United States is a huge country comprising of 50 states in North America, bordering with Canada in the north and Mexico in the south. It’s an amazingly diverse country (expression ‘melting pot’ came from the US) that attracts millions of tourists every year and it tops world tourism rankings for decades. And this is not an accident, there is so much to see and do in the US that this post will not do it justice. That’s why we will try and write about various destinations within the US during next couple of weeks.
There is something for every type of traveler: from wilderness in Alaska, through Hawaii active volcanoes, and dozens of national parks with breathtaking landscapes and wildlife, to coastal cities with buzzing nightlife, long beaches and themed parks, and to inland places with rich history and cultural heritage.
To name just a few of notable destinations: New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, Orlando, Portland, Huston, all urban cities with so much to offer. For outdoors lovers, there is an exciting list of National parks: Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Arches, Sequoia, Zion, Arches, Death Valley and list goes on.
If you are traveling with children, there are also plenty of themed park for them to enjoy: Legoland, Disneyland, Sesame Place, Hersheypark, Story Land and many more, that makes it easy to entertain even the pickiest youngsters.
When it comes to food, the US offers variety of flavors, from hamburgers and pizza, barbecue and tex-mex to seafood and many ethnic cuisines from around the world. Enjoy!
1. Quick facts
- Official name: United States of America
- Capital: Washington, D.C.
- Population: 326 million
- Area: 3,796,742 sq mi (9,833,520 km2)
- Major language: English
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 76 years (men), 81 years (women)
- Currency: US Dollar
2. Where is it?
The US is a country in North America, sharing land border with Cuba (via its military base in Guantanamo Bay), Canada and Mexico.
The US is very large country, it is the third country in the world by the area, behind Russia and Canada.
3. Visa requirements
As with many countries, your passport must be valid for at least three months after you complete visit to the USA, so please plan ahead. Most of world countries require visa for tourist visit to the US, and there is a number of countries that have Visa Waiver Program (VWP) agreement with the US. Citizens of these countries still have to apply online via ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) to be authorized to enter the country.
4. Getting there
Getting to the US can be done via dozens of international airports, such as New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Washington DC (IAD), Las Vegas (LAS), Chicago (ORD), to name just a few. You can also travel from Canada or Mexico if you are traveling from there, both via air or by car or a bus.
If you are adventurous, you can reach the US from Europe by ship, such is Queen Mary 2, traveling from England, and it takes six to seven days.
Check flights and hotel offers for the United States:
5. Where to stay in the US?
The US is very diverse in what is offered for accommodation, whether it is a hotel, motel, AirBnB or high end lodging. Everything depends on two factors: where exactly in the US you will be traveling (remember, there are 50 states, each on the size of average country) and what is your lodging preference, including your budget.
Here is some unusual recommendations for lodging in the US, including circus, wigwam, caravan and underwater room:
There is a still cheap option of hostels throughout the USA, check it out here, suitable for budget (and young) travelers.
For latest offers on hotels from our providers use search form below:
6. Moving around
Moving around US is equivalent of moving around entire Europe, due to the size. Air travel would be preferred way of travel between cities and states, due to distance and basically quite cheap air tickets. You can use buses for short and medium distances, which is good for sightseeing and it is relatively cheaper. Trains are not that cheap in comparison with speed as US doesn’t have fast train service like in Europe or Japan.
For inner city transport, you can use commuter trains or underground if available, taxi service or any online transport service such as Uber or Lyft.
If you prefer to drive, you can rent a car and explore state by state (or city to city), but due to distances driving could be tiresome activity for longer trips.
7. Food in the US
Due to a globalization, most of American brands are available worldwide, including food, but it is worth tasting it from the original source. Each US state has its own cuisine and flavors and there is truly diverse offering.
The melting pot of cultures is reflected in local dishes, so you have New York pizza, with specific toppings and base, slightly different from its origins in Italy, barbecue comes with different sauces, depending on a state, steaks have different flavors and recipes (but sizes are mainly large) sea food styles are different from coast to coast and ethnic foods have unique, American characteristics.
You shouldn’t miss bagels in New York, Texas barbecue, New York pizza, Tex-Mex in Texas, spicy New Orleans food, fish in Seattle. And don’t forget to match all this food with California wine and local beer.
And to end up on a sweet note: chocolate chip cookies, brownies, cupcakes, cheesecakes and apple pies are all available to complete your meal.
How safe is the US for tourists and to move around? As this is very diverse country with 50 distinctive states, safety level varies from place to place and also with major cities and tourist destinations. In general terms, the US is quite safe for tourists, but attention needs to be paid to petty crime, aggressive homeless people, dangerous traffic or natural hazards (hurricanes and tornadoes, mostly). Pickpocketing is also something to pay attention around famous tourist landmarks.
Since it is very diverse country, prices and cost of your trip largely depend on where you will be traveling in the US. Also, it depends on which attractions you will be visiting as Theme parks can be costly, especially for families.
Prices throughout the US are almost the same for common items, with slight variation, but major cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Washington DC are the most expensive for general tourism.
The weather in the US varies from state to state, and it is (understandably) different between north and south and between coastal and inland areas.
The lowest temperatures are in January and they go below zero, especially in Alaska. North Dakota is one of the coldest states during winter. More you move to the south, temperatures rise and climate is more moderate and more four season like.
Summers can be hot in the southern states, especially in Florida, with temperatures going well above 30 C (80 F).
Tourists should be aware of severe weather conditions in the USA, where hurricane season on Pacific coast runs from May to November, with a peak between August and October, and tornado season on the east coast peaking March through June.
11. Best time to visit United States
As weather varies from location to location and there is always possibility for bad weather throughout the US, general advice would be to visit between late spring and early fall for most of the locations.
If you are looking for best time to visit specific state/city/national park/themed park, this will depend on time of the year and if it is high or low season and if weather is nice for visit.
12. Money matters
The US is using dollar as a currency and visitors from non US dollar countries should take a note of exchange rate. Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but please do check card charges from your bank in foreign countries before the trip. It is always good to have some cash on you, especially when leaving a tip in the restaurant or for a taxi ride.
There are ATMs and banks on every corner and cash withdrawals are in US dollars with a fee. Major banks don’t charge ATM fees to foreigners, but privately operated ATMs may sometimes charge high fees. However, machine should warn you about the charge so you have a choice to cancel the transaction before committing to it.
List of major banks in the US: JP Morgan Chase Bank, Bank of America, Citi (or Citigroup), Wells Fargo, PNC, Capital One. Major international banks with the operations in the US: HSBC, TD Bank, RBC Bank, Santander Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, BNP Paribas, Mitsubishi Bank, Credit Agricole, Deutsche Bank. It might be useful to look for these banks’ ATMs or services if you have account with any of them.
13. What to see in the US?
The US is a massive country with so many attractions and places worth to visit, so we are just providing you with the selection of top things we recommend.
Grand Canyon National Park. Located in Arizona, with Las Vegas, Nevada being largest city in the area, this mile-deep geological landmark offers breathtaking views, hikes, rides and rafting.
Statue of Liberty. A symbol of New York and the US in general, this iconic status is located in New York city Harbor on Liberty Island. Opened in 1886, it offers tours, museum and panoramic city views.
Yellowstone National Park. With a massive size of almost 3,500 sq. miles, this wilderness and recreational park is located mostly in Wyoming, and parts in Montana and Idaho. Featuring canyons, alpine rivers, forests, hot springs and geysers.
Disneyland. World famous themed park located in Anaheim, California. Total of eight differently themed parks with rides, shows and costumed characters.
Yosemite National Park. Located in Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, this park is famous for giant sequoia trees, Tunnel View, a scenic viewpoint down the Yosemite Valley, hiking, camping and rafting opportunities.
Central Park. New York’s urban oasis in Manhattan, most visited city park in the US. Features pedestrian paths for walking and jogging, ballfields, a zoo, carousel and boat rentals.
Golden Gate Bridge. Iconic suspension bridge spanning over Golden Gate Strait, connecting San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean. Opened for car, bike and pedestrian traffic.
Walt Disney World. Famous theme parks complex in Orlando, Florida. Four theme parks with lodging, rides, attractions and shops.
Zion National Park. Located in southwest Utah, this park is famous for Zion Canyon and offering scenic drive, hiking, camping and mountain climbing.
Bryce Canyon National Park. Another famous national park located in southwest Utah, next to Zion National park, famous for natural amphitheater, scenic views of towering spires (hoodoos), hikes and trails.
Glacier National Park. Located in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, bordering Canada, this vast park offers breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife and more than 700 miles of trails.
Grand Teton National Park. Located in Wyoming, this peaceful park with scenic views offers wildlife watching, hiking, rafting and swimming.
Arches National Park. Another great park in Utah, adjacent to Colorado River, famous for more than 2000 naturally formed arches made of red sand stones. Offering scenic views, hiking and camping.
Empire State Building. Iconic office tower, offering observatories and exhibits, located in Manhattan, New York. Built in 1931, this art deco style building is the fifth tallest structure in the US and 28th in the world, standing at 1,454 ft (443.2 m) height.
Las Vegas Strip. A 4.3 mile (6.8 km) stretch of South Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas, lined up with hotel casinos restaurants, shops and performance venues. A true symbol of Las Vegas.
Fisherman’s Wharf. San Francisco’s northern waterfront neighbourhood, one of the city’s popular tourist areas. Packed with souvenir shops, stalls selling crab and clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls, offering spectacular views of the bay, Golden Gate and Alcatraz.
Antelope Canyon. A unique sandstone geological formation in a canyon, located in North Arizona, close to Utah border. Accessible by guided tour only.
Sequoia National Park. Located in Southern Sierra Nevada in California, this park features giant sequoia trees, hiking and camping.
Universal Orlando. Second largest resort after Disney Word, this theme park with movie themed rides and attractions offers shows, hotels and restaurants.
Lake Tahoe. Large freshwater lake in Sierra Nevada Mountains between California and Nevada. Famous for water sports and nearby skiing opportunities and hikes.
Florida Keys. Coral islands archipelago off the south tip of Florida. Famous for fishing, boating, snorkeling and scuba diving and Key West.
Joshua Tree National Park. Vast area (more than 3,000 km2) in South California, between Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert, characterized by rugged rock formation and bristled Joshua trees. Offers unique scenic views, camping and hiking trails.
Universal Studios Hollywood. Massive movie studio and themed amusement park, located in San Fernando Valley area north of Los Angeles. Featuring shows, rides, restaurants and shops.
Redwood National and State Parks. Vast area alongside North California coastline, consisting of redwood forests, beaches and grasslands. Offers diverse and unique wildlife spotting, camping and hiking trails.
Grand Canyon Village. A place located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, in Arizona, dedicated to hosting tourists visiting the canyon.
South Beach. Miami’s beach area, famous for nightlife, hotels, restaurant and indie fashion shops.
Death Valley National Park. Vast area covering over 3.4 million acres of desert mountains, located in east California, on the border with Nevada. Ideal for hiking, camping and biking.
Alcatraz Island. Former notorious prison, now historical museum, located in San Francisco bay, reachable by ferry.
Canyonlands National Park. Yet another park in Utah, located in its southwest, featuring spectacular desert landscape carved by Colorado River. Famous for Native American rock paintings and white water rapids.
Times Square. Iconic intersection in Midtown Manhattan, known for bright lights and Broadway shows. Famous tourist selfie location when in New York.
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Located on Island of Hawaii (The Big Island), this park features two active volcanoes, featuring live lava flows, lava tubes and glowing craters. Hiking and museum with exhibits also offered.
Metropolitan Museum of Art. Also known simply as ‘the Met’, this world class art collection is a third museum in the world by number of visits per year. Features art collections from ancient to modern.
Rocky Mountain National Park. Massive scenic and rugged terrain spread out over 415 square miles, located in northern Colorado. Features large network of hiking trail and diverse wildlife spotting.
Everglades. Massive wetlands National Park, located on the southern tip of Florida. Hundreds of species have home there and it is excellent for wildlife spotting and photography.
Monument Valley. Area on the Arizona-Utah border with iconic red sandstone buttes featured in many Western movies. Accessible via 17 mile looping Valley Drive.
Denali National Park and Preserve. Located in Alaska, this 6 million-acre park is the home of North America’s highest peak – Denali. Diverse wildlife and scenic view offered through organized tours.
Olympic National Park. Located in the state of Washington, on Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest, this park features very diverse ecosystems, from rain forests to rocky shores.
Brooklyn Bridge. Iconic bridge spanning East River and connecting New York City and Brooklyn.
Hoover Dam. Dam on the Colorado River, built in 1935, on the border between Nevada and Arizona. Scenic views from boat rides and helicopter tours offered.
Lake Michigan. One of the five Great lakes, this one being entirely in the US. Home to Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Massive sculpture carved into a mountain, located in South Dakota. Features faces of four US presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
Rockefeller Center. Large Midtown business complex in Manhattan, facing 5th Avenue. Famous for TV studios, seasonal ice rink and giant Christmas tree in December.
Interesting facts about the US
- Current flag was designed by 17-year old as a school project in 1958.
- Every day, the amount of pizza sold in the USA can cover 100 acres.
- Americans are listed as top people to help a stranger – good to know when visiting.
We hope you enjoyed reading about United States!