A holiday in the US is as exotic and different as anywhere else in the world. The question is where to go; the country is vast and varied and can be visited anytime of the year depending on location. If you want miles of emptiness, vast landscapes and big skies consider Wyoming, Montana and Nevada. After glamour, bustle and old world charm consider the East Coast and the buzz of New York. And for laidback fashion and style, take in the West Coast.
Seattle is an excellent place to begin your journey with its all-round attractiveness enhanced by the waters of Lake Washington and Puget Sound. The “Emerald City” has been immortalised in films such as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail and with its scenic beauty and easy going pace it is not hard to be entranced by this special spot. The home of Microsoft and Starbucks has excellent attractions including the Space Needle, the Science Fiction Museum and Pike Place Market which is a perfect area for people watching.
With a GDP that rivals that of most countries, California is big on most things; cities, views, experiences and iconic images. The Golden State with its rugged coastline is best viewed by driving down Pacific Highway One where you encounter such picturesque spots as Big Sur, Carmel (where Clint Eastwood was Mayor) and the beautiful Redwood National Park. With its jagged mountains plunging down to the pounding surf this is an awe-inspiring adventure. San Luis Obispo is in the heart of California’s central coast and in this area you can explore vineyards, white sandy beaches and Hearst Castle which was shown in Orson Welles’ movie Citizen Kane.
The fascinating city of San Francisco is one of the most vibrant in the world and time should certainly be spent exploring it. Synonymous with The Golden Gate Bridge, trams and Alcatraz it is still known for its free thinking spirit and fun attitude to life. It is also stylish and a feast for foodies especially those wanting to explore the wine regions of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
Los Angeles sprawls along the Pacific Coast meandering from Malibu to Long Beach. Although Disneyland may be the city’s most prominent attraction, there are also cultural institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Getty Museum and the LA Philharmonic. Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach and the San Fernando Valley give visitors a unique taste of this diverse city. Into movies? Be photographed on The Hollywood Walk of Fame and take a tour of the famous Warner Bros and Universal Studios.
San Diego is best known for its excellent sun and surf and rightly so. The beaches of Ocean, Mission and Pacific are some of those dotting the 70 mile piece of coastline. The Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy are great areas for dining, nightlife and the arts. Attractions like SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park perfectly illustrate this area’s laidback and casual demeanour.
For the ultimate in excess, decadence and glamour head to Las Vegas. Set in the arid Mojave Desert this town really never does sleep. Adventure and theme parks abound in this oasis and provide a fun alternative to the tables. The hotels are amongst the most lavish and opulent in the world and in stark contrast to Death Valley which is home to one of the most unique landscapes in the country. With its salt pans, coloured rocks and vastness this spot is somewhat eerie but nevertheless enchanting.
Wyoming otherwise known as the ‘Cowboy State’ is home to the Wild West legend Buffalo Bill. It is also home to two great national parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone which is the oldest park on earth. This is a state for fabulous outdoor adventures with epic hiking, camping and climbing. There are dude ranches where you can experience life as a cowboy. Others will adore exploring Yellowstone, situated on the top of a volcanic crater, with its geysers, mud pots, lakes and canyons. It is renowned for wildlife including grizzlies, black bears, otters and owls. Waterfalls, walking routes, geysers and wildflowers are all on the agenda in this magical place. Grand Teton National Park is home to the trendy town of Jackson which is a great gateway to exploring the wilderness.
Visitors and residents alike get addicted to Colorado. They love its atmosphere, the attitude and the altitude. It is known as the Rocky Mountain State and features spectacular scenery, vistas and has more activities on offer than can be experienced in any one trip. Fabulous in winter, Colorado is also an outdoor paradise in the summer. If hiking and trekking is too much, visit the Yampa River and try your hand at fly fishing.
Perhaps one of the least explored states in the US and home to more than just Mormons and the Osmonds. With its towering sandstone cliffs and temple like rock formations, you can while away many an hour watching the ever-changing landscape as the sun casts its shadows on the contours.
New Mexico has a style that is truly unique being at the centre of Native American, Hispanic and Anglo cultures. Nowhere else in the US do you get 300 year old haciendas sitting side by side state of the art modern buildings. This fusion of cultures is best represented by the arts and crafts including the world famous Navajo weavings. A little known fact is that the Animas and San Juan rivers provide some of the best trout fishing in the world and the world’s longest single-span tramway can transport you to the mountains above Albuquerque.
The East Coast is best known for the huge, thriving and bustling cities of New York and Boston. But away from the madding crowds of these urban metropolises are some beautiful areas which are too often neglected.
Vermont is the perfect starting place. This state has a picture postcard beauty and is famous for its country inns, covered bridges and recreational activities. Although the only New England state without seashore, its border with Lake Champlain more than compensates. The lake which is over 100 miles long allows visitors the opportunity to scuba dive, fish and go boating. You can have fun wandering around historic old houses, antique shopping and taking in one or two of the first rate wineries.
With forests and lakes covering 90% of Maine this state still retains its historical traditions of shipbuilding and fishing. Maine lobster is known around the world and is a must try delicacy. Areas worth exploring are the Acadia National Park and Bar Harbour which is home to New England’s premier summer resort. A windjammer cruise is a great way to explore one of the USA’s best cruising grounds.
Full of history and diversity Massachusetts offers everything from cobbled streets and village greens to space-age technology centres. Cape Cod, a favourite of the Kennedy family, is great for exploring wild marshes and taking a solitary walk on its pristine beaches. Nantucket Island, home to the famous Martha’s Vineyard allows you to wallow in this picturesque location that for years has attracted artists, writers and politicians with its laidback charm.
New Hampshire is a state that can be enjoyed by the whole family with its scenic beauty, ocean beaches and towering mountains. The Cog Railway takes you to Mount Washington with its stunning views of Canada and three other neighbouring states. The White Mountains Region is a spectacular spot where the stark beauty and sublime natural habitat make for an inspirational time. The Appalachian Trail formed through glacial action during the ice age and viewed from an aerial tramway is a must see destination.
West Virginia is surrounded by the Appalachians and is a mountainous state. The primary reason for visiting this interesting state is the culture and history that envelops it. The state has four resort parks that offer first class accommodation facilities along with championship golf courses. Charleston is a real place of interest with its Italian Renaissance buildings. This vibrant city with its traditional street lamps and laidback charm is the perfect place to let off some steam in the evenings where the music and hospitality flow effortlessly along.
The mountains of this region are carpeted with magnificent forest and the Passage itself remains inhabited by native Indians whose history is reflected in the totem poles dotting the landscape.
The Sunshine State of Florida will appeal to the visitor in search of fun, thrills and spills. Disney Land offers the visitor a fun filled family time but it is not the only attraction that Florida has to offer. With its winding waterways, freshwater lakes, forests and islands it really is a slice of paradise. Miami offers glitz and glamour for those that favour an eccentric nightlife while Palm Beach allows you to wallow in its colonial and stucco architecture. Florida Keys provides an unmatched climate with great beaches and translucent waters. Swimming with dolphins in Key Largo (made famous by the Bogart film) is as enticing as it sounds. Naples offers a charming place to stay with beautiful cottages and five star resorts.
Alaska is the largest state in the USA. With over three million lakes and three thousand rivers, glaciers, national parks, reserves and monuments this state is a nature lover’s paradise. From December until March it is possible to see the Northern Lights. To this day Alaska remains one the last frontiers and houses some of the most pristine wilderness areas left anywhere in the world. One of the most rewarding things to do in Alaska is to cruise the world famous Inside Passage. The Passage was formed millions of years ago by enormous glaciers and today boasts fjords filled with wildlife including bald eagles, sea lions, porpoises and whales.
The mountains of this region are carpeted with magnificent forest and the Passage itself remains inhabited by native Indians whose history is reflected in the totem poles dotting the landscape. Juneau, the Capital of Alaska, is situated on the upper part of the Inside Passage. It is often the starting point for cruises. Nowadays Juneau is about the tourist industry but 12 decades ago it was bulging with gold prospectors.
Away from the coastline and in the interior is Mount McKinley. Standing at 20,320 feet, ‘Great One’ or ‘Denali’ in native American, is a mountaineers dream. To many it is the single most impressive mountain in the world. Not the most technically demanding of climbs but its height, latitude and weather make it quite a climb.