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USA (LA to NYC and between) – advice and suggestions

Cymbolz

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  • Added on: December 15th, 2010
Hi,

I'm after feedback and opinions on my 6 week US trip in May/June 2011. I previously posted here outlining my 2-3 month trip through SE Asia and North America but have decided to stick to some US cities instead and do Asia the year after.

My budget is mid range accommodation (not backpackers or hostels unless private rooms) and treats (reasonable tours but not luxury). I am happy to walk around for hours, and enjoy thrills (theme parks) and the occasional historical site, museum etc. I am aware of the distance between cities and the time spent flying, so I’ve set aside full days for transit between cities.

I’ve been doing plenty of research (using sites like Wiki Travel, Trip Advisor and Virtual Tourist) and have a basic idea of what I’d like to see. I plan to book this myself (main flights first, then hotels and tours in popular cities, everything else might be much later to see if any last-minute deals come up).

Departing Melbourne Australia flying to Los Angeles (most likely on V-Australia) then flying around the states on South West (I’ve flown them before and they were OK, just need to keep myself entertained) or similar, I have tentative dates and have my favourite cities included but open to other suggestions.

Saturday, April 30 – arrive LA

Sunday, May 1 to Sunday, May 8 – drive up coast stopping at San Simeon (1 night) onto San Francisco (3 nights) for look around including Alcatraz (book early), down to Yosemite (3 nights staying nearby such as Foresta) taking a few short walks and visiting popular sites, then back to LA

Monday, May 9 to Friday, May 13 – a day or two around LA staying somewhere easy to access Hollywood and Santa Monica (LA Airport the best for this?), then 3-4 days at Disney staying at Anaheim (my preference is to stay just outside the Disney hotels)

Saturday, May 14 to Wednesday, May 18 – fly to Vegas, drive out to Grand Canyon Ranch (recommended by my sister and friend) via Hoover Dam for the night staying in a Tipi. Next day take a helicopter to Grand Canyon then drive back to Vegas for 4 nights of the usual Vegas stuff (lights, shows, staying up late). Not going as far as the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Thursday, May 19 to Saturday, May 21 – fly to New Orleans for 3 nights to enjoy the culture (music, night life) and look around the town during the day.

Sunday, May 22 to Sunday, May 29 – fly to Chicago (have visited here before), spend first night in Chicago. Then drive to Sandusky for 3 nights to visit Cedar Point. Then drive to Louisville for 2 nights and visit the world’s finest Bourbon distilleries. Drive back to Chicago and stay two nights (any recommendations where to stay? I was thinking somewhere near Midway airport when I arrive May 22 so I can get the hire car and leave the next morning heading south…when I return for the last few nights, stay downtown?)

Monday, May 30 to Wednesday, June 1 – Fly to Washington for 3 nights for a look at all the usual attractions including National Mall (but not White House tour as Aus embassy won’t help with sponsoring the application – damn, what do I pay my taxes for)

Thursday, June 2 to approx Tuesday, June 7 – Train to New York for six nights or more. Usual tourist stuff around NYC (towers, usual tours, Broadway, times square, parks…maybe a tour trip to Niagara Falls – any suggestions?)

From here until around Sunday, June 12 I plan to head back to LA (maybe via Chicago again, or straight to LA for a few more nights – would like to keep any flying down to 4-5 hours max in any one day) and then back home. End of holidays.

Cities I was interested in but haven’t made it on the itinerary: Orlando, Boston, Miami

lauracatherine

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  • Added on: December 15th, 2010
The only advice I can give you on is Chicago, as I haven't really traveled much around the States.

Since you've been here before, you know about The El. If you're on any kind of budget, I would recommend staying near Midway Airport both times you stay here, as it will be cheaper than staying downtown. And the Orange Line runs 24 hours and drops you off right at Midway or in the Loop.

On your way to Cedar Point I'd recommend stopping in Cleveland on your way and checking out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. If you're into any kind of music at all, this will be interesting for you. According to Googlemaps, it's only an hour and 15 minute drive between the two, so if you leave early enough from Chicago, this could easily be incorporated into your ride from Chicago to Sandusky.

Enjoy roadtripping! It's definitely the way to see America!
"i'm on my way, don't know where i'm goin..."~Paul Simon, Me and Julio

Andromeda

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  • Added on: December 15th, 2010
Sounds like a fun trip and if you've got the budget for all the flights and car rentals etc I say go for it. :)

Someone just mentioned seeing the Rock n Roll hall of fame in Cleveland as long as you're going to Sandusky- truth be told it's not "on the way" as it's 1.5 hours past Sandusky. Where it might make sense if you're interested is sticking it in on your drive to Louisville, as Google maps confirms it's not much of a detour on that trip (as there's a major highway going that way from Cleveland, but not one from Sandusky).

I can't think of a good way to get to Niagara falls from NYC as it's far- can't be less than an 8 hour drive, and for comparison Sandusky is a 4 hour drive from there. To be fair I find Niagara Falls highly overrated and touristy anyway, so I don't know how impressed you'll be after stuff like Vegas for tourism/casinos and the other national parks for natural wonders compared to the amount of effort it would take to get there.

Also, if you do want to add in Boston it wouldn't be hard from NYC as there are plenty of trains and Chinatown buses etc heading that way daily. Nice city worth a few days and if you just want to catch a flight to your next destination you can just as easily do it from here (albeit I will agree that Boston-LAX is one of the longest flights in the USA, gotta be 5-6 hours).

Hope this helps!

yanks26dmb

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  • Added on: December 15th, 2010
Make it down to San Diego. It's only 1.5 hours south of LA. LA is a cluster of smog, traffic, and pretentious people. San Diego is what most people think of when they think of "southern california". You have world class beaches, fantastic Mexican food, great weather, and any outdoors or water sport you can think of. Its like a much cleaner, more relaxed, smaller version of LA, although still a big city. I believe San Diego is the 7th largest city in the US.

larizzle

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  • Added on: December 15th, 2010
You've picked a lot of great cities. I'm impressed that you've picked the Bourbon Trail; that's a part of the country that often gets overlooked by visitors.

However, I'm a bit confused about why you're driving back to Chicago. The roadtrip down to Louisville sounds fun and doable, but driving back to Chicago is a bit excessive and time-consuming, especially if by this point you've already driven the length of western Ohio. Western OH / Indiana aren't particularly interesting for driving, the landscapes are similar-- mostly flat and tedious.

here's my suggestion:
Start in New Orleans (my favorite city in the US, if you need any tips, feel free to send a message), fly to Louisville, do the Bourbon Trail counter-clockwise, ending in Lexington via the Bluegrass Parkway; drive up through Cincinnati and on to Cedar Point.... then drive to Chicago, stay 3 nights (this will give you time to enjoy the city too, rather than rushing in and rushing out) and then fly to DC.

just my two cents :)

cascada

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  • Added on: December 17th, 2010
Suggestions from a Yankee:

Gawd, skip Niagara Falls. And this comes from a woman who has lived in Upstate New York for a decade! It's a big waterfall, and that's about it. Very touristy and, in my humble opinion, TOTALLY overrated.

I agree that you should spend less time in LA and more time in San Diego.

Orlando? Only if you really, really wanna ride a rollercoaster. If I had only 6 weeks in the U.S, this wouldn't make my list.

Beantown (Boston) is rad. Even though anyone from Boston or New York City will vehemently disagree with me, culturally speaking, they are pretty similar. It's quite easy to get between Boston and New York City, but still, it's a trip, and I don't know if it would be worth the time. Instead of Boston, I would consider Philadelphia. It's still a huge city, but I think fewer international visitors go there, and it certainly has its own "feel." Get yourself a cheese steak. :-)

But between Orlando, Boston, and Miami, I would HIGHLY recommend Miami. That is a place unlike anything else on your list. Brush up on your spanish, do a little (a lot) of dancing, Miami is great. While you're there, you can rent a car and head out to the Keys for an overnighter. Sigh... take me with you!

My only other note is that you are spending the vast majority of your time in big cities. There is a lot--A LOT--of our country that exists outside the big cities. I understand that you have limited time, and you want to hit the "major" attractions, but if you can, I highly recommend that you spend a few days in a smaller town (i.e. <250,000). If you want something with a bit more culture/ stuff to do, look for a college town, i.e. a small town that is home to a university. My town (Ithaca, NY) comes to mind... Chapel Hill, NC... Missoula, MT... Athens, GA... Burlington, VT... Madison, WI... Boulder, CO... the list goes on and on. You will find that people are friendlier, and you'll see a very different side of the country. Maybe you can even go drive out into the sticks and get lunch at a local diner, just to get a small taste (literally) of what small city/ small town/ rural life is like.

Otherwise, your itinerary looks like a good start. Have fun!
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Andromeda

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  • Added on: December 20th, 2010
Expanding on what cascada said,

1) I didn't think of Philly perhaps because it's on the opposite side of my home state and hence don't tend to think of it much. ;) But rivalries aside it is probably worth a stop as the train goes through there anyway- cheesesteak is tasty, lots of good nightlife and museums (which include the steps in Rocky outside the art museum of course- so famous lots of tourist buses stop for the steps but don't go inside, ugh!), and you can go see Independence Hall for a touch of history if you like, as it's not like we have all that much old stuff around here. Also a great international hostel in Philly from what I hear, think it's called Apple Hostel or some such?, kinda strange for that size of a city in the USA but they do book up.

2) I agree that small towns are great as one thing I've noticed about fellow travelers is they rarely head to "real" America as I know it. :) I think your itinerary can easily be tweaked to do this though- for example extend the LA to San Francisco drive to include a night or two in Santa Barbara or Santa Cruz, as both are awesome little towns I suspect you'll want to spend time in anyway! Another option is consider staying in the town of Sandusky proper when you're doing your Cedar Point thing so you can head out evenings to places where the locals are, as I guarantee you will be a big hit as not many Aussie blokes come to Ohio. (I had a British friend visit me a few days in Cleveland/Sandusky while he was traveling across the country and it was like the scene out of Love Actually where the guy lands in the Midwest and the girls all fall in love with him because of his accent. We just don't get a lot of 'em around here!)

3) Also looking at the original itinerary again, it might be worth doing the LA stuff first, then up to SF, then driving from Yosemite straight to Las Vegas via Death Valley. It can't be more than an hour or two longer a drive and you want a car in Vegas anyway for a day or two.

Cheers!

Scritch

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  • Added on: December 21st, 2010
larizzle wrote:However, I'm a bit confused about why you're driving back to Chicago. The roadtrip down to Louisville sounds fun and doable, but driving back to Chicago is a bit excessive and time-consuming, especially if by this point you've already driven the length of western Ohio. Western OH / Indiana aren't particularly interesting for driving, the landscapes are similar-- mostly flat and tedious.

here's my suggestion:
Start in New Orleans (my favorite city in the US, if you need any tips, feel free to send a message), fly to Louisville, do the Bourbon Trail counter-clockwise, ending in Lexington via the Bluegrass Parkway; drive up through Cincinnati and on to Cedar Point.... then drive to Chicago, stay 3 nights (this will give you time to enjoy the city too, rather than rushing in and rushing out) and then fly to DC.

just my two cents :)


I'm pretty sure his driving schedule is arranged to pick up and drop off the vehicle in the same location. L.A. to L.A., Chicago to Chicago, etc. Otherwise I'm also a bit confused at the route.

However, I will agree that driving across the midwest is going to involve submitting yourself to hours upon hours of corn-filled hellscapes.

If you can pull it off, getting a one-way car rental from New Orleans to Chicago would make the most sense. Start in New Orleans, drive to Memphis or Nashville, then to Louisville, then to Sandusky, then to Chicago. Each leg of the trip will be about 6 hours, which isn't too bad for driving.

You could also, for a similar amount to renting a car (and no gas to pay for), take the train from New Orleans to Chicago. Then the train to Sandusky for Cedar Point, the train back to Chicago afterwards, and the bus from Chicago to Louisville. Then fly out of Louisville. Total cost around ~$400, and you can read a book, sleep, or do whatever you like in transit.

I think three days is too little for New Orleans, and four days too long for Vegas, but I'm obviously biased. If anything, I'd stay an extra day in New Orleans, and take one of those Vegas days and spend it on an excursion to the Valley of Fire or other day trip.

You'll be in New Orleans for the Bayou Boogaloo, which is a free festival series put on along the Bayou St. John in Mid-City.

http://www.thebayouboogaloo.com/

If you stay at India House Hostel, you can easily take the streetcar to Mid-City and walk to the Bayou St. John, or downtown to the French Quarter. Right near where the music will be playing along the Bayou is a restaurant called Parkway Tavern and Bakery, which has one of the best hot roast beef po-boys in the city, and should not be passed up. If you get in on a Thursday, two important shows to check out are either the Soul Rebels at Le Bon Temps, or Kermit Ruffins at Vaughn's ($5 and $10 cover, respectively. Both worth it.) I wouldn't spend more than one night on Bourbon, if that. Finally, I'd wrap up my Sunday with brunch at Elizabeth's in the Bywater, where I'd be sure to order the praline bacon (bacon with a sugary praline glaze. Heavenly.) Most evenings you can make your way down to Decatur Street near the French Market for some interesting bars, and then make your way down to Frenchmen Street in the Marigny for some good music.

If you don't mind dropping $50 on it, there's a few companies that have started offering bike tours of the city, which takes you into neighborhoods you might not normally visit during such a short trip.

Andromeda

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  • Added on: December 21st, 2010
There's no train to Sandusky from Chicago or even if there is one I've just never heard of you'd need a car for the town itself as there's no public transport worth mentioning. Most of the Midwest is really not designed for the car-less.

Scritch

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  • Added on: December 21st, 2010
Andromeda wrote:There's no train to Sandusky from Chicago or even if there is one I've just never heard of you'd need a car for the town itself as there's no public transport worth mentioning. Most of the Midwest is really not designed for the car-less.


There's actually two lines that run through Chicago and stop in Sandusky (and continue on to Pittsburgh or Cleveland). And the Amtrak station is only a few miles from Cedar Point (the entire city is maybe five square miles, so nothing is really that far away.) Which may be a bit of a walk, but he can always make a reservation with the local transit system for $2, which is more of a shuttle service than a traditional system with bus lines.

Plus, depending on where he's staying, there's probably a shuttle from his hotel/motel directly to the park. Considering Sandusky isn't exactly bustling with attractions, they make it pretty easy to get to the park.

And even if he sprang for cab fare to and from the park each day, he'd still spend less than on a car rental + gas.

busman7

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  • Added on: December 21st, 2010
Instead of driving back to Chicago & if you are thinking of going to Niagara Falls, why not just drive there from Ohio & fly out of Buffalo to Washington?
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pyoung

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  • Added on: December 22nd, 2010
New York has a plenty of attractions. It is best for you to buy a New York Pass to visit various places cheaply as you are spending a good amount of time there.

Scritch

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  • Added on: December 22nd, 2010
busman7 wrote:Instead of driving back to Chicago & if you are thinking of going to Niagara Falls, why not just drive there from Ohio & fly out of Buffalo to Washington?


I think it has to do with returning the car to the same location he rented it. Otherwise he could just rent one in New Orleans and drive north for half the hassle.

Another option, although it would require that you have a lot more flexibility in your schedule, is to consider rideshares on Craigslist or Couchsurfing. You may not leave or arrive exactly when you want to, but you'll certainly see a lot more of small town America.

Cymbolz

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  • Added on: December 26th, 2010
Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. You've given me a lot to think about. :)

I'm booking airfares soon and then have the next few months to sort out the details in between. Aside from the Grand Canyon and Yosemite accommodation is there anything else I should book as early as possible? Conversely, anything that I should leave until the last moment (a few days before arrival)?

christian_carollo

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  • Added on: April 25th, 2011
Being from Philadelphia, I would highly recommend a stop in Philly. The city is very underrated and there is so much to see and do! An authentic Philly cheesesteak is a must...along with a run up the Rocky steps at the Art Museum, the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall.



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