There are 50 states to explore. Where do you even begin?
Tour the studios where the likes of Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, and Alicia Keys recorded anthems that went on to rock the world. A hotbed of pop music talent since 1959, Fame has also worked with the Beatles, Tina Turner, and Elton John. And it’s still going strong. Find out what gives it the x-factor for just US$10 .
Take a flight-seeing tour to Katmai National Park and Preserve to see Alaskan brown bears fishing and frolicking in the Brooks River. Rust’s floatplane service from Anchorage stops at Brooks Falls, where spawning salmon can lure as many as fifty bears at once.
Watch the multi-talented wait staff at Black Bart’s Steakhouse, Saloon and Musical Revue perform Broadway and other classic hits as you feast on American-sized slabs of oak-broiled beef, baby-back ribs, barbecue chicken, burgers and enormous salads.
Nicknamed “The American spa”, Hot Springs is a historical town in the Ouachita Mountains that spawned an entire national park. Tour the marble Fordyce Bathhouse, where you could once get a spot of electrotherapy with your massage; admire the elegant Spanish colonial and Italianate establishments on Bathhouse Row; and take a dip at the traditional-style Buckstaff Bathhouse.
Arguably the most rock ‘n roll hotel in the world, Chateau Marmot has been the setting for many a legendary Hollywood story. James Dean hopping through a window to audition for Rebel Without a Cause, Led Zeppelin driving their Harleys into the lobby, Lindsay Lohan checking in after her 2007 arrest for drunk driving, Heath Ledger partying there the week before he died … Book a suite or bungalow or just enjoy a drink on the infamous garden terrace.
Centuries-old villages and multi-storied dwellings are carved into 2000-feet-high cliffs in Mesa Verde National Park. Built by the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived there between 600 and 1300 AD, the nearly 5000 archeological sites in the park are among the best preserved in the US.
Ride a 1927 wooden rollercoaster and a 1911 carousel at Lake Compounce in Bristol, thought to be the oldest operating amusement park in the US.
A desiccated merman, taxidermy shark, and whale penis bone are among some 10,000 artifacts on display at Fenwick Island’s Shipwreck Museum. Most of the exhibits were found by the museum’s owner, an avid shipwreck explorer, while the remainder has been donated. The ever-changing exhibition may also include a handmade diorama of a shipwreck recovery scene and bars of silver and gold.
Carved lions stand guard at the entrance to an underwater city complete with stone roads, crumbling concrete ruins and a cemetery that also acts as an artificial reef. Neptune Memorial Reef is popular with both fish and divers.
You can’t come to the so-called Peach State and not gorge yourself on the furry summer fruit. There are few places better to do it than at the Georgia Peach Festival, held in Fort Valley and Byron each June. On the final day of the weeklong festival, line up for a slice of the state’s self-professed culinary masterpiece, “the world’s largest peach cobbler”.
Pay homage to the ancient Hawaiians who once rode the waves at Waikiki by hiring a surfboard or outrigger canoe. If you’re a bit sore afterwards, visit the “Wizard Stones of Kapaemahu”, said to contain the spiritual essence of four wizards who visited around 400 AD. Legend has it that the wizards healed many a local and four boulders were placed where they had lived in tribute after their departure. Try placing a palm on a boulder: You might just challenge those healing vibes.
A museum dedicated to potatoes doesn’t sound that exciting but the one in Blackfoot shows how the humble spud saved the world. Or at least the Europeans who suffered frequent famines until the tubers arrived on the continent in the mid-1500s. Exhibits include old the largest potato chip ever created (a 25×14-inch Pringle) and a cowgirl outfit made of potato sacks once worn by Marilyn Monroe.
At Gene & Jude’s, you’ll find hot dogs the Chicago way – no fuss … and no ketchup. Try the Depression Dog, it comes with mustard, sweet relish, peppers, onions and fries loaded on top. The iconic hot dog stand has been around since 1946. This is no tourist spot, so unless you want to out yourself, don’t ask for a seat, and don’t ask for ketchup.
The Speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500 race, is the state’s headline attraction. The big event takes place every Memorial Day weekend, but you can check out the museum, which features former winning vehicles and a 227kg Tiffany trophy, year-round.
Established by German Inspirationists as religious communes in the 1800s, the Amana Colonies offer a fascinating insight into a unique culture. Inhabitants of the seven villages just northwest of Iowa City no longer share property and work for free but the historic homes, museums and old-fashioned shops hark back to that bygone era. Dance around the maypole at Maifest in May or party with the Burgermeister at Oktoberfest.
Check out the control center on Apollo 13’s ill-fated mission to the moon at the Kansas Cosmosphere – and the capsule that brought the astronauts safely back to Earth. The largest combined collection of US and Russian space artifacts in the world, the museum captures the race to the moon in a way sure to mesmerise both space geeks and normal folk alike. It’s not hard to see why it has been called upon to build props for Hollywood films about the space race, including Apollo 13.
Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon, so it would be rude to leave the state without sampling the spirit, even if you’re not usually a fan. Castle & Key in Millville is one of the many craft distilleries creating a new generation of bourbon imbibers. Located in the until-recently-abandoned Old Taylor Distillery – a sprawling property complete with a castle and springhouse – Castle & Key enables you to combine drinking and culture in one highly pleasurable afternoon.
Combine two types of spirit on a pub crawl through New Orleans’ French Quarter. Listen to real-life – or based on real-life – American horror stories as you explore bars down dodgy-looking alleyways.
Try your luck with a lobsterman in Portland aboard The Lucky Catch. Help haul up the traps or just chill as you cruise past historic lighthouses and civil war forts. Take your catch across the pier to the Portland Lobster Company restaurant, where the chefs will be happy to cook it for you.
The sugar toad is quickly becoming a Chesapeake Bay culinary classic. While the internal organs of the pufferfish can contain low levels of toxins, chefs eager to ensure that bycatch doesn’t go to waste detoxify and batter them to create what has been described as “the chicken wings of the sea”. The Dabney in Washington DC douses them in a hot honey and buttermilk dressing.
Head to Harvard to learn about its famous residents, its history, culture and ethos. The tour of the one of the world’s most prestigious universities is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of its students who have gone on to be presidents, Nobel laureates and Pulitzer prize winners.
Stand in the exact spot The Supremes commanded the world to “stop in the name of love” at the Motown Museum in “Hitsville USA”, Detroit.
Hear what it sounds like when late pop legend Prince’s pet doves cry at Paisley Park, the 65,000-square-foot complex in Chanhassen that served as his private residence and recording studio. Instruments, artworks, motorcycles, rare recordings, a replica of his purple piano and those pet doves are all on display.
A far cry from Graceland, Elvis Presley’s Birthplace is a tiny, two-room home in the city of Tupelo. It’s been restored to look like it would have when Elvis was born in 1935, cute wee porch swing included. The Assembly of God church where Elvis first encountered the gospel music that would shape his career is on the same site.
Road tripping along Route 66? Take a selfie in front of Frog Rock in Waynesville and grab a freshly baked slice of pie at an old-time roadside restaurant.
Spanning the width of Glacier National Park and crossing the Continental Divide at 6646-high Logan Pass, the Going-to-the-Sun-Road takes in terrain varying from lowland glacial lakes and cedar forest to windswept alpine tundra.
Classic contemporary American artwork or junkyard? You decide at Carhenge, a replica of England’s Stonehenge built from vintage cars in a field outside Alliance.
Catch Lady Gaga in concert at the Park MGM in Las Vegas. The six-time Grammy Award winner’s big-voiced theatrics were made for the so-called Entertainment Capital of the World and there are two shows to choose from. Enigma is a surreal two-hour showcase of her biggest hits, and the more intimate Jazz & Piano featuring stripped down versions of her songs and tunes from the Great American Songbook.
Ride the 150-year-old Cog Railway to the Summit of Mt Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast. The narrated three-hour return trip leaves you an hour to take in the views across five states, Canada and the Atlantic from the summit and check out the observatory and hiking trails.
One of the best spots in Jersey Shore to catch live bluegrass and old-time country music, Albert Hall has been a Saturday night favourite in Waretown since 1974.
Taos Pueblo looks much as it would have when Pueblons finished building it around 1450 AD. Set on either side of the Rio Pueblo de Taoas against the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristos mountains, this adobe village is considered a classic example of Pueblo architecture.
Head to Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn for Neapolitan-style pizzas made with just three ingredients – San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and homemade dough. All cooked in a 1000F coal brick-oven for three minutes. It’s pure, simple, and delicious. If the lines are around the block when you visit (they usually are), try Juliana’s next door. It’s essentially the same pizza, the only difference is they make their own cheese.
Prohibition may have ended a long time ago but North Carolinians are still pumping out the moonshine. Aka white lightning, it still packs a very powerful punch, but the state’s microdistilleries are producing far more palatable versions these days. Piedmont, New Carolina’s first legal distillery since Prohibition, produces a spiced ‘shine, Catdaddy, and Midnight Moon range, with flavours ranging from apple pie to strawberry.
More than 1500 Native Americans from around 70 tribes sing, dance and drum in traditional dress at the annual United Tribes International Powwow.
The USA’s only cobblestone village, Medicine Park was founded as “Oklahoma’s first resort” in 1908 and attracted celebs and outlaws alike, including Al Capone and Bonnie and Clyde. Set alongside a stream said to have curative powers, it’s a great place to unwind and a good base for exploring the nearby Wichita Mountains.
Powell’s City of Books in Portland comes with its own map. More than 3500 sections and rooms are colour-coded according to genre. Staff leave little tips around, pointing you to their faves. A must-do for the book lover.
Seek out the perfect Philly cheesesteak. We recommend the brisket of beef with sweet peppers at Tommy DiNic’s.
Meet a holographic Roger Federer at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He’ll wax lyrical about why he loves the sport and give you a few tips which might just up your own game.
Take a tour of Charleston’s historic homesteads and learn about its history of slavery, segregation and tense race relations in the process. McLeod Plantation, with its gleaming while columns, is a beauty but her history is dark.
Enjoy views of Mt Rushmore from a luxury tent on the outskirts of an old gold-mining settlement in the Black Hills with Under Canvas.
From the famous Bluebird Cafe in Nashville to STAX Museum of American Soul in Memphis, Tennessee is a mecca for music lovers.
The Continental Club, a storied dive bar in Austin – the live music capital of the world – is the place to come to discover the next big things in rock, roots, rockabilly, blues and more.
Take on the Eye of the Needle just outside Zion National Park. This adrenaline-charged tour starts with a 140-metre rappel into a spectacular slot canyon and ends by climbing one of just a handful of via ferrata (mountain route with ladders, cables and bridges) in the US.
New Yorker Electra Havemeyer Webb transported 39 historic buildings to the 45-acre Shelburne Museum south of Burlington to house her family’s priceless collection of art and Americana spanning four centuries. Folk, circus and French impressionist artworks all feature, as do antique toys, a side-wheeler steamship and cottage crammed with books and activities for kids.
Take a boat tour to an oyster farm to taste Lynnhaven oysters, once reserved for royalty. In Virginia Beach, you’ll find the prized oysters served in a variety of inventive ways, but most frequently in their purest form: on the half shell.
Ski at Crystal Mountain Resort, considered one of the best ski areas in North America and enjoy dinner at Summit House, the highest elevation restaurant in Washington State.
Strap on your skis and hit the ground running at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia, where the “upside down base” – built at the top of the mountain to make the most of the views – enables you to go from zero to hero within minutes.
Tuck into cheesy local favourites such as brats and curds, mac and cheese and soup spiked with Wisconsin beer at the supper club-style Old Fashioned in Madison.
Take in Wild West shows, artworks, artifacts and a collection of 7000 guns (under renovation through 2019) at the Buffalo Bill Centre of the West in Cody. Essentially five museums in one, you can also learn about the history and culture of the Plains Indian tribes and the Greater Yellowstone eco-system.