Fed up with Florida? How about these 6 alternative US destinations…
The home of technological innovation, a historic gay scene and Alcatraz prison; San Francisco is truly one of the most multi-faceted cities on earth. The blend of cultures and demographics lends the city a truly magical feel, heightened by the thick white mist that sporadically descends upon skyline.
The Golden Gate Bridge is probably what comes to most people’s minds when they think of San Francisco. To really experience it, hire a bike and cycle over it at sunset. Then head over to the nearby Golden Gate Park, more than a thousand acres of beautifully manicured gardens, and home to the California Academy of Sciences.
San Francisco has long been a haven for creative expression and is home to some of the most innovative galleries in California, including the John Berggruen Gallery, Southern Exposure and Minna. Make sure to check out the world-famous street art on Mission Street. The neighbourhood is an array of vibrant tapestries and graffiti with a strong Latino influence, reflecting the large Latin community.
If you’re feeling brave, go for a night tour of the infamous Alcatraz prison, historic home to some America’s most notorious inmates, including Al Capone! Located on a small, inhospitable island, try not to get too scared on the ferry journey across. Once there, you can enjoy breath-taking views of the bay. Make sure you book around 2 weeks in advance however, as trips tend to get fully booked.
Set aside an afternoon to wander around Pier 39; once a historic trading spot for generations of fishermen, now a cluster of shops, bars and restaurants. Check out one of the many daily live music performances.
Nightlife is concentrated in SoMa and Mission. Music tends to be electronic or hip-hop, however there are also many live rock venues. The LGBT nightlife is also legendary!
Like all great American cities, the cuisine here is a blend of different food cultures from around the world. Head to Japan Town to sample some of the best ramen in the country, or to Mission for some authentic Mexican food. My personal favourite is Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant. For some Instagram-friendly photos, head to café Reveille, where the pink tables will make sure your food snaps provoke even more jealousy!
The maritime climate is mild all-year-round. September-October are the warmest months, and there tends to be a fair bit of rain November-March. Make sure to bring a jacket whatever time of year you’re here, as the sea mists can often make it a bit chilly!
The extensive network of buses, trolleybuses, streetcars, and cable car lines mean that public transport is by the far the most affordable and convenient way to get around the city. The San Francisco Travel association recommend staying in Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Embacadero, and Chinatown. There are loads of great hotels, hostels, and rental properties to choose from in all these areas.
There are few better places in the world than Washington State for the great outdoors experience. Few people would associate the United States with Rainforests, but that’s exactly what you’ll find! The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, with its towering, knotted trees and luscious, green moss is like something from a fairy-tale. Well-signposted trails make it possible to explore without the risk of disappearing forever... There are loads of magical log cabin rental properties tucked away in the woods for the full Hansel and Gretel experience!
Make sure you don’t skip Chelan Lake, a stronghold for outdoor adventurists. Panoramic mountain views frame a 55 mile stretch of water, creating breathtaking vistas. Summer brings water sports and wine enthusiasts, winter brings people looking to nestle into a log cabin and escape society for a few days…
Ever wanted to see a killer whale? Head to Port Angeles and go one of their whale-watching trips. Be sure to choose a company that offers money-back guarantees if none of the resident orcas choose to show themselves (although, they usually do!).
3. New York
New York is probably the most visited city in the US, and for good reason! There is an unparalleled energy that captures the imagination in a way that only the very best cities are able to. To visit it is an experience unlike any other.
New York has one of the most diverse culinary scenes of any city in the world. Downtown Flushing is home to one of the largest Chinese populations outside of China, and has a Chinese restaurant culture to match. Don’t miss out on Dumpling Galaxy, home to more than 100 different varieties of dumpling (yes, you read that correctly!). If you’re into Italian food, make sure to head to Arthur Ave in the Bronx for some of the best pizza outside of Naples. Street food is cheap(ish), consisting largely of (but by no means limited to) Vietnamese, Thai, and Mexican.
NY has been a congregation point for artists from all over the world for generations, and has some of the best art galleries on the planet. Highlights include the mind-boggling exhibitions in the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim. They often offer free entry on certain days of the week, so be sure to check out their websites.
Take a stroll around Central Park and live out your favourite scene from, well, virtually any New York-based film! This iconic green oasis surrounded by towering skyscrapers is even more magical in real life!
No trip to New York is complete without seeing a show on Broadway. The birthplace of practically every successful musical theatre production, you can’t really go wrong! Head to the TKTS stand in Times Square, they offer up to half price deals on select shows.
The Statue of Liberty is about as iconic a monument as there is. Be sure to make advance reservations, as sometimes it can be overbooked. Alternatively, take a ferry from Staten Island and view it from the water.
Go see a baseball match in the Yankee stadium. There are several teams to choose from in NY, but the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx gets my vote for its exhilarating atmosphere.
The whole city is easily accessible via metro, with tickets costing $2.75 a ride. There is also an army of yellow taxis, whose drivers have intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny of the city. However, don’t get a taxi during rush hour (4pm-5pm), as it can end up costing a fair amount. For the ultra-glamorous experience, stay in Manhattan, where there are plenty of great hotels and rental apartments to choose from. If you prefer a slightly more laid-back, hipster vibe, head to Brooklyn.
Chicago is America’s third largest city and is home to a population of 2.7 million. Located on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan, the abundance of architectural wonders make it aesthetically unique. Among the skyscraper-studded skyline is Willis Tower, the tallest skyscraper in the US, which offers 360 degree views of the city below. The city has consistently captured the imagination of filmmakers; it was the setting for The Blues Brothers and was where most of the Batman film The Dark Knight was filmed. Despite the city’s large size, it retains the community feel of a smaller city.
The music scene here is most famous for its blues music. Live music venues playing a mixture of classic and contemporary are located throughout the city. There is also a strong Jazz scene.
The art scene here is also one of the main draws. The Art Institute of Chicago Museum is the second largest fine art collection in the country, with a world-famous selection of impressionist works. In the south side of the city, you will find the National Museum of Mexican Art. Hipster hotspots Wicker Park and Bucktown are chock-full of galleries featuring contemporary works from local artists, as well as bars, cafés and live music venues. The Portage Theatre is one of the oldest cinemas in the country, and hosts several annual film festivals.
The food-scene in Chicago reflects the diverse population. Mexican, Polish, Indian and Pakistani cuisine all feature heavily. If you want some truly authentic, life-affirming Mexican food, wander around the Pilsen area and see what takes your fancy. Don’t forget to try both of Chicago’s signature dishes; The world-famous Chicago hotdog and the deep pan pizza. Both equally delicious.
You can easily navigate the city by metro, tickets costing $2 a ride, although we recommend buying an unlimited pass for the duration of your stay if you plan on sightseeing. Stay in one of the many rental properties and hotels in Downtown to be as close to the action as possible.
The capital city of the USA is steeped in history. Every park, street, building is named after someone who has played a crucial role in American history. It has also become one of the most dynamic cities in the country, with a diverse range of neighbourhoods and vibrant cultural scene.
The large student population means there are loads of cool bars and eateries that won’t break the bank. The Union Market is a revitalised mid-century food hall that is now a foodie’s paradise. High-quality food ranging from $5 burgers to Michelin starred Italian creations mean there’s something for all budgets.
No trip to DC is complete without a visit to the White House. Tour requests must be submitted at least 21 days before visiting, so you have to be super organized! If that sounds like too much hassle, it’s still worth checking it out from outside.
Visit the unmissable Lincoln Memorial then walk down The Mall. This two-mile stretch is the heart of downtown and is home to the country’s most famous monuments and memorials, including the World War 2 memorial and the obelisk-shaped Washington Monument. If you don’t get distracted by the array of historical treasures, you will eventually reach the US Capitol building, home of US Congress. Take one of the daily guided tours and live out your House of Cards fantasy! The best part is, it’s completely free! Make sure to book in advance, however, to avoid disappointment. There is also the Library of Congress, the world’s largest collection of books.
Metro is the most efficient way to explore. Get a SmarTrip card if you’re planning on going on more than one ride. We recommend staying within walking distance of The Mall, as this will give you convenient access to all the historical sites. If you want somewhere a bit off the beaten track, head to Alexandria Old Town area, one of DC’s best kept secrets. It’s on the metro line, meaning it’s easy to explore the city.
6. Cape Cod
Cape Cod is home to breath-taking, unspoilt beaches, fishing villages and vibrant towns. Often described the iconic American vacation, the area has continued to attract (mostly American) tourists of all ages.
For those seeking the full-on beach experience, head to Cape Cod Bay, on the peninsula’s quieter northern side. The sandy expanses have an other-worldly feel, and provide kids with all the space they need to let loose. For the adults, there is an excellent rum distillery which offers tastings on outdoor picnic tables. The thriving local fishing trade means delicious seafood is ubiquitous. Whether you want to eat in a smart restaurant, or just pick up some fried clams from a roadside shack, the quality of food is enough to impress any foodie. Alternatively, you can pluck your own oysters and clams right out the ocean! Be sure to pick up a $30 license first.
If you want to combine the beach experience with some culture, head to Provincetown, where the thriving art scene is attracting creatives from all over the country. Falmouth offers a great blend of easy beach access and urban bars. It’s particularly popular with the younger generation of holiday-makers, who like to party after a day at the beach. The Nimrod Inn plays live jazz six nights a week!
To get the most out of your visit to Cape Cod, we recommend renting a car. If that’s not an option, there is a well-serviced bus network that is fairly easy to navigate. Where to stay depends on what kind of experience you want. For the off-grid beach vibe, there are loads of great rental properties on the Northern side of the peninsula. If you want nice cafés, bars etc., stay in Provincetown, Falmouth or Wellfleet.
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