My partner and I (both 25) are looking at travelling to America in May 2009 for 1 month and would prefer to do it ourselves, as opposed to a tour group.
Does anyone have any advice on where to go, how to get around and how much money would be needed? We are from Australia.
Must see places are Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and New York.
Since you have one month, you should spend about four days in San Francisco, three days in Las Vegas, four days visiting the highlights of the southwest, then fly or drive to New Orleans, spend three days there, then fly or drive to Orlando for three days, drive to Miami for three days, fly to Washington, D.C. and spend three days there (including visiting local areas like Anapolis and Mount Vernon, then go to New York for four days. That's almost a month (plus you have to allow time to fly back to San Francisco and/or for the flight or drive time between the places I've mentioned.
If you are more interested in nature than in cities, then I'd consider spending more time in the southwest--and possibly going up to Seattle, and I'd also bypass Orlando and Miami and go north from New Orleans through the Great Smoky Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley and up to Washington DC directly.
You other option is to pick one part of the country and spend the time there. For example, do the whole month in the west and see San Diego, LA, Las Vegas, the national parks here, and then to San Francisco, and past Crater Lake up to Seattle. Or do the east and see Boston, Maine, Vermont, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C and Williamsburg. Or do the south and see New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, the Great Smokies, Ashville, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Key West, and the Everglades.
Good luck with your choices.
It depends what you are wanting to see and do. If you are looking for things like hiking and natural beauty you will want to spend some time in the west and see things like Yellowstone park, Glacier park, Yosemite park and the Grand Canyon. If you are wanting to party or experience some of the different cultural areas of the country hit places like Baltimore, Boston, New York, Savannah, New Orleans, Vegas, San Francisco and stop at any number of small and medium sized towns in middle America and have a beer with the locals there.
Myself and my partner are heading to the US in Dec 08 / Jan 09 we are also from Australia and both 23
we booked through a travel agent who was young and also travelled the US, she was extremely helpful in suggesting locations and amusements.
We are going for a month Starting in New York for 6 Night, Vegas 6 Night, LA 9 Nights & Hawaii 4 Nights
this is our first time overseas, i will keep you posted with how our trip goes and forward any suggestions i might have
to date we have spent approx $20,000 on flights, accomodation & amusements and have converted $10,000 for spending money
Best of Luck
One month is plenty of time to see the highlights of the United States, but, unfortunately, you won't be able to really get into the meat and potatoes of this country in that time.
Nevertheless, May is a good time to come visit, as we have fairly even weather here.
The first thing you need to do, once you have finalized a list of places to visit, is to find out what is happening in those cities while you are here. For example, New Orleans hosts the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (more commonly known as Jazz Fest) the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May. (www.nojazzfest.com)
If music festivals are your thing, you don't want to be in California while Jazz Fest is happening in NOLA.
The first thing is to pick up a good guidebook. Lonely Planet's USA is a great resource.
That being said, here's my advice for visiting the States in a month:
-New York, New York is the greatest city in the world. Being from the area, I'm a little biased, but it is a city that is worth your time. It's a great place with a lot to see and do, but the city is easy to get around, thanks to the best mass transit in the country. You could probably see and do all (or a lot) of what you want in four or five days, depending on what is open and available.
If you want to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, make your reservations in advance through the US National Park service.
-While you are in New York, take the Fung Wah bus from Chinatown (on the Manhattan side of the Manhattan Bridge, near Little Italy) to Boston for a few days. I don’t know a lot about Beantown (Boston), but it is a great city with lots of American history. Walk the Freedom Trail if you have time, but wear comfortable shoes.
-While you are in the NorthEast, take a day trip to Philadelphia. Yes, there is a lot to see in Philly, but the most impressive things you can do in a day. These are: Seeing the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, which are right across the street from each other. Again, make reservations through the National Parks service.
For lunch, head to Pat’s King of Steaks or Geno’s Steaks for famous Philly Cheesesteaks. They both claim to be the best, but which one is better? If you have a travel partner, you can do what my girlfriend and I did: I went to Pat’s, she went to Gino’s, then we went to the park across the street and tried the other’s sandwich.
To get there, ask any cab driver.
- Leaving the North East, head south to Florida and spend a few days in Miami. Here’s a great place to view part of America, with a lot of emphasis on Hispanic and Caribbean culture and pastel colors. Great food, great vibe in South Florida.
For a fun day trip, rent a car and drive to Key West. From the mainland Florida to Key West is the only place in the world where you can drive through a chain of islands.
- If amusement parks are your thing, you can spend plenty of time and money at Disney World – or the host of other attractions – in Orlando.
- There are a few places in America that have a very specific ethnic culture. South Florida has a distinct Hispanic/Caribbean flavor, San Francisco’s Asian culture has been wonderfully integrated into the city and New Orleans’ Cajun culture is not to be missed.
Therefore, from Miami, head to New Orleans. Hear some real jazz, eat some Cajun food and get down to some Zydeco tunes. Head to Central Grocer in the French Market for mufaletta sandwiches, Acme Oyster Company off Bourbon Street for killer cuisine and the Gumbo Shop for etoufee.
Get out of the French Quarter for other adventures, too, but the things listed above should get you started.
In terms of the West Coast, I have a great road trip for you. Since you want to go to Las Vegas, I suggest heading west and taking the five hour road trip to Los Angeles. After a few days there, head north on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) to San Francisco.
While in San Fran, be sure to visit a place that rents bicycles and bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s an experience not to miss.
I realize I’m omitting most of the middle of America and its great places: Chicago, Austin, Houston. There are others, but I’m not all that familiar with that part of the country. This is why you should check with a good guidebook.
It’s good you want to see the Grand Canyon. Not only is it a natural wonder, but it gets you into a beautiful part of the country. You can definitely spend a few days camping and enjoying the outdoors out there.
When you go to the Grand Canyon, you may decide to rent a mule to ride down. If you do:
- Ask a lot of questions. How old is this animal and how much can they carry?
- WATCH YOUR KNEES! A lot of people get busted kneecaps from the mules sticking too close to the canyon walls. What’s between the mule and the solid rock? Your knees!
In terms of getting around: The best cities with really good public transportation are New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Getting state to state requires either a car, Greyhound buses (which can be a bit dodgy) or flying, which, of course, means you have baggage restrictions and other hassles.
If I had to do it, I would drive. Rent a car – something with trunk and automatic transmission – and enjoy the freedom of the open road. Road trips are an America tradition anyway, so you should not deny yourself the joy of Interstate rest stops, Stuckey’s pecan logs and Moon pies.
You can also combine transportation: Rent for a while, then fly when you change coasts or long distances.
No matter what you choose, you won’t be able to see it all, so I’m afraid you’ll have to come back and visit us. I sincerely hope the Americans you meet are as hospitable and friendly as the Australians I have met while visiting your country.
As far as how much this will cost, it’s hard to tell. The US dollar is pretty similar to the Australian dollar in terms of buying power and renting a car and driving can save you money, as opposed to flying.
I hope I have answered more questions than I have created, but this short list should get you started.
Fung Wha bus: https://www.fungwahbus.com/Default.aspx
Geno’s Steaks: http://www.genosteaks.com/
Pat’s King of Steaks: http://www.patskingofsteaks.com/
US National Park Service, Statue of Liberty:http://www.nps.gov/stli/
US National Park Service, Statue Ellis Island: http://www.nps.gov/elis
US National Park Service, Liberty Bell: http://www.nps.gov/inde/liberty-bell-center.htm
US National Park Service, Independence Hall: http://www.nps.gov/inde/
US National Park Service, Freedom Trail/Boston: http://www.nps.gov/bost/
US National Park Service, Grand Canyon: http://www.nps.gov/grca/
Schof26 and Calcruzer's advice and suggestions are good one's.
I'd defo try to fit in San Fran, San Diego, Vegas, Monterrey, NYC, Boston and Chicago if it was me.
But as said by others it really depends what you like and wanna spend your time doing.
General tourist attractions?
Highlights from my trip were Alcatraz, actually San Fran as a whole was great.
Chicago, but there was a festival going on which helped alot.
Boston and Cape Cod, because it's so pretty and offers so much variation in things to do.
And of course Vegas which is a crazy place, the lights, the casino's, shows, hell the heat itself!
Also did a skydive over Vegas which was amazing.
First off, you'll need a car once you leave the northeast states. You can go without one on the Eastern Seaboard from Boston down through Washington, DC. Other than that, you'll quickly find that we Yanks love our cars. We fly or drive, and that's about it.
If you are interested in history, here's my list of favorite places:
1. Washington, DC
2. Jamestown, Virginia
3. Yorktown, Virginia
4. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
5. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
6. Richmond, Virginia
7. St. Augustine, Florida
8. Montgomery, Alabama
Other really cool places to visit:
- Chicago, Illinois
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- San Antonio, Texas
- Santa Fe, New Mexico
- Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
- Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, Montana / Wyoming
- Seattle, Washington
- Portland, Oregon
- San Francisco, California (you must, must, must go here. Do not miss it!!!)
- Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
- Virginia City, Nevada
- Hwy 49 in California (1849 Gold Rush stuff, plus a beautiful drive)
- Yosemite National Park, California
- Kings Canyon / Sequoia National Forest, California
- San Diego, California
- Grand Canyon, Arizona
- Sedona, Arizona
It's about 3,000 miles from the east coast to the west. So if you don't plan on seeing much in the middle, you will want to plan on flying across the country rather than driving. Airfare is expensive, so I would suggest doing the east coast (Boston or NY down to Virginia), then flying to San Francisco or LA and taking a car from there (or vice-versa).
Good luck and have fun!