The USA is vast — taking up huge swathes of an entire continent, and with policies and identities differing between states as much as they do between countries elsewhere. This all means that knowing where to travel here is quite the challenge. We’ve done some of the hard work for you, rounding up the destinations, attractions, and cities that we think are absolute must-sees. NB: getting to see all of these would still take you a good few trips – there is, after all, a lifetime worth of exploration available here.
The USA’s most-famous cities are some of its shining lights, the country’s biggest draws.
Let’s start with New York, the city that famously never sleeps. You could spend a whole week here just ticking off the major sites — from gazing in awe at the art in MoMA, to riding the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building, to visiting the zoo in the heart of Central Park — there really is something for everyone right in the heart of town. However, you’d be missing out if you didn’t explore the local neighbourhoods, from hipster Greenwich, to the burgeoning live music scene in Brooklyn.
Travel north and you’ll find Boston, one of the country’s most historic cities. It’s a lovely spot to explore in the autumn, when auburn leaves scatter the streets, and the cosy coffee shops look all the more appealing.
All the way to the west, you’ll find Los Angeles, one of the country’s glitziest cities. Celeb spot as you hike the Hollywood Hills, stride down the Walk of Fame, or release your inner child on the rides at the Santa Monica Pier. Evenings should be spent dining in the plushest restaurants in your finest attire, of course.
Also in California, you’ll find San Francisco, a slightly artsier, more alternative younger sister to Los Angeles. No holiday here would be complete without a trip to the former famed prison of Alcatraz. It’s not all doom and gloom though, Pier 39 is famously home to some seriously noisy sea lions, while the Golden Gate Bridge is a delight to ride across by bike.
Just across the border in Nevada lies Las Vegas, a city which people flock to for the gambling, and stay in for the wealth of other attractions on offer. Big name artists hosts sparkling residencies here, while pool parties rage throughout the days, and Cirque du Soleil have a permanent spot here. It’s not cheap, but it sure is fun.
And that’s all before we get to the capital city of Washington DC, the country’s political hub. You’ll want to take a peak at the White House while you’re here, it is after all one of the world’s most famous buildings.
Us Brits love a beach holiday, and whether it’s a sandy bucket and spade offering, or a rugged natural beauty you’re after, America has a stretch of coastline for you.
Miami has long swathes of golden sands, including South Beach, where A-listers and locals alike, flock to enjoy the sunshine, art deco buildings and swish seafront restaurants.
If you want to make like a New Yorker, you’ll be rushing the Hamptons. This coastal retreat is the summer playground for the city’s wealthiest citizens. While holidaying here is expensive — Net-a-Porter once operated a next day delivery service here for the summer to cater to the area’s party scene — it’s not flash. You’ll find charming wood-clad buildings, and rolling sand dunes.
One of the country’s most famous beaches is Muscle Beach in Los Angeles, the birthplace of modern exercise in the country, and you’ll still find some seriously fit people getting a sweat on on these golden sands.
For a fuller guide to the US’ beaches, head on over to our top 10 blog.
The Natural Surrounds
The USA’s natural landscapes are as diverse as its politics.
Outside of Las Vegas lies the Grand Canyon, a mile deep and 277 miles long, it’s a seriously impressive sight. You’ll find swirling formations in the stone here. You can hike the canyon, drive here, or if your wallet is feeling deep, fly over in a helicopter — the option which offers the best view of this natural wonder.
When it comes to rock formations, it’s not all about this famous canyon. The Antelope Canyon in Arizona has swirling natural pathways, and layers of rock that look so intricate it’s as if a painting came alive.
We couldn’t mention the natural wonders of America without paying homage to Niagara Falls, three vast waterfalls which bridge the gap between the USA and Canada at the border in New York State. The spray from the falls means that on sunny days rainbows dance across the air.
Over in California, Lake Tahoe is a popular spot with paddle boarding and kayaking being a popular activity in summer months. In the winter, the surrounding mountains become cloaked in snow and the area becomes a skier’s paradise.
Also in this famous state lies the Redwood National and State Park, an area of forest home to some of the world’s largest and oldest trees. Some of the trees here at thousands of years old, making them some of the oldest living things on earth — a true marvel.
The Food Scene
From fine dining to vast BBQ contests, the USA has an impressive foodie scene. We’ve rounded up just a few of the most memorable options.
The state of Texas, in the south central region of the US, is famed for its scorching climes and a love of cowboy boots. However, that’s not all the state has to offer. BBQ contests here are large, serious and happen incredibly often. Chicken and ribs are regular features, but the true star of the show is always the brisket. Meat lovers will truly rejoice here.
Lovers of food are likely fans of the TV series Chef’s Table, and as such will know that quite a few of the restaurants featured reside in the USA. Perhaps most memorable is Alinea, Grant Achatz’s restaurant in Chicago. The menu here, impressively designed by a chef who can no longer smell, is undoubtedly fine dining with dishes in the past including balloons that float, and other foodie wonders.
Chicago isn’t all fancy restaurants though, there are also hearty pan pizzas to tuck into. Thick, doughy, sauce-slathered offerings that are as filling as they are tasty.
When we’re talking carbs and the US, we had to mention the New York bagel, a must-have lunch offering on the go. Have yours with salt beef or cream cheese and salted fish for the true city experience.
While us Brits sure know how to throw a festival, our weather means that you have to be ready for both rain and shine. For a sunnier alternative, look to these famous US alternatives.
Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada is an anti-establishment dream, with partygoers trading each other for goods and camps being built that are true marvels of innovation and architecture. It’s well worth doing a lot of research before you go because this isn’t a festival you can just rock up without lots of prior planning.
At the other end of the spectrum lies Coachella, a glitzy music festival hosted at the Empire Polo Club in California. You can camp here, but lots of revellers stay in air-conditioned accommodation to keep those party outfits looking their freshest. Be sure to pack your glitter and face crystals!