From the sands of Hawaii to the icebergs of Alaska, the USA is so incredibly diverse it seems like a world in itself. With fifty states of mighty mountains, slick cities and incredible coastline at your feet, there’s a slice of American pie for everyone – whether you’re into Creole cuisine or Californian wine, New York nights or the Hollywood Hills.
Taste creamy clam chowder, sip Vermont beer and slurp Wellfleet oysters. From the Boston Tea Party and the Declaration of Independence, to the Appalachian Mountains and the dunes of Cape Cod, New England is a region of monumental history, academic flair and stunning landscapes. Catch crabs on the mid-coast, spot wild moose further north, or visit in fall to experience the intense colours of autumn leaves.
Experience Ivy League colleges and the yachts of Rhode Island; see classic clapboard houses and Boston’s grand architecture. Maine’s craggy shoreline reaches along the east coast for more than 200-miles, from the city of Portland to the pine forests of Acadia National Park – a good place to go if hiking, biking and beaches are high on your agenda.
From salt beef bagels to baked vanilla cheesecake, nowhere does it quite like New York. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge and walk down Wall Street, climb the Empire State Building and take a selfie by the Statue of Liberty, or visit MoMA in Manhattan and break into song on Broadway.
Splash your cash on Fifth Avenue or save your dollars and stroll to Central Park. Stand mesmerised in Times Square and ride the free ferry to Staten Island. If a love of yellow taxis and steamy sidewalks draws you back to the city each year, revisit your favourite coffee houses before experiencing something new, whether it’s the Caribbean kitchens of Harlem, the gritty streets of The Bronx or the sandy beach on Coney Island.
America’s compact capital is easily explored on foot, so wrap up warm in winter, dress cool for summer or visit during April’s Cherry Blossom Festival to see the city at its best. Make a beeline for the White House and pay homage to the presidential memorials. Have lunch by the water in historic Georgetown, or visit the Eastern Market and fill-up at the farmers’ food stalls.
Take your pick of the Smithsonian Institution museums and see a show at the Kennedy Centre, then speed around town on a Segway or kayak along the C&O Canal. For an easy day trip just outside the city, take a taxi to George Washington’s 14-room estate and go climbing, hiking or horse-riding in Great Falls Park.
With its Cuban bars and Colombian cafes, Miami is more like Latin America than the USA. Of the city’s many districts, South Beach is best known, and is lined with Art Deco buildings and bronzed bodies. Skate along the seafront to take it all in, and stay after dark to salsa dance.
Venture south of Miami to the Everglades – a subtropical wilderness home to alligators, manatees and ospreys. Take an airboat tour along the waterways, kayak past crocodiles or camp overnight for a real adventure. To experience Florida’s sun-soaked islands, continue south to The Keys, where you can snorkel over coral reefs, swim in turquoise waters and fill up on Key Lime pie.
Burnt to the ground in the 1870s, Chicago breathed a sigh of relief when savvy planners rebuilt the city with one of the world’s most spectacular skylines. Gaze up at the glass and steel then climb to the Willis Tower Skydeck for 360-degree views. Back on the ground, you’ve got America’s third largest city at your feet – ask the locals why it’s dubbed ‘the windy city’ and you’ll get a different answer every time.
Shop till you drop on the Magnificent Mile, watch a baseball game at Wrigley Field and admire the façade of the Chicago Art Institute, then step inside for works by Monet and Matisse. Visit in summer to spike a volleyball by Lake Michigan, then tuck into a deep-dish pizza before listening to blues music or catching a comedy show.
Cheesy grits and green tomatoes, alligator-filled swamps and miles of Atlantic beach, America’s five Deep South states have rich musical roots and a long history of cotton picking. Choose Tennessee to visit Dolly Parton’s theme-park and Elvis’s grave in Memphis. Click your heels in a Nashville honky-tonk and horse-ride through the Great Smoky Mountains, or explore the state’s historic plantation houses.
The eastern states of Alabama and Georgia are equally appealing but to experience one of America’s most iconic cities, venture west to the state of Louisiana and arrive in New Orleans. Order Creole cuisine in the French Quarter and listen to sultry blues and jazz in a city that was shaken by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Pink Cadillacs and mock volcanoes, croissants beneath the Eiffel Tower and gondola-rides along the Grand Canal – you need to experience this desert city to believe it. Wander down the Strip and hit the 24-hour casinos, or watch the free light displays and dancing fountains. Whether you’ve come to get rich, get hitched or simply stare, Las Vegas is an experience you’ll never forget.
Travel east to the magnificent Grand Canyon – a mile deep and around two billion years old. Visit the South Rim at sunrise for rich hues and dramatic shadows, or take a sunset helicopter tour directly from Vegas and fly over the Canyon to see the Colorado River snaking across its base. Venture beyond the national park to step out on the Skywalk, or experience the remote North Rim, a 215-miles drive away.
Home to almost 60 National Parks, America is one big adventure playground for hikers, bikers, climbers and camera clickers. Wyoming is the proud parent of Yellowstone, where you can trek past bison and grizzly bears. Equally famous is Yosemite in California, home of El Capitan – the near-vertical granite face that’s worshiped by big-wall climbers. Travel south of Yosemite to reach Death Valley, the hottest place on earth.
Dominated by sandstone monoliths and plunging canyons, Utah’s five national parks are heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. Make a base in the town of Moab and trek through Arches National Park, watch sunrise over the spires at Bryce Canyon and go off-roading at Canyonlands. Southwest on the Arizona border, the plateau hills of Monument Valley rise from the desert, where you can drive along dirt roads past ancient rock art.
Surf washed beaches and sun drenched vineyards, national parks and stunning cities – Californians are some of the luckiest people on the planet. Join surfers and skaters in San Diego or lay your towel on Mission Beach. Travel north to Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills, where you can visit the Mexican heart of downtown LA or see how the other half live in Beverly Hills.
Take the drive of a lifetime along the Pacific Coast Highway and twist through the dramatic scenery of Big Sur as you tour from historic Monterey to Morro Bay. Continue to San Francisco and stride across Golden Gate Bridge or sail to the prison-island of Alcatraz. To see more of the Golden State, venture inland to the redwood forests and drive through the desert, go skiing at Lake Tahoe and tour the vineyards of Napa Valley.
Brown bears and leaping salmon, bald eagles and breaching whales, there’s no escaping the call of the wild in Alaska. Begin your trip in the main hub of Anchorage and taste salmon jerky, sourdough and reindeer steaks. Travel north to Denali National Park, where Mount McKinley (North America’s highest) sparkles above the valley floor. Here, you could hike through the taiga forests or take a scenic flight across alpine tundra and ice-clad peaks.
Head to the small town of Seward on the spectacular southern coast to enter the Kenai Fjords National Park and canoe past glowing icebergs. Further east, you could visit the historic waterfront in the capital of Juneau and join a small ship cruise through the fjords of Alaska’s Inside Passage or the wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park.
Look forward to the lush green shores and sugary sands of the Hawaiian Islands, as well as their fiery volcanoes and starry skies. Touch down at Honolulu on the island of Oahu and stay to experience the state’s busiest beach resorts and the US naval base at Pearl Harbour – site of Japan’s fateful 1941 attack.
Also known as Big Island, Hawaii is the best place to see cinder cones and lava flows, with the active peaks of Kilauea and Mauna Loa bubbling away in the island’s National Park. For anything wave related head across the water to Maui and learn to surf in sheltered bays or join to tow-in surfers on ‘Jaws’ – one of the world’s biggest breaks. The island of Molokai boasts snorkelling spots and biking trails, whereas tranquil Lanai is known for its untouched beaches.