When you step onto the shores of the United States of America, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of possibilities available. The country is like no other, with numerous states, cities and even small roadside communities capable of delivering memorable moments. If you're seeking inspiration for you upcoming USA trip, these Best Of The USA experiences can help guide you.
1. Show In The Sky
One of life's most spectacular natural light shows, the Northern Lights, make for an experience you'll never forget. Book in for a Northern Lights tour with Peregrine and witness this miracle of nature first hand – across various locations in Alaska. Be sure to pack warm clothes and take a decent camera.
The vast plains north-east of Denver are also great for seeing the Northern Lights from continental USA; the wide, flat horizon and clear skies offer the perfect viewing conditions. Go one step further and set up camp at the Crow Valley Recreation Area.
Statistically, September and March are the best months for Northern Lights activity. Surrounded by the tall trees of the Susquehannock State Forest, Cherry Springs boasts the darkest, least light-polluted skies east of the Mississippi.
2. Microbrewery Scenes
Henry Saxer opened Portland’s first brewery in 1852, but it wasn’t until recently – after the picturesque Oregon city declared it legal for pubs to brew their own beer – that the microbrewery scene really took off. Today, Portland hosts the Oregon Brewers Festival, which offers samples of 80-plus brews from the USA.
Visit the distilleries of the most famous names in bourbon, like Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Wild Turkey, and see the time- honoured methods that go into making Kentucky whisky so renowned. Take the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour to experience some of Kentucky’s most amazing micro-distilleries.
Having once been in the shadow of the more famous Napa Valley, the movie Sideways showcased the emerging wine industry around the coastal city of Santa Barbara, north-west of Los Angeles. On this trail, you can follow in Miles and Jack’s footsteps yourself.
3. Cultural Attractions
When someone says they’re going to the Smithsonian in DC, they actually mean a collection of 16 museums and galleries and a zoo. First stop should be the Air and Space Museum, guaranteed to bring out the little kid in anyone. Admission is free (yep, even the zoo) so there’s no reason to skip any if you have the time!
Featuring a fantastic array of dinosaur skeletons, including a full-sized T-Rex in attack pose, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque is complete with a planetarium. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is quite possibly the best museum for kids in the USA.
With more than 120,000 items on display, it creates extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences and humanities. Check out 90,000 works of art, including pieces by Matisse, Picasso, Cézanne and van Gogh for free in the newly renovated Baltimore Museum of Art.
4. Incredible Natural Formations
Gain a bird’s-eye view of what is truly one of the most recognisable natural landmarks on the planet by taking a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. Afterwards, get another aerial view without leaving the ground by traipsing the Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped glass walkway that juts 20 metres into the canyon’s airspace.
Badlands National Park is an ancient geological deposit containing one of the richest fossil beds in the world. Here, bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and black- footed ferrets thrive in the protected wilderness. USA's oldest national park, Yellowstone National Park, has the world’s largest collection of geysers.
It’s a mountain wilderness where you can go hiking, bird watching or just hang out to simply take it all in.
5. Natural Phenomenas
If you want the breathtaking experience of seeing real lava flow, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the perfect place to perch. Ringed by pristine beaches, Hawaii’s Big Island also offers ideal surfing and snorkelling conditions, while the spectacular landscape, pollution-free skies and beautiful sunsets provide a truly stunning wilderness experience.
Spy the majestic falls and accompanying national park by basing yourself in the town of Niagara Falls, New York. Those daring enough should see the spectacle by helicopter.
Named for the striations of vivid colours through the landscape’s rock formations, the Painted Desert could be one of the most beautiful, yet otherworldly, destinations on the planet.
6. One Journey, Multiple Places
Drive deep into Navajoland, the sacred home of the Navajo Nation, and visit the unique Four Corners Monument, a place where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah touch. Hold hands with three friends in all four states for the photo opportunity of a lifetime.
Going on a train trek
Hang up your driving gloves and let the train take the strain by travelling on Amtrak’s affordable, comfortable and picturesque Boston to New York route. For a more unique New England train experience, visit New Hampshire and take the 150-year-old Mount Washington Cog Railway, the world’s oldest mountain - climbing railroad.
In this region, rail travel is best in autumn (September/October), when the trees turn golden.
Cruising the Great Lakes
Departing from Chicago, experience a seven-night cruise along Lake Michigan, taking in the unique towns that ring the lake, such as the Dutch enclave of Holland, Michigan and Beaver Island, America’s ‘Emerald Isle’.
7. Music Festivals
The annual South by Southwest festival takes over the hip Texan city of Austin every March. All you need to do is pay a registration fee to gain accreditation to see some of the world’s best musicians and attend panels and discussions featuring movers and shakers.
Be warned – most events are run on a first-come basis, so give yourself plenty of time to line up. While you’re in the area, why not enjoy a meal at Stubb’s, one of Texas’s best barbecues.
Held every Labor Day weekend, Bumbershoot festival features an eclectic musical line-up designed to attract revellers of all ages. There are also stages dedicated to comedy, performance art and discussion. Launched in 2012, the annual Firefly Festival takes place in June in the unique woodlands of Delaware under a blanket of stars.
8. Music Legends
Memphis and Nashville are credited with creating the major genres of blues, country, rock’n’roll and soul, nurturing stars like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Willie Nelson. In Memphis, your list must include a visit to Graceland (Elvis’s home), Sun Studios (the birthplace of rock’n’roll) and the Stax Museum (devoted to American soul music).
Nashville’s first stop has to be the Ryman Auditorium, before toasting the greats around the corner at Tootsie’s honky-tonk bar, where many musicians made their start. On the shores of Cleveland’s Lake Erie, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame showcases a phenomenal collection from superstars such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Nirvana.
The driving beat of Motown is as synonymous with the history of Detroit as the automotive industry on which the city was built. The Motown Museum allows you to visit the actual spot where artists like the Jackson 5, The Supremes and Marvin Gaye recorded their most famous tracks.
9. Exciting Adventures
When Georgia’s disused Eagle and Phoenix dams were breached in 2012, the natural flow of the river returned and created a truly unique tourist destination – the longest urban white-water course in the world!
A trip to Florida wouldn’t be complete without touring the Everglades ecosystem panoramic views and spy lush vegetation. After the airboat ride, you can spend hours in the Everglades National Park watching the alligator wildlife show.
This is not your average inner-city park, the linear High Line occupies more than a kilometre of a former raised rail track. Bursting with vegetation, the park is a great place to spend an afternoon watching the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.
10. Fairytale Sporting Moments
Few stadiums in the world are as renowned as Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Be sure to sign up for a stadium tour to experience almost a century of Cubs baseball history. And after the game, discuss play with locals – and try some deep-dish pizza – in the many bars that surround the stadium.
Nothing beats the atmosphere of a Dallas Cowboys home game in their deluxe 80,000-seat stadium. Immerse yourself in the passion and colour of this great American pastime and, while you’re at it, spoil yourself with club seats, allowing the best views and access to full-service bars and merchandise stands.
A Lakers game at the Staples Center will entertain celebrity spotters as much as sport nuts, with a chance to spy members of their star-studded fanbase (including Jack Nicholson and Will Ferrell) courtside.