Lights, Camera, Action!
Dreaming to go to the United States of America? This continent is home of the things we know best in the world – Celebrities, DisneyWorld, Hollywood, Route 66, NBL, Super Bowl, Grand Canyon and the Big Apple, to name a few. USA is the ‘free world’ and has so much to draw our attention – be it media, travel or politics. If there is one country in the world where everyone knows who the President is or can name a former President, this is the country!
Below are the great cities of United States (the popular ones). It will give you a little bit of a guide and an introduction for each. Make sure you ask me for any further information as I have travelled to the destinations listed.
new york city
New York City (the big apple) is one of the most visited cities in the world when it comes to tourism. Times Square, Rockfeller Centre, Empire State Building, Wall St, Statue of Liberty, Central Park – the list can go on for the must see/do’s.
With almost anywhere in the world now, Uber is a great option to get around NYC, but I recommend you use the famous Subway system. The train grid is set up well to get you moving through all four boroughs, with the fifth (Staten Island) not accessible by the subway system. Though your metrocard will work on Staten Island rail system. There are travel pass options for the subway of prepaid trips. Remember that depending on where and when you’re travelling in the city, traffic can be brutal.
How much time should I spend in NYC?
How much time do you have? There are hundreds of things to keep you occupied for weeks here. But I would suggest you stay at least five nights and you will be busy from dawn to, well dawn, remember it’s the city that never sleeps.
What should I do in NYC?
During your time you can go to the spots listed above, you must see Times Square at night too. Other mentions are: Chinatown, walk Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, visit flushing meadows, take the train out to the Bronx, go to a Macy’s store, dine at a TGIF, meatpacking district, visit Brooklyn for amazing cheesecake, see the Golden bull and go street watch basketball, chess or cards with locals. If you’re in town at the right time check for these sporting events – an NBL match with the Knicks or baseball game with the yankees, or head to Queens and watch US Open with the world’s best.
If you’re looking for the generic Starbucks it averages to one store per block in Manhattan. They are everywhere!
- Make sure you walk as much as possible – not just great for health but you can discover a lot more rather than on the subway, taking a cab/uber/bus and stuck in traffic.
- When you want your skyline photo go up Rockefeller Center so that you can get the infamous Empire State Building
- Stay out of Manhattan – sure it may sound odd, but considering most of the time in NYC you will be in the borough of Manhattan – why not venture out and stay in Queens or my recommendation is Brooklyn.
- Look for the celebrity movement – if you want to see a celeb make sure you check online through social media for or use websites, click here for one you could try.
Fabulous. This city is incredible and one of my favourites. They have great walking tours, and ones that you can do all on your own by following a path that takes you all around the city. Street art is everywhere with drawings, magic, musicians and dancers. Another chance to see one of the big leagues with NBA and baseball. Definitely check out: Boston Public Library (the iconic green lamps), Skywalk Observatory, Fenway Park, Prudential Shopping Center, cannoli shops in Little Italy
Plenty of day trip opportunities here including Rhode Island and Salem. Both are easily accessible via public transport and inexpensive. Salem is filled with museums, stores, homes and tours to take you through the times of all the hocus pocus and witch trails from back in the 17th century. Rhode Island is where the rich live. Mansions, yachts, and luxurious cars are in this cute place. You can even go and take tours in some of the houses there. Make sure you check out the yacht and harbour full of shops, restaurants, bars and memorabilia.
This great city turns the river green on St Patrick’s Day, enough said! Chi-city is has a lot to offer and still has a skyline that most would recognise, particularly with the river running through.
To Do List
One of the famous sites in Chicago is Cloud Gate, aka the bean. Where you take the reflective photos or selfies. It does get pretty crowded through the day, you can go very early in the morning to try and minimise people in your photo. Visit Willis Tower and you can go up to t he 103rd floor and stand on a glass floor extension and look straight down if you’re height excited. Those terrified have a little bit of a lean over the glass to see the drop. Get your famous photo outside the Chicago theatre, easily reached if you catch the train to Lake.
Head down to Navy Pier and check out the Crystal Gardens, amusement park, children’s museum (if you’re a family/interested) and Shakespeare’s theatre. Food court is available as a pitstop for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Make sure you walk around the pier and enjoy the ocean view. Deep dish pizza – ready? This is for the pizza lovers, where it is thick underneath the toppings to the base with sauce, cheese and choose further fillings. You will be extremely full. This idea originated here and you should definitely try, I couldn’t finish all of mine. If you’re fine to open the wallet and go shopping you can easily find the bargains to the luxury department stores right in the city centre where all the other tourist spots are. I would recommend spending four to five days here. If you want to condense it you could go down to two full days. The L (elevated) train system is safe and I recommend it for means of transport.
Two airports are O’Hare and Midway. Both have public transport (buses & trains) to get to and from with the city. Check out Airbnb for great stays. Not a member, join here.
The other city that never sleeps. Las Vegas is known for it’s lavish clubs, cars, hotels, fight nights, weddings, summer parties with famous DJs and of course gambling! Wild times happen and we all know what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Make sure you get a bargain and stay on the strip in new Vegas. Don’t book for old Vegas. Head out and get your “Welcome to Las Vegas” photo and even go to one of the chapels where you can even sit in on some people eloping. You may even be a witness while watching “Elvis Presley” marry the couple. I recommend you check out as many of the hotels as possible – MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, Flamingo, Harrah’s (this is where I stayed), Mirage, Luxor, The Venetian, The Palazzo, Cosmopolitan and the famous Bellagio and Ceasar’s Palace. A lot of these places have entertainment – hope on a gondola and go around the man-built canals at The Venetian, the pirate show at Treasure Island, the Volcano go off at the Mirage or the infamous water show spectacular at the Bellagio! All the games you can think of to bet your money and become an instant (chanced) millionaire are here. The casinos are open 24/7 and on top of that you can walk around with liquor in the streets (no glass). Head north along the strip and check out Encore and Wynn. Last mention is Stratosphere Hotel. This casino boasts thrill rides from 108 floors up including instanity, sky jump, big shot and x-scream. The top of the tower also has the highest observatory deck in USA.
The popular attraction is set about 4-5hr drive from Las Vegas. The main option is helicopter rides that will take you there, feed you and have plenty of photo opportunities and can also take you over Hoover Dam. This option does get expensive and you can write off half a day. There will be options to also pick you up and drop you back at your hotel. You can expect to pay minimum $220USD for a helicopter tour, but as they say it’s “a once in a lifetime experience.” We landed inside the canyon and had a lovely lunch and champagne. Treat yourself!
Movies and actors. Los Angeles is the home of the rich and the famous. Plenty to do here, but I would only suggest you give yourself 3 days. One full day for Disneyland, half to a full day for Venice Beach and Santa Monica and Universal Studios. You can fit the Hollywood things in on one day with checking out the sign, Walk of Fame, Chinese theatre, Hooters, take a tour for Beverley Hills or celebrity homes. Downtown LA can be very dodgy, so I recommend to avoid staying in that area and even being there outside work hours (weekends). Have a cruise down Rodeo drive and if you don’t have a budget, check out the boutique stores. Beware some are booked out weeks ahead and are by appointment only. It’s very exclusive, click here for all the stores. I recommend watching an NBA match at the Staples Centre if you’re there at the right time, whether they win or lose the atmosphere is an experience.
You’ll hear a lot of people who don’t like Los Angeles, I know where they’re coming from. It is worth going there for the tourism locations as listed above, but if you don’t have time, any other one of the cities listed on this page will give yourself a great treat. LAX (the big airport) is also very frustrating, you’ll hear it from so many people, lines are long, flight problems, transport chaos at times. Don’t let this last couple things put you off, it is a fabulous city to visit. But if you’re weighing it up, maybe you have your answer. If not, ask me here.
Party time. This place is known for it’s wild parties, pool parties, expensive properties in high rise buildings or mansions along the beaches (South Beach and Miami Beach) and the beach itself. When you arrive here, head straight to the beach and hire a cabana, provide one for yourself or be out with water sport activities. This is the thing to do in Miami. Lazy days by pools and on the sand. Shopping is a great attribute here and you can book to stay on the beach with many choices from hotels, hostels, hire houses or Airbnb. If you aren’t a member of Airbnb click here and get a discount when you book. If you are here to relax, choose your length of leisure. If you are here to check it out & explore, 4 days will be enough to visit all the hot spots, go out a couple of nights and have some beach time. If you are travelling here on your own, check out www.hostelworld.com for the hottest hostels to get a crowd with you, as many provide bar crawls, or have great atmospheres & other guests are going to be pumped to go out.
To Do List
Azucar (Sugar) Ice Cream, Lincoln Road Mall, LIV (the “it” nightclub), Venetian Pool (swimming hot spot), Nikki Beach Miami, Ocean Drive. As you can see, this place will mainly be for partying at night and sun baking on the beach during the day. Purpose of this place is to relax, put your feet up!
Miami International Airport is close by, 20km/13mi, but depending on traffic you can be waiting for along time to get to Miami Beach. Uber works well here and I would recommend using it as, if you need to get somewhere, the streets are long and 40 blocks can’t be done in 10 minutes (although remember with traffic it could be!). If you are in Australia and you haven’t signed up to Uber yet and are feeling generous copy & paste traceyb3088ue into the invite code. Buses are another option, I would download the app (Miami Dade Transit Tracker) to help you with journey planners and schedules. Fort Lauderdale airport is 50km/31mi to Miami Beach.
Jazz clubs, French Quarter, Bourbon Street, steam boats that are musical and where I found my bar, Tracey’s. I was here around Halloween and the decorations were amazing, as you can imagine with almost anywhere in the States.
To Do List
New Orleans is known for their blues/jazz bars and you will find dozens. The popular spot apart from right around the centre is of course the French Quarter. If you want to just check a couple out you can head to The Spotted Cat and BB’s King’s Blues Club. You cannot come to New Orleans and not try beignets. They are a famous french pastry and everyone goes to Café du Monde right in the centre. The other must try is gumbo. Gumbo is a local dish gone famous. If you want to try more famous eats, po-boy, jambalaya and étouffée (I didn’t try this one) should be added. I also took a sightseeing bus to get me moving around as some of the sites you can’t walk to. Go check out the riverfront where you’ll find the music steamboat, lots of entertainment and Harrah’s Casino. There are over 40 cemeteries in New Orleans and you could go to St Louis Cemetery No.1 or check out No. 2. A bit strange to have on a to-do list, but it’s a thing here. If you spend 3 full days here you have plenty of time to explore but no not much time to rest. Make sure you spend one or two nights with all the entertainment on offer for you.
Whether you’re a die-hard blues fan or you can’t stand it, you have to check out the clubs. It’s like going to Egypt and not seeing the pyramids. Everyone will have their favourites, the ones listed above are popular. I walked in and out of probably 20 during my stay and would stay for a couple of songs or drinks. There is plenty of other options for those who aren’t fans or only want to go into one or two. You’ll find all the “today” music along Bourbon Street and head up north and you’ll hit the gay and lesbian bars and they are amazing! Just make it clear you’re straight or they can tell anyhow if you’re worried about going into them. Don’t cause any disturbances, it’s not zoo 🙂 Drinking is big here, as you can imagine. Try all the local beers and make sure you try the fireball shots! French Quarter and Bourbon Street are the places to stick to for partying. Enjoy the atmosphere, this city is crazy in a brilliant way!
I took a public bus from the airport into the city centre. I was warned not to take the bus as it can be unsafe, but I was fine. I guess you stick out when they know you’re a tourist, but that’s everywhere. The tram is great to move around, as I stayed out of the city centre. Again my location was deemed on the unsafe side and do not walk around at night on my own. The girls at a cafe near Mid City told me to stop walking and to get a cab. Again, I was fine but for the next several days I caught taxis late at night, as a woman travelling alone.
The second most popular, or some would say first, city in California is San Francisco. It has a skyline and bridge that is recognised throughout the world. It has the most famous old prison on a small island offshore. If you have already been to the States you have mostly likely been here and if you are yet to visit, it will be on your list (or you’re considering it I hope).
To Do List
There’s a lot on offer in this city, I would give yourself four full days here. Your itinerary should include: Alcatraz, riding a cable car down the infamous windy roads, Pier 43, eat chowder, Union Square and Chinatown. Head up to the top where the ‘Postcard Row’ houses are, you know the old Victorian houses we see on postcards. Get your photos of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, ride a bike or walk across the bridge into Marin County. An add-on day trip option is to go out to the wineries. Yes, you can do this, be sure to cross a day off as you’ll be gone for 8-9 hours. It isn’t cheap but it’s worth it if you’re a wine lover and always dreamed to go here. If you’re in vibrant SF during Mardi Gras you are winning! The city comes alive with colour, beads, costumes, dancing and love. Big nights are to be had, you can trust me on this one with first hand experience.
They have a great transport system, catch cable cars all the time. Uber is always an option. There is also a Go San Francisco Card option which can fast track lines and have discounts on entries, click here to find out more. Check out Airbnb accommodation to have your own space or a room to yourself. If you haven’t joined sign up here. Depending on your budget, will determine your place, but it is common to stay around the Downtown area, Union Square. You’ll have everything you need around you from the sights, food, shopping and drinking. Check out Infusion on Instagram as they offer promotions including free bottle service. Then why not jump on my page.
Please connect with me for any further questions you have or if you have a city in mind that I have not listed as I may have still visited. Make sure you sign up to be notified when I have posted. If you want to know more about Airbnb, read my Airbnb, The Turning Point of Accommodation post on how it all works.