Iconic American Cities For Your USA Holiday
America is home to some of the world’s most iconic and well-known cities. Touring the country and hopping from one urban gem to another, affords travellers the opportunity to enjoy an eclectic range of experiences and activities. From the ultra-modern skyscrapers in New York and the beachfront promenades and bright lights of LA to the rustic, enigmatic live music venues of New Orleans, there’s a city stay for everyone in the US.
US Must Visit Cities
As you might expect from such a large country, there is a range of hugely diverse cities in America and they reflect the cultural melting pot that characterises this unique place. Travelling from one city to the next and organising a multi-centre holiday makes for an unforgettable urban adventure in the US. Every city has something to offer and visitors can get to know the locals and enjoy the hospitality, as well as ticking off must-see attractions.
City living varies in every location, with the chance to catch some rays and walk in the footsteps of the rich and famous in Los Angeles, to combine sightseeing with al fresco dining and skating in New York and the option to mix shopping and city slicking with historic cultural experiences in San Francisco. Whatever the route, visitors will be blown away by the scenery, the sights and the sounds.
For those looking for city stay holidays in America, here are our five most iconic cities to include in your USA holiday itinerary.
1. New Orleans
One of America’s most charismatic cities, New Orleans is affectionately known as the Big Easy. This is a city that oozes charm from every orifice and it’s visually one of the most distinctive and appealing urban spaces on the planet. New Orleans boasts an array of cultural influences and it’s easy to see how different historical periods and eras have left their mark. Modern buildings are flanked by cobbled streets, European architectural gems and old-school trams.
Perhaps the most famous part of the city is the French Quarter, which is the heartbeat of New Orleans. Famed for its colourful buildings, which boast ornate balustrades and striking facades, tree-lined avenues and squares and lively eateries and jazz clubs, this is the place to be for an authentic adventure in this unique city. Bourbon Street is a hub that has a magnetic appeal, drawing crowds from all corners of the city and St Louis Cathedral is a sight to behold.
2. New York
Perhaps the most famous city in the world, New York attracts millions of visitors every year. An energetic city that is famed for never sleeping, the Big Apple is a haven for tourists with all kinds of interests. There is a vast amount to see and do in NYC, so it’s worth going into the holiday with a rough plan in mind.
Most people approach New York holidays with a list of must-sees. Highlights include the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Times Square and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Empire State Building is best viewed from the viewing deck of the Rockefeller Center, known as Top of the Rock. This platform provides photo opportunities of the iconic skyline with the Empire State Building in the background and it’s also possible to appreciate the beauty and the scale of Central Park from this viewpoint. This is a vast green oasis in the urban desert and there are various ways to get around, including walking tours, cycling and romantic horse and carriage rides. In the winter, skating is a popular activity, while visitors can enjoy leisurely boat trips on the lake throughout the spring and summer.
For those keen to visit Liberty Island, it’s worth booking tickets that include a stop at Ellis Island. The statue itself is magnificent, but Ellis Island is arguably the highlight. This museum documents the journey of immigrants arriving in the US and embarking on the American Dream and provides a fascinating insight into the diverse and intriguing history of New York and its residents. As the sun fades, head to Times Square, a hive of activity, which basks in the glow of giant, luminescent advertising boards. Here, visitors can shop up a storm, enjoy a bite to eat or catch a show on Broadway.
Art enthusiasts should set aside an afternoon to visit the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art. The largest art gallery in the US, this museum houses more than 2 million pieces. Having ticked off the guidebook essentials, visitors can explore the lively suburbs of Chelsea, Soho and the Meatpacking District. Start planning your visit with our New York City Stay itinerary.
3. San Francisco
Nestled on the Californian coast, San Francisco is one of the most exciting and visually captivating cities in the US. Dominated by the bright red steel work of the Golden Gate Bridge, this stunning city is a perfect choice for a city that offers a bit of everything. From languid lunches down by the harbour and leisurely bike rides across the bridge to fascinating cultural experiences that catapult visitors back in time, ‘San Fran’ is a wonderful place to be.
The Golden Gate Bridge attracts crowds at any time of day and it’s a truly magnificent sight. This engineering marvel is even more impressive in the flesh than it is in guidebooks and Instagram posts. It’s possible to walk across or to hire a bike and get the ferry back. Nearby Golden Gate Park is also worth a visit.
The waterfront is always bustling, and visitors can enjoy al fresco drinks and fresh bowls of clam chowder at the same time as watching the city’s native sea lions flapping and dipping in and out of the water at Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf. Union Square is the place to be if shopping is high on the agenda and movie buffs won’t want to miss out on the opportunity to see the house from 90’s cult classic, Mrs Doubtfire, which is located on Steiner Street.
A trip to Alcatraz, one of the US’ most prolific and brutal prisons, comes highly recommended. There are day trips and night tours available, with the latter guaranteed to get the hairs on the back of the neck standing up. Tours include the ferry trip, which offers amazing views of the harbour and the Golden Gate Bridge, in addition to admission. An audio guide provides detailed information about the lives of prisoners and stories about some of the jail’s most infamous residents, including Al Capone. A San Francisco City Stay is a great option for visiting the diverse and impressive national parks of the west.
4. Los Angeles
The City of Angels is one of the most recognisable urban locations in the world. Known for its lavish awards ceremonies and glamorous inhabitants, LA is a city that blends luxury and laid-back living effortlessly. This achingly cool city is within easy reach of the California coastline, making it an ideal base for those eager to see the sights and catch some rays.
In the heart of the city, visitors will find many of the bucket list favourites, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theatre and Universal Studios. For those seeking retail therapy, visits to Rodeo Drive and the Grove are a must, whilst most people will also want to make the trip to the unmissable iconic Hollywood sign.
This sign, which lies on a hillside overlooking the city, is best viewed from the winding path that takes visitors up to the Griffith Observatory. The observatory itself is a fascinating homage to space and the stars above and well worth a visit. It’s also worth trying to time a trip with the sunset, as the views out over the city are spectacular at dusk.
Away from the well-trodden tourist paths in LA, there are several neighbourhoods that are worth exploring, including Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Korea Town. The vibrant, oceanfront resorts of Venice and Santa Monica encapsulate the good life in California. Meander down the expansive palm-lined promenades surrounded by fitness fans doing gruelling al fresco workouts and people sipping on smoothies and whizzing around on roller blades and segways. Santa Monica pier has featured in several music videos and films and the big wheel is a must for those who love all the fun of the fair.
Chicago, often known as the Windy City, is one of America’s largest cities. A modern, industrial place on the surface, Chicago is a town that offers plenty of surprises. There’s a lively music scene, with many a bar offering live jazz performances and a charming old-school vibe in the Uptown area of the city.
A leading contender in the best city stays in the USA stakes, Chicago offers a vast selection of things to see and do for visitors. Millennium Park is the first port of call for most tourists. This eye-catching, futuristic urban green space is a unique feature, which showcases the city’s beauty and offers breathtaking views of the skyline. Cloud Gate, also known as ‘the bean’ is a prime selfie spot, there’s an opportunity to enjoy public art displays and also embrace the fresh air. Lurie Gardens offer a serene spot to escape the hustle and bustle while there are often free concerts or events going on at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. In the winter, visitors should head for the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. Get your Chicago CityPASS before you visit.
Sports fans won’t want to leave Chicago without paying a visit to the home of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, while art enthusiasts should make for the Art Institute of Chicago. The Willis Tower is one of the city’s tallest buildings and its glass-floored viewing deck is a draw for dare-devils eager to enjoy the views. As the sun fades and the stars come out, the best way to spend an evening is to find a jazz bar and raise a glass. We recommend you include our Chicago City Stay at the beginning of a Route 66 road trip.
City stays are a great idea when travelling to the US as a way of seeing and doing more before your America tour begins or when your USA self drive ends. America boasts some of the most visually arresting and culturally enticing cities in the world and it’s easy to see why urban stays are so popular here. Whether taking a break in a single city or planning a multi-hop tour, visitors will not be disappointed.