3 weeks to do North America

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1. Posted by KathMain (Budding Member 2 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Does anyone have an awesome three week itinerary of North America including a bit of everything that is West and East Coast and the middle? Have never been and I just cant get my head around it - we fly in and out of New York?

2. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2683 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Hi Kath

I'm sure others will be along with more ideas than me, but I wanted to caution you against trying to cover too much territory in a short amount of time.

The USA is bigger than a lot of people think, just raw driving time from coast to coast is about 45 hours, so if like me you don't want to drive much more than 5 hours a day that's still 9 solid days of driving.

With three weeks I'd be tempted to choose a couple of areas to see, and to fly in between them. As you're flying into NY then the east coast is an obvious choice - I'm sure you could fill all of your three weeks seeing NY, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, if you wanted, and going touring round New England too maybe. (You didn't mention what time of year this trip will be?)

Other choices are California, the Pacific Northwest, Florida, the deep South, or the national parks of the Rockies. This kinda depends what your interests are? Hiking and the outdoors? Theme parks with your kids? History and culture?

3. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 4643 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

".... three week itinerary of North America including a bit of everything that is West and East Coast and the middle?"


You haven't got enough time for everything! The US is big!

How are you getting around to other states? Doing your own driving or flying or train or what?

You can do some of the normal tourist stuff you find in a tourist guide book.

New York City. Theater district, Statue of LIberty, etc. Other stuff you find with a Google search.

West Coast. Do Hollywood. Maybe San Francisco.

In between stuff perhaps the Grand Canyon and maybe look at a dude ranch somewhere.

East Coast again perhaps Washington DC.

  • * It is a long ride from NYC to California. There are good modern highways connecting the coasts. Some tourists try old Route 66 for another option.


Pull this link up on your computer. (This link is from the TP Guide section.)

Find a map of the US and look at the distance between major cities.

Good luck.

[ Edit: Edited on 07-Feb-2019, at 03:05 by karazyal ]

4. Posted by zzlangerhans (Travel Guru 450 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Ummm ... North America? So you want to work Canada and Mexico into your three weeks as well? Should be doable.

But instead of rushing around an entire continent and spending all your time in airports, planes, and other forms of transportation I would strongly recommend focusing on one area. Since you fly into NYC, I would spend at least 4 or 5 days there. If you do a little research you can find enough to pack every day of three weeks in NYC alone without ever doing the same thing twice. Of course, you probably want to see other places so your best choice would be to rent a car and drive either northward to Boston, Vermont, Maine, and Montreal or southward to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC and Virginia. Unless you're going places just for the sake of saying you've been there, you'll get a lot more out of a focused roadtrip than you would jetting around the country/continent and for a lot less money.

5. Posted by ToonSarah (Travel Guru 1388 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Three weeks to do the whole of North America? Even if you just mean the US, that is madness imho. We once spent three weeks just exploring and enjoying NYC, and we regularly take road trips of that length focusing on just one state. But if you want to do more than that, I would recommend a week in NYC and then either hire a car and explore part of the east coast or fly somewhere else and spend two weeks there.

For the east coast I would recommend a route taking you up to Boston, taking in Cape Cod on the way, and then looping back on an inland route taking in parts of rural New Hampshire and New York State.

If you choose to fly elsewhere, two weeks would be enough to see a bit of LA, hire a car to drive up the California coast along the Big Sur (but check for road conditions as some parts were closed after last year's fires) to San Francisco, stopping in Monteray perhaps. You could then drop off the car (bear in mind one-way rental fees) and spend a couple of days in San Francisco before flying home. Similarly you could do San Francisco up to Portland (the Oregon coast is beautiful and less busy than California); or maybe fly to Phoenix AZ, drive up to the Grand Canyon and then west to LA.

If you don't want the cost of one way rentals, a loop tour out of LA to San Francisco and Yosemite is feasible and would be lovely. Or look at one out of Las Vegas via the Grand Canyon to the national parks of Utah for some stunning scenery.

6. Posted by Dymphna (Respected Member 223 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

I would keep it to the East Coast if you have 3 weeks. 3 months might do for just the US.

NYC - 5 days
DC - 2 days
Boston 2 days
Niagara Falls
Quebec (You will want to return to the US to return your car)
fly down south and see Orlando
Then work your way back to NYC.

7. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 2391 posts) 3y 1 Star this if you like it!

If you have three weeks, and just want a taste of things, this is what I would do.

Fly to NY and spend 3 or 4 days in New York City.

Then fly to New Orleans. Spend a week there eating the food and listening to the jazz and taking a boat up the Mississippi to one of the local plantations, and taking a swamp tour.

Fly to either San Francisco or Seattle, and spend a week there on the west coast. Then fly back to New York and spend the rest of your time there before you fly home.

This gives you a little bit of three of the large cities which have reasonable local transportation without renting a car. It doesn't give you any small towns or any of the big national parks. But with only 3 weeks that is the best you can do.

8. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 1112 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

We have friends who drove from Portland, Maine to California and back with a month to work with. Sadly, they spent about 45 minutes at each destination they made it to! Good on them for making that trip happen, but they were left feeling harried the whole time.

As for road trips, I am partial to the southwest - ground zero for quirky things and majestic landscapes. MAYBE 3 weeks would be enough... One caveat to many of the national parks out west is this: You pay in, then drive 30 miles or so to the thing you've come to see....at a speed of 30 miles per hour! Never underestimate distances out west.

Flying into NYC... Let's focus on what is possible from there.

I can vouch for all of New England. Time of year there is crucial. I lived in Portland, Maine for 14 years and winters in New England can last for 6 months, which is perfect for skiing and snowshoeing... Aside from that, summers there are PERFECT.

Washington is loaded with great museums. Philadelphia has this wonderful, unfussy vibe and the food is good.

The countryside around Lancaster and Hershey, Pennsylvania is beautiful. The rolling green hills are fuzzy and green in the spring.

West Virginia is beautiful! - not full of obvious stops, but can easily be a sleeper hit for spirited folks. Driving along the New River is very scenic.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is good place to get out and stretch your legs, but heavily visited during the traditional summer period - June, July, August. Just outside the park is Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Tennessee, which sadly cannot be avoided...

There is some great advice from others on this forum to fly in between major geographical regions if you can.

9. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2683 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

I did a three week road trip round the national parks in the Rockies, started in Vegas and drove a big S shaped route to finish in Denver, 3000 miles.

It was too much driving, so I'd suggest taking on less than that.

10. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 2391 posts) 3y 1 Star this if you like it!

We don't know whether the OP can drive or can rent a car. So I do not suggest any driving. The specific request was for something on each coast and something in the middle. So fly between cities - two other cities other than NYC which is where they start and end.

While it is mandatory to explain why you can't just drive from one end of the country to the other in three weeks, it isn't required that we restrict the trip to one section of the country. Why not just answer the question and give two places in two other areas of the country that are worth a visit of 5 or 6 days.