Location: Central and northwestern North America. Capital: Washington, D.C. Currency: US dollar (USD) Language: English, Spanish. Best time to Visit: Summer is the best. You can consider visiting during September-October. Time Zone: UTC-4 to UTC -10. Calling Code: +1 Major Airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport (SJC), Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
With so much land mass and diverse terrain, the United States offers a nearly-infinite number of attractions. When you’ve set out to plan a trip, the places to visit in the USA can overwhelm you. For most, the lure of America’s cities is the ideal start. And, truth be told, it’s almost always best to tour the major metropolitan areas before taking a longer trip to several national parks – it’s much easier to experience the unique confluence of cultures in a shorter time frame that way. Once you decide to stick to the big urban areas, the toughest choice will be which one you hop a flight to. Here are eight profiles of the most popular places to help you pick:
The lure of the City by the Bay is unmistakable: the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Pier 39 draw visitors by the thousands every day of the year. Take a boat ride out to Alcatraz and see where some of the country’s most famous criminals have stayed, then return to the mainland for a taste of freedom in one of its many restaurants. Chinatown and Japantown are favorites for ethnic cuisine, but you can find a great place to eat just about any type of culinary creation on the famous hilly streets.
There is nothing quite like the bright lights of the Big Apple. From the financial center at the southern end of Manhattan Island (and the Statue of Liberty a few miles offshore) to the Bronx in the north, there are hundreds of places to stop – if the foot traffic on the sidewalk lets you! Travelers frequent Times Square and Grand Central Terminal for their architectural appeal, then do some window shopping on Madison Avenue as morning gives way to afternoon. In the evening, many like to feast their eyes upon the city as it transitions from day to night, watching the city light up from the observation deck of the Empire State Building.
Rightly believed to be America’s most historic city (though Boston does have a claim), the City of Brotherly love was the delivery room for the republic which stands today. Tours following the Founding Fathers’ footsteps are everywhere, but all of them lead to Independence Hall, once the tallest building for miles and the location of the debates that led to separation from Britain. For a more in depth profile of Philly’s most popular citizen, visit the Franklin Institute before any other museum. And, when you get hungry, take some time to enter one of the most heated arguments since 1776: Who makes a better cheesesteak sandwich, Geno’s or Pat’s?
The United States’ Second City, much of what draws people into town surrounds Lake Michigan and the downtown district. There’s a tremendous number of attractions along the Magnificent Mile – only Madison Avenue in New York has a greater reputation for fashionable stores and fine dining. If you’re haven’t quite dropped from all that shopping, Navy Pier is a great spot to take the family, as nightfall nears and the fireworks show starts. With all that, you might be tempted to skip the Field Museum, a world-class museum with everything from anthropology to zoology that houses the stars of the 1996 movie The Ghost and the Darkness – man-eating lions hunted in the African savannah.
When you arrive in South Florida, you are immediately hit with a wave of Latin flair. Vibrant nightlife and beautiful beaches are the draw for many, but there are plenty of fantastic theaters and excellent museums. Plus, with the influence of Caribbean cuisine, you will find plenty of options for dinner after a day on South Beach. You’ll find you end up just full enough to get out for a bit of salsa dancing at a nearby club.
Most people associate a trip to Southern California with a stop at Hollywood, but they’d miss out on a real gem. For most Americans, this city within a few miles of the Mexican border has unbeatable weather. As home to the United States Navy’s Pacific Fleet, you will find many historical ships to tour (if you decide to leave the amazing beaches). Dozens of local companies offer boating tours of the bay or further out to sea – watch the whales migrate or cast a line for a Yellowfin Tuna.
Once a haven for Mob-owned businesses, Sin City has grown well beyond its suspicious roots. You can still find the occasional inexpensive buffet and hit the casino floor at any hour of the day, but The Strip has a growing reputation as an entertainment venue. No-cost attractions – the volcano at The Mirage and the fountains at the Bellagio – are no longer the only game in town. The growth of musical theater and performing arts troupes like Cirque du Soleil gives visitors plenty of options (Ka, at MGM Grand, is a favorite), but the number of celebrity chef-owned dining establishments is the greatest difference. Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, and Mario Batali have all created phenomenal culinary experiences in casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard.
If you are in search of the most family-friendly place to visit, this would be your best bet. Home to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, there are several theme parks available that will appeal to children and grownups. Animal lovers, for example, will find SeaWorld a wondrous experience and might find themselves looking for Shamu an hour away at Cocoa Beach. That’s not all! The space traveler in your family will find a trip to Kennedy Space Center an awe-inspiring look at the history of NASA’s manned missions into the heavens.