As one of the largest countries in the world, and with each of its 50 states offering their own distinct character, the US is a big, bold, diverse destination with something to attract every kind of traveller. From the cinematic skyline of New York City to the oversized majesty of the Grand Canyon, from Florida’s expansive stretches of sandy beach to New England’s delectable seafood scene, you’re spoilt for choice in North America’s crown jewel. The Independent's travel experts have explored every corner of the country to bring you the latest USA travel news, the best deals on flights to America and deep-dive guides, including where to stay, where to eat and the top tourist attractions to experience on your next holiday stateside.
Kevin E G PerryAmerica’s National Parks are home to some of the most beautiful wilderness on the planet. Here are some that should go straight to the top of your must-visit list
The National Park System is one of the crowning glories of the United States. Signed into creation by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, there are now a total of 63 national parks spread across the country. From sprawling landscapes straight out of classic Westerns to towering mountain ranges and lush wetlands, they offer a diverse range of opportunities to explore the country’s unspoilt wilderness. Full article.
America’s original National Park, first established in 1872, sprawls for 2.2 million acres across state lines and is home to thousands of hydrothermal features, such as steaming hot springs, mud pots and geysers, plus bison and elk.
Set in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite is renowned for its magnificent giant sequoia groves, with trees that grow up to 256ft tall. It’s also a rock climber’s playground, with granite cliffs such as El Capitan rising 3,593ft above the valley floor.
A mile deep and 18 miles across at its widest point, this iconic chasm of red rock took six million years to carve out. Hike the popular Bright Angel Trail, descending over 4,000ft, or view the canyon from above on the glass-floored Grand Canyon Skywalk.
The most populated city in the US is also the country’s cultural beating heart, home to an unparalleled skyline, countless museums and galleries, swoon-worthy restaurants and world-famous Broadway shows.
North Cali’s big-hitting city is packed with eclectic architecture and iconic features, including the Golden Gate Bridge, historic cable cars to navigate its steep streets by, and world-famous former prison-turned-national park Alcatraz.
Famed for its deep-dish pizza, renowned sports teams and bold skyscrapers, the USA’s third-largest city also benefits from a position on the edge of the sublime Lake Michigan.
With its iconic skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty and Central Park, the buzzing streets of NYC are packed with instantly recognisable attractions that provide the ultimate backdrop for a next-level city break. It’s the ideal spot to indulge in some retail therapy, be it shopping in Soho and the on-trend Lower East Side, or browsing designer shops on Fifth Avenue and the world-famous Bloomingdale’s on the Upper East Side. There’s so much more to New York holidays than Manhattan, too; get off the island to discover artsy Brooklyn, hip hop hotspot Queens and park-filled Staten Island.
New York may be known for its legendary luxury five-star hotels, such as the Plaza and the Algonquin, but there are also plenty of budget-friendly boltholes and unique boutique options available. Whether you're looking to stay in Midtown Manhattan, home to some of New York's top attractions such as Times Square and The Empire State Building, or you're after a more chilled-out vibe in bougie Brooklyn, our experts have you covered with their pick of places to stay.
From celeb spotting in LA’s Beverley Hills to watching sea lions in Monterey and cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California combines the laid-back East Coast cool of road-trip favourite the Pacific Coast Highway with the fast-paced tech bubble of Silicon Valley – all in one glorious, multifaceted state. Nature lovers will be right at home here too, with Joshua Tree, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks to explore, while families can get their theme park fix at Disneyland California.
Historic streets in The French Quarter and shopping in the Garden District are complemented by museums and galleries in the Central Business District and Warehouse District in the captivating Louisiana city of New Orleans. The Big Easy thrums with a world-class live music scene, hedonistic nightlife, and a unique, spice-packed cuisine style that reflects its French, African and American heritage. We've rounded up the best restaurants, things to do and hotels in New Orleans to help plan an unbeatable visit.
Theme park capital Florida is a dream destination for families and thrill seekers alike, home to Walt Disney World Resort – with its Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Animal Kingdom parks – Universal Orlando Resort, Busch Gardens and Legoland. The Sunshine State also boasts endless white-sand beaches, wild alligators in the famed wetlands of the Everglades National Park, vibrant cities such as Miami, Jacksonville and Tallahassee, and even out-of-this-world attractions – courtesy of the Kennedy Space Center.
Florida’s coolest city shimmers with nonstop nightlife, out-of-this-world hotels, Cuban influences in Little Havana and a so-hip-it-hurts arts scene in its mural-covered Wynwood neighbourhood. The coastal metropolis also benefits from its position on the Atlantic Coast, offering a number of fine sand beaches lapped by clear, turquoise waves. It sits just on the edge of the Everglades National Park, where visitors can take an airboat tour through coastal mangroves, sawgrass marshes and pine flatwoods to spot hundreds of species of wildlife, including alligators and crocodiles.
It’s the ultimate US road trip destination: Route 66, the backdrop to and inspiration behind countless movies and pop culture references. Larger-than-life landscapes accompany this legendary 2,400-mile stretch of road that crosses eight states and three time zones, taking in cities including Albuquerque, Oklahoma City and St Louis. Starting in Chicago, Illinois and finishing in Los Angeles, California, the drive takes around three weeks to complete and passes by quintessentially American diners, motels and quirky attractions.
Home to its world-famous deep-dish pizza, dramatic architecture and an eclectic music scene, Chicago, Illinois, is the USA’s third largest city, with a buzzing arts and culture scene to match. Perched on the edge of Lake Michigan, the Windy City is sports-mad, thanks to the Chicago Bears (American football), Chicago Bulls (basketball) and Chicago Cubs (baseball) teams. Luxe hotels, riverside views, numerous museums and galleries and plenty of things to do, meanwhile, all add up to a first-rate city break destination.
This vast natural wonder stretches 10 miles across, a mile deep and 277 miles long. It’s one of the most spectacular examples of erosion anywhere in the world, with layered bands of red rock revealing millions of years of geological history.
The group of three waterfalls – Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls – spans the border between Ontario, Canada and the state of New York in the US. The sheer volume and speed of water pouring from 57m makes for an awe-inducing spectacle.
The 60ft-high faces carved into Mount Rushmore in South Dakota have become synonymous with the United States. Depicting former US presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, the giant sculpture now has an attached museum with interactive exhibits to learn more.
Flying is really the only way to reach the USA from the UK. Flights go between major cities in both countries, with New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles serving as the main entry points.
Cunard has resumed its seven-night transatlantic cruise between Southampton and New York aboard the Queen Mary 2, which sails approximately once a month. Several cargo-ship companies offer passenger crossings between ports in northern Europe and cities along the US east coast.
Flying and driving are the most common ways of getting around the US. The classic American road trip is a favourite for travellers keen to experience the country’s expanses of nature and vast highways.
The Amtrak train network has practical pockets of service in the northeast and west coast but can be slow and laborious for cross-country travel. On the other hand, the Greyhound bus network is cheap but can range from notoriously colourful to downright unsafe - check out Flixbus, too, which has a growing, eco-friendly bus network.
Most major cities have subway (underground) train systems or public city buses, but generally, you’ll need to hire a car to get around.
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