere inland. LA has some of the worst traffic in the country and jumping on the Santa Monica Freeway for example is not for the faint-hearted. Be prepared for beeping horns, bumper-to-bumper congestion and yes, more smog. But don't worry, your final destination will be worth it. Whether it's out to Anaheim to visit Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, into Hollywood to see the Walk of Fame, up into the hills to go to Universal Studios, into the city to go to a Lakers game or downtown to Beverly Hills to shop on Rodeo Drive, LA has it all. It's international airport LAX is perfectly located and Union Station is a great stepping stone for day trips.
San Francisco = where to begin? Stereotypically known as a land of hippies, anti-war demonstrators and free-loving LGBT supporters, San Fran as it's commonly known is a fantastic alternative if LA is just too much for you. And it's not like you're selling yourself short - San Fran is fantastic! Whether it's down at Fisherman's Wharf eating seafood chowder, visiting historic (and sometimes creepy) Alcatraz Island or marveling in the sites and sounds and tastes of Chinatown (one of the country's best), SF has something for everyone. And don't forget to drive and/or up and/or down Lombard Street - the world's 'most crooked street'. Oh, one more thing - San Fran is only a short drive (60min) from Napa and Sonoma Counties for all you wine lovers!
San Diego = a really big town portraying itself as a big city. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing! I love SD - its weather, its shopping, its nightlight, its sporting teams, its history, its culture...and its proximity to Mexico! Sometimes forgotten about when people plan their Californian adventures, SD is also home to Sea World, a must see for the kids especially!
Aside from the big 3, California also boasts one of the most majestic driving adventures imaginable - the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1). Snaking its way down the state's Pacific coastline, the PCH is a must. Travel through the townships of Carmel, Monterey and alike and you'll see why this is one roadtrip on most bucket lists.
For more info, visit www.visitcalifornia.com
It really is true what they say - everything is bigger in Texas! The second most populated (behind California) and the second largest in area (behind Alaska), Texas is every cowboy's dream. Bordering Mexico, you'll notice pretty much right away the south of the border influence. Whether it's the food, the people, the language or just the vibrant atmosphere, Texas is a mixture of ol' school southern hospitality and Latino charm.
Given its size however, there is a lot to see or do. Like California, Texas boasts oceans (the Gulf of Mexico), mountains, countryside, dry deserts and of course major cities. Houston is the state's biggest city, where visitors can head to the Johnson Space Center (where NASA Mission Control lives) or one of its many museums in the Museum District. Only a few hours away is San Antonio, home of the Alamo and some of the country's biggest and best rodeos. Further north you'll come across Dallas, where you'll find the annual Texas State Fair (a certainty for lovers of deep fried food!) the Dallas Cowboys and yes, plain ol' Cowboys too.
Check out http://www.traveltex.com for more.
An American holiday wouldn't be complete without a visit to Nevada. And let's be honest here. While Hoover Dam (on the border with Arizona) and a day trip to the Grand Canyon might be appealing, there's really only one reason why people go to Nevada...Vegas baby! Las Vegas, otherwise known as Sin City, is truly a city that never sleeps. You can be awake all night and not realize what day it actually is. Even for the non-gamblers, Las Vegas has something for everyone. Of course casinos and gambling are the biggest draw cards (pardon the pun!), but Vegas also boasts amazing live concerts, sporting events and exhibitions. A vacation to Vegas isn't complete without a stay at one of the city's famous casino/resorts; the Bellagio, MGM Grand, Caesar's Palace, Monte Carlo, Circus Circus, Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Cafe to name a few. Just remember, the legal age in the US is 21, so for all you Aussie 18-20 year olds, save the money for a trip in a couple of years.
Go to http://lasvegas.travelnevada.com for more.
I have to admit, NY is my favorite state of all. More specifically, New York City is my favorite city of all. It really is true what they say - once you visit New York City (NYC), you'll keep wanting to return. I don't really know where to begin, so let's just rattle off the biggest and bestest things to do in the Big Apple...Times Square/Broadway. 5th Avenue. Empire State Building. Madison Square Garden. Yankees Stadium. Central Park. Rockefeller Center. Statue of Liberty. Wall Street. Brooklyn Bridge. Greenwich Village. Upper West & East Sides. United Nations. Good luck fitting it all in one holiday!
In all serious, NYC really is that big, that exciting, that memorable. And it has something for everyone, it just depends what you're looking for. If you want excitement, non-stop action and the real tourism experience, hit Times Square/Broadway. Theater and shopping and buskers and food - you can't go wrong. If you're looking for some culture, some learning, head up town towards the Upper West & East sides for museums and the arts. If you want sport, a baseball game at Yankees Stadium or any kind of sport at Madison Square Garden is a must. If you're thing is old New York charm and history, go to the Statue of Liberty or Wall Street. If you're more bohemian and maybe want to avoid the craziness that NYC truly can become, try Greenwich Village or Soho. If you'd like some peace and quiet after a day shopping on 5th Avenue, walk to Central Park, where you can ice skating, sled, ride in a horse and carriage or honor the late John Lennon. And after you've done all that, and you've sampled some of the most multicultural food imaginable (think ol' school Italian, Latin American, Jewish and 5 star dining) hit up the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center for an elevator ride to the top of it all!
See http://www.gonyc.com for everything NYC!
Only a stone's throw away from NY (okay, more like 4 hours, but it's really a quick drive or flight), Massachusetts is actually New York's rival. Whether it's education, arts, food or sport, the 2 states have shared a friendly rivalry for decades. So what does MA have to offer than NY doesn't? They're actually very similar really, with its Capital Boston the state's shining light. Boston is one of those cities you'll want to visit in all seasons. Whether its glorious summer afternoons in the park, wading through autumn/fall leaves or marveling at crisp white snow on a January morning, Boston is spectacular. Modern and historic museums, world class education facilities (think Harvard and MIT), championship winning sporting teams and multiple beer breweries make this a city where you'll need at least a week to see it all. Not to mention using it as a hub for day trips to Salem, Cambridge and Gloucester. One of the country's oldest cities and home to the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party, this city will also seek to educate you about the nation's diverse and compelling rise.
A visit to http://www.massvacation.com will provide more info.
If California and Hawaii's breathtaking oceans didn't do it for you, Florida's certainly will. All the way at the end of the East Coast lies the Sunshine State (yes, it actually is very similar to Australia's Sunshine State, QLD - including being susceptible to hurricanes/cyclones). Florida is an eclectic state, with most of action pinpointed around the coastline. Miami and Orlando share the number one spot for tourism, each for very different reasons. Miami is Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York rolled into one. On the one hand you have crystal clear waters, hundreds of miles of beaches and outstanding restaurants and bars. But on the other, you have history, entertainment and culture. Not to mention, FL is also a great starting point for a Caribbean cruise or day trip to the Bahamas! You can also head up into the Everglades, home to alligators, swampland and some of the best crawfish the Gulf has to offer!
Check out http://www.visitflorida.com for more.
OTHER PLACES OF NOTE
- Mount Rushmore. Located in the country's north, in South Dakota, Mount Rushmore is a commemorative memorial to 4 of the nation's greatest and most loved Presidents (Washington, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Lincoln), carved into a giant granite mountain face.
- Grand Canyon. Spanning 446km long, the Grand Canyon nestles deep into the state of Arizona. Whether it's by land, air or even donkey (we've all seen The Brady Bunch!), the Grand Canyon is a must see.
- Chicago. Not Illinois' Capital, but definitely it's biggest and most popular city. Home to traditional hot dogs and deep dish pizza, a green river on St Patrick's Day and some of the country's greatest sporting dynasties, a trip to the mid-west is not complete without visiting Chicago (that's "Chee-caaaaaah-go" to you!)
- Washington DC. DC being the District of Columbia. Home to well, the President of course! Only 4 hours from New York City, DC embodies the power, the authority, the history and the future of the US. Plan a trip to the White House (and even go inside if you're lucky), the Capitol Building, the Lincoln and Jefferson Monuments and the Smithsonian Museum(s).
- New Orleans. Otherwise known as the Big Easy or "Nawlins" (it will bring out the drawl in everyone!), Louisiana's famous gulf city is getting back on track following Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. Bourbon St offers it all - southern food, southern hospitality and importantly, Mardi Gras!
- Glacier National Park. Alaska's gateway to heaven. Pristine beauty, untouched wilderness, true paradise. Jump on a 7-day cruise throughout Alaska's ultimate tourist destination, go dog sled riding or marvel at the Northern Lights.
There you have it, my ultimate choices for your next USA visit. It's a lot to take in, I know. But remember, this is only 6 states. There's another 54 to explore!