The USA is a bloody huge country. With just under a month to see as much as possible, I decide to limit my exploration to a few key spots, so that I’m able to spend four or five days in each destination. Throughout those four-ish weeks, I ziplined across old Vegas, helicoptered into the Grand Canyon, walked all the way up to the Griffith Observatory in extreme heat, watched a Santa Monica sunset over the pier and explored the murals of the San Francisco Mission District. I popped over to Alcatraz, tasted wine in the Napa Valley, bear-spotted in Yosemite National Park and walked in the West Village Halloween Parade in New York City.
So, yeah. I did a lot of stuff.
So, without further ado – here’s my full USA itinerary.
Stop 1 – Las Vegas (Five Days)
Work first, then play was my rule in Vegas. I attended a Marketing Mastery Event which taught me so much about how to leverage my personal brand and build an engaged and passionate audience. I met some awesome Aussies there, as well as making a lot of international friends that I remain in touch with!
On top of that, I spent a couple of days out in Old Vegas wandering the Fremont Street area and taking in the old neon signs at the Neon Boneyard. I even jumped on the Slotzilla Zipline and flew across Old Vegas at 12 stories high – what a test of my little niggling fear of falling and heights.
I also did the standard Vegas strip hop – but I didn’t gamble once.
Lastly, I hooked up with Maverick Helicopter tours to have a spectacular landing in the Grand Canyon (not quite in Vegas – but the flight left from there!).
Read up on my Vegas adventures in the following blog posts:
- How I survived Las Vegas (without gambling once)
- Why Old Vegas is still the Vegas you should visit
- A guide to the Las Vegas Strip
Stop 2 – Los Angeles (Four Days)
Next stop, the City of Angels. I admit I didn’t have super high hopes for L.A. with a lot of people telling me that it wasn’t really my thing. They were right in some ways; wrong in a lot of others. My first couple of days were spent in Hollywood, which to be honest is a grimy, unimpressive tourist area that feels a little devoid of substance. That is, until I took a tour with Urban Adventures that walked me through the old haunts of stars gone by on their Sips of Old Hollywood walk. On this tour I felt a little closer to the glitzy, movie-centric Hollywood I’d read about.
I definitely fulfilled my childhood dream of visiting Universal Studios and lived out my La La Land fantasy at the gorgeous Griffith Observatory.
Then I moved along to stay a couple of nights in Santa Monica and here I found what I was looking for. The vibe compared to Hollywood was completely different – relaxed, quirky and friendly. I wandered the pier and took in the most spectacular sunset. From here I also made it to the Getty Centre, which is a wonderfully comprehensive art collection housed in what feels like a Grecian villa. The entry fee? Totally, 100% free.
Read more about my L.A. adventures in the following blog posts:
Stop 3 – San Francisco (Four Days)
I truly did leave my heart in San Francisco. And no, that doesn’t mean a man. I fell hard for this city in a way I wasn’t anticipating. My four days here consisted of FINALLY finding decent coffee, wandering the ridiculously hilly streets (every day is leg day here) and blending peak tourist with chilled out bar trawling.
Of course, being my first time in San Francisco, I had to do Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Cable Car. I also scaled the Coit Tower to get amazing 360 degree views of the city.
Most memorable for me, though, was taking a walking tour through the Mission District where bright, vibrant and socially conscious murals line the alleyways, telling the stories of the oldest area of this wonderful city.
I also made it out to drink wine in the sun in Sausalito, took in a campy double feature at the Castro Theatre, right in the middle of the rainbow filled LGBTQI district and took in a little-known view of the city from the mosaic-littered Moraga Steps.
Read about my adventures in San Francisco in the following blog posts:
Stop 4 – Napa Valley (Three Days)
Freshly recovering from recent disastrous fires, my time in Napa Valley was as relaxed as could be. That is, apart from having to drive out there on the wrong side of the road and copping a flat tyre along the way.
I spent one night in Napa itself, amongst the traditional buildings and gorgeous wineries just within reach. I tasted wine and took in the views from Artesa winery, surveying fire damage as well as the stunning autumn leaves.
I moved on the next day to St Helena, stopping first at Maroon Wines for a chat and a tasting and then up to Auburn James right near my quaint little motor inn to finish off a day of wine and sun. A sunset walk next to El Bonita Motor Inn takes me up to the Farmhouse for a relaxing long dinner full of paddock to plate food and (of course) more wine.
Read about my Napa Valley experience here:
Stop 5 – Yosemite National Park (Two Days)
Well, be still my beating heart. Yosemite National Park is an absolutely magical place to be – especially in Autumn. As you’ll read in my Yosemite blog post, my time here was way too short.
That said, I stayed at one of the best accommodations I’ve ever been to in the Rush Creek Lodge, just a stone’s throw from the park entrance and I spent two half days wandering the trails and meadows as the sunlight turned the fields to gold. I also spotted a little bear running across the road and found him again down by the river – luckily far enough away so as not to startle him.
Read about my Yosemite adventure here:
Stop 6 – New York City (Five Days)
What better way to end an USA trip than finishing in the Big Apple? One of my favourite cities in the world, and the most electrifying, vibrant and unapologetically massive places on earth, New York City is the true definition of a melting pot. Culture, food, sport, theatre and art meet in this city of cities where sleep is optional.
Here, I take in the 9/11 Museum which is beautifully presented (if not a bit full on) and wander the streets of Chinatown and Little Italy in search of dumplings and cheese.
The highlight here is walking in the NYC Halloween Parade through the West Village with two friends who recently emigrated to the city. As a threesome, we make a fearsome couple as Jessica Jones, Black Swan and a zombie woodsman.
I also see the most exhilarating and engaging theatre production of my life, and no it wasn’t on Broadway. Sleep No More is an immersive theatre experience based on Macbeth and it has to be experienced to be believed.
Read all about my New York City adventures here:
Well, that wraps up my trip. And what a trip it was. Hopefully this inspires you to have your own USA adventure in the near future!
So great to meet you in Vegas, Emma! And wow – you did a TON of stuff afterwards! I still haven’t made it to Yosemite and want to make it a goal to see more of our national parks. You’re definitely right about this being a bloody huge country. I keep taking trips abroad, forgetting that there is SO much to see domestically!