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My very early USA plans

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1. Posted by silverteen (Budding Member 7 posts) 7y

As part of 4 months travelling with my girlfriend, after visiting thailand and australia, we will be heading into the USA for the last part of our travels. we wont be going until early 2010 (early planning i know) but we bothw ill be finishing our university courses in summer 09 and want to work and save as much as we can before travelling. so we will be arriving in the usa roughly early april.

heres my rough outline.... i could do with help planning, places ive missed, places to skip, places to add time, places to take time off etc. things to do and see etc.
I know the US is huge and vast, so ive tried to put a rough plan to see the major sights, cities and nat parks.
so what you think?

Fly from Sydney to....

Washington DC 4 days to see sights bus up to ...

New York 5 days to see sights.... then fly to...

Buffalo 2 days to see niagara falls.....bus up to...

Toronto 3 days....bus to

Detroit 1 day....bus on to

Chicago 3 days..... fly to

San Francisco... 4 days here which includes 1 day trip to yosemite nat park
7 day trip from san francisco to see yellowstone and mount rushmore ( http://www.tours4fun.com/7-days-yellowstone-national-park-mt-rushmore-bus-tour.html )
then onto ...

Los Angeles 3/4 days seeing sights then fly out to

Hawaii 5/6 days
(back to LA) and onto by bus....

Las Vegas 4/5 days (inc 1 day trip to grand canyon)...back to LA

then by bus to...
San Diego 5 days, inc 1 day trip to mexico(tijuana), san deigo zoo etc... then fly to

New Orleans 3/4 days

then Fly back to UK!

i have family in ocala, Florida, so may consider going to florida for a few days at end, but only if i can save a few days else where.

Any advice really welcome.

p.s we will mainly staying in hostels and budget hotels, as we are ona budget but still want to do and see the main things. we will not be hiring a car so public transport it is, bus and planes for us.

[ Edit: Edited on Dec 4, 2008, at 2:00 AM by silverteen ]

2. Posted by rys (Budding Member 21 posts) 7y

Wow! Heck of an itinerary! But you've got a lot of great cities. :)

First of all - reversing your overall order will save you $ on airfare. It'll be cheaper to fly from Sydney to LA, and from New York or DC back to the UK.

I would question the Buffalo/Detroit/Toronto portion of your trip and see for swapping it out with Vancouver and maybe Seattle. Then you could do New York -> Chicago -> Vancouver -> Seattle -> San Francisco -> Los Angeles, etc.

You could maybe crop out Mt Rushmore. Historical, yes, but miles and miles away from anything except a few Indian reservations. You'll get enough desert roaming around California/Vegas.

Probably spend another two days in San Francisco... it is such a lovely city with lots to do and see. I know I could've used a week when I was there! But like most cities, it is expensive.

As for the order for out West... maybe build a pattern so you don't have to keep going back to LA. Fly in from Sydney, so: LA -> San Diego -> Vegas -> San Francisco. Taking a jaunt out to Hawaii may be a bit pricey...

Regarding LA itself... the public transportation is non-existent. Renting a car is probably your best bet. I think there's a bus system but that would take awhile... and regarding long-distance, Greyhound isn't known for carrying classy folk, and the station is in a sketchy part of town as well. Not sure if you were planning on using them - but just a heads up.
On a positive note - check out Santa Monica while you're there - it's by the ocean and there's a pier with a small amusement park. :)

San Diego is VERY nice. La Jolla is nearby, and there are nice beaches there.

New Orleans is my favorite city here! Lots of culture, delicious, delicious food. Here are my recommendations:

  • Visit Magazine street - lots of neat shops.
  • Get a stuffed snoball from Nick's. (Juicier snow cone with ice cream!) Or get a plum street snoball.
  • Try jambalaya, shrimp e'touffe, gumbo, and a shrimp po'boy. A good place to eat is Frankie & Johnny's, but a bit off the beaten path.
  • Go to the French Quarter. Visit Cafe Du Monde right by Jackson Square. Try the beignets. (Basically like a funnel cake/donut but far better.)

There are street cars that run downtown from St Charles, also. Norta.com is the official transit website.

I hope that helps a little in these early stages... :) Good luck in all your planning!

[ Edit: Edited on Dec 4, 2008, at 11:06 PM by rys ]

3. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1992 posts) 7y

I totally agree with RYS, and what an unusual itinerary!!! Why would anyone go out of their way to visit Buffalo and Detroit??? Why not just stop off in Hawaii on your return from Down Under? You might want to carefully plan the New Orleans stop as it can be hell on earth in mid-summer! As RYS says, the Pacific Northwest is one of the most uncrowded and beautiful regions of the USA and choosing the Midwest over that is a crime (my opinion). I also feel 5 days in NYC is excessive unless you want to see every single show on and off Broadway and have several billion GBP's to spend on shopping, hotels and restaurants.

4. Posted by silverteen (Budding Member 7 posts) 7y

Thanks for the reply, i understand what your saying about the order in which we do things, its a long way off so i guess it was more about where and what we want to do rather than the order to do it, but i'll take the advice on board when planning it with more detail.

the reason i want to go buffalo is to see niagara falls, pure and simple, it looks incredible and we definately want to see it. i suppose it would be possibe to do it as day trip from NY? really want to do the maid of the mist boat trip.

Will new orleans be bad in late may?

I think your right RYS about the mount rushmore bit, think we can take 2 days off the trip if we cut that out.

the only reason id stop in detroit is thats its on route from toronto to chicago.

i guess with a country the size of the US its always going to be difficult to do everything, so its a case of sacrifices to enjoy other places.

i could well do the hawaii part on route to the US from oz

5. Posted by rys (Budding Member 21 posts) 7y

hmm. I haven't been to Niagra Falls but it does look majestic. It's about 7 hours driving distance from New York City according to google maps, so a day trip wouldn't be worth it if you really want to spend some time there.

Detroit could use your tourism dollars, but it isn't in good shape right now and there isn't much to see or do. If you really want to see the Falls, It probably wouldn't be bad on the wallet to fly out of Toronto to Chicago, bypassing the Detroit airport that gave me food poisoning. :) Or vice versa- Chicago to Toronto -> Buffalo -> New York City, if you come from the West Coast.

New Orleans should still be fine in late May. July/August are the months to watch out for, and I went in July, but still loved it, humidity and all.

Springtime is one of the nicest times to travel the US! Everything's green, including California. Well, green by our standards... not green at all compared to the UK. :)

Another suggested itinerary so you aren't flying up and down too much:

NYC - > DC -> New Orleans -> Florida -> home.

Not sure how much more expensive it'd be to fly out of FL though.

6. Posted by Schof26 (Budding Member 20 posts) 7y

RYS has some great advice, but let me throw in my two cents:

1) Buffalo, New York is one of my home towns (don't ask). With all the love I have in my heart for that city, you should probably skip it. If you do go to Buffalo, be sure to visit the Anchor Bar on Main Street (Where Buffalo wings were born!). If you goto Niagara falls, you'll want to stay on the Canadian side. If you don't remember this advice, it will take you about 15 seconds to figure it out for yourself.

2) All that stuff about Buffalo being one of my home towns and that you should probably skip it? Same goes for Atlanta. I know it wasn't on your list, but I wanted to quell any urges you have to visit the city. Go straight to New Orleans.

3) Avoid Detroit. Trust me on this. Nothing to see and crime can be a problem.

4) I'm really happy you plan on visiting New Orleans. Try to catch The Iguanas (www.theiguanas.com), Kermit Ruffins, or any of those great local bands while you're in town. The Iguanas are my favorite, but local New Orleans music - like the food - has a flavor all its own.

5) Don't forget two other great etnic cities in America: Miami and San Francisco. Miami has a wonderful Hispanic and Caribbean culture and San Fransico does right by its Asian culture by incorporating certain Asian elements into the city's design.

6) I know you said you don't want to hire a car, but here are two (of many) road trips worth taking:
- From Miami, drive south down US-1 to Key West. It's the only place in the world you can drive through a chain of islands and it is beautiful.
- Drive the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, California (or the other way around, depending on your schedule). However, because you drive on the left side of the road, you may want to practice a bit before taking on the PCH. It's not the place you want to make a mistake while driving.

Also, skip Tijuana. If you want to talk Mexico, I would be happy (as many people here would) to give tips, but TJ is not the best representation of our neighbors to the south. Or, for that matter, the Americanos you will find there.

7) If you are going to spend five days in NYC, expand it to ten, then take a day trip to Philadelphia and a couple days to Boston. If you drive to Philly, stop at the Sunset Inn in Clinton, New Jersey for dinner. Tell them I sent you. Seriously.

There is a bus company called the Fungh Wah Bus Co that runs out of Chinatown in NYC. They have inexpensive fares from NYC to Boston and back. https://www.fungwahbus.com/

Get out there, be safe and have fun! I hope this helped and did not confuse matters!

I also want to thank RYS for making me VERY hungry for all things New Orleans. And to point out one more thing: When you are in the French Quarter, the best (sure, why not?) place to get a mufaletta is Central Grocer! That's where they invented the sandwich and it's still great!

Bill

7. Posted by JosieS (Budding Member 3 posts) 7y

Niagara Falls is well worth the effort. If you rent a car and drive--as others have suggested--you can come across Ontario from Niagara Falls, go into Michigan at Port Huron and then head northwest. The best part of Michigan is the west coast, along Lake Michigan. I agree, skip Detroit (I live in Michigan!).

Look into the Amtrak trains. While the routes are sparse, you may find this is the best way to get around without a car. They have the USA Rail Pass which is sold in a variety of trip lengths. Use the Amtrak schedule to create your itinerary.

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/Page/Collection_Page&c=Page&cid=1081442674004&ssid=65

There's lots of information on the site.

8. Posted by JoyC (Full Member 99 posts) 7y

Unless you absolutely adore gambling and have loads of money to spend on seeing expensive shows, I think you have too much time scheduled for Las Vegas. It's fun to see for a day or two... but much more than that is a waste of time. I would spend more time in San Francisco and Yosemite instead.

I also agree with Bill in that you should skip Tijuana. It's a huge tourist trap and actually pretty dangerous right now - especially for gringos. If you have your heart set on Mexico, I would recommend carving a couple days out to go south from the Grand Canyon to Nogales, Mexico. Magdalena is a beautiful little town an hour or so south of the border. Be sure to visit the Mausoleum of Luis Donaldo Colosio and Diana Laura. For info on Sonora, the Mexican state south of Arizona, check out http://www.gotosonora.com/magdalena-son-mx.htm

9. Posted by Ham Radio (Respected Member 284 posts) 7y

Avoid Mexico, especially TJ and Baja California. They're having serious drug wars with a high homicide count. Not a good place for turistas outside resort places like Cabo San Lucas. It's just not safe at this time.

10. Posted by Roadcrew (Budding Member 18 posts) 6y

Baja is very safe now and was when this thread was first started. The media seemed to get carried away with itself. The simple truth is that you are probably safer in Baja than you would be in Los Angeles or San Diego. Of course, if you are involved in the drug trade than you probably would not be safe anywhere. I was in Tijuana last week and it was great. The prices were wonderful. From there I went to Rosorito and also had a great time and met many wonderful people. I can't remember the amount of times I've been to Baja to camp and explore but I have never had one safety issue or concern during any of my trips. To you naysayers I say thank you for staying on your couch. Baja and it's people are incredible. :)