It is hard to describe the diversity you find in the USA in a couple of paragraphs. The country's 50 states span 9.8 million square kilometres (3.8m sq. miles), across every type of terrain and landscape conceivable. Each state has its own unique personality and charms. Many cities have legendary reputations.
Las Vegas is the gambling and entertainment mecca; New Orleans is famous for jazz and Mardi Gras; Boston features American Revolution sites; San Francisco is home to the Golden Gate Bridge; and Orlando hosts Walt Disney World. California’s coastline is lined with beaches, while the Rocky Mountains are packed with ski resorts. Yellowstone’s geysers, Yosemite’s towering waterfalls, and the vast Grand Canyon are national park highlights.
There really is something for everyone.
- The US National Park Service turned 100 in 2016. Of the 412 sites they look after, 59 are national parks. In 2016 a record-busting 331 million visits took place, a 7.7% increase on the previous year; taking visits since records began to a staggering 13 billion. Half of all visits are to 25 sites, with Great Smoky NP topping the list (11.3m), followed by Grand Canyon NP (6m), Yosemite NP (5m).*
- Americans love their sports. The four major professional sports leagues are Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League and National Hockey League. Going to a game can be a great way to sample the passion and culture that radiates during game time.
- The federal minimum wage for adults in the US is just $9.20 an hour (2017). In industries where tipping is routine, employers are legally allowed to pay wages as low as $2.13 an hour. Service employees rely heavily on tips to pay the bills so brush up on this important social custom before you leave home. Read this for some pointers.
When to Go
When to visit the United States very much depends on what you want to do. So research locally.
National Parks are often at their best, and less busy, during spring and autumn. Not only are temperatures more agreeable for hiking and other outdoor activities, the competition for accommodation is vastly reduced. Traffic can be a nightmare in peak summer season in the most popular parks. Also, certain park roads close during winter (November to May) due to snow fall.
The southern states including Florida can be at the mercy of hurricanes from June to November. East of the Rockies tornadoes can bluster through during spring.
Public holidays are a big deal in the States. If your travel plans coincide with Independence Day (4 July), Memorial Day (last Monday in May) Labor Day (first Monday in September) or Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) you will need to book well in advance.
Our Big USA Road-Trip, 46 days, 6,600 kms and 10 National Parks across 5 states:
- Part 1: Kicking off with Bear, Bison & Beauty: Exploring Lassen Volcanic & Yellowstone National Parks.
- Part 2: Bear encounters and beautiful arches in B B B Bear: Exploring Grand Teton & Arches National Parks.
- Part 3: Finding hoodoo heaven and experience heart-pumping river canyon hiking in Hoodoo Time: Exploring Bryce, Zion and Capitol Reef National Parks.
- Part 4: Some breath-taking hiking action in Journey's End: Exploring Grand Canyon, Death Valley & Yosemite National Parks.
Other USA posts:
- We leap out of our comfort zone big time in Burn Baby Burn: First Timer's Take on Burning Man
- Having a blast in Northern California. Find out more in California Dreamin': 29 days, 4 Vineyards, 2 House Sits and a Wedding.
- As winter approaches we cosy up in Eugene for a house sit before hitting the road to explore Oregon. Read more in North By Northwest: Wintery Oregon Days Housesitting & Exploring.
- We loved our city break to Seattle with it's world class tourist attractions. Chihuly's glass gardens were beautiful, inspiring and breath-taking in equal measures. Check out our photos and more in Seattle Nirvana: Great Stuff to Do in Seattle.
- In our longest house sit so far we suffered a few mishaps and fell in love with Portland. Read how we stopped a murderer in his tracks in Chicken Run: Murder, Mishaps and Magic 6 Weeks House Sitting in Portland.