Ultimate guide to America
By Marianne Betts and Kathleen Cuthbertson December 19, 2007
ALWAYS dreamt of going to the United States? With the strong Aussie dollar, there's never been a better time to get more bang for your buck.
Marianne Betts and Kathleen Cuthbertson scale canyons, gamble more than they can afford and swing with the King to bring us the ultimate guide to America.
The Grand Canyon, a giant chasm carved by the Colorado River over millions of years, is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
How to do it: Many are content to spend a day or two at the South Rim, viewing it from the footpath that runs along the rim and from the road.
But the sheer size of this 446km canyon is best appreciated from a helicopter or a small plane.
As well as day hikes below the rim, there are trails deep in the canyon and campgrounds for backpackers.
Mule rides into the canyon also are popular.
Best times: The South Rim is open year-round, but North Rim access is snowed-in from October to mid-May.
Spring and autumn are the best times to backpack in the canyon and, except for those at camping at Phantom Ranch, a permit is needed to stay overnight.
Hot tip: Book your accommodation in the Grand Canyon Village, inside the national park
, well in advance.
Rising out of the desert, Vegas
, the ultimate in eye-popping opulence as well as tackiness and sleaze, is known as Sin City for its gambling and girls.
How to do it: Strolling down the Strip at night when everything is awash in neon is a great experience.
Bellagio's dancing fountains are the best free show in town. They are a mesmerising ballet of water and light every 15 minutes.
See a stage show – everything from topless showgirls to a high-quality Cirque du Soleil production.
Best times: Any time, but it can be oppressively hot in July and August, although rates are cheaper then.
Hot tip: Free drinks are handed to anyone lurking near poker machines.
Cable cars, Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf &$150; San Francisco
has no shortage of internationally known attractions.
But it's the soul that sets the city apart.
How to do it: Start with must-sees (the bridge, the Rock, the wharf), then head for culturally significant spots.
City Lights Booksellers & Publishers is considered the spiritual home of Beat Generation luminaries such as Jack Kerouac.
Best times: San Francisco is mild all year, but summer is when the famous fog rolls into the bay, threading through the Golden Gate Bridge for those postcard photos.
Hot tip: Try to squeeze in a meal at the Stinking Rose, a Frisco institution devoted to eating garlic. You'll reek for days, but it's worth it.
Whatever you're into, New York
has it in bucketloads. Sightseeing. Shopping. Culture. Dining. Bar-hopping. You name it, it's there.
How to do it: Though the queues can be long, a visit to the top of New York's highest landmark, the Empire State Building, is worthwhile. Get a cultural fix at the Museum of Modern Art. See a Broadway show. Escape the city bustle with a picnic and people-watching in Central Park.
Visit some of the sights made famous by classic movies.
Best times: Any time.
Hot tip: Visit the TKTS booth in Times Square for half-price tickets for same-day shows.
You can walk into Graceland not giving a hoot about Elvis
and come out sad that the King is dead.
His Georgian mansion with sweeping grounds on the outskirts of Memphis, Tennessee, is a monument not only to his life and career but also a time when US life seemed simpler.
How to do it: Allow most of a day for a Graceland tour and to check out Elvis's collection of cars and his custom jets, named the Lisa Marie and the Hound Dog II. True tragics will want to stay in the surprisingly reasonably priced Heartbreak Hotel.
Away from Graceland, Memphis, the home of blues and rock 'n' roll, has its fair share of musical history. Beale St nightlife is worth a look.
Best times: Elvis's birthday celebration at Graceland runs from January 5-8, but it's open all year.
Hot tip: If music isn't your thing, Memphis is still worth it. Cotton, slavery and the Civil War all helped shape the soul of the city.
THE lure of La-La Land
, with its famous "Hollywood" sign that has come to symbolise the movie industry and the city itself, is undeniable. It is home to some of the world's great movie stars.
How to do it: Take a tour of the homes of the stars. Visit Universal Studios. Drive down Sunset Boulevard or go cruising along Rodeo drive.
Visit a famous West Hollywood nightclub.
Best times: Any time, but the weather is most settled from April to August.
Hot tip: Rent a car.
Disneyland and Disney World
A trip to a Disney
theme park is still a childhood holiday dream, but these days kids come to find Nemo and Woody rather than Mickey and Donald.
How to do it: Disneyland in California is the original. It's the smaller of the two, but includes the California Adventure theme park, where a major expansion is about to take place.
Disney World, near Orlando, Florida, has the Magic Kingdom, Disney Studios, Animal Kingdom and the Epcot Centre.
Flight Centre US product manager Stephen Walker recommends three to five days to explore Disneyland but at least a week for Disney World, more if you wish to explore other attractions in the area such as SeaWorld and the Kennedy Space Centre.
Best times: The September-October school holidays in Australia are good because it's not peak season in the US.
Hot tip: Book Disney packages before you leave Australia for extras such as early gate entry.
The historic highway Route 66
stretches some 4000km from California, through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri to Illinois.
How to do it: Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, so although it's no longer possible to drive uninterrupted from Chicago to Los Angeles, about 80 per cent of the original highway remains.
Best times: Spring and autumn.
Hot tip: Make the trip in a classic American car.