The USA is home to sights and experiences that have captured the imagination of travellers from all over the world. For some it’s marvelling one of nature’s spectacles or getting up close to an architectural wonder; for others it might be taking a road trip along an iconic highway, going to a country music gig or surfing in California. Here’s our pick of some of the most iconic experiences in the USA.
Canyon fly and float, Grand Canyon
Enjoy the highs and lows of the Grand Canyon on a half-day excursion from Las Vegas
. After flying into the Grand Canyon West air strip, board a helicopter to soar over the edge and down to the canyon floor for a scenic boat ride on the Colorado River followed by an ascent back up to the canyon rim and a barbecue lunch with Hualapai Native Americans.
Cycle the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Watch the sun dip over the Pacific as you ride across San Francisco’s towering suspension bridge
as part of a three-hour cycling tour. The tour also takes you past the city’s famous piers and the historic Presidio park. Alternatively, take a day cycle trip over the bridge to Sausalito, returning by ferry past Alcatraz.
Explore an architectural paradise, Palm Springs
Design fans will love Palm Springs
, the extraordinary oasis of mid-century modern architecture in the middle of the California desert, in Greater Palm Springs
. Take a tour of Palm Springs' world-famous collection of mid-century modern buildings, glamorous low-rise homes peppered with aesthetically-pleasing palm trees. You can join Trevor O'Donnell
, one of California's most knowledgeable and accommodating architectural tour professionals, for a fascinating and entertaining exploration of the city's unique collection of modernist homes and buildings.
Get wet and wild at Niagara Falls
Learn about New York state's Niagara Falls
in the new indoor multimedia World Changed Here Pavilion before donning a poncho and descending 175 feet in an elevator to the Cave of the Winds, where wooden walkways take you within feet of the thundering Bridal Veil Falls on the aptly- named Hurricane Deck.
Hit historic Route 66
Probably the most famous highway in the USA, Route 66 is now no longer officially a full highway but you can still follow the historic route, which originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California. Head off with a US travel specialist, like Trek America
, and you'll find all sorts of retro Americana along the way, from motels to mom and pop diners and in Illinois, you'll travel a 1.4-mile long section that was carefully bricked-over in 1931 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Party in New Orleans, Louisiana
The city of New Orleans
, turns into one big series of street parties in the two weeks before Shrove Tuesday, when the city goes Mardi Gras mad. Catch the excitement, and the colourful beads and trinkets thrown from themed floats, as marching bands parade through the French Quarter’s streets.
Tune into Music City, Nashville
You can hear and watch live music every day and night of the week in Nashville
, a city where stars from Elvis to Taylor Swift have recorded, performed and launched their careers. Music City truly delivers on its nickname. There more than 180 music venues around town ranging from large arenas and concert halls to small clubs which feature almost every genre of music. The world-famous honky tonks - country music bars - located on Broadway, offer free live music
365 days a year. You can also discover more about music at museums, tours, record shops, shows, and music venues.
Hit the far south, Key West
You’ll find the iconic Southernmost Point landmark at the continental USA’s southernmost city of Key West
. The four-tonne buoy-shaped structure, left, is located just 90 miles from Havana, beside the Atlantic Ocean, marking the southernmost point in the continental United States, the lowest latitude land of adjoining North American States.
Turn up the volume in Austin, Texas
Known as the Live Music Capital of the World
, Austin, Texas
, is a top destination for any music lover. You can hear everything from country-style music to the latest cutting edge tunes here, in intimate listening venues, packed dance floors, dive bars or at mega music festivals including the iconic SXSW Music festival. Austin’s live music scene pervades every corner of the city, day or night. Gritty blues bands, indie rockers, solo singer-songwriters, reggae rhythms - Austin has it all.
Hike a natural icon, across the USA
The USA is full of enormous, spectacular National Parks to explore, from Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, right, or Yellowstone, which spans Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
and was the first ever designated National Park. The state of Utah is jam-packed with jaw-dropping landscapes, including all its 'Mighty 5': Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capital Reef and Zion national parks. Arches National Park is one of the top national parks in America. It’s a 73,234-acre wonderland of eroded sandstone fins, towers, ribs, gargoyles, hoodoos, balanced rocks, and, of course, arches northwest of Moab.
Take a bite of the Big Apple, NYC
The city of New York
is packed with icons made famous by movies alone - from Grand Central Station and Central Park to the Empire State Building. There are historic icons throughout the city too, from the Statue of Liberty to the Stonewall Inn
, a New York landmark most famously known for the 1969 rebellion that cemented its place in history as the start of the gay rights movement. Visitors can also enjoy learning about the history of feminism in New York City at the Alice Austen House Museum
, located on the North shore of Staten Island
. During Women’s History Month (March 2019), the museum provides free women’s-history-related classes
Celebrate The King at Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
The 13.8-acre mansion estate in Tennessee
once owned by the legend Elvis Presley, Graceland, left, is a must-see for rock and roll fans. The star’s famous home, which was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006 has a 23 rooms, all left as they were when Elvis died in 1977. Visitors can visit the billiards lounge, a gallery and the wonderfully decorated jungle room, which doubled up as his recording studio. You won’t be the only person making a pilgrimage to see The King’s home - Graceland is the second most-visited house in the USA after the White House.
Hit the beach, California
With year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches, world-class surfing that you’ll recognise from movies and TV shows, it’s no wonder California
springs to mind when you’re thinking of an iconic US beach destination. There’s lots of different types of beach holiday to have here too - from glitzy glamour to boho retreats. Put San Diego on your list this year - the southern California beach city was founded 250 years ago and the city will be in full celebration mode through the year.
Head to the Space Centre Houston, Texas
The Space Centre Houston is both home to a leading space exploration learning centre, and Houston’s number one visitor attraction
. The centre has more than 400 space artefacts on show as well as permanent and travelling exhibits and experiences. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first steps taken on the moon, as astronaut Neil Armstrong reported from the lunar surface, "Houston, the Eagle has landed,” on 20th July 1969.
Summer like the stars, The Hamptons
Visitors can follow in the footsteps of reality TV stars like the Real Housewives of New York by renting a home or staying in a cottage-style hotel in the Hamptons on Long Island, New York
– a favourite summer getaway destination of the rich and famous.
Tick off political landmarks, Washington DC
You’ll be able to tick plenty of USA icons off your list in the compact city of Washington, DC
. The capital of the USA is home to the National Mall, a two-mile-long national park flanked by the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. Check out the city’s monuments, museums and memorials, including The Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian museums on Constitution Ave, then stroll around the city’s neighbourhoods and along the waterfront.
Take flight in North Carolina
The wind-swept dunes of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina’s Outer Banks
were perfect for the take- off of the world’s first powered flights in 1903. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial to learn all about how Wilbur and Orville found the solutions to lift and propulsion and changed the world of travel forever.