The US leads the way in not-to-be-missed experiences, discovers Paul Blaney

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Picking the top 10 American experiences isn’t easy. The more an agent or operator has travelled to the States, the more he or she will struggle to narrow down the list.

How to rank Chicago against a national park such as Acadia in Maine? Should heritage and monuments like those found in Washington DC trump natural wonders such as the Smoky Mountains? Do the beaches of Hawaii outrank those of Florida? Or California? Or Cape Cod?

Some clients are looking for wilderness and natural beauty. Others want history and culture, or urban adventures. Whatever your clients seek, the following top 10 US bucket list is guaranteed to inspire. Once the seed is sown, it’s up to you to turn your customers’ American dream into the holiday of a lifetime.


The largest US state (it’s about four times the size of California), Alaska brings a whole new meaning to the word wilderness. Where else can you see polar bears, bald eagles, humpback whales, wolves, bears, moose and hundreds of other animals in the wild? There are dozens of ways to get into Alaska, from Pacific cruises to rail and road tours, to fishing, hiking and kayaking. Help your clients create their once-in-a-lifetime Alaskan adventure.

Book it: Trafalgar’s eight-day Majestic Alaska tour starts from £3,150 including flights, departing September 2.
020 7468 4335


The world is divided into those who’ve seen the Grand Canyon and those who can only imagine it. It is simply the most stupendous natural feature on earth. Recommend that clients take a couple of days to get to grips with it, whether by helicopter, or hiking or riding down into it. This isn’t a place to take some snaps, and head on to the next sight. The sheer scale takes time to impress itself on the human eye.

Book it: Hayes & Jarvis offers a six-night trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon in August from £1,399. The price includes flights from Heathrow, car hire and room-only accommodation (three nights in Vegas, three at the Canyon).
0871 200 2211


Whether it’s the laid-back vibe, the cosmopolitan mix or the location, many people rate San Francisco as their top US city. Among its best features is its diversity; the city consists of so many neighbourhoods (gay, Hispanic, arty, nouveau hippie), each with its own flavour and appeal. The food is great and the locals friendly – add some trams and that Golden Gate Bridge, and you’ve got a metropolis that’s hard not to love.

Book it: Western & Oriental offers five nights’ room-only at the Argonaut, from £1,699 in September including BA flights.
020 7666 1234


It may be the capital of the world’s current superpower, but Washington DC retains the charm of a Southern city. Part of that charm comes from the landscaped Mall that runs from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial, and around which many of America’s great monuments and museums are laid out. It’s easy to spend a week exploring the National Gallery, the International Spy Museum, the Air and Space Museum, and other monuments around the Mall. Across the Potomac River, there’s Arlington Cemetery and the graves of John and Robert Kennedy. Washington is fun after dark, with the restaurants and shopping of Georgetown, and scores of live music venues.

Book it: Virgin Holidays offers three nights’ room-only at the Doubletree Hotel Crystal City, Washington DC, from £729, including Virgin Atlantic flights departing September 30.
0844 557 3973


These were the original paradise islands, a Pacific archipelago of volcanoes, lush vegetation and sandy beaches. The landscapes are spectacular, the food is great and the beach life couldn’t be more serene – though the surf’s pretty lively! Add in native Hawaiian culture and the chance for some island-hopping, and Hawaii amply justifies its top 10 appeal. If clients are put off by the long flight, suggest a stopover in San Francisco or Los Angeles for the ultimate city/beach break.

Book it: Funway offers an eight-night Los Angeles & Hawaii twin-centre package in July from £6,585 for a family of four, including return flights and accommodation.
0844 557 0626


The US has dozens of great national parks, but this was the first and, for many, it’s still the best. Yosemite is a hidden valley, a magic kingdom of cliffs, domes and waterfalls that could come straight out of the pages of Lord of the Rings. Even the most modest of walkers, or skiers, will be hugely rewarded in Yosemite. And as for the photos, you really can’t go wrong. Just be sure to advise clients to book well in advance if they want to stay inside the park.

Book it: Trek America offers the three-day Yosemite & Tahoe Mini tour departing San Francisco on September 20 from £1,136, including flights from London, one night before and after the tour in a shared room and two nights’ camping with equipment, all transportation and a tour leader.
0844 576 1400



New York is high on most lists of must-visit destinations. Its The cultural centre of America, with the museums, galleries, theatres and music scene to match, the city is also made for shopping, dancing, bar-hopping, or just hanging out. Advise your clients to take an extra suitcase and be ready to party until late. No need to set the alarm for breakfast: New York is also the world capital of brunch!

Book it: Kuoni offers a city break in September from £910 including British Airways flights from Heathrow and three nights’ room-only in the three-star Edison Hotel. 747008


So many visitors can’t be wrong about Orlando. The central Florida destination is forever improving its range of attractions and services. Too much of a good thing is a good thing! Especially when that thing is fun. In the unlikely event that clients should ever get enough of Magic Kingdom, SeaWorld and Universal Orlando, you could always recommend a quick road trip to the Space Coast around Cape Canaveral.

Book it: Cosmos Holidays offers a seven-night stay for a family of four at the three-diamond Ramada Gateway in Kissimmee from £3,720, departing August 15 from Gatwick. The stay is on a room-only basis and includes car hire and return flights. 423 8518


This curled peninsula to the south of Boston has long been a magnet for summer visitors. Think of the Devon coast with little fishing ports and clapboard houses. Provincetown, at the end of the Cape, is an established gay and lesbian destination, while the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are a short ferry ride offshore. One piece of advice for clients; book early as the Cape gets very busy in summer and the roads can also get congested.

Book it: Gold Medal offers a seven-night Boston/Cape Cod twin-centre holiday this August from £4,396 for a family of four. The price includes return flights from Heathrow, accommodation, and car rental.
0800 014 7777


Back up and running after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is a city that pulses to the beat of your heart. Mardi Gras, in February, is a great time to be here, as is Halloween, but the fact is, the city’s never dull. At the centre of the action, and the music, are the streets of the French Quarter. Here’s where your clients will find the smoothest blues and most swinging jazz, as well as real Cajun cooking: jambalaya and seafood gumbo.

Book it: North America Travel Service has a 12-day Louisiana Sampler fly-drive this October from £1,492 per adult and £745 per child. The price, based on a family of two adults and two children, includes return flights, room-only accommodation, and car rental.
0845 766 0209