1st time USA - What to see in 2 weeks?

Jan 9th, 2019, 11:21 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7,722
1st time USA - What to see in 2 weeks?

Howdy folks,

Finally, after years and years of discussions, I convinced a friend of mine in his late 40s to travel (with me) to the US.
It's his first "long" flight (from Europe), and his very first time in America (or anywhere else outside of Europe).
By the way, it's been the duration of intercontinental flights that kept him from traveling further abroad, not any second thoughts about the destination.

Since I have travelled across North America since I was in college on appr. 30+ trips, I thought it would be very easy to find the right itinerary for us.
But: I have so many places in mind I think he *must* see that I cannot make up my mind. Also, two weeks is not much time.

He is actually quite easy to please - any place that is new for him is potentially of interest for him. And so far, the only place he really wants to see is New York City. I'm cool with that, and I think that three nights are enough (not for NYC, but for him 'cause that will probably be the duration to get a visual overload).

So the trip will be NYC plus X.

In my sensible moments, I tell myself that we should stick more or less to the Northeast. Add DC, Philadelphia, stay in the region. We could even do most or a lot of travel by train. And would lose only few hours changing places.

In my less sensible moments, I prefer a "shock and awe" itinerary:
NYC 3 nights (WOW!), fly to Las Vegas (WOW!), stay 1-2 nights, rent a car and do a loop to visit one or two national parks in Utah, e.g. Zion, Grand Escalante, Grand Canyon (more WOWs), then get some roadtrip feeling on Rte.66 (well, I-40 / I-15) and drive to L.A. (not exactly my favorite city, but the whole cityscape and maze of freeways and the Pacific coast is definetely another WOW for most Europeans, I think).

We'll be traveling first half of May, which IMO is such a great time to visit the West (my buddy cannot really stand the heat).
But I'm also really biased towards the West, since nature is so impressive and so unique compared to what you can see in Europe.

If you wanted to show a friend your country (and you knew that regardless how many weeks you had it would still not be enough) which way would you prefer? The sensible one, focused on one region? Or the mad, reckless race across the Continent?
Or is there something in between?
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 11:59 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 4,425
The US is not my country, I can still remember the first few trips I ever made to the US & what I wanted to see. NY New Orleans, SFO & Golden Gate Bridge- driving down Highway 1 to LAX or beyond, driving to Vegas from LAX, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone is probably more well known than Zion. Washington DC is pretty impressive too, White House etc. LA's famous areas.
Odin is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 12:21 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 91,164
Which style of trip would your friend prefer?
suze is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 12:21 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7,722
You're right: I did not mean to include Zion but had been thinking about Bryce Canyon.
One other itinerary I could think of would be: NYC and DC on the East Coast. Then fly to Vegas, and do a loop for 6 days. Which would include Bryce and GC, but possibly also smaller "parks" like Horseshoe Bend, which is in fact not much more than the parking lot with the most stunning vista in the world. And some backroads driving, weather/ road conditions permitting.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 12:28 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7,722
Originally Posted by suze View Post
Which style of trip would your friend prefer?
This had been my first question, too.
But unfortunately, I could not get that much more insight - aside that he wants to see New York City.
He knows that I am pretty familiar with many regions of the US, so he's a bit lazy to inform himself.
P.S. All of my friends are pretty lazy when it comes to trip planning.
Maybe the best solution would be to buy him a guide book and tell him to make his choices.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 01:15 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 91,164
I like that approach. Seriously, you need some "buy in" from him.

Did I miss it? What time of year is this? If the weather is nice you could just go on up into the New England states after NYC. It's very very beautiful there. That would give a nice mix of super-city and the countryside.
suze is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 01:21 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 10,084
Do you have access to guide books in your local library? Since you mentioned train travel - This would be my plan: Fly to NYC. After seeing enough of the city take one of the many Northeast Corridor trains to Washington DC. Spend at least a full day in Washington before taking the Amtrak Capitol Limited to Chicago. Spend a few hours in Chicago before going to the airport to fly to Denver. Take a week in a rental car from Denver to see Colorado and the southern Utah National Parks.
If you still have days left, fly from Denver to New Orleans to finish the trip. Fly back home via either NYC or maybe Florida (Orlando?).
tomfuller is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 01:30 PM
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 879
New York
Vegas or Wyoming (his choice)
San Francisco
xcountry is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 01:33 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,439
Having been to Europe many times, I will herewith present my thoughts as to what you two should see here in May, which is a great month! Arrive in NYC, spend 3 nights, take Amtrak train to DC, spend 3 nights, fly out via a nonstop to LA, spend 3 nights, drive to San Fran for 2 nights, go to Yosemite 1 nt of remaining time, and fly home from there (SF). If you get better fares to SanFran, then go there first and fly down to LA via Alaskan Air (or ditto from LA to SF), you don't have time to spare for the drive up the Pacific Coast Hwy/101. Skip Vegas for this time -- it's total artificiality -- we have better sights than that! Yosemite and Muir Woods out of SanFran should suffice on the wildlife/scenery for now. In LA take him to Griffith Park, Santa Monica, Venice Beach (actually, do Venice en route from LAX, w lunch on Abbot Kinney Blvd, a cool, hip street that is total CA vibe). Four accommodations is plenty for this trip! Depending on how he reacts, he can then plan another trip in/out of Vegas with trips to GC, Zion, Bryce, etc. Remember, you will most probably fly over the GC and/or other nat'l parks on the flight to LA. (Ask pilot to comment itinerary for the "newbie." Yellowstone is a trip in itself and best served
from out of Utah, not CA -- just too much mileage for 2 wks.
aliced is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 02:02 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,066
I've had the privilege to host 3 or 4 sets of British pals on their first trips to the US. I also happen to prefer the "shock and awe" approach; most Europeans have strong visual images in their heads about the US, but being there in person is something else again. Three of the four were basically along the west coast, from Seattle down to LA; the fourth was a cross-country drive from Chicago to Seattle.

In the first half of May you have some terrific options on where to take your friend. Here are a couple of thoughts that come to mind.

NYC for three days, then fly to San Francisco and drive over to the Gold Rush country along the Sierra foothills. Visit some of the marvelous historic towns along California Hwy 49 (named for the 1849 gold rush) and spend a night or two in Yosemite. In early- mid-May the foothills will be blanketed in flowers, the rivers running full and white, the waterfalls in Yosemite will be beyond awesome with volume. Visit the Calaveras Big Trees State Park or visit the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite to show your friend giant sequoia trees. All my British friends - to a person - were gobsmacked by their first encounters with redwoods and/or sequoias.

Map - https://goo.gl/maps/x6otFUJYh2N2 . This includes a stop in historic Locke, a fascinating Chinese settlement in the Sacramento River Delta. https://goo.gl/maps/qum1pMDdEXk

Fly down to Las Vegas and spend the last couple of nights there, then home. Set up open-jaw plane tickets, UK to NYC, LV to UK.
Same idea, but this time SF to LA via some coast redwoods, Monterey Bay, Point Lobos, Hearst Castle and Santa Barbara. Google the places on the map - https://goo.gl/maps/iqB9gzVipzw

If you want to stay on the east coast, train to Washington DC, get a car and drive down Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park, glorious in the spring. Visit Charlottesville VA with all its Jeffersonian history, and end back in DC. Map - https://goo.gl/maps/r6YqCHQF7Ps

Last edited by Gardyloo; Jan 9th, 2019 at 02:10 PM.
Gardyloo is online now  
Jan 9th, 2019, 02:06 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,916
Hi Cowboy -

I feel your pain, I'm trying to come up with a European trip for my niece and I want to show her everything I love, but I have to be reasonable too.

Does your friend like cities or small towns? Natural wonders or manmade? Coast or desert? Mountains or prairies?

I think I'd start there.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 02:21 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7,722
Wow.. I like all that input.. thanks a lot!!
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 02:39 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 63,588
Just quick to - piggy back on Gardyloo's post . . . Most of my Brit/Irish friends visiting out here have been gobsmacked by both the Coast and Sequoia redwoods, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe (not recommending it since May is not the bet month there) and various SW national Parks/Vegas.

I personally wouldn't bother with San Simeon if he has been to palaces/stately homes in the UK or Europe -- the setting is magnificent but it is really a European bldg.

So something like three days in NYC, fly to do San Francisco/Calaveras Big Trees/Yosemite totaling 5 days-- then fly from Fresno to Vegas and spend maybe 4-5 days for Vegas/the Grand Canyon and Zion. Book rooms at the lodges in Yosemite and in Zion and one of the properties on the Grand Canyon south rim. Fly home from Vegas.
janisj is online now  
Jan 9th, 2019, 03:03 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7,722
Sounds like a plan!
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 05:43 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 20,489
I think you've gotten some excellent advice, and fear treading on a bit of thin ice here, but FWIW:
  • In general, I prefer trips that involve a wide range of experiences, so the idea of including NYC and a major western national park makes a lot of sense to me.
  • If your friend is unwilling to comment, pro or con, on anything you suggest, then do yourself a favor and choose options that will make your experience most rewarding! I'm sure you wouldn't pick a place that you think your friend wouldn't like, and if you choose places that you want to see, you will also share the delight you take in revisiting those places or the excitement of visiting places you've always wanted to see or whatever positive energy draws you to those places.
  • A corrolary that I hesitate to mention, because I suspect it's obvious: Think hard before taking your friend to a place that you aren't particularly excited to see. No matter how good an actor you are, your reactions will likely "leak out", and I'm sure you don't want to encumber your friendship with any sense that you did something "as a favor".
JMO, offered with full confidence that you will make a wise choice.

Last edited by kja; Jan 9th, 2019 at 05:45 PM.
kja is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 06:19 PM
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 3,094
Having been the planner of a similar trip with a very similar friend—I’d recommend that you ALSO pick at least one place/experience you haven’t had that you’ve either always wanted to do or think that you’d both enjoy.

i usually like to “vet” places before I take my best friend somewhere. It’s not that she’s picky, it’s just that she gets nervous on certain things so it helps so much if I’m the “expert”. I also want her to have those “wow moments”. But I’ve found that I need to have “wow” moments too. Attitudes are contagious, and traveling companions feed off of each other. So, for example, I don’t know why you don’t like LA, but since you don’t love it...skip it, OR do it and make it so it works best for you, OR pick something you’ve always wanted to do. Fabulous hotel? Restaurant? Special tour/day trip?

some of the best memories I have of traveling with her are things that I’ve picked because they’re new experiences for me. And since you’ve been before, you have the opportunity to know what might be a great off the beaten path experience unique to your destination. She loves “tourist” stuff, but often the stuff she talks about afterwards is the stuff that felt unique.

I agree with redwood trees though. Or other western national parks like Yosemite. That’s the American equivalent of Roman ruins or Notre Dame. One of those sights you can see thousands of pictures of and still not really understand how amazing it is to see it in person until you’ve been there.
marvelousmouse is online now  
Jan 10th, 2019, 06:19 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 15,431
I think a combination of NYC and a few western parks would be a great trip.
Personally I hate Las Vegas so unless you have an idea of what your friend would particularly enjoy I would not spend time there, although it might be the most convenient place to fly to for some of the parks.
Vttraveler is online now  
Jan 10th, 2019, 06:38 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 2,559
Cast my vote for NYC (with perhaps DC added) and a few western parks. I'm also not a fan of Vegas, but it is interesting and fun for a day or so and provides good access to Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, even Monument Valley if you made a big loop (have they seen any Westerns filmed there?)

There's not much like all of those places outside of the USA.
Nelson is online now  
Jan 10th, 2019, 07:57 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 5,659
If long flights are a deterrent, then put the western part of the trip in the middle:

Day 1 fly to NYC 2,3,4 in NYC, day 5 fly west, 6,8,9,10 in west, day 11 fly DC, day 12,13 in DC, Day 14 fly home.

If the travel days to/from home were not part of the plan, add one each to the west and DC.

You can't miss with either California or the Grand Canyon/Utah parks. If you are planning it for this year the choice might depend on where you can get lodging if you want to stay in GC or Yosemite.

There are plenty of nonstop flights from NYC to either Vegas or San Francisco.
emalloy is online now  
Jan 10th, 2019, 09:16 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,301
I've been traveling the USA for almost sixty years now, and here's what I'd recommend:
1) NYC for three days (since this is a given)
2) Amtrak down to Washington DC for at least a couple days. Alternate between monuments, Smithsonian museums (all free!), and seats of power.
3) Fly to either San Francisco Bay Area or Las Vegas, depending on costs of airline and car rental. Spend at least a day in either arrival city. I know some people hate Vegas, but it's a city that has to be seen to be disbelieved.
a) If Bay Area, go to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Be 100% about lodging at the former, as you do NOT want to show up in this area with a reservation!
b) If Las Vegas, go to Grand Canyon (note above comment about lodging here), Zion, and Bryce Canyon (this may be cold!).

If interested in U.S. history, add to your time on the East Coast: one day in Philadelphia and two days in the Boston area. Use Amtrak between all cities in the Northeast.
If interested in Hollywood or U.S. amusement parks, add time in Los Angeles.
If interested in U.S. music, add time to travel from New Orleans to Memphis to Nashville.

I'm aware I'm leaving out 1000 things that I think are great, but this is a FIRST trip -- so I'm just saying to find the highlights.
PaulRabe is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:21 PM.