The good of US of America!
It's difficult to find another country in the world that can amaze you in so many different ways! Whether it is due to the breathtaking scenery of the National Parks, the massive skyscrapers of New York City, the bright lights of Las Vegas or simply the fact that you can't walk more than 10 yards without tripping over a food outlet of some fashion, the US has it all!
With so much of our modern culture influenced by the USA, travelling your way around it makes it easy to see why people hold such a fascination with this great country.
There aren’t many people interested in travelling that haven't included the famous 'Big Apple' on their bucket list of places to see. Take in the sights of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Central Park, but also make sure you absorb the melting pot of cultures this fast paced city has to offer as you step into the parallel worlds of China Town and Little Italy. You'll be hard pressed to find a more passionate sports fan than a New Yorker attending one of their plethora of stadiums, from baseball at the jaw-droppingly large Yankee stadium, to the celebrity studded audience of the basketball in Madison Square Garden. Trends in New York change faster than Usain Bolt running the 100m, so make sure you gorge yourself on a city with it's finger firmly on the pulse.
Step outside the gridiron streets of New York and you'll find that the rest of the state has endless treasures to pique your interest. To put it into perspective, the distance from New York City to the state’s border with Canada is the same as travelling from London to the Gretna on the Scottish border! From the thrill of parasailing above Lake George to riding by horse across Long Island’s beautiful beaches, you're going to find experiences you never knew existed.
Only in New York State can you take in the 'Grand Canyon of the East' in Letchworth State Park from a hot-air balloon, experience the exhilaration of white water rafting in the Adirondacks, or adorn yourself in a blue plastic poncho to take in the magnificence of Niagara Falls aboard the 'Maid of the Mist'.
In stark contrast to the fast-paced feel of New York, the capital of the deep south provides a mellow and laid-back atmosphere in which to check out the city they call the 'Big Easy'. Famed for it's outlandish culture, the city thrives on music and seafood, both of which you're going to find in abundance as you meander along the streets. Credited with being the home of jazz music, the city offers endless street festivals celebrating the native sound alongside those offering a new experience as you listen to the distinctive sounds local Creole music, affectionately known as 'swap pop'. Heading into the 'French Quarter' will give you an idea of the European roots that the city was built on, with picturesque buildings to take in and countless museums, art galleries and restaurants to fill the soul and stomach alike!
Make sure you head to the Confederate Museum for a refreshingly honest take on the great American civil war and also take the time to see the distinctive Louisana Superdome stadium. Nestled amongst the skyscrapers of the business district, the 'UFO' shaped home of the New Orleans saints is a spectacle of modern engineering. Wherever you go, the friendly nature of the local ’N’Orleans’ residents is well known so make sure you leave yourself extra time when you're getting around to allow for conversations with total strangers!
Most Europeans can’t help but feel a little more at home when they visit San Francisco, due in large part to the liberal and cosmopolitan attitude adopted by the residents of the ‘city by the bay’. And what a bay it is! If the Golden Gate Bridge doesn’t wow you the first time around, then wait until you are on the boat to Alcatraz and catch it again from a better angle. The Humber Bridge may be longer, but red trumps grey in our book! If you do decide to visit the world’s most famous prison, make sure you try and take the night tour – the darkness really adds to the atmosphere.
If prisons aren’t your thing, you can always take in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, watch the antics of the Sea Lions down at Fisherman’s Wharf (hint – try to breathe through your mouth) or take a ride on one the famous Street Trolleys as it navigates the ups and downs of the San Fran streets. Of course, you can eat any kind of cuisine in the Golden city thanks to its rich international population. That being said, you can’t visit California without trying Clam Chowder served in a Sourdough Bread Bowl – full bellies guaranteed!
Whatever you love, you’ll find it ‘the City’ – from Laundrettes that double as Open Mic Bars (yes, really!) to museums full of creepy mechanical arcade games, they really do have it all. Just remember, only tourists call it ‘Frisco’.
Did you know that the mainland United States covers an area roughly 30 times that of the United Kingdom? About 130,000 square miles of that space is taken up by National Parks – that’s the same landmass as the UK and Ireland combined! All 58 parks are of unique natural, historical or cultural significance, so are perfect if you want to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle.
Whilst we’d love to be able to eschew the benefits of all the national parks here, some of the fun is in making your own discoveries. With that in mind, here are a few of our favourites (from East to West):
- Great Smoky Mountains (North Carolina): The ‘Smokies’ are a subrange of the famous Appalachian Mountain Range containing approximately 187,000 acres of old growth forest, meaning many of the trees have been allowed to grow without disturbance for hundreds of years. Living amongst the trees are a wild range of animals, incuding the highest Black Bear population east of the Mississippi. The mountains also play host to 70 miles of the truly epic Appalachian Trail.
- Voyageurs (Minnesota): Four huge lakes are encompassed by Voyageurs National Park (named for the French Canadian fur traders that first inhabited the area), giving endless opportunities for sailing, kayaking and fishing. The numerous campsites are only accessible by water, so make sure you bring your speedboat license! If you prefer a solid roof over your head, there are resorts and guest houses to stay at, including the historic Kettle Falls Hotel, one of the few places in the mainland USA you can lookSouth into Canada.
- Carlsbad Caverns (New Mexico): Located 750 feet below the surface of the Guadalupe Mountains, the caverns are the among the largest underground chambers in the world. Discovered by a young Cowboy named Jim White at the end of the 19th century, the caverns are a maze of stalagmites and rock formations with quirky names such as the ‘Bifrost Room’ and ‘The Hall of the Giants’. The largest chamber (aptly named ‘the Big Room’) is almost 4,000 feet long and over 250 feet high.