The USA offers innumerable and diverse sights for tourists, with the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon, the cultural significance of the 'Hollywood' sign and the towering skyscrapers of New York City.
Huge in area as well as population (over 320 million peoplei), the expansive country's states offers visitors vastly different environments and cultures to explore. Each region is home to unique sights, sounds and flavours, and there are things to do for everyone whether you're a history buff, nature lover, avid foodie, culture connoisseur, fashion fanatic or adrenalin addict.
New York is famous for its bright lights and skyscrapers, Broadway showbiz and iconic Times Square. Times Square is one of the world's most recognisable intersections, famous for its restaurants, shopping and New Year's Eve ball drop celebrationii. In this metropolis full of skyscrapers and bustling traffic, you can still find pockets of nature such as the famous Central Park with over 26,000 trees and hundreds of species of birdsiii.
In stark contrast to the concrete jungle of New York on the east coast, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is one of the USA's most spectacular natural wonders, boasting a vast collection of hot springs and geysersiv. Its mountain woodland is inhabited by the famous grizzly bear as well as wolves, bison and elk. Get in touch with nature with a range of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, skiing and horseback riding while surrounded by the magnificence of Yellowstonev. There are many more exciting and unique natural parks across the country.
Ask someone what they think about Las Vegas and they are likely to say that timeless phrase, 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas'. Known mostly for its monolithic casinos, travellers who want more than gambling can find world-class entertainment such as Cirque du Soleil and fine dining restaurants in Vegasvi. Vegas is also home to unique museums such as the Atomic Testing museum and is a short drive away from the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Mount Charlestownvii. If you feel like a longer road trip, why not explore the Midwest and cruise down iconic Route 66, which runs all the way from Los Angeles to Chicago. If you do rent a car, take care driving on the right-hand side of the road. Make sure you have travel insurance to ensure that in the unfortunate case of an accident, your rental car's excess will be covered.
A trip to the United States wouldn't be complete without a visit to the capital, Washington D.C. National monuments and memorials or a visit to the White House can showcase the rich cultural and political history of the nation. Many famous civil war battlefields are a short drive out of the city centre, including Gettysburg where Abraham Lincoln gave his famous addressviii.
Before visiting the USA, you should check the weather conditions of the places you plan to visit. The seasons are opposite to those in Australia, with summer from June to August and winter from December to February. You should also avoid the times of year that susceptible areas are likely to receive weather-related disasters. Hurricanes tend to hit the southern parts of the USA in June to November while tornadoes are more common in the Midwest in early spring to summerix,x,xi.
- Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your date of departure and during your tripxii.
- Go to the doctor's for a routine check-up to ensure you are in good health and have all the necessary vaccinationsxii.
- Check to see if you require a visa and, if so, apply far enough in advance. Many short-term Australian tourists can apply for the 90-day visa waiver program. If you choose to enter the USA on the visa waiver program, you will need to obtain an electronic authorisation called the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) prior to travelxiii.
- Take out a travel insurance policy that suits your needs so you are protected financially on your USA trip from unexpected events like theft or medical emergenciesxii.
For more information on travel insurance cover for visiting the USA see our page on Travel insurance for the United States of America.
iUnited States Census Bureau 2016, U.S. and World Population Clock, U.S. Department of Commerce, viewed 18 March 2016, http://www.census.gov/popclock
iiTimes Square, The official site of Times Square, viewed 3 May 2016, http://www.newyearseve.nyc/
iiiCentral Park, Frequently Asked Questions, viewed 18 March 2016 http://www.centralpark.org/faq
iv National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior 2013, Yellowstone, viewed 18 March 2016, http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm
v National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior 2013, Yellowstone: Things To Do, viewed 18 March 2016, http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/things2do.htm
vi DK Publishing 2013, '10 Amazing Reasons To Visit Las Vegas', Reader's Digest, viewed 18 March 2016, http://www.readersdigest.ca/travel/world/10-amazing-reasons-visit-las-vegas
vii Hobica, G 2012, '10 Reasons To Visit Vegas Right Now', The Huffington Post, 21 January, viewed 18 March 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-hobica/ten-reasons-to-visit-vega_b_1207593.html
viii 'Gettysburg and other historic addresses' 2011, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 April, viewed 18 March 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/travel/traveller-tips/gettysburg-and-other-historic-addresses-20110331-1ch8t.html
ixSmart Traveller, Severe Weather, viewed 18 March 2016 http://smartraveller.gov.au/guide/all-travellers/avoiding-danger/severe-weather.html
x Discover America 2013, USA travel information: natural disasters, viewed 18 March 2016, http://www.visittheusa.com/usa/travel-information.aspx
xi Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State 2013, Hurricane Season - Know Before You Go, viewed 18 March 2016, https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/news/hurricane-season--know-before-you-go.html
xii QANTAS 2013, Travel Checklist, viewed 18 March 2016, http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/travel-checklist/global/en
xiii QANTAS 2013, USA Visa Requirements, viewed 18 March 2016, http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/travel-to-the-usa/global/en#jump1