Words: Matt Blackwell
America – the land of the free and the home of the brave. From the busy streets of Manhattan on the eastern seaboard, to the surfers that ride the waves on Venice Beach in Los Angeles nearly 4,000km away, the US is a vast and varied country with almost every kind of climate and landscape imaginable. Perhaps it’s no wonder that nearly two thirds of the population doesn’t own a passport – they’ve got everything they could ever need right on their own front doorstep.
Ever since the first North American transcontinental road trip was successfully completed in 1903, the concept of travelling from coast to coast has captured hearts and minds. It is a journey that has been immortalised in literature by authors such as Jack Kerouac and in film, with movies like Easy Rider and Thelma and Louise.
I was lucky enough to complete my own once in a lifetime trip, making the journey from LA to New York City over four weeks towards the end of a six-month travelling stint around the world.
My favourite place San Diego is a vibrant Californian city, just north of the US-Mexico border that offers visitors a mild climate year round and extensive beaches, as well as plenty of attractions inland. Its proximity to Mexico has lent the city a unique vibe and a slightly slower pace of life that instantly makes you feel at home. During our stay, we visited the city’s zoo, which is one of the best in the country, with over 100 acres of habitats that home more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals. A visit offers a great opportunity to learn about hundreds of species, just make sure you have a full day spare if you really want to do it justice. The Gaslamp Quarter is the historic heart of the city, with Victorian-era buildings and some of the city’s finest cafes, restaurants and shops, forming a veritable playground for those with a taste for the finer things in life.
Highlights America has so many it’s difficult to know where to begin. The Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona was one of the most breathtaking sights of the trip. The natural wonder that is 446km long, 29km wide and 1.6km deep, really has to be seen to be believed. With 58 additional National Parks spread across the country, there’s plenty of natural beauty on offer, from deserts to volcanoes and everything in between. We also visited the Joshua Tree National park in California. For music fans, stops at Austin, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana and Nashville, Tennessee are all a must. The three cities all offer live music in abundance at the ample bars and eateries that line their busy streets. Philadelphia is often referred to as the “Birthplace of America”, as it was here that the Continental Congress convened to write the Declaration of Independence and later the United States Constitution was drafted here as well. Consequently, history lovers are well catered for with tours of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Centre. New York is the city that famously never sleeps and with world-renowned attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Central Park, it is a must-visit on any trip to the US. With my travel partner and I having both visited Manhattan before, we decided to focus on the underground cool of the city’s most populous borough, Brooklyn.
Lowlights America is vast and a road trip requires a lot of driving. For every fantastic city, park and attraction you visit, there will be hundreds of kilometres of tedious and tiring roads that will need traversing before you arrive at your next stop.
Souvenirs Americans are a patriotic nation and it can be fun to get decked out in the colours of red, white and blue to join in the celebrations, especially for national events such as Independence Day, celebrated on July 4, which is similar to Oman’s National Day.
Where to stay If you’re undertaking a cross-country road trip, there will be dozens of budget-friendly motels, hotels and hostels along the way, many of which will not even require prior reservation.
Five things to do:
1. Visit the Grand Canyon
2. Sample the country music in Nashville
3. Check out San Diego Zoo
4. Enjoy the view from the Empire State Building
5. Go to a sports game
Americans are passionate about sport and witnessing a game first hand can be a thrilling spectacle.