Top 10 Things to See and Do
1. Although perhaps an obvious one, the Statue of Liberty is undoubtedly America’s most iconic attraction and an internationally renowned symbol of freedom, captivating travellers from across the globe since its construction in the late nineteenth century. If you wish to climb to the observation deck, make sure you book as far in advance as possible as numbers are limited – it is quite a workout, but your efforts will be rewarded when you reach the crown at the top of Lady Liberty’s 393 stairs with breathtaking panoramic views of New York City.
2. Vast, dramatic and indescribably beautiful, the Grand Canyon is one of those natural wonders that simply has to be seen to be believed. Sprawling an expansive 277 miles from end to end and encompassing an ever-changing landscape of pine forests, canyons and plateaus, stretches of painted desert and volcanic features, exploring it from the sky in a helicopter tour is a truly unforgettable experience.
3. Hulking ominously on the San Francisco Bay horizon and often referred to simply as ‘The Rock’, Alcatraz Island has a colourful history as one of the toughest maximum security prisons in America, and was once home to the country’s most dangerous criminals. Each year, the islands sense of dark legend and mystique draws over a million tourists, who board the ferry from Pier 33 across the foggy bay to find out more.
4. Soaring majestically over the New York skyline at an imposing 1472 feet, the Empire State Building will already be a familiar sight to anyone who has ever watched any of Hollywood’s best known films (it has appeared in almost 100 since its construction in the 1920’s!) However nothing can quite compare to experiencing it first hand, gazing out over the exquisite views across the city from observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floor – to experience it at its most magical, visit at sunset and watch the city slowly light up in the fading dusk.
5. Formally known as John Hancock Observatory, the 360 Chicago offers fantastic lake views and views of up to four states. Situated on The Magnificent Mile, famous for its shopping, reach the heights of the 94th floor on which the observatory is located, travelling 1000 feet in the sky in the elevator, in just 40 seconds. Opened in May 2014, TILT is an impressive and unique experience; an enclosed glass and steel moveable platform holding up to 8 people at a time, looking outward at an angle, and also downwards, to the sights and streets of Chicago. TILT tickets are available at an additional cost.
6. Featuring a diverse cast of world-class acrobats, gymnasts, jugglers, high wire and trapeze artists, Las Vegas’ infamous Cirque du Soleil is a veritable explosion of the surreal and the spectacular - both an ode to the beauty of theatre and a testament to its limitless potential.
7. For those in search of the ultimate Hollywood Experience, a visit to the Universal Studios is an absolute must; one of the oldest and most famous working studios in the world, you will have the chance to tour famous sets, explore the world-renowned Universal Studios backlot and enjoy rides and shows in the theme park that plunge you straight into your favourite movies.
8. No visit to New York City (America’s epicentre of musical theatre) would be complete without catching a Broadway Show. Whether you want to see an avant-garde new show or a classic revival, the bright lights of Broadway never go out, and there is sure be something for everyone on almost any given day of the week.
9. Both ethereal and saliently striking in its beauty, Antelope Canyon located on a Navajo reservation in Arizona is allegedly the most photographed slot canyon in Southwest America – and when you get there, you will understand why. All tours are led by the native Navajos, and can range from a basic 90 minute sightseeing tour to more extensive photographic tours depending on your interests.
10. You have never truly explored Boston until you’ve booked yourself onto the Boston Duck Tour! Experience the city from both land and water aboard an amphibious DUCK vehicle, where you will cruise past Bostons impressive list of historical landmarks including the gold domed State House, the Government Center and the Prudential Tower, and have them bought to life by one of the tours friendly and highly knowledgeable conDUCKtors.
Top 10 Family Experiences
1. There is no holiday destination quite as quintessentially American as a wild-west style ranch, and with a truly vast array of different ranch destinations, packages and activities on offer across the USA, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to tailoring the perfect action-packed getaway for all the family. Embark on exhilarating cattle and horse drives, go white water rafting in Idaho, learn to line dance or try your luck at the rodeo – in the vast open plains of America, the opportunities are endless.
2. From the scream-inducing loops and corkscrews of its thrilling theme parks to the breathtaking acres of its serene national parks, the golden state of California is the ideal family destination. If you’re stopping at San Diego, a visit to its world famous zoo is par for the course, home to over 800 species in stunning natural enclosures; Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park outside LA will be sure to top the kids list, while the exquisite natural beauty of Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Monterey Bay and Napa and Sonoma Wine County can be enjoyed at any age.
3. With its calm waters, stretches of sandy beach and picturesque fishing coves, the ever-popular Cape Cod in Massachusetts provides a storybook setting for a family holiday. Whether you’re scaling the spiral staircases of lighthouses, setting off for a day of cycling on one of the regions many scenic bike trails or simply kicking back on the beach with some buckets and spades, no two days at the Cape have to be the same if you don’t want them to! And if you fancy a taste of the city, Boston is only sixty miles away – why not take a day trip and explore the Children’s museum, take a famous Duck tour or bring history to life on the Freedom Trail.
4. A getaway to Chicago spells fun for the entire family! Take a bike tour together along the beautiful lakefront and stop off at the various neighbourhood attractions around the iconic downtown loop, visit the Navy Pier, where the Children’s Museum offers many fun interactive exhibits for kids, or spend a day at the world-class Lincoln Park Zoo free of charge.
5. The land of endless golden sand, crystal waters, sleek cars and long lunches, Palm Beach may look like a particularly exclusive kind of paradise, but actually has plenty to offer all the family. The town’s two beaches are both idyllic places to while away the hours, while the Flagler Museum, a 55 room mansion open to the public, opens a fascinating glimpse into the very height of turn-of-the-century opulence. From Palm Beach it is a little over an hours drive to Miami, where besides the abundance of paradisiacal beaches, you can take both airborne tours and cruises to enjoy a city bursting with colour and energy from every possible angle.
6. Utah is a sparsely populated, sprawling canvas of soaring mountain peaks, tumbling canyons, sweeping stretches of desert and an almost otherworldly sense of grandeur – in other words, it is the perfect state to book a fly-drive package. Fly into Las Vegas and spend a week on the road, exploring its endless curiosities and awe-inspiring topography with the family.
7. Georgia’s four Golden Isles lie scattered off the coast of the port city of Brunswick, and seem almost as unmoored from reality as they do from land, such is their beauty. The four Isles – Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island and Sea Island – are all unique in their charms, but each offer a multitude of activities and attractions for all the family. You can saddle up for a horseback ride, go kite surfing, paddle boarding and kayaking, enjoy a peaceful bike ride around the island, or simply relax on one of the beautiful beaches.
8. Everything’s bigger in Texas – sometimes the size and scale of a state almost three times the size of the UK can be a little overwhelming, but why not maximise your Texan experience by combining the rugged allure of the Wild West with a fun-filled sojourn to one of Texas’ thriving cities? Try your hand at horseback riding at a rustic Texan ranch before heading for the bright lights of Dallas or Austin, both of which boast diverse arts and culture scenes, and plenty of activities for all the family.
9. New York City’s vibrant metropolis is really just an endlessly intriguing playground for adults and kids alike. Whether you’re visiting the city’s iconic attractions such as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building, tracing the fascinating history of Ellis Island, playing Frisbee in central park or soaking up the extraordinary atmosphere at a Broadway show, the only thing you will not experience in the self-proclaimed greatest city in the world is boredom!
10. Honolulu is an island simply bursting at the seams with colour and excitement, making it a fantastic destination for all the family. Take family surfing lessons in the clear waters of the endless white sandy beaches, visit the Dole Plantations Pineapple Gardens Maze (which holds the Guiness World Record for the largest maze in the world!), or simply take your time exploring this stunning island, where the pace of life is altogether more chilled out.
Top 10 Honeymoon Experiences
1. There can be few places more romantic than the sandy shores, crystal clear seabed and vast, dramatic skies of the Florida Keys. Boasting a smattering of stunning islands, impossibly blue waters and the only living coral reef in the United States, snorkelling and diving is a must for intrepid couples of all levels of experience, while the diverse tropical landscape of forests, wetlands and sandy beaches offer plenty of other activities besides!
2. The Amangiri Resort is nestled in a protected valley in Canyon Point, with breathtaking panoramic views that sweep out over a raw, striking landscape of tumbling canyons towards the Grand Staircase. Structured around a central swimming pool which also boasts truly spectacular views, the resort blends seemingly effortlessly with the astonishing natural landscape, and offers new couples a place of peaceful and private intimacy in the midst of an achingly romantic landscape.
3. Dive headfirst into the whirlwind of married life with a trip to the city that never sleeps – peruse its world-renowned shops, sample the dizzying array of diverse cuisine, drink in chic bars and scale the soaring height of the Empire State building to gaze down upon it all together. After all that excitement, it might be time for a change of pace – fly from New York to the sun-baked Island of St. Lucia to recuperate in a sun-lounger as you look out across what can only be described as paradise.
4. Although perhaps not among the more conventional honeymoon destinations, it would be a mistake to overlook New Orleans, a jazz city that positively pulses with soul, rhythm and romance. Stroll through the French Quarter in the soft lamplight of the evenings, dance the night away in one of the vibrant jazz bars or watch the city slip by from the deck of a river boat – allow the atmosphere of the city to intoxicate you, and you may even leave more in love than when you arrived!
5. Located along a rugged slip of Californian cliff steeped in romance and awe-inspiring natural beauty, the award-winning Post Ranch Inn offers a variety of luxurious honeymoon packages for those wishing to embark upon married life together in style.
6. With never ending stretches of golden sand, gushing waterfalls and exotic flowers bursting into life all over the island, it’s not difficult to see why Hawaii is one of the worlds most popular honeymoon destinations.
7. The sleepy fishing coves, long sandy beaches and dreamy pace of life in Cape Cod make it the perfect place to ease into married life in breathtakingly scenic surroundings – ride through the cobbled streets on rental bicycles or melt away the hours relaxing on the beach together.
8. Cross the golden gate bridge for the rolling hills of San Francisco to begin your honeymoon before taking an unforgettable drive down the historic Highway 1 towards LA, where you can relax in style under its famously sunny skies.
9. For those with a taste for glitz and excitement, begin your honeymoon testing your luck in the casinos among the bright lights of Las Vegas, before crossing the desert to relax in Palm Springs, an oasis of luxury and glamour.
10. Secluded, peaceful and nestled amongst some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes that the country has to offer, a luxury ranch hideaway can be the ideal setting for the most romantic of honeymoon getaways. Triple Creek Ranch in the Montana Rockies with its romantic, rustic cabins offers a vista of scenery and wildlife that is second to none.
Festivals & Events
Many parades and special football games take place across America on the first day of January to mark the beginning of the new year; in Pasadena, California, the Tournament of Roses Parade is particularly spectacular with floral floats, equestrian displays and marching bands, followed by the equally famous Rose Bowl football game.
The third Monday in February is Presidents Day, a federal holiday that honours the presidents of the United States. Community celebrations vary from town to town, but it has become best known as a day in which many major stores hold big sales across the country. Mardi Gras (or Shrove Tuesday) also frequently falls in February, and although not always celebrated nationally, many major cities hold extravagant carnivals and street parades.
Every year in mid-March, the city of Austin in Texas is host to the South by Southwest Festival, a series of film, interactive and music festivals and conferences that has become one of the biggest and most compelling in the world.
Usually held on the last weekend of April, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is an ebullient annual celebration of the unique musical and cultural heritage of New Orleans. Featuring not only a seemingly endless line up of diverse jazz ensembles and artists but an array of craft stalls, regional and local delicacies and parades, the festival encompasses an infectious atmosphere of celebration and is truly one not to be missed.
Memorial Day falls on the last Monday of every May, and is a day to honour those who have died in war since the Civil War. Many Americans travel on this weekend as it is also the start of summer.
Throughout June, many special festivals and events take place in the Southeast USA. The American Dance Festival is a six week series of dance performances and residencies from both established and emerging acts from across America and abroad, which runs throughout June in Durham, North Carolina. If bargain hunting is more your scene, the 400 Mile Sale describes itself as the worlds longest yard sale, running the length of Kentucky’s scenic route 68 -80, while the Boardwalk Art Show & Festival in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the worlds oldest outdoor arts show!
The 4th of July is American Independence Day; impressive firework displays can be enjoyed in most cities, and in Washington there is a parade.
Beginning on the last Monday of August and wrapping up a week later on the first one of September, the Burning Man festival is held each year in the Nevada desert, and takes its name from the ritual burning of an enormous wooden effigy on the Saturday evening. A festival of art, music, community and radical self expression, Burning Man has become synonymous with the freedom and artistry of America’s hippy counterculture.
The first weekend of September is known as Labor Day weekend, marking the unofficial end of summer. Many Americans take their last holidays of summer across this weekend and big events often take place across the country; these include one of the nations top music festivals, Bumbershoot in Seattle, and The Taste, a major food festival held in Los Angeles.
On the 31st of October, Americans celebrate Halloween in a big way! For a truly unique (and spooky) Halloween, visit Salem in Massachusetts; this is where the infamous seventeenth century witch trials took place. The town boasts Halloween events unmatched by any other, and many historic homes give tours and have haunted houses.
On the fourth Thursday of November, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day with family gatherings and a special meal of turkey. In New York there is a nationally televised Thanksgiving day parade, and smaller parades can be enjoyed in many other cities.
Few cities in the world can match the atmosphere of New York on New Years Eve! Join the throngs of revellers that flock to Times Square to watch the ball drop, then continue the festivities at one of the many extravagant parties hosted throughout the cities nightclubs and bars.
Culture in the United States
America has a thriving historical and arts culture, particularly in the great cities. You will be spoilt for choice with the museums in New York and the other major cities; enjoy musicals in the evenings, go on river cruises to see the city from afar, and embark on historical walking tours for the chance to learn about the history of the country. Your days will be filled with the sights and delights of the cities.
In many states, there are also numerous historical sites to be visited including Mount Rushmore (South Dakota), The Alamo (Texas), the Carmel Mission (California), Mesa Verde cliff dwellings (Colorado) and many more.
National Parks in the United States
A holiday to the national parks is a great way to see the stunning and diverse scenery of this vast country. Utah is bursting with rock spires and impressive formations in its national parks including, Zion, Bryce Canyon and the Canyonlands, where you will be dazzled by the natural beauty of these locations. Greener national parks can be visited at Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons in Wyoming and Montana. One of the most famous (and a real must see!) is Yosemite National Park in California, but Death Valley and Joshua Tree also make interesting visits with their dry, desert landscapes.
Adventure in the United States
With its beautiful and varying landscapes, it is no wonder the USA has a variety of adventure activities with something for all levels and abilities. Whether you are a beginner or advanced rider, ranching holidays are an escape for daily life and provide the opportunity to meet other guests or simply do something fun; alone, with a partner, friend or as a family!
Great add-ons or stand alone adventures are white water rafting experiences in the Grand Canyon (Arizona), Cataract Canyon (Utah) or Snake River Canyon (Idaho). These can last for several days and up to a week; you will camp outdoors or under the stars and gather around the campfire in the evenings. Beginner and advanced hikers will love the possibilities in Yosemite National Park as well as the walks possible in the states of Washington, Oregon and New England. If you are visiting the Grand Canyon, be sure to take to the skies with a helicopter ride from Las Vegas or the South Rim; whether you are afraid of heights or not, this is not to be missed!
Cuisine in the United States
America’s cuisine is as diverse as its landscapes, with something special to enjoy in every state and city. Whether it is lobster and cranberry juice in New England, deep-dish pizza in Chicago, deli sandwiches in New York, wine in California, barbeque food in Memphis and Cajun cuisine in Louisiana, you will never go hungry in the USA!