In 2016, I went to the US for the first time of my life. Here is a list of things I did and tips I gathered.
In short, I went to NYC for a week. Then I flew to Los Angeles, where I joined my friends. The following days we went to:
- Santa Barbara (State Street is amazing).
- Baker, CA, Kelso, CA and finally Kingman (slept in a motel).
- The next day we discovered Kingman and then went to Williams (slept at The Historic Hat Ranch).
- The next day we did a trail (Bright Angels) next to Tusayan, in the Grand Canyon. We went sleeping at a campground in Monument Valley (Goulding's Campground, if my memory serves well)
- The next morning we rode horses in the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (exact GPS coordinates: 36.934405, -110.070929). The afternoon was spent at Antelope Canyon. We slept near Page.
- The next day we did the Horse Shoe Bend and swam in the Lake Powell. At night we slept in a hostel at Kanab.
- The next day some of us went to Bryce Canyon. I went to Las Vegas.
- The rest of the trip was spent in: Death Valley, Yosemite (for some of us) and San Francisco.
Now let's move on to my advice.
To know before getting there
- At a red traffic light, you can legally turn right if no car is coming from the left side, unless there's a sign saying "No right turn on red".
- There are many passes for American national parks which are great deals. If you plan to visit many parks, you definitely want to check them out before buying any individual ticket.
- Same for most cities: CityPASS
- In Arizona, it is legal to camp in any national forest, in dedicated areas, for free
Things to do in NYC
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island: take the ferry, there are tours which include both places for $18 (if my memory serves well).
- Flat Iron & Madison Square (there are cute squirrels)
- The MoMA (Museum of Modern Art)
- The MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
- The American Museum of Natural History
- The 9/11 Memorial Museum (it can take up to 3 hours)
- Coney Island
- Central park (don't miss out the Balto statue)
- Grand central: the train station
- Little Italy, Chinatown and Soho: you can go for a free tour or do it by yourself
- Charging Bull, in Wall Street
- St. Mark's Place, in East Village
- In Brooklyn: Williamsburg and Dumbo
- Broadway (the district referred to as, not the street): many theaters along Broadway Street and Times Square
- The High Line
- Greenwich Village: it was the center of the folk music scene in the early 1960s. MacDougal Street was the Main Street of Greenwich Village. The most popular folksingers played in clubs on MacDougal.
During both daytime and after night time
Those places offer a great view at any time of the day. If you want to enjoy them as much as you can from them, my advice is to get there at around 7pm and stay for about 2 hours.
- Empire State Building (up to the 86th floor)
- Times Square: don't forget to say hi to the Naked Cowboy
- 30 Rockefeller Plaza (Rockefeller Center)
- The Brooklyn Bridge, the Pier 1 and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
- One World Trade Center
Tips for Las Vegas
- Old city center
- The Strip, of course
- You can drink any kind of beverage in casinos as long as you are playing (even if gambling only $1). Of course tipping is highly recommended.
- Watch Las Vegas in 24 hours
Really funny slot machines:
- Bamboo Panda in the Mirage Hotel
- Aladin and the Magic Lamp at Casino Royale
Encore Beach Club is a nice place to go to
- Omnia, in Caesar's palace, is a great nightclub
- Same for XS Las Vegas
- Looking for a good Airbnb host? Mine was great. Here's the address: 605 S Royal Crest Cir UNIT 20, Las Vegas, NV 89169
Places to see in Los Angeles
- The Hollywood sign and Hollywood boulevard
- The Perch (a rooftop bar)
- Homer Laughlin Building
- Santa Monica Pier
- The Observatory (so much to see inside the building, plus the view of course)
Places to see in the Grand Canyon
- Horseshoe bend
- Antelope canyon (the Lower tour is supposedly better than the Upper): try to go around noon for optimal lighting.
Nice places to stay in Arizona
- Hat Ranch: a Airbnb ranch in Williams
- Travelodge in Kingman
- Need some last minute gear? There you go!
- Best bar EVER: Madrone Art Bar
- Mr Tipple: nice jazz bar, drinks are a bit expensive though
- Golden Gate Park: do the Japanese garden and botanical garden, both are awesome
- Golden Gate Bridge, of course
- Ride a cable car and visit for free the Cable Car Museum
- Union square: check out the Love Sign at Grand Hyatt
- Twin Peaks
- Haight street
- Lombard Street
- Mission Dolores Park
- Baker Beach
- Martuni's: amazing piano bar
- Isotope, on Fell Street: best comic shop of San Francisco. James, the owner, is a great guy, very friendly and helpful
- Painted Ladies
- Patricia's Green
- Pier 39
- Musée Mécanique: great stuff in there, prepare a lots of coins to spend
Other places to see
- Death Valley: do the 3-hour horse ride
- Sequoia National Park
- Muir Woods National Monument
- A Six flags park: there are such parks in most states
- Mount Rushmore
- Go to a drive-in theater, it's definitely worth it
If you go to Zion Park and happen to be in good shape and fearless, do the crazy Angels Langing trail! Book a full day for it though.
You will find here a more thorough description: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/utah/angels-landing-trail
Don't have the time? Too scared? This one looks awesome too!
You might also want to check out other trails.
Do the round-trip trail to Glacier Point: awesome view!!!