Our neighbour to the south boasts an impressive array of tourist attractions. From big cities to small towns, wild and empty national parks to paradise islands and theme parks with mice and dizzying roller-coaster rides, it’s no wonder that Canadians travel to the States more often and in greater numbers that we do to anywhere else in the world.
New York is the original metropolis, heaven for shoppers. Los Angeles is home of Disneyland and Hollywood. San Francisco is the small, beautiful and liberal gay capital of the world. Las Vegas is where the world goes to gamble a few dollars and get married. Orlando, another of Mickey Mouse's homes, is a firm family favourite. Snowbirds fly to Florida to escape the harsh Canadian winters, while snow lovers take to the States’ top ski resorts in Utah and Colorado.
Some of the more wacky ways to pass a few days in the US include chasing a storm through Twister Alley during peak tornado season, rolling up at the Hobo Convention in Iowa or visiting the Roswell Festival in New Mexico.
The US is a large country and the climate varies by region and time of year. It experiences four seasons, but some areas of the country see a more drastic change between seasons than others. The Pacific Northwest has cool summers and mild winters, while just to the south, the West Coast is sunny and pleasant all year long. The Midwest sees a bigger change between seasons, with strong summers and winters and frequent tornadoes and thunderstorms. The East Coast fluctuates and many people head down to Florida to get the warmest winters on that side of the country. Travelling in the off-season can save you a lot of money.
When to fly to USAPeak season
There is not really a bad time to visit the US, but New York is nicest in the spring and fall. May and June have the most comfortable hot weather. For visiting Los Angeles, August and September are the hottest months.
San Francisco is an all-year-round type of place with comfortable temperatures. Las Vegas is best experienced during spring and fall. Orlando is a family favorite. Its best months - July and August - coincide with school holidays, although temperatures can climb to 37 degrees Celsius.Off season
New York's winter can be harsh. January and February are the coolest and wettest months in Los Angeles. Likewise, San Francisco gets rain in the wintertime. Summer in Las Vegas can be unbearably hot and the winters surprisingly cold. In Orlando, September is the wettest month and between October and May temperatures can drop to 15 degrees Celsius.
Getting around USA
Car is king in America, but there are dozens oflow-cost airlines
including Southwest, the granddaddy of all the discount carriers, JetBlue, AirTran and Spirit Airlines to name just a few.
and take to the highway. The major car rental outfits all have a presence at most US airports including Budget, Dollar, Hertz, Thrifty, AAA Rent-A-Car and Payless.
: GotoBus.com sells line run bus tickets and tours throughout the States. Travellers can search by destination and compare all the options for a given route from one screen. The site sells tickets for more than 100 bus companies ranging from low-fare to luxury.
covers the States and Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. Seewhere you can ride the rails
, and check forweekly specials
USA insider information
- Shop New York, a mecca for bargain hunters. To make the most of your time there, book a tour of one of the shopping districts. Shop Gotham runs two-hour walking tours from about $40, which have been described as like having a knowledgeable (and shopaholic) friend to tell you the latest retail gossip and coolest places to shop.
- The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents hundreds of recitals and concerts by students, faculty and guest artists each year. Most of the performances are free.
- Orlando - there's not a giant mouse in sight in Harry P. Leu Gardens, 50 acres of lush vegetation in the middle of the city. There is also a restored farmhouse which harks back to a time when space travel was barely imaginable and citrus, not theme parks, was king. The gardens are open every day, from 9am to 5pm. Adults pay $5, school children pay $1, and Monday mornings are free (excluding tour groups).
- Las Vegas - eat well and save money by starting the day with an all-you-can-eat buffet. The Spice Market Buffet at the Aladdin Resort & Casino, a “killer whale in a sea of buffets”.
- Whatever you do, don't forget to tip. Between 15 and 20 per cent is acceptable.