United States Adventure Travel Guide: Ideas and Inspiration
PureTravel Says: "The United States is one of the world's most popular holiday destinations and understandably so. Its borders encompass virgin forests and snow-capped mountains, to lowland desert and deep canyons. Whatever holiday you decide to go on, from riding or trekking to simply enjoying the country, the United States will not disappoint. From the iconic Statue of Liberty in the East to the Golden Gate Bridge in the west, the cities of the US contain many World-famous attractions. But it is the variety of the states that make it a great destination to go to. From the dude ranches of Montana, the forests of New England to the splendour of the Grand Canyon and glitz of Vegas, every place has a story to be told. They have to be seen to be believed."
Culture & Sightseeing - The United States of America has a wealth of cultural sites and monuments, testament to the struggles for independence and the melting pot of nationalities and cultures that form the present country. On the East Coast, you can experience old colonial times in some of its original cities and towns. In Boston, take part in the Freedom Trail, a historic walk past the main monuments and buildings that have shaped the city. Philadelphia has the famous Liberty Bell, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Franklin Institute Science Museum. See Williamsburg, Virginia, a virtual outdoor museum, with its taverns, trade shops and gardens.
Walking & Trekking - There are excellent opportunities in the United States for hiking and trekking holidays. From the backcountry of the Sierra Nevada Range to the Colorado Rocky Mountains, trails wind through the pines and pastures and a myriad of different terrains. Yosemite National Park is a top choice for trekking, and you can follow the John Muir Trail for days without coming across any real civilization. The red rocks of Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon are also popular for their unique landscapes.
Mountain Biking - Mountain biking is a favorite pastime in the U.S. for the thousands of travellers who venture into the forested hills and valleys. Biking through the Rocky Mountain Park is a great experience, surrounded by its wonderful landscapes (although it can get steep!). Most states have trail maps of specific routes you can follow. Perhaps the other most famous area is in Moab, a popular holiday destination for the serious mountain biker.
Horse Riding - Just about anywhere you can bike, you can also go on horseback. The paths and marked trails in many of the National Parks are always popular to ride, well-marked and with a good infrastructure. There are also plenty of Ranches you can book into for a stay they teach you the skills of being a cowboy. You drive cattle and get to ride horses in a way not possible in many busier parts of the world.
Rafting - With its huge mountain ranges, the US has its fair-share of rivers offering great white-water. There is something for all standards, from extreme rapids suitable only for the experienced rafter, to more gentle trips that capture some of the excitement while enjoying a more leisurely holiday. Top of the list is the Colorado River, famous for creating the Grand Canyon, and offering a full range of white water.
Skiing & Winter Sports - Ski resorts exist in both the East and West of the US and are becoming more and more popular with international visitors. Much less crowded than many European resorts, they also do not suffer from exorbitant prices for lift-passes and refreshments.
When To Go
Depending where you are headed within the U.S., seasonal temperatures will vary. In the southern states, the summers can be very hot and humid, so the winter months (October to February) are the best for comfortable fun. Otherwise spring and early fall are best throughout the rest of the country. At this time, you should be prepared for some rain, but you’ll experience pleasant climates. You’ll need heavier clothes anytime you are in the higher elevations, no matter the time of year.
- Tourist visas are easy to obtain and permit you to visit the U.S. for up to three months.
- Every state has slightly different driving laws, so if you rent a car, you should ask the rental agent if there are any special driving rules in the state you will be driving in.
- You’ll find camping facilities at almost every national park and state park, and these sites usually have picnic tables and toilets as well as drinking water, but they normally don’t supply electrical or water hook-ups.
- Although the media can make the U.S. appear dangerous, it really isn’t at all as bad as it’s portrayed. Of course, in any city there are good and bad areas. Most ‘drive-by’ shootings only occur in the neighborhoods that have gang conflicts.
Holidays In Focus
Culture and History - The center of the United States’ early culture lies mainly on the Eastern seaboard, in such cities as Boston, Massachusetts and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can join of one of America's first historic walking tours in Boston. Covering 2 ½ centuries of America's past, the Freedom Trail takes visitors to sixteen historical sites in two or three hours. Here you can also visit the Massachusetts State House. In Philadelphia, you can see the famous Liberty Bell that rang from the tower of Independence Hall and called citizens to hear the first reading of Declaration of Independence. Washington, DC also contains innumerable sights that are not to be missed, such as the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. The museums in Washington are filled with historic past. Of all the museums, the ones you can’t pass by are the various Smithsonian institutions downtown. Williamsburg, Virginia is the site of the first settlement in the United States, and evening events as well as the atmosphere of the 18th century make this an intriguing stop.
Sightseeing - Many of the US’s great cities have lots of sightseeing opportunities. From New York, with the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island to San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, everywhere has something to see and do. There is also the NASA headquarters in Florida to see – why not try to coincide with a launch so you can see them at work? The US is also home to some of the oldest and best theme parks in the world. Disneyland in California is the original Disney park, not rather eclipses by its sister park Disneyworld in Florida.
As well as these man-made attractions, don’t forget the Natural wonders. Yosemite National Park and Yellowstone National Park offer stunning scenery, and the Grand Canyon is one of the natural wonders of the world. In complete contrast is Las Vegas, a vulgar but compelling shrine to pleasure and capitalism that has to be experienced to be believed.
Walking and Trekking - Trek the John Muir Trail for 211 miles in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. Spectacular and panoramic views will be yours. The Appalachian Trail is another famous long-distance route, made famous by the author Bill Bryson. This passes through areas of true wilderness, meaning you must carry your own shelter and supplies.
Slightly less strenuous, but no less picturesque are the many National Parks. The most popular is Yosemite, an area of breath-taking beautiful mountains, forests and rivers. There are National Park owner official camp sites inside the park but book early; they are often full 12 months in advance. It's worth the effort though. Day trails take you to some of the most famous spots, like the top of the Yosemite Falls, while longer distance trails are also available. Yellowstone National Park is another popular choice, mainly due to the difference in terrain. Situated in the ancient crater of a huge caldera volcano, it is famous for its hot springs and geysers.
The backcountry of the Rockies offers some wonderful trekking and wildlife viewing. There are several jumping off points, offering all the equipment and maps you require. Remember however that this is true wilderness, full of wild and dangerous animals such as bear so follow the codes of practice well and be prepared.
In the Grand Canyon you can do a day walk down to the Colorado River at the bottom. (It’s an oven down there and there’s nothing better than dipping your feet into its icy waters.) Once down there are trekking routes you can follow that take you through a maze of canyons, fissures and gorges with towering pinnacles on all sides.
Mountain Biking - In the state of Idaho, near McCall, there are trails through thousands of miles of national forest, and in many areas you can simply explore the often stunning scenery on the network of public roads that are often little more than tracks and with hardly any traffic on. Everywhere you do there are trails and tracks, with local operators and tourist boards all producing maps of options and routes and each area with its own unique characteristics There are the green and rolling Smoky Mountains or the Pacific Northwest where you can explore trails that follow the breath-taking coastline. You can also find some great biking along the many trails in Yosemite National Park and any other of the National Parks. Most famous are the biking experiences in Moab, through a landscape of erodes stone and rock, which takes you far from civilization.
Horse Riding - Check out the Three Sisters Wilderness Area in Oregon, the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho and the White River National Forest in Colorado for some marvellous horseback rides. Horseback riding in the Sierras can be done anywhere from the beginning of the range to the end, but a very popular area is in and around Yosemite National Park in California.
If you do not wish to be packing up every night, there are thousands of Dude Ranches spread over many of the states. These range enormously in terms of standard, from communal bunkrooms to luxury rooms. They all have a stable of horses that you can ride, either to simply explore the wide open spaces or to work with the local cowboys and learn a bit about the art of cattle driving and managing. The beans are thrown in free.
Watersports - You’ll discover sailing, swimming and windsurfing off the coast anywhere in the United States. The southern states are popular places to go to find the best in water sports. In Miami, Florida, you can take your pick of snorkeling, kite surfing, jet skiing and many more activities. Go further south to the Florida Keys and find even more. Along the Gulf Coast in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi there are plenty of water activities to keep you busy for your entire holiday. Bring that suntan lotion, though, as the sun is hot! Take in the beaches on the Southern California coast for some Pacific water fun. Surfing is great here too!
Fishing - There are simply thousands of lakes, rivers and streams in the US and it’s possible to fish in many of them. Check on the necessary permits before you cast, but many are little fished and offer great sport. The most common fish are salmon and trout, but in the muddier waters of rivers such as the Mississippi it is possible to catch giant cat fish.
Deep-sea fishing is popular in San Diego, off the coast of the Los Angeles area, and as you move north. There is a wide selection of fish to go for and chartering a boat, while not cheap, is a great experience.
Diving - Miami is the most popular destination for divers in the US. Its warm climate makes it an ideal place and there is a good choice of diving on old shipwrecks or reefs with their teeming sea life. The centres are mostly regulated and the equipment can be hired locally. Make sure to check on their experience before signing up and to carefully check your equipment before taking it down.
In the southern states, you will find that the coral reefs, colourful fish and white sands offer good diving opportunities. On the West Coast in Southern California, you can dive in the Pacific, spotting many different species of creature, including sharks, dolphins and more.
Rafting - With its huge mountain ranges, the US has its fair-share of rivers offering great white-water. There is something for all standards, from extreme rapids suitable only for the experienced rafter, to more gentle trips that capture some of the excitement while enjoying a more leisurely holiday. Top of the list is the Colorado River, famous for creating the Grand Canyon, and offering a full range of white water. Moab is another popular destination, and with rivers running fast and strong from the Rockies and the US’s other mountain ranges there is a good choice of trips from day-long to over a week.
Skiing and other winter sports
Probably the most well-known ski resort town in the United States is Aspen, Colorado. The Colorado Rockies have some of the best skiing in the world. Cross-country skiing is available in just about any resort you pick, whether the resorts in the Rocky Mountains or in the Sierras. Lake Tahoe is also a favorite destination on the West Coast, and Idaho has its share of skiing fun in the Midwest. You’ll find everything from skiing to dog sledding to snowboarding wherever you go. Equipment can all be hired locally and in comparison to some European resorts offer good value.
- In Washington, D.C. go to the top of the Washington Monument for a bird’s eye view of the city.
- Tour the Paul Revere House in Boston for a real taste of colonial history.
- Take a boat from Los Angeles to Catalina Island for a perfect weekend.
- In Orlando, visit Disney World and ride the Matterhorn
- Mountain biking in Moab
-Trekking in Yosemite
-Rafting on the Colorado River
The US has a myriad of localised festivals, events and holidays, although here we cover just the national holidays;
January 1 - New Year's Day
January 20 - Martin Luther King Day
February 17 - Presidents' Day (Washington's Birthday)
May 26 - Memorial Day
July 4 - Independence Day
September 1 - Labor Day
October 13 - Columbus Day
November 11 - Veterans Day
November 27 - Thanksgiving Day
December 25 - Christmas Day
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Yellowstone National Park
- Everglades National Park
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Independence Hall
- Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek
- Redwood National and State Parks
- Mammoth Cave National Park
- Olympic National Park
- Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico
- Statue of Liberty
- Yosemite National Park
- Chaco Culture
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville
- Taos Pueblo
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park
- Waterton Glacier International Peace Park