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Nine best USA holidays for the ultimate American experiences

Metropolitan city breaks, beach holidays and adventures in the Wild West all await across the Pond

Natalie Wilson
Friday 23 June 2023 10:42 BST
See the famous sights of Route 66 on a North American road trip
See the famous sights of Route 66 on a North American road trip (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

With so many states to choose from, the US offers unforgettable experiences and activities, stretching all the way from Alaska to Hawaii.

The idea of America, and what constitutes the perfect American adventure, varies wildly depending on where you go (and what you’re into).

Visitors can lose their inhibitions at famous festivals like Burning Man or Coachella, watch global sports events, seek for thrills at out-of-this-world theme parks and chase exhilarating once-in-a-lifetime moments on iconic road trips down Route 66 or while spending days hiking in Yellowstone National Park.

And then there are the white-sand beaches – prolific down both east and west coasts – plus a plethora of big-hitting city break destinations, ranging from the famed skyline of New York City to the healthy-living, celebrity-spotting possibilities of LA; from the party and arty vibes of Miami to the music-steeped old worlde charm of New Orleans.

Here’s a fine-tuned list of American highlights to inspire the ultimate holiday in the USA and give travellers a taste of some of the best bucket list adventures.

Read more on North America travel:

Road trip on Route 66, Chicago to Santa Monica

Follow the signs coast to coast down the 2,400 mile Route 66
Follow the signs coast to coast down the 2,400 mile Route 66 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

As road trips go, Route 66 and its 2,400-mile stretch from America’s east to west coast is the mother of all journeys across the States. The iconic highway is packed with attractions, endless desert, farmland and hills, making the drive the destination during exhilarating days on the road. From Chicago to Santa Monica, America’s most famous road trip is the ultimate US experience for petrolhead travellers lusting for authentic small towns, classic movie motel stays and dynamic landscapes unlike any in Europe.

How to do it

Trailfinders offers an epic 16-day Route 66 “The Mother Land” road trip from £2,129pp, based on two adults sharing a room, including car hire, accommodation and 24-hour roadside assistance. Days on the road will take you from Chicago to Los Angeles with exciting stops at landmarks in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Albuquerque and the Grand Canyon. International flights are not included in the price – the average return airfare from London to Chicago will set you back around £352. 

Wine tasting in Napa Valley, San Francisco

Napa Valley in Northern California is one of the world’s most premium wine destinations
Napa Valley in Northern California is one of the world’s most premium wine destinations (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

For those with a taste for the finer things in life, Napa Valley, a renowned Californian wine country destination with family estates, vineyards and gourmet produce, is a haven for aspiring sommeliers. Think intimate world-class tastings with experts, behind-the-scenes tours and samples of the famous cabernet sauvignon under the backdrop of impressive architecture and hilly countryside. Jump on the Napa Valley Wine Train for a 36-mile round trip of the most celebrated vineyards and wineries. 

How to do it

Hayes & Jarvis San Francisco holidays take guests on a 12-day trip through Northern California with a built-in visit to the rolling hills of Napa Valley’s vineyards for wine tasting. Other highlights of the multi-centre road trip include the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Lake Tahoe and the golden sands of Santa Barbara. The days spent on a wine tram sampling unique grapes and local produce have a guide price of £3,199pp. 

Visit iconic landmarks in New York

The Empire State Building, Times Square and the Statue of Liberty await
The Empire State Building, Times Square and the Statue of Liberty await (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The poster child of American life, New York is synonymous with soaring skyscrapers, educational museums and endless excitement. Famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Central Park rise above the busy streets as part of the iconic skyline –head to the Top of the Rock for the best views of the city. Visitors to the Big Apple can get a taste of classic NYC cuisine at constantly evolving bougie restaurants, musical diners, hole-in-the-wall sandwich and pizza shops and hot dog stands, in between seeing some of the finest art in the world at the city’s superlative galleries such as the Guggenheim and MoMA.

How to do it

Kuoni provides “New York Essentials” holiday packages for a fast-paced three-night break to the city that never sleeps. For £652pp – based on flights out of Heathrow – stay in midtown Times Square at The New Yorker, a 43-storey Art Deco skyscraper in the heart of NYC. Spend an additional £127pp to enjoy two days of sightseeing using The New York Pass to unlock access to dozens of attractions and tours, including the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock.

Hike in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Yellowstone National Park is 2.2 million acres of ecosystems, dramatic rock formations, active geysers and alpine forests. The bucket list travel destination isn’t short of activities: hikes to hot springs and Old Faithful, white-water rafting rivers and skiing holidays in the winter greet outdoor enthusiasts headed to the great American wilderness. Abundant wildlife such as bison, wolves, bears, elk and cougars call the park home, and even within the area's vast boundaries, travellers can often spot Yellowstone’s own “Big Five” animals along the way.

How to do it

Intrepid Travel offers five action-packed days of hiking in Yellowstone from £2,695pp including meals, transport, accomodation and all activities. The Wyoming walking tour leaves from Jackson with rustic dining and spectacular wildlife trip staples in America’s first national park; return flights from London start from £773 in January.

Explore Alaska, Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula

Bears, moose and marine animals including whales live in Alaska’s diverse landscape
Bears, moose and marine animals including whales live in Alaska’s diverse landscape (Getty Images)

The largest and most northern state in the US, Alaska blends icy landscapes with alpine forests and mountain ranges, making it a secluded wilderness of unspoiled natural beauty. On land and at sea, rugged scenery and nature are there to be explored through a wealth of guided and self-guided tours on which you can trek, cycle and fish your way beyond metropolitan America.

How to do it

Intrepid Travel offers a tour of some of the best sights Alaska has to offer, from Anchorage through the Alaska Range and down the Kenai Peninsula. The 10-day tour costs £3,233pp and includes all breakfasts, transport, lodge accommodation, activities including a glacier cruise and the chance to see moose, caribou and grizzly bears in their natural habitat.

Discover the Deep South, Nashville to New Orleans

New Orleans French Quarter is famous for its history, music and Mardis Gras celebrations
New Orleans French Quarter is famous for its history, music and Mardis Gras celebrations (Getty Images)

North America’s south coast is home to buzzing cities, with some of the richest political, musical and culinary history on the continent. From the “Music City” of Nashville, the epicentre of country music, to the civil rights past of Memphis and the intimate jazz bars and gastronmic delights (including jambalaya) of New Orleans, there’s plenty to experience. Head to the south in February to join in with the famous New Orleans Mardis Gras celebrations and parade.

How to do it

Audley Travel’s “Discovering the Deep South” tour from Nashville to New Orleans and the Mississippi River includes international flights, vehicle hire and all accommodations for the two-week trip. Highlights such as Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley, and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis dot the southern route priced at £3,395pp. 

Trail cities and ranches in Texas

The Lone Star State is home to vast ranches and vibrant cities
The Lone Star State is home to vast ranches and vibrant cities (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Find cowboys and ranches fit for a Western movie set in the Texas Wild West. Tourists can relive history in vibrant cities such as Houston and Dallas, on horseback within boundless ranch lands and in the historic bars of San Antonio, all while developing a taste for soul food chillis, briskets and pies. The lush rural landscapes and metropolitan music venues make a trip to Texas the pinnacle of a holiday to the US, with rodeos, cattle drives and cookouts just some of the highlights on offer.

How to do it

Trailfinders “Texan Trail” tours provide a 13-day holiday through cities, ranches and all the diverse attractions the Lone Star State has to offer. From Houston to Dallas, the £2,327pp trip includes car hire, accommodation and some meals. International airfares are not included; return flights to Houston currently average £401 when departing from London. 

Drive to Hawaiian highlights

Find golden sands on the beaches on Kauai, Hawaii
Find golden sands on the beaches on Kauai, Hawaii (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Holidays to the tropical gem of America’s west coast, Hawaii, offer white sand beaches, dramatic volcanic landscapes and isolated archipelagos blanketed in dense rainforests and azure oceans. Dubbed the “Aloha State”, the paradise island 2,000 miles from mainland America is a nirvana for holidaymakers looking to lay back and relax. From Hawaiian Luau’s to hula dancing, idyllic shores fringed with palm trees await.

How to do it

See Hawaii’s highlights with Audley Travel on a self-drive tour to Kilauea Volcano, Maui’s golden beaches and snorkel spots to see the Aloha State’s lively marine life. The 13-day tour from £8,980pp includes international flights, vehicle hire, all resort accommodations and activities – a drive down the otherworldly Road to Hana is a standout moment of the trip. 

Experience the Las Vegas nightlife

The world famous Las Vegas skyline
The world famous Las Vegas skyline (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The Bellagio fountains, crowded casino tables and decadent buffets epitomise life in Las Vegas. The world-famous Nevada city boasts nightlife unlike any other to entice 21st birthday parties, stag and hen dos and whirlwind weddings to the wild party scene downtown and tomfoolery on the iconic strip – there’s even a zipline to get you from A to B. Take a city break to the notorious “Sin City” to watch musical residencies including Adele, entertainment shows such as Cirque du Soleil and dance the night away under flickering neon signs.

How to do it

Virgin Holidays offers a package holiday to Las Vegas for £837pp, including return flights from Heathrow. Stay at the Excalibur Hotel, featuring casinos, food courts and evening entertainment for four nights on the Vegas strip. From £362pp, elevate your Vegas stay and add a Grand Canyon helicopter picnic to your trip to take in the Hoover Dam, Colorado River and strip sunsets from the sky.

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