About the Country
The United States of America, commonly referred to as the United States (U.S.) or America, is a constitutional federal republic composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. Forty-eight of the fifty states and the federal district are contiguous and located in North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Nine time zones are covered. The geography, climate and wildlife of the country are extremely diverse.
Though its cities draw the most tourists – New York, New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco are all incredible destinations in their own right – America is above all a land of stunningly diverse and achingly beautiful landscapes. In one nation you have the mighty Rockies and spectacular Cascades, the vast, mythic desert landscapes of the Southwest, the endless, rolling plains of Texas and Kansas, the tropical beaches and Everglades of Florida, the giant redwoods of California and the sleepy, pristine villages of New England. You can soak up the mesmerizing vistas in Crater Lake, Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks, stand in awe at the Grand Canyon, hike the Black Hills, cruise the Great Lakes, paddle in the Mississippi, surf the gnarly breaks of Oahu and get lost in the vast wilderness of Alaska.
The sheer size of the country prevents any sort of overarching statement about the typical American experience, just as the diversity of its people undercuts any notion of the typical American.
There are Irish Americans, Italian Americans, African Americans, Indian Americans, Chinese Americans and Latinos, Texan cowboys and Bronx hustlers, Seattle hipsters and Alabama pastors, New England fishermen, Las Vegas showgirls and Hawaiian surfers. Though it often sounds clichéd to foreigners, the only thing that holds this bizarre federation together is the oft-maligned “American Dream”.
English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7%.
Note: US has no official national language, but English has acquired official status in 28 of the 50 states; Hawaiian is an official language in the state of Hawaii
The culture of the United States of America is primarily a mix of various European, Native American, African, Asian, and Polynesian cultures. It also has its own social and cultural characteristics, such as dialect, music, arts, social habits, cuisine, and folklore. The United States of America is an ethnically and racially diverse country as a result of large-scale migration from many countries throughout its history.
The United States is sometimes described as a "melting pot" in which different cultures have contributed their own distinct "flavors" to American culture. Just as cultures from around the world have influenced American culture, today American culture influences the world.
Food & Beverage
Eateries across the US will serve food, snacks and drinks in larger portions than Europeans are used to. The food will often be sweeter and contain high levels of fat.
The variety of food on offer reflects the history of the US as a country to a diverse range of immigrants, who have adapted their diet to their new home.
Burgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, onion rings, steaks and fries are popular. Biscuit and gravy is a normal accompaniment to many meals. Seafood is popular, especially close to coastal areas, and offers a diner everything from crawfish, barbequed crabs, cajun spiced platters, fried catfish, to mussels. Homemade soups and salads - many containing flavoursome and exotic ingredients - are widely available for a light lunch or healthy alternative.
Pizza is widely available, in astonishingly large sizes, and is not limited to Italian restaurants. In larger cities you may find restaurants and cafes offering wholewheat, gluten free and vegetarian pizzas, which may be next door to cafes serving organic and macrobiotic foods.
The age at which alcohol can be served will vary between states and will often be illegal for anyone under the age of 21 .Generally, however, alcohol forms part of daily life in society and will be widely available for sale.
Domestic beer can vary from the nationally popular Bud, Coors or Miller brands which are available in every bar and supermarket, to the microbreweries of small desert towns which will serve large plates of food as you sample the craft beer created (often with chilli, berries or other interesting twists) on that very site.
Wine is produced in the US but it is not drunk as widely as beer.
Milkshakes are widely available, in a variety of flavours. Cookies and Cream, Mallow Creams, Blackberry Shakes, Key Lime Pie Shake and Chocolate Chip Shakes are some of the interesting flavours you may come across. A soda float is a thirst quenching alternative to milkshakes, but plain sodas are the most frequently purchased drink across the US and can be purchased at almost every location with a till or ‘register’.
Coffee is a popular drink for adults and available in most homes, workplaces, leisure spaces and cafes. Europeans will traditionally enjoy a cup of coffee after a meal, but as this is not a normal practice in the US the waiting staff will often present the bill straight after the food has been cleared away.
There are itineraries that span the entire length of this incredibly diverse country, from the historic cities of the east, to the deserts of the Southwest and the jaw-dropping Rocky Mountains. Given the vast distances involved, you may not be able to cover everything, but even picking a few highlights will give you a deeper insight into America’s natural and historic wonders.
The US boast an amazing amount of tourist attractions ranging from the skyscrapers of New York and Chicago, the natural wonders of Yellowstone and Alaska to the sunny beaches of California, Florida and Hawaii.
There exists a wide range of tourist attractions in the United States such as amusement parks, festivals, gambling, golf courses, historical buildings and landmarks, hotels, museums, galleries, outdoor recreation, spas, restaurants and sports. With so many tourist attractions it’s tempting to list entire cities or even states, but here, we tried to focus on some specific attractions.
National Mall and Memorial Parks
Also known as National Capital Parks-Central is an administrative unit of the National Park Service encompassing many of the nation’s iconic public landmarks in the 1,000-plus acres of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, including the Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Memorials, and the Korean and Vietnam War Veterans Memorials. The Smithsonian Institution’s 19 museums are also adjacent to The Mall. There is no fee to visit any part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks.
Denali National Park
The Denali National Park and Preserve is located in Interior Alaska and contains Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. The word “Denali” means “the high one” in the native Athabaskan language and refers to Mount McKinley. Denali habitat is a mix of forest at the lowest elevations, including deciduous taiga. The preserve is also home to tundra at middle elevations, and glaciers, rock, and snow at the highest elevations. The longest glacier is the Kahiltna Glacier. In addition, the park protects an incredible wilderness area that contains grizzly bears, caribou, moose, wolves, and numerous other creatures.
The coral archipelago in southeast United States, the Florida Keys are a 120 mile long chain of tropical islands curving around the base of the Florida peninsula, connected to the mainland by a series of bridges. They have become a popular destination looking for a tropical vacation without leaving their own country. The most spectacular bridge, the Seven Mile Bridge in the Lower Keys, has been frequently used as a location for films including True Lies and Fast 2 Furious. US Highway 1, the “Overseas Highway” runs from Key Largo, Islamadora, Marathon, Lower Keys and finally to Key West, the most distant and most famous island.
Kilauea is a shield volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, the most active of the five volcanoes that together form the island of Hawaii. It is a very low, flat shield volcano, vastly different in profile from the high, sharply sloping peaks of stratovolcanoes. The volcano became a tourist attraction from the 1840s onward .
One of the greatest water falls in the world, Niagara Falls situated between the state of New York and the province of Ontario, Niagara Falls is one of the most spectacular natural wonders on the North American continent. Niagara Falls is actually three different falls, the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls. Horseshoe Falls is located on the Canadian side while the other are located in New York. With more than 14 million visitors each year it is one of the most visited tourist attraction in the world. The Niagara Falls are renowned both for their beauty and as a valuable source of hydroelectric power.
Golden Gate Bridge
Considered the most beautiful, the most photographed, bridge in the world. The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the strait between San Francisco and Marin County to the north. The Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge span in the world when it was completed in 1937, and has become an internationally recognised symbol of San Francisco and California. It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The famous red-orange colour of the bridge was specifically chosen to make the bridge more easily visible through the thick fog that frequently shrouds the bridge.
Located primarily in the U.S. state of Wyoming, and also extends into Montana and Idaho, The Yellowstone National Park was the world’s first national park, set aside in 1872 by the U.S. Congress to preserve the vast number of geysers, hot springs, and other thermal areas, as well as to protect the incredible wildlife and rugged beauty of the area. Yellowstone lies on top of a gigantic hotspot where light, hot, molten mantle rock rises towards the surface. Subsequently, the park contains half of all the world’s known geothermal features, with more than 10,000 examples of geysers and hot springs. In addition, black bears, grizzly bears, deer, elk, bison and wolves can all be found within the park borders
Las Vegas Strip
The gambling mecca of the world, Las Vegas is situated in the midst of the southern Nevada desert landscape. The Strip is not located within the City of Las Vegas but it passes through the unincorporated towns of Paradise and Winchester, which are south of the Las Vegas city limits. Casinos can be found throughout Las Vegas, but the strip, a stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South, contains the most of them. It features giant mega-casino hotels, decorated with lavish care and attention to detail to create a fantasy-like atmosphere. The casinos often have names and themes that evoke romance, mystery, and far-away destination. One of the most visible aspects of Las Vegas’ cityscape is its use of dramatic architecture. These features have established the city as one of the most popular destinations for tourists.
Located in northern Arizona, The Grand Canyon is one of the great tourist attractions in the United States. Carved by the Colorado River, the canyon attains a depth of over 1.6 km (1 mile) and 446 km (277 miles) long. The Grand Canyon is not the deepest or the longest canyon in the world but the overwhelming size and its intricate and colourful landscape offers visitor spectacular vistas that are unmatched throughout the world. It is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
The world’s most visited tourist attraction, hosting over 39 million visitors annually. Approximately 300,000 people pass through Times Square daily. According to the Times Square Alliance, “80% of visitors to NYC make it a point to visit Times Square.” Times Square, the most bustling square of New York, is known for its many Broadway theatres, cinemas and super signs. It has all sorts of fun, exciting and informative tours to explore other parts of the city. You can Choose from walking, bike, bus, food, limo, TV, landmark, ethnic or water tours.
Best shopping destinations are: New York city, New York City provides visitors with boundless shopping options. Browse retail giants like Henri Bendel on Fifth Avenue or head to the East Village for some vintage finds.
Chicago - Chi-town's Magnificent Mile is not to be missed. This 13-block shopping mecca boasts more than 460 stores that range in size, style and budget, making it nearly impossible for shoppers to leave without a shopping bag in tow.
San Francisco - Considered the West Coast version of New York City, San Francisco is similar in its abundance of great shopping spots. Union Square boasts brand name department stores and high-end designer boutiques, while one-of-a-kind shops can be found in the colourful Mission District.
Minneapolis - St Paul, The city is home to the 4.87 million-square-foot Mall of America. A destination unto itself, the country's biggest mall (which can fit seven Yankees stadiums inside) boasts more than 520 stores, making it a shopaholic's dream.
Los Angeles - Next to New York, Los Angeles is considered the country’s most fashionable city. From the ultra high-end Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to the beachside Third Street Promenade, shoppers will delight in the plethora of fashionable neighbourhoods this city has to offer.
Boston - Whether you're looking for something chic or retro, you're sure to find it somewhere in Boston. Start your spree on Newbury Street, where you'll find everything from designer apparel to used books. For more funky finds, make your way to the Garment District.
Houston - Everything is bigger in Texas, including the shopping. Houston, the largest city in the Lonestar State, offers 54 shopping centers and more than 16,000 retail stores. Don't miss the 2.4 million-square-foot Galleria, one of the largest malls in the U.S
Honolulu – Oahu - You'll find retail favourites like Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue within a stone's throw of Waikiki Beach, but to do some more serious damage, head to Ala Moana Center. Here, high-end stores like Chanel and Versace rub elbows with tourist-kitsch shops like Hawaiian Island Creations.
The United States Government does not refund sales tax to foreign visitors. Sales tax charged in the U.S. is paid to individual states, not the Federal government - the same way that VAT is paid in many countries.
Unlike the VAT in Europe, foreign vacationers are unable to get a refund of sales tax paid on items during their trip except in two states, Louisiana & Texas.
Five states do not have any sales tax, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire & Oregon
Electrical sockets (outlets) in the United States of America usually supply electricity at between 110 and 120 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adaptor is all you need.