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17 Days in CA, PA, & NY - What to see and do?

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Hi,

I'll be visiting the States from August 26th to September 11th and tentatively the plan is to be in California from the 26th to the 31st, fly to Pennsylvania on the night of the 31st and spend the 1st through 5th there, then bus to New York for the rest of the trip. The only confirmed details are my arrival (August 26th, noon) and departure (September 11th, evening) timings.

This trip, among visiting my sis (in San Francisco) and my friend (in New York City), is to check out a few colleges and experience backpacking - also a much needed break! I enjoy museums and artsy stuff but the main point is to immerse myself in the American culture and meet interesting people so I'd like to keep my schedule flexible and not cram too many things into my itinerary.

I will be staying in hostels (tentatively, USA Hostels San Francisco in CA; Apple Hostels of Philadelphia in PA; and Hosteling International New York in NY - please advice on this too), I'm traveling on budget but spending, if necessary, is fine! The only places I cannot remove from my itinerary are the colleges, and everything else is flexible.

Currently my plan is as such; please help by offering your suggestions and advice!

San Francisco, California
- Alcatraz Prison
- Golden Gate Bridge
- Stanford University

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Philadelphia's Magic Gardens
- Eastern State Penitentiary
- Philadelphia Museum of Art
- Fairmount Park
- University of Pennsylvania

New York, New York
- Columbia University
- New York Public Library
- Central Park/ Washington Square Park
- Metropolitan Museum of Art/ Museum of Modern Art
- 911 Memorial (perfect timing!)

I can walk long distances and am pretty much open to anything! Also, visiting neighborhoods and seeing people doing real things would be cool. Thanks for your help!

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