One of the many great things about living in Canada is our proximity to our loud, but mostly charming, southern neighbour: the US of A. Even though Americans refuse to accept our quarters, we are always welcome to visit, and let me tell you they put on a heck of a display.
One of our travel goals is to visit all 50 States. While we are a long way from achieving it we have experienced enough to have recognised how many great cities there are to see, and how amazingly different one place is from another.
Below is a list of a few of our favourite American cities (so far). If these places are not already on your travel to-do list, they should be.
1) Los Angelas
If you hear “Los Angeles” and you think of sunshine, movie stars, fake people (and body parts), beautiful beaches, and complete over the top flaunting of wealth; it makes me want to ask: how was your trip to LA?
As a place to visit, it’s almost perfect. You’re pretty much guaranteed amazing weather, the summer never ends here. The nightlife and shopping is world famous, as is the people watching. Hollywood history is so interesting and many of the movie and TV studios offer tours. Both the Universal and Warner Brothers ones are awesome. Famous beaches are a relatively quick drive away including Venice, Santa Monica and Malibu. Top it off with theme parks of all descriptions, plus every imaginable type of outdoor activity and you have a great place to spend a weekend or a month.
Probably one of our top 2 favourite American cities, but to be fair it had a couple of things going for it before we even arrived. Number one: we are both huge Ferris Bueller fans, a great movie which is pretty much a travel video advertising how great Chicago is. Number two: Da Bears, which I’d like to say is the greatest football team ever, but that would be a horrible lie. Still win or lose we are big supporters. Chicago has a lot in common with New York in terms of the arts, shopping, and sky scrapers; but it has its own flavour in architecture, history, people and of course food. Chicago deep dish pizza and the strange (but delicious) Chicago dog must be experienced.
When doing a Chicago city tour be sure to check out the spectacular lake front with miles and miles of parks not to mention one of the most impressive skylines in the world. The 100 year old Navy Pier is a kilometer long and offers fun for all ages with rides, games, museums, and shopping. The Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) is no longer the largest building in the world, but stepping out onto the glass floor of the Skydeck 412 meters above the street below is still plenty scary. Your trip wouldn’t be complete without stopping at the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Alder Planetarium, which are conveniently located within sight of each other. And hey, since you are now in the area anyway we strongly suggest you check out a Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field!
Still interested in seeing more in Chicago? Check out these 6 unique things to do in Chicago.
3) New York
Approaching the island of Manhattan by plane is unreal, the number of skyscrapers is mind-boggling. The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, so many iconic sites. The city was built around Central Park and it’s worth a whole day of wandering, either on foot or in one of the many horse (or people) drawn carriages available for rent.
Generally you don’t get the same sense of history or culture in North America that you do elsewhere in the world, but New York is the exception. In NYC the past is appreciated and palpable, the arts scene among the best in the world. The galleries and museums are incredible and everyone already knows about the theatre scene. At night the city is pure magic, lights in every direction, Broadway and Times Square are at their best and draw crowds no matter the hour. This is truly a city that does not sleep.
4) San Francisco
The “City by the Bay” is probably the most beautiful city in the States, the Golden Gate Bridge alone is breathtaking. A great place to take pictures of the bridge is right outside the Disney Family Museum, a surprisingly impressive and interactive exhibit about the man behind the mouse. We highly recommended it. The Alcatraz tour is another not to be missed. The island itself is extremely interesting and the ferry ride provides incredible views of the city.
Fisherman’s Wharf is a fun place to shop, go on rides, play games or check out the hundreds of seals that climb onto the docks to catch some sun. A couple of other highlights include: the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, the famous cable cars, and Lombard Street – one of the most ridiculous and stunning streets in the world.
5) New Orleans
New Orleans does lead the USA in a number of violent crime stats, but like anywhere else it depends where exactly you are and what you are doing. We have been to NOLA (New Orleans Louisiana) twice and have never felt like we were in any danger whatsoever. Fortunately in addition to being one of the most dangerous cities, it is also the most interesting so check out this 3-day itinerary in New Orleans. It’s just so different than anywhere else in America, or the world for that matter. Why you ask? Firstly, New Orleans has the best food. Not of the cities on this list, not of the cities in America, it has the best food on earth. Oh supremely unhealthy food to be sure, but sooooo good. Deep-fried shrimp po-boy sandwiches, spicy jambalaya, savoury crawfish etouffee, red beans and rice, seafood gumbo, powder sugar covered beignets. We did not have a bad meal there.
Secondly, is the story of New Orleans. Claimed by the French, sold to the Spanish, then to the Americans and occupied by community of French Canadians ejected from their homes in Acadia (Acadian eventually became A Cajun). Creoles and Haitians were an important part of the history of New Orleans and the city is now a blend of all these cultures and more. This is a place known for voodoo, vampires and jazz music. It has a French Quarter with filled with Spanish style architecture. It was home to pirates including the revered Jean Lafitte. The deceased are not buried in New Orleans, because it is built on a swamp. Instead they are placed in above ground tombs, and the cemeteries are referred to as the Cities of the Dead.
New Orleans is like no place else in the world, a melting pot on a whole other level. Things to do include swamp visits, ghost tours, and the greatest party we have even been to – the Mardi Gras.