Explore USA or as they are officially called the United States of America, a large country in North America. Home to the world’s third-largest population, with over 318 million people, it includes both densely populated cities with sprawling suburbs and vast, uninhabited natural areas.
With its history of mass immigration dating from the 17th century, it is a “melting pot” of cultures from around the world and plays a dominant role in the world’s cultural landscape. It is home to a wide array of popular tourist destinations, ranging from the skyscrapers of Manhattan and Chicago to the natural wonders of Yellowstone and Alaska, to the warm, sunny beaches of Florida and Hawaii.
The United States cannot be defined solely by television and movies. It is large, complex, and diverse, with several distinct regional identities. Due to the vast distances involved, traveling between regions often means crossing through many different landscapes, climates, and even time zones. Such travel can often be time-consuming and expensive but is often very rewarding.
The United States has a total of six time zones.
The United States is made up of many diverse ethnic groups and its culture varies greatly across the vast area of the country and even within cities – a city like New York will have dozens, if not hundreds, of different ethnicities represented within a neighborhood. Despite this difference, there exists a strong sense of national identity and certain predominant cultural traits. Generally, Americans tend to believe strongly in personal responsibility and that an individual determines his or her own success or failure, but it is important to note that there are many exceptions and that a nation as diverse as the United States has literally thousands of distinct cultural traditions.
The United States has over 10,000 cities, towns, and villages. The following is a list of the most notable.
- Atlanta – Home to the busiest airport in the world, was the host to the 1996 Summer Olympics
- Boston – best known for its colonial history, its passion for sports, and its university students
- Chicago – the country’s third largest city (though still known as “the Second City”), heart of the Midwest and transportation hub of the nation, with massive skyscrapers and other architectural gems
- Las Vegas – gambling city in the Nevada desert, home to over half of the top 20 biggest hotels in the world; popular for its casinos, shows and extravagant nightlife
- Los Angeles – the country’s second largest city, home of the film industry, musicians, artists, and surfers, with beautiful mild weather, great natural beauty from mountains to beaches, and endless stretches of freeways, traffic, and smog
- Miami – attracts sun-seeking northerners and home to a rich, vibrant, Latin-influenced, Caribbean culture
- New Orleans – “The Big Easy” is the birthplace of Jazz, and is known for its quaint French Quarter and annual Mardi Gras celebration
- New York City – the country’s largest city, home of the financial services and media industries, with world-class cuisine, arts, architecture, and shopping
- San Francisco – the City by the Bay, featuring the Golden Gate Bridge, vibrant urban neighborhoods, and dramatic fog
- Washington, D.C. – the current national capital, filled with major museums and monuments, along with multi-cultural communities
These are some of the largest and most famous destinations outside of major cities:
- The Grand Canyon, Arizona the world’s longest and most visited canyon
- Denali National Park — a remote national park featuring North America’s highest peak
- Mesa Verde National Park — well-preserved Pueblo cliff dwellings
- Mount Rushmore — the iconic memorial of 4 former presidents carved into a cliff face
- Niagara Falls — massive waterfalls straddling the border with Canada
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park — national park in the southern Appalachians
- Walt Disney World — the most popular vacation resort destination in the world
- Yellowstone National Park — the first national park in the US and home of the Old Faithful geyser
- Yosemite National Park — home of El Capitan and the famous Giant Sequoia trees
The size of the US and the distance between some major cities make air the dominant mode of travel for short-term travelers over long distances. If you have time, travel by car, it can be interesting.
America’s love affair with the automobile is legendary and most Americans use a car when moving within their city, and when travelling to nearby cities in their state or region. However, many Americans can and do travel between the vast regions of their country by auto – often going through different time zones, landscapes, and climates. In the winter months (Dec though March) millions of American nomads travel south to the warm desert and subtropical climates in everything from cars to motor homes (called “RV’s”).
Generally, you must be 25 or older to rent a car without restrictions or special charges. Rental car agencies in some states may be able to rent a vehicle to drivers as young as 21, but may impose a hefty surcharge. The states of New York and Michigan have laws forcing rental car agencies to rent to drivers as young as 18.
Virtually every car from every rental agency in the U.S. runs on unleaded gasoline and has an automatic transmission.
Most rental car agencies have downtown offices in major cities as well as offices at major airports. Not all companies allow picking up a car in one city and dropping it off in another (the ones that do almost always charge extra for the privilege); check with the rental agency when making your reservations.
Music — Mid-size to large cities often draw big ticket concerts, especially in large outdoor amphitheaters. Small towns sometimes host concerts in parks with local or older bands. Other options include music festivals such has San Diego’s Street Scene or South by Southwest in Austin. Classical music concerts are held year round and performed by semi-professional and professional symphonies. Boston, for instance, occasionally puts on free concerts in the Public Park. Many cities and regions have unique sounds. Nashville is known as Music City because of the large number of country artists that live in the city. It is home to the Grand Ole Opry, one of the most famous music venues in the country. Country music is popular nationwide but is particularly concentrated in the South and rural West. Seattle is the home of grunge rock. Many of the most popular bands are based out of Los Angeles due to the large entertainment presence and concentration of record companies.
Marching Band — In addition to traditional music concerts, a quintessential American experience is the marching band festival. One can find these events almost every weekend between September and Thanksgiving throughout the country and again from March to June in California. Check local event listings and papers to find specifics. Also notable is the Bands of America Grand National Championship held every autumn in Indianapolis. Those looking to see the best of the best should acquire tickets to the “finals” performance, where the twelve best bands of the festival compete for the championship. This event is now held at the Lucas Oil Stadium. Both “street” or parade marching bands as well as “field” or show bands are found at almost every high school and university in America.
Festivals and Fairs — A few days prompt nation-wide celebrations. They include Memorial Day, Independence Day (a.k.a. Fourth of July), and Labor Day. Other major holidays like Thanksgiving Day are marked by private festivities. Many towns and/or counties throw fairs, to commemorate the establishment of a town or the county with rides, games, and other attractions.
Memorial Day — commemorates the ultimate sacrifice made by America’s war dead. It is not to be confused with Veterans Day (11th November) which commemorates the service of America’s military veterans, both living and deceased. It is the also the unofficial start of summer — expect heavy traffic in popular destinations, especially National Parks and amusement parks.
Independence Day — Celebrates America’s independence from Britain. The day is usually marked by parades, festivals, concerts, outdoor cooking and grilling and firework displays. Almost every town puts on some sort of festivity to celebrate the day. Large cities often have multiple events. Washington, D.C. celebrates the day on the Mall with a parade and a fireworks display against the Washington Monument.
Labor Day — The US celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September, rather than May 1st. Labor Day marks the end of the summer social season. Some places, such as Cincinnati, throw parties to celebrate the day.
National Parks. There are numerous national parks throughout the United States, especially the vast interior, which offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy your favorite outdoor activities, including Recreational shooting, ATV riding, hiking, bird watching, prospecting, and horseback riding. In more urban areas, some national parks are centered around historic landmarks.
National Trails is a group of twenty-one ‘National Scenic Trails’ and ‘National Historic Trails’ as well as over 1,000 shorter ‘National Recreation Trails’ for a total length of over 50,000 miles. While all are open to hiking, most are also open to mountain biking, horseback riding, and camping and some are even open for ATVs and cars.
Places for shopping
Shopping malls and shopping centers. America is the birthplace of the modern enclosed “shopping mall” as well as the open-air “shopping center”. In addition, American suburbs have miles and miles of small strip malls, or long rows of small shops with shared parking lots, usually built along a high-capacity road. Large cities still maintain central shopping districts that can be navigated on public transport, but pedestrian-friendly shopping streets are uncommon and usually small.
Outlet centers. The U.S. pioneered the factory outlet store, and in turn, the outlet center, a shopping mall consisting primarily of such stores. Outlet centers are found along major Interstate highways outside of most American cities
American retailers tend to have some of the longest business hours in the world, with chains like Walmart often featuring stores open 24/7. Department stores and other large retailers are usually open from 10 AM to 9 PM most days, and during the winter holiday season, may stay open as long as 8 AM to 11 PM. The U.S. does not regulate the timing of sales promotions as in other countries. U.S. retailers often announce sales during all major holidays, and also in between for any reason or no reason at all. American retail stores are gigantic compared to retail stores in other countries, and are shoppers’ dreams come true.
Flea markets (called “swap meets” in Western states) have dozens if not hundreds of vendors selling all kinds of usually inexpensive merchandise. Some flea markets are highly specialized and aimed at collectors of a particular sort; others just sell all types of items. Again, bargaining is expected.
Americans did not invent the auction but may well have perfected it. The fast paced, sing-song cadence of a country auctioneer, selling anything from farm animals to estate furniture, is a special experience, even if you have no intention of buying. In big cities, head to the auction chambers of Christie’s or Sotheby’s, and watch paintings, antiques and works of art sold in a matter of minutes at prices that go into the millions.
Nightclubs in America run the usual gamut of various music scenes, from discos with top-40 dance tunes to obscure clubs serving tiny slices of obscure musical genres. Country music dance clubs, or honky tonks, are laid fairly thick in the South and West, especially in rural areas and away from the coasts, but one or two can be found in almost any city. Many nightclubs in America have a large area or “dance floor” where people often congregate and dance to the music played by the DJ, although in some areas of the deep south, people also dance to music played by live bands as well. A lot of nightclubs also have multi colored ceiling mounted music lights to brighten up the dance atmosphere. Mostly, a lot of couples and groups go to nightclubs, though singles also go there as well. However, if you go as a single person to a nightclub, remember that, in the United States of America, it is etiquette for the ladies to ask the guys to dance with them.
People with disabilities are treated with respect and kindness in the US. Asking someone what their disability is, how they got it, etc. is considered rude. Only close friends should really ask. Shaming or mocking those with disabilities is not acceptable. Service dogs are often used for those not only with physical disabilities, but also invisible. Petting these dogs, distracting or taking photos of them without permission is frowned upon. Not everyone’s disability is visible, and you are expected to ignore these dogs. If you must, ask the person questions without distracting the animal. They are working dogs, not pets.
Tap water is generally chlorinated and may also include fluorine. Nevertheless, some Americans use filter pitchers. Although tap water is not dangerous, some Americans prefer to filter (and sometimes boil) tap water before drinking. It has more to do with taste than actual safety.
Ice in restaurants is typically made with ice machines. Water is always served for free in restaurants.
You can carry a reusable water bottle (heavy plastic or metal) and refill with water from public drinking fountains, some of which are even now filtered for taste, or have a vertical spout to make dispensing water directly into a bottle easier.
American mobile phone services (known as cell phones regardless of the technology used) are not very compatible with those offered abroad. While GSM has been gaining in popularity, the US uses the unusual 1900 and 850MHz frequencies; check with your operator or mobile phone dealer to see if your phone is a tri-band or quad-band model that will work here. Roaming fees for foreign mobiles are high and text messages may not always work due to compatibility issues between networks.
Most Americans have Internet access, mostly in their homes and offices. Internet cafes, therefore, are not common outside of major metropolitan, tourist and resort areas. However, you almost always have several options for Internet access, except perhaps in the most remote, rural areas.
Unesco World Heritage List
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Independence Hall
- Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
- La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico
- Statue of Liberty
- Chaco Culture
- Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville
- Taos Pueblo
- Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point
- San Antonio Missions
- The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright
Official tourism websites of USA
For more information please visit the official government website: