Surely it is every traveller’s dream to undertake the classic American road trip? Cruising through expansive highways, through widely varying scenery as you call in on cool cities on the way. It surely beats being stuck on a particularly congested, rainy and cheerless part of the M6, whilst on a British ‘staycation’. I’ve been lucky enough to both live and travel extensively in the states and i’ve long appreciated it’s relentless optimism, massive portions, roadside diners, 27 oz coffees, and the sheer enormity of everything.
If you’re looking to plan a trip round the states then my stateside girl Danielle Toner from travel and food website The Taste Team, has created a guide on the happening places in the USA, here are the American Cities she thinks you should be visiting:
Whilst all these destinations are a part of the United States of America, each place is different in its own right. They have special attractions for which they are known, their culture, food, and even their rhythm is unique. The rare combinations are what you’ll look forward to in each place and why you’ll love them.
While there are several more popular U.S. destinations, and many more frequented by tourists, these are ten that stand out among the rest, most of them happen to be favourites of mine too. These popular travel destinations are in no particular order and I encourage you to explore them all…and then some.
New York City, New York
There are oodles of surface to explore in The Big Apple. The fashion capital of the world is a shopper’s dream, from high end retailers in upper Manhattan to pop-ups and market style shops in SoHo, you can find it all in New York. Shopping only scratches the surface of things to do in the city.
The train allows you to route from corner to corner and town to town. Start with the Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock where you can get a glimpse of the magnificent skyline and the Hudson. At the right angle, you’ll see Lady Liberty too. For a closer look, book the tour that runs several times a day. You can take a ferry ride to Ellis Island to get as up close and personal as you like. The tour grants access to the Statue of Liberty at ground, pedestal, or crown level.
I may be a little biased, since I can’t get enough of the place, but it’s easy to understand why the city inspired the trend of “I Love NY” tees. I could go on and on about New York, but you get my drift. Here are a few more things you can’t leave the city without getting into:
- Empire State Building
- Broadway Theater
- Central Park
- Take a short trip to Niagara Falls
- Visit Harlem and The Bronx
- Lounge around in Times Square, literally.
- Take the train to Philly
A little note about the weather: If you’re not used to cold weather climates, save this trip for New York’s late spring or summer. Go some time between late April and August. If not, all it takes is a moderate rain to put you at risk of freezing your biscuits off. You don’t want to spend your time hibernating in your hotel room, people watching, movie binging, and not enjoying your itinerary. Sounds like a personal experience, doesn’t it?
Los Angeles, California
This place is full of adventure, beautiful beaches, and good yet healthy food. You’re bound to run into at least one celebrity during your visit. Some points of interest are Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, Mulholland Drive, and Santa Monica. This is another place that has endless attractions you’ll never be able to cram into one vacation. I only dropped in for a quick twenty-four hour layover and still managed to get to most of the things mentioned here, celebrity included.
If you’re taking kids along or want some thrills for yourself, you can find several amusement parks in the Southern California area. Some of the most popular are Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier gives you many options to relax or dig in the amusements. At the pier, you can dip your feet in the ocean, walk the pier, or enjoy some carnival style food and rides.
If you’re looking for an in demand California destination mentioned a little less often, but just as popular, try San Diego, San Francisco, or Palm Springs. Like L.A., the weather stays nice most of the year. It’s known for warm days and peacefully cool nights. During my early February visit, I only needed a light jacket at night. I’m always cold, so most can probably do without.
Las Vegas, Nevada
It won’t be hard to convince you to take a trip to Vegas, as I’m sure you’ve heard about it. Though you’ll find yourself surrounded by tourists and hustlers trying to get your attention, everyone should experience Las Vegas. I think each person leaves with a different perspective of the phrase “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas”.
Las Vegas Strip and Fremont street are most travellers’ objects of affection, and there’s more than enough to keep you occupied. Casinos are the obvious thrill, but there’s more to get into. A wide variety of attractions will catch your eye; free, paid, relaxing, and jaw dropping. Fountains of Bellagio dancing water show is a must. You can also find a dancing ceiling on Fremont Street. More detailed shows exist in the form of sporting events and concerts at MGM Garden Arena or Cirque Du Soleil shows at various casino theatres.
For a relaxing full view of the city, take a ride on the Sky View. If you want the same view with a higher up, dangling feeling of a near death experience, skip the Sky View and go for the rides at Stratosphere Tower. To keep your feet on the ground or at least in a more calm environment, you can find plenty of shows, games, and even entertainment from just a walk down the strip. A few hidden jewels lie off the beaten path too. Add Lake Mead Marina and Hoover Dam to your list of to-do’s.
New Orleans, Louisiana
This is one of my favourite cities that’s close to home. A short drive away from familiar seems like a completely different world. Still, it has a slightly similar Southern charm. It’s the perfect mix of big city and small town and it is a melting pot of different cultures, flavors, and styles that you won’t find anywhere else.
You can find entertainment of all varieties, including Harrah’s Casino, Steamboat Cruises, trolley rides, and ghost tours. Even with all that on the agenda, you can’t leave without taking a stroll down Bourbon Street. You’ll find some of the best restaurants, bars, and music on this strip. Depending on the time of year and hour of the day, you’ll also have free entertainment to watch. On Bourbon Street, expect to see street dancers, people throwing Mardi Gras beads, and some who have just had too much to drink and become the centre of attention.
Some other things you will enjoy in New Orleans:
- French Market
- Shopping at the Riverwalk
- Seasonal Parades (Mardi Gras and others)
- New Orleans Saints Football at the Superdome
- New Orleans Pelicans Basketball at the Smoothie King Center
Besides music, sports, and all the forms of entertainment you can handle, New Orleans is a foodie’s dream. The fusion of cultures is evident in the food you’ll find, their Cajun Creole Cuisine is the best food on this list of ten. I’d even go so far as to say the best in the U.S. I’ve never had a disappointing experience dining in New Orleans. So far, some of my favourites are Deanie’s Seafood, Oceana Grill, and Le Bayou.
Don’t forget to get some beignets at the world renowned Cafe Du Monde. You can find them either at Riverwalk or their original location at the French Market. They’re the reason I always have two desserts. Speaking of dessert, you’ll find shops around the city to take home an edible souvenir. New Orleans is well known for their rich praline, and you won’t regret having your share.
The capital city gets its nickname, “Music City” from its historical roots. In the 1800s, it became the central location for music production and performance, downtown Nashville also became home of the Grand Ole Opry. The city is now a portal for multiple genres, including pop, rock, bluegrass, Americana, jazz, classical, contemporary Christian, blues, and soul. Most of the attractions there reflect the theme of music. You can learn all about the history at the Music City Walk of Fame.
I spent most of my time in Downtown, Nashville where most of the attractions are anyway. This is where you can find many bars, balconies, rooftops, and restaurants to enjoy good food, drinks and music all at once. You can even pick up a few items at what’s been rated among one of the best places to shop.
On Broadway, you can take an interesting walk to find some restaurants in historic buildings, like Merchant’s Restaurant. The street will also lead you to Cumberland River and the Home of the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. You could be fortunate enough to plan your trip around football season and catch a Titans game, the stadium also hosts concerts and their annual music festival.
The Gulch is another popular part of the area to enjoy shopping, delicious Nashville style food and sweets. A fellow blogger praises Peg Leg Porker as Nashville’s Best Barbecue Joint, so you definitely need to make plans to stop by. Finish up with dessert from Five Daughters Bakery while you’re at it.
You can expect a typical mix of southern hot and cold weather. It tends to get a little colder in the winter than areas further south. During our latest October visit, it was still quite warm during the day and slightly cool at night.
This destination is no stranger at all to tourists, at the rate the resorts and amusements have expanded over the years, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they changed the city’s name to Disney World, Florida. The village that encompasses attractions like Universal Orlando, Epcot Center, and The Magic Kingdom has endless things to do for all ages. It would be hard to get bored with all the amusement parks and resorts at Disney.
Still, in case you want to explore what is Orlando outside of Disney, here’s a list to start with:
- Tour the Orlando Brewing Company
- Take a two-hour Guided Kayak Eco-Tour at the Ritz Carlton or JW Marriott at Grande Lakes
- Watch an NBA Orlando Magic basketball game
- Get a five star spa treatment at Waldorf Astoria, The Ritz-Carlton, or Grand Bohemian Hotel
- Enjoy an artistic tapas dining experience at Cafe Tu Tu Tango
- Go Shopping at One of Orlando’s Premium Outlets
Think about how you want to spend your time in Orlando and plan accordingly with the expected weather for the season. Orlando is a place with mostly great weather (outside of tropical storms). You can expect many pleasant sunny days and some moderately cool temperatures in early spring. Summer can bring scorching hot weather that’s less bearable to spend all day at theme parks.
Miami Beach, Florida
Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my time at each destination on the list, Miami is still my absolute favorite. The energy, scenery, and temperature are hard to beat. If you’re looking to spend much of your time getting acquainted with the beach, this resort area is the perfect spot for you. Miami Beach is an island in South Florida near downtown Miami and connected to the city by bridge. This means you can enjoy lodging by the beach and still have close access to all other attractions the area offers.
Bayside Marketplace is a spot to get enjoyment of all types, during the day you can enjoy a mix of shopping and dining. At night, you’ll find yourself in the midst of salsa dancing and it’s just as much fun to watch as to do. The night view of the water and lighting from nearby building is definitely a beautiful sight you’ll want to capture. Coconut Grove is another area to fill your shopping bag and your tummy.
South Beach is well known for boutique hotels and attractive beaches, but they have so much more. For one, you can see what all the fuss is about with the late designer, Versace’s mansion on Ocean Drive. The mansion now operates as a hotel and restaurant. Once that’s all cleared up, get more nightlife entertainment, at the string of clubs, restaurants, and shops Sobe has on all levels.
If you’re into sports, you can catch a college or pro football game in style at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. It was formerly Sun Life Stadium and is still home of the NFL Miami Dolphins and University of Miami Hurricanes. The new owners have made several distinct changes to give guests game enjoyment with privacy, plush seating and valet service for the right price.
Miami maintains warm weather for most of the year but the city also has many rainy days. It’s bests to be cautious when planning trips during hurricane season. I’ve had a few cruises leaving from Miami that were almost cancelled and changed their itineraries mid-cruise.
Sometimes the city gets negative feedback for being a dangerous place but don’t believe everything you hear. Chicago deserves to be on this list just as much as the others. The media will do anything for a story, and there’s no place on the planet exempt from some sort of danger or risk. You should always be careful and aware of your surroundings and you’ll be in for an enjoyable trip.
Here’s another one of those areas where there’s so much to do but you can squeeze it into a short amount of time. You may find yourself moving fast but you’re guaranteed to enjoy every second of it. It’s easy to plan a trip to Chicago to suit any taste and budget.
Like New York, Chicago has an amazing skyline that you’ll want to gaze at and even snap a few shots for memories. You can do this a few ways. Pay to go to the top of the Sears Tower, have dessert and cocktails at the Signature Lounge inside Hancock Tower, take an architecture boat tour, or visit the Adler Planetarium. The boat tour or the Adler Planetarium are the best options for learning about the buildings along with the view.
The Loop is a popular section of the city with plenty of things to do. You’ll find yourself entertained with tourists and locals at Millennium Park snapping photos in Cloud Gate. It’s a metal bean shaped cloud where you can see your distorted reflection and those of buildings nearby. You can also sink your teeth in some Chicago style deep dish pizza at Giordano’s across the street and a few blocks down.
Clubs are in all variety in Chicago. You can indulge in lounging at a mellow spot with a fine wine or taking shots and shutting down the club in a more lively scene. You can also get your giggle on at a comedy show, though one of the clubs featuring comedy was since required to close.
If clubbing isn’t your thing, Chicago isn’t short of sports either. Football fans can enjoy the NFL Chicago Bears, join the crowd for a Cubs or White Sox game if you’re into baseball, or basketball fans can plan to visit when the Chicago Bulls have a home game scheduled.
One thing that you do want to take precautions for is the temperature. This is another place where the weather’s no joke outside of the spring and summer. They don’t call it the “Windy City” for nothing. Be prepared to bundle up if you dare to take on Chicago in the fall or winter.
All Set to Make your United States Travel Plans?
Most of the U.S. destinations on this list require several visits to indulge in everything. The most important thing is to start somewhere and book the trip. With proper planning, you can squeeze in a ton of enjoyment on a short getaway. Just prepare for full days of making memories and save the down time for after your travels.
What places do you have on your bucket list to visit in the United States? I’d love to chat about it in the comments!
Danielle is a freelance writer and owner of The Taste Team, LLC, a platform for travel and food writers to publish about local dining, travel, and entertainment. She’s a free spirit who’s passionate about being able to do what she loves- travel and write. When she’s not on the run or stuffing her face, she’s somewhere reading, spending time with loved ones, working out, watching movies, catching sun at the beach, or walking the aisles of the health food store. Visit The Taste Team’s website and follow us on social media to see all our team’s travel adventures and foodie finds. You can connect with the taste Team by following the links below!