To travel Western America really is the stuff that dreams are made of. Whether you hit the road by yourself, or join a tour that includes cherry-picked activities along the way, this singular part of the USA never fails to astound. From soulful cities and neon-tinged desert oases to ancient natural attractions and untouched wilderness locations, Western America has it all. Here are ten of our favourite destinations along the spellbinding western coast of the beautiful US of A:
LA, La La Land, City of Angels – call it what you will, this city is pure glamour distilled. If it were a person, LA would sashay into the party scattering sequins and singing show tunes at the top of its voice. It’s enigmatic, inspiring and larger than life. Yes, it’s busy, but it also has close ties to the gorgeous landscapes that surround it. Think golden beaches, undulating hillsides and piercing blue skies. Not to mention the craziness of its architecture! From the fairytale abodes of the glitterati, to the palatial downtown theatres, there’s never a dull moment on the streets of Los Angeles. Sit back, strap in and hold on to your hat as one of America’s big cities takes you on the ride of your life.
If it’s a laidback holiday atmosphere you’re after, San Diego is the place to be. This city-by-the-sea is sunny, breezy and happy to accept just about anyone into its various folds. It may number among the USA’s ten largest cities, but somehow it never feels that way when you walk the streets. Each little hamlet within its reaches has managed to retain its own, unique flavour. Plus, there’s plenty to see and do! Legoland, San Diego Zoo, Seaport Village, Little Italy – there’s something for every taste and budget.
Phoenix, Arizona is one of the lesser-known marvels of the American west coast. The city anchors a large metropolitan area known as the Valley of the Sun and used to be best known for its amazing golf courses and high-end resorts. These days, however, Phoenix is emerging as a wild card cultural destination! Between the Heard museums that showcase the fascinating native cultures of the Southwest, the Musical Instrument Museum, and the Burton Barr Central Library with its state-of-the-art design, it’s a little slice of geek heaven. Throw the Desert Botanical Garden and a thriving downtown street culture in the mix, and it’s easy to see why this Phoenix is on the rise (excuse the very obvious pun).
Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is one of those must-see American destinations that is so ubiquitous on bucket-list lists that it can actually seem a little cliche. The thing is that you won’t ever really understand what the fuss is about until you get there. Essentially, it’s a very long, very deep gorge carved into the earth by the Colorado river over millennia (which can sound a little textbook-y on paper). The thing is, standing on the edge of this age-old natural attraction is touching beyond measure. It brings the notion of time into sharp focus, making you feel at once tiny and hugely lucky to experience this thing called life.
Las Vegas is gold, glitter and fairy dust. This is where you come to dress to the nines, see some of the best live show on the planet (Celine! Elton John!), and indulge your inner risk-taker. The well-known casinos along The Strip may be what Vegas is most famous for, but there is also plenty to enjoy if you happen to consider yourself a foodie. Think celebrity chefs and Michelin-starred establishments all over the show.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is a place of extremes. Straddling eastern California and Nevada, the park is a somewhat unfathomable destination, filled with ghost towns, sailing stones, water-carved canyons and extinct volcanic craters. Point a camera in any direction and you are bound to come away with a gripping image – an amateur (and professional!) photographer’s dream.
Consider yourself an outdoor connoisseur? Mammoth Lakes will blow your mind. Hike to the Rainbow Falls, explore the Devil’s Postpile National Monument; go hiking, fishing or horseback riding. There are also plenty of hot springs to enjoy, and if you plan your visit right you can partake in one of the many festivals that are hosted here. Going in winter? If you enjoy skiing, you are in for a treat – Mammoth Lakes just so happens to be home to one of the official training mountains that shape the talents of the US Olympic team!
Yosemite National Park
Ah, Yosemite, how we love thee – let us count the ways. This is the prom queen of America’s national parks. Four million visitors flock here per here to gaze in wonderment at the staggering granite walls, epic waterfalls, centuries-old sequoias and sweeping gemstone lakes that lie sparkling in the midst of the subalpine wilderness. Walk, run, hike, cycle, stroll – no matter how you get around, there are breathtaking sights at every turn.
First of all – wine, glorious, sun-drenched wine. Secondly – the scenery. What could be lovelier than sipping on some elegant vintages in a fairytale valley? Because that’s exactly what Napa is – a living fairytale. With verdant vineyards climbing the sloping hills and a vintage locomotive and travelling restaurant running through the valley (have you ever!), this is where foodie dreams come true.
If you consider yourself a bit of a trailblazer or renegade, San Fran is bound to be your cup of tea. It’s been the setting of many a revolution – the gold rush, the hippie movement, the dot-com bubble. It also happens to be utterly gorgeous and extremely welcoming on the whole. From the grand sweep of the Golden Gate Bridge, to the windswept treelines along it’s 43 very steep hills, San Francisco is filled to the brim with awesome architecture, street art, entertainment venues, award-winning eateries, historic attractions and more.
This is the year to make your travel dreams come true. After all, if not now, when? The United States of America awaits – all you need to do is take the plunge, book the ticket and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.