Top 10 American Experiences
The United States of America, often known colloquially as ‘The States,’ is remarkably diverse. From the neon lights of Las Vegas to the vast Grand Canyon, you’ll come across many unique experiences in this country.
After you’ve finished visiting all the popular tourist hotspots, you can focus your attention on the food, music and cultural attractions that this destination has to offer.
1. Cities to Visit
Chicago - also nicknamed the Windy City and for good reason! This vibrant metropolis is home to glitzy skyscrapers and many other architectural wonders.
Las Vegas - also nicknamed ‘Sin City,’ is teeming with casinos, hotels, restaurants and chic clubs. This party city in the desert does know how to put on a good show.
Las Angeles - the City of Angels is the heart of the nation’s film and TV industry. This city abounds in wonderful beaches and mountains, offering visitors sweeping views and a host of outdoor activities.
New York City - also nicknamed ‘The Big Apple,’ is the largest and the busiest city in the nation. It’s home to some of the most famous landmarks in the world including Lady Liberty and the Empire State Building.
San Francisco - also nicknamed ‘Fog City,’ is well-known for its massive Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and historic Alcatraz prison. This tourist-heavy destination is surrounded by the beautiful Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay.
Washington D.C. - the nation’s capital district is home to several excellent museums, galleries, and of course, The White House.
2. Big ‘natural wonders.'
Everything is usually a whole lot bigger in the US. You’ll come across big shopping malls, big restaurants, big vehicles and big natural wonders. The mesmerising Niagara Falls sits on the border between two neighbouring countries—Canada and the US. This is the world’s largest and most breathtaking waterfall. Another natural beauty is the Redwood National Forest in California. It abounds in many native birds and trees. It’s here you’ll find the world’s tallest living tree, standing proud at almost 115m. The California sea lion, the bald eagle, and the Roosevelt elk love the Redwood forest’s verdant landscape. America is also home to The Grand Canyon. This canyon undoubtedly lives up to its name. It’s nearly 1800m high and more than 445 km long. It offers you spectacular views over the canyon and lures almost 4 million visitors per year.
3. Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are made up of a network of five meandering lakes: Michigan, Superior, Ontario, Erie and Huron. Although each lake is charming by itself, when they all come together they become the largest freshwater body in the world. Lake Superior is the largest of all the five lakes. It’s a great spot to pursue outdoor activities like biking, trekking, fishing, and canoeing.
4. Watch the Super Bowl
This national football championship has earned such a good reputation for itself that most people want ‘Superbowl Sunday’ to be included in the country’s list of public holidays. The grand finale usually takes place in the month of February, throwing the whole nation into a frenzy of festive activity. It’s the most widely watched sporting event in the nation. Most bars, restaurants, and clubs host special events in honour of this championship.
5. Magical Disney
No one could ever forget Disney’s favourite cartoon characters and movies. The Disneyland Resort in California is packed with timeless attractions and world-class entertainment options for people of all age groups. You’ll get to rub shoulders with familiar characters during your stay. If you’re looking for theme parks galore, then Walt Disney World Resort is where you ought to be. It’s home to the biggest Disney parks in the world. But if Mickey, Minnie, parades and rollercoaster rides aren’t your cup of tea, check out the famous sites that inspired famous Disney movies. The real-life swampy lakes and slow moving rivers of New Orleans served as the setting for The Princess and The Frog. Route 66 inspired the movie Cars.
6. Drive Route 66
The 3,490 km stretch of highway that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles is known as Route 66. It was one of the nation’s first highways. It shows you the country’s diverse and fascinating landscape. It takes you through the verdant cornfields of Illinois all the way to the golden sandy shores of Los Angeles.
7. Honky-Tonk in Nashville
Visit the southern town of Nashville if you’re a fan of country music. This ‘Music City’ is home to the Grand Ole Opry—a music venue that showcases some of the world’s famous country singers, folk artists, and gospel music singers. Don’t forget to swing by the Country Music Museum and the Johnny Cash Museum—famous for their extraordinary collection of memorabilia. The city is also known for its full-size replica of the Greek Pantheon.
8. Food capital of the world?
While we’re still not sure whether the US is the food capital of the world or not, they do dedicate one entire day to doughnuts. That’s right. The country celebrates National Doughnut Day every year. You’ll find people queuing up outside stores like Krispy Kreme to get their free doughnut.
Some states are well-known for their culinary delicacies. So if you want to try mouthwatering barbecue ribs, head to Texas. If it’s chilli dogs you’re after, head to Washington D.C. Manhattan dishes out the best bagels while Florida cooks up a great key lime pie. If you’re still longing for something more satisfying, dig into the world’s largest retail pizza at Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria in enchanting Los Angeles.
9. White Christmas
For a memorable Christmas experience second to none, visit New York during the festive season. Go ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza and spend some time at the magical winter wonderland that is Central Park. Nothing can beat the romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through town that’s up for grabs during the chilly winter months. Aspen, Colorado is a skier’s delight during the Christmas period. Tourists come here to enjoy the sparkling lights, the snow-covered trees, and the ski slopes nearby.
10. Animals in the US
You’ll come across many native animals in the US. Don’t expect to see them roaming freely like here in Australia. These animals are rare and often endangered species. Take the Grizzly bears for example. You might spot them in Yellowstone and Alaska. You may also see American beavers, racoons, Bald eagles, bison, moose, and caribou as you tour the country.
Discover the United States of America
The American Dream
The USA is a renowned Western Country that’s known for its culture and similarities with mainland Australia. America is such a vast land with so many different food, cultural, and entertainment offerings that it’s quite challenging to sum up a holiday in this destination. The US is spread over most of the Northern American continent. It’s positioned between Mexico and the great white north—Canada. Since the nation spans a large area, you’ll come across different time zones as you travel from coast to coast.
Culture and Customs
The Americans aren’t in favour of a ‘class’ society. They advocate individualism, equal opportunity, and success. They also value independence, equality, informality, and candidness.
The locals are friendly and don’t shy away from introducing themselves and striking up a conversation with strangers.
Don’t talk loudly on your phones especially when you’re in public places. It’s frowned upon in America.
If introduced to someone new, a simple handshake should suffice. Relatives and lovers generally exchange kisses and hug one another.
Words to Know
Boondocks or boonies—Rural place
Benjamin— US $100 bill (It has a portrait of one of the founding fathers— Benjamin Franklin)
Shoot the breeze—Engaging in a casual conversation
General Travel Advice
While you can visit the country at any time of the year, most people argue that autumn is the best time to go. The weather in fall is just right for you to go out and enjoy the sights without feeling too hot or too cold. You’ll notice that the cost of air tickets to the US are also cheaper in fall. There will be fewer crowds at popular tourist sites, and you’ll enjoy the colours of fallen maple leaves and conifer cones in some areas.
Temperatures vary considerably across most states in America. The southern states are generally warmer than those in the north. Hawaii has a nice tropical climate while Alaska has a subarctic/oceanic climate.
The following temperatures form an average for the country
Major cities in America like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York are well serviced by public buses and transit systems. You’ll find it easy to hop onto buses or trains but hard to find a parking spot for private vehicles.
There are interstate bus and train services as well, but if you’re going somewhere remote, hire a car. You could also find a domestic flight to most cross-country or inter-state destinations.
World Records in America
It has the most expensive healthcare system in the world
Boasts of the world’s largest commercially sold pizza—a 1.57 metre-wide whopper put together by the folks at Big Lou’s in Texas. This cheesy monstrosity has to be ordered one day prior.
It was home to the world’s tallest man, Robert Wadlow, who hailed from Alton, Illinois.
The visa system in the US changes ever so often. Do your research before you travel. At the time of writing, Australian citizens are permitted to travel and vacation in the US for up to 90 days. They do however have to apply for an ESTA before travelling to the US. This should be done at least 72 hours before departure.
The legal drinking age here is 21 years or over.
Tipping is common in America. It’s customary to tip wait staff around 10-20% of the total bill. Some restaurants automatically add the tip to your bill so do check it before you pay.
AUD $1=USD $0.75
(average rate 2017)
Use the right side of the road
You will need a converter and a multiplug to use your devices in the country.
Safe Travelling in the States
Although the United States is a safe country, there are dodgy neighbouhoods, particularly around the big cities. It makes sense to take sensible precautions to avoid becoming a victim of crime.
Petty crime in crowded places is quite common. It’s also dangerous to get around in the city after dark, especially if you’re using public transportation. The country occasionally experiences inclement weather and large-scale natural disasters. If you find yourself in an emergency situation, dial 911.
The US has the most advanced healthcare system in the world. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive. The cost of medical care is nearly 5-6 times that of other countries. Travel insurance is, therefore, a must.
Opportunistic thieves look for unattended belongings. Keep your valuables away from anyone’s sight and stay aware of your surroundings. Popular tourists spots remain guarded by police, but there still might be pickpocketers lurking around.
Keep your expensive belongings under lock and key. Travel insurance providers may not cover the cost of stolen goods.
Safety After Dark
Inner city or poor neighbouhoods witness a higher incidence of drug-related crime. To play it safe always travel in a group or with friends. Don’t use toilets at empty subway stations or deserted parks. Head to the nearest fast food chain or shopping mall to find a restroom.
Avoid confrontations with anyone. Some people are licenced gun owners, so avoid getting into a brawl at a bar or a nightclub.
Some states in America are more prone to hurricanes. If there’s a hurricane approaching:
Avoid all flood prone or low lying areas
Stay indoors to avoid being hit by damaging winds
Switch on the TV/radio to receive alerts
Follow the instructions you receive from emergency workers
Snowstorms are common during the winter months in some parts of the country. They bring blizzards, gusty winds, ice, and freezing rain. You might also hear of flash freeze warnings during these storms. Remember to stay indoors and stock up on food and water.
You can’t control climatic changes. You can, however, buy travel protection to make sure your insurance provider covers the cost of re-bookings, trip cancellations, and lost luggage.
Be mindful of contracting diseases like rabies or lyme disease in America. You can contract rabies from infected animals like dogs, foxes, coyotes, bats, and raccoons. Get medical help if you get bitten.
The deer tick transmits lyme disease. See the doctor if you get a rash followed by the flu.
Road conditions in America are far different from those in Australia. Some places like Texas have a network of winding highways that can seem quite intimidating for overseas drivers. Here are a few tips:
Drive on the right-hand side of the road
If you reach an uncontrolled intersection at the same time as the vehicle on your right, give way (yield) to the vehicle on your right
You may be legally allowed to make a right turn on a red light at some intersections
Pack water, food, and blankets if you’re driving in snowy conditions
Use snow chains to avoid skidding on black ice