If you ask 10 different people where to travel to in the USA, chances are that you’ll get 10 completely different answers…and New York.
From the vibrant jazz clubs of New Orleans in the south, to historic landmarks in Philly and the windy Chicago streets in the east, to the majestic Rocky Mountains, saying that America is an ideal place for exploration would be an understatement. Home to more than 330 million people, the 3rd most densely populated country in the world has no shortage of amazing things to see.
And that can be overwhelming, we know. So, if planning your itinerary feels like navigating Time Square for the first time, that’s okay. If you’re having a hard-knock life with endless tabs filling your screen, you’ve come to the right place!
Consider us the melting pot for all the information you require for your America trip, cooking you a delicious meal of the most exciting sites, do’s and don’ts, and whether you’ll need an American tour guide.
USA: The Land Of Opportunity By The Numbers
Let's get this out of the way: America is huge! It’s a blend of cultures, iconic landmarks, and boundless opportunities packed into the size of nearly 10,000,000 km².
So naturally, it attracts a lot of tourists! In 2021, over 22.1 million visitors arrived in the States, a slight improvement over the 19.2 million visitors in the first year of the pandemic, but not nearly as high as a staggering 79.4 million in 2019.
So, is tourism back on its feet in the United States? Definitely! In 2022, over 51.8 million tourists touched down in the country, and by 2025, a mind-blowing 82.4 million people are expected. No wonder the tourism sector contributes to around 2.15% of the country’s GDP.
Who Loves The USA The Most?
An economic superpower and the epicenter of pop culture, the USA draws in countless enthusiasts around the globe. Wondering which countries are the biggest fans of the States? Here we go:
- Canada- Coming in at number one is America's immediate neighbors, with a total of 20.7 million arrivals in 2019, leading this list in style.
- Mexico- Second place goes to El Tri's citizens, with 18.1 million visitors in 2019.
- UK- Interested in how many English citizens visited the US?4.8 million in 2019.
- Japan- The Land of the Rising Sun brought 3.8 million visitors to the States in 2019.
- China- Rounding up this list is China with 2.8 million visitors.
Visiting The USA: Amidst Skyscrapers & Majestic Landscapes
America's culture is celebrated globally, from technological super brands like Tesla to larger-than-life sporting events like the Super Bowl. Let's look at some cultural and historical marvels (not the films!) that you should visit when you are there.
- Mount Rushmore- Quiz: do you know all the presidents that are engraved in this colossal sculpture? If not, you should definitely pay this historical monument a visit!
- Gateway Arch- Based in St. Louis, the tallest man-made monument in the United States represents the “Gateway to the West”, honoring the American spirit while reflecting on the country’s history.
- Mount Vernon- Step into the home of George Washington, the first president of the United States, and transport yourself back in time. Picturesque estates and time capsules rolled in one, this is an ideal destination for history buffs.
Big City Life: America's Concrete Jungles
From the Big Apple to the Golden Gate Bridge, America's urban life is a fascinating playground that mixes towering skyscrapers with a tapestry of vibrant cultures. Don't miss out on these cities:
- New York City- With an astonishing 66.6 million visitors in 2019, America's landmark is the crème de la crème of urban grandeur. Get lost in Times Square, enchant yourself in a Broadway play, or navigate delicious street venues. To quote the legendary Robert DeNiro: “I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say, 'There's no place like New York.”
- San Francisco- Different City, different vibe. Caught between modern tech giants and Victorian homes, SanFran definitely has its unique charm, whether you’re strolling through rolling hills, or walking around Pier 39 as the Pacific Ocean unfolds in front of you.
- Orlando- Home to the lush landscapes of Central Florida, Orlando is the city for exhilarating theme parks like Disney's Magic Kingdom or Universal Studios.
- Seattle- A place“where innovation is as ordinary as coffee”, this northwest city is perfect for immersing yourself in America’s elevated art scene with venues like the Museum of Pop Culture, or savory the city views from the pinnacle of the Space Needle.
- Washington D.C- USA's capital is a symphony of monuments and memorials capturing the country's historic and political significance. Wander through the momentous streets of Georgetown, or check out world-class museums like the Smithsonian.
- Los Angeles- Home to iconic film studios and the legendary Walk of Fame, the City of Angels brings you the perfect shopping terrain and a taste of Hollywood glitz and glamour.
Travel Tip: If you’re curious, these are the most visited destinations ranked by numbers.
Away From The City: America's Breathtaking Landscapes
Want to trade in your sneakers for hiking boots and city noise for the peace of the woods? Then these natural wonders should be on your itinerary.
- Yosemite Park- Not only famous for having the tallest waterfall in North America, Yosemite is an incredible opportunity to connect with the country's phenomenal landscapes, scenic valleys and incredible nature.
- Niagara Falls-Speaking of waterfalls, America's most famous cascades will take your breath away. A magnetic pull for all adventurers, the sheer raw power and marvelous beauty captivates people over and over.
- Yellowstone Park- America's first national park, home to geysers (always erupting at the perfect time!) and hot springs, is a geological wonderland. With its thriving wildlife, the park is an ideal spot for outdoor activities such as hiking or camping.
- Redwoods California-Away from towering skyscrapers and towards towering trees, these natural wonders will make your neck hurt from looking up (I am 2 meters tall and can confirm that). As an ancient natural treasure and an important reminder for environmental preservation, the Redwoods are living witnesses of the earth’s beauty, and fragility.
- Rocky Mountains- Perfect for winter sports activities in Aspen, the Rocky Mountains offer the ideal place for tranquil retreats and discovering captivating ridges and lakes.
Different Cities, Different Food
It is no wonder tourists spend 1/4 of their trip's money on American food. Here are some culinary trademarks you shouldn't miss:
- Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich in Philadelphia- A comfort food for many US citizens, the thinly sliced beef, the melting cheese, and the crispy baguette-like bread will give you a sensory explosion. Caution: Hot!
- New England Clam Chowder- Clams are the star ingredient of this creamy, nostalgic American soup. You will find it around every coastal town in America, reminding you of the country’s maritime heritage.
- Chicago Style Hot Dog- Love street food? Then take a huge bite of one of America's traditional meals, dating back to the Great Depression. Just like its history, this hot dog will pass the test of time…anytime!
- Lobster Roll in New England- Native to New England, this local dish combines locally caught and prepared lobster in a hot-dog-style bun. Juicy, savory, and adventurous, this meal represents the coastal lifestyle.
- Key Lime Pie in Florida- In the mood for something sweet? Then check out this delightful tart, bringing you the state’s sunshine on your plate.
Let's Get Down To Business: How & When In The USA
Traveling to America can be the trip of a lifetime. To ensure that you don't run into logistical nightmares, and that you can comfortably get around, and know exactly what to do (and what not to do), let's discuss some details:
How To Get Around In The States
Did I mention that America is huge? I believe I did. Here are the most convenient ways to get from town to town and state to state.
- Taking the Train - If time is on your side, and you'd like to ride comfortably while enjoying breathtaking vistas, a train service like Amtrak might be your best choice. Do keep in mind that the train network can lack infrastructure from time to time, and trains usually run only twice per day.
Travel Tip: Since all passengers must have seats, reserving tickets in advance is necessary.
- Taking the Bus - If taking several stops alongside the highway sounds like a relaxing travel method, then taking the bus will be the best choice for you (and your wallet!). Services like Trailways will bring you from major city to major city conveniently. That being said, the countryside makes traveling by bus difficult, since many buses only arrive once a day.
- Taking the Plane - By far, the fastest option when crossing long distances is hopping on a plane. Since major cities and smaller towns have an airport, it makes for the most convenient and speediest way of traveling. If you are a fan of efficiency, the airplane is your best friend.
- Taking the Car - Renting a car (or a van) and hitting the road will turn your trip into a personal journey. Make a list of all the things you want to see, and stop for as long as you'd like - you'll definitely experience the country from a different angle. However, traffic in major cities can be a true nightmare. Also, keep in mind that you may need an international driver's license as a non-US citizen.
Travel Tip: Since distances are huge, it is essential to plan your routes in advance. Trouble doing so? Our local private guides will be glad to assist you.
When To Go: America Between The Seasons
So, you’re ready to set foot in the land of stars and stripes. But when's the best time to go? Well, it depends on what you want to get out of your travels, and where you want to go. Let’s weigh the options:
America By The Seasons:
Each season comes with its pros and cons of visiting. Do you have a plan about when to travel? Consider this:
Summer (June to August) - Sunny, Vibrant, Festive
Pros: The weather in the north-western parts of the country (Oregon, Washington) is mild with festivals and cultural events filling your calendar in no time, and it's the ideal time for beach goers.
Cons: It becomes crowded (especially in National Parks) and can get up to 40°C in the southern parts.
Autumn (September to November) - Colorful, Mild, Pleasant
Pros: A milder climate, perfect for exploring National Parks. The seasonal change reveals the country's national beauty. Maroon, yellow and orange leaves will fill your photos.
Cons: Shorter days and unpredictable weather patterns can rule your vacation if you’re unlucky. Advice? Layer up your clothing!
Winter (December to February) - Snowy, Chilly, Cozy
Pros: Perfect temperatures (around 26°C) for exploring the country's southern parts, and National Parks in the desert regions (California, Nevada, Arizona & Utah). Also, it's perfect for winter sports activities (Aspen and Vail in Colorado) and the holiday spirit will reward you with many decorated cities and beautiful markets.
Cons: Occasional rain showers and harsher temperatures on the east coast (New York). Winter storms and holiday travel cost spikes can disrupt your journey.
Spring (March to May) - Blossoming, Flourishing, Vibrant
Pros: Waking up from a long winter, temperatures are rising slowly, and the shoulder season makes it an ideal time for exploration, especially in later spring months with an overall temperature of 15°C outside. Also: festivals like Coachella and other events happen in nearly every city.
Cons: Rain showers and temperature fluctuations are common, so bear that in mind. Spring break is also in high demand for tourists. If you’re in the Midwest (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and parts of Texas) pay attention to tornado warnings as it’s the height of the tornado season.
In general, every season has its peaks and valleys. The shoulder seasons (Spring and Autumn) usually give the nicest mixtures of a mild climate, less crowded places, and ideal opportunities to explore both the urban jungles and natural wildlife.
What To Expect: Life In The Melting Pot
50 states, 50 different ways of living. That can be pretty overwhelming for first-time visitors. Still trying to figure out social manners? We’ve got you covered!
Do's & Don'ts: The US Edition
Travel fact: There are many sensitive topics regarding politics, gun laws, race and immigration, so, if you’re not 100% sure, be cautious when addressing those topics.
Staying Safe: Red Flags For Travelers
With a crime index of 59.90 in the country's capital (Washington D.C), the USA is a moderately safe country. However, crime rates tend to differ greatly from state to state. No matter which part of the US you are traveling to, it is always essential to do some research beforehand. With that being said, keep these tips in mind:
- Only use ATMs in Safe Areas- Stick to ATMs that officially belong to US banks and are placed in well-lit, crowded areas. Avoid using ATMs at night and at gas stations.
- Keep your Belongings in Sight…- Especially in tourist-heavy places where petty crime is ubiquitous.
- …and don't have all of your valuables with you simultaneously- Instead, place them safely in the hotel and only take the necessary items.
- Pay attention to your surroundings- Be sure to know what is happening nearby, don't try to take shortcuts through a quieter neighborhood, and don't walk through less populated and poorly lit places at night.
- Play it safe- If you're unsure about heading towards specific places or entering parts of the city you don't know and don't feel safe in, it's best to leave them out.
Travel Tip: Our local private guides are not only experts in finding the most ideal spots but also the best places to visit and the ones to avoid. You can contact them beforehand if you have specific questions.
Some things in life must be experienced first-hand to be fully understood. A journey to America is such an experience. And if you've read this far, you probably have the same opinion!
So, what are you waiting for? Our American tour guides will gladly support you by transforming your “all-over-the-place” bucket list into a proper itinerary that will dissolve all your sorrows and concerns into oblivion. Let’s make this trip an unforgettable one!