Julie Greenhill, Director of Visit USA (UK) recalls a few of her favourite US travels
The USA is unconsciously familiar to us all and is so recognisable due to TV shows, movies, music, and fashion. Who doesn’t remember buying their first pair of Levis, eating their first burger, hot dog, watching a movie at the cinema with popcorn or watching an NFL game with the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots or Dallas Cowboys or taking in an ice hockey game on TV! I’ve been extremely fortunate and spoilt whilst travelling and representing some fabulous USA destinations. To choose my favourite region is slightly disingenuous as I have experienced some amazing activities, dining, history, scenery, shopping and getting under the skin and understanding our American colleagues and friends.
Each state is a country within a country, with each city and community within that state offering a completely different feel and vibe to another.
So what are my favourite places? If budget and time were no object, then travelling across all of the USA either by motorhome or by rail is an adventure and a dream come true with memories to last a lifetime.
If not then I would begin with the east coast of the USA (some of which destinations I represent) taking in the cities of Philadelphia, Washington DC, Boston, and New York and the stunning north-east coast.
Philadelphia is the USA’s 5th largest city and is only a short hop across the pond with a flight time of approximately 8 hours. On arrival with super quick immigration and bag collection, you can be in your downtown hotel within 30 minutes to an hour.
Philadelphia has many firsts including being the first USA Capital way back when, having the first Mint, the first department store and of course the home to the Liberty Bell, the USA’s iconic symbol of American Independence, and to top of it off many attractions are free to enter. If you are an art lover, you could visit the Barnes Foundation, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, stay a week and you still wouldn’t touch the surface. And you don’t need a car and can walk as Philadelphia is one of the USA’s most walkable cities.
It has a grittiness to its character that is it hard to define but scratch beneath the surface and you will encounter the friendliness of the Philadelphians. Take in a sports game and you will see how passionate they are about their teams and whilst you are here don’t forget to run up the ‘Rocky Step’s. I can guarantee you will come back for more.
As Philadelphia and Pennsylvania is sandwiched between many other familiar regions, I would and have taken the AMTRAK visiting the bright lights of New York City, only 1.5 hours away from Philadelphia and then the north-eastern city of Boston which is a further 3.5 hours away from New York, both are easy and affordable. You can then enjoy the scenery from your train carriage.
As an aside, the similarities between Philadelphia and Boston are eerily familiar due to the architecture, age of both cities and of course American Revolutionary history. For those who know both cities, there is an obvious comparison between Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Faneuil Hall in Boston.
If you don’t fancy heading north, then you can hire a car, head across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and you are in New Jersey, the birthplace of such greats as Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, and Whitney Houston. If you don’t want to drive, take the train to Atlantic City, and enjoy the sea air and miles of untouched coastline, you could even have a little flutter in the casinos or take in a show or music gig! The world is your oyster as there is so much to do for all the family.
Did I mention tax free shopping on shoes and clothes in these Pennsylvania and New Jersey! There are bargains galore, so for shopaholics this is paradise.
And of course, for foodies, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the whole of the USA can provide some marvellous dining options to suit every price bracket. However, everyone must taste a Philadelphia cheesesteak just once and if you love ‘candy’ a saltwater taffy whilst you are in New Jersey.
These are just a few of my favourite places. My list is endless due to the diversity of the United States, but whether you love beaches, cities, mountains, theme parks or the wilderness, there is something for everyone in the USA.