Home to so many iconic sights, the USA should be on everyone’s bucket list. From the (in)famous Big Apple, to the Grand Canyon, you’ve got a wanderlust-inducing mix of big city American culture and incredible natural wonders.
Here’s everything you need to know before you travel there.
Dive into our (free) travel guides below!
The Key info
With a total area of 9,372,610 square kilometers, the U.S. is one of the largest countries in the world and the second-largest country in the Americas. It is home to a whopping 327 million people and borders only Mexico in the south and Canada in the north. Its capital is Washington, D.C., while it’s largest city is New York City. Home to numerous ethnic groups that’ve migrated there throughout history, it’s a cultural melting pot. Despite this, U.S. English is the only recognized language in use.
Just like it’s inhabitants, the landscape/topography of the U.S. is incredibly diverse. It has cool forests in the north bordering Canada, a temperate climate in the center, unforgiving deserts in the South-West bordering Mexico, and a hot-humid tropical environment in the South-East along the Gulf of Mexico. Compared to Europe the U.S. latitude is much lower. New York has a latitude close to Madrid. This is often overlooked when traveling there and can result in terrible sunburns, as the sun in the U.S. tends to be much stronger because of this.
The USA in numbers
- Population: 327 million people
- Size of the Country: 9,372,610 km²
- Capital city: Washington, D.C.
- Currency: US-Dollar
- Language: American English
- Religion: 73% Christian, 21.3% Unaffiliated, 2.1% Jewish, 0.8% Muslim, 2.9% Other
The five largest cities in the USA
New York City, NY – 8.4 million inhabitants
NYC is a massive city with bustling streets. Whether it’s iconic landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, fascinating museums or the city’s incredibly diverse food culture, NYC has something for everyone. You could spend months exploring this city without getting bored.
New York’s subway system is the most convenient, eco-friendly way to avoid the notorious New York traffic. Subways run 24 hours a day. New York City’s attractions tend to be located very close to one another – so you might not even need to rely on public transport during some day trips. It is a very walkable city, and you may discover some hidden gems, like incredible pizza joints or temporary art galleries along the way.
Famous landmarks include the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and so much more. But there’s always something going on in New York. A flash mob at the Rockefeller center perhaps or an underground street art exhibition just around the corner. If you want a little more from NYC than the typical tourist set up, make sure to check what events are on.
Los Angeles, CA – 4 million inhabitants
Los Angeles is the largest city on the west coast, and just like New York City, there is no shortage of attractions for every kind of tourist. Universal Studios Theme Park is notorious for its spectacular rides, which are based on the Studio’s blockbuster movies. In 2019, it opened the new Jurassic World Ride. If you prefer the world of Disney, there is a Disneyland just outside Los Angeles.
Chicago, IL – 2.7 million inhabitants
Chicago is the northernmost city on this list, with a colder climate. You should definitely visit the Art Institute of Chicago, which is a world-class museum featuring thousands of intricate artworks. Paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures, textiles and more. Virtually every format of art can be found within its walls. You should definitely take a walk on Chicago’s Navy Pier. It originally opened as an amusement area but is now one of Chicago’s most popular attractions. It features 50 acres of gardens, shops, concert venues, and parks. There’s even a 50-meter Ferris wheel.
Houston, TX – 2.3 million inhabitants
Houston can be incredibly hot, but there are many indoor attractions to keep you occupied in an air-conditioned environment. Houston is home to NASA’s famous Johnson Space Center, and the Space Center Houston Is its official visitor center. It’s definitely a must-see attraction, that is unique worldwide. It is a vast complex, where one can walk through space shuttle replicas and gain insightful knowledge about the USA’s race to space. Houston also features a sophisticated museum district, which is a cultural highlight on every road trip across the US. 19 Museums reside in this beautiful downtown area. Many of its museums are free of charge!
Phoenix, AZ – 1.6 million inhabitants
Phoenix is not just your gateway to the Grand Canyon! There are also some unique sights you shouldn’t miss out on. It has one of the most massive musical instruments museums in the world, that boasts a collection of over 6,800 instruments from nearly 200 countries. Besides music, the building also features five permanent galleries. The Desert Botanical Garden is a great way to educate yourself about the unique flora and fauna found across Arizona. Art installations are scattered across the gardens. As such it is a perfect combination so sample some of the local culture and nature. Beautiful trails wind around the property, and you should factor the walking time at this place. The best time to visit this place is in spring when the plants bloom in all kinds of vibrant colors.
Top Tourist Attractions
Statue of Liberty – New York City
The Statue of Liberty is the ultimate symbol of America, and there are plenty of ways to explore this lady. For the budget travelers, you can visit the statue for free using the Staten Island Gerry. However, if you want to explore the inside of the statue, be prepared to pay 12 to 21 USD depending on your age.
Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona
This is one of America’s most fascinating natural wonders. A colossal canyon, that was carved by the mighty Colorado River over millions of years ago. There’s much more to do here than you may think. You could hike the infamous rim Trail, take a mule trip to the bottom, go whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, or even fly along the canyon by helicopter. The best time to visit the canyon is in the spring or fall when temperatures are much milder. Be prepared to spend 35$ per vehicle to enter the park though.
Walt Disney World Resort – Orlando, FL
Whether you’re traveling with kids or you still hold onto your inner child, you will have one of your most memorable days here. This amusement park opened its doors in 1971 and has welcomed millions of visitors each year ever since. This resort is more than just an amusement park: It features four theme parks, two water parks, over 30 resorts, and an entertainment area. The “Magic Kingdom” is where you’ll find the most iconic rides, such as Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion. Walt Disney will welcome you all year round; however, you will see fewer tourists if you arrive in spring or fall during school times.
Best time to travel
The US is enormous, and as mentioned, is made up of very different climate zones. So you need to differentiate between those before making up your itinerary.
The northern part of the USA has a pretty similar climate from coast to coast. You can expect heavy snowfall and frozen lakes during the winter and spring often comes rather late (as late as May).
The climate in the Southern US has more significant regional differences but is generally more humid towards the East, where you may have to factor in hurricanes, which can occur during August and September. The winter here is usually dry and warm. Spring and autumn tend to be the best travel times in the south, as the climate is rather temperate and stable throughout.
Holidays in the US
Federal Holidays in the US
- New Year’s Day: January 1
- Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.: January 21
- Birthday of George Washington (President’s Day): February 18
- Memorial Day: May 27
- Independence Day: July 4
- Labor Day: September 2
- Columbus Day: October 14
- Veterans Day: November 11
- Thanksgiving Day: November 28
- Christmas Day: December 25
Other US Celebrations:
- Groundhog Day: February 2
- Valentine’s Day: February 14
- Saint Patrick’s Day: March 17
- Tax Day: April 15
- Good Friday: April 19
- Easter: April 21
- Cinco de Mayo: May 5
- Mother’s Day: May 12
- Father’s Day: June 16
- Halloween: October 31
- Black Friday: November 29
Do I need a visa?
Short answer: if you are a citizen of 38 selected countries, you won’t. These are included in the Visa Waiver Program, which means they do not need to get a US Visa. They are however still required to get an electronic authorization (ESTA) to visit the US.
The US uses the US-Dollar as its national currency. The US-Dollar is currently available in the following denominations:
$100, $50, $20, $10, $5, $2, $1
Credit card use is very popular in the US compared to Europe or other countries. Your card will be accepted virtually anywhere.
Your Essential USA Packing list
- A credit card
- A copy of your passport in case it gets lost or stolen
- Waterproof clothing
- A complete toiletry bag
- Medical essentials
- Frequent Flyer Cards
- Travel Insurance contact information
- Emergency contacts and other vital addresses
- Travel guides and maps of hiking trails
Secret Tips from bloggers worldwide
Devils Tower, Wyoming
This was actually the first official National monument of the United States. Yet, almost no one has ever heard of it. It looks like a fierce volcano; however, its origins are unknown which adds to its mythical appearance. The formation of this tower must have begun somewhere around 50 million years ago.
Hamilton Pool Preserve, Texas
This natural wonder was formed as the dome of an underground river collapsed thousands of years ago. The pool spills out of an incredibly beautiful 17-meter high waterfall. Up until recently it was challenging to reach this place; however, nowadays it is becoming an increasingly popular attraction. The number of people who can visit the reserve each day is limited by authorities.
The Blue Lakes Trail
This is one of the top hiking spots in the US, as it is nestled in between stunning glaciers. As you ascent towards the top, the panoramic views will take your breath one step at a time. This place is particularly beautiful in Autumn, as the leaves change colors.
Top Instagrammable Places in the US
Fun facts about the USA
One hundred acres of pizza are served in the US. Every single day!
The only thing more popular than burgers in the US is pizza. The uncontested national favorite. According to the pizza industry trade organization (yes. That’s a thing!) The US serves 100 acres of pizza each day
The US flag was designed by a high school student!
The current US flag was designed by Robert Heft. He created the flag in 1958 as part of a school project. He actually received a B minus for his project. However, the teacher vowed to reconsider his grade if the US congress were to accept his flag design!
There is no actual official language.
While the national language seems to be English, there is no official language at the federal level. While English is mostly spoken in the US, Spanish is also commonly spoken in the country and is also the most taught second language.
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