“Oh stunning, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain.” The beloved patriotic song “America the Beautiful” hints at a number of the country's diverse, majestic landscape, which is definitely of lots of reasons to visit the US but there's so lots of others.
From its giant plains, snow-covered mountains, deep forests and unusual rock formations, to soaring skyscrapers and a thunderous cultural scene, the USA is a collage of extremes. Nothing can prepare you for your first glimpse of Manhattan's unforgettable skyline, your first ride in a yellow cab, the ubiquitous hamburger joints, yawning expanses of prairie, the sweet strains of New Orleans jazz, or the neon-lit excesses of Las Vegas.
When it comes to the natural landscape, you're hard pressed to find an area more diverse. Marvel at the thunderous spectacle of 12,000-year-old Niagara Falls in northern New York, or seek an antidote to urban chaos amidst the flat farmland of the Midwest. Then there's the black hills of South Dakota, the dramatic mountain and ocean landscape of California's Pacific Coast Highway and naturally, there is the world-famous Grand Canyon, of the 397 parks in the National Parks systems.
There is the artifical landscape, , which is as impressive as the natural. Though New York City is the most densely populated with soaring skyscrapers, including the iconic Chrysler Building and Empire State Building, other cities have admirable architecture as well, including Chicago's Sears Tower, and naturally, the White House in Washington DC.
The current US government shutdown regrettably means that a number of the country's largest attractions may be closed whilst the politics plays out. Some key sights and national parks will be closed to the public. Frustrating as the closures might be, a visit to the US is as much formed by the people you'll encounter as by the attractions.
And what about those people? The US has always been known as a pioneering country & it's long been a land of promise for people around the globe enthusiastic to pursue “the American dream.” Generations of immigrants have made the culture of the country a unique mix of varied influences, & immigration continues to shape the national identity, from food & language to music & pastimes. In fact, the most diverse neighbourhood in the world is in New York City & 45% of the total population of the US is comprised of immigrants.
The USA is a large country to explore & there truly is something here for every traveller. For lovers of the outside, the great American West still retains much of the beauty that it did for early pioneers pushing past the Mississippi. Awe-inspiring natural formations such as the geysers of Yellowstone & the seemingly countless “Big Sky Country” of Montana make feel as if the US goes on forever.
For those who love music, New Orleans is an compulsory visit, with its jazz, Cajun, & Zydeco tunes. The Crescent City is also known for its food, which is unique to the region– po' boys, crawfish boils, gumbo, jambalaya, red beans & rice, muffulettas, & beignets– &, of work, its parties. Mardi Gras is a raucous, rocking nice time.
Although the history of the US is short compared to that of europe, there's lots of places where you can learn more about seminal moments in the country's development. Boston, Philadelphia, & Washington, D.C. all have important historic sites that commemorate the young nation's history, & battlefields, statues, & structures around the country provide additional opportunities to learn about great moments in the American story.
Though Americans may not enjoy the best reputation abroad, both cities & small towns similar are filled with friendly individuals who love to show off their home to visitors. Travellers to the US often comment on the heat & hospitality of its people & more likely than not, you'll return home with a better impression of Americans than before you left.
When To Go
Depending where you are headed within the U.S., seasonal temperatures will vary. In the southern states, the summers can be very hot and humid, so the winter months (October to February) are the best for comfortable fun. Otherwise spring and early fall are best throughout the rest of the country. At this time, you should be prepared for some rain, but you'll experience pleasant climates. You'll need heavier clothes anytime you are in the higher elevations, no matter the time of year.
– Tourist visas are easy to obtain and permit you to visit the U.S. for up to three months.
– Every state has slightly different driving laws, so if you rent a car, you should ask the rental agent if there are any special driving rules in the state you will be driving in.
– You'll find camping facilities at almost every national park and state park, and these sites usually have picnic tables and toilets as well as drinking water, but they normally don't supply electrical or water hook-ups.
– Although the media can make the U.S. appear dangerous, it really isn't at all as bad as it's portrayed. Of course, in any city there are good and bad areas. Most ‘drive-by' shootings only occur in the neighborhoods that have gang conflicts.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
– Mesa Verde National Park
– Yellowstone National Park
– Everglades National Park
– Grand Canyon National Park
– Independence Hall
– Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek
– Redwood National and State Parks
– Mammoth Cave National Park
– Olympic National Park
– Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
– Great Smoky Mountains National Park
– La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico
– Statue of Liberty
– Yosemite National Park
– Chaco Culture
– Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
– Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville
– Taos Pueblo
– Carlsbad Caverns National Park
– Waterton Glacier International Peace Park