Travel Advice to USA really appreciated

Old May 9th, 2006, 05:04 AM
  #41  
 
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Like others have said, you have many good suggestions already. Think about what YOU want to do and see, and your impression about what is unique about the U.S.

I'll let you figure out the 5 stop-overs thing.

IMO, the truly unique part of the U.S. is the natural places, which are often (but not always) in the national parks. If you could get to Yellowstone, it's the biggest and the best - the geysers there are not found anywhere else. With distances in mind, however, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon (also unique, of course) are also very good choices.

I've lived in Chicago and go back to visit frequently, but I would not include it in this trip. Yes, the architecture is interesting, and it's a welcoming city, but I would say most of the rest of Chicago would be similar to New York or other of your city destinations (for example, both New York and San Francisco have bigger and more diverse ethnic communities and restaurants). The museums are good, but you'll see as good or better in NYC or D.C. (except for the Art Institute's impressionist collection).

And here's another suggestion: instead of the South, consider the Southwest, which you could include with the Grand Canyon. There are many places in New Mexico and Arizona to see, and the southwestern culture is unique (I know, I'm using the word too much). If you're at all interested in Native American culture, this of course is the part of the country where you'll experience the most.

South Florida is nice, but October is not the best time of year there - for one thing, it's still hurricane season. And it's out of the way from your other destinations. If you want a feel for the south, remember that D.C. is on the edge of the South (or in the south). When we visited there last, and spent several days in Maryland, it certainly felt like the culture of the south to me! (And the food was very southern, which included a little too much fried food for my tastes.) D.C. is a fun city, but only if you want to see a lot of U.S. history and museums, and want to feel in a feel for the South.

I like Boston (in fact we're visiting there again next week), but it's the beginning of our U.S., history, so I'm not sure how interested you would be in that. As a city, it's nice, a small city, but nothing like NYC, S.F. or even Chicago in terms of activities, restaurants, etc. If you do spend time in Boston, consider a day or a night on the Maine coast; that will definitely give you a different feel.

I'm not sure about 7 nights in S.F., unless it included some time along the coast, though not driving as far south as Los Angeles (which I wouldn't put on the list at all). The wine country is north of S.F., and the Big Sur coast is south, which makes logistics a little difficult. If I had to choose one place, it would definitely be the coast; I find the wine country pretty but not stunning, and it's a lot of the same thing (unless you're really into wine, of course). The restaurants are fantastic in the wine country, though. But on the other hand, the Big Sur coast area is a big agricultural area as well, and you can get great fruits and vegetables at roadside stands. Now every time we buy artichokes, we recognize the names of the towns they come from!

Tell us a little about why you like cities - is it nightlife, or culture, or primarily the food? And the outdoors stuff - do you like driving through parks, or getting out and walking around?

Have a great trip!
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Old May 9th, 2006, 05:56 AM
  #42  
 
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Ben, you're probably reeling from all these choices now!

I do want to make one other suggestion for you. With such a full schedule, you'll basically be seeing the "big picture" but won't be doing any "in depth" exploration of any particular city.

I've always found that by staying at B&Bs, I really get more of the "flavor" of a particular area than staying in an impersonal hotel somewhere.

I'm not talking about a B&B in NYC, but definitely in Charleston, in Boston or even in Chicago (if you make it out our way).

Not everyone is a fan of B&Bs but I think it would lend a nice touch to your stay at certain areas here, wherever you decide to go.
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Old May 9th, 2006, 07:00 AM
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Of course it always depends on the time of the year, but why people skip San Diego, is beyond me. One of the best cities in the U.S.A.
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Old May 9th, 2006, 08:12 AM
  #44  
 
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Well said, Lexma!

...I too would choose San Diego over LA. I actually enjoy visiting LA, but as there aren't really any "sites" to see except Hollywood Blvd, and maybe the movie studios, it's probably not appropriate for this kind of trip. To me, LA is more of a "vibe" thing - it's one of those places where you'd want to be able to hang out for a while and soak it all in. SD has the best zoo I've ever seen, a good aquarium, and a real SoCal feel - and lots more... but I'll leave it to the locals to tell you more!
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Old May 9th, 2006, 08:32 AM
  #45  
 
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It always surprises me how many LA-haters one finds on this travel board. Yeah, it's huge (because it's a geopolitical construct of over 100 cities over two counties). Yeah, there are a lot of people there (face it, kids-- some misguided people want to live here). Yeah, it's hard to grasp. There are thousands of sights to see in the greater LA area.

But it's the second-largest city by population in the US. It's a major engine of California's economy-- the world's sixth-largest. Like someone once said, LA is the whole world in one place, yet like nowhere else. It's American Dream and Urban Nightmare all in one. A large portion of the modern history of the US (not just mass media) was and is written here. It's not a picture-pretty or soothingly pleasant as San Francisco or San Diego (cities I love passionately)-- but face facts: LA is, like it or not, important.
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Old May 9th, 2006, 08:52 AM
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rjw,
Yes, but it was many orders of magnitude better before and during War II.
M
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Old May 9th, 2006, 09:10 AM
  #47  
 
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mikemo: And you are entitled to your opinion....
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Old May 9th, 2006, 09:38 AM
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Por nada.
M (SMdA, Gto.)
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Old May 9th, 2006, 11:14 AM
  #49  
 
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Stirring up the pot here and adding my two cents!

I really like the idea of "basing", i.e., that you fly to and stop off in Montreal, then go to Niagara Falls on one side trip and off to Quebec on another side.

So here goes:

1) first stop: Vancouver BC, it's one of the best Canadian cities! Then side trip by car to Seattle. Back to Vancouver to take the plane onward.

2) second stop: Montreal, with side trips to Niagara Falls and Quebec City. Don't miss Quebec City, it's absolutely charming!

3) third stop: New York City, with side trips by train to Boston and Washington DC. You should rent a car only after you get into Boston and into Washington DC. You don't need a car in New York and it's better to train to other destinations than to struggle through the traffic! You can easily drive from Boston to Cape Cod, where you can take the ferry to Nantucket Island and Martha's Vineyard for one day.

4) fourth stop: Chicago/New Orleans - you are going to have to choose either the northern route or the southern route to get across country.

5) fifth stop: San Francisco - tour SF without a car. Then get a car and drive down Highway 1, the Coastal route, to Los Angeles. There is SOOOOOOO much to do and see in Los Angeles. Then drive on down to San Diego, another jewel along the Pacific Coast. Then drive to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and then back to San Francisco by way of Death Valley and Yosemite Park. You'll need two weeks for this portion, or at a minimum 10 days. Return car in SF. Fly home.

Some flights to Australia stop off in Hawaii. Maybe you could add Hawaii by paying a few more dollars. However, I agree with skipping Hawaii, if this isn't possible.

I leave how many days to spend where up to you and your interests.

Well, there's my two cents worth! Happy planning!

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Old May 9th, 2006, 11:49 AM
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Like many I've traveled in all the continental states. You just can't see everything! And if you want to include cities, what interests you...architecture, history, museums, the arts, dining? Heading South and East Coast as well does add mileage since you are West Coast bound, so I would be selective. OK, Quebec City fine, New York City is where everyone goes, ditto Nation's capital. Frisco is interesting for sure, maybe Chicago (my birthplace)if on your way west. Just going to a big city might be disappointing unless you have specific goals.

Also I would vote for more time in Middle America if traveling by car...like here in the Missouri Ozarks or some football game in Ohio, Illinois
or anywhere more rural....that's REAL America.

Definitely do see some of the famous natural beauty...Niagra Falls (despite the touristy stuff) Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone.

What I would personally leave out due to time: Las Vegas, Florida, San Diego, Hawaii (except as a stop over).

ozarksbill
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Old May 10th, 2006, 05:11 PM
  #51  
 
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I only lived in LA two years so I could
be wrong on this--my impression of LA
was a bunch of health fanatics dining
out on Organic vegetables just before
stepping out to party the night away
on the latest "in" drugs.
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Old May 11th, 2006, 06:10 AM
  #52  
 
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How can you not visit New England in October? Please, please allot 3-4 days to see a very beautiful part of our country! You can base out of Boston and see a lot in just a few days.....
Lucy
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Old May 11th, 2006, 06:18 AM
  #53  
 
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Florida will be in hurricane season. I think I would skip it this time around.

You can take Amtrak or a bus from Vancouver to Seattle for about $25-$35.

Check out Whistler, just north of Vancouver. Number 1 Ski resort in North America. And they don't call Vancouver, the Amsterdam of the West for no reason.

Consider joining the Green Tortoise in San Francisco for a tour to the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Park. (www.greentortoise.com)

October is a good month for the West Coast, so I would spend most of my time over there.

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Old May 11th, 2006, 06:19 AM
  #54  
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OzarksBill, why is middle America considered the real America?

Are the rest of us living in fake America?
 
Old May 11th, 2006, 07:33 AM
  #55  
 
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And I've never heard Vancouver being called the Amsterdam of the West. What's the reason for that?
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Old May 12th, 2006, 02:29 PM
  #56  
 
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Message to GoTravel:

No offense intended...2 of our 3 kids live in in the Boston area, I went to grad school in New Haven, and we happen to love New England, Hudson R. Valley, Maryland shore, etc.

But isn't it true that a great many postings on Fodors are about West or East coast desintations? With the exception of Chicago and a few other locales few seem to want to notice our corn fields and hay mounds and country music. I do get the impression that some don't know what lies beyond the Hudson River, don't you? We all love the Colorado Rockies and Grand Canyon and Florida coast and Cape Cod and San Francisco ,etc. But I love Middle America, too, not necessarily for scenery (although we do have that), but for some basic values.
(Now don't you go and question why I am slamming values of others!) :-}

ozarksbill
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Old May 12th, 2006, 04:20 PM
  #57  
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So many ideas, so little time.

I think you'll be able to find good/great food in any city you pick, so I wouldn't even use that as a deciding factor. Some may argue that one city is better than another, but every major city will have great restaurants.

I'd say everyone has given you lots of great ideas, but some of them are a bit heavy in certain areas/cities at the expense of other interesting areas. I don't think anyone's even recommended visiting the Rocky Mountains, which surprises me. Early October and the Rockies pretty much define great scenery. In place of that, a visit to Seattle and the Cascades would be nice too.

IMO, the Grand Canyon via Las Vegas is a must-do. LV is quite interesting if you've never been there, but I would only spend of couple nights there.
 
Old May 13th, 2006, 08:25 AM
  #58  
 
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Gosh! I missed out on the great NYC vs. Chicago vs. Dallas slug-out on the other thread so I guess I'll just post a little message here. Not to get off your inquiry, though, Ben...

Ben, each US (large) metropolis has it's own "personality". It is not right to say that one is better than the other, but that they are different. And it really isn't correct to say all large cities are alike, although they may have similarities.

For example, IMHO, NYC has a more "charged" atmosphere; whereas, Chicago is more "relaxed". San Francisco is even more "laid-back" than Chicago.

There's been a number of entries posted about going to big cities as opposed to natural spaces or more rural areas. I think that your schedule will naturally tend to lean towards the bigger cities simply because of the transportation issue and time restraints. It would be great if you could visit a number of the National Parks here in the US although the driving time would be prohibitive, especially in the west.

To be honest, I had thought about suggesting you getting a rental car in Montreal and driving to Boston through New England, but I didn't because I wasn't sure 1) what the issues of an international visitor taking a rental car across (another)international boundary might entail and 2) the cost. Nowadays, at least in the US, some rental car companies will only allow their vehicles to be used in certain states and there are substantial surcharges for one-way rentals (or even if the company will allow it--which some won't). Which leads to my point: if you do go to Charleston and want to drive to Savannah, make certain with the rental car agency it is all right to go into Georgia from South Carolina--because not all will allow that.

Good luck in your final decision - please post what you think your possible itinerary would be. Would love to hear.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 02:42 PM
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Before you decide how many days you spend in each city, consider what there is to do there. Mrs. Peabody and I rate cities in "days." New York City is not a 3 day city. There are world class sights in abundance: Museums, Broadway shows, as well as the usual tourist stops (Statue of Liberty, Empire Stat Building, etc.) so look in a gudebook and decide what you can't miss, figure a half day for ech and add a day.

San Francisco is probably a 3-day city in itself, but you must be adding some time for wine country, and you shouldn't miss scenics such as Muir Woods.

Visiting the US without seeing the Grand Canyon would be like missing the Australian outback and the Barrier Reef combined. Include it.

I have to agree that Boston is less to see than the others for a foreigner. The sights there are most meaningful for their connections to American History.

Be careful of what posters are listing as day trips -- anything with a trip 3-4 hours each way plus getting to and from departure points leaves nothing for the destination.

New Orleans is still recovering from a near-death experience.

Like Australia, there are unique natural wonders to be seen. Yosemite looks like a good break from cities for you, and Yellowstone would be great if you could swing it. Niagra falls would depend on what you think of falling water plus tourists. Figure out how you want to balance Man-Made vs. Natural.
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Old May 13th, 2006, 03:17 PM
  #60  
 
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Planning our own re-visit to the US (PNW), also western Canada, this year I checked with Budget about taking a car into and back out of Canada and was told it's not a problem, as long as we tell them when picking up the car. However I'm not at all sure that would work for a one-way hire, and as mentioned the drop-off fee can be heavy.

Ben, I hesitate to add to your confusion, but on our last visit to America we enjoyed Boston precisely because of its history. Salem, on the northern fringe of greater Boston, is also interesting, if somewhat touristy. Don't go looking for the dungeons where they kept the Salem "witches" - a telephone exchange was built over it in the 1950s, but the Old Burying Ground is worth a visit.

We had 5 days in NYC and could have handled 5 weeks. Maximise your time by using the subway to go any distance.

Of the other cities we saw, our favourites were Charleston (we preferred it to Savannah), New Orleans and San Francisco. Taking a train in and out of NYC is much to be preferred over flying - you can relax, stretch out and have a drink in the buffet car, and you're delivered to the middle of Manhattan with no airport hassles. We missed DC, which we later regretted.

We found the best way to orient ourselves in most larger cities was to use a hop on/hop off bus service. We did take some Gray Line day tours as the easiest way to see out-of-town sights such as the Sonoma wine country and Muir Woods in SF, and the bayou country west (NW?) of New Orleans. Wherever possible we used public transport within cities.

The Grand Canyon is of course spectacular. We rented a car in Santa Fe NM, and included the GC in a big loop that took us through the Four Corners area (where four states join) and Monument Valley. But that took the best part of a week.
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