The Top Places to Go in the USA.
The United States of America is a large country in North America, often referred to as the “USA”, the “US”, the “United States”, “America”, or simply “the States”. It is home to the world’s third-largest population, with over 310 million people. It includes both densely populated cities with sprawling suburbs, and vast, uninhabited and naturally beautiful areas.
The United States is not the America of television and the movies. It is large, complex, and is made up of many diverse ethnic groups – a city like New York will have dozens, if not hundreds, of different ethnicities represented within a neighborhood. One will also find great diversity on the regional level; Mississippi in the South, for example, is very different culturally from Massachusetts in the North, just as the West Coast is very different from the Midwest. It is this regional diversity, both culturally and geographically, that makes the United States such an interesting and rich destination.
Only the extremely thrifty will spend less than $100 a day. A comfortable mid-range budget typically ranges from $175 to $225 a day; this usually gets you a car, gas, two meals, a good hotel and a museum admission or two. Spending over $300 a day isn’t hard: just splash out a few times, drive a lot, and stay, eat and whoop it up in New York, Chicago, San Francisco etc.
Flights. We use CheapOair to book our flights
Hotels. We define a ‘midrange’ hotel very broadly (as $80 to $200) : in rural areas, $100 buys a princely night’s sleep, but in some cities, clean places start at $200.
To travel on the cheap, plan on camping or hostelling ($15 to $25 a night), cooking some of your own meals, and touring by bus. It’s not hard, but it limits your flexibility and it’s slower (which isn’t so bad). Be wary of budget motel come-ons; the sign might flash $39, but it’s probably for a single and won’t include tax.
Car Rental. Traveling by car is often a necessity in the US. We find that Rentalcars.com has the best prices – a rental is a minimum of $40 a day (type of car, tax and level of insurance can push it higher), plus gas.
Tipping. Tipping is standard practice across America. In city restaurants, tipping 15% of the bill is expected; less is OK in an informal diner, while top-end restaurants expect 20%. Bartenders expect $1 per drink. Taxi drivers and hairdressers expect 10% to 15%. Skycaps at airports and porters at nice hotels expect $1 a bag or so. It’s polite to leave a few dollars for the hotel maid, especially if you spend several nights.
TOP PLACES TO SEE IN USA – EAST COAST
New York City, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, let alone in the USA. That’s because New York has everything: landmarks, Broadway shows, five-star restaurants, luxury and boutique shopping, and fabulous people-watching opportunities. A few must see highlights: One World Observatory (the tallest building in the Western hemisphere), the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building…and just walking around Times Square, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the High Line. Tons to do in New York City.
A few recommended mid-range hotels that are good value for the money: Aliz Hotel Times Square, Room Mate Grace Boutique Hotel, Concorde Hotel New York (the Concorde often has good deals that make it quite affordable).
Boston is awash in history, from the Old North Church – made famous in Longfellow’s poem about Paul Revere’s midnight ride – to the Cambridge campus of Harvard University, the nation’s oldest institute of higher learning, founded just a few years after Boston itself. Walk the historic Freedom Trail, go to Fenway Park, stroll the Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden, visit the New England Aquarium. Lots of charm in Boston. Recommended: Take a Walking Tour.
Burlington. Vermont is the state with the most breweries per capita — meaning you can visit lots of them without going too far. In Burlington alone you can visit Magic Hat Brewing Company, Switchback Brewery, Vermont Pub and Brewery and Zero Gravity Brewing. Home to the University of Vermont, Burlington is known to be politically active, progressive and always youthful. Its location on the shore of Lake Champlain and its proximity to mountains make it a great base for the outdoorsy types.
Philadelphia. Another favorite city of America’s Founding Fathers, in particular Ben Franklin, Philadelphia has many important colonial attractions, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Have a Philly Cheesecake and go to the Reading Terminal Market. This East Coast city is also home to great neighborhoods and markets, premier art museums, and fabulous food. Take the Hop On Hop Off Bus or go up the One Liberty Observation Deck for 360 views of Philadelphia.
A few recommended mid-range hotels: Club Quarters Hotel, Doubletree by Hilton Philadelphia Center City, and it’s worth checking the prices on the 4 star Warwick Hotel Rittenhouse Square (they sometimes have really good deals).
Washington, DC, is particularly popular with American travelers who come to visit the many monuments and institutions in the Nation’s Capital. See the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Library of Congress, and take a tour of the U.S Capital. Visit the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the National Zoo. As home to over 180 foreign embassies and consulates, DC also has a world-class flair worth checking out. And, of course, there are those famous cherry blossoms.
Have a look at the hottest deals in Washington
Savannah, Georgia. Get a strong dose of Southern charm at this quintessential Georgia city. You will eat delicious food and won’t spend a lot of money — Savannah is incredibly affordable. Also, Downtown Savannah is one of the rare places with no open-container laws, so grab your beverage of choice and roam the streets during happy hour. The city is the oldest in Georgia, so it’s rich in history and culture.
Click here for more on what to see and do in Savannah.
New Orleans. Boisterous, eternally-youthful and always a party, New Orleans offers the perfect balance of beautiful architecture, great food and a guaranteed good time. You can visit secluded bayous by airboat, take in the picturesque French Quarter, hang out in the revitalized Arts District and sample Cajun and Creole delicacies. And, of course, you can’t beat the nightlife.
Recommended Hotels: Lamothe House Hotel a French Quarter Guest Houses Property (expensive on weekends but usually good prices during the week), Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, Hotel Le Marais (good prices during the week. Fantastic hotel). All 3 hotels are located in the French Quarter.
Chicago. There are many places to visit and things to do in Chicago. Explore the depths of the ocean at the Shedd Aquarium. Catch a fly ball at Wrigley Field, take in a show at The Chicago Theatre, go up the Chicago Skydeck, Ride the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, and take a cruise on the lake.
Recommended Hotels: Chicago Athletic Association (4 Star but they sometimes have surprising special deals), Embassy Suites Chicago – Downtown, Best Western Grant Park Hotel (very good value, great location).
A FEW OF THE EAST COAST TREASURES
Niagara Falls is an incredible waterfall system located on the border between Ontario, Canada and New York of the United States. Ride an elevator into the Falls and get wet on the Maid of the Mist.
Watch minke, finback, and humpback whales glide through the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. You can see it on a day trip from Boston.
The most visited National Park in the United States; Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina.
TOP PLACES TO SEE IN USA – WEST COAST
Seattle, Washington – The Emerald City is a top choice for West Coast travel. A “must do” list includes Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, the Seattle Great Wheel, the original Starbucks and the Waterfront. Or how about the Boeing factory?
Portland, Oregon – When a vibrant, thriving city is this close to an incredible natural paradise of ocean and mountains, the only phrase that fits is “The Best of Both Worlds.” Portland brings nature – and its bounty — into the city, with farmers’ markets, microbrews and food trucks. And a mountain hike or bike is always just minutes away. Portland has a strong cultural scene with high marks in music venues and movie theaters per square mile. Take the 2 day Hop On Hop Off Pink Trolley Tour to see it all.
Los Angeles, California – The City of Angels always maintains its attractive facade, just as the glamorous residents do. When in Hollywood you have to go for a ride along the Sunset Boulevard, but there is much more to LA then just glamour boutiques, restaurant and celebrities taking their pets for a walk. The Sunset Strip is an ideal place for you to visit apart from beautiful Malibu and endless Venice Beaches. Take the Full-Day City Highlights Tour.
Have a look at the Deals Finder for Los Angeles Hotels. LA can be a very expensive place so best to compare deals.
San Francisco, California – Leave your heart in the City by the Bay, one of the loveliest towns anywhere on earth. You’ll never forget that first hilltop view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the fun of a bell-clanging cable car ride, or the beauty of San Francisco bay. Make sure to visit the Coit Tower as well as Alcatraz (this full day city tour includes Alcatraz) .Those treasured moments could only happen in San Francisco, a city that never fails to delight and charm its visitors.
Related: A Local’s Guide to San Francisco
San Diego, California – With a a near-perfect climate all-year-long, San Diego has many tourist attractions like Old town, Balboa park and Sea World. And then of course, there’s the beaches and shoreline. Pacific Beach is great for people watching. La Jolla Shores is your best bet for a day at the beach, with kayak rentals, etc. La Jolla Cove is a great coastal walk with lovely views, seals, and posh shopping in La Jolla village. The Gaslamp Quarter along Fifth Avenue in downtown San Diego is the entertainment and dining center of town. A quieter alternative to the Gaslamp District is Little Italy, along India Street in downtown. There are some interesting tours available – how about the San Diego Zoo, or the USS Midway Museum, you can even go Whale and Dolphin watching. San Diego is a beautiful city.
Las Vegas, Nevada – From gambling to shopping, and fine dining to entertainment, Las Vegas is one of America’s most fascinating cities. Dubbed “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” this desert city has something to offer everyone. How about a helicopter ride above Las Vegas at night?
Have a look at the Deals finder below.
A FEW OF THE MANY WEST COAST TREASURES
The Grand Canyon, Arizona, is a gift that must be seen to be appreciated. Its immense size is overwhelming. The Canyon is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep. The color and geological formations are breathtaking. There are some pretty exciting option on seeing the Grand Canyon (tours from Las Vegas): 1) flying over the canyon (as well as Hoover Dam and Lake Mead) in a 4 hour tour, 2) A helicopter tour that includes a landing 3500 feet below the rim of the Canyon. Absolutely amazing and a one in a lifetime experience.
Yosemite National Park, California. Chiseled, handsome granite rock formations–the largest monoliths in the world, jut out of the pristine forest. In the spring, Yosemite becomes a water wonderland as melting runoff creates a valley full of waterfalls. See this full day tour to Yosemite from San Francisco.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (extending into Idaho and Montana) contains the world’s largest collection of geysers. A mountain wildland, home to grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison and elk, the park is the core of one of the last, nearly intact, natural ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. Mt. Rainier, the snow-capped volcano known as Tahcoma to Indians, is arguably the most spectacular mountain peak in the lower 48 states. See this full day tour from Seattle.
This Destination Guide is contributed by Andrea at TravelaroundUSA. As the name suggest, she’s the expert on Travelling around the United States. Click on her site for a lot more on travel in the USA.
Ps. If you find our blog helpful, please consider using our links to book your flights, hotels, tours, and car rentals. Have a look at our Travel Resources page.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Canada