Forget the tourist traps and clichés. At Flight Centre we’ve worked with our Experts both here and in the USA to come up with the ultimate list of things to do in the Land of the Free. These experiences are all tried and tested by our people and can be incorporated into a tailor-made USA holiday to suit you and your budget. Time to start planning…
1. Fly from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon in a helicopter
The ultimate way to see the Grand Canyon, you’ll be driven from your Las Vegas hotel to the local airport in a limousine, where you’ll then board a Maverick Helicopter. From there you’ll fly over the Las Vegas Strip and the Hoover Dam before reaching the natural icon itself. Here, you’ll land in the canyon for lunch and Champagne before flying back. Read more about the Grand Canyon helicopter experience here.
Blogger Giulia Mule of Mondo Mulia agrees: “One of the ultimate activities to do in USA is without a doubt the helicopter ride in the Grand Canyon, Arizona. The 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, steep-sided canyon is carved by the Colorado River and is part of a national park where native American tribes live. The Grand Canyon is an iconic and majestic sight and one destination you absolutely cannot miss on a trip to the United States.”
2. Cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
The breeze is bracing, but the views and sense of liberation are unrivalled – you’ll soak up the best of San Francisco when cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge. Pick up your bike in Fisherman’s Wharf, put your pedal power to the test across the iconic crimson overpass, and then stop for lunch in Sausalito before catching the ferry back to the city. Read more about the best things to do San Francisco.
3. Drive through the Deep South
Our favourite road trip in the USA, on this itinerary you’ll enjoy some of the best food and music scenes in the country. Begin in Atlanta, Georgia, before driving onto the country music capital of Nashville, Tennessee and the home of Elvis’s Graceland in Memphis. This road trip also includes a few nights in New Orleans, where you’ll enjoy Creole cuisine and live jazz. Experience it for yourself on our Deep South Highlights holiday.
4. Walk through Central Park in New York
You could wander aimlessly through Central Park and it’d be the highlight of any New York holiday. But, to really make the most of it, bring a picnic to enjoy by the Alice in Wonderland fountain, go for a romantic boat ride at The Loeb Boathouse, walk through the Strawberry Fields garden dedicated to John Lennon or, for a special occasion, make a reservation at the historic Tavern on the Green restaurant. Find out more tips for visiting New York.
Blogger Ana Silva O’Reilly of Mrs O Around the World also recommends the High Line:“In New York City, a walk on the High Line is a great way to see the city from a different perspective. The concept of a walkway that covers a few neighbourhoods and provides green space for residents and artists is a great example of urban redevelopment.”
5. Try deep dish pizza in Chicago
Cheesy, tomato-y and encased by a crispy short dough crust, deep dish in Chicago is the stuff of pizza dreams. It’s claimed that Pizzeria Uno in River North is where the style was first conceived back in the forties, so head here for a slice. Our advice? Order a small – anything bigger will have you bursting at the seams and begging for a doggy bag.
6. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to LA
The beautiful bridges of the Big Sur, elephant seals in San Simeon and crystal-clear waters in Monterey: the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway between California’s most famous cities is easily one of the best get-behind-the-wheel experiences in the USA. Take on the tarmac over two days, overnighting in San Simeon where you can visit the marble-encrusted Hearst Castle, a National Historic Landmark. Find out more about driving along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Blogger Cathy of Mummytravels.com recommends this as a great road trip to do if you have children. “America is the home of the road trip, and there’s no reason you can’t try one with kids as well. California’s classic Highway One along the Pacific Coast is famous for a reason but with so many great towns and gorgeous beaches to stop at along the way (and amazing scenery for grown-ups), we didn’t once get asked ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ From trams and sealions to Alcatraz and some fantastic ice cream, San Francisco was the perfect start – then checking out redwoods, the bright colours of Santa Cruz’s boardwalk, Monterey Aquarium and the purple sand of Pfeiffer Beach along Big Sur as we headed south.”
7. Visit a plantation home in Louisiana
Rich in history and painting the perfect picture of the Deep South, Louisiana’s antebellum plantation homes are a must-see. Head for one of our favourites, like the Oak Alley Plantation, where a natural archway of gnarled trees accentuates the beauty of the mansion. Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt flick ‘Interview with a Vampire’ and Beyonce’s Déjà vu music video were both filmed here.
8. Watch an American sports game
Even if you have little to no interest in sport, an American sports game is something not to be missed. In fact, what’s going on the field is just one part of the experience. It can include everything from fireworks to cheerleaders, live music, celebrity spotting and plenty of food and drinks. For NFL, get tickets to a game in Dallas/Fort Worth or Boston, while basketball and baseball are great games to see when in New York or Chicago.
Blogger Raj Popat of The Two Roads tells us about his favourite US sporting experience: “Watching any sports event in the USA can be a big exciting event, but for me nothing beats a visit to the San Francisco Giants on 4th July to watch a baseball game. The stadium will be at full capacity and you’ll enjoy the spectacle of sports, American style. The food, the drink and the atmosphere are all supersized!”
9. Stay at a ranch in Texas
There are plenty of unique and unforgettable places to stay in the USA, but few can match the experience of staying at a genuine cowboy ranch in Texas. One of our favourites is the Wildcatter Ranch, where guests enjoy western-styled guest rooms, authentic Texas cuisine, horseback riding, sport clay shooting and archery, as well as an infinity pool, hot tub and therapeutic massage. A stay at the ranch is included in our Cajun Cowboys holiday.
10. Take a sunrise hike at Arches National Park, Utah
The russet-hued rocks of Arches National Park are best experienced during the ‘golden hours’ of sunrise and sunset, to witness the changing colours and shadows. Hit the trails at sunrise though, and you’ll beat most of the crowds to have this untouched landscape all to yourself. Hike to Devil’s Garden, Courthouse Towers or the Windows sections of the park for photo-worthy views first thing.
11. Hike the Koko Crater Trail in Honolulu, Hawaii
12. Stay at the Old Faithful Inn, overlooking the geyser of the same name in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
13. Cruise Alaska’s Inside Passage
14. Drive to Key West from Miami
15. Go wine tasting in the California wine regions
16. Spend Halloween in Salem
17. Visit the White House in Washington DC
18. Grab a lobster roll from Five Islands in Georgetown, Maine
19. Take a beach yoga class in Santa Monica, Los Angeles
20. Spend Saturday night at a honky tonk bar, like the Honky Tonk Central, in Nashville
Top USA tip from Sophie Hannah Davis of Sophie’s Suitcase: “I loved visiting Miami in 2012 and exploring everything this wonderful city had to offer. While you are there make sure you grab a Go Miami Card which is valid for one, two, three or five days over a two-week period and covers admission on 34 attractions.”
21. See the natural firefall at Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park
22. Go orca-watching off the coast of Seattle
23. See the gospel choir perform at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis
24. Ride in a hot-air balloon above the desert in Arizona
25. Do the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky
26. Do the Studio Tour at Universal Studios in Los Angeles
27. Go to the Superbowl – talk to our Experts about booking tickets a year in advance
28. Admire the hats at the Kentucky Derby
29. Take an airboat ride through the Everglades, Florida
Top USA tip from Victoria Philpott, of VickyFlipFlopTravels.com: “The Emerald Coast in Florida is incredible. Just miles and miles of beautiful white sand dotted with great places to eat along the way. Fly into Pensacola and drive across the bridges and along the coastal roads to North West Florida Beaches Airport. Stop off at Destin and Panama City Beach along the way for at least a night. Even better, you could drive to Destin from New Orleans in just a few hours and carry on to Orlando – depends on how much of a road trip you want. I’d say go for it!”
30. Eat a chocolate chip cookie at Levain Bakery in New York
31. Catch live music at Morgan Freeman’s blues bar, Ground Zero, in Clarksdale, Mississippi
32. Visit the Martin Luther King museum in Alabama
33. Stay at the guest house in Graceland, Memphis
34. Catch a civil war reenactment at Gettysburg
35. Dress up for the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans
36. Drink craft beer in Portland
37. Grab a po’ boy sandwich from Parkway Bakery & Tavern in New Orleans
38. Do the Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour in Brooklyn
39. Attend Coachella in Palm Springs
40. Go skiing in Vail, Colorado
41. Get your picture taken by the South Beach sign in Miami
42. Attend a Nascar Race in Indianapolis
43. See the cacti at Joshua Tree National Park
44. Try Arepas in Doggi’s Arepa Bar in Miami
45. Visit the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota
46. Ride the Big Apple Coaster in Las Vegas
47. See live country music at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas
48. Visit the Hershey’s Factory in Pennsylvania
49. Go storm chasing in the Midwest
50. Tour the wineries of North Carolina
Vote for Your Favourite
Find all of these ideas and more within our range of USA Holidays. For more suggested things to do or to start planning a tailor-made USA holiday, make an appointment to talk to one of our Travel Experts today.