Due to its sheer size, many travellers who travel to the United States decide in advance whether they want to visit the East Coast or the West Coast of the country. There is a lot to see in both regions. However, you do not always have to choose; the ESTA is valid for two years and allows you to stay in the country for up to 90 days at a time. This gives you plenty of time to visit both sides of the country. Below you will find more information about the highlights of each area.
Preparations: planning your route and ESTA application
There are a number of preparations you should take into account before travelling to destinations such as the United States of America. One of them is planning the route, because of the enormous size of the country. What may seem like a short distance on a map may turn into many hours in the car, or even the need to take the plane. To avoid unforeseen events and delays during the trip, plan in advance which places you want to visit. The most popular destinations for international travellers in the United States are the East and West coasts. Further on in this article, you will find more information on the highlights of these areas.
Another preparation you should make for a trip to the USA is submitting an ESTA application. The ESTA is a travel authorisation that is required to travel to the United States without a visa, by plane or boat. Applying for it is much easier and cheaper than applying for a visa. You only need to fill out the digital application form (this form can be filled out for several people at once via a group application) and pay the cost of £29.95 per person. When filling in the form, you do not need to know the date of your trip to the USA yet. If your departure date changes, you do not need to report this change, and you also do not need to submit a new ESTA application. Before submitting your application, you should ensure that you meet all the requirements of the ESTA.
Highlights of the East Coast
While most East Coast tours usually start in "the city that never sleeps" and continue to Florida, you can also start your tour in the south and travel up to Boston. Below, you will find the most important tourist attractions on the East Coast of the United States.
New York and Washington
For those who have never been to New York, this city is a must on any trip to the United States. Because there is so much to see, it is best to stay here for at least three days. From a climb to the Top on the Skirt at Rockefeller Center for a view of the city, a walk through Central Park or a visit to the World Trade Center Memorial or the iconic Statue of Liberty, or a tour of Times Square. If you have enough time, it is also a good idea to attend a Broadway musical.
About three hoursʼ drive from New York is the capital of the United States, Washington, a city full of historical and political highlights. These include the Capitol, the White House and the worldʼs largest cemetery: Arlington Military Cemetery. Other highlights are the Library of Congress, with more than 170 million items, the Air and Space Museum and Georgetown, the cityʼs most popular neighbourhood, with picturesque buildings and a great atmosphere.
When most people think of Miami, they think of beaches, toned bodies and luxury everywhere. It is indeed the ideal place to relax or take a stroll and enjoy the lively atmosphere. Besides the famous Miami Beach, other tourist attractions near South Beach include the Art Deco District and the Ocean Drive promenade. Downtown Miami, on the other hand, although different from the beach area, is just as interesting. Walking through the Little Havana district and the popular 8th Street are some of the must visits in this area. If you want to enjoy one of Floridaʼs best beaches and completely unwind, it is a good idea to take the route through the various Keys to Key West, a paradise in the southernmost tip of the United States.
This city at the mouth of the Mississippi River is known for its multiculturalism and its European and African influences. It is also famous for its music, festivals and cuisine. The French Quarter, located in the centre of New Orleans, is the oldest part of the city and stands out for its European flair. Here you will find Jackson Square, surrounded by beautiful gardens, and the St Louis Cathedral. Up in the city, visit the Garden District, full of gardens and dreamy mansions.
Highlights of the West Coast
The west of the United States is especially known for its many national parks. A visit to the major cities in this area can be combined with excursions to these breathtaking places to make the trip an unforgettable experience.
San Francisco is one of the most popular cities on the West Coast of the United States of America and is a city with a special atmosphere. Besides seeing the famous Golden Gate Bridge, taking a walk along the waterfront and visiting picturesque neighbourhoods such as Castro or Chinatown, a visit to the famous Alcatraz prison where Al Capone was imprisoned, is a must. If you have enough time, a visit to the beautiful Yosemite National Park, a three-hour drive from San Francisco, is definitely recommended. It is one of the most beautiful and unique natural areas in the United States.
Naturally, film lovers should not miss Los Angeles. Despite the chaotic traffic, the city has a lot to offer. From Hollywood, the historic Walk of Fame or the glamour of Beverly Hills, to the atmosphere of the famous Venice Beach District and the long beaches of Santa Monica. Considering the enormous size of the city, it is recommended spending at least a few days here and taking the sightseeing bus or book a guided tour to see the main tourist attractions of the city. Amusement park lovers will enjoy Universal Studios Hollywood, where sets from the most famous films can be found.
Las Vegas, a 4-hour drive from Los Angeles, may be in the middle of the desert, but it is a man-made spectacle that should not be missed during a trip to the West Coast of the United States. Some of the highlights are the legendary Strip, where most of the casinos are located, and the fountains of the Bellagio Hotel, with daily water, light and sound shows. Other highlights are the themed hotels, such as the Luxor Hotel with its iconic pyramid shape, The Venetian with its imitation of St Markʼs Square and the Roman-inspired Caesars Palace. During a stay in Las Vegas, an excursion not to be missed is a visit to the Grand Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world, located approximately 3 hours from “Sin City”.