Though the whole of the USA offers sights and attractions galore, I am going to be focusing on just one corner of it – the SouthWest. Home to Hollywood, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, there is certainly more than enough to see in one holiday, and it would take months to appreciate everything that it has to offer. So, let’s countdown 10 of the essential sights which you could visit during your time in this very special part of the world.
Though Los Angeles tends to get a lot of the attention and plaudits, head a little further north up the coast and you can visit the beautiful city of Santa Barbara. Serving as a beautiful backdrop, the Santa Ynez Mountains are there to be hiked to give you some unbeatable views of the surrounding region. Throughout this famous college town, the Spanish colonial heritage is obvious and while it is peaceful in parts, it also has a nightlife to rival anywhere in California.
Whether you are a casino-lover or not, Las Vegas is somewhere that you simply have to visit at least once in your life. Beyond the gaming, you can enjoy some of the greatest shows and finest nightlife anywhere on Earth. To get a better impression of what an incredible feat the city it, head up to the top of the 113-storey Stratosphere and you will see desert on all sides. While you are up here, the bravest in your group can go on the three rides at the top which dangle you over the edge. Don’t look down!
Another fantastic city on the coast, San Diego is both beautiful and lively. Check out The Crazy Tourist for some advice on what to do if you are planning a trip over here. But, for now, we will pick out just one of the main attractions – the Coronado Island Beach. With its beautifully golden sand and clear water, you are bound to want to while away a few hours relaxing here.
Monument Valley, Arizona
Take a drive through Monument Valley and you may well feel like you have landed on Mars. Jagged rock formations rise up on all sides, while the sun gives off a red hue which gives the place its otherworldly feel. Surreal and inspirational, it certainly feels a world away from the beaches of downtown LA, but it is testament to just what a special part of the world Southwest America is.
The Grand Canyon
How could we have a list of the top sights in this region without mentioning the Grand Canyon? Though you may have already seen plenty of pictures of this iconic landmark, there is something particularly special about seeing it in person. There are plenty of different ways that you could experience it properly including hiking down into it, taking a canoe along the river or even riding in a helicopter way above to get a bird’s eye view of the canyon.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
While many of America’s national parks were established based on the scenery and natural wonders that they have to offer, Mesa Verde was largely designated because of the rich cultural treasures here – especially those left by the Ancestral Puebloan people. Nearly 5,000 archaeological sites spread out across the region, and you can head out into some of their ancient dwellings to get an overview of what life was like here hundreds of years ago.
There is something about trundling along on the ancient tram network surrounded by fog in San Francisco that makes you feel like you are in Europe rather than North America. The iconic Golden Gate Bridge obviously tops the list of attractions, but it still manages to look fabulous from every angle. Another popular thing to do is to head out to Alcatraz Island to take a tour of the old prison.
Road Tripping on Route 66
Of all the many highways that criss-cross throughout America, there is something that still captures the imagination as soon as you start driving on Route 66. Starting in Chicago and running all the way through to Los Angeles, there is plenty to see along the way including genuinely impressive attractions and kitsch that has been designed to attract tourists. There is something about the feeling of being out on the open road that this highway continues to encapsulate perfectly.
Yosemite National Park
Though it is a little further north than some of the other places on the list, Yosemite National Park certainly deserves an honorary mention. There is no doubt that it is one of the most beautiful areas of wilderness in the whole country, and a mecca for hikers, bikers, climbers and other outdoor adventurists.
The Mojave Desert
Even though it takes up a relatively small area of the American Southwest, the Mojave Desert packs in more than its fair share of attractions. First of all, you have the intense heat and sense of isolation that can be found in the heart of Death Valley. Next, head out to explore the jagged rock formations and sparse landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. And the desert also runs around the rim of the Grand Canyon, and well as being home to the previously discussed City of Sin.
As you can see from this top 10 list, there is more than enough to keep every sort of traveller entertained. Lovers of the great outdoors can spend time taking in everything from the lush green mountains of California to the harsh desert landscape of Arizona. City-dwellers can find entertainment in the iconic nightlife of Las Vegas and hipster coffee shops of San Francisco. While those who just love relaxing by the beach have plenty of opportunities to do all along the coast, especially in LA, San Diego and the surrounding regions. ‘Something for everyone’ is an expression used too often, but it certainly applies here.