It took a pandemic but we finally pulled the trigger and said goodbye to California, our home for the past 16+ years. It’s a bittersweet feeling because I love California. How can I not? But change is good, right? Right?
Land of the free. My adopted country. I’ve driven hundreds of miles of its roads. I’ve hiked hundreds of miles of its trails. I’ve been to 50+ countries and I don’t hesitate to say that The United States is the most beautiful country I’ve been to. It has deserts, icebergs, glaciers, tropical forests, mountains, beaches, ancient civilizations, volcanoes… travel this vast country enough and it’ll spoil you for the rest.
There are a lot of things that this country does wrong, but the great thing it’s done right is the creation of public lands. Lands set aside for the enjoyment and recreation of everyone: national parks, national monuments, national forests, etc.
Where to begin?
Because of its size, the combination of flying and car rental
is the best way to explore the United States.
A lot of people would fly into either Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Las Vegas to start their road trip. Due to high fee of one-way car rental, I recommend trying to make a loop, and then fly to your next city.
An example itinerary could look like this:
Fly to San Francisco and pick up a rental car, visit Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Kings Canyon, Death Valley, Los Angeles, then drive up along the coast visiting the beach towns on Highway One (Big Sur, Morro Bay, etc). Return car in San Francisco.
Then you can fly to Las Vegas to visit the national parks in Utah and Nevada.
One of my life’s goals is to visit all of the 59 national parks. So far I’ve been to 40+? This has led me to believe that the US has one of the most diverse ecosystems and landscapes in the world.
For the mountains, lakes, and waterfalls:
My favorites include Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Denali, Death Valley, Zion… so many more.
For the unique landscape:
Badlands is gorgeously bizarre. Arches and Bryce for their hoodoos and arches. I also love Wind Cave NP for its unique cave formations.
- That one time I organized a Southwest roadtrip with 2 strangers I met on Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum.
- The one year Jack and I spent in our converted Sprinter van.
- My solo roadtrip down to Florida Keys and ended up swimming with wild manatees
- Taking Highway One north of SF is always a great weekend getaway idea.
San Francisco has been our home for the past 8 years. I wrote a short post on what it’s like to live in San Francisco. Learn about San Francisco’s rich history through the ghosts of the pasts: SF Best Ghost Tours.
Winter activity: go skiing in Tahoe.
Mardi Gras, French Quarter, beignets… I liked New Orleans but I didn’t fall in love with New Orleans. I did LOVE my visit to Mardi Gras World where I got to see how the mardi gras floats are being made. So cool!
I think Las Vegas is an ugly city in a beautiful surrounding. Valley of Fire State Park and Red Rock are a must visit if you’re looking to escape from the artificial world that is the Vegas Strip. We go to Vegas for the climbing and the shows. Some of our favorite shows are “Ka” (from Cirque du Soleil) and “Absinthe” (so offensive in a good way).
In 2017 I finally made it to Great Basin National Park. I made the trip specifically to visit this remote park and I was so surprised to see that it’s has alpine lakes, snow-capped peaks, and a beautiful cave system
“Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.”
I love New York City, but in small doses :)
See the mermaid show in Florida. Party in Miami. And of course, you have to take the classic American roadtrip, a roadtrip down the Keys to eat some conch and key lime pies. Soon you’ll find yourself weirdly entertaining the idea of moving to live there. Florida, please stay weird.
We briefly entertained the idea of moving to Boulder, we loved the city and the state that much!
If you’re in Telluride, make sure to do the Telluride via ferrata. The exposure! The views!
One of my favorite states! Utah is home to 5 very popular national parks: Zion, Bryce, Arches, Capitol Reef, and Canyonland. So much public land = so many outdoor opportunities: hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, canyoning, rafting… it’s endless outdoor fun anytime of the year.
- Winter Hiking in St. George, the mild weather of St. George makes it a perfect destination in winter.
- Going canyoning in Zion, one of the funnest experiences I’ve had and I can’t wait to do it again.