Philadelphia PA is famously where the USA’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed, it’s where Rocky triumphantly ran up the steps of the Museum of Art and in February 2018, their beloved Eagles soared to Super Bowl stardom for the first time. It’s also where Gate 1 Travel was founded in 1981, so it’s no surprise that we know an extra thing or to about the best places to visit in America!
From the magnificent sweep of the world’s best national parks to bustling cultural centres, from coastal beauty to southern charm, each of Gate 1’s itineraries is carefully designed to be as enriching, as comprehensive and as value-packed as all our international trips.
So let’s take a look at the places that you won’t want to miss when you explore this great country.
North by Northeast: Rich Histories and Seductive Charms
We’ll begin where the U.S. began. You may have heard about the birth of the nation and the gently rolling hills outside Boston, Massachusetts, that were the stage of the American Revolution. It’s quite a moving experience to witness firsthand the historic places that carry echoes of pre and post-colonial days. It all comes startlingly to life in New England, from the first settlement at Plymouth Rock to the living museum of Old Sturbridge Village.
Of course, Boston was the hub of it all. Legendary sites like the Old North Church, Beacon Hill and the Boston Commons – the oldest public park in the country – take you back to inspiring moments in history. There’s more inspiration in Hyannis on Cape Cod, lined with beautiful sand beaches and home of the Kennedy Compound, witness to so much national pride and tragedy. Massachusetts also nurtured some world-renowned literary and artistic talents, as you can see at Herman Melville’s Arrowhead; Edith Wharton’s home, the Mount; and the Norman Rockwell Museum – each one providing incredible insight into the lives of artists whose work has stood the test of time.
Those lovely verduous hills of Massachusetts rise into dramatic mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire. Traversing these stunningly beautiful states – much of them protected U.S. Forest Land – you’ll pause to explore charming, steepled New England villages and admire sweeping vistas of granite cliffs and hills blanketed in evergreen.
There’s more northern beauty along the legendary lakes that surround Michigan. This truly is one of the undiscovered corners of the U.S. But Michiganders are in the know about the tranquil beauty here, from inviting shores lined with Victorian gems and green forests, to the charming Bavarian village of Frankenmuth. Major moments in history have also played out here: Detroit’s Henry Ford Museum chronicles the achievements of American inventors and Fort Mackinac was erected by the British to fend off the new colonists during the American Revolution.
The South: Grace and Vitality
The American South is a virtual gumbo of history, culture and beauty. Antebellum charms, pretty green parks and trees dripping with Spanish moss line the streets in Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. These inviting and very walkable cities are home to some of the country’s most treasured Greek Revival, Revolutionary Era and plantation mansions. It’s easy to imagine sipping a mint julep on any of the sprawling porches of these gracious cities. Nearby, St. Augustine, Florida holds the torch as the country’s oldest city. Straddling the Matanzas River near its mouth, it was founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1565, more than two centuries before independence.
For a completely different southern experience, you can visit New Orleans and Cajun Country, where life is lived slowly and strains of jazz echo on the bayou. Home of Bourbon Street and the annual Mardi Gras festival, New Orleans’ French Quarter is one of the most captivating musical centres in the country – a place to let your hair down and join in the fun. But the state of Louisiana has much more in store. You can take time to explore its rich history in its fascinating museums; take in the blend of Spanish, French, Creole and Cajun cultures in Baton Rouge; and witness the natural beauty of the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest wetlands in the U.S.
There’s music to be danced to, as well, in Tennessee. For country and rock music lovers, the state is home to revered pilgrimage sites. In Nashville, you can visit the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. In Memphis, music clubs lure you in with twangs and strums spilling onto the famous Beale Street. And, of course, no visit here should bypass Graceland, the palatial home of Elvis Presley. Another musical legend, BB King, is memorialised at his namesake museum in the Mississippi Delta.
Texas, too, has its musical roots and much of them live in the lively capital of Austin. But the Lone Star State is known more for its Old West charm, cowboy culture and presidential past. Near Austin, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park preserves the memory of the 36th president and Lady Bird Johnson. Dallas is home to the sobering John F. Kennedy Memorial and the Sixth Floor Museum, fronted by the infamous “grassy knoll.” The George W. Bush Presidential Library is also here, and you’ll pay a visit. From San Antonio to Houston, you’ll admire Spanish colonial charms and an impressive cosmopolitan air. And you’ll see where Texas gets it reputation for indulging in all things in the biggest possible way; Houston even helped send men to the moon.
National Parks: Magnificence Preserved
West of the Mississippi, the plains open up to some of the grandest vistas in the country. Symbols of the grand American ideal, many are protected as American Parkland.
Perhaps one of the most interesting parks, South Dakota’s Mt. Rushmore is more know for its man-made wonder than its natural ones. For many visitors, its quartet of presidential sculptures carved into the granite cliffs of the Black Hills serves as an altar to democracy. In Wyoming, endless grassland and soaring peaks set the stage for the drama of Yellowstone. Its countless hot springs, massive mountain faces, and towering waterfalls are truly stunning, but the “Old Faithful” geyser steals the show. Not to be outdone, the Grand Teton massif, with its distinctive and spectacular craggy range, is a humbling testament to the west’s natural beauty.
In Arizona and Utah, fissures in the earth have carved out breathtaking natural wonders. Almost 280 miles long and up to 18 miles wide, the Grand Canyon is the great American icon – a colossal chasm sculpted over millennia. In Utah’s Bryce Canyon, conical-shaped rock formations stand like sentries among pine-dotted hillsides. And at Zion National Park, red sandstone canyons are kissed by cascading waterfalls, flowing rivers and vivid desert colours. Though it is nowhere near the size of the Grand Canyon, it’s been said that its beauty far surpasses its larger cousin.
More startling earthen colours and stunning rock formations grace the landscapes of Canyonlands National Park. Ascend to its 1,500-foot mesa to marvel at red-rock vistas, including the legendary Mesa Arch. Many more of these astonishing natural sculptures – the densest concentration in the world – greet you in Arches National Park. In Colorado, you can get a glimpse of how ancient peoples lived amidst such ruggedly beautiful terrain at the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, home to 5,000 known archaeological sites.
Farther north, you might answer the call of the wild in Alaska. Denali, (formerly Mt. McKinley) watches over an untouched wilderness in Denali National Park. This is a pristine world of magnificent panoramas cut by babbling streams and salmon-rich rivers. A deluxe train journey and a tour of the tundra highlight it all. Incredible scenery is everywhere in Alaska; even our transfer days take the breath away! And no trip here would be complete without seeing its impressive glaciers. Kenai Fjords National Park and its 300-square-mile Harding Ice Field is one of the best spots to witness them as they calve into the icy waters. You can watch from a safe distance during a spectacular cruise among soaring, snow-capped peaks.
The West: Glittering Cities Amidst Natural Beauty
The western U.S. has a lot more to offer than just its national parks. California, especially, is home to beautiful cities that enjoy beautiful settings. To be sure, the hills of San Francisco, its situation on its famous bay, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge make for one of the most breathtaking skylines in the world. Exploring the city – with its bustling Union Square and Ghirardelli Square – and the vineyards to the north – with their inviting wineries and galleries – is pure pleasure.
The star of California’s coast is the “17 Mile Drive.” Widely called one of the most scenic panoramas in the world, this road follows the jagged Big Sur coast to the Del Monte Forest. Sweeping vistas unfold around every corner, from crashing surf on rocky shores to multi-million dollar homes hugging hillsides. And of course, one cannot visit northern California without laying eyes on its towering redwoods, which you can do during visits to Redwood National Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Long heralded as one of the most magnificent corners of the U.S., the Pacific Northwest offers an enriching blend of natural beauty and rich culture. If you want to get a sense of how much Oregonians love and respect the wilderness that surrounds them, just consider that Portland ranks high on the list of the most “green and livable” cities in the world. From here, an exploration of the Columbia River Gorge, an 80-mile-long twisting river canyon fed by plummeting waterfalls, takes the breath away. The lush, rugged Oregon coast and Crater National Park punctuate the state’s unrivalled natural diversity.
An entirely different landscape mesmerises all who visit New Mexico, where starkly beautiful desert vistas have long inspired artists and craftspeople for generations. Glimpse the old Pueblo ways in Albuquerque at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre and the Bandelier Monument, one of North America’s oldest settlements. In Taos, explore the streets of Taos Pueblo, a typical ancient village preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And get to know the life and works of the region’s most famous artist, Georgia O’Keefe, at her home known as Ghost Ranch and at Santa Fe’s renowned museum named for her.
Explore More of the Americas with Gate 1 Travel!
Convenience and ease … the unmatched value of our buying power … magnificent and awe-inspiring destinations … a comprehensive trip made all the more fascinating by our expert tour managers. If you’re planning to explore the United States, then a Gate 1 escorted tour is your ticket to a trip unlike any other!