Kirsty Dillury, Director of Visit USA (UK) shares her memories of travel to the USA with her family –journeys she hopes to be able to rekindle very soon...
I grew up loving the America I saw in cartoons, books, TV shows and in films but did not get there in real life until I was in my 20s and since then I have been lucky to enough to visit several times a year for work and for fun.
As our little ones came along, they’ve come with us on our trips to the USA and have been on many bucket list trips long before the age of 12! We’ve learnt along the way; jetlag has a profound impact on little bodies and in the early years they barely made it through dinner and would crash out mid-meal! We’ve been asked to leave several bars, forgetting that the over 21s rule applies to them as well! Yes, they adore the theme parks and seeing Disney and Universal through your child’s eyes is truly magical – not to mention exhausting as you circumnavigate the park one last time for one last ride…. again and again!
For us, it has been eye-opening to see how much our children enjoy the same experiences that we do in America. When I ask Laura (14) and Connor (12) to tell me about their favourite holiday moments, a conversation we have had a lot over the last year of lockdown, their faces light up and the stories start.
The beignets from Café Du Monde in New Orleans are nearly always where it begins, food is a big deciding factor in our family’s priorities! Their favourite beach holiday ever is The Outer Banks in North Carolina, which has beaten other much closer to home destinations. They fell in love with miles of open beach, Atlantic waves to jump in, watching dolphins swim through and even the crazy ghost crabs on the beach. They climbed a lighthouse and saw where the Wright Brothers took their first flight. A trip to Phoenix when they were almost too small to remember has stayed with them – they talk about how amazingly sunny and hot it was and about seeing the saguaro cactus growing in a real desert.
So far, their all-time favourite USA trip was the first road trip we did together, three years ago in the spring, starting in Boston and heading up to Stowe. Like all good road trips we began with a city break in our arrival city before hitting the road.
The weather in Boston was beautifully hot and we spent our days walking through neighbourhoods, letting the kids navigate the blocks and stopping for refreshing ice-cream whenever we could. Our hotel was in the Seaport district and we loved being able to walk along the waterfront up to Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall to watch street performers and choose lunch from the many stalls selling local dishes of chowder, lobster rolls, North End pizza and of course, more ice-cream.
Discovering the old and new along the red brick Freedom Trail kept a conversation going about the history of the USA and ties to the UK.
Soon it was time to pick up our hire car and hit the road, the Grand Cherokee was quickly renamed the monster truck and after a stop for essential snacks we headed north, through New Hampshire and up to Ogunquit in Maine. For the next few days, we chilled out and enjoyed walks along the sandy beach and along the marginal way, paddling, and people watching. We ate breakfasts of piled up waffles, pancakes and local maple syrup.
Packing up the monster truck we hit the road again with a stop off at the outlets for new trainers and impossible to resist bargains. Then we headed back to New Hampshire and drove through the spectacular White Mountains heading for Vermont. In just a few short hours we had left the bright seaside town behind us and were enjoying mountain views as we drove on winding roads stopping off at North Conway for the Conway Scenic Railroad and then on through the White Mountains to the small town of Littleton for coffee and ice-cream.
Our road trip finished in beautiful Stowe; we explored without a plan, walking the trails in the late spring sunshine and finding small patches of snow hidden in the shade. We were soon back on the ice cream trail with a trip to Ben and Jerry’s Factory Tour.
Why was this their favourite trip? Variety, we got to spend time in the city, at the beach and in the mountains, all in one short week. It’s a bit of a cliché, but the friendliness of everyone we met has made a lasting impression, that in most shops, restaurants and ice-cream parlours, people ask how you are and where you are from and are genuinely interested in your answer.
We genuinely can’t wait to travel to the USA as a family again and find some other wonderful new experiences to share – equally likely to involve food of some description!