A staggeringly diverse patchwork of different cultures, the cultural and economic giant of the Western World, and the third largest nation on Earth, the USA is an exciting, dynamic, and incredibly big nation for travelers to explore. Because every region of the USA is so big, varied, and yet so distinct, a short tourist visit will only begin to scratch the surface.

Travel-worthiness verdict: One of the world’s top must see countries

Cultural Icons: Capitalism, cowboy hats, Democrats, Republicans, McDonalds, Hollywood films, Baseball, Basketball, American Football, car culture, burgers, Rock n’ Roll, Hip-Hop, Road trips, national parks, Religion, hot dogs

Prices: Depends heavily on region and travel style. Eating at restaurants is often cheeper than in other rich countries, but tips should be at least 15%.

You’ll love: The diversity, efficient and friendly service, regional culture differences (South, Northeast, West Coast, etc), national parks, going off the beaten track and seeing the small towns, the big cities like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago.

You’ll hate: Ugly sprawling suburbs, needing a car, long distances involved outside Northeast, urban inequalities

Difficulties traveling: The near-lack of public transport outside the Northeast is a major difficulty traveling here. Travel by buses and once-a-day amtrak trains is possible but far from ideal, and careful planning is required. Also, many Americans only speak english and have very little exposure to the world outside their own country, which can make things difficult for foreigners.

Language(s): English, also Spanish in some places

Culture, Arts, and Society: America has a very globally influential pop culture, despite having a short history. Hollywood films, many well known music styles, and fast food brands are all well known American exports. America’s classic literature has rarely failed to ask important questions about what America is or should be, or what it truly means to be an American.

Despite America’s newness to world history (the country is a little over 200 years old), the values remain quite old fashioned and conservative in many places. Religion is far more prominent in the US here than in Western or Northern Europe, and class divisions are far greater. American society also remains very divided among racial lines, in areas from politics, to neighborhood divisions, to lifestyles. Though many Americans believe they live in “the land of the free”, the reality is less rosy and far more complex.

Ethnic Makeup: 63% non hispanic white, 12% African American, 5% Asian, 16% Latino, 1% Native American, 3% other race or multiracial

Food: America’s staples like Cheeseburgers and fries can be found anywhere, but the less generic side of the food scene is very different depending on where you are. In the Southwest and California, Mexican food dominates. The South has a variety of local cuisines, from the Texas BBQ to the creole cuisine of New Orleans. In the Northeast, cities like New York and Washington DC have huge varieties of international cuisines, as do cities on the West Coast and in some parts of the Midwest.

Top Destinations

Boston, MA: The Athens of America, Boston is known for its rich history, many colleges, and walkable European-style streets.

New York City, NY: America’s largest and greatest city, with a huge variety of sights, neighborhoods, and events.

Washington, DC: America’s capital, with its greatest collection of museums and memorials.

Charleston, SC: One of the South’s greatest “Old South” cities, with lots of history to explore and things to do.

Savannah, GA: Has some of the South’s greatest historic architecture.

Miami, FL: A melting pot, home to many people from Latin America. Trips to the Everglades are a major attraction. Also known for its arts scene and unique Art Deco architecture.

New Orleans, LA: One of the South’s most enjoyable cities, with a lot to do and great food.

Chicago, IL: The capital of the Midwest, known for its skyscrapers and lakeside setting.

Black Hills and Badlands Region, SD: One of the most underrated parts of the country in my opinion. Great hiking in unique landscapes. Also home to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monuments.

Austin, TX: A trendy city in Texas, more liberal than other Texan cities, known for its music scene.

San Antonio, TX: A city in Texas known for its great Mexican food, the Alamo, and the famous River Walk.

Grand Canyon, AZ: America’s most iconic national park, amazing to see, and even more amazing to hike in.

Rocky Mountains, CO: An iconic North American mountain range, the Rockies offer great skiing, hiking, fishing, and mountain biking.

Southern Utah: Home to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, both with unique landscapes found nowhere else on Earth.

Los Angeles, CA: The home of Hollywood, a city traditionally known for urban inequality, and terrible traffic; Los Angeles is becoming a better city, with an expanding public transit system and increasingly interesting food scene.

San Francisco, CA: America’s most iconic forward thinking and liberal city, San Francisco is known for its gorgeous setting and great variety of sights. Nearby is the Silicon Valley area, home to the world’s largest concentration of technology companies.

Seattle, WA: The forward-thinking Emerald City is a modern, trendy sort of place, known for its great coffee, and beautiful national parks nearby. Only problem is the weather.

Alaska: The Final Frontier, Alaska is home to wilderness as far as the eye can see.

Hawaii: A chain of islands known for its Polynesian heritage and many volcanoes, Hawaii is the only US state with its own unique language.

Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, WY: Two of America’s best national parks, each with a wide variety of outdoor activities available.

Montana and Idaho: Like Colorado but less heavily traveled, these states exemplify western Americana in its most off-the-beaten-track, unspoilt form.


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