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Author Topic: Tourguides, company and location suggestions required.  (Read 5285 times)
Kiff
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« on: Apr 03, 2011, 04:10 AM »

I am finally on my way to the U.S.A.

Does anyone have any suggestions on places I absolutely must see? I'm planning on being there from early February next year for anywhere from 4 to 10 weeks. The plan so far includes being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras on Feb 21st and a festival in Florida immediately after that.
Hollywood, Universal Orlando, and one or both of the Disney parks are also on the list.

 :heart Everything would be better with company, so if anyone would like to meet up please let me know.
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Lazylubber
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« Reply #1 on: Apr 03, 2011, 06:08 AM »

I'll always put a plug in for Philadelphia--the Independence Mall complex is pretty remarkable if you're into American history, or history in general (birthplace of modern democracy and all that).  There's also the Philly cheesesteak, one of the greatest American inventions and tastes ever.  There's also the Philadelphia Art Museum (famously seen in the Rocky movies), one of the finest in the entire world, and the Orchestra is also one of the world's greatest.  South street is a unique shopping and bar scene, the closest thing I can compare it to is Soho in London.  Nearby attractions include the Baltimore aquarium, Menlo Park (home of Thomas Edison), and Amish country in Lancaster, not to mention Hershey of candy bar fame.  It's about a 2-3 hour trip to Washingon, DC or New York as well.
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Tacita
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« Reply #2 on: Apr 03, 2011, 12:07 PM »

Chicago is a pretty fun place as well.  There's tons of museums, shopping, shows, etc.  The Shedd Aquarium is amazing, as is the Field Museum.  If you're inclined to like sports (baseball in particular), Wrigley Field is really a neat place.  They still use a non-electronic scoreboard, so it's very old school.  And depending on when you came I would be willing to come down and show you around.  We don't live to far from there, in Madison, WI (Which is also a pretty neat town.)  I may be biased, but there's a lot of stuff to do in Wisconsin too.  If you're looking for something a bit more natural and out of the way, Door County or the Wisconsin Northwoods are both beautiful (I've spent a week every summer there since I was born).  The downside of these is you'd have to rent a car, or make special arrangements, since transport between those places is very difficult.  But there are fun places to go in Milwaukee and Madison as well. 

In terms of other places I've been, the Black Hills and the Badlands in South Dakota are amazing.  While I love it, you can probably skip Iowa (my grandparents live there and it's a wonderful place, but not very exciting).  Washington D.C. is a must see; there's so many awesome things to do.

That's all my sleep muddled brain can come up with at the moment.  But if you do decide to come to the Chicagoland area, let me know.  I would love to play tour guide to a PotD member.
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Rome
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« Reply #3 on: Apr 03, 2011, 12:37 PM »

You are making a lot of good choices to start!

Second vote for Philadelphia.  It is kind of funny how many cool things I did there in a week when I traveled a relatively short distance from my hotel.

Atlanta is a good place too, although I'm not sure if it would be of interest to a non-American. The western North (Washington and Oregon) are really pretty and I dont know if a lot of tourists make it out there.

I've never actually been to the Grand Canyon but most visitors speak highly of it. Plus there is the strategic Vegas/Hoover Dam/Grand Canyon visit that can be comfortably done in two days.

I'm also a big fan of the charm of the long road so I almost of the thought that the best way to see the US is behind the wheel, but this requires a bit more open planning.

I'd love to hang, although I'm school/work locked that time of year so I can't stray too far from AZ although, geeze, if you stay 10 weeks that will hit my spring break.
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Crispix
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« Reply #4 on: Apr 04, 2011, 02:18 AM »

A long rambling list:

Washington DC
You can't do a tour of the US and not stop in on DC.  The city is basically a mass of monuments and museums, and everything is within walking distance of the metro (and it's a very good metro system).  The best place to visit if you've never been there before is the National Mall.  On the mall are the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, about a dozen Smithsonian museums, and a few war memorials (the Vietnam and Korean ones are really cool) all in about a 2 km distance.

New York
I have my own mostly irrational opinions of the city, but most people seem to love it and there's plenty to see.  Times Square is kind of cool, the Statue of Liberty is interesting, and riding the elevators up to the top of the Empire State Building is a classic tourist attraction.

The Grand Canyon
I've never been, I want to go, it looks cool.

Orlando
Spending at least 2 days at Disney World is a must, with at least one day each at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  For more info on that, ask Yearbook, she's the resident Disney expert.  In my opinion, if you do Disney World, there's no reason to see Disney Land.  Some people like Land better than World, I think they're nuts.  There's also a huge Sea World in Orlando that I really liked.

Boston
Boston has a lot of really old history in it, like foundation of the country kind of history.  I haven't been there in years though, so I can't point you to anything specific.

Philadelphia
Same idea as Boston...plus cheesesteaks

Yosemite National Park
Lots of nature and amazing views

Niagara Falls
Definitely cool, but probably not worth the trip unless for some reason you're in Buffalo or want to head to Toronto (which is actually a really nice city with a lot to see if you're not limiting yourself to just the US)

San Francisco
Golden Gate bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, Chinatown, and, uh...hippies?

San Diego
The Sea World here is supposedly one of the best aquariums in the world.

Los Angeles
A whole lot of beaches, several movie studios (with tours), and shopping.

Las Vegas
It's neon awesomeness

There's a lot more, that's just what I thought of at the moment

As we talked about in crew chat, when it comes to seeing the US in February, weather is a big consideration.  Here's a few average highs/lows for the month as reference points (all in deg C):

Washington DC: 8/-1
Boston: 4/-4
Philadelphia: 6/-2
Los Angeles: 21/10
Orlando: 23/11
New Orleans: 18/8

Anything in the northeast and midwest will be cold with a lot of snow.  The south and southwest are mostly warm, but will periods of cold and ice storms.  The northwest is gray and rainy all year round.  Places like DC are completely random.  One day it will be a sunny spring-like day, the next day it will be frigid and snowing.
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Rome
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« Reply #5 on: Apr 04, 2011, 07:11 AM »

Oh yeah, San Fran!  Didn't even think of that. 
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Yearbook
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« Reply #6 on: Apr 04, 2011, 11:38 AM »

One bad thing about travel in the United States is that outside of planes or long car rides, it isn't the easiest to travel around the various parts of the country.  There are long range buses but well they aren't always stationed in the best areas of the cities.  Train travel outside of the northeast is sketchy as well as many of the lines are used by both freight and passenger cars and freight always gets the right of way.  In most areas outside of major cities (Philly, Boston, Washington DC, New York, Chicago) you will probably have to rent a car or do extensive research on their public transportation options as they aren't always the best located for where you are wanting to be going.  In another life I would have rather been a travel agent so I"m going to ramble a long plan here. 

The time of year you are going is going to be icky from Feb to March for the northeast and midwest.  Heck, they just got more snow! 

The other problem is going to be well the overwhelming nature of trying to get everything you want to see taken care of in 1 trip.  It will be impossible to see and do it all even in 2.5 months - but you can get a really good taste of it. 

I would recommend starting off on the East Coast and taking a couple days to get use to the time change and working your way over to the West Coast over the course of your travels. 

If this was me here's how I would plan it out.

Fly into Boston, spend 3 days to see the highlights + adjust to time changes
Train to New York City, spend 2 to 3 days
Train to Philly, spend 2 to 3 days
Train to DC, spend 3 Days
(I'm assuming the festival is the Florida Ren Fest here but I could be wrong as it runs from mid Feb to mid March)
I would then rent a car and travel down the East Coast of US - stopping in cities like Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA and St. Augustine, FL.
From there I would go to Orlando and spend 4 to 5 full days there for the parks you want to visit.  1 Day at Magic Kingdom, 1 Day at EPCOT, 1 Day at Universal Orlando, 1 Day at Islands of Adventure.
I would drive to Deerfield for Ren Fest enjoyment. 
After Ren Fest, drop off rental car in Miami or Fort Laud.
Fly to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. 

Optional Fun:
http://forums.puzzlepirates.com/community/mvnforum/viewthread?thread=167191 - Puzzle Pirate Meet Up Cruise from Feb 20th to 25th, 2012. 

From New Orleans I would head up to Chicago and enjoy what it has to offer for 3 days. 

From Chicago I would fly to Las Vegas for a few days.  From there you can do excursions through companies for Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Deserts and the Vegas sites. 

Then I would fly to San Fran for a couple days then renting a car again to see the Napa Wineries and Yosemite. From there I would drive down the coast of California to San Diago for their sites.  Drive up to LA and drop the car off.   Visit Hollywood through some of their tour guides, spend 2 days at Disneyland/California Adventure (yes Crispix I'm a crazy mofo), visit another Theme Park for Coasters if you are into that type of thing and fly home from LA. 

Obviously you can extend the days to make your trip longer or even reversee order the trip (aka starting at the West Coast going East) if I was wrong about it being Ren Fest.  Reversing it might be wise as that would put you in the Northeast of the US towards late Winter/early Spring so the weather will be less icky. 
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Rome
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« Reply #7 on: Apr 05, 2011, 09:24 AM »

It might not totally necessary to spend 2 days in Disneyland/California Adventure if you already have been to the Disney World version.  I am usually satisfied with a park hopper pass for one day.  But then again I do not ride every ride and most trips I feel like there is one thing I really missed. If you're going for a second theme park I say Knotts, unless you are a coaster freak.  Magic Mountain is ok, but there is nothing but rides.  Even though Knotts has changed a lot you still can see some pretty interesting Western/Native American stuff.

I feel like we've missed our calling in life.  Rather than pirates we should have been travel agents.
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"It will always happen that he who is not your ally will urge neturality upon you, while he who is your ally will urge you to take sides."
gummyworm
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Posts: 588

« Reply #8 on: Apr 05, 2011, 01:55 PM »

Here are a couple of my favorite things to do in SoCal that haven't been mentioned thus far:

San Diego Zoo Safari Park - I really love this park because of the way they have the animals set up in a more natural way.  If you want a really interesting experience, you can skip the hotel for a night and actually sleep over at the zoo with their "roar and snore" program.

Aquarium of the Pacific - in Long Beach - This is a nice place to go if you want to see more native CA sea life, and it wont take a whole day like Sea World does.  This is also near the Queen Mary if that interests you at all (I've never been so I can't attest) and there is a combo pack you can buy to save money on doing both in the same day.

If you do drive down from Northern California to Southern, I highly encourage you to drive down Highway 1 along the coast.  It will take you longer, but it's a spectacular, and sometimes terrifying drive along the very steep cliffs along the coast of CA.  And if you would like something to do along the way, San Simeon has Hearst Castle which although doesn't compare to European Castles, it is a very interesting and fairy-tale-esque part of California history.  Also, in the area, if you are into Elephant Seals, this area is one of the best areas to watch Elephant Seals.  There are various car parks where you park along the highway and walk to the bluffs and watch these silly creatures.  I think your timing in the area would be a fantastic time to see the young pups and lots of activity.

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Kiff
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Posts: 30

« Reply #9 on: Apr 06, 2011, 03:36 AM »

Thank you all for the wonderful responses, please keep them coming.

The reason that I haven't replied before this is that I want to answer each post but, there is so much information here that I am still processing it all.
I just need to mention one thing which apparently (I hadn't realised) is quite important.

I don't drive.

I am hoping that changes by the end of this year, however even if it does I don't think I will be up to driving along steep cliffs
  whilst on the wrong side of the road   anytime soon.

 :heart
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Yearbook
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« Reply #10 on: Apr 06, 2011, 11:54 AM »

www.contiki.com is a travel company that might have some good options for you to see a good bit of highlights but having tour guides. 
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Lazylubber
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« Reply #11 on: Apr 06, 2011, 09:05 PM »

The United States is very much an automobile-dominated country.  As Yearbook said, outside about a dozen major cities and a handful of smaller, committed cities, public transportation is a "you pay yer money and you take yer chances" type of thing.  The American intercity rail system is a joke outside the Northeast megalopolis (Boston to DC), long distance bus routes are casual about schedules and I would not recommend a woman traveling alone use it, especially when unfamiliar with the country as a whole.  You will find, despite our citizens' evil reputation in many countries, that most Americans are friendly to foreigners, especially those who speak fluent English (expect lots of men to hit on you because of your accent).  Otherwise, follow general principles of travel (stick to well-lit areas, travel in groups, don't accept rides or drinks from strangers, etc.) and you should have no problems.
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Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.--H.L. Mencken
Kiff
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Posts: 30

« Reply #12 on: Apr 06, 2011, 10:28 PM »

OK then, that settles it. You will all just have to book holidays at the same time and come and travel with me.
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Rome
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« Reply #13 on: Apr 06, 2011, 11:11 PM »

That would be a blast!

The US is definitely car dominant on the West Coast, but I found when traveling to the East Coast that taxis were affordable enough that not having a rental wasn't too hampering.
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gummyworm
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« Reply #14 on: Apr 06, 2011, 11:19 PM »

You may already know this, but for the long distance travel (not including plane), you would be looking at Greyhound for your long distance bus, and Amtrak for the train.  But every time that I have considered Amtrak, it would be cheaper to fly, but that was mainly on the West Coast, so I don't know about the rest of the states.  But then again I was never looking to travel by train for leisure travel, and was more concerned about convenience and time.

So if you are considering the bus and train options, look into the routes and schedules that these companies provide to help you get an idea of how to plan your trip accordingly, and where you may need to fill in some gaps with plane travel.
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Tawnee is proud to be a drama queen!
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