The Splendid States

From urban sprawls to expansive national parks, attractions are as extreme as The Rockies to the Grand Canyon.

The vast range of treasures on offer in the Unites States of America is highlighted in Woody Guthrie's folk song from the 1940s, in which he sings "… from California to the New York Island, from the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters …"

The United States as we know of it today is a relatively young country, less than 240 years old. The 300 million-strong population represents a true melting pot of ethnic groups, making it difficult to put a finger on what is 'American'.  Perhaps it's the collective pulse of everyone that has decided to make the 50 states their home that makes the land of the free truly 'American'.  The all-embracing attitude of the States has given the country loose reins to develop its assets into a wide array of attractions, with arms open wide and welcoming tourists from all walks of life.

Interesting Facts about USA

  • In 2010, international tourists injected US$ 1.33 trillion into USA's travel industry, which calculates to over 11% of world traveler spending.
  • The most expensive bottle of wine ever sold was a 6-liter bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet 1992.  The US$ 500,000 price tag doesn't make most expensive lists because the imperial was auctioned at a charity event (Napa Valley Wine Auction 2000)
  • An estimate of up to 5% of all weddings in the States take place in Las Vegas
  • 56.67 degrees Celcius was the highest recorded temperature in the States (Death Valley, California on July 10, 1913); minus 62.11 degrees Celcius was the lowest (Prospect Creek Camp, Alaska on January 23,1971)
  • On Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, Thomas Jefferson was originally supposed to be to George Washington's right, but was erased by dynamite over a year into the project and moved to Washington's left.

City Living

New York City's market share of all international tourist arrivals stands at 32.1%, making it the most visited city by far for the 9th year running.  Situated in the state with the same name (or, as popular culture would explain, 'so good they named it twice'), New York City is is the epitome of a global city and a center of world politics, arts, and commerce.  The skyline of Manhattan is dominated by the Empire State Building, popular for its observation deck on the 86th floor.  The iconic Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, the amusement destination Coney Island, the verdant Central Park, and the sprawling Bronx Zoo are all popular attractions for visitors of all ages.  Upscale shopper's paradises Madison and Fifth Avenue are synonymous with luxury malls and boutiques.  Arts enthusiasts can enjoy Broadway performances in 39 theaters and spend days at the Guggenheim, the Met, and the 9 other museums that line the 'Museum Mile' in Manhattan.

Betting the Odds

Las Vegas in Nevada is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in the USA.  With common monikers ranging from 'Sin City', 'Entertainment Capital of the World', to 'Wedding Capital of the World', the nicknames sum up the major attractions found in this city, with larger than life casino complexes and extravagant shows having delighted the more than 2.4 million foreign visitors to the city in 2010.  Helicopter rides are coveted as a unique way to see the neon lights on the strip, as well as for day trips to see a more natural shade of red at the Grand Canyon in neighboring Arizona.

Beach Destinations

Florida, tucked in the southeast corner of the country, is the only continental state that enjoys a tropical climate, earning it the nickname 'The Sunshine State'.  Other than its beaches, amusement and theme parks such as Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, and Disney World are a main draw for international and domestic tourists alike.  South Florida boasts several seaside destinations which typify why the state is the country's favorite beach getaway.  Beautiful bodies hit the beach in the daytime, while upscale bars and clubs pump up the heat at night.  The prevalence of art deco architecture is unique and can be observed in Miami's South Beach and to a lesser extent in Little Havana.  Fort Lauderdale is upscale and trendy, with yachting a popular pastime here.  Las Olas Boulevard is famed for its bars and restaurants.  Along the Pacific west coast of the States is California, the 'Golden State' of sun and surf fame.  Home to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, Los Angeles goes all out when it comes to entertainment and shopping, with several areas (think Rodeo Drive, Melrose Avenue, Sunset Boulevard) dedicated to play.   Further north in the Bay Area is San Francisco, a charming hilly city with the recognizable Golden Gate Bridge and the Fisherman's Wharf, launch point to the infamous Alcatraz Island.  Californian national parks, such as intriguing Yosemite and awe-inspiring Redwood, remind visitors that the state is not just about the beaches.

Mountaineering

The snow-capped Rocky Mountains command the scenery in states including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and the northern region of New Mexico.  All along the range, outdoor and nature adventures such as rafting, fishing, and hiking are popular during the summer, with visitors flocking there during the winter season for world class skiing and other snow sports.  The highest peaks in the Rockies are situated in Colorado.  There are many ski resort areas in Colorado, including Vail and Breckenridge (both close to Denver), and Aspen, a winter wonderland famous enough to be a destination in itself.  For city fixes, there's the capital Denver, the college town of Boulder, and Colorado Springs.  Neighboring Utah, though more known worldwide for its Mormon roots, is an intriguing state with spellbinding natural wonders – narrow gorges, out-of-this-worldly rock formations, natural amphitheaters, and Native American rock art.  Bear Lake is a popular summer spot for water sports, and desert-like Zion National Park a rock climber's mecca.  The least populated state of the country, Wyoming, also has several ski areas, as well as the geothermal splendors at Yellowstone, a national park that also overlaps into the 'Big Sky' state of Montana.

Villa Holidays in USA

Attractions in the USA range from gastronomical, historical, art galleries, outdoor recreational activities, and manmade spectacles such as theme parks and flashy casinos.  Holiday rentals, be it a city apartment or resort villa, allow discerning travelers to take control of their vacation, enjoying everything from views outside bedroom windows to nearby attractions.

Travel & Transport

With cities of interest speckled throughout all corners of the land, chances are visitors will be able to find an international airport close to their intended destination.  Highly developed intercity air routes make traveling around the States easy.  Transportation within cities differ – some are impossible to get around without a car (Los Angeles), while others offer unique modes of public transportation (such as cable cars in San Francisco).

USA Top 5 Travel Tips [Bucket List]

1. Finding Kokomo

Though the Kokomo off the Florida Keys exists only in the Beach Boys song, the arced archipelago of over 4,000 islands are real, under the moniker banner of the 'Caribbean of the States'.  Ernest Hemingway had a residence on Key West, where he worked on several of his creations including The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

2. Highway Star

Drive along California's Highway 1 (aka Pacific Coast Highway) is one of the most spectacular in the world, starting from Orange County, passing through LA and San Francisco before ending in Mendocino County.  The central stretch of the road is also known as Big Sur, a picturesque area that has attracted artists and writers such as Hunter S. Thompson in the past.

3. Jurassic Waves

The varying topography in the US is home to strangely wonderful creations of nature.  Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness straddles Arizona and Utah, and contains a stunning 190-million year old sandstone masterpiece called The Wave.  Permits are super limited, so book way in advance.

4. Rebel with a Cause

From Mardi Gras parades to the legendary New Year's countdown in Times Square, the vibe at festivals and crowd gatherings in the USA must be experienced.  An unforgettable one to try to catch is the Burning Man in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, held annually around August / September, with cool art installations and a hippie communal atmosphere.

5. Bread & Butter

Chef Thomas Keller may be showing off his stars to upscale diners in New York (Per Se) and San Francisco (The French Laundry), but Americans love to eat, and good food is everywhere.  Break out from the norm and try the local specialities, such as Creole, Cajun, or Native American dishes.
 

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