Feel the blood of the Deep South’s cultural heart pumping on every street corner, bar and shoreline of the Mississippi River as you travel through iconic places like Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans. Combine this with the civil rights history of Memphis and Birmingham, every stop in this region is a cultural highpoint. Throw in gumbo or jambalaya, local whisky, and you have one big party.
We associate tribal culture more with Africa or Asia, but indigenous tribes of the USA play an important role in tourism. The most politically correct term for indigenous Indian people is Native American, American Indian or the full tribal name, such as Ute Indian. In addition, there are Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians many of whom are keen to engage in tourism and have their stories told.
More of a Big Secret than a Big Apple. Stretching all the way to Canada, New York State has a capital called Albany, is home to Niagara Falls, touches two Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, has ski slopes an hour from the city and its Adirondack Mountains region is bigger than five of the biggest national parks combined. Manhattan is cool, but Brooklyn is the biz. And the Statue of Liberty is fab, but kayaking there feels like having freedom of the city.
Famous the world over for bringing us fast food, there is a huge movement against it in the US, with slow food, or Farm to Fork, more prevalent in New York, for example, than London, Paris or Tokyo. People won’t look at you strangely if you ask what’s local on the menu and many restaurants are even learning to reduce the famously American wasteful portions too.
A land of extraordinary national parks and indigenous culture. Wrangell St-Elias National Park is the USA’s largest national park, a giant of glacial gorgeousness the size of Switzerland alone. Head here for hiking on glaciers, ice climbing, kayaking through frozen fjords, and taking in the tumultuous taiga and sub-arctic tundra and its resident wildlife wonders such as orca and humpback whales, grizzly bears and wolves.
There are 59 extraordinary national parks in the USA, with superbly managed trail systems, an informative website, rangers who are all like all your favourite geography teachers ever, and great value cabin and camping offers. In addition, there are national monuments, rivers, seashores and so many more, all coming under the national park umbrella.
People forget how many vast, wild places there are in the USA. More associated with big road trips, theme parks and shopping, get off the tourist trails and onto the back trails to see the likes of elk roaming free in the Rocky Mountains, bison in Yellowstone or whales basking in Alaska. The national parks are the best places for spotting wildlife in their natural habitats.
And they really mean it. At the risk of sexism, America is the hostess with the mostess. She does hospitality. It is in her genes. Once you get past the nightmare that is US immigration, they smile, they adore Europeans, they bend over backwards to help you, feed and water you and, and if you have a query, they will do everything they can to find the answer.
Theme parks are a big attraction for many tourists to the USA, with Mickey Mouse being the main reason for many first time visitors. SeaWorld and Miami SeaQuarium are often part of this package, where the exploitation of captive dolphins and whales is, in our opinion, totally unethical. It is also the growing opinion of many travel companies now removing trips there from their itineraries as awareness grows.
Why go for the theme park tourism of Florida, which are not only superficial but super humid and super crowded, when you can explore the nearby national park tourism. So near and yet they feel like separate worlds. Such as the Everglades Wetlands, home to crocodiles and manatees, or Biscayne, with emerald islands and coral reefs. You will save a fortune and gain a formidable experience.
There are times when you just have to jump on that high horse and shout enough already. Gambling, over-usage of energy, prostitution (illegal in Las Vegas itself, but plenty of legal brothels in the environs), traffic congestion, the arid climate yet water costs $5 a bottle, tacky consumerism, drunken antisocial behaviour… whoa, can’t stop that galloping horse.
The city everyone thinks they have to visit once, but much of it is actually just one big smelly traffic jam and the rest is a somewhat surreal trip into the excesses of Hollywood and hedonism. Head to San Francisco, Seattle or Portland which all offer just as much. And more, if overdosing on wild places, the ocean, mountains and nature if more of the sort of hit you need.