People came here from every corner of the globe in pursuit of the ‘American Dream’, which has created a fascinating mix of cultures and traditions. So as well as the sights, there are also plenty of events and traditions to enjoy during your visit.
USA Tourist Board: The official website for the American National Tourist Office – a useful resource for planning your trip to the USA.
Know Before You Go: Travel advice for USA from the FCO.
Things to see and do
- Do the Ellis Island Tour in New York. Between 1892 and 1954 this immigration depot processed the greatest tide of humanity in US history; nearly 12 million people.
- If you are fascinated by the destructive force of hurricanes, there are now companies that can now take you to the eye of the storm.
- Take a drive through the desert from Las Vegas to LA.
- Visit Graceland; nobody can pass through Memphis without visiting the home of Elvis.
- Go and see a Broadway Musical in New York.
- Go up the Mississippi river on a paddle steamer.
- Partake in a tour of the Civil War Battlefields.
- Grab some Chinese food in the country’s second-largest Chinatown in San Francisco.
- Take the Alcatraz Tour. Once America's maximum-security prison, this grim fortress is set on a bleak rocky island in San Francisco Bay.
- Do a walking tour of the Grand Canyon or get a helicopter flight over the canyon. Most tours operate out of Las Vegas.
- Hang out at Venice Beach in LA, sit outside a café and watch the roller bladers, body builders, street entertainers, skateboarders and joggers.
- Stay at one of the many hotels along the ‘strip’ and gamble in the Casinos in Las Vegas.
- Go to a baseball or basketball game.
- Visit the Yellowstone National Park to see its steaming fluorescent hot springs and geysers, sheer canyons and meadows filled with wild flowers.
- Drive along Highway 1, the rugged Big Sur coastline pounded by Pacific waves between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Festivals and events
- The Sundance Film Festival is one of the most famous of its kind, held annually in Utah. (January)
- The Super Bowl held in Tampa Bay, Florida is America’s sporting event of the year. (February)
- Groundhog Day involves a groundhog predicting the weather for the rest of winter. (February)
- The World Rodeo Championships are a ten day event in Las Vegas. (March - April)
- The US Masters is arguably the world's greatest golf tournament, held on one of America's most challenging and picturesque courses, the Augusta National in Georgia. (April)
- Independence Day festivities involve marching parades, music and fireworks. The capital Washington DC is the best place to be. (July)
- The Thanksgiving Day Parade celebrates this holiday with a three hour parade through New York. (November)
There may be a service charge included in your bill, especially for large parties. It is better to leave cash tips given directly to the person you wish to tip. Sometimes when you tip using your credit card they will add an income tax to the tip.
Wages are generally low as tips are expected to supplement income. Generally, it is expected of you to tip 15-20% of the bill.
Some restaurants, especially in large cities such as New York, will add a gratuity onto the bill even for smaller parties therefore it is advisable to check your bill. In buffet restaurants, a tip of 10%-15% of the bill is expected.
There is normally a tip jar in fast food restaurants however it is not customary to leave a tip in the establishments.
When tipping bar tenders, give $1-$2 per drink or 10%-15% of the total bill.
Housekeeping staff members at your hotel will expect tips in the region of $2-$3 per night or $5 in a more expensive, formal hotel. It is better to leave a tip each day. Hotel porters should be tipped $1-$2 per bag.
It is expected of you to tip both taxi drivers and tour guides. For taxi drivers, 10%-15% of the fare is acceptable whereas for tour guides you should tip 15%-20%.
GMT -5 to -8