10 American Places Every Brit Should Visit

Make a jaunt to Yellowstone for roaming wildlife like bison, bears, and elk. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Before you shout us down, we realize there are hundreds — possibly thousands — of must-see sites in the U.S. But it’s a vast country and expats only have so many weekends and vacation days to go exploring. So we’ve whittled it down to a few hot spots.

New York
At some point everyone should take a bite out of the Big Apple, for all the usual reasons travel guides list: Broadway; bagels; steam rising from sidewalk grates. But visitors should also venture beyond Manhattan. Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and even rarely lauded Staten Island boast interesting food and stuff to do. At least opt to stay somewhere other than generic, hotel-packed Midtown. Check sites like www.airbnb.com for inspiration.

Washington, D.C.
There’s more to D.C. than the Washington Monument and the White House. For me, there are two major reasons to head to America’s power hub: First off, the Smithsonian Institution — a spectacular museum and research complex with sites all over the city. And it’s all free. When you’re done buffing up your brain in museums, head to the city’s U Street neighborhood for the best Ethiopian food outside of Addis Ababa.

New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina devastated the Big Easy in 2005, but New Orleans is now back on its dancing feet and is once again America’s party capital. Hit the French Quarter (Frenchman Street rather than Bourbon Street if you want to dodge the bachelorette parties) for soul food, potent drinks and live music. Hire a car and you’re a short drive from the Garden District, gator-filled swamps and ex-slave plantations where cheery greeters in period dress will try to convince you that “not a lot of bad stuff happened here.”

Austin, Texas
Forget everything you think you know about Texas and arrive in Austin with an open mind, ears and stomach. It’s a hip college town with a vibrant music scene and what some claim is the best barbeque on the planet.

Las Vegas
Even if you only stick around for a few hours, Sin City is spectacle worth taking in. Can’t get excited about all that gaudiness and gambling? It’s still a great base for exploring the region’s other sites. Arizona’s Grand Canyon is a five-hour drive, while the Valley of Fire State Park is a mere 60-mile hop. Here, you can hike, peruse rock art and soak up the ancient red sandstone formations that give the park its name.

Yellowstone Park
The bulk of America’s first and most famous national park is in Wyoming, although it spreads into neighboring Montana and Idaho. It’s home to magnificent geysers, subalpine forest, bears and bison. If you like watching mighty beasts frolic and water spewing from the ground, book a few days at a remote Yellowstone lodge.

This cultural hotspot on Lake Michigan boasts adventurous architecture, high end shopping (Michigan Avenue) and countless wonderful dining options. Stuff yourself with Chicago style pizza from Lou Malnati’s, then go listen to some blues.

Yazoo City, Mississippi
Take a road trip across America and you’ll shoot past a thousand Yazoos. They’re the recession depleted, washed out tiny towns of unseen America. You should stop and have lunch in at least one of them. They need your tourist dollars. Though many businesses may have shut their doors, ask around and you’ll likely find some mom and pop joint serving up delectable home cooking and cheer. We thought this Mississippi town had a cool name so we stopped to wander its defunct but brightly painted main street and eat lunch at Yazoo Market — a garage with a café in the back. They gave us free chess pie and asked if we knew their old priest, who moved to Yorkshire in the ’90s.

Los Angeles
It’s a land of movie stars, extreme deprivation and taxi drivers who casually hand you their acting resume as you pay your fare. L.A., with its sprawling weirdness and temperate climate, is equal parts fabulous, peculiar and unpleasant. You’ll want to see the Hollywood sign and spend an afternoon strolling Melrose Avenue. Having afternoon tea and people watching somewhere like the Beverly Hills Hotel is compulsory.

There’s more to America’s most northerly state than Sarah Palin and lumber. It’s a vast, beautiful but dangerous wilderness. So if you are planning on going all Bear Grylls, take the necessary precautions. Perhaps the most sensible way to see the state is on a cozy cruise liner. March and September are the best months for viewing the Northern Lights.

What are other some other must-see spots in America for Brits? Tell us below:

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.
  • Girl On a Mission

    Welcome to Texas, y’all. Austin is a place of higher learning, involved thought and delightfully artistic expression. We love seeing you in our little hometown, so feel free to visit any time. We’ll keep the tea iced, the weather warm and the barbecue delicious.

    • mr.magic

      Y’all… it’s like your trying to get people to be skared of America or thin that were all red necks.

      • Bird_of_Hera

        As a fellow Texan, I support the use of “y’all”. We do, in fact, use the term and no, it does not make us scary or stupid or rednecks.

        • Jacqueline O. Moleski

          Translation: In the Midwest it’s “you guys” which refers to *BOTH* men & women or even just women as well as just men. It’s simply a convenient plural of “you”.

  • http://twitter.com/seventh_nerve Joel

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • disqus_AvTVFXKUof

    Acoma Pueblo, near Grants, New Mexico. (900 years old).
    Death Valley,California.
    Acadia national park, Maine.
    Green Mountains, Vermont.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ThankYouSandy Sandra Wilson

    Kansas City, MO; losing football team, losing baseball team, but winning soccer team and the best BBQ!

  • http://www.paulinewiles.com/blog Pauline Wiles

    Boston… Seattle… Cape Cod… San Fran… Yosemite

  • gn

    San Francisco!

  • mike

    The redwoods. Crater lake in SW Oregon. The oregon coast. San Deigo Ca.

  • Brittany

    I say come to Philadelphia.

  • Polly

    My sister & I have visited quite a few of the places mentioned & loved every minute. The larks we had, the kind people we met, the food we sampled & the language/accent alternatives made our experiences so enjoyable….Can’t wait for more.

  • NJD

    Currently in Ketchum/Sun Valley, Idaho. Beautiful scenery with autum colours. Also visited Stanley/Red Fish Lake in the Sawtooth mountain range. Again, spectacular scenery. The drive on HW75 is a most pleasant experience, where you encounter a car every few minutes, and enjoy wonderful vistas as you journey.

  • Barbara Berman

    You saved the best for last. I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska, esp to see the lights. But you left out Hawaii. There’s a bird sanctuary there where they will pile on each other to feed off your hand. Beautiful place and my allergies went poof.

  • Abraham from U.S.A.

    Correction: Hot Springs National Park is the oldest national park, not Yellowstone. While Yellowstone is cooler, it’s not the first. Sorry, I’m from Hot Springs and I felt that a correction was in order.

    • PinkZiab

      Hot Springs was not designated as a National Park until 1921, so yes, Yellowstone is officially the first National Park.

      • Transplant

        Actually, if I remember correctly, Boston Common has the distinction of being the first public park in the United States.

  • Adam

    San Francisco/bay area. SF culture and architecture is so unique and you have Yosemite, wine country, and the pacific coast nearby to add to a wealth of museums, music and restaurants in the city. The options are as diverse and endless as you could want in one area. Summer and fall street festivals occur almost every weekend, making for relatively inexpensive and festive entertainment.

    Charleston, SC is also another very unique city with friendly people, amazing architecture, good food, and great weather. It often isn’t on travelers’ radar, but it can be a great spot for a vacation.
    Denver/Boulder CO, if you’re active and love the outdoors. Endless trips and adventures, year round. Rent a car, head to undisturbed mountain towns for BBQ and scenery that’ll kill your camera battery in no time. Boulder is a hip, fun town, and Denver provides the artistic and culinary experiences of a bigger city. Steamboat, Crested Butte, Estes Park, RMNP, all make great side trips.

  • Jayna

    I live in Chicago at the moment. Great town and more bars than you could go to in a lifetime. Also one of the most sport mad cities you’ll find. Between the Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, Sox, and Fire, there’s always a game to go to.

    I also have to represent for my home state, Georgia. Fly into Atlanta, but go visit Savannah. Some of the finest antebellum architecture in the South (and, thanks to Sherman, most of the only left in the state).

    • Transplant

      I lived in Savannah, and I give that a strong second. Savannah was absolutely gorgeous.

  • Jen

    Boston!! It has so much history!

  • Jenn

    I’m originally from Chicago, and if you love architecture, definitely do the Architectural boat cruise. Lou Malnati’s is great but also try Pizzaria Uno or Due, too. There is also an abundance of amazing museums….

  • Jacqueline O. Moleski

    I live in the US and the only place on this list I’ve been is Chicago – I also recommend the museums there, especially the lakeside museum complex (The Field, The Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium & Museum). However, from Chicago I’d recommend a circle tour of the Great Lakes – there are lots of small lakeside tourist towns filled with cute shops and great beaches. Both Chicago and Milwaukee have great restaurants, and being in the Midwest – it’s more “typical American” than LA or NY. remember though that Winter will be much, much colder and snowier than someone from the UK is used to.

  • Paul

    Interestingly the Smithsonian Institution’s founding donor was a Brit, James Smithson.

    • Transplant

      Not only was he a Brit, he never even visited the US.

  • Anne

    Dayton Ohio, the Birthplace of Aviation!

    • Mark Smith

      Surely that would be Kittyhawk, NC 😉

  • Ann

    San Francisco!

  • Transplant

    I’m stunned that Chicago made the list, but Boston did not. Having been to both, i’d definitely put Boston as a must see over Chicago. It’s not that I don’t like Chicago, but Boston is much more of a must-see place than Chicago. Haymarket Square, the Harbor, the Half-Shell, Old North Church, Boston Common, etc. Then along with that, there is so much history surrounding Boston in the suburbs around it. Salem alone has tons of things, then you have the Cape, etc. it’s just much more interesting than Chicago.

  • A train

    I would have to say San Francisco. A jewel with Napa, Big Sur and Carmel, Marin all nearby…….California without the concrete jungle of L.A??? Just sayin’……

  • Roberto

    Marfa, Big Bend Natural Park, Santa Barbara, Carmel, Key West, Fort Lauderdale, Blue Rige Mountains, Appalachians Mountains, Big Sur, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley… I could go on for days… come on guys you simply CANNOT put LAS VEGAS in the top 10, the US is so much more than that!

  • Muriel

    Has anyone mentioned Sedona yet? If not I’d put it top of my list. I’ve just returned from a visit there and the scenery and serenity of this place won my heart.
    I’ve been to Austin, Washington DC, Las Vegas and New Orleans and I’d still rate Sedona higher. I guess it depends on the indivdual and what they enjoy.