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The Ultimate United States Road Trip: Part 2

Last week, I shared the first part of my United-States road trip from Philadelphia to Arizona. As the spring break is quickly approaching, I thought my USA road trip could give you guys some inspiration if you still haven’t decided what to do. Here is the second part of my unforgettable experience!

After visiting the canyons in Arizona, we passed to Las Vegas where we spent just two days. I can’t describe how glorious Vegas looks at night; it was like a miniature world where you can see both the Eiffel Tower and Giza Pyramids simultaneously. Every night there were amazing water shows in the fountains that are located in front of the hotels.

After enjoying Vegas, we traveled to Los Angeles. It was my third time there so I have a bunch of recommendations. Some places to visit are Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Bel Air, Rodeo Drive, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Griffith Observatory, Getty Center, and LACMA. This list could go on forever. It’s a huge city, and I believe that driving is a must. I love LA with its great weather and chill atmosphere. I will be going back to LA this May to even explore it even more.

From LA, we drove along the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the most scenic drives in the world, to San Francisco. There are incredible stops along the way such as Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, San Simeon (make sure to visit Hearst Castle, an incredible mansion built in 1920s that was actually inspiration to the Great Gatsby), Bixby Bridge (one of the most photographed bridge in the West Coast), Big Sur, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Jose. We spent some time in each of them and the last destination was San Francisco.

SF is so diverse, so photogenic, so beautiful, and so cultural. If I ever move out of Boston, I would love to live in SF. For the first time you visit, you should definitely walk across the Golden Gate bridge, visit Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 69,  Sausalito, Alcatraz Island, Union Square, Ghirardelli Square, The Palace of Fine Arts, Castro, Haight Ashbury, Chinatown (the country’s largest one), ride the cable car, have tea in the oldest Japanese Tea Gardens, and hike in the Redwood Trees. Every part of the city is so scenic with its steep hills and colorful architecture.

From San Francisco, we flew to Seattle. We first went to the Space Needle, the iconic observation tower. Then, we spent almost a day at the Pike Place Market, an iconic farmers market located right next to the pier with lots of local vendors, cafes, and shops. It has several lower levels below the main level, each one home to mix of unique shops like antique dealers. Also, you could visit the original Starbucks and taste their Pike Place Roast.

Another attribute is the gum wall, and as the name says, it is a wall covered with art made of gum. Then, we went on the Ferris Wheel on the waterfront to have a glimpse of the Seattle skyline. Seattle is a city that had been rebuilt several times because of fire, and still hides some oldest parts in its underground. There is a tour company called ‘Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour’ that takes you to the underground storefronts and sidewalks entombed when the city rebuilt on top of itself after the Great Fire of 1889. The city is very protective of nature; I was surprised to see how clean the streets were and how conscious people were about recycling. Seattle is also known for its amazing seafood, so make sure to enjoy some!

The next destination was Chicago. It was my first time there, and I thought that it is one of the most beautiful cities all over the country. Chicago has a lot to offer with its amazing museums. Some great ones were Art Institute of Chicago (one of the best art museums in the world), Adler Planetarium, Field Museum of Natural History, and Shedd Aquarium. Make sure to also visit Millennium Park and take a photo with the Cloud Gate—a public sculpture by Anish Kapoor—then take a walk down Michigan Avenue. Also, there are some amazing observation decks. My favorite was the Skydeck on top of the Wills Tower where you can go to take a photo standing on a glass balcony, and see the city below your feet. I was very surprised to see beaches only 5 minutes away from the city center. One last recommendation is to take a walk along Navy Pier and don’t forget to eat deep dish pizza! 

After Chicago, we traveled to Nashville, and then to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Nashville was a little city, but it has an incredibly unique culture with the music. It’s known as the ‘Music City.’ You can learn more about its musical heritage by visiting Ryman Auditorium, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Grand Ole Opry and The Johnny Cash Museum. Also, it’s home to the best fried chicken in the country. Almost all of the local places have their own recipes, make sure to try some! We could only spend two days in Nashville because we drove to Kentucky to visit Mammoth Cave National Park, known as the longest cave in the world. You can’t go down the cave without professional tour guides. They warn you before you get in because it’s home to lots of bats and reptiles. The humidity is crazy inside; almost every part of the cave is wet. Even though it might seem scary at first, you will be amazed by the incredible natural formations like frozen waterfalls. 

Our next stop was Buffalo to visit Niagara Falls. It is both located in US and Canada, and I thought that Canada side has the better view. If you could arrange a hotel on that side, you would actually have a better sense of the atmosphere. The city is pretty small, and its main attraction is the Falls. The waterfall is one of the most wonderful views I have ever seen in my life. We again booked a boat tour that went near the falls where you could take lots of photos. They give you a raincoat in advance, but it’s impossible not to get wet. The tour takes only 15 minutes; it’s not that long but gives you the ultimate experience. I might have taken hundreds of photos there. Also. Buffalo is home to the original buffalo wings. We went to ‘Frank and Teressa’s Anchor Bar’ where the first recipe came out. If you like wings, please go to this restaurant and enjoy!

Our last destinations were Maine, Boston and New York. Maine is known for its seafood, home to the best lobster roll (sorry Boston!). It’s a great place to go for a weekend getaway, to escape from the city chaos. After Maine, it was the first time I went to Boston, and could never dream of transferring and living here those days. I fell in love with Boston the first day I saw it. I feel so lucky to call Boston home now; it’s definitely one of the greatest cities in the country. New York has also always been one of my favorite cities in the world, and I regularly go there so my NYC recommendations would be subject to a whole other article! I love exploring NYC like a local, and in each visit, I end up loving it even more. 

This road trip has been the most amazing time of my life and I am so grateful to have experienced it. I believe that traveling teaches you a lot, the United States is a huge country and I was amazed to see how much culture could change from one state to another. I hope I could give you some general ideas about such places. I wish you the best spring break!

Love,

Lale 

 

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