Your USA itinerary: 6 ideas for an American adventure

written by
Nick Edwards

updated 23.09.2018

The USA’s sheer scale and scope means it’s impossible to see everything the country has to offer in one go ­– and you shouldn’t try. From sprawling national parks to quirky small towns to some of the world’s most exciting cities, America has an overwhelming number of potential trips.

To make things easier, here are six trip ideas for your adventure in the States. For more inspiration, as well as detailed maps and expert advice on transport, accommodation and more, buy a copy of The Rough Guide to the USA.

1. For a trip through time: the Northeast

Start in Boston, Massachusetts, the location of the famous Tea Party that jump-started the American Revolution. From here, prestigious Harvard University lies just across the river in Cambridge.

Next, head inland to the verdant Roosevelt complex at Hyde Park, New York, before striking south for the bright lights and bustle of the Big Apple.

If you can tear yourself away from magnetic New York City, make for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The city’s Independence National Historic Park contains a host of venerable buildings and landmarks, such as the Liberty Bell.

Not far west are the now peaceful hills of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the Civil War's bloodiest battle took place, as did Abraham Lincoln's famous address. End your tour in the museums of Washington, DC, the country’s capital and political centre.



2. For a musical tour: San Francisco to New Orleans

Tune up in San Francisco, California, still proud of its non-conformist, hippie heritage, then ascend the west coast to equally liberal Seattle, Washington, home of grunge and Kurt Cobain.

Next, get your playlists ready for the long haul across the Rockies and Great Plains to Chicago, Illinois, where you’ll get a taste of jazz and the blues. Across Lake Michigan, gritty Detroit, Michigan gave birth to the sound of Motown.

While in the Great Lakes region, take in Cleveland, Ohio, the location chosen for the unmissable Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Then, follow the Mississippi river south to Memphis, Tennessee for more blues. While here, visit Graceland Mansion, where Elvis Presley once lived.

Finally, detour east to Nashville for some country twang, and round off the trip with some traditional jazz in New Orleans, Louisiana.



3. For National Parks: a Western tour

Begin your tour of America's greatest National Parks with Wyoming's twin wonders: Yellowstone, full of geysers, brimstone and bears, and Grand Teton, famed for its razor-sharp pinnacles.

Southwest across the Rockies, Monument Valley straddles Arizona and Utah and boasts a classic western landscape – think sandstone buttes, huge cacti and an important Navajo reservation. Further west, Nevada’s magnificent Grand Canyon wows visitors with its sheer scale.

Moving into California, stifling Death Valley sustains only the hardiest life forms and is famous as the hottest place on Earth. The names of outposts Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells are a nod to this superlative.

Turning north into more temperate territory, Yosemite offers superb hiking trails amongst the huge sequoias. Over on the coast, the mighty trees of Redwood National Park are often shrouded in fog as they gaze across the Pacific Ocean.



4. For a gourmet getaway: New York City to California

Get going by taking a bite out of the Big Apple itself. In New York City you can enjoy everything from a simple bagel with lox to top-notch cuisine in one of the USA's most exclusive restaurants.

After trying a filling Philly cheesesteak in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you can sample fine chowder and fresh crab in Baltimore, Maryland, at the head of the Chesapeake Bay. More seafood with a southern twist is the order of the day in elegant Charleston, South Carolina, on the Atlantic Coast. Meanwhile, New Orleans, Louisiana, is renowned for its eclectic soul and creole dishes, such as gumbo.

Up in Memphis, Tennessee succulent pork BBQ of Flintstone proportions rules the day, while the steaks in Amarillo, Texas max out at a massive 72oz. Once you’ve had your fill, hop across to Berkeley, home of California cuisine. Here, the emphasis is on organic ingredients and veggie options abound.

5. For outdoor adventure: Minnesota to California

There are plenty of places to go for that adrenaline rush, especially in the western half of the country. Just south of Canada, the chilly waters of Lake Superior, near sleepy Grand Marais, Minnesota are ideal for canoeing and fishing.

Skiers will be spoilt for choice of slopes in the lofty Rockies at Aspen or nearby Vail. Or, if mountain biking is your thing, check out the vast network of trails around Grand Junction to the west.

Even further west, Moab, Utah has become a major centre for whitewater rafting on the Colorado River and is also great for mountain biking. Down in Arizona, you can explore the backcountry of Monument Valley on horseback, led by a Navajo guide.

California, of course, has a range of adventure activities, from rock-wall climbing in Yosemite National Park to surfing the big waves around Los Angeles.



6. For backroads and backwaters: small-town America

For many, the fascination of the USA lies in quirky small-town America. Start in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana, which boasts a fine art museum.

Moving northwest, you can stroll through the nineteenth-century streets of Galena, Illinois, on the banks of the Mississippi, and visit Ulysses S Grant's house. Nearby Dubuque, Iowa is surrounded by rocky bluffs and is home to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.

A fair way southwest, Abilene, Kansas is blessed with attractive Victorian houses and the Eisenhower Presidential Library. Dipping into Oklahoma, the old oil town of Bartlesville is dominated by Price Tower, Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper. Back in Kansas, Dodge City has all the Wild West atmosphere its name conjures up.

End up in neighbouring Nebraska. Here, the tiny city of Alliance is the nearest place to the pure Americana madness of Carhenge – a Stonehenge replica made up of old vehicles.

Nick Edwards

written by
Nick Edwards

updated 23.09.2018

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