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Planning a trip to West Coast, Memphis, East Coast

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We are in the planning stages of our one month trip to the US, from mid May to mid June.

It's just so much to see and do, that I nearly lose my focus, so I need some help to narrow it down, please. I know I cannot do it all in one month.

We're arriving in LA and from there I'm trying to figure out an itinerary. We'd like to see and/ or visit LA, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Memphis, New York, Niagara Falls, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston.

I am not sure which one to choose between Boston and Philadelphia, or should I keep both and cut something else.

The must dos on the list are Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Memphis, New York.
I'm thinking LA 3 days, Vegas 3 days, NY + Niagara Falls 7 days.
My main interest in Memphis is Graceland, but I wouldn't go to Memphis for just one day, I'd prefer to hang around for 3 days to try to get a bit more from it, so I need some recommendations please, as to what else should I see and visit in Memphis. We do like jazz and blues too, not only rock'n'roll music.

Our interests in general are scenery, art museums, history, rock'n'roll, shopping, architecture, and would like to throw in a day to visit Disneyland as well.

I wouldn't really want to drive, unless I have no choice. I like to admire the views too, so for that I stop a lot, which makes the drive from one spot to another longer, and I am not sure I can afford it on this trip.

Please help me with logistics, which airlines to look at, and what would the best itinerary be.
Also, what points of interest should I look at, what would your recommendations be for us to see during this holiday.

We won't do much shopping when we get to LA, we'll wait to see NY as well and then decide how we should spend our shopping money. On departure we take off from NY and stop for a couple of days in LA for shopping.

Thank you for your help here.

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    Sorry but 4+ weeks just isn't enough time to see LA, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Memphis, New York, Niagara Falls, Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston.

    Just LA/Vegas/SF/Napa/Sonoma is 2 weeks worth.

    >>I'm thinking LA 3 days, Vegas 3 days, NY + Niagara Falls 7 days.M\<< - that alone is 2 full weeks when you account for travel times. Leaving you 2 weeks - 15 days for all the rest. Twelve destinations, some of which are more difficult by public transport, is about 5 places too many.

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    gabriel, we lived in Memphis for quiet number of years before moving to Australia and in that time, I figure we probably exhausted what there was to do there many times over. But an extra day is probably enough for the busy traveler. Besides Graceland (definitely a taste choice), there's the National Civil Rights Museum (IMO the best done thing to see in Memphis), Sun Studios, Stax Records, the Gibson Guitar factory, Mud Island Beale Street (not a kids thing) and further afield, Clarksdale, MS. Also, it's a Memphis tradition to go to the Peabody hotel to see the man in top hat walk a flock of ducks out of the elevator and to the fountain in the center of the historic lobby where they hang out for the day.

    Memphis was Northwest's hub until Delta acquired them, so the vast majority of gates at MEM now serve Delta flights. Suspect that'll have some influence on who has the best flights. I do recall there were a few other choices though between MEM and LAS, which is probably your most logical departure point from the west. I flew that route quite a bit.

    I do agree that many parts of the US could consume as much time as you'd like. And not just California. But also understand how far Australia is from other things and that you're fairly limited regardless of whether the things you see are all close (and you skip another part of the US) or spread out (and you skip some of the stuff in any one area). In the end, you kind of have to choose knowing coming back isn't a given.. and neither ends up really being better.

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    Thank you Janis and Clifton.

    I knew I had to trim down my destinations, just don't know right now which and how.

    Excellent info about Memphis and flights, Clifton, that's very helpful.

    I am doing some research these days, to decide between San Francisco and Napa Valley, Washington, Philadelphia and Boston. Right now, while still not knowing much, I think we could do one or two day-trips by train from New York to Philadelphia or Boston and avoid too much checking in/out and carrying baggage with us.

    Will write some more as I progress with my planning.

    Thank you.

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    Monument Valley wouldn't make my list for "must sees".
    I love Memphis, but I don't think I would make that a "must see" either.
    For this time of year, I would include 2 or 3 days at Yosemite. That is prime time for the waterfalls to be rolling. Plus you have the giant sequoia trees right there too. It is every bit as impressive as the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls. Zion and Bryce are just a bit north of Vegas, so I might include a day at each of those too.

    Really I think spend the entire trip in California with a bit in Arizona and Utah would be great.

    The other option is to see the east coast. This offers more US history and cities. It offers less of what I would call highly scenic places/nature though.

    Day trips by train in the US probably isn't exactly like you imagine. There is no way I would do a day trip from NY to Boston and back on a train or car.

    I'm not trying to be mean, but this is a really bad plan so far. You need to decide which side of the country you want to be on and plan around that.

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    On the west coast - it's going to be extremely difficult to see national parks wihtout driving. You can fly into Las Vegas and get a tour from there - but seeing anything else is very difficult without a car.

    On the East Coast NY and DC are the must sees. Philadelphia is a charming city, but not in the first rank in terms of sights. And while I love Boston and it's history - DC and NY have tons more things to see and do than either. IMHO, for DC you need to allow at least 4 days (5 nights) and I would do 5 or 6. Similar for NYC.

    To me the outliers are Niagara Falls (this will take 3 days out of your trip - one to get there, one to see anything and one to move back to wherever). I never saw the Falls until we drove to visit Toronto - and frankly still wouldn't have seen it except for that trip. It's just a lot of water falling - pretty, but not overwhelming. Also - to see much you have to go to the Canadian side - so you need to be sure your documents give you multiple entries to the US.

    The other outlier is Memphis (been there and it's OK - but not in comparison to other places). Also Las Vegas isn't really worth the time IMHO - but is sort of necessary to see the Grand Canyon. But if you are mad for Elvis (sorry, he's not my generation, I'm a child of the 60's - but in a larger sense - why would I want to see his old house?). I would much rather see live music (have you checked what groups will be touring while you're here?)

    I can't decide for you - but you definitely need to cut back on locations, and be sure you have allowed enough time to get from one place to another - allowing for the extensive security and the delays common at many airports.

    And trains are not for sightseeing. They are just ways to get from one place to another On the east coast most of the trip you are looking at the wrong sides of cities and towns or industrial parks or random neighborhoods. From DC up through Boston is almost all built up along the train route (this megalopolis is about 60 million people).

    It is possible to do a day trip from NYC to Philly - since Amtrak is only about 1.5 hours each way. Boston is not realistic - since it's about 4 hours each way (we don;t have high speed trains - well we do have a couple - but we don;t have high speed tracks. So driving is just as fast as the train - and gives you better scenery - since you can get away from the built-up coast the train follows. But either way it's too far for a day trip - 8/9 hours in transit for 5 hours there makes little sense. And while Acela (more expensive) isn't bad, some of the regular Amtrak trains are not very pleasant and there is no real food (just sodas and snacks).

    But if you do Philly and Niagara Falls trips from NYC - you will only have 1 or 2 days actually in NYC.

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    Niagra Falls is an iconic name, but it is not really "much".
    I think you can do much of what you want. Rent a car in LA and make a loop for 2 weeks much as Janis suggested.
    Fly to the east coast via Memphis for day or so.
    Go to Washington, train to Philadelphia and NYC. Go to Boston if you can. The East coast is set up for no car rental.
    Do you have an open jaw from the east coast to return?

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    I'll give you my suggestions for what they're worth. Fly to LAX. See Los Angeles. Fly to Boston from LAX. See Boston. Take the train to New York. Decide between Philadelphia and Niagara Falls (either the train will work for). Fly to Chicago or take the overnight train from Buffalo to Chicago. Take the "City of New Orleans train overnight to Memphis. From Memphis fly to Las Vegas. Take a tour from Las Vegas to see Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Fly back from Las Vegas to LAX. Skip Monument Valley. You do not need even 3 days to see Niagara Falls. Do you have the multi entry visa that will allow you to enter Canada and come back into the US? The best views of the falls some say are from the Canadian side.
    Philadelphia and Washington are rich in history so you could maybe take the train to either and then fly to Buffalo to see Niagara Falls.

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    You do not need 3 days to SEE Niagra Falls. You do need a day to get there from anywhere (by train it's more thna 8 hours from NYC to the US side - 1 trade a day - and then another couple of hours to the Canadian side - on the train border guards check papers of every person). IMHO wasted time - as is a couple of days on a train from Niagara to Chicago and then Chicago to Memphis. These trains are NOT like the NE corrdidor trains, which are frequent - two per hour - and run on time. Outside of that trains tends to run once per day, take forever and are usually late - often hours late - since the tracks are owned by the freight companies and their trains take priority over passenger trains.

    You really need to lay this out day by day - including realistic travel times - to determine what you actually have time to see.

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    What the new Yorker says about trains is TOO true. it is fine to be a train buff, but for a realistic arrival and departure trip, on a time limited basis, it just isn't workable.

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    Well, I tend to be much more aggressive when it comes to time management on vacations (to the occasional displeasure of my spouse) so I would say go for the whole thing. But some time in the car will indeed be required.

    We're arriving in LA and from there I'm trying to figure out an itinerary. We'd like to see and/ or visit LA, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Memphis, New York, Niagara Falls, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston.

    My first recommendation may sound daft but bear with me. Fly to LA but connect right away to Las Vegas. (BTW are you coming from Oz?) The reason for this suggestion is that there’s no better place to be jetlagged than LV, which is hopping regardless of what your body clock says the time might be. You can survive Vegas easily without a car for a couple of days, during which time you can get your bodies in sync with the clock and not have to deal with LA traffic.

    Then collect a car in Vegas and head over to the Grand Canyon (around 4 ½ hours) and spend a night or two, then drive over to Monument Valley (around 3 hours) staying in Kayenta. Then drive back to LV and drop the car. Total time in LV and desert/red rock southwest, around 6 days.

    I’d then fly to Memphis and spend 3 days in the Memphis/Delta area. On one of those days I’d drive south an hour or so to Clarksdale, Mississippi to see the Delta Blues Museum and have some barbecue at Abe’s, located at the Crossroads of the Blues (as in Highways 61 and 49 - Highway 61 Revisited,, “I went down to the crossroads…” etc.) Visit Graceland, Sun Records, Beale Street, and all the other music monuments in the area. Total time in Memphis and area, 3 days.

    Then fly to DC. Again, no car needed. Three days in DC will give you time to overdose on museums and iconic sights – monuments, etc., then hop a train to NYC. Total time in DC, 3 days (cumulative now 12 days.)

    Everybody has different tolerance levels when it comes to New York. Personally we find that by the fourth day we’re getting exhausted (and broke) but there are ways around that. One thing I’d definitely do is take one of the NYC days and actually spend it in Philadelphia. Philly is easily visited as a (train) day trip from New York, and that will relieve you of having to schlep bags, make alternate hotel arrangements, etc. If you’re not museumed out by this time, you can visit the Barnes in Philly, or the art museum or Franklin Institute, or just walk along the Ninth St. Italian market, visit the Reading Terminal market, see Independence Hall, whatever. Taxis are cheap and plentiful in Philly, and it’s a full but surprisingly easy day trip from NYC.

    Total time NYC/Philly – say 4 days (16 cum.)

    Then we depart from your plans. Two options, both of which skip Boston and Niagara Falls:

    Option 1: Fly from NYC to Portland, Oregon.

    Say what?

    Reason: By this time it’s late May or early June, and the Pacific Northwest is coming into its own – flowery, green, still a lot of snow on the (amazing) mountains… You said scenery was a priority, so…

    Just east of the Portland airport is the Columbia (River) Gorge, a National Scenic area. The Columbia River hereabouts is a mile wide, and the gorge it passes through is lined with cliffs and waterfalls, which with May/June mountain runoff, will be spectacularly full of water. Just south of the Gorge is Mount Hood, a perfect conical volcano with a grand lodge (Timberline) located on its slopes. The Hood River Valley (which connects the mountain with the Columbia Gorge) will be full of flowering fruit trees and idyllic farms, with Mount Hood looming to the south and Mount Adams looming to the north (in Washington state, across the river.) It’s a grand 2-day stopover.

    Then keep the car and drive to San Francisco over the next 3 days, via the Oregon coast and the Coast Redwoods. If you’re from Oz and are familiar with the Great Ocean Road, then the Oregon coast will look familiar, except it’s more beautiful and around five times as long. And the coast Redwoods in Del Norte and Humboldt Counties in California are like nothing in the world. I’ve taken numerous overseas visitors on Seattle – San Francisco drives, and invariably they claim that the Redwoods were the highlight of the trip – the whole US trip in a couple of cases. Total time Oregon – SF, 5 days (21 cum.)

    Then spend two days in SF, then drive down the coast to LA (via Calif. Hwy 1) with two overnight, one in the Santa Barbara vineyard country (see the movie “Sideways”) instead of Napa. Your last 3-4 nights are in the LA area, enough for some shopping, a day at Disneyland, and some basic sightseeing.

    (Option 1A – if you want more time in southern California, you could fly from Portland to San Francisco and save the days on the road. In that case you’d definitely want to spend an extra day in the SF area to visit the Muir Woods in Marin County to see some redwoods, or else add half a day to the SF – LA drive to stop at Big Basin State Park – en route to Monterey – to see the big trees there. But missing the Redwoods altogether is not an acceptable option)

    >Option 2: Fly from NYC to San Francisco. Spend 3 days in SF, then get a car and head east, to Yosemite National Park (around 4 hrs.) You want waterfalls? You got ‘em, but mountains and stunning scenery all over, plus you can travel there via California Hwy 49, through the incredibly beautiful and historic Gold Rush country, with numerous very cute little towns (and wineries) in the Sierra foothills.

    You will need to book accommodations in Yosemite ASAP (or bite the bullet and stay outside the park in Mariposa or Oakhurst) but it’s well worth the trip. Spend two nights around/in Yosemite. (Cum to this point 21 days.)

    Then drive down to LA (around 7 hours unfortunately) and spend the rest of your time (around a week) in southern California. You could split it up with a day/night in the Santa Barbara area (gorgeous architecture and wine country nearby) or just hang out, shop, eat, and enjoy LA. You’ll need a car.

    Many will find this kind of trip exhausting-sounding, but by mixing up flights with drives you’re limiting the total number of airport/hassle days as well as long-boring-drive days.

    Anyway, it’s just some suggestions.

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    I don't know what nytraveler has been on other than the Northeast corridor. My first Amtrak trip started from Washington DC at 3AM to New York Penn station where I got on the Maple Leaf. I was in Toronto before 9PM. At the border the US Customs agents got on with a black lab. No one was taken off the train. We went over the border into Canada and the Canadian C & I got on with their black lab and talked to every person. Their black lab alerted to the 2 kilos of drugs (heroin). Two people were taken off. Yes we were an hour late into Toronto that night.
    The City of New Orleans leaves Chicago at 8 PM every night and gets into Memphis (downtown) in the early morning.
    Why pay for a hotel room in Chicago when you can wake up in Memphis?
    I have saved quite a bit of money sleeping in coach on Amtrak compared with sleeping in a hotel room.

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    But why add Chicago at all when the OP already has too many destinations for their time? Plus a very long train ride - when they could hop a plane form Buffalo to Memphis?

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    I thought o Gardyloo's suggestion of possibly including Portland/Oregon too. I like the Yosemite idea better though. It's one of my favorites. Plus, its not far from San Francisco.

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    I do like Gardyloo's suggestion (w/ the Yosemite side trip) -- if you really like to move. If you do have the stamina, that would tick most of your boxes. Mid-May to Mid-June is just about the best time of year in Yosemite Valley and it will be a highlight of the entire trip. Changes I'd make - add a day or so to NYC and drop Niagara Falls.

    And no, trains are not a viable option - except on the eastern seaboard (Wash. DC/NYC/Boston/Philly). Elsewhere one can't depend on Amtrak to get you from place to place on any sort of on-time schedule.

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    Wow, excellent, thank you!

    Very good tips, I appreciate them.
    The train travel and how long it actually takes, good points!

    Excellent tips about how to connect those destinations.

    Gardyloo, I've been thinking of connecting straight to Las Vegas, but was wondering how would that be after having already been for so long on the plane.
    I'm departing from Perth, so just over 4 hrs to cross Australia to Sydney, then on to LA, but it's a good idea when I look at the time of arrival in LA, 6:35 am...

    Thank you all for helping me cut from those destinations, e.g. Niagara Falls is out, Boston's out, Philly... MAYBE a day trip by train from NY (I know, I know, LOL!).
    Washington DC stays, thank you.
    Yosemite is on my thoughts, thank you for this.

    Memphis is on my list just because I am an Elvis fan and I want to visit Graceland. I see how inconvenient this is for my plans, but...

    And yes, I now live in Australia (Perth); moved here just over 5 years ago. Before then I did my travelling from the United Arab Emirates for many years.
    Otherwise, I was born in Romania and left the country in '94, soon after the fall of the Communism.
    Been on this forum for many years too, and got help from many of you posters right here, either from your trip reports, or advices to others and to me.

    Lots of thoughts now on my mind, thank you everyone again.

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    I loved the natural beauty in the mountains of Romania, particularly driving the Transfagaras pass. If that sort of area appeals, you'd probably love Yosemite and other natural bits of Northern California. (even with the crowds in some parks). Wouldn't skip that if you could help it.

    ps - Sun Studios, Memphis is where Elvis recorded. (As well as Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Otis Redding, Roy Orbison...) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Studio

    The civil rights museum is in the Lorraine Hotel facade (the original front remains), the balcony of which is where Dr Martin Luther King Jr as assassinated in 1968. So an important part pf and turning point in US history (IMO). Plus Memphis in general is kind of a good jumping off point to see that "other" America that's often thought of as "fly-over" country. Significantly different in many ways to either coast.

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    By all means, spend a day in Memphis. Since you dropped Niagara Falls, try to find a direct flight from your east coast last city to Memphis. If you find that your flight has a connection in Chicago, you really should try the City of New Orleans.
    Even if it is late, it will certainly be there by 10AM.
    The place to stay in downtown Memphis is the Peabody. http://www.peabodymemphis.com/?gclid=CNTGjKrdsLQCFSFyQgod-2oATA&_vsrefdom=pm-ppc
    The two airports with a direct connection to the Amtrak NE Corridor are Newark (EWR) and Baltimore-Washington (BWI).
    If you are leaving from Washington DC, Reagan National has it's own Metro station.
    If you find yourself stuck in Chicago for a few hours, take the elevator to the top of the Willis (Sears) Tower.

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    Gardyloo, I've been thinking of connecting straight to Las Vegas, but was wondering how would that be after having already been for so long on the plane.

    I'm departing from Perth, so just over 4 hrs to cross Australia to Sydney, then on to LA, but it's a good idea when I look at the time of arrival in LA, 6:35 am...

    Frankly, all the more reason. By the time you're through immigration and customs it will be around 8 - 8:30 AM, but except for a few airport-area hotels it will be unlikely you'd be able to check into a hotel room for several hours after that, and only after enduring LA rush hour traffic and spending a ton of money on a cab or rental car (the latter probably not recommended for seriously jet-lagged travelers.

    Instead, you could exit customs, put your suitcases through to your connecting flight using the bag re-check counters right there, go to your connecting terminal/gate and fly to Las Vegas right away. The hotels in LV have no problem with early check-ins, and you'd probably be in the sheets there sooner than you would be anywhere in LA except for the Century Boulevard strip near LAX, which is not where you'd want to spend your days in the LA area.

    For example, if you're flying on Qantas over the water, Qantas' 6:40 AM arrival from SYD connects to an American Airlines flight to Las Vegas that leaves at 9:40 from the terminal adjacent to where Qantas arrives. That puts you in Vegas at 10:50 with a bare minimum of hassle. Yes, you'll be tired as hell, but no more so than if you checked into a hotel near LAX and had to wait a couple hours for your room to be ready, only to wake up that night in an... airport hotel.

    By going to Vegas you get the pain out of the way, and you wake up surrounded by things to do and umpteen sights to see, places to eat, walks in the twilight, shows... way, way better, IMO.

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    The LV thing is clever and does make a lot of sense for arrival. There are usually a steady stream of Aussies around here planning US trips. Which almost always means (or at least starts with) California and Las Vegas. I'm definitely suggesting the LV-to-start idea in the future... everyone's permanently jet lagged there.

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    I'd think that you are shooting for the moon a bit with your itinerary as well. I love traveling and knowing this may be your only shot to see the whole US makes you want to see it all but you also don't want to spend the entire trip on a train or flying.

    Of course, these are all my personal opinions so take them as they are. I know some people like to see everything and other people don't mind just hitting the highlights. It also depends on the speed at which you like to travel. I've noted probably the minimum amounts of time I would spend at these place. They could of course be done faster/slower depending on your speed.

    Your trip to California alone is so extensive it would take at least 2 weeks to see everything you want. I'd caution spending more than 50% of your trip in one state. You don't want to be in a rush at the end of your trip.

    The west coast in terms of LA have never interested me. Looking at your interests, the only thing LA has to offer you is the shopping. I could see spending a day or two tops but it doesn't have the buildings and history the rest of the US has. Basically for me the west coast is just about being in the sun. With that though, I would recommend Napa Valley. I've never been but I've heard many great things and just driving through and maybe stopping at a winery or two would be a nice bonus.

    Vegas is nice. I spent 4 days there for my 21st birthday. If you aren't there to drink, party, and gamble, I couldn't imagine spending more than 2-3 days here. The appeal there is to see the different hotels and the many restaurants they have. We walked the entire strip in 2 days and I feel like we saw it all and even had time to shop.

    The Grand Canyon is nice and is probably a great day trip from Vegas (you could probably do both the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon in one day if you are dead set on seeing both). Unfortunately for me though it is one of those things where its like, "Ok, it's a big hole in the ground, now what?" I couldn't imagine spending more than a day trip there.

    Unless you are are interested in seeing Graceland only, I'd suggest Nashville over Memphis. I'm in the process of planning a trip to Nashville myself and it just seems to have more of what I'm looking for. This also seems to be quite random looking at your list of other cities you wanted to see. It's out of the way and if you are looking for southern flavor on your trip, I'd recommend New Orleans. You get a bit of the French South, the coast, and the culture.

    Niagara Falls is nice, again, for about a day. For me it was a stop-over on a cross country drive. You can see the falls from both the Canadian side and the US side in the same day. I'd also highly recommend seeing them at night. This one day alone will take care of your scenery interest. Again, not sure how willing you are to go to upstate New York for a recommended one day trip.

    I can't stress Washington DC enough. I spent a week there last October and it was one of the best trips I've ever been on. We easily spent 6 days with all the tours and museums and there is so much we missed! The Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery combined take up at least 3/4 of a day. Almost all the main museums in DC are free (see: The Smithsonian). You could spend almost an entire day in just 2 museums. We even did tours of the Capitol, the Federal Reserve, the White House and even got to sit in for a few hours while Congress was in session. Those things take time. Again, if you are coming for the history of the country, this area is a big selling point.

    New York City could also be done in about 3 days. If you hit the big selling points like Central Park, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Battery Park, Times Square, and of course the shopping! The great thing about NYC though is the public transportation. You can easily get anywhere in Manhattan in a matter of minutes. There are always trains coming through and as much as people complain about traffic, our taxi's were always able to get us everywhere extremely quickly. I'd also recommend seeing at least 1 Broadway show while you are there.

    In terms of Boston and Philadelphia, I could go either way. If you are looking for more of the scenic route, the east coast is amazing for views in the fall with the leaves changing colors and the breeze from the Atlantic as well as the lighthouses on the shore. Boston is a bit more north and will give you the true East Coast shore feel. Boston will have plenty in terms of historic sights to see and Boston Harbor I hear is absolutely beautiful. I've also heard many great things about the seafood there. I suppose I've just answered my own question about while I'd prefer! I'd give Boston at least 3 days.

    In terms of logistics. I think you first need to pick out your major points of interest in the country that you want to see. It's hard to just say "well, 3 days in Vegas is good." You have to know what you want to see there, how long it will take you, and make sure you have time to rest. Once you pick out your points of interest, then you can focus on the "How do I get from place to place" aspect. I really think that between car rentals, trains, and planes you shouldn't need to worry too much about getting to every place you want to see as long as you don't mind sleeping on public transportation on occasion.

    Best of luck on your trip planning. I hope at least some of this has helped. It's truly a dream to have the ability to spend a month seeing a whole country!

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    Sorry, I didn't realize you had already removed Niagara and Boston from your itinerary. Great for Niagara but I'd really reconsider Boston.

    Also, being from Chicago, I'll throw out that being in Chicago is a great day layover city. We have plenty of museums, great public transportation and a beautiful skyline along Lake Michigan!

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    Happy New Year to all of you here!

    Back again, what did you think? I obeyed my holiday spirit and only did thinking about the holiday and no research work.

    I'm about to buy that ticket to LV straight from LA. Excellent tip, again, thank you.

    Chilegalbeagle, thank you for your opinions, they are helpful, too.

    So the idea right now is roughly two weeks on the west coast and two weeks east coast plus Memphis.

    Now one thing that I should have mentioned from the start is that I already have a ticket from NY to LA departing NY on 12th June at 6:55pm, arriving LA at 9:55pm, then departing LA for Sydney on 14th June at 10:10pm.

    I left two days at the end for LA for touch-up shopping and just spending time in one place before a long flight.
    We do want to check out some designer's outlets too.

    I've had mixed opinions from friends here about shopping in LA vs NY. And because some said NY and some said LA, I thought of not spending our shopping money straight away as we arrive in LA, but give NY a chance too, where we could also compare to what we'd have seen in LA, and decide then whether to spend in NY or LA.

    Wife's involved in this, so if I am not too coherent, you know why. LOL!!

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    More about what we'd like to do see and do.

    Las Vegas - do touristy stuff, see the sights which made it famous, play games in the casinos, etc.
    That includes Bellagio, Caesar's Palace, Cirque du Soleil, pyramids, obelisque, night lights, wedding chapels, Elvises, colours, just being in Vegas.

    San Fran - take a few photos in the Russian Hill area and remember Steve McQueen's famous car chase.

    New York - Manhattan and whatever else we can see and do in 5-6 days, sights, buildings, a couple of museums, cafes, at least one show, donuts, oh yes, how can I forget donuts, bagels, muffins, and... did I mention donuts?

    In general we like to see the colours of the world, architecture, historic buildings, modern buildings, interior design, coffee, cafes, street cafes, cakes, chocolate, ice cream, vegetarian food, wine, a good art/ history museum, famous sights and places.

    We arrive on 18th May, 6:40am, fly to Vegas at 9:40am. Am thinking of doing the west coast, including 2 days in LA, then on to Memphis (2 days - Graceland and whatever else we can do in the city - Sun Studios, Rock & Soul Museum) and east coast, then departing NY on 12th June at 6:55pm, and LA for two days at the end. This makes 4 days in LA.

    Oh, and we must go to Disneyland.

    Right now it looks like this: Vegas - San Fran/ Yosemite/ Napa Valley - LA - Memphis - Washington DC - NY (Philly one day trip) - LA (2 days at the end).

    It's 28 days including the arrival day. We're not bad with the jet lag on arrival. We usually drop our bags in the hotel, take a shower and we're out on the streets. We did long flights before, so we know how we react to this.

    And as you say... Jet lagged? Vegas it is!

    Oh! And one more thing!!
    My wife gave me a list of hotels in New York where she would like to stay, hotels she's seen in movies, of course, and yes, in Sex and the City (!!). She asked me to check these stay in one of them:

    St Regis, Mandarin Oriental, Trump Int'l, Trump Soho, The New York Palace, Waldorf Astoria, Grand Hyatt, Crown Plaza, Gansevoort, Eventi Hotel, The London.

    In Memphis we'll want to stay at The Peabody, yes.

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    The Peabody in Memphis is great. Sunday Brunch there is nice if you happen to be there on a Sunday. You are walking distance to Beale Street. I would suggest Blues City Cafe on Beale Street. Also just down the street from that is Rendevouz BBQ. Then, not directly on Beale, but just around the corner is Gus's Fried Chicken-which is also very good.

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    What does your budget look like.

    The Mandarin Oriental in NYC is a great hotel, good location and wonderful services/amenities - but in late May the basic rooms are about $900 per night - based on the "best rate" advance purchase program. Park view or deluxe rooms are more.

    The rest of these hotels are also upscale but generally prices are not quite so high.

    Sometime you can find deals - esp if you buy advance purchase - so I would definitely check out discounts/optins as soon as you know your dates.

    And these hotels are in very different neighborhoods - so you probably want to consider that:

    Do you want upper midtown - primarily a business and shopping district, some traditional restaurants and not too far from theaters. Or you may want to consider further downtown - more trendy, lots of newer restaurants and more funky shopping - new, resale of classics and unique boutiques - and also a few tourist sights.

    Most of the major museums are on the upper east and west sides - none of you hotels are in that area.

    IMHO being adjacent to a subway is important since that's the best way to get around for longer distances - foot is best for shorter. Whatever you do - don't sign up for any passes or day long bus trips - they are a waste of time and money - since you end up spending a huge amount of time sitting in traffic watching locals do their daily errands.

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    Don't forget that Las Vegas has a great shopping area right along the Strip.
    Rent a car for at least 1 day and go to see Hoover Dam and maybe Valley of Fire.
    Whatever you buy on your shopping trips, have the merchant ship it to your home address instead of carrying all the way through your trip.

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    spirobulldog, thank you for your suggestions. Blues City Cafe looks good.

    nytraveller, thank you for your tips! Our budget is not THAT big, we only want to do a hotel or something flashy once in a while, only when it has certain connotations or history attached to it. It's not something that we do regularly. Certainly, I'll be looking for special offers, and if I can get one, good, if not, then we'll just choose somewhere else to stay. $900 per night is demolishing our budget, so I'll look carefully.

    I appreciate the tips regarding locations, those are so valuable, now I have some more work to do, but this is what I wanted from you, thank you.

    Subway, yes, subway...

    tomfuller, thank you for your tips, haven't thought of having the merchant ship my shopping home.

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    We are Hard Rock Cafe (HRC) fans, and it is our intention to visit them in every city on our trip.

    Unfortunately for us, the restaurant in Los Angeles was closed seven years ago.
    I know from their website that I can go to Hollywood for one, but the LA cafe was the first HRC that opened in the US (1982).

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    The HRC in Las Vegas is just east of the Hofbrauhaus. We did have a great Christmas dinner once at the Hofbrauhaus (sic).
    The only Hard Rock Cafe meal we ever had was in the HRC in Lisbon Portugal.

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    If you want to visit Disneyland (which is great for all ages) then look at staying a couple of nights in Anaheim, which is where the park is located, it is about an hour drive from LA and if you take public transit, even worse. That way you can get there when the park opens and it is less crowded. You might want to also look into Knott's Berry Farm which is nearby, although it looks like you might not have enough time for both.

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    Need help with flight connections/layovers, please.

    Looking at flights between San Francisco and Memphis and some results give me 1 stop with a layover of 33 minutes, or 46 minutes, 49 minutes and then several with over 1 hour.

    Why would I be given the option of a 33 min (Cincinnati, OH) or 49 min (Houston, TX) layover? Is that enough time between flights? Those flights involve changing the plane too.

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    Can you get a direct flight to Chicago (either airport)?
    The Amtrak "City of New Orleans" leaves Chicago Union station at 8PM every evening and gets you to Memphis (downtown) in the morning.
    Houston (49 minutes) should be OK if it is the same airline with gates close to each other.

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    The 46 minutes layover is United Airlines from SFO then "United Airlines: Flight 5260 / Canadair Regional Jet (Jet) operated by United Express/SkyWest" from Houston.

    Although I could find a few direct flights to Chicago, it still adds a few good hours to my travel time and since I'd have only a few hours to spend in Chicago (i.e. too little time for my liking), and not having where to cut off from in order to add one day there, I'll still be looking at flights between San Francisco and Memphis.

    Chicago will certainly be on the list next time I visit the US.

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    I am from Melbourne and found I had to split the U.S. up with East and West Coast as there is so much to see, so I saw East first .... but now I am planning for the East again!

    I will try to add a few suggestions to your trip with places I have been,I will write in the order I saw the East Coast.

    Massive plane delay from Australia meant I arrived in New York at 9.30pm, rather than 7pm...arriving late depending on the day (this was JFK too) means a lot of shuttles are gone, so anyway an expensive ride into town later to penn station for my AMTRAK train to Philadelphia, business class seat about $80, I felt safe even though I was alone, there were probably 10 people on the train, seats are clean and comfortable.

    PHILADELPHIA There are always taxis at the station even after 1am, I arrived at The Travelodge great hotel room, breakfast included, which had a nice variety of cereals, toast, muffins, yoghurt, fruit and a selection of juices and tea and coffee.....quick thing to point out I love the U.S. but they fail on tea and coffee...I stuck with juices.
    Anyway maybe the adrenaline of travelling I was up at 6am and the free hotel shuttle service took me into town at 8am.
    I saw the gravesite of Benjamin Franklin, took the pre booked (free via their website)tour for the Independence Hall, then took the 10am Reading Terminal Food Tour (this was a Wenesday) the day is important to note as the Amish are there are Wednesday and Friday early...they are packed up by 4pm and gone...in my opinion the best pretzels I had in the U.S. The whole market is great you can try cheesesteak, po'oh boys, turtle soup, great icecream etc etc. There is a great tourist bus looks like a tram called the Philly Phlash...I think that is the name and at the time daily pass was $5 it goes to all the main tourist spots, I took it to Eastern State Penatentiary which is great and not always packed giving it that eerie feel, audio tour is narrated by Steve Buscemi. Rocky Statue, great segway tour that leaves from over the road...I was the only one in the tour the guide was fantastic. I also got to see The Liberty Bell, the Cleopatra exhibit at the Franklin Institute, Betsy Ross House, The Rodin Museum,City Hall Tour, Constitution Hall... I think that was it's name...there is so much to see in Philadelphia climate, the city and food all beautiful, I saw so many people taking their dogs to work in the morning...if you can spend the night, I believe it would be crazy to spend only a day tour as the New York hotel prices in some cases are double that of Philadelphia, you need at least 1 whole day.

    WASHINGTON DC Again I caught the Amtrak from Philadelphia to Washington DC, stayed 3 nights at the Holiday Inn Washington Central again nice comfortable hotel free breakfast again great variety even laundry wasn't too costly...and it wasn't long enough...there is much to see I will pick my main highlights....
    The Smithsonian museums are all free but also time consuming..so best to pick out ahead of time which ones you want to see.... I saw the Natural and The American History, the Indian one as well as Air and Space, pre book the free Washington Monument and you can go to the top, Sunset Monuments bike tour. Also if you guys are early risers take a taxi to the zoo at 6.30 or so...it is open from 6am but they have GIANT PANDAS and if you get in early you beat all the crowds and the photographers who also get their early told me that the Pandas rise early, eat and then sleep all day and the visitors who come later see Pandas that are asleep.
    Go to the E Street area great restaurants as well as Georgetown, also go to Lincoln memorial early in the morning if you leave it until later it is packed nice to be there early and then walk around the area...I did this on my last morning taxi there spent about a half hour and then walked back to the hotel and had breakfast before check out.

    I then flew from WASHINGTON DC to BOSTON

    I know at this time you have scrapped plans for Boston but in case you change your mind here are some ideas.
    BOSTON is a beautiful city with so much to see, the free dom trail, Paul Revere House, Cheers Bar, Fenway Park for a tour and a baseball game, fabulous food, Salem is a quick ferry trip away and worth spending a day there, also there is a theatre there with great shows I saw Wicked....cheaper tix than Broadway and then The Blue Man group at thecharlesplayhouse,probably cheaper than Las Vegas, not to mention their beautiful parks, a movie tour that takes in sites from The Departed etc...the trolley tour hop on, hop off are great too.
    I stayed one night at Omni House (pure luxury...part of an Insight tour of New England)and Chandler House..cheap but great...always request room on the higher floors great cafes close by that served speactacular breakfasts.

    AMTRAK I caught the Amtrak train from Boston to N.Y. I did purchase a Business class seat from memory (2 years ago) roughly $80, 3 hours and great.

    I will write in another day or so on my experiences and highlights of New York, seven nights and barely scratched the surface and Memphis (part of a Trafalgar tour from Nashville to New Orleans that was in Memphis for two nights)

    Also you did speak of layovers I found Cincinnatti to be a beautiful airport with plenty of food choice, friendly people, nice gift shops....
    Hope I have given you some food for thought :)

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    "Hope I have given you some food for thought"
    You have indeed, jewelvai, thank you very much!

    Great suggestions, and I'll keep those for Boston for next time, as I'm aware we'll have to visit again.

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    I live 14 miles from Memphis, I wouldn't recommend Graceland right now, they are trying to clean up the neighborhood right now, when Elvis lived in Whitehaven it was where the elite lived, but now Graceland is more like in the ghetto, Graceland is the only thing going on there now other than crime. Hopefully these improvements the city is making will make it more visitor friendly. I would suggest Sun Studios downtown. You can almost fill the presence of Elvis, Johnny and many others. It's not as crazy as Graceland and a whole lot cheaper.

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    If you are in Memphis mid-May, you will want to be at the music fest, they always have the biggest musicians from everywhere, it's right on the Mississippi river, if you could rent a boat, that would be the way to see it. The schedule will be on the website soon, it is the Beale Street Music Festival.

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    Right.... So here we are, ready to go.

    It was hard work to plan and schedule this trip, doing this homework in general, but your tips here made it easier, so thank you all for that.

    At the beginning I didn't know where to begin, and as your tips and advices came in you helped me sketch an outline, a path, you gave me a "head and a tail" to be able to grab this, made it clearer for me.

    As I went deeper into planning I got "scared", so to speak (as life's short and I need time, more time), of the vast amount of "seeing and visiting" that I have to do in the US. We certainly want to come again, there are many things we want to see and visit and one month is only a tiny bit of the time we actually need to do this.

    Leaving tonight (12 hours from now), landing in LA on Sat morning and I'm happy to tell everyone (no one seems to have even thought of it) that I'm connecting straight to Las Vegas (thank you Gardyloo!). I found that a brilliant idea!

    The itinerary looks like this: Las Vegas 3.5 days - fly to LA 2.5 days - fly to San Francisco 4 days - fly to Memphis 2 days - fly to Washington 4.5 days - early morning train to Philadelphia 1 day - late night train to New York 6 days - fly to LA 2 days - 14th June departure from LA.

    Your help here was invaluable, thank you.

    I'll be back with the story :-)

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    Later edit...

    When I say in my above post that "I'm happy to tell everyone (no one seems to have even thought of it)", I mean everyone here in Australia, everyone I talk to in general, in my circle of friends, not everyone on the forum, as the idea came from the forum, obviously.

    It is the people around me who haven't thought of it and having picked it up from Gardyloo, I am now proud to "announce it to people around me"... :-)

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