Monday, September 26, 2011

Visting America for the 1st Time...

Due to so many requests I am launching this article now, 
but it needs updates and will be updated as I get more time.

So you want to go to the United States Of America?

    Ok so we have many countries in North America, but the 3 big ones for overseas tourists are Mexico, Canada, and of course my home country USA. This section of the blog is being written for people that don't live on the North American continent but maybe some of you that do will learn some things here about your continent. I will write this article the best I can for the overseas traveler but I have to be honest in saying a lot of my journey's on my continent have been either free or extremely cheap from knowing people that live here, I will note these things when they come up, but anyway, enough of the intro stuff, lets get to the United States!!!!
     Saying "I want to visit the United States, where do I go?" Is an extremely difficult question to answer generally. USA is huge! The one country is almost the size of all of Europe and bigger than the whole continent of Australia. It is home to over 300,000,000 Americans making it the 3rd largest country in the world behind China and India. It is so diverse in so many ways, where to start....
     Here's my crash course... There is no best time to go. We have so many events, & climates in this country, come when you can come. Winter in NYC is freezing, August in Miami is the equivalent of hell, but if I really wanted to go to either of those cities and had to go during those times, I would do everything to get there because it is so worth it!

Atop the Empire State Building
     If you have only time to visit one city, my home town is the way to go. New York City is our largest city, small in comparison to some major Asian cities, huge in comparison to some major European cities. Think Shanghai with a few less buildings and uhh... 4 million less people, think Sydney restuarants coupled with the historic beautiful buildings of Amsterdam. Think places that can be as dangerous as Johanessburg one minute, and as safe as Auckland the next. If you go to the USA and visit NYC you won't truly have any idea what America is, but if you go to Los Angeles you wouldn't either. But this is a blog for the budget traveler, if you only have enough holiday and enough money to make it to New York, than that is your holiday, come back sometime when wages are up.
    If you only have time to visit one city on the west coast, and you are traveling with family head to Los Angeles  for warm weather and beaches. Head to San Francisco if you want culture, and have a bit more money. If you love Australia, you'd love San Francisco. If you are from Australia, go somewhere else, it's quite similar to Oz with different accents.
     Now if you are not traveling with family, are a bit on the younger and party side of life, you are going to go where I advise Americans not to go (or rather not to go as often as we do), fly over the whole state of California and land in Las Vegas!!! Be prepared to lose all your money! Be prepared to get ripped off for excellent and crappy meals! Be ready for rude taxi drivers! Get ready to lose track of time and walk out of the night club and casino and say, "Bloody hell, when the ---- did the sun come up!?" Gambling, high rises, strip clubs, night clubs, people trying to start fights with clubs!!! Dining, parties, entertainers, street performers, street peddlers, neon lights,beers, shots, shows!!! And more importantly for the off the hemisphere traveler. You'll see a lof of us there. You will see the ups and downs of Americans from sleek business men that burn $1000USD like it's nothing to wacky fraternity kids that need that $1000USD to finish college and get a job. From beautiful women to women who used to be men, and it's pretty damn likely you will run into people from whatever country you are from. I'm not kidding, Vegas is the cultural center of the west side of this country.

Ok Joe, you just wasted my time, because I have more time and can visit a few cities.

Oh sorry dude, ok here is the 2 week East coast plan, followed by the 2 week west coast plan. If you have a month, blend them together... duh.....

East Coast in 2 Weeks

    Land in Miami, Florida. Miami is hands down my favorite place in the south East USA. It's a love/hate relationship, and although there have been times I've gone and vowed not to go back due to extreme over spending, I've gone enough now to know I will not be able to ever break my Miami addiciton. Plus now I have a few friends there, so it saves on the travel budget. After 4 days in Miami and on South Beach, drive or fly (price decides) to Washinton DC. You'll spend 3 days here tops, do your DC homework, the city is small and real easy to get around. Week one is complete, we stop next in Philadelphia for one day, yep that's it one day, one night, adjust more if you don't think that is enough, stop on Market Street, and grab a cheese steak from a street vendor before you leave. I hope this is close to summer because next stop is the New Jersey Shore line (if it's not summer google some good ski resorts in Pennyslvania). There's a few places that are really good, but Point Pleasent is by far my favorite. 2 days on the shore should suffice. Our last 4 days will be spent in NYC before heading back to your country, or Chicago if you are staying the month. This is an extremely urban game plan, but it will be easiest to book and get around. I'll include a blog about rural America at the end of this section if you are big on camping, etc if I get enough requests.

West Coast in 2 Weeks


     Fly into Seattle for 3 days tops (if you haven't been to the east coast Seattle is a good sneak peak), drive or fly down to San Francisco. Spend at least 4 days here, bike over the golden gate bridge and if you like to swim the ocean there is always beautiful but always freezing! So bring a good warm towel after. Get down to Los Angeles, one day in Hollywood, one day in Santa Monica, drive through malibu. But stay in Hollywood every night, most walking friendly area in my opinion. Leave the last day for travel, make your way down to my current and favorite place to live, Arizona. Drive if you can, the drive is beautiful, you'll stop in my desert home city, come see Phoenix and everything the valley has to offer. 3 days will be great here, get a few hikes in, and buy some Native American souveniers before driving north. Stop off Sedona and Flagstaff on a day trip, stay there over night, or stay in the Grand Canyon, after that head off to Las Vegas, NV. Have a great time and I hope you love my country as much as I do.

America Tips!

  • Avoid theme parks! Is this bad for me to say this about my economy? I must anyway, they are extreme tourist traps, not at all an accurate reflection of the country, unless you are maybe traveling with small children, although if I had any children I would totally look into renting a boat or going on a cool camping trip instead of a high tech let me wait in line for 1 hour per ride theme park that is identical to every theme park in every other part of the world.
  • Large expensive hotels: you'll find them in every major city, and right next door in the same exact area, or even same exact block is a small hotel or hostel that will be the same gateway as the $300/night place you were looking at staying in.
  • Chain Restuarants: If you have it in your country, it is going to taste exactly the same in America.
  • Foregin currency is not accepted anywhere! If someone is willing to take Euros or whatever, you are being scammed!
  • Tipping is customary at restuarants, bars, and taxi's in the States as most servers, bartenders, and drivers are paid at minimum wage. 20% at restuarants is the standard tip, at a bar I tip typically a dollar for a beer, more for more/or mixed drinks, and even more if the server is good or a friend, the taxi tip depends on if he has tried to rip you off by taking the long way, has tried to kill you by driving too dangerously, or if he got you safely to your destination in a timely manner... By the way take the trains when they are available... yeah.....
  • Be aware of the liquor laws, for the most part you cannot drink outside in public. So you have to finish your beer before you leave the bar... I know we hate this law too.
  • Museums and art!!! I've been to some incredible museums in Europe, and Australia but still love the American Museums. Museum of Natural History in NYC is my definite favorite. The Smithsonian Museum in DC. If you want to get on my bad side head to the Art Institute of Chicago, my favorite painting which I have never seen, Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso hangs in there. The whole Art Deco district of South Beach. The galleries of Scottsdale, AZ are loaded with great paintings as well.
  • Consider going to coast to coast on Amtrack by rail. This is not a tourist trap, and you will likely see more commuters and well experienced travelers than a tourist loaded train car.
  • Zoo's/Aquariums, it may seem silly to not see wild life in their natural forms, but Americans Zoo's and aquariums are quite fantastic, USA is also one of the leaders in wild life conservation, so going to these places supports that. We have both domestic and international wild life at our zoo's.
I will update this page as I have more time and get more requests, hope this helped you!

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