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Vacations: Where to go, What to see, Where to eat

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I, and a couple of friends, are making tentative plans for a trip to the States in 2018 for four to five weeks.

I have never been to North America, although my friends have on a couple of occasions. 

I don't really want to visit all the usual "Big City" tourist attractions if I'm being honest - much preferring to check out America's natural world. So am hoping to convince my companions to give the city lights a miss, and to get a little closer to nature.

Although still 8-10 months away yet, my itinerary includes some or all of the following (and in no particular order):-

  • The Everglades
  • Redwood Forest
  • Yosemite
  • Carlsbad Caverns
  • Mount Rushmore
  • Monument Valley
  • Grand Canyon
  • Mammoth Cave
  • Red Rock, Utah

This is just provisional to begin with, and could therefore change quite a lot between now and then. I haven't even checked on the map yet as to exactly where these places are, distances involved, and in what order to visit etc. But most of the places have amazing National Parks that really appeal to me - I just want a "chillout" holiday, and not a 24hr shopping/eating/entertaining gig (which is what my friends want by visiting New York and the like)

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I love Carlsbad Caverns.  A lot of the others you listed, too, but I really love Carlsbad Caverns.

I have a National Parks pass, and have been to many of them.  I highly recommend the ones in Utah.  Utah is an ... interesting ... state, but it's one of our most beautiful.  Arches, Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef all in one state, and all so different. 

Moab is a great place to rent a condo, enjoy little shops and restaurants, and use it as a base to explore Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  You can go river rafting, too. Dead Horse Point State Park - recognizable from many movies - is on the way (well, depending on where you're coming from). 

There's a very small town near Capitol Reef that I'm blanking on, but it has a terrific restaurant.  Capitol Reef gets overlooked by a lot of travelers, but I found it well worth the side trip for a couple of days.

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Other than the Everglades, the spots you are looking at are all in the western part of the country, so "reasonably" close to one another.  I say "reasonably" because it's a big country, and it can be a long drive between them.

I visited Redwood Forest and Yosemite years ago, both are beautiful.  Two years ago, I took a road trip out west to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches, and some other places.  It's an amazing part of the country.  When you visit the Grand Canyon, you drive into the park a ways, stop in a big parking lot, then walk down a path and turn a corner to see this freaking humongous hole in the ground!

JM_2015_09_23_Road_Trip_Grand_Canyon_009

Horseshoe Canyon is on the drive between the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, and definitely worth a stop.  It's a thousand feet down to the river, with no fence/railings along the edge:

JM_2015_09_25_Road_Trip_Horseshoe_Bend_0

And you've probably seen Monument Valley in a hundred old movies:

JM_2015_09_26_Road_Trip_Monument_Valley_

Here's a gallery of shots from my trip, it may give you some ideas.

http://www.moose135photography.com/Travel/Road-Trip-2015/

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Thanks for the great feedback!

I will certainly add these (and any more) to my provisional list. And if it appears that some of these places are located more or less in one particular area of the States, then I will focus on that particular area for this adventure/holiday. 

So many places  - so little time, lol

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@Only Zola - most are in the western US.  If driving will be involved, remember you should only drive north on the Pacific Coast Highway if that is required for any decent amount of driving.  It is a beautiful drive, but can be scary as hell driving south.  That will put you on the outside lane hugging the coast, often with steep drop offs and no shoulders.  No time to appreciate the view when there is so little margin of error.

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And I'm the opposite; I'll take the 5 north for a quick trip up to my starting point, and then meander back south via PCH to enjoy the beautiful view and make a few stops, before cutting over to the 101 when I need to speed things up again.

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6 minutes ago, Bastet said:

And I'm the opposite; I'll take the 5 north for a quick trip up to my starting point, and then meander back south via PCH to enjoy the beautiful view and make a few stops, before cutting over to the 101 when I need to speed things up again.

 

"5 north", "PCH", "101" ??

I think I'm going to need to learn some Americanisms too! lol

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PCH is Pacific Coast Highway in California, which is also highway (state route) 1.  It runs north and south along the coast.  The 101 is a U.S. highway running largely parallel, further inland.  The 5 is interstate highway 5, running up/down the middle of the state.  Our freeways have numbers, but some of them are more frequently referred to by names.  But not the same name, throughout, mind you; for example, the 5 is the Golden State Fwy in one area, but the Santa Ana further south.

Here, we say "the [number]."  In other parts of the country, it's just the number.  So, for example, I say, "Take the 5 North," but my friend in Boston says, "Take 95 South."

So, yeah, you'll hear things that don't immediately (or even at all) match what you're seeing on a map.  I've come to largely view that as an entertaining part of travel, but it can be aggravating at first.

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2 hours ago, Moose135 said:

Other than the Everglades, the spots you are looking at are all in the western part of the country, so "reasonably" close to one another.  I say "reasonably" because it's a big country, and it can be a long drive between them.

I visited Redwood Forest and Yosemite years ago, both are beautiful.  Two years ago, I took a road trip out west to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches, and some other places.  It's an amazing part of the country.  When you visit the Grand Canyon, you drive into the park a ways, stop in a big parking lot, then walk down a path and turn a corner to see this freaking humongous hole in the ground!

JM_2015_09_23_Road_Trip_Grand_Canyon_009

Horseshoe Canyon is on the drive between the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, and definitely worth a stop.  It's a thousand feet down to the river, with no fence/railings along the edge:

JM_2015_09_25_Road_Trip_Horseshoe_Bend_0

And you've probably seen Monument Valley in a hundred old movies:

JM_2015_09_26_Road_Trip_Monument_Valley_

Here's a gallery of shots from my trip, it may give you some ideas.

http://www.moose135photography.com/Travel/Road-Trip-2015/

Great photography @Moose135

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Only Zola,

 

 The others have covered the Western US highlights quite well (and fantastic pics Moose!),so I'll give you a couple of tips re Mammoth Cave and the Everglades.

 

1. Mammoth Cave- It's fantastic in its own right and deserves at least day devoted it. However; be warned that lines fill up VERY fast and there's no guarantee that one can get in on the spur of the moment so I strongly advice you to plan very carefully which day you'd want to visit it and BOOK that time at least a week in advance with National Park Service. Be sure to wear sturdy footwear the one can climb in without slippage as well as taking along a light jacket because the cave interior is ALWAYS rather chilly and damp even at the height of summer. Not only is the cave system worth exploring but also the forest and rivers on the surface are quite worth the trip- and I can tell you from experience to AVOID eating at the Visitor Center cafe if at all possible (and there are plenty of good options off Park grounds)  If one wants see something other than nature- the nearby Corvette Museum in Bowling Green is worth the jaunt (again BOOK it in advance)- and there are other caves and historic sites nearby one can check out.

 

2. Everglades- If one doesn't want to spend one's entire time wet and buggy, book a hotel in Miami and/or Ft. Lauderdale and get a day tour of the Glades via hydrofoil boat. Highlights of seeing alligators, flamingos and other wildlife in their natural habitat can be done in a single day without completely being overwhelmed by less pleasant aspects of that setting.

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1 hour ago, Blergh said:

Only Zola,

 

 The others have covered the Western US highlights quite well (and fantastic pics Moose!),so I'll give you a couple of tips re Mammoth Cave and the Everglades.

 

1. Mammoth Cave- It's fantastic in its own right and deserves at least day devoted it. However; be warned that lines fill up VERY fast and there's no guarantee that one can get in on the spur of the moment so I strongly advice you to plan very carefully which day you'd want to visit it and BOOK that time at least a week in advance with National Park Service. Be sure to wear sturdy footwear the one can climb in without slippage as well as taking along a light jacket because the cave interior is ALWAYS rather chilly and damp even at the height of summer. Not only is the cave system worth exploring but also the forest and rivers on the surface are quite worth the trip- and I can tell you from experience to AVOID eating at the Visitor Center cafe if at all possible (and there are plenty of good options off Park grounds)  If one wants see something other than nature- the nearby Corvette Museum in Bowling Green is worth the jaunt (again BOOK it in advance)- and there are other caves and historic sites nearby one can check out.

 

2. Everglades- If one doesn't want to spend one's entire time wet and buggy, book a hotel in Miami and/or Ft. Lauderdale and get a day tour of the Glades via hydrofoil boat. Highlights of seeing alligators, flamingos and other wildlife in their natural habitat can be done in a single day without completely being overwhelmed by less pleasant aspects of that setting.

Thank you for the great tips. I have been on caving trips both here in the UK and South Africa, and always hi-viz jackets, rugged boots and a torch etc. But if Mammoth Cave does actually happen on my "to do" list, i will definitely book in advance either for one day or perhaps two.

As for the Everglades - I really want to go, but friends have mentioned mosquitoes and sawgrass being problems. But I wouldn't want either to put me off from going. 

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As someone who lived in S Florida growing up, I'm a huge fan of the Everglades.  Yes it had skeeters and all sorts of other uncivilized things, but it also has an energy and je ne sais quoi that is unlike anything else.  I think it is beautiful, but in this amazingly raw sense.

And if you're coming to the Everglades, it seems silly to miss the glorious spectacle that is Key West. 

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Only Zola,

 

I don't know HOW you plan to see these sites in the States. However; if you are planning on driving. Know that if one goes from Mammoth Cave, Kentucky to the Everglades, one is almost certain to pass thru Chattanooga. If so, then I would urge a day to stop in that city. Since you've said you have South African ties, you might be intrigued in the similarities between Chattanooga and Cape Town. While Cape Town is a major seaport (and Chattanooga is a landlocked river port) they both are located at the bases of very prominent flat-topped mountains that are routinely foggy (and both cities are linked via cable to said mountains). Moreover,citizens  of all backgrounds have a strong affinity for their respective mountains (in fact, Chattanooga means ',mountain that turned the river around' in Cherokee). and there's lots to see both in the cities themselves as well as on the hilltops. Oh and Chattanooga has its own aquarium as well as a rich musical heritage like Cape Town.

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As for the Everglades - I really want to go, but friends have mentioned mosquitoes and sawgrass being problems. But I wouldn't want either to put me off from going. 

Come during the fall and winter and the mosquitoes won't be as bad. Yes, it will be during prime tourist season but the chances of you seeing wildlife are better when its cooler. Its so hot and miserable here in the summer months that the wildlife are barely visible during the day.

If you were to make it down here, you'd might also be interested in visiting Lion Country Safari, a cageless zoo where you drive in and view the animals in a somewhat natural habitat: http://www.lioncountrysafari.com/

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If you end up in Florida for the Everglades I would consider watching the sunrise on the beach over the Atlantic and driving across the state to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.  The drive itself should only take a few hours.

I normally did that from "my" beach (Franklin Street in Hollywood Fl (hi Agentrxs!)), took Alligator Alley (when it was a pretty desolate two lane road) across to a beach in the Naples area.  Back then that took you right through the Everglades.

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Thank you for all the additional suggestions and nuggets of advice, and am making notes in my e-diary as a I go along. 

So much choice it makes my head spin sometimes, which is always a good thing!

Even though I said in my OP here that I wanted to avoid all the big cities in the States, I do have a bit of a softspot for Washington DC, purely because of its history, and its magnificent buildings & monuments (especially the Lincoln Memorial, which for whatever reason sends a shiver down my spine whenever I see photos of it - awesome stuff!) As a consequence I will be adding that to my ever-growing list of places to visit next May/June :)

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@Only Zola This sounds like a huge trip that you are planning. How long are you coming across the pond for? I'd be tempted to take two trips. One for the West coast and one for the East coast, as both have more than enough to see and do for a month each. How are you planning to span all these sights? Rental car? We do not have the wonderful train service (like the U.K. and Europe does) and there's a lot of travel to cover your wish list. Let me know if you wish to visit the N.C. Area. I'd be happy to be your personal tour guide. (Lol...I'd charge you a few of those Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars...the U.S. version is nowhere near as good)  The Washington DC area is filled with museums and sites and worth a few days on your itinerary. The Smithsonian alone is worth the stop, besides your wish list of seeing the Lincoln Memorial. Nothing prepares you for how grand and big it is IRL. Happy planning. 

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On ‎7‎/‎26‎/‎2017 at 4:00 AM, nosleepforme said:

I'm gonna be in Portland, Oregon, in August. Anyone have any recommendations on what to do there?

I've never been, so I have no idea what to do, however, our local food critic named it his top food city two years ago!  So I'd suggest you eat a lot!!

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2015/06/30/the-search-for-americas-best-food-cities-portland-ore/?utm_term=.fbcb82337777

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24 minutes ago, ebk57 said:

I've never been, so I have no idea what to do, however, our local food critic named it his top food city two years ago!  So I'd suggest you eat a lot!!

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2015/06/30/the-search-for-americas-best-food-cities-portland-ore/?utm_term=.fbcb82337777

One of my employees earlier today volunteered to go on business trips with another coworker. Then she said, "but I'm just coming along to go to the restaurants."

I like the way she thinks.

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6 hours ago, Mindthinkr said:

@Only Zola This sounds like a huge trip that you are planning. How long are you coming across the pond for? I'd be tempted to take two trips. One for the West coast and one for the East coast, as both have more than enough to see and do for a month each. How are you planning to span all these sights? Rental car? We do not have the wonderful train service (like the U.K. and Europe does) and there's a lot of travel to cover your wish list. Let me know if you wish to visit the N.C. Area. I'd be happy to be your personal tour guide. (Lol...I'd charge you a few of those Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars...the U.S. version is nowhere near as good)  The Washington DC area is filled with museums and sites and worth a few days on your itinerary. The Smithsonian alone is worth the stop, besides your wish list of seeing the Lincoln Memorial. Nothing prepares you for how grand and big it is IRL. Happy planning. 

Yes, the more I look at my itinerary, and my map of where all these places are divided by how much time I will be spending on your side of the Pond, I rather think I will biting more than I can chew! I might have to compromise and follow your suggestion of doing 2 trips - West Coast 2018; East Coast 2019. But I know I will change my mind again and suggest something like flying from London to Washington direct, stay for 3 or 4 days, and then grab another plane and bimble over to the West Coast for the rest of my holiday - now that sounds like a plan!

 

ps. our Cadbury's Fruit & Nut bars, are not as good as they used to be. Cadbury's was bought out a few years ago by Kraft/Mondelez, and the chocolate bars just ain't the same any more :(

Edited by Only Zola
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11 minutes ago, Only Zola said:

ps. our Cadbury's Fruit & Nut bars, are not as good as they used to be. Cadbury's was bought out a few years ago by Kraft/Mondelez, and the chocolate bars just ain't the same any more :(

Oh that is just too sad. Too sad indeed. 

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@Only Zola, I've been to a lot of the possibilities you've listed so far, and most are places I've gone for anywhere from 3-7 days each.  Even if you're coming for a month, I'd still stick to one section of the country.  Especially if you're going to include cities; you need time to truly explore them.  A national park can be properly experienced over the course of two days (some in one, some need three), but a big city can't.  In my philosophy of traveling, anyway.  When I go to Europe for a month, that's to wander through several countries, but transpose their small selves onto a map of the U.S. and it's the equivalent of covering only several states.  Plus, it's easier to get from place to place there than it is here.

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@Bastet. Thanks for that. I still have 9 or 10 months to work out a strategy for a Plan A, Plan B, and a Plan C.

Because I'm a self-employed IT consultant, I can't spend too much away from my business clients - so 5 weeks is probably the most I can get away with in one session. So doing the West Coast next year will probably happen, and I'll worry about the East Coast (and/or Middle America) later. 

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16 hours ago, Only Zola said:

I do have a bit of a softspot for Washington DC, purely because of its history, and its magnificent buildings & monuments (especially the Lincoln Memorial, which for whatever reason sends a shiver down my spine whenever I see photos of it - awesome stuff!) As a consequence I will be adding that to my ever-growing list of places to visit next May/June :)

Washington is probably my favorite city to visit and photograph, especially at night.  There is so much history there, and the monuments are amazing to see.

 

JM_2014_11_29_Vietnam_Memorial_001-XL.jp

 

JM_2016_09_17_World_War_II_Memorial_007-

 

A few years back, when I stopped in DC while heading back to NY from NC, I ended up out in the middle of the night - I was at the Lincoln Memorial at 3am:

JM_2013_05_19_WashingtonDC_001-XL.jpg

http://www.moose135photography.com/WashingtonDC

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On 7/26/2017 at 10:06 PM, DeLurker said:

If you end up in Florida for the Everglades I would consider watching the sunrise on the beach over the Atlantic and driving across the state to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.  The drive itself should only take a few hours.

That sounds like a really cool thing to do!  I'll have to remember that if I get down that way.

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Washington, D.C. is one of my favorite cities in this country to visit, too.  My dad traveled there often on business, so my mom and I tagged along several times, and I've gone back a couple of times as an adult; I've been there, and the surrounding area, for a week at a time quite a few different times, and not gotten sick of it yet.  There's a lot to see, including so many great museums; I spend a full day at NASM (National Air & Space Museum) every time I'm there.

The other major American cities I've liked enough to make a couple of return visits to (one return isn't unusual for me, but I have a whole world to see, so to spend a vacation someplace for a third time rather than exploring someplace new is a big decision) are New Orleans, New York, Boston, and San Francisco (that's a frequent weekend getaway for me).  I've been to Nashville several times on business back in the day; I liked it quite a bit, but wouldn't have gone back after that first one-week trip (only three days of which were spent working during the day) if not for business.  Similar with Austin - I went there several times while a friend lived there, and, unlike the rest of Texas, enjoyed it (especially since we were young then), but one visit would have been enough if not for the personal connection. I've been to Las Vegas more than I'd ever have been left solely to my own devices, but living in Los Angeles you somehow end up in Vegas a fair bit.  I really don't care for it anymore; it has changed so much, and it's just not for me anymore.

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Since I'm not feeling financially secure enough to make the trip to France I was hoping to, I've been thinking that maybe I could visit Quebec City. I've been to Montreal many, many times, but QC only once and that was in the previous century. Things probably haven't changed much in the historic areas--that's kind of the point, after all--but I'm not sure what else there is, where the better places to stay are, whether I'll need my car to get around or should take the train, etc. 

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I love visiting the mountains and National Parks. The Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg Tennessee are on of my favorite places and quite beautiful. Also been to Zion National Park in Utah  which is also beautiful and full of great trails. The Badlands National Park in South Dakota is another beauty.

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On 7/19/2017 at 9:57 AM, Sun-Bun said:

I was just in Chicago for this past 4th of July weekend: perfect time to go! It's such a lovely city, especially when the weather is warmer.

Anybody who's in Chicago with a car should drive on Lower Wacker.  It can be hard to find your way in, but it's incredibly cool, and definitely unique.  And I pretty much guarantee nobody back home will have done it.

I've spent a decent amount of time touring Chicago, and have come up with some things that wouldn't necessarily appeal to a first-time visitor (who has more important things to see), or in some cases, wouldn't appeal to a person no matter what.  But you never know.

There's a pedway that connects downtown buildings, via tunnels and skyways.  Lots of it is closed on weekends, and parts of it can be downright creepy and abandoned, but it's there and not a tourist destination, and again, nobody back home will even know what it is, much less have been there.

Also downtown, if you want a quick snack, Wao Bao is good, especially if you've never had Chinese steamed dumplings.  However, I just looked at their website and don't see dessert ones?  I swear, I turn my back for five seconds...

Want to see an alley made of wooden blocks?  Chicago has some.  We saw the one not far from Wrigley Field, on the south side of Roscoe, west of Lakeshore Drive.

Just north of Wrigley Field is Alta Vista Terrace, which is a narrow lane of Londonesque townhomes, where the style of one house matches the style of the diagonally opposite house--like the one on the northeast corner matches the one on the southwest corner down the block.

On the south side of downtown is the 2120 Michigan location of Chess Records, and a few miles south of that is Muddy Waters's house (a pilgrimage stop for us).  Continuing south you get to Hyde Park, which has the University of Chicago, and a great looking Frank Lloyd Wright house, and also Louis Farrakhan's house--we were on bikes and stopped at the curb in front, just long enough to see an intimidating Nation of Islam guy coming toward us.  We scurried away.

Farther south is the Pullman Historic District, a former actual company town where they made Pullman rail cars.  They occasionally have walking tours, but you can do self-guided stuff yourself.  Right nearby is Old Fashioned Donuts, where I had an apple fritter experience.  I was ordering some and figured six would be nice, to have a little bit of leftovers.  I had to wait while they finished cooking (which is a good thing), and the lady pulled out one of those styrofoam clamshell containers that's like 10" square, and I really don't like those things so I was kind of scowling.  Then it turned out that one of those was just big enough to hold one fritter.  Holy cow!  I can't think of any other way to take those things to go, especially wen they're hot with gooey icing, so I forgive the clamshell.  I stacked them up and walked blindly out the door, yelling at Mr. Outlier, who was waiting in the car, "Open up!"  We have a two seater car and it already had two folding bikes in the back, and we had to cram those fitters wherever they'd fit.  Well, five of them, anyway--we ate one immediately.

And learned that frozen apple fritters are delish.  Just put them in a plastic bag in the freezer, and once frozen, just pop off a corner and eat it frozen.  Dang, they're good.

Out west, in Oak Park, there are a bunch of Frank Lloyd Wright houses, and you can get there by train and walk among them.  There's also a Frank Lloyd Wright self-guided bike tour up by Northwestern University that we did.

And if you're an architecture fan, the Farnsworth House is about 60 miles from Chicago--definitely a day trip, but not near any other major city so pretty much the only opportunity most people will have to see it is if they're in Chicago.

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On 7/19/2017 at 11:22 AM, Only Zola said:

I, and a couple of friends, are making tentative plans for a trip to the States in 2018 for four to five weeks.

...

Although still 8-10 months away yet, my itinerary includes some or all of the following (and in no particular order):-

If you have any flexibility, try to schedule your trip before June starts.  Memorial Day in the U.S. (May 28 next year) is the start of the high tourist season.  Some kids don't get out of school until June, which is when the real crush starts.  Any time before Memorial Day weekend will be much less vexatious when it comes to crowds, and the earlier the better, and July can be downright miserable.

Some of the locations you listed are pretty remote, so they don't get huge crowds, but there will be plenty of (or too many, by my standards) people.  Zion National Park is so crowded that they're trying to figure out what to do about it, and one option they're considering is taking reservations just to get in the park

Yosemite routinely has traffic jams, and I don't see Yellowstone on your list.  Are you avoiding it?  I would, in the middle of summer, just to keep from blowing a gasket when a traffic jam develops because there's a fucking deer on the side of the road.  But beware Yellowstone before May--it gets all snowed in and has to be cleared before things open.  We were there in September and even then, parking at some of the sites was unavailable.

Yosemite also gets snow.  We were there in November, and it was quite pleasant, crowd-wise, but that was more than ten years ago.  The ideal time would be once the waterfalls really start flowing, but before the crowds show up.  I think I would skip it if I had to be there in the summer, unless I had a hugely compelling reason to go.  You said "Redwood Forest"--do you mean Redwood National Park over on the coast of California?  Sequoia National Park south of Yosemite, has giant Sequoia trees, and it's not as jammed as Yosemite.

Mount Rushmore is pretty far north--not sure when it's warm enough up there to be okay.  I went in October many years ago, and I'll be kind of in the neighborhood shortly, but I'm not going back. 

The southern Utah locations will be fine, weather-wise, no mater when you go.  I've been to Moab (where Canyonlands and Arches are) in December and February, and it was pretty nice weather.  April is okay, but by May it starts getting really hot.  Hikers and bikers literally die on the rocks. 

Carlsbad Caverns is cool, but the two closest places to there you listed were Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon.  It's a natural route between those two, and Carlsbad is 600 miles from either one, with not much to see in between either one and Carlsbad.  As it is, a rough estimate of your travel through these western sites, not including Carlsbad, is like 3,000 miles.

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On 7/28/2017 at 6:10 AM, ABay said:

Since I'm not feeling financially secure enough to make the trip to France I was hoping to, I've been thinking that maybe I could visit Quebec City. I've been to Montreal many, many times, but QC only once and that was in the previous century. Things probably haven't changed much in the historic areas--that's kind of the point, after all--but I'm not sure what else there is, where the better places to stay are, whether I'll need my car to get around or should take the train, etc. 

It was about 20 years between my visits to QC, and, as you noted, not much changed in Old Quebec during that time.

Can't help you on a place to stay--this last time, we were in an RV, and I have no recollection of the hotel I stayed in before.  But I don't think you'll need a car unless you want to go out to the waterfall or the Basilica Ste-Anne de Beaupre.  We had a car and drove around some neighborhoods (what we'd normally do on a bike but it's too hilly there) and I went to an art cinema out in the suburbs, both of which could have been done by bus.  But the day we did our real touring of the sites (Mr. Outlier had never been there) and hanging around in the historic part, we parked the car on the other side of the river and took a boat across and did it all on foot.

I particularly liked the outdoor staircases in some neighborhoods (which we used the car to get to).  Those would be a pretty tall order on the same day as touring all around the fortification on foot, but on a separate day, I think it would be fine.  Or you could use a bus to get out there (it's probably a little over a mile from the Chateau Frontenac).  I like to walk.

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5 hours ago, StatisticalOutlier said:

If you have any flexibility, try to schedule your trip before June starts.  Memorial Day in the U.S. (May 28 next year) is the start of the high tourist season.  Some kids don't get out of school until June, which is when the real crush starts.  Any time before Memorial Day weekend will be much less vexatious when it comes to crowds, and the earlier the better, and July can be downright miserable.

Some of the locations you listed are pretty remote, so they don't get huge crowds, but there will be plenty of (or too many, by my standards) people.  Zion National Park is so crowded that they're trying to figure out what to do about it, and one option they're considering is taking reservations just to get in the park

Yosemite routinely has traffic jams, and I don't see Yellowstone on your list.  Are you avoiding it?  I would, in the middle of summer, just to keep from blowing a gasket when a traffic jam develops because there's a fucking deer on the side of the road.  But beware Yellowstone before May--it gets all snowed in and has to be cleared before things open.  We were there in September and even then, parking at some of the sites was unavailable.

Yosemite also gets snow.  We were there in November, and it was quite pleasant, crowd-wise, but that was more than ten years ago.  The ideal time would be once the waterfalls really start flowing, but before the crowds show up.  I think I would skip it if I had to be there in the summer, unless I had a hugely compelling reason to go.  You said "Redwood Forest"--do you mean Redwood National Park over on the coast of California?  Sequoia National Park south of Yosemite, has giant Sequoia trees, and it's not as jammed as Yosemite.

Mount Rushmore is pretty far north--not sure when it's warm enough up there to be okay.  I went in October many years ago, and I'll be kind of in the neighborhood shortly, but I'm not going back. 

The southern Utah locations will be fine, weather-wise, no mater when you go.  I've been to Moab (where Canyonlands and Arches are) in December and February, and it was pretty nice weather.  April is okay, but by May it starts getting really hot.  Hikers and bikers literally die on the rocks. 

Carlsbad Caverns is cool, but the two closest places to there you listed were Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon.  It's a natural route between those two, and Carlsbad is 600 miles from either one, with not much to see in between either one and Carlsbad.  As it is, a rough estimate of your travel through these western sites, not including Carlsbad, is like 3,000 miles.

Thanks so much for the valuable information, especially regarding peak-season visiting: I am clearly going to have to do my homework on when, where and for how long. My friends and I don't have much in the way of options visiting before May at the very earliest, especially since we're devoting between 4-6 weeks away from our work. I suppose we could hang on until September, October time, thus avoiding the peak summer months entirely. And clearly, I need to scale back all those places I want to visit: taking on far too much over too wider area in such  relatively short window.

Guess I'll need to go back to Google Maps and be a bit more realistic. 

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On 8/14/2017 at 1:24 AM, Zola said:

Thanks so much for the valuable information, especially regarding peak-season visiting: I am clearly going to have to do my homework on when, where and for how long. My friends and I don't have much in the way of options visiting before May at the very earliest, especially since we're devoting between 4-6 weeks away from our work. I suppose we could hang on until September, October time, thus avoiding the peak summer months entirely. And clearly, I need to scale back all those places I want to visit: taking on far too much over too wider area in such  relatively short window.

Guess I'll need to go back to Google Maps and be a bit more realistic. 

With the size of the trip you're eyeing, you might consider using a globe.  :-)

You can go to these places in the summer--millions of people do.  Which is the problem, of course.  But families, in particular, can take big trips like this only when the kids are out of school, so they just do it.  When I was your age, I didn't even think about crowds, even when I was in them.  My tolerance has definitely gone down as the years have gone up.  Of course, there weren't as many people around back then, so I can't say for positive whether it was just youth, or numerically smaller crowds.  Whatever--if you want to go, you can make it work.

Memorial Day isn't an on/off switch, since school schedules vary.  But two weeks before Memorial Day and two weeks after Memorial Day will be quite different in the number of visitors to sites like these.  The huge crush doesn't start happening until late June, approaching July 4th, and starts petering out in late August, because a lot of schools start before Labor Day (September 3 in 2018). 

Off-season is a good option, but millions of baby boomers are retiring and still spry enough to travel, and can do it in the off-season.  So even then, it's not deserted like it used to be.

One strategy would be to hope for a recession in the U.S. or soaring gas prices.  Or preferably both. 

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So, this isn’t really a vacation question, but my daughter and her friend have an opportunity to do a 15 week externship in Hawaii. They’ll be working at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.  I’ve been searching and searching for furnished apartments nearby (within 30 minutes) and it’s proving to be hard. I have sent lots of emails to Craigslist ads and people just don’t respond. The apartment needs to be around $2500/month. If anyone has any insights, I’d appreciate it!  Also, any tips on cheap things to do when they’re not working would be appreciated too. :)

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1 hour ago, Whimsy said:

So, this isn’t really a vacation question, but my daughter and her friend have an opportunity to do a 15 week externship in Hawaii. They’ll be working at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.  I’ve been searching and searching for furnished apartments nearby (within 30 minutes) and it’s proving to be hard. I have sent lots of emails to Craigslist ads and people just don’t respond. The apartment needs to be around $2500/month. If anyone has any insights, I’d appreciate it!  Also, any tips on cheap things to do when they’re not working would be appreciated too. :)

My knowledge of Hawaii is mostly limited to stories about Pearl Harbor and how to make alcohol out of a pineapple.  I'm a couple generations removed from living in Hawaii so no help here.

Maybe whatever coordinator your daughter is working with could help with suggesting where other employees live.  If they recruit outside of Hawaii, it can't be the first time the question came up.

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27 minutes ago, ParadoxLost said:

My knowledge of Hawaii is mostly limited to stories about Pearl Harbor and how to make alcohol out of a pineapple.  I'm a couple generations removed from living in Hawaii so no help here.

Maybe whatever coordinator your daughter is working with could help with suggesting where other employees live.  If they recruit outside of Hawaii, it can't be the first time the question came up.

Unfortunately, all her employer told her was he didn’t know, but the externship never seem to have trouble finding housing. :/

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@Whimsy - try the Kailua-Kona Chamber of Commerce or Visitors' Bureau.  Also you may want to check out realtors in the area; some of them specialize in short term rentals and vacation condos.

I lived there back in the early 80s, so my list of things to do and see are probably way out of date.  ;-)

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So, anyone see the news that American Airlines did a big whoops and let all their pilots schedule to get a couple weeks around Christmas off. if they wanted

Now they are scrambling to get pilots for thousands of flights.

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 While all these venues are fairly good, if one is spending more than a short time in Hawaii, I'd advise them to bring as much food in bulk with them as possible and eat in because since they must ship and fly everything not grown there, food's quite expensive (and even pineapples cost more there than on the Mainland).

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On ‎11‎/‎30‎/‎2017 at 0:52 PM, Blergh said:

 While all these venues are fairly good, if one is spending more than a short time in Hawaii, I'd advise them to bring as much food in bulk with them as possible and eat in because since they must ship and fly everything not grown there, food's quite expensive (and even pineapples cost more there than on the Mainland).

We'll see what we can do.  I wonder how much it'd cost for Amazon food pantry?  I'll have to check into that.  The good thing is they are culinary students working in the kitchen.  Hopefully they can score free food.

Good news is we found a fully (but minimally) furnished two-bedroom condo!  The rent is crazy- $2,000 a month but at least it's only for 3 and 1/2 months (they are willing to prorate it). But, they are in town, close to lots of stores, restaurants, 1 block from the beach and they have a beautiful ocean view from their living room.  It's getting very real.  I have to convince hubby somehow to go visit.  Just wish the plane tickets won't cost us almost $2,000!

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42 minutes ago, Whimsy said:

We'll see what we can do.  I wonder how much it'd cost for Amazon food pantry?  I'll have to check into that.  The good thing is they are culinary students working in the kitchen.  Hopefully they can score free food.

Good news is we found a fully (but minimally) furnished two-bedroom condo!  The rent is crazy- $2,000 a month but at least it's only for 3 and 1/2 months (they are willing to prorate it). But, they are in town, close to lots of stores, restaurants, 1 block from the beach and they have a beautiful ocean view from their living room.  It's getting very real.  I have to convince hubby somehow to go visit.  Just wish the plane tickets won't cost us almost $2,000!

Do try to go to visit. With having a place to stay and a kitchen to cook in (extra-plus a culinary student to cook for you) you'd probably never have it as cheaply or as easily on your own. Sounds like y'all found them a super place and they can walk to stores and their entertainment (beach...it's free!). Fingers crossed on your husband's willingness. 

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On 12/7/2017 at 6:52 AM, Whimsy said:

Good news is we found a fully (but minimally) furnished two-bedroom condo!  The rent is crazy- $2,000 a month but at least it's only for 3 and 1/2 months (they are willing to prorate it). But, they are in town, close to lots of stores, restaurants, 1 block from the beach and they have a beautiful ocean view from their living room. 

$2,000/month isn't much more than the rent on a 2-bedroom unfurnished apartment in Denver, and it wont' be a block from the beach.  Sounds like a smoking deal to me.

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Hi! Headed to Manhattan tomorrow morning. Does anyone have advice on cool women’s shops for T-shirt’s? I’m looking for things I can’t get or might have trouble finding online. I like graphic shirts without a name brand...kind of sexy but cool streetwear. 

Also, advice about Brooklyn? I’ve never been. I have limited time here but any cool cafes/shops/ museums anyone loves?

I’ve been to Manhattan (not Brooklyn) before and am looking for unique things to do beyond the  tourist attractions. 

I am primarily focused this trip on anything south of Central Park in Manhattan, and also Brooklyn.  I have quite a few things planned but thought I’d throw this out!

Edited by SaySay24

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On 27/07/2017 at 8:15 PM, Zola said:

Yes, the more I look at my itinerary, and my map of where all these places are divided by how much time I will be spending on your side of the Pond, I rather think I will biting more than I can chew! I might have to compromise and follow your suggestion of doing 2 trips - West Coast 2018; East Coast 2019. But I know I will change my mind again and suggest something like flying from London to Washington direct, stay for 3 or 4 days, and then grab another plane and bimble over to the West Coast for the rest of my holiday - now that sounds like a plan!

 

 

Just digging out this old post of mine from a few months back now that 2018 has finally arrived and we need to decide what places to visit for our five week trip to the States.

Late September/early October, is what we have agreed on; as well as focusing in the west coast (specifically Utah, Arizona and perhaps California, in that order of preference). We've also provisionally pencilled in New Mexico and South Dakota, which are more central based, and only if time permits.

Another definite is Washington DC on the East Coast, and I am hoping we can drop by into Baltimore purely because I am a big fan of the TV drama "The Wire", and would love to take a closer look at that city.

So the itinerary looks like this:-

DEFINITES (agreed by all 4 of us)

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Monument Valley, Arizona
Red Rock, Utah
Washington DC
Baltimore

 

MAYBES (we're not all agreed, and worry about time constraints. But not dismissed completely)

*Yosemite National Park,California

*Redwood National Parks, California
*Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
*Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
 

What we can't get around to seeing this year we hope to add to next year, when we plan to venture out to the East Coast of your beautiful country.

I think come April we will have a definite plan of action laid out once the final destinations have been agreed; we will then have to figure out transport and motels/hotels/money/spending costs etc (trains, planes and automobiles. I have never driven in a car with the wheel on the left, and neither have I driven on the right. But one of my colleagues has, so it will be on her to do all the driving)

I will no doubt nag you all for more advice as the months count down to September/October. I have quite a few questions, so please bear with me. :)

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I am a HUGE proponent of natural beauty, so Mount Rushmore is an instaclick for me.  Defacing a mountaintop notwithstanding, your itinerary sounds de-lovely and delightful.  I look forward to living vicariously through your unjaundiced young eyes, and hope you share your travelog with us.

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@walnutqueen. Thank you!

I always get a shiver down my spine whenever I see photos or films of Mount Rushmore. It's probably the herculean effort of civil engineering that made all that happen that really impresses me. A few detractors describe it as wanton vandalism of natural rock, but I think its looks so tasteful and splendid that I really do want to see it up close.

I'm also fascinated as to why Gutzon Borglum chose those four presidents before starting chipping away, but this link provided a nice overview 

 https://www.nps.gov/moru/learn/historyculture/why-these-four-presidents.htm

I did read on another forum ages ago, that there have been calls for a "sequel" - a Mount Rushmore 2, with more contemporary presidents this time round. But to be honest I think that would be a pretty dumb idea because I don't think any of your more recent presidents come anywhere close to Jefferson, Washington, Roosevelt and Lincoln (but then again I am not fully versed on your history, so hypothetically - and just for a bit of fun-  if a Mount Rushmore 2, was proposed, which 4 modern day presidents (say last 100 years or so) would you vote for? - assuming you could stretch to 4)

And yes, I will be creating my own video travelog as I go along, but I am not going to inundate with selfies - this will be about America first and foremost.  (and I must remember that nearly everyone in your country carry guns, therefore I had better not piss people off with my juvenile behaviour when I am a little drunk or smoked a couple of funny fags, lol)

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First of all, i must disabuse you of the sentiment that all Americans are gun-toting idjiots.  Only some of them are.  You are likely to encounter such types on your itinerary, but much more likely to encounter NICE Americans.

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