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Planning the Perfect Senior Travel Tour: Must-Visit Destinations in the USA

Are you a senior looking to embark on an exciting travel adventure? Look no further than the United States of America. With its diverse landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture, the USA offers an array of destinations that are perfect for senior travel tours. Whether you’re interested in exploring bustling cities or immersing yourself in nature’s beauty, there is something for everyone. In this article, we will highlight some must-visit destinations in the USA for senior travelers.

New York City: The Big Apple

No senior travel tour to the USA would be complete without a visit to New York City. Known as “The City That Never Sleeps,” New York offers endless opportunities for exploration and discovery. Take a stroll through Central Park, visit iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Times Square, or catch a Broadway show. With its world-class museums, diverse culinary scene, and vibrant neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy, New York City has something to offer every senior traveler.

San Francisco: A West Coast Gem

If you’re looking for stunning views and a laid-back atmosphere, San Francisco should be at the top of your list. Famous for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars, this city offers a unique blend of natural beauty and urban charm. Take a cruise around Alcatraz Island, explore Fisherman’s Wharf, or enjoy a scenic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway. Don’t forget to indulge in some delicious seafood at one of San Francisco’s renowned restaurants.

Grand Canyon National Park: Natural Wonder

For seniors who appreciate nature’s majesty, a visit to Grand Canyon National Park is an absolute must. Located in Arizona, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the world’s most breathtaking natural wonders. Marvel at the vastness of the canyon from various viewpoints along its rim or take an exhilarating helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view. For the adventurous seniors, hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging offer opportunities to explore this awe-inspiring landscape up close.

Charleston: Southern Charm

If you’re seeking a destination that combines history, charm, and warm hospitality, look no further than Charleston, South Carolina. Known for its well-preserved antebellum architecture and cobblestone streets, Charleston offers a glimpse into the rich history of the American South. Take a leisurely stroll along The Battery and enjoy the picturesque views of Charleston Harbor. Explore historic plantations like Boone Hall or visit iconic landmarks such as Fort Sumter. Don’t forget to indulge in some delicious Southern cuisine, including shrimp and grits or she-crab soup.

In conclusion, senior travel tours in the USA can be an enriching and unforgettable experience. Whether you choose to explore the bustling streets of New York City, marvel at the natural wonders of the Grand Canyon, or immerse yourself in Southern charm in Charleston, there is something for every senior traveler in this diverse country. So pack your bags, gather your fellow adventurers, and get ready to embark on the perfect senior travel tour through some of the most captivating destinations in the USA.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.


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As the world’s only superpower and biggest economy by a huge margin, almost everyone on the planet knows something about the USA, even if they’ve never been. The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State, the Hollywood sign, Las Vegas neon, Golden Gate and the White House have long been global icons, and American brands and images are familiar everywhere, from Apple computers and Levi’s to Coca-Cola and hot dogs. Yet first-time visitors should expect some surprises .

Where to go in the USA

Outdoor activities in the usa, sports in the usa, usa: the musical melting pot.

Though its cities draw the most tourists – New York, New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco are all incredible destinations in their own right – America is above all a land of stunningly diverse and achingly beautiful landscapes . In one nation you have the mighty Rockies and spectacular Cascades, the vast, mythic desert landscapes of the Southwest, the endless, rolling plains of Texas and Kansas, the tropical beaches and Everglades of Florida, the giant redwoods of California and the sleepy, pristine villages of New England.

You can soak up the mesmerizing vistas in Crater Lake, Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks, stand in awe at the Grand Canyon, hike the Black Hills, cruise the Great Lakes, paddle in the Mississippi, surf the gnarly breaks of Oahu and get lost in the vast wilderness of Alaska. Or you could easily plan a trip that focuses on the out-of-the-way hamlets, remote prairies, eerie ghost towns and forgotten byways that are every bit as “American” as its showpiece icons and monuments.

The sheer size of the country prevents any sort of overarching statement about the typical American experience, just as the diversity of its people undercuts any notion of the typical American. Icons as diverse as Mohammed Ali, Louis Armstrong, Sitting Bull, Hillary Clinton, Michael Jordan, Madonna, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley, Mark Twain, John Wayne and Walt Disney continue to inspire and entertain the world, and everyone has heard of the blues, country and western, jazz, rock ’n’ roll and hip-hop – all American musical innovations.

There are Irish Americans, Italian Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans and Latinos, Texan cowboys and Bronx hustlers, Seattle hipsters and Alabama pastors, New England fishermen, Las Vegas showgirls and Hawaiian surfers. Though it often sounds clichéd to foreigners, the only thing that holds this bizarre federation together is the oft-maligned “American Dream”. While the USA is one of the world’s oldest still-functioning democracies and the roots of its European presence go back to the 1500s, the palpable sense of newness here creates an odd sort of optimism, wherein anything seems possible and fortune can strike at any moment.

Indeed, aspects of American culture can be difficult for many visitors to understand, despite the apparent familiarity: its obsession with guns; the widely held belief that “government” is bad; the real, genuine pride in the American Revolution and the US Constitution, two hundred years on; the equally genuine belief that the USA is the “greatest country on earth”; the wild grandstanding of its politicians (especially at election time); and the bewildering contradiction of its great liberal and open-minded traditions with laissez-faire capitalism and extreme cultural and religious conservatism. That’s America: diverse, challenging, beguiling, maddening at times, but always entertaining and always changing. And while there is no such thing as a typical American person or landscape, there can be few places where strangers can feel so confident of a warm reception.

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The most invigorating American expeditions are often those that take in more than one region. You do not, however, have to cross the entire continent from shore to shore in order to appreciate its amazing diversity; it would take a long time to see the whole country, and the more time you spend simply travelling, the less time you’ll have to savour the small-town pleasures and backroad oddities that may well provide your strongest memories. Unless you’re travelling to and within a centralized location such as New York City, you’ll need a car – that mandatory component of life in the USA.


The obvious place to start for most people is New York City – international colossus of culture and finance, with a colourful history and numerous skyscrapers to prove its status as the essential American city. While you could easily spend weeks exploring the place, just a little more effort will take you into the deeper reaches of the Mid-Atlantic region to the north. Here, whether in upstate New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania, major cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh border a landscape of unexpected charm and beauty, from the bucolic hamlets of Amish country and the wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains to iconic sights such as Niagara Falls and holiday favourites like the Catskills. Next door, New England has a similarly varied appeal; most visitors know it for the colonial and history-rich city of Boston, but there’s much to be said for its rural byways, leading to centuries-old villages in Vermont and New Hampshire, bayside Massachusetts and the rugged individualism of the lobster-catching harbours and mountains of Maine – which take up nearly half the region.

Seven hundred miles west lie the Great Lakes, on the whole the country’s most underappreciated region; vigorous cities including Chicago and Minneapolis, isolated and evocative lakeshores in Michigan and Minnesota, and rousing college towns such as Madison, Wisconsin, reward any visitor with more than a few days to explore. Bordering Ohio to the east, the nearby Capital Region is the home of Washington DC, capital of the nation and centrepiece for its grandest museums and monuments. Nearby Baltimore is one of the region’s few other big cities, and to the south the old tobacco country of Virginia holds a fair share of American history while coal-mining West Virginia has a scattering of curious natural treasures.

Although Virginia is technically part of the South, for the purest experience you’ll need to venture even further to get the feel of its charismatic churches, BBQ dinners, country music and lively cities such as Atlanta and Memphis. The “deepest” part of the South lies in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, and in these states – with their huge plantations and long history of slavery – you’ll get a very different view of American life than anywhere else in the country. Other Southern states have their own unique cultures: Florida is a mix of old-fashioned Southern manners and backwater swamps leavened with ultra-modern cities including Miami, Latino culture, miles of tempting beaches and the lustrous Keys islands; Louisiana offers more atmospheric swamps and “Cajun” culture, with New Orleans one of the few spots in the USA with a strongly Catholic, yet broadly indulgent culture of drinking, dancing and debauchery; and Texas is the country’s capital for oil-drilling, BBQ-eating and right-wing-politicking, with huge expanses of land, equally big cities and plenty of history.

The Great Plains, which sit in the geographical centre of the country, are often overlooked by visitors, but include many of America’s most well-known sights, from Mount Rushmore in South Dakota to the Gateway Arch in St Louis and the Wild West town of Dodge City in Kansas. To the west rise the great peaks of the Rockies, and with them a melange of exciting cities such as Denver, beautiful mountain scenery like Montana’s Glacier National Park, the geysers of Yellowstone and great opportunities for skiing throughout at places like Idaho’s Sun Valley. Bordering the southern side of the Rockies, the desert Southwest region is also rich with astounding natural beauty – whether in the colossal chasm of the Grand Canyon, striking national parks at Zion and Canyonlands or the Native American heart of the Four Corners region – along with a handful of charming towns and less interesting big cities.

The country’s most populous state is, of course, California, synonymous with the idea of “the West Coast” and its freewheeling culture of surfing, libertine lifestyles and self-worship. However, the further from the water you get, the less the stereotypes hold, especially in the lava beds and redwoods of the far north, the ghost towns and magnificent Yosemite in the Sierras and the intriguing deserts of Death Valley. To the state’s north, Oregon and Washington – the rain-soaked pair making up the Pacific Northwest – offer pleasantly progressive towns such as Seattle and Portland and some of the most striking scenery anywhere in the USA: the stunning landscape of the Columbia River Gorge, the pristine islands of the San Juans, the snowy peaks of the Cascades and more.

Beyond the lower 48 states, Alaska is a winter wonderland of great mountains and icy spires, with few roads and people, but much to offer anyone with a zest for the outdoors and the unexpected. Hawaii is the country’s holiday paradise, a handful of splendid islands in the central Pacific with remote jungle settings and roaring volcanoes.

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Coated by dense forests, cut by deep canyons and capped by great mountains, the USA is blessed with fabulous backcountry and wilderness areas. Even the heavily populated East Coast has its share of open space, notably along the Appalachian Trail, which winds from Mount Katahdin in Maine to the southern Appalachians in Georgia – some two thousand miles of untrammelled woodland. To experience the full breathtaking sweep of America’s wide-open stretches, however, head west: to the Rockies, the red-rock deserts of the Southwest or right across the continent to the amazing wild spaces of the West Coast. On the downside, be warned that in many coastal areas, the shoreline can be disappointingly hard to access, with a high proportion under private ownership.

National parks and monuments

The National Park Service administers both national parks and national monuments. Its rangers do a superb job of providing information and advice to visitors, maintaining trails and organizing such activities as free guided hikes and campfire talks.

In principle, a national park preserves an area of outstanding natural beauty, encompassing a wide range of terrain and prime examples of particular landforms and wildlife. Thus Yellowstone has boiling geysers and herds of elk and bison, while Yosemite offers towering granite walls and cascading waterfalls. A national monument is usually much smaller, focusing perhaps on just one archeological site or geological phenomenon, such as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Altogether, the national park system comprises around four hundred units, including national seashores, lakeshores, battlefields and other historic sites.

While national parks tend to be perfect places to hike – almost all have extensive trail networks – all are far too large to tour entirely on foot (Yellowstone, for example, is bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined). Even in those rare cases where you can use public transport to reach a park, you’ll almost certainly need some sort of vehicle to explore it once you’re there. The Alaska parks are mostly howling wilderness, with virtually no roads or facilities for tourists – you’re on your own.

Most parks and monuments charge admission fees, ranging from $5 to $25, which cover a vehicle and all its occupants for up to a week. For anyone on a touring vacation, it may well make more sense to buy the Inter-agency Annual Pass, also known as the “America the Beautiful Pass”. Sold for $80 at all federal parks and monuments, or online at store.usgs.gov/pass, this grants unrestricted access for a year to the bearer, and any accompanying passengers in the same vehicle, to all national parks and monuments, as well as sites managed by such agencies as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service and the BLM. It does not, however, cover or reduce additional fees like charges for camping in official park campgrounds, or permits for backcountry hiking or rafting.

Two further passes, obtainable at any park but not online, grant free access for life to all national parks and monuments, again to the holder and any accompanying passengers, and also provide a fifty percent discount on camping fees. The Senior Pass is available to any US citizen or permanent resident aged 62 or older for a one-time fee of $10, while the Access Pass is issued free to blind or permanently disabled US citizens or permanent residents. While hotel-style lodges are found only in major parks, every park or monument tends to have at least one well-organized campground. Often, a cluster of motels can be found not far outside the park boundaries. With appropriate permits – subject to restrictions in popular parks – backpackers can also usually camp in the backcountry (a general term for areas inaccessible by road).

Other public lands

National parks and monuments are often surrounded by tracts of national forest – also federally administered but much less protected. These too usually hold appealing rural campgrounds but, in the words of the slogan, each is a “Land Of Many Uses”, and usually allows logging and other land-based industry (thankfully, more often ski resorts than strip mines).

Other government departments administer wildlife refuges, national scenic rivers, recreation areas and the like. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has the largest holdings of all, most of it open rangeland, such as in Nevada and Utah, but also including some enticingly out-of-the-way reaches. Environmentalist groups engage in endless running battles with developers, ranchers and the extracting industries over uses – or alleged misuses – of federal lands.

While state parks and state monuments, administered by individual states, preserve sites of more limited, local significance, many are explicitly intended for recreational use, and thus hold better campgrounds than their federal equivalents.

Camping and backpacking

The ideal way to see the great outdoors – especially if you’re on a low budget – is to tour by car and camp in state and federal campgrounds. Typical public campgrounds range in price from free (usually when there’s no water available, which may be seasonal) to around $30 per night. Fees at the generally less scenic commercial campgrounds – abundant near major towns, and often resembling open-air hotels, complete with shops and restaurants – are more like $20–35. If you’re camping in high season, either reserve in advance or avoid the most popular areas.

Backcountry camping in the national parks is usually free, by permit only. Before you set off on anything more than a half-day hike, and whenever you’re headed for anywhere at all isolated, be sure to inform a ranger of your plans, and ask about weather conditions and specific local tips. Carry sufficient food and drink to cover emergencies, as well as all the necessary equipment and maps. Check whether fires are permitted; even if they are, try to use a camp stove in preference to local materials. In wilderness areas, try to camp on previously used sites. Where there are no toilets, bury human waste at least six inches into the ground and 100ft from the nearest water supply and campground.

Health issues

Backpackers should never drink from rivers and streams; you never know what acts people – or animals – have performed further upstream. Giardia – a water-borne bacteria that causes an intestinal disease characterized by chronic diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, fatigue and weight loss – is a serious problem. Water that doesn’t come from a tap should be boiled for at least five minutes, or cleansed with an iodine-based purifier or a giardia-rated filter.

Hiking at lower elevations should present few problems, though near water mosquitoes can drive you crazy; Avon Skin-so-Soft or anything containing DEET are fairly reliable repellents. Ticks – tiny beetles that plunge their heads into your skin and swell up – are another hazard. They sometimes leave their heads inside, causing blood clots or infections, so get advice from a ranger if you’ve been bitten. One species of tick causes Lyme Disease, a serious condition that can even affect the brain. Nightly inspections of your skin are strongly recommended.

Beware, too, of poison oak, which grows throughout the west, usually among oak trees. Its leaves come in groups of three (the middle one on a short stem) and are distinguished by prominent veins and shiny surfaces. If you come into contact with it, wash your skin (with soap and cold water) and clothes as soon as possible – and don’t scratch. In serious cases, hospital emergency rooms can give antihistamine or adrenaline shots. A comparable curse is poison ivy, found throughout the country. For both plants, remember the sage advice, “Leaves of three, let it be”.

Mountain hikes

Take special care hiking at higher elevations, for instance in the 14,000ft peaks of the Rockies, or in California’s Sierra Nevada (and certainly in Alaska). Late snows are common, and in spring avalanches are a real danger, while meltwaters make otherwise simple stream crossings hazardous. Weather conditions can also change abruptly. Altitude sickness can affect even the fittest of athletes: take it easy for your first few days above 7000ft. Drink lots of water, avoid alcohol, eat plenty of carbohydrates and protect yourself from the sun.

Desert hikes

If you intend to hike in the desert, carry plentiful extra food and water, and never go anywhere without a map. Cover most of your ground in early morning: the midday heat is too debilitating. If you get lost, find some shade and wait. So long as you’ve registered, the rangers will eventually come looking for you.

At any time of year, you’ll stay cooler during the day if you wear full-length sleeves and trousers, while a wide-brimmed hat and good sunglasses will spare you the blinding headaches that can result from the desert light. You may also have to contend with flash floods, which can appear from nowhere. Never camp in a dry wash, and don’t attempt to cross flooded areas until the water has receded.

It’s essential to carry – and drink – large quantities of water in the desert. In particular, hiking in typical summer temperatures requires drinking a phenomenal amount. Loss of the desire to eat or drink is an early symptom of heat exhaustion, so it’s possible to become seriously dehydrated without feeling thirsty. Watch out for signs of dizziness or nausea; if you feel weak and stop sweating, it’s time to get to the doctor. Check whether water is available on your trail; ask a ranger, and carry plenty with you even if it is.

When driving in the desert, carry ample water in the car, take along an emergency pack with flares, a first-aid kit and snakebite kit, matches and a compass. A shovel, tyre pump and extra petrol are always a good idea. If the engine overheats, don’t turn it off; instead, try to cool it quickly by turning the front end of the car towards the wind. Carefully pour some water on the front of the radiator, and turn the air conditioning off and the heat up full blast. In an emergency, never panic and leave the car: you’ll be harder to find wandering around alone.

Adventure travel

The opportunities for adventure travel in the USA are all but endless, whether your tastes run towards whitewater rafting down the Colorado River, mountain biking in the volcanic Cascades, canoeing down the headwaters of the Mississippi River, horseback riding in Big Bend on the Rio Grande in Texas or Big Wall rock climbing on the sheer granite monoliths of Yosemite Valley.

While an exhaustive listing of the possibilities could fill a huge volume, certain places have an especially high concentration of adventure opportunities, such as Moab, Utah or New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Downhill ski resorts can be found all over the USA. The eastern resorts of Vermont and New York State, however, pale by comparison with those of the Rockies, such as Vail and Aspen in Colorado, and the Sierra Nevada in California. Expect to pay $45–100 per day (depending on the quality and popularity of the resort) for lift tickets, plus another $30 or more per day to rent equipment.

A cheaper alternative is cross-country skiing, or ski touring. Backcountry ski lodges dot mountainous areas along both coasts and in the Rockies. They offer a range of rustic accommodation, equipment rental and lessons, from as little as $20 a day for skis, boots and poles, up to about $200 for an all-inclusive weekend tour.

Watch out for bears, deer, moose, mountain lions and rattlesnakes in the backcountry, and consider the effect your presence can have on their environment.

Other than in a national park, you’re highly unlikely to encounter a bear. Even there, it’s rare to stumble across one in the wilderness. If you do, don’t run, just back away slowly. Most fundamentally, it will be after your food, which should be stored in airtight containers when camping. Ideally, hang both food and garbage from a high but slender branch some distance from your camp. Never attempt to feed bears, and never get between a mother and her young. Young animals are cute; their irate mothers are not.

Snakes and creepy-crawlies

Though the deserts in particular are home to a wide assortment of poisonous creatures, these are rarely aggressive towards humans. To avoid trouble, observe obvious precautions. Don’t attempt to handle wildlife; keep your eyes open as you walk, and watch where you put your hands when scrambling over obstacles; shake out shoes, clothing and bedding before use; and back off if you do spot a creature, giving it room to escape.

If you are bitten or stung, current medical thinking rejects the concept of cutting yourself open and attempting to suck out the venom. Whether snake, scorpion or spider is responsible, apply a cold compress to the wound, constrict the area with a tourniquet to prevent the spread of venom, drink lots of water and bring your temperature down by resting in a shady area. Stay as calm as possible and seek medical help immediately.

As well as being good fun, catching a baseball game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on a summer afternoon or joining the screaming throngs at a Steelers football game in Pittsburgh can give visitors an unforgettable insight into a town and its people. Professional teams almost always put on the most spectacular shows, but big games between college rivals, Minor League baseball games and even Friday night high-school football games provide an easy and enjoyable way to get on intimate terms with a place.

Specific details for the most important teams in all the sports are given in the various city accounts in this Guide. They can also be found through the Major League websites: mlb.com (baseball); nba.com (basketball); nfl.com (football); nhl.com (ice hockey); and mlssoccer.com (soccer).

Major spectator sports

Baseball, because the Major League teams play so many games (162 in the regular season, usually at least five a week from April to September, plus the October playoffs), is probably the easiest sport to catch when travelling. The ballparks – such as Boston’s historic Fenway Park, New York’s famed Yankee Stadium, LA’s glamorous Dodger Stadium or Baltimore’s evocative Camden Yards – are great places to spend time. It’s also among the cheapest sports to watch (from around $10–15 a seat for the bleachers), and tickets are usually easy to come by.

Pro football, the American variety, is quite the opposite. Tickets are exorbitantly expensive and almost impossible to obtain (if the team is any good), and most games are played in huge, fortress-like stadiums far out in the suburbs; you’ll do better stopping in a bar to watch it on TV.

College football is a whole lot better and more exciting, with chanting crowds, cheerleaders and cheaper tickets, which can be hard to obtain in football-crazed college towns in parts of the South and Midwest. Although New Year’s Day games such as the Rose Bowl or the Orange Bowl are all but impossible to see live, big games like USC vs UCLA, Michigan vs Ohio State or Notre Dame vs anybody are not to be missed if you’re anywhere nearby.

Basketball also brings out intense emotions. The protracted pro playoffs run well into June. The men’s month-long college playoff tournament, called “March Madness”, is acclaimed by many as the nation’s most exciting sports extravaganza, taking place at venues spread across the country in many small to mid-sized towns.

Ice hockey, usually referred to simply as hockey, was long the preserve of Canada and cities in the far north of the USA, but now penetrates the rest of the country, with a concentration around the East Coast and Great Lakes. Tickets, particularly for successful teams, are hard to get and not cheap.

Other sports

Soccer remains much more popular as a participant sport, especially for kids, than a spectator one, and those Americans that are interested in it usually follow foreign matches like England’s Premier League, rather than their home-grown talent. The good news for international travellers is that any decent-sized city will have one or two pubs where you can catch games from England, various European countries or Latin America; check out Live Sport TV for a list of such establishments and match schedules.

Golf, once the province of moneyed businessmen, has attracted a wider following in recent decades due to the rise of celebrity golfers such as Tiger Woods and the construction of numerous municipal and public courses. You’ll have your best access at these, where a round of golf may cost from $15 for a beaten-down set of links to around $50 for a chintzier course. Private golf courses have varying standards for allowing non-members to play (check their websites) and steeper fees – over $100 a person for the more elite courses.

The other sporting events that attract national interest involve four legs or four wheels. The Kentucky Derby, held in Louisville on the first Saturday in May, is the biggest date on the horse-racing calendar. Also in May, the NASCAR Indianapolis 500, the world’s largest motor-racing event, fills that city with visitors throughout the month, with practice sessions and carnival events building up to the big race.

Some of the world’s greatest musical genres took root in cities and small towns across America, products of the collisions of European, African and indigenous cultures.

The blues was forged from a combination of African and gospel sounds into a simple twelve-bar form during the late nineteenth century. You can still catch Mississippi blues in Delta juke joints, and electrified urban blues in the gritty clubs of Chicago.

Jazz took root in the Creole culture of New Orleans, blending African traditions with western techniques to create a distinctly American art form. Jazz is still dance music in New Orleans; cooler urban stylings can be enjoyed in clubs in New York.

Nashville remains synonymous with country and western ; outside the cities, rural Appalachia brims with backwoods fiddlers and Louisiana’s sleepy bayous are alive with Cajun and zydeco.

Rock ’n’ roll has come a long way since its blues-based infancy, when young trucker Elvis Presley shook up white country with raw R&B in 1950s Memphis. Spiky New York punk, quirky Ohio industrial, furious LA hardcore, slacker Seattle grunge, and spaced-out neo-psychedelia are but a few of the rock genres that continue to thrive in the USA.

In the 1960s, the heartfelt soul of masters like Otis Redding preceded the explosion of talent that came to define the Motown era, born in Detroit.

Loaded with attitude, street-style and political savvy, hip-hop was born on the streets of New York, and later LA. Today any city with a major black population has a distinctive rap scene, including in the so-called “Dirty South”, where rappers play on the raw call-and-response stylings of early blues.

Modern dance music had its genesis in Chicago house , New York garage and Detroit techno , though club culture is now a global phenomenon.

Top image: Monument Valley © corumov/Shutterstock

Travel advice for USA

From travel safety to visa requirements, discover the best tips for traveling to USA

  • Eating and drinking in USA
  • How to get to USA
  • Getting around USA: Transportation Tips
  • Travel Tips USA for planning and on the go
  • Best time to visit USA

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15 Best Travel Books for the USA | Top Picks for 2023

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Looking for the best travel books for exploring the USA ? Here are my top picks for 2023 printed travel guides…

Traveling in the USA is a dream for many people because the country offers a diverse array of landscapes, cultures, and experiences. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or you’re embarking on your first adventure, having the right travel guide can make all the difference in ensuring that you make the most of your trip.

A travel guidebook not only offers suggestions for places to see, eat, and stay but also provides travel tips to help you navigate the vast, and sometimes overwhelming, options in the USA. From learning about national parks and regional highlights to understanding the local customs and dining scenes, a good travel guide can be an invaluable companion on your journey.

When choosing a travel guide , it’s essential to consider your specific interests, travel style, and the kind of information you need. Some guides focus on budget travel , while others cater to luxury experiences or adventure seekers. Additionally, the format — print or digital — plays a crucial role in determining how accessible and up-to-date the information is.

After extensive research and testing, I’ve compiled a list of the best travel guides for the USA that cater to various needs, making your trip planning smooth and enjoyable. So, let’s dive in and find the perfect guide for your adventure.

Tablet computer woman hiking in Grand Canyon using travel app or map during her hike. Multiethnic hiker girl relaxing on South Kaibab Trail, south rim of Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA.

Best Travel Books for USA Road Trips

I have gathered a list of the best travel guides for exploring the magnificent USA. These handy books will help make your journey smooth and unforgettable.

Fodor’s Best Road Trips in the USA

Fodor's Best Road Trips in the USA

Fodor’s “Best Road Trips in the USA” is a must-have guide for anyone planning epic road trips across the United States.

  • Comprehensive coverage of all 50 states
  • Full-color, visually appealing guide
  • Well-organized, easy-to-follow format
  • Some trips may lack details about nearby attractions
  • Book size and text size may be small for some readers
  • Not spiral-bound, which some users might prefer

I recently used Fodor’s “Best Road Trips in the USA” to plan a memorable journey across the country. This guide did not disappoint because it provided an extensive list of epic trips across all 50 states. The full-color photography and design made it a visually engaging companion throughout my travels.

The organization and format of the book made it easy to explore different routes and plan my stops accordingly. Each trip featured in the guide was well thought out, and I discovered amazing gems that I might have otherwise missed.

However, I did find that some trips in the book could have provided more detailed information on the attractions and landmarks nearby, including national parks . This would have been helpful in making the most of my time on the road.

Moon USA State by State: The Best Things to Do in Every State for Your Travel Bucket List

Moon USA State by State

I highly recommend this travel guide for uncovering the hidden gems of the USA and planning the ultimate bucket list trip.

  • Comprehensive and well-organized
  • Includes unique and offbeat attractions
  • Suitable for travelers with varying interests
  • Lacks information on small towns
  • Could use more details about accommodations and dining
  • Content may not suffice for those seeking exhaustive information about each state

“Moon USA State by State: The Best Things to Do in Every State for Your Travel Bucket List” is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to explore each state in America. I found the guide to be an excellent tool for planning my travels and discovering lesser-known attractions that I wouldn’t have found on my own. It offers a diverse range of suggestions, catering to various interests suitable for all types of travelers.

The guide is well-organized with each state receiving its dedicated section. I found this quite helpful when mapping out my journey and making a list of must-see spots. Additionally, the focus on unique and offbeat attractions really made my exploration feel more personalized and exciting.

However, the book doesn’t delve deeply into smaller towns and may not cater to those looking for comprehensive information about lodging and dining options. While it doesn’t hinder the main goal of offering interesting and lesser-known sites to visit, it could be an area of improvement for future editions.

Lonely Planet Southwest USA’s Best Trips 4 (Road Trips Guide)

Lonely Planet Southwest USA's Best Trips Guide

I highly recommend this travel guide for an unforgettable road trip experience in the Southwest USA.

  • Comprehensive coverage of must-visit attractions
  • User-friendly layout and organization
  • Engaging writing style
  • Maps could be improved
  • Limited off-the-beaten-path suggestions
  • Slightly heavy for on-the-go carrying

As a seasoned traveler, I find Lonely Planet’s “Southwest USA’s Best Trips” to be an excellent resource for planning the perfect road trip across the scenic landscapes of Southwest USA. The guide offers a wide range of richly detailed itineraries that cater to various interests, ensuring a memorable travel experience that’s tailored to your preferences.

I appreciate the book’s user-friendly organization, with well-labeled sections and logical groupings of attractions. It makes it easy to find the information I need quickly, allowing for smooth navigation and efficient trip planning. The engaging writing style used throughout the book paints a vivid picture of the places to visit, making the whole planning process an enjoyable experience.

However, I found that some of the maps included in the guide could have offered more detail and accuracy. Additionally, if you are someone who enjoys exploring lesser-known places, you may find that the guide’s focus on popular attractions leaves you craving more off-the-beaten-path recommendations.

Despite being packed with valuable information, the guide is slightly on the heavier side, which can be a minor inconvenience when carrying it with you throughout your trip. Nevertheless, I believe Lonely Planet’s “Southwest USA’s Best Trips” is a must-have for anyone planning to embark on an unforgettable journey through the beautiful Southwest USA.

Fodor’s Best Weekend Road Trips (Full-Color Travel Guide)

Fodor's Best Weekend Road Trips

I recommend Fodor’s “Best Weekend Road Trips” for those looking to explore the USA with concise yet inspiring itineraries.

  • Great trip ideas
  • Highly readable
  • Beautiful full-color presentation
  • Lack of detailed information
  • Limited local destinations
  • Trips may require additional travel days

I found this book to be a fantastic source of inspiration for my USA road trips. The assortment of weekend getaways ranges from scenic drives to city escapes, with each suggestion sparking my wanderlust. Additionally, the full-color images and easy-to-read format make planning these trips a visually appealing experience.

When delving into specific itineraries, I realized that Fodor’s provides a good starting point, but lacks a certain level of detail I’d need for an extensive trip. Some travelers may find this to be a limiting factor while planning their getaways, especially if they want comprehensive information about local destinations.

Additionally, keep in mind that some trips may require you to reach a certain area first, meaning extra travel days might be necessary depending on your starting point. As a well-traveled person, I found that many local areas featured were already familiar to me, but the book was still useful in helping me discover new destinations.

The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places in the USA

The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places in the USA

An essential and inspiring guide for travelers exploring the United States, featuring a diverse range of must-see destinations.

  • In-depth information regarding diverse locations
  • Beautiful and top-quality photographs
  • Easy-to-navigate and well-organized layout
  • Hardcover and slightly heavy
  • Geared toward more popular destinations
  • Limited information on local suggestions

Upon receiving “The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places in the USA,” I was immediately captivated by the stunning images and the vast variety of information covered in this guide. Not only did it have details on the iconic tourist spots, but it also opened my eyes to a plethora of lesser-known gems in the country.

The organization of the book made it quite simple for me to plan my trips as the information was broken down into regions. Each destination had a dedicated section, making it easy to flip through and digest the content quickly. Moreover, the pictures alone were enough to spark my wanderlust, making it exciting for me to plan my upcoming visits.

However, I noticed that the book is a bit on the heavier side, which could be cumbersome to carry around during trips. As much as I loved the comprehensive information on popular tourist attractions, there were instances where I wished it had more recommendations on local insights, like hidden restaurants or lesser-known trails.

The Open Road: 50 Best Road Trips in the USA (Travel Guide)

The Open Road

I believe that traveling enthusiasts should definitely consider purchasing this guidebook as it’s filled with great tips for unforgettable USA road trip adventures.

  • Comprehensive coverage of diverse trips
  • Provides “best of” lists for various categories
  • Easy geographic organization for trip planning
  • Small font size might be challenging for some readers
  • Some sections may be too brief for in-depth information
  • Focus on restaurants and wineries might be unnecessary for some

After exploring this travel guide , I found its comprehensive listing of 50 road trips to be quite inspiring. It covers various destinations, landscapes, and travel times, catering to different preferences and personalities. I truly enjoyed the “best of” lists for categories like scenic routes, quirky attractions, and budget-friendly trips.

The geographic organization of road trips is convenient, especially for those planning journeys around specific regions. While I appreciated the attempt to include a variety of helpful information, the print size was a bit too small for my liking, which made reading less enjoyable.

Interestingly, this travel guide also includes restaurant and winery recommendations. Though it may be helpful for some readers, others might find this information unnecessary for their road trip needs. Personally, I prefer focusing on attractions and natural sites.

Fodor’s Bucket List USA: From the Epic to the Eccentric, 500+ Ultimate Experiences

Fodor's Bucket List USA

This travel guide is perfect for those who want a comprehensive and inspiring guide to lesser-known experiences in the USA.

  • Wide array of destinations and experiences
  • Clear and concise descriptions
  • Full-color, visually appealing layout
  • Some faulty pages reported regarding print quality
  • Smaller format than expected
  • May not cover all popular tourist spots

This travel guide has piqued my curiosity and introduced me to an array of places across the country — from epic landscapes to eccentric attractions. The book is organized by region, making it easy to plan my trips and find new destinations I hadn’t considered before.

One of the things I appreciate the most is that this travel guide doesn’t only provide information about famous attractions. It also focuses on lesser-known gems that contribute to a well-rounded and diverse experience. The entries are detailed, and the high-quality images set my expectations before visiting, making them even more exciting when finally at the destination.

However, I must mention that some might find the smaller format somewhat limiting. People with visual challenges or those who prefer larger prints may struggle a bit with this. Additionally, a few fellow reviewers reported issues with the print quality, but my copy was in perfect condition. If you’re looking for a guide with a more extensive list of popular tourist spots, this may not be your top choice.

Lonely Planet USA’s Best Trips

Lonely Planet USA's Best Trips 4

This guide is a must-have for anyone planning a USA road trip, with comprehensive trip ideas and useful information.

  • Packed with diverse road trip options
  • Covers various regions across the USA
  • Includes useful information on places to visit
  • Limited details on accommodation and dining options
  • Some readers may find the historical perspective unbalanced
  • May require additional research or resources for complete planning

I just started using Lonely Planet’s “USA’s Best Trips,” and I’m already in love with the diverse road trip routes it offers. The guide breaks down trips by region, so I can easily find options for the areas I’m most interested in exploring. It’s been an invaluable resource for me to start planning my next adventure.

The information about places to visit along each route is helpful, providing a sense of what each destination has to offer. However, I noticed that the guide is a bit lacking in terms of dining and lodging options. I have to turn to other resources to find places to stay and eat during my journey, which can be a bit inconvenient.

Aside from that, some readers may take issue with the treatment of historical context within the guide. While I appreciate the inclusion of history and cultural information, it’s essential to approach these topics objectively and consider the complexities of the past.

National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways, 5th Edition

National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways

This guide is a fantastic companion for anyone looking to explore the scenic routes of the United States.

  • Comprehensive coverage of 300 scenic drives
  • Detailed and easy-to-follow directions
  • Durable and high-quality printing
  • Smaller size than expected
  • Some popular routes may be crowded
  • GPS coordinates not included

The National Geographic “Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways, 5th Edition” provides numerous picturesque routes to follow and allows you to discover hidden gems and spectacular places along the way, such as old Route 66. The guide’s durability will easily withstand constant use even if your kids are fighting over who gets to look at it next.

I appreciated the guide’s easy-to-read format and informative descriptions. However, after receiving the book, I noticed its size was significantly smaller than expected. Despite the small size, the high-quality print and beautiful images did not disappoint.

On the other hand, one helpful addition would have been GPS coordinates for the starting and ending points of the scenic routes. And, some of the more popular routes will likely be quite busy with other tourists, which can be both a pro and a con depending on personal preference. If you prefer less crowded routes, check out alternative scenic drives.

Best Travel Guides for Visiting US National Parks

If you’re looking to explore US national parks, these travel guides will help you plan a more in-depth trip and expose you to options you might miss in some of the less detailed travel books.

Moon Best of Yellowstone & Grand Teton: Make the Most of One to Three Days in the Parks

Moon Best of Yellowstone & Grand Teton

Another winner from Moon Publishing, this is a must-have guide for an unforgettable experience in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks.

  • Comprehensive and practical information
  • Customized plans for various time frames
  • Excellent advice on hikes and wildlife viewing
  • Can be overwhelming with too many options
  • Not enough visuals and maps
  • May need supplement material for in-depth research

I particularly appreciated the variety of suggested itineraries presented in Moon’s “Best of Yellowstone & Grand Teton: Make the Most of One to Three Days in the Parks,” catering to different durations and interests.

Whether you have half a day or several days to spend in each park, the guide provides useful recommendations on what to see, when to visit, and which trails to hike. The author’s favorite hikes were spot on as they offered stunning views and memorable experiences.

Despite its many advantages, I did notice a few areas where the guide could improve. While the content was abundant and well-written, the lack of visuals and maps occasionally made it challenging to navigate and locate specific points of interest. In this regard, you might want to consult additional resources for more detailed geographical information.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that the guide is so packed with options that it can be overwhelming. You might find yourself struggling to prioritize which activities to pursue. Nevertheless, this is arguably a small issue compared to the overall value the book provides.

Fodor’s The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West

Fodor's The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West

This travel guide is an essential companion for exploring the National Parks of the West thoroughly yet concisely.

  • Comprehensive coverage of 38 western national parks
  • Includes helpful itinerary suggestions
  • Useful information on nearby towns for amenities and lodging
  • Alphabetical organization instead of regional
  • Lacks in-depth details for some parks

This book serves as a reliable source of information because it covers a whopping 38 parks, providing insightful suggestions on what to see and do within each one. It not only comes with recommendations for main attractions but also includes guidance for accommodations, dining, and supplies in nearby towns.

What I found less helpful, however, was the way the book was organized. The parks were listed alphabetically rather than regionally, making it slightly inconvenient to plan an efficient road trip. Additionally, I found that information on some of the parks was relatively basic and lacking in comprehensive details.

Best USA Destination Travel Guide Books

Sometimes, you’re not looking to explore the entire US but just a specific destination. These are a few of my favorite USA destination-specific travel guidebooks, all of which are available to purchase on Amazon.

Fodor’s California: With the Best Road Trips (Full-Color Travel Guide)

Fodor's California Travel Guide

Fodor’s “California” is a comprehensive and colorful guide that’s perfect for those planning a road trip across the Golden State.

  • Great variety of destinations and road trips
  • Useful tips on dining and accommodation options
  • Well-organized and user-friendly layout
  • Lacks images of some attractions
  • Missing information on some iconic places
  • Physical book could be difficult to navigate

I found Fodor’s “California” to be a valuable resource for exploring different regions and planning memorable road trips. It features a wide range of attractions, accommodations, and dining options, allowing me to discover hidden gems and make the most of my trip.

However, I noticed that the guide lacks images of some attractions, which would have been helpful for visualizing destinations before visiting. In addition, the book omits information on some notable locations, such as the Reagan Library, Nixon Library, and La Brea Tar Pits, making it slightly incomplete for those interested in these specific landmarks.

While planning a future adventure, I appreciated the well-organized layout and user-friendly format. The inclusion of interesting facts and local insights added a personal touch to the experience, making me feel like I was part of the Californian culture.

On the downside, the physical book can be a bit challenging to navigate, especially because of its small print and inability to lay flat. An e-book option or a larger print edition would be welcome for travelers who may have difficulty reading small text.

Fodor’s Boston 25 Best (Full-Color Travel Guide)

Fodor's Boston 25 Best

This travel guide is a must-have for anyone planning to explore Boston for the first time or anyone who is rediscovering the city’s hidden gems.

  • Comprehensive and well-written
  • Compact and lightweight
  • 128 pages of valuable information
  • Limited to 25 best places
  • Lacks detailed information about lesser-known spots
  • May not cover recent changes in the city

Fodor’s “25 Best Boston” focuses on the 25 best places to visit in the city, making it a great resource for first-time visitors. The descriptions of each location are comprehensive and well-written, providing engaging insights into the history, significance, and atmosphere of each attraction.

The compact size and lightweight design of the guide made it easy to carry around as I traversed Boston’s historic streets. The 128 pages of valuable information ensured that I maximized my limited time in the city, visiting the top attractions and having unforgettable experiences.

However, I must admit that the guide has a few limitations. Since it is primarily centered around the 25 best places in Boston, it lacks detailed information on lesser-known spots that might be of interest to seasoned travelers or those interested in niche attractions.

Additionally, given that the book’s publication date is back in 2018, there might be updates or changes in the city that the guide doesn’t cover.

Fodor’s Pacific Northwest

Fodor's Pacific Northwest

Fodor’s “Pacific Northwest” is a comprehensive guide for travelers looking to explore the beautiful landscapes and cities of the Pacific Northwest.

  • Up-to-date information and reviews
  • Covers major attractions in the region
  • Full-color, high-quality photos
  • Poor bookbinding and print quality
  • Lacks coverage of some key destinations
  • Maps could use more detail

As I recently planned a trip to the Pacific Northwest, I found Fodor’s “Pacific Northwest” guide to be a helpful companion. From exploring Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver to discovering the charm of small towns and the beauty of Oregon and Washington, this well-rounded guide came in handy.

The book is filled with up-to-date information and insightful reviews of attractions, accommodations, and dining options throughout the region. The full-color and high-quality photos were visually appealing, providing a glimpse into what to expect in each destination. I genuinely appreciated the coverage of major attractions, such as Crater Lake National Park and Pike Place Market.

However, as much as I enjoyed using the guide, I was disappointed by its binding and print quality. It was difficult to read content near the bind, and the photos weren’t as sharp as the older Fodor’s guides that I’ve used in the past.

Plus, I felt that the guide could have covered a few more key destinations in the region, making it more comprehensive. Lastly, while the maps were helpful, they lacked the detail I needed to navigate some areas precisely.

Fodor’s Essential Southwest

Fodor's Essential Southwest

This is a comprehensive guide for exploring the best of the Southwest in the US, but keep in mind its older publication date requires double-checking all the details before making plans.

  • Extensive coverage of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah
  • Full-color illustrations and maps
  • Thorough descriptions of natural sites and scenic drives
  • Publication date means it may not have up-to-date details
  • Some users reported missing pages in their copies
  • Paper quality may not be as high as in previous Fodor’s guides

After recently using Fodor’s “Essential Southwest” for my journey through the American Southwest, I found it to be quite informative and valuable. The guide covers a vast region, including Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah, which allowed me to plan my trip efficiently.

I particularly enjoyed the full-color illustrations and maps included in the guide. They not only provided an excellent visual aid but also helped me get a better sense of the areas I was visiting. Additionally, the book offers thorough descriptions of natural sites, scenic drives, and various activities, which helped me maximize my time at each destination.

One downside, however, is that the 2021 publication date means that certain information may not accurately reflect the current state of things, such as open restaurants and hotels. I would recommend double-checking all details before making plans to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Another issue some users encountered was missing pages in their copies. Though I did not personally experience this, it is something to be aware of when purchasing. Lastly, the paper quality seems to be lower compared to previous editions of Fodor’s guides. While this did not impact my overall experience, it might be a point of consideration for some travelers.

Best Travel Books Buying Guide

Remember that investing time in researching and comparing different travel guides will pay off in making your USA journey a memorable one. When I’m choosing the best travel guidebook for the USA, there are several features I look for to ensure that I’m getting the most accurate and helpful information.

1. Updated Information

Since landscapes, businesses, and attractions can change over time, I make sure the guide is updated regularly. This helps me avoid outdated information that might lead to schedule disruptions or disappointments. Always look for the most recent edition available.

2. Comprehensive Coverage

The USA is a vast country with diverse attractions. Hence, the travel guide should cover all aspects of tourism — various destinations, accommodation options, transportation, experiences, and local culture. It should have ample information to cater to different budgets and preferences too.

3. User Friendliness

A well-organized travel guide makes my planning process much smoother. Guides with clear headings, indexes, maps, and concise information are my preference. Moreover, the inclusion of an eBook version or a mobile app can help me carry the information on the go.

4. Travel Tips & Advice

A good travel guide offers practical tips and advice that’ll reward me with a better travel experience. This may include packing suggestions, local customs and etiquette, safety precautions, and essential phrases or words to know.

5. Reviews & Recommendations

Ultimately, a helpful travel guide will have reviews and recommendations from other travelers. Their insights can shed light on the pros and cons of specific attractions or accommodations. Consider guides that list reader feedback alongside expert opinions.

FAQs About the Best Travel Books for the USA

What are some famous travel guidebooks for the usa.

I always recommend a few well-known US travel book publishers. Some of my personal favorites are Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, Rick Steves, and Frommer’s. Each of these publishers covers a wide range of destinations, itineraries, and tips for every type of traveler looking to explore the US.

Which US travel guides are best for first-time visitors?

If you’re a first-time visitor to the US, I suggest starting with Lonely Planet or Fodor’s travel guides. Both of these are very comprehensive and beginner-friendly, offering clear and concise information on planning your trip, popular attractions, and local customs.

For a budget-conscious traveler, Rick Steves tends to focus on affordable options, while Frommer’s is great for people interested in a luxurious experience.

Are there any free travel guide resources for the US?

Absolutely! There are many free resources for you to explore before your trip to the US. Websites like RootedWanderings.com can provide helpful information about different destinations, attractions, and itineraries.

Additionally, many US states and cities have tourism websites that offer free guides and maps. VisitMaine.net is the unofficial visitor’s guide to Maine, and AwesomeMitten.com helps travelers plan their adventures in Michigan. Other examples include RootedinOhio.com and WanderingSmokyMountains.com .

To find these, simply search for the city name along with “visitor’s guide” or “tourism office” for access to those resources. Happy travels!

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Ashley Pichea is the Content Manager for RootedWanderings.com and curates in-depth travel guides and deep-dives on hidden gem destinations across the US for sites like AwesomeMitten.com , VisitMaine.net , and more. When she's not geeking out over SEO, you'll find her exploring the Midwest with her husband and five kids.

Divergent Travelers

Ultimate USA Travel Guide

The United States is located in  North America  and the capital is Washington DC. We call this country home and our USA travel guide is here to help you figure out some of the best places to visit in this massive country.

The USA is a wildly diverse place offering mega-cities, vast National Parks and everything you can think of in between. It would take you a lifetime to explore every nook and cranny that it offers and most visitors limit their time to the popular cities or parks that reside on the well-beaten paths.

Even as citizens, there is a lot of this country that we have left to explore. This is an ongoing project of ours and as we discover more of this country, we’ll continue to publish stories and information that will help you plan your own trips.

To date, we’ve visited 35 of the 50 states and are currently focused on visiting the US National Parks.

TOP Destinations

Usa states guides, usa travel: quick tips, don’t visit the usa without:.


best travel guide for usa


best travel guide for usa


best travel guide for usa


See the big apple.

New York City is a bucket list stop for any USA visitor and for good reason! It’s a city we can’t get enough of and no two visits are the same. Check out our  NYC highlights  and  NYC budget advice .


This part of the USA is iconic and you’ll learn native history while discovering places like  St George , Kanab ,  Page ,  Horseshoe Bend ,  Antelope Canyon , and  Monument Valley . Of course, don’t forget the likes of Zion NP , Bryce NP , the Grand Canyon , and so many other Utah National Parks.


The drive from  Miami to Key West  through the Florida Keys is one of the best road trips in America! You’ll see the best of  Key Largo ,  Islamorada , Marathon &  Key West  along the way. 


There is no shortage of great things to do in the USA during your visit and the biggest problem you’ll face is fitting them all into your itinerary.

Each city, state and region has its own offering and unique things to check out during a visit, so be sure to look at our city guides once you decide where you’re itinerary will take you.

ROAD TRIP SW VIRGINIA:  If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience, then this one delivers. Plus you’ll get to experience some real live Americana while you’re at it.  Southwest Virginia  is full of natural gems and it’s a great place to be outdoors. You can hike parts of the Appalachian Trail, go horseback riding in the Grayson Highlands, bike the Virginia Creeper trail and much more.

ADVENTURE IN ASHEVILLE, NC:  Not only is  Asheville  and super cool city, but it’s also an amazing base to adventure in the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding state parks. If you enjoy hiking, white water rafting, kayaking, rock climbing and craft beer, you can’t go wrong here.

HEAD TO THE OUTER BANKS:  Also located in North Carolina is the beach destination of the  Outer Banks . Not only can you find seven US National Park service sites here, but it’s also the birthplace of flight. Relax on the beaches, see the many lighthouses and learn the history of the first settlers that arrived in America.

EXPLORE ALASKA:  Nothing really compares to the wonders that  Alaska  holds and you’ll spend your entire visit in awe.  Cruise the Inside Passage , play in one or more of  Alaska’s 8 National Parks ,  road trip  from  Anchorage  to  Fairbanks , head into the Arctic or explore the Kenai Peninsula. You won’t be bored.

ALOHA HAWAII:  One of the most exotic destinations in the USA is  Hawaii , a set of islands in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of the continental US.  Choose between the 8 islands  depending on your interests. We found the history in Honolulu interesting and love all things  Maui .

HANG OUT IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA:   Los Angeles  is easily one of the most unique cities in the USA, so make some time for it when you visit the West Coast. We also enjoy the beach vibes and amazing Mexican food in  San Diego . For the best of both worlds, plan a  road trip from LA to San Diego . This route follows the coastline for fantastic views.

VIVA LAS VEGAS:  Try your luck at the casinos and take in the best of Sin City on a visit to Las Vegas. There’s plenty to keep you busy in the city but don’t miss the incredible  day trips from Las Vegas  too. You can even see the  Grand Canyon .

EXPLORE THE DESERT IN LAUGHLIN:  Much like a mini Las Vegas,  Laughlin  is a place that we were so surprised by when we visited. Set right on the stunning Colorado River, this city has a small strip but a huge gateway to adventure around Lake Mohave, the surrounding mountains and desert. You can also head to places like Lake Havasu and drive part of Route 66  to Oatman .

DON’T FORGET THE UPPER MIDWEST:  The states that border the Great Lakes of Superior and Michigan are often overlooked but worth the trip. Connect with nature in  Minnesota  and drive the North Shore of the largest freshwater lake in the world. In Wisconsin, stop off in our hometown of  Superior, WI , or head to the Apostle Islands .


The USA is a big foodie destination, and it’s impossible not to enjoy the food culture when you travel to the United States. Everywhere has its own specialty dishes; just remember that portions are usually more substantial than elsewhere in the world!

Hamburgers ,  pizza , and  apple pies  are everywhere, but American food is much more than this. In New York, start the day with  fresh bagels . In Texas, dig into spicy  Tex-Mex burritos , in California, enjoy everything from  Tacos  to  Korean BBQ .

There’s  pot roast ,  Mac & Cheese ,  Key Lime Pie ,  Gumbo Soup , and so much more to eat when exploring the USA.

Head to the  wine-growing regions  for some of the world’s best grapes or target cities like Milwaukee or Austin for surprisingly creative  craft beer  scenes.


There are so many events and festivals held across the USA each year; they make a unique addition to any United States travel itinerary.

Festivals and events can be really varied, ranging from classic  Thanksgiving and Christmas  celebrations right through to the more eclectic  Burning Man  or  Coachella  festivals.

There are music festivals, huge sporting events such as the  Superbowl  or  World Series , and countless cultural and artistic festivals.

Spending  New Years  at Times Square is truly iconic, while  Mardi Gras  in New Orleans is simply spectacular!


Popular regions in the usa, west coast & southwest.

A West Coast USA travel itinerary would include the beautiful scenery of Washington, the spectacular beaches of California, and vibrant cities as diverse as Portland, Seattle, San Francisco,  San Diego , and of course,  Los Angeles . Add the Southwest to this supreme region, and you’ll also be visiting the vast state of Texas, the deserts and  canyons of Arizona , and the glitzy casinos of  Las Vegas . This huge area of the USA is home to the  Grand Canyon , Hollywood, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and so much more. This is prime road tripping territory, so rent an RV and cruise from city to city, and national park to national park. 

The Deep South is one of the most culturally interesting places you could explore when traveling to the United States of America. This unique region is generally said to encompass states such as Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana, but could also include Texas, Florida, and other states. Visitors to the Deep South will be able to delve into the local culture, from country music to delicious food. There’s incredible scenery to explore, iconic attractions such as Graceland to visit, and incredible cities such as New Orleans to experience.

The Midwest is yet another broad area to travel to in the United States. This northern, central area stretches from Ohio in the east right across Michigan, Wisconsin , Minnesota , the Dakotas, and Nebraska. There are many magnificent landscapes to see in this part of the USA, but there are just as many great city destinations. Explore the Great Lakes, visit Chicago, the twin cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, call into Cleveland, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and so many more great places across the Midwest when you travel to the United States of America!

Alaska is the northernmost state in the USA and offers a beautiful blend of dramatic mountains, coastline, culture, wildlife, and coastal rainforests. Alaska is cold and dark for much of the year, but when it’s summer, the state is alive with wildlife and tourists. Cruise ships call into  Anchorage  and  Juneau  to enjoy the warmer weather. It’s also home to 8 National Parks including Denali National Park and Lake Clark National Park that offer an exceptional bear camp experience .

The East Coast is a classic USA travel destination that’s as diverse as it is exciting to explore. The East Coast is vast. Stretching from Maine’s cold climes, on the Canadian border, all the way south to the hot and humid climes of Florida. It’s a region packed full of history and heritage; this was the first place populated by Europeans, and it had a long indigenous history before this, too. Explore New England and the bustling yet iconic streets of  New York . Call into Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC, and the Appalachian Mountains. Then head south to the beaches of North Carolina in  the Outer Banks  and all the way south to the  Florida Keys .

Hawaii , on the other hand, is hot and humid all year long.  Oahu  and  Maui  are the most popular islands to visit out of the  8 islands  that make up the state. Vacationers flock to Hawaii to partake in rich Polynesian culture, relax on pristine beaches, scuba dive, hike, and so much more.


Setting a budget for USA travel is highly dependent on your travel style. It is possible to visit just about anywhere in the USA on any budget and still have a great trip. That said, you can make your trip as basic or as luxurious as you desire.

To help you set your budget, we’ve included some base range price estimations for travel within the United States. Of course, keep in mind that prices can fluctuate based on seasons, availability and festivals.

ACCOMMODATION:  Costs can vary dramatically from city to city (New York will be more expensive than most places, for instance!), but in general, hostels cost around USD 20 per night, while private rooms are going to be upwards of USD 50. Camping or RV rental can be a good way to save on accommodation costs when you travel to the United States.

FOOD:  Food can be found at a range of prices, but for the most part, food in the USA comes in huge portions and is of great value. Food trucks serve up great food for as little as USD 6 per person, while upmarket restaurants can be anywhere upwards of 60 USD (and there are options at any price range in between).

TRANSPORTATION:  Local transport is affordable in cities, costing just a few dollars. Car hire can be as low as 30 USD a day, while budget flights could also cost a similar price if you book well in advance.

ACTIVITIES:  Activity prices vary. Some museums are free; others may cost up to USD 20 for entrance. Day tours are in the range of 50-100 USD. Theme park tickets average at around USD 100 per day.


This will pay for dorm beds or campsites, public transport, and local eats from food trucks or the supermarket. Push this budget up to USD 100 to include a few day tours and extra activities or the odd private room.

100-200 USD PER DAY

Travelers looking for private rooms and renting a car for the duration of their travels will need to budget for at least USD 100. Push this up to USD 200 to include day tours or private tours and regular meals at restaurants.


The low end will cover private rooms and fine restaurants. Push this to $500/day for luxury resorts, fine dining, and private transport. In the USA, if you have money, there are plenty of ways to spend it!


Transport options vary from region to region. Many travelers on long term tours of the USA, will choose to rent a car or hire an RV for a road trip. If this isn’t an option for you, the quickest way to get from one city to the next is by flying (it’s often cost-effective, too).

Long-distance buses link cities, as do limited rail services. The east coast will have better transport options than rural areas in the mid-west, for instance, so plan your transport well before you leave.

FLIGHTS:  The United States is very well connected by flights, to even the smallest of towns. That said, you’ll struggle to find any resemblance to a true budget airline, so expect this to be the most expensive option for transportation. If you’re short on time and not traveling on a budget, flying the is the best way to see multiple areas during your visit.

BUS:  Unlike train service, the interstate and state bus services are good and will connect you anywhere you need to go if you have unlimited time to explore. The Greyhound company will take you coast to coast and everywhere in between for reasonable prices.

CAR RENTAL:  Many people choose to fly into major city hubs and then rent cars to explore a radius of that city. This is a great way to see the USA because the country has good roads that connect both cities and natural wonders across the country.  Check out  Discover Rental Cars  for great deals.

TRAIN:  Train service is elusive, but possible if you’re patient and determined. The AMTRAK operates primarily on the east coast, with some routing to the Midwest. High-speed trains do not exist and train travel is rather antiquated and expensive.

RV RENTAL:  Similar to car rentals, hopping in an RV and hitting the road in the USA is super popular. There are campgrounds that cater to RV’s everywhere across the country. If you want to be closer to nature and not worry about hotels, this is a great way to explore the country. 

TOURS:  Lastly, joining organized tours is a great option if you have limited time but want to cover a lot of ground during your visit. Numerous tour companies, both big and small, operate throughout the entire country offering catered to itineraries for seeing the best of America.


National parks & bright lights.

15 Days Los Angeles to San Francisco Visits: Yosemite, Death Valley, Vegas, Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon & more


8 Days from Anchorage Visits: Anchorage, Seward, Talkeetna & Denali National Park


9 Days Las Vegas to San Francisco Visits: Death Valley, Sequoia, Kings Canyon & Yosemite


The USA is such a vast country that it’s impossible to say when the best time to visit is. It all depends on where you’re planning to travel to in the USA.

If you’re visiting Alaska , go in summer. If you’re traveling to Hawaii, go in the dry season and avoid the Christmas holidays.

For the northern stretches of the east and west coast, you’ll enjoy the temperate climate best in summer, but for great hiking, you can also experience the autumnal shades in fall or the pleasant scenery in spring.

The south is hot and humid in summer, so try to visit in winter, when it’s much cooler and likely to be dry. California and Florida are great year-round!

For more in-depth information, check out:

  • Best Time to Visit Alaska
  • Best Time to Visit Maui


Safety in the usa.

For most travelers, a trip to the USA is going to go off without a hitch, because it’s a relatively safe place to visit. In some cities, like in all countries, there are places that are best avoided but stick to the tourist trail if you’re in doubt, and you will be fine.

Follow common-sense travel rules when visiting the USA. Watch out for petty thieves, be careful if you’re driving in unfamiliar territory, and generally just stay aware of your surroundings and up to date on any extreme weather warnings.

Lastly, the United States is home to many predatory and venomous animals. If you’re out exploring the National Parks, State Parks or really anywhere that has you interacting with nature, be prepared.

Heed the information given at all places about wildlife interaction and follow the rules to ensure your safety. Also, stay on the trail and be prepared if you’re  heading off to hike .

We’ve been traveling internationally for more than 20 years and heed the same travel  safety tips  in our home country as we would traveling abroad.


Usa travel guide: related articles.

Looking for more info? Check out all the articles we’ve written on travel to United States and start planning your dream trip.

15 Least Visited National Parks in the USA (And How to Visit Them)

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Divergent Travelers- Adventure Travel Blog

USA Travel Guides

best travel guide for usa

Explore a destination in the USA to see the top hotels and top things to do, as well as photos and tips from U.S. News Travel.

All USA Travel Guides

  • Acadia National Park
  • Adirondacks
  • Albuquerque
  • Anaheim-Disneyland
  • Arches National Park
  • Asheville, NC
  • Atlantic City
  • Baton Rouge
  • Breckenridge
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Burlington, VT
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Charleston, SC
  • Charlottesville
  • Chattanooga
  • Clearwater Beach
  • Colorado Springs
  • Columbus, OH
  • Corpus Christi
  • Daytona Beach
  • Fort Collins
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Glacier National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Grand Rapids
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Greenville, SC
  • Gulf Shores
  • Hawaii - The Big Island
  • Hilton Head
  • Honolulu - Oahu
  • Hot Springs, AR
  • Huntington Beach
  • Indianapolis
  • Jackson Hole
  • Jacksonville
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Kansas City
  • Kaua'i
  • Kennebunkport
  • Laguna Beach
  • Lake George
  • Little Rock
  • Long Beach, CA
  • Los Angeles
  • Madison, WI
  • Martha's Vineyard
  • Miami Beach
  • Minneapolis - St. Paul
  • Mount Rainier National Park
  • Myrtle Beach
  • Napa Valley
  • New Orleans
  • New York City
  • Newport Beach
  • Newport, RI
  • Ocean City, MD
  • Ocean City, NJ
  • Oklahoma City
  • Olympic National Park
  • Outer Banks
  • Palm Springs
  • Panama City Beach
  • Philadelphia
  • Pigeon Forge
  • Pismo Beach
  • Portland, ME
  • Portland, OR
  • Rehoboth Beach
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Salt Lake City
  • San Antonio
  • San Francisco
  • Sanibel Island
  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Monica
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Shenandoah National Park
  • South Padre Island
  • St. Augustine
  • St. Petersburg, FL
  • Steamboat Springs
  • Tallahassee
  • The Berkshires
  • The Finger Lakes
  • The Poconos
  • Traverse City
  • Virginia Beach
  • Washington, D.C.
  • West Palm Beach
  • Williamsburg
  • Wilmington, NC
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Zion National Park

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Nomadic Matt's Travel Site

Travel Better, Cheaper, Longer

United States Travel Guide

Last Updated: November 10, 2023

sunset over the Grand Canyon, United States

The United States isn’t a popular destination for backpackers and budget travelers. Most overseas tourists come here for a short vacation, visit one or two cities, and then head home. They usually stick to the big coastal cities or places like Disney.

And it wasn’t until COVID that Americans en-masse bothered to hop in their cars and explore their backyard.

The U.S. is massive country without a lot of tourist infrastructure or good cross-country transportation. Hostels haven’t quite caught on, trains don’t go to many places, and we don’t offer working holiday visas to attract young working backpackers. In short, it’s hard to get around.

However, the United States has a lot to offer: stunning national parks, gorgeous landscapes, incredible and diverse culture, world-class music, and a variety of delicious cuisine that varies from region to region.

I think the U.S. is one of the best destinations in the world to road trip . I’ve done several multi-month road trips across the United States . While the coastal cities are fun, the U.S. really reveals itself in the middle and countryside (it’s much more affordable there too). It’s in the nooks and crannies of America that you get a sense of its quirks.

But even if you aren’t spending months visiting the country in a car, there’s still a lot you can do via train, bus, or plane.

This travel guide to the United States can help you navigate the country, save money, and get off the beaten path.

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on the United States

Click Here for City Guides

Top 5 things to see and do in the united states.

Dramatic, jagged mountains in front of an expansive blue lake with a small, tree-covered island in the middle, in Glacier National Park, United States.

1. Explore New York City

The city that never sleeps is one of the greatest cities in the world. There’s nothing you can’t do or see and you’ll find every language and food from around the world here. To me, it’s the heart of the world. From world-class museums and art galleries to innovative theater performances to unique restaurants to the expansive Central Park, you can fill a lifetime of activities here. Check out my detailed guide for everything you need to do .

2. Visit the Grand Canyon

Words can’t describe how epic the Grand Canyon is. It’s simply breathtaking. Most people just look out at the canyon from the overlook at the top, but its vast size and beauty are best appreciated with a hike down to the Colorado River so try to do that if you have time (make the time). Just be sure to bring plenty of water if you’re going in the hotter months!

3. Discover Austin

The warm weather, lively honky-tonks, funky house bars on Rainey Street, amazing walking and biking trails, tons of outdoor activities — Austin is great. It’s one of the best cities in the U.S., boasting a combination of nature, city, and delicious food. Be sure to binge on BBQ while you’re here!

4. Visit Glacier National Park

This is my favorite national park in the country. It’s home to gorgeous snow-topped mountains, a beautiful lake from which to admire said mountains, large glaciers, and hiking trails galore. It is one of the most mind-blowing places I’ve seen on my adventures. (If you plan to visit multiple national parks while traveling throughout the United States, it’s worth it to get the America the Beautiful Park Pass, which costs just $80 USD and provides entry to all the national parks for a year.)

5. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast is considered one of the most scenic landscapes in the world, offering sheer cliffs, forests descending to the shoreline, miles of beaches, and giant redwoods. The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is part of California State Route 1, one of the longest historic state highways in the country. The route takes 10 hours without stopping but I recommend dedicating at least several days to enjoy all the great stops along the way.

Other Things to See and Do in the United States

NOTE: There’s a lot to do in the United States and you can spend months traveling around the country . I could write an entire book on the places to visit! This is just a list to give you some ideas. Be sure to check out some of my other blog posts and city specific guides (scroll to the bottom of this guide for links) for more suggestions.

1. Have fun in Memphis

Gritty and industrial, Memphis appears like its best days are behind it. But don’t let the rough exterior fool you — the city is home to some killer food and a vibrant blues music scene. It is a cool city with boisterous and friendly locals. I love the vibe here. There’s Graceland (Elvis’s home) for fans of the King, a big waterfront for walking, and the phenomenal Museum of Civil Rights (it’s huge, so don’t rush it!). The city is going through a big revival right now. To use a cliché, it’s a hidden gem as most people, to their detriment, skip over it.

2. Discover Asheville

Asheville is full of tasty craft beer, great whole food, and plenty of outdoor loving residents. The beautiful Smoky Mountains are a short drive away, Asheville Botanical Gardens are right near the university, and the gigantic Biltmore estate (the largest privately-owned home in the U.S. and once home to George Vanderbilt) is on the outskirts of the city. (If you’ve ever seen Downton Abbey, that’s what the house is like!) The town has a lot of parks and there are a lot of beautiful biking and hiking trails that you can get to from the center of town.

3. Explore Redwood National Park

Along the Pacific Coast is Redwood National Park, a huge expanse of towering redwood trees filled with picnic areas, places to camp, and miles upon miles of hiking trails. Trails range from easy to strenuous, and there are many loops that head out to nearby beaches. The trees range from 200-240 feet tall. It’s utterly beautiful, awe-inspiring, and humbling in every way. Admission is free, though the three adjoining state parks (Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park) each charge $5 USD.

4. Explore Denver

Known as the Mile High City (the city is one mile above sea level), Denver offers a mix of outdoor ruggedness and big-city living. It has a huge craft beer scene, excellent restaurants (including, Sushi Sasa, one of my favorite sushi restaurants), a large international airport with lots of connections, and is close to the mountains. It’s clean, lively, and the locals are incredibly friendly.

5. Get off-the-beaten-path in Natchez

I was surprised by Natchez . I didn’t know anything about it when it was recommended as a place to see historic 19th-century homes. These mansions were built by white plantation owners wanting to escape the summer heat and socialize with each other. As cotton became king, the houses became ever larger and more elaborate. Today, the homes are historic monuments you can tour while enjoying a view of the Mississippi River. It’s far off the beaten path and you’ll need a car to visit but it’s worth the trek.

6. Visit Savannah

Sitting on Georgia’s coast, Savannah escaped the wrath of the Civil War, allegedly because General Sherman thought it was too pretty to be destroyed. With streets lined with Spanish moss-covered oaks, large and inviting parks, and a bustling waterfront, Savannah is a wonderful place to experience the slow pace of the South.

7. Dive into Nashville’s music scene

Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. It’s got a wonderful music scene (duh), a growing cocktail bar culture, and some world-class down-home Southern restaurants. There’s not a lot of “touristy stuff” to do here, but what makes this city one of my favorites are the music, the food, the wildly friendly people, and the positive energy the city seems to exude. When you’re here, plan to spend a few hours at the Tennessee State Museum. It goes into detail about the state’s history (and it’s more exciting than you might think!).

8. Catch some rays in sunny San Diego

I love San Diego. San Diego’s weather is almost always perfect, leading to a permanently happy population that’s friendly and outgoing and that loves the outdoors. From hiking, days at the beach, or running, people here love to get out and enjoy the sun. The downtown Gaslamp area — as well as the famous Pacific Beach — is full of trendy restaurants, bustling bars, and some seriously life-changing taco stalls.

9. Get tipsy in California’s Wine Country

California is home to some of the best wine in the world, and a visit to the Sonoma or Napa Valley shouldn’t be missed. While Sonoma is cheaper than Napa, both these destinations are meant for splashing out. Take a tour, book a cozy vineyard Airbnb, and enjoy a relaxing few days learning about the region’s wines. Tastings usually cost between $15-20 USD.

10. Hike around Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is impressive and beautiful. Ringed by tiny mountain communities, this is a terrific place for hiking and boating in the summer and skiing in the winter. For fun in the sun, be sure to spend some time lounging at Kings Beach. For hikes, check out the Rubicon Trail (16 miles/25.7 kilometers) or the Cascade Falls Trail (1.4 miles/2.2 kilometers).

11. Anywhere in Montana

A lot has been written about how stunning Montana is, but words cannot do this state justice. To me, it’s the most beautiful state in the Union, filled with wondrous mountains and hills as far as the eye can see. It’s a nature-lover’s paradise and there is a huge craft beer scene here too, with tons of local breweries all around the state.

12. Relax in Cape Cod

I spent a lot of summers on the Cape since it’s where New Englanders escape for the summer. You’ll find plenty of small beach towns along the coast (Provincetown and Hyannis being the most famous but I also love Chatham, Falmouth, Wellfleet, and Brewster). If you’re looking for seafood, beaches, boardwalks, and that perfect family vacation, visit the Cape!

13. Explore Deadwood

Tucked away in western South Dakota, this town was famous during the Old West days (noteworthy enough to be the focus of the eponymous HBO series). Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, and many other infamous gunslingers all spent time here. Sort of kitschy and re-created, it’s nonetheless a very cool place where you can experience a taste of the old frontier days. It’s also conveniently located near the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore so you can use it as a base for exploring the region.

14. Be surprised by Kansas City

I really loved this city, which features some of the world’s best BBQ and a lively downtown core. There’s a detailed and enlightening jazz museum here, as well as the eye-opening Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (that’s the actual name). This is yet another super underrated and under-visited destination.

15. Stay weird in Portland

Portland is incredible. Here you’ll find an impressive food truck scene, cool bespoke bars and cocktail lounges, a craft beer scene that’s religion to residents, relaxing parks (including a peaceful Japanese garden), a vibrant art scene, and hiking in the nearby mountains. Portland is just an awesome city, especially in the summer when the weather is perfect and there are festivals and events galore.

16. Hike our national parks

America has 63 national parks as well as countless state and local parks. These parks highlight the best of the American wilderness. Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, the Smokey Mountains, Rocky Mountain Park, the Badlands — the list goes on. Make sure you visit as many national parks as you can to get a sense of the grand and diverse landscape that is the United States. You can use this government map to find a park near you! If you plan to visit multiple parks, get the America the Beautiful Park Pass, which costs just $80 USD and gets you free entry to all the national parks for a year.

17. Admire the architecture in Chicago

One of my favorite cities in the world, Chicago is full of amazing architecture, great parks, good food, and a fun nightlife. Don’t miss trying deep-dish pizza (it was invented here, along with stuffed-crust pizza) and seeing the iconic “Bean” sculpture in Millennium Park. They also host one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the country.

18. Enjoy Mardi Gras in New Orleans

This French-influenced city has incredible seafood and Cajun cuisine and even better live music. A visit to New Orleans is a must for any jazz or blues fan. Live music is available seven nights a week (my favorite venue is the Spotted Cat) and there are also tons of amazing walking tours that highlight the city’s unique culture and history (including ghost and voodoo tours). If you plan on celebrating Mardi Gras in NOLA , book early. Accommodations fill up fast.

19. Hang out in Hawaii

Closer to Asia than the United States, Hawaii is America’s slice of South Pacific paradise. White sands beaches, clear blue water, tropical jungle, and great surf — Hawaii has it all! Don’t miss the the otherworldly landscapes of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the somber memorial at Pearl Harbor, and the hikes at Diamond Head and the Lanikai Pillbox Trail near Honolulu. Every island has it’s own vibe so, if you can, visit more than one.

20. Check out Boston

The birthplace of the revolution (and my hometown), no one leaves Boston disappointed. It’s a big city, but its lack of high-rises, as well as its cobblestone streets and brick buildings, give the city a small-town feel. The Freedom Trail, which covers all the main historic stops, is a must because it gives you a look at the city’s historic past. Be sure to lounge in the Boston Common and catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park too (the city is big on sports).

21. Visit the nation’s capital

America’s capital is home to many of the best museums in the country. And, given the large number of international embassy workers here, it’s unsurprising one of the most international city’s in the country. Don’t miss the National Mall and all its monuments, the Holocaust Museum, and the various Smithsonian Museums (some of the best are the Air and Space Museum, the Museum of the American Indian, the African American Museum, the National Zoo, the Smithsonian Castle, and the American Art Museum). If you visit in the spring, you’ll get to see the cherry blossoms bloom along the Mall.

22. Learn about Mt. Rushmore

Completed in 1941, this historic monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota is a lot smaller than you expect, but it makes a good stop while driving. Originally, the indigenous Lakota Sioux inhabited this area, however, when gold was found in the hills, white settlers forcibly removed them from their homeland. At the Wounded Knee massacre, U.S. forces killed over 250 indigenous women and children. Decades later, Rushmore was built, much to the dismay of the local indigenous population, who consider the land to be sacred. Take a guided tour to learn more about this iconic monument’s complex and tragic history.

23. Be a kid at Disney World

Sure, it’s cheesy . Yes, it’s built for kids. True, it’s not authentic. But despite all that, Disney World is still a fun time and they have a lot of rides for adults too. I recently went back as an adult and there’s a lot to do there: they have some good restaurants, and Disney Springs has a fun nightlife. If you are in Florida, take a stop for a few days. Indulge your inner child. Tickets cost around $110 USD per day and go up from there.

24. Hike the Appalachian Mountains

Stretching the east coast of America, these mountains are almost 500 million years old and offer great hiking, camping, and trekking. For a multi-month adventure, hike the 2,190-mile (3,524-kilometer) Appalachian Trail which covers the entire mountain range and takes 5-7 months to complete. You can also do day hikes or weekend hikes of its various sections if you want a more manageable outdoor getaway.

25. Unwind in Put-In-Bay

One of the coolest, not-so-hidden places in the U.S. is this group of islands in Lake Erie. Widely known to Midwesterners (but unknown to most everyone else), South Bass Island is home to Put-in-Bay, where Midwest hospitality meets Caribbean vibes (you ride around in golf carts and bars have sand as floors). My favorite spot is Mojito Bay, an outdoor tiki bar with sand floors and swings for bar seats that offers up more than 25 different mojitos. These places get very wild on the weekends too.

26. Explore Maine

Tucked away up in the northeast, Maine evokes images of endless shorelines, wild forests, iconic lighthouses, and lots and lots of lobster dinners. It’s often overlooked yet it’s incredibly beautiful and perfect for a short road trip. Don’t miss trying lobster rolls (a regional favorite) and hiking in Acadia National Park. Portland has some great eateries (such as Duckfat and Eventide Oyster Co.) and picturesque historic lighthouses, including Maine’s oldest operating lighthouse, the Portland Head Light, which opened in 1791 when George Washington was president.

27. Take a road trip

The only good way to see this vast and diverse landscape and the small towns that populate it is with a road trip . I highly suggest renting a car and driving across the U.S. It’s an amazing experience. I’ve done several coast-to-coast trips as well as regional trips around New England , California , and the South . It’s the best way to see the country and you can do it for under $50 USD a day.

For the best rental car deals, use Discover Cars .

28. Take a tour

You can find all sorts of amazing walking tours, bike tours, and food tours all around the country. They’re a great way to get an in-depth look at the city you’re in with the help of an expert local guide. Take Walks is my go-to walking tour company when I’m looking for something thorough and insightful (and fun). They can get you behind the scenes and are much more comprehensive than your average free walking tour. For a multi-day cross-country trip, go with Intrepid . I love their tours as they only bring small groups and they use expert local guides. Their tours are environmentally friendly too.

For information on specific cities in the United States, check out these city guides:

  • Austin Travel Guide
  • Boston Travel Guide
  • Chicago Travel Guide
  • Hawaii Travel Guide
  • Las Vegas Travel Guide
  • Los Angeles Travel Guide
  • Miami Travel Guide
  • New York Travel Guide
  • Philadelphia Travel Guide
  • San Francisco Travel Guide
  • Seattle Travel Guide
  • Washington D.C. Travel Guide

United States Travel Costs

Arched Bixby Creek Bridge along the Pacific Coast Highway, with lush hills in the background, in California, United States.

Accommodation – Hostels can be found in most major cities, though options are generally slim. A bed in a dorm room with 4-6 beds usually costs between $35-55 USD per night. Rooms with more beds are marginally cheaper. Private rooms are usually $100-125 USD. Expect prices on the higher end in bigger cities and during peak season. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels also have self-catering facilities. Hostels with free breakfast are rare.

If you plan on camping, expect to pay at least $10-20 USD per night for a basic tent plot for two without electricity.

Cheap motels usually cost around $60-70 USD per night and can be found along any highway. Expect basic amenities like TV, Wi-Fi, and AC. Some have pools.

Budget two-star hotels start at $90 USD per night (in major cities they start closer to $125 USD). The U.S. is very vast and prices fluctuate a lot depending on what region you’re in so check out the specific city guides listed above for more detailed information on accommodation. The United States is too diverse to pin down a specific number!

Airbnb is available around the country, with private rooms starting at $40 USD (though they usually average at least double that). For an entire home/apartment, expect to pay at least $100 USD per night. Prices in large cities are usually double.

Food – Food in America is relatively cheap and diverse. From seafood in New England to BBQ in the South to Tex-Mex and organic whole foods in the West to German influenced food in the Midwest, there is no singular food culture in the US. Every region has its own staples, which means you’ll never get bored of eating your way around the country.

Since the country is so big, costs vary a lot. What is $5 in Kansas is probably $15 in New York City. Below are country average prices but, if visiting a big metropolis/coastal city, add about 25% to the price.

Grab-and-go sandwiches usually cost around $7 USD while fast food costs $9 USD for a combo meal. Food trucks will cost between $10-15 USD. Mid-range casual restaurants cost between $25-30 USD for a meal and drink. At some place a little nicer (think white table cloth), expect to spend at least $60 USD per person on dinner. Prices go up from there and the sky is the limit. Again, there is a huge range here, and expect higher prices in larger cities.

You can generally find takeout pizzas for around $10-15 USD while Chinese and Thai cuisine start around $10-12 USD for a main dish.

Beer is around $6-8 USD, a glass of wine is $8-10 USD, and cocktails start at $14 in most cities (about $20 in NYC!). A latte/cappuccino is $4-5 USD and bottled water is $1.50 USD.

If you cook your own food, expect to pay about $60 USD per week for basic staples like rice, pasta, vegetables, and some meat.

Backpacking the United States Suggested Budgets

How much does it cost to visit the United States? Well, how much you spend largely depends on where in the United States you’re going to visit. For example, New York City is much more expensive than Memphis and San Francisco is going to hit your budget harder than Boise. The South is cheaper than the North and the interior states are cheaper than the coasts. The comparisons are endless; however, this overview can give you a basic look at what to expect based on your travel style.

On a backpacking budget of $75 USD per day, you can stay in a hostel, cook your meals, use public transportation to get around, limit your drinking, and do free activities like walking tours, hiking, and hanging out at beaches. If you plan on drinking, add another $10-20 USD per day. If you can camp or Couchsurf, you can likely get this down to $50-60 USD per day.

On a mid-range budget of $210 USD per day, you can stay in a private Airbnb or motel, eat out for most meals, drink more, take the occasional taxi to get around, and do more paid activities like museum visits and food tours.

On a “luxury” budget of $350 USD or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out pretty much anywhere you want, drink at the bar, rent a car to get around, and do as many guided tours and activities as you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!

You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.

United States Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

There are plenty of ways to save money when you travel the US but it varies a lot by region (as I’ve been repeating). The general tips below can help you get started but, for more specific tips, visit my city guides.

  • Take a free tour – Taking a free walking tour is the best way to get introduced to a new place, and most major cities in the U.S. have free walking tours. You get to see the main sights and ask all your questions to a local guide. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end!
  • Take the bus – The cheapest way to get around the U.S. is by bus. Bus fares cost as little as $1 USD, though 2-3-hour journeys are generally under $20 USD. Between cities, the best companies are Megabus, Greyhound, and FlixBus.
  • Redeem hotel points – Be sure to sign up for hotel credit cards before you go and use those points when you travel. This is especially helpful in big cities. Be aware that most hotels charge parking fees if you have a car.
  • Get a U.S. Park Pass – This national park pass lets you into all the national parks for free so you don’t have to keep paying admission. The annual fee is $80 USD and it pays for itself after four parks.
  • Cook – The United States has some of the cheapest groceries in the developed world, while eating out here can add up quickly once you factor in a tip and tax (which varies by state). Grocery shopping can cost less than $60 USD per week and is way cheaper and healthier than eating out every day. Cook and save!
  • Stay with a local – Couchsurfing lets you stay with a local for free, cutting your accommodation costs drastically. You’ll get to spend time with a local who can share their tips and advice while sharing your own travel stories and culture. You can also use the app to meet people for activities (coffee, museum visits, etc.) if you don’t feel comfortable staying with a stranger.
  • Camp – Most campsites start around $10-20 USD per night for a tent — much cheaper than a hostel. You can use nps.gov to find campsites run by the National Park Service. You can also camp for free in National Forests or Bureau Land Management (BLM) lands (search for “dispersed camping” options). Just be sure to respect the environment and follow Leave No Trace principles when camping.
  • Use city tourism cards – City tourism cards allow you to see a large number of attractions (and often include free public transportation) for one low price, usually $75–100 USD. If you plan on seeing a lot, these can save you a ton.
  • Share your ride – If you have a car, taking on riders can be a way to lower your costs. On my first trip across the U.S., I offered rides to people I met in hostels. On another trip, I had friends and readers join me along the way. You can post ads on Craigslist and at hostels to find riders. This not only makes the trip more enjoyable but lowers your gas costs too. If you don’t have a car, you can use look for rides in the same places.
  • Stay at roadside hotels – There are a plethora of cheap roadside hotels such as Motel 6 and Super 8 to the rescue. Rooms start around $60 USD a night (plus tax). They’re great when you’re traveling with someone and can split the cost.
  • Find free museums and events – Inquire at tourism offices, use Google, or ask hotel or hostel staff for information about free events and museums. Many museums offer free or discounted admission times throughout the week.
  • Get free water or free refills – If you order a drink, most restaurants allow free refills while you eat your meal or refills at a low cost. If you ask, tap water is usually provided for free.
  • Save on gas – If you’re on a road trip, use the app GasBuddy to find cheap gas near you. Also, sign up for gas station loyalty programs as they can save you money on fill ups.

Where to Stay in the United States

Hostels are not all that plentiful across the United States yet. Generally, those that do exist are clean, social, and fun. Here are my recommended places to stay around the USA:

  • HI Hostel (Boston)
  • HI Hostel (Chicago)
  • Banana Bungalow (Los Angeles)
  • Banana Bungalow (Maui)
  • Hostel Memphis (Memphis)
  • Freehand (Miami)
  • HI New Orleans (New Orleans)
  • The Local (New York City)
  • ITH Adventure Hostel (San Diego)
  • The Green Tortoise (San Francisco)
  • The Green Tortoise (Seattle)

How to Get Around the United States

Amtrak train passing through trees in the United States.

The United States is large and diverse that the ways to get around changes a lot depending on where you are.. Here’s an overview of your transportation options to help you plan your itinerary:

City transportation – Most U.S. cities have public transportation, including metro systems and buses. Fares cost around $2-3 USD for a single journey, but there are usually packaged options for visitors. For example, you can get a 7-day unlimited MetroCard in New York City for $33 USD, which covers both buses and the subway system, while San Francisco offers a 7-day transit pass for $41 USD.

Outside of major cities, subways are rare. Some of the smaller cities have trams. Everywhere has a bus though and that’s usually the best way to get around.

Taxis – Taxis are metered with charges starting around $3 USD plus $2-3 USD per mile. This is one of the most expensive ways to get around, however, so I’d skip it unless you have no other choice.

Ridesharing – Uber and Lyft are cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to take a bus or pay for a taxi.

Bus – Taking the bus is one of the cheapest options for getting around the country, with fares as low as $1 USD if you book far enough in advance. Popular bus companies include:

A 4-5-hour bus ride from New York to Washington D.C. starts at $25 USD, while the 7-hour journey from Chicago to Detroit starts at $30 USD. Austin to New Orleans is around $57 USD. Booking early can save you upwards of 50% so try to plan ahead if you’re going to be taking the bus.

To find bus routes and prices, use BusBud .

Flying – Flying is your quickest option for long distance. You can occasionally find sales for as little as $100 USD so it’s worth it to check several websites ahead of time to see what deals are on. Post-COVID, fares are a lot higher than they were in the past but if you find a deal, book in advance, or go off season, you can usually get a cheap fare. Sample one-way fares include San Francisco to Maui for $120-160 USD, Seattle to Austin for $85-115 USD, or New York to L.A. for $250 USD (round trip). However, prices can easily double if booked last minute.

Budget-friendly airlines in the United States include:

  • JetBlue Airways
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines

Train – Amtrak is the rail provider for the United States, but it’s not the quickest or most affordable way to travel. They have routes all around the country ( here’s their route map ) and offer a cross-country pass for $499 USD. The USA Rail Pass gives you 30 days of travel over 10 segments, which averages out to around $50 USD per leg.

If you have a valid student ID you can save 15% on your tickets.

As for prices, A 20-hour train ride from Chicago to New Orleans costs around $110 USD, while a multi-day trip from New York to Los Angeles is around $250 USD. Book in advance to find the best deals. Shorter trips lasting 2-4 hours are usually under $50 USD.

Car rental – Roadtripping is a great way to explore the country, and car rentals can be found for as little as $35 USD for a multi-day rental. Renters need to be at least 21 years old. For the best rental car deals, use Discover Cars .

Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking in the United States is common and safe. Dress respectably, smile while making eye contact with drivers, and use a cardboard sign to tell people where you’re headed. Be prepared for long bouts of no pick-ups, especially if you’re traveling through more rural areas. Pack plenty of water and a light meal or two, like sandwiches and fruit. Hitchwiki is a great resource for additional hitchhiking tips.

When to Go to the United States

Since the United States is such a large country, the climate and temperature change drastically from coast to coast. The north has defined seasons. Winter can bring heavy snowfall and more severe temperature. Spring can start as late as May, but the summers are gorgeous and temperatures climb into the 80s°F (30s°C). Coastal areas tend to be cooler.

The south has less defined seasons. Summers get incredibly hot and humid. Winters tend to be dry and warm, while autumn and spring make for pleasant travel weather. In the desert areas, like Las Vegas, temperatures can soar as high as 104°F (40°C) on some days.

Ultimately, the best time to travel to the United States depends on where you’re headed and what kind of activities you’d like to do.

How to Stay Safe in the United States

The United States is a massive country and “safety” changes a lot depending on where you go and what you do. Generally, the US safe place to travel around — even if you’re traveling solo.

Violent attacks tend to be confined to certain areas (especially where drug and gang violence are a problem). You may encounter petty crime, like theft, especially around popular tourist landmarks and in larger cities, especially on the west coast where theft is a much more common problem. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times, especially while taking crowded public transportation.

Gun violence and mass shootings tend to dominate headlines when they happen. However, the chances of it happening to you are slim.. Do not let this discourage you from exploring the United States. The U.S. is very big and very, very diverse. And, due to this size, there is a lot of cultural (and political) variation. Despite what you hear, crime in America is low. (There was far more crime in the US in the 1990s!). For more information, read this post, Is it Safe to Visit the United States?

If you rent a vehicle, don’t leave any valuables in it overnight. Take common sense safety measures and you’ll be fine.

If you’re worried about being scammed, you can read about common travel scams to avoid here .

When hiking, always bring water and sunscreen. Be sure to check the weather before you depart and dress accordingly.

Solo female travelers should generally feel safe but all the standard safety cautions apply. For specific tips, I would read one of the many incredible solo female travel blogs on the web. They’ll give you tips and advice that I can’t.

If you do experience an emergency, dial 911 for assistance.

Always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

United States Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!

United States Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on United States travel and continue planning your trip:

Where to Stay in Nashville: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in Nashville: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

How to Spend 4 Days in Nashville

How to Spend 4 Days in Nashville

Where to Stay in New Orleans: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in New Orleans: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

The 16 Best Things to Do in New Orleans

The 16 Best Things to Do in New Orleans

The Best Statue of Liberty Tour in New York City: My Take Walks Experience

The Best Statue of Liberty Tour in New York City: My Take Walks Experience

Where to Stay in Austin: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in Austin: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

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  • Booking Resources
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USA travel guide: Everything you need to know before you go

This is a nation so big you physically have to conquer it a small bite at a time - taking in canyons, skyscrapers, national parks, micro-food-scenes and glorious beaches along the way, article bookmarked.

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<p>Views of the Pacific Ocean from California’s Route 1 highway</p>

Views of the Pacific Ocean from California’s Route 1 highway

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A country as vast and diverse as the United States is impossible to sum up - and that is exactly what makes it such a pleasure to visit. Yes, there is a mainstream American culture, but in reality, each state and region has its own identity, dialect, cuisine and culture based on a variety of geographies, colonial legacies and histories.

From the bright lights of New York to the Navajo Nation; the Great Lakes to the soft southern Bayou; and from rainy Seattle to sunny Santa Fe, the USA is as vast and varied as all of Europe. The best way to tackle the Land of the Free is to plan your trip by a large chunk or region, or take it slow by diving deep into one state per trip. Visit time and again over the decades and you still won’t likely see it all.

Entry requirements

UK travellers must have either a visa or Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (Esta) visa waiver to enter or transit through the USA – these must be applied for online in advance and are generally valid for two years.

Best time to go

Because of its vast size and geographical spread, there is something to see, do and enjoy in the USA at almost any time of the year. In summer, head for California’s beaches or find an outdoorsy festival to attend. In winter, soak up the sun with the “snowbirds” in Florida, hit the slopes in Colorado or spend a twinkling, atmospheric Christmas in New York. Pick a national park to explore during shoulder season, or take a spring or autumn road trip to see the fantastic wildflowers or autumn leaves this country produces. Beware that March to June is tornado season in the Midwest, while June to November is hurricane season over the Atlantic.

Top regions and cities

Beach and sun; towering redwood trees and San Francisco trolleys; surfer babes and Silicon Valley techies; the glam of Hollywood and grit of Haight-Ashbury. California lives large in the world’s imagination and, let’s be honest, it needs no introduction. But beyond its vast collection of big-hitters, the Golden State is at its best off the beaten path, whether exploring the eco-conscious dining scene, getting to know the Hispanic and Chicano heritage, or sipping a lush, velvety glass of Cabernet overlooking a sun-kissed Sonoma vineyard.

  • A California travel guide for families

Manhattan is, for many, the first and only port of call in the USA, and why wouldn’t it be? The Big Apple has everything you could want in a city, from the glittering stages of Broadway to the hipster hangouts of Brooklyn and just about every type of international food offering imaginable. It’s easy to forget that there’s a whole, big state awaiting you outside of the city – drive upstate through antique towns along the Hudson River, settle in along the shores of mountain-framed Lake Champlain or head to Buffalo for its industrial heritage and eponymous hot wings.

  • The best hotels in New York: Manhattan, Brooklyn and more

Your maiden trip to Vegas is a bit like riding a rollercoaster for the first time: exciting, scream-worthy, beautiful views at points, thrilling and, in the end, you walk away feeling a wee bit sick. Yes, come for the bright lights, casinos, pool parties, drinks and debauchery, but remember: there’s a lot more to Vegas, too. Away from The Strip, there’s excellent live music on Fremont Street, museums digging into its entertainment and mob history - and even wild desert nature, with the Grand Canyon and Valley of Fire both within easy reach.

With an average of more than 235 sunny days annually, Florida is a perfect place to escape dreary grey skies at almost any time of year. The Sunshine State’s eclectic combination of theme parks, beaches, historical sites and cultures will also keep the entertainment rolling whether you’re a family, road-trippers or a solo traveller. If beach resorts or Disney don’t float your boat, opt for an adventurous airboat tour of the Everglades; explore the art deco architecture and Cuban culture in Miami; take a truly unconventional, bridge-based road trip across the Florida Keys; or check out the history of rocket launches from the Kennedy Space Center on the Space Coast.

  • The best hotels in Miami for 2022

Underrated destinations

The southwest.

Cinematic landscapes that fuelled Western movies, the ancient and rich history of the Puebloan peoples, contemporary Native American culture, deep Spanish heritage and truly unique cuisine make the Southwest one of the most spectacular US regions. Encompassing New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and West Texas, there’s a lot to see but many of the highlights can be connected up in a smartly-planned road trip. Out here, wide-open skies meet the Rocky Mountains and historic cities like Santa Fe boast some of the oldest buildings in the United States.

Dorothy wasn’t wrong when she said, “There’s no place like home” - Kansas is indeed a special place. Though sometimes missed by visitors less familiar with the middle of the US map, this bang-in-the-middle, landlocked state serves up a massive dose of Americana with its vast prairies, scenic byways and postcard-perfect “Main Street USA” towns. Don’t miss the 11,000-acre Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, one of the few places where native buffalo still roam. Likewise, Kansas’s urban centres – from the craft breweries of Kansas City to the indie music clubs of college-town Lawrence – show off the cool side of Middle America.

If you want to understand America’s Civil Rights movement and harrowing racial past and present, Alabama is the place. Head to state capital Birmingham to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the National Memorial for Peace & Justice – a confronting coffin-shaped memorial to 4,400 Black victims of lynching. Go further back in time to the remains of mound cities built by Mississippian Indigenous tribes, spend a few days on the state’s soft Gulf Coast beaches and sample the flavours of an incredible Deep South cuisine that draws on its peoples’ Franco-Caribbean and African roots.

Montana and Wyoming

Explore real cowboy country in the far northern states of Montana and Wyoming. Montana’s nickname – “Big Sky Country” – gives some clue about how vast and mountainous its landscapes are. With its spiky, stone peaks, the Grand Tetons range is a classic destination for American mountaineering and marks the northern end of the US Rocky Mountains. Opt for a stay at a real Montana dude ranch or head to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for its annual Fourth of July Festival in the shadow of the real “purple mountain majesties” in Grand Teton National Park.

  • Best Las Vegas hotels for style and location

Best things to do

Take a road trip .

Whether driving the Pacific Coast Highway top-to-bottom or crossing the horizontal Route 66, hitting the open road in true all-American style is a unique US experience.

Learn about African-American history

Head to the Deep South to understand America’s Civil Rights movement and the ongoing struggle for equality in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

See the sunset over the Grand Canyon

Camping out and watch the sunset over the most iconic natural landmark in the USA is a must-do when visiting a nearby base like Las Vegas or Phoenix.

Dig into Washington D.C.’s museums

Walk the National Mall, pay your respects to Abraham Lincoln and explore the Smithsonian Museum.

Walk the Freedom Trail

Follow Boston’s Freedom Trail to see where Paul Revere took his infamous midnight ride, signalling the beginnings of the American Revolutionary War.

Go autumn leaf-peeping in New England

Take a drive through Vermont or one of the northeast states to see trees in their annual, fiery, autumn colour.

Go wild at Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Eat king cake, pick out a mask, collect beads and party hard on Bourbon Street.

Hit the waves in Hawaii

Learn to surf on one of Maui’s stunning beaches or ​​watch the pros tackle the infamous Banzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach on Oahu.

Getting around

Flying and driving are the most common ways of getting around the US. The classic American road trip is a favourite for travellers keen to experience the country’s expanses of nature and vast highways. The Amtrak train network has practical pockets of service in the northeast and west coast but can be slow and laborious for cross-country travel. On the other hand, the Greyhound bus network is cheap but can range from notoriously colourful to downright unsafe - check out Flixbus, too, which has a growing, eco-friendly bus network. Most major cities have subway (underground) train systems or public city buses, but generally, you’ll need to hire a car to get around.

How to get there

Flying is really the only way to reach the USA from the UK. Flights go between major cities in both countries, with New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles serving as the main entry points. Cunard has resumed its seven-night transatlantic cruise between Southampton and New York aboard the Queen Mary 2, which sails approximately once a month. Several cargo-ship companies offer passenger crossings between ports in northern Europe and cities along the US east coast.

Money-saving tip

Many US national parks allow camping for a minimal fee (around $20 per night). These often require advance booking online; many have dedicated pitch sites with basic facilities. Always adhere to campfire regulations. Pick up inexpensive tents and gear at chains like Walmart, Target or the outdoors shop REI.

What’s the weather like?

The United States has just about every type of weather imaginable, from the sub-tropical northeast to the vast deserts of the southwest states.

What time zone is it in?

There are nine time zones across the entire USA (including Hawaii, Alaska and other dependencies). The contiguous United States has four time zones – Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern – which switch to daylight time from March to November. Arizona operates on Mountain Standard Time year-round.

What currency do I need?

US dollars.

What language is spoken?

English is the de facto official language, although Spanish is also widely spoken.

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