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From the dazzling cityscapes of New York to the sunny shores of San Fran - and all the bright lights, national parks and rock n' roll in between, jump onboard this bucket-list-ticking journey that's jam-packed with super-sized adventures. From the Big Apple to the Big Easy, check-out the east's epic monuments and musical legacies before jumping on a flight cross-country to experience the best of the west. Stay up all night in the city that never sleeps, indulge in Creole cuisine along Bourbon Street, hike to your hearts content in Yosemite National Park and try your luck among the glitz of glamour of Sin City after dark. With plenty of adventures for the brave, flexibility for the free and a bold leader with all the insider, 'been-there, done-that' tips and tricks, this 20-day trip through a mix of the USA's historic, natural and musical landscapes will ensure that at you never miss a beat - what are you waiting for?
Day 1: New York (Newark)
Welcome to New York AKA the Big Apple! There are no activities planned today until your welcome meeting in the hotel lobby at 6 pm, so if you arrive early perhaps check out Central Park and the Empire State Building or take a walk around Times Square – in fact we recommend arriving a couple of days earlier to make the most of what this incredible city has to offer. For the inside scoop on all the famous landmarks and local eateries, consider doing the half-day Midtown Sights & Bites Food Tour with Urban Adventures (for more info visit urbanadventures.com). After your welcome meeting, why not join your new friends for dinner and grab yourself a slice of pizza, New York style.
Day 2: Washington DC
This morning, kickstart your journey along North America’s history trail and drive south towards the nation's capital, stopping at Philadelphia on the way for a quick look at some of the highlights of the Old City, including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the 'Rocky' steps. After touring around Philly, continue on to DC where your leader will point you in the direction of all the major sights on an orientation tour of the city. The total driving time from New York to Washington DC will take about 4 hours, so in the evening why not stretch out your legs on H Street – an artsy and energetic two-and-a-half kilometre (one-and-a-half mile) corridor in Northeast DC, renowned for its communal atmosphere and buzzing nightlife!
Day 3: Washington DC
Today is free to explore Washington DC, a city easily discovered on foot – we suggest grabbing a map and planning your day to ensure that you maximise your time in this iconic city. Choose from any of DC’s almost 100 world-class museums – the National Air and Space Museum, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Museum of Natural History and the Newseum are just a few. There are also many other small fascinating museums hidden around the city. The city is overflowing with famous monuments and buildings, so don’t miss the White House, Capitol Building, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, MLK Monument, FDR and Jefferson Memorials (some places charge an entrance fee, so make sure you bring some spare cash along). You’ll most likely do a lot of walking today, so maybe reward yourself with a relaxing evening.
Day 4: Appalachian Mountains
Escape the city grind and venture into the breathtaking scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountains. Stop by Shenandoah National Park, one of the highest and most scenic portions of the Appalachians. Continue your journey along Skyline Drive – a famed mountain highway which winds through deep woods and past spectacular vistas. Stop to stretch your legs under the impressive oak trees and admire the gorgeous views. Later in the afternoon, drive to your campsite and pitch your tent in the heart of the great outdoors, share stories with your fellow travellers around the campfire and make s’mores (a traditional night time campfire treat in North America) – you may even learn some new skills! Total drive time today will be around 5 hours.
Day 5: Nashville
Head south this morning on a 4-hour drive to the USA’s Country Music Capital - Nashville, Tennessee. Once settled into the campground, join your leader on a short orientation tour of Nashville’s Downtown area – focusing on the bustling entertainment hub of Broadway – a famed strip renowned for the honky tonk bars which offer live music every day of the week. The rest of the day is at your leisure, so perhaps visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, which contains the golden Cadillac that once belonged to Elvis or check out some iconic music venues like Grand Ole Opry House and the Ryman Auditorium. The Wildhorse Saloon is a great spot in the evening to experience authentic southern food and live music.
Day 6: Memphis
Say goodbye to the glitz and glamour of ‘Nashvegas’ this morning as you continue your musical pilgrimage to the birthplace of rock and roll: Memphis, Tennessee (approximately 3.5 hours driving time). Join your leader on a short walking tour to familiarise yourself with the city. You’ll head down bustling Beale Street, where traditional blues clubs and ritzier tourist traps rub shoulders – but don’t worry, your leader will give you the lowdown on which bars are worth a look. After an included world-famous fried chicken lunch, the rest of the day is free to explore. If you have time, a must-see in Memphis is Sun Studio, the 'Birthplace of Rock', which boasts the first recordings of legendary performers like Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. For those with an interest in history, there's the National Civil Rights Museum (at the former Lorraine Motel) where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. This evening, why not head out for a famous Memphis-style barbecue.
Day 7: Memphis
With no activities planned today, consider heading out of the city to visit Graceland, Elvis Presley’s former home and the site of his tomb. Exploding with kitschy glamour and over-the-top Southern charm, here you can see the famous jungle room, as well as Elvis’s cars, private planes and much more. For an unusual and local experience, check out the popular Duck Parade at the famous Peabody Hotel – where ducks that live in the hotel perform waddle from their rooftop palace to splash in the lobby fountain (and then back again) at 11 am and 5 pm daily. In the evening, get into the groove of Memphis and consider heading back down to Beale Street's traditional blues clubs, made famous by legends such as WC Handy, Howlin' Wolf and BB King.
Day 8: New Orleans
It’s a long drive today as you head across the state of Mississippi and prepare to get down in New Orleans AKA the ‘Big Easy’ (approximately 8 hours). Get back to nature with a stop at Honey Island and perhaps opt for a tour down one of the least-altered river swamps in the country. It's pretty much in its original condition, almost a pristine wilderness and home to a variety of critters. Residents include nutrias (river rats), snakes and wild boars – spot alligators sunbathing on the banks and absorb the incredible scenery as you cruise through the eerie marshland. Continue your drive into New Orleans – with a mix of Creole, Cajun and European culture reflected in the city’s architecture, cuisine and music there’s plenty to explore and do. On arrival, your leader will point you in the direction of all the major attractions on a short walk of the eclectic French Quarter, the historic heart of the city, famous for its cast-iron balconies and vivacious nightlife. The rest of the time is yours! Perhaps take a walk down rowdy Bourbon Street or through the former plantation area of the Garden District, or head out for a typical Cajun-style dinner and toast to your adventure.
Day 9: New Orleans
Enjoy a free day to fit in as much of New Orleans as you can! Perhaps cruise the Mississippi on a riverboat or visit the fascinating little Voodoo Museum. In the evening, perhaps check out a jazz show and dance the night away in the bars along Frenchman Street.
Day 10: Los Angeles
It’s goodbye to the Big Easy and hi to the City of Angels as you catch a flight from New Orleans to Los Angeles today (approximately 4-hours). On arrival, transfer to your accommodation with the group and (depending on the time) get out for a stroll along Venice and Santa Monica beaches. This evening, gather together for another meeting at 6 pm where you’ll meet your new group leader and welcome some new travellers on the next stage of your adventure. After the meeting, why not get to know your new travel buddies with an optional group dinner along the boulevard.
Day 11: Joshua Tree National Park
Head away from the buzz of the big city and drive to Joshua Tree National Park. Sitting between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, the park is famous for its spectacular desert plants, cacti and spiky trees, bizarre rock formations and a pretty good U2 album. After a wander through the park, head to Lake Havasu on the Colorado River (at the Arizona border) and set up camp for the night. You might like to head out on a scenic hike around the town, learn the backstory of the city’s unique London Bridge, or even take a refreshing dip in the Colorado River. Covering around 600 kilometres (372 miles) of ground today, there will be time to stop for short walks, photo opportunities and some roadside snacking.
Day 12: Grand Canyon National Park
Drive towards the Grand Canyon, along a section of Route 66, stopping in at the eccentric town of Seligman. Arriving later in the Grand Canyon National Park, get ready to admire a natural wonder formed by over six million years of erosion by the Colorado River. When you think about its dimensions – 450 kilometres long, 630 kilometres wide and 1600 metres deep – it really does warrant the whole ‘grand’ title. You’ll spend two nights here which allows for a full day of exploration tomorrow. Check out the park’s massive scale on a walk on the rim or, if you’re feeling more active, hike into the canyon itself to stretch your legs. Spend the night at comfortable digs near the park.
Day 13: Grand Canyon National Park
Today is a free day to explore the Grand Canyon in all of its beauty. Stroll along the meandering South Rim Trail or hike your way down to Plateau Point. If you're feeling extra adventurous and angling for a bird’s eye view, splash out on a scenic helicopter flight over the area. You’ll see the winding rivers from up high – a highly recommended way to understand how each section pieces together. In the early evening, relax at the canyon's edge and enjoy a spectacular sunset over one the world's natural wonders.
Day 14: Las Vegas
Head out of the Grand Canyon and cross the western deserts of Arizona to the original sin city: Las Vegas. Vegas may be known for its casinos and late-night antics, but there's plenty to do if gambling isn't your thing. Hit the shops, see a world-class stage show, feel your stomach drop on a rooftop roller-coaster or stroll along Freemont Street, soaking up this neon-filled desert city. In the evening, head to Pink Taco for an included street taco dinner from the famous LA chain’s cantina located in Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel – a perfect way to begin a night out on the town. Later on, why not go see a stage show? Remember that tickets can sell out quickly for popular shows, so best to book before your tour begins.
Day 15: Las Vegas
With another day in Las Vegas, continue discovering all things over-the-top. Food-focused travellers may want to check out one of the celebrity chef restaurants around town (Giada De Laurentiis, Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck all have places here). See the Eiffel Tower of the USA, check out the Bellagio Fountains or visit one of the wacky museums on offer. If you didn’t head out last night, chat to your tour leader for the lowdown on Sin City's best shows, clubs and restaurants, and the option of hiring a limo for the night. You might as well go all out in Las Vegas, right?
Day 16: Sierra Nevada / Keough Hot Springs
Head out of sin city to the Sierra Nevada mountain range today on your quest for greener pastures. The Sierra Nevadas are sandwiched between Central Valley and Death Valley, a scenic trip that will take you to the town of Bishop, where you’ll camp the night and visit some nearby natural hot springs. In town, perhaps go to Erick Schat’s European-style bakery for a delicious treat, or stop in tomorrow for a coffee and cake on the way to Yosemite.
Day 17: Yosemite National Park
Drive west into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to your destination: the magnificent Yosemite National Park. Passing by the striking Mono Lake, your private vehicle will travel through the Tioga Pass (weather permitting) and past serene vistas like Tenaya Lake and the Olmstead Point viewpoint, where you’ll catch a glimpse of one of Yosemite’s most recognisable features – Half Dome. You'll spend three nights in the Yosemite National Park so that there are two full days available to explore at your own pace. The total driving time today is approximately 5 hours.
Day 18: Yosemite National Park
Today is free to discover the wonders of the park. One of the most famous parks in the USA, Yosemite boasts colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls and redwood forests attract visitors from all over the world. The group leader will point you in the right direction from the village, before leaving you to spend the day as you please. There are plenty of hikes available, each varying in steepness and difficulty. Hike under the cooling breezes of Nevada Falls (4-5 hours) or to the serene Mirror Lake (45 minutes). Keep an eye out for squirrels and perhaps even a bear along the way. You might prefer to hire a bike and explore Yosemite Valley. Visit the park's museum, photo gallery, shops and restaurants along the way, and in the heat of summer a relaxing float down the Merced River is highly recommended.
Day 19: Yosemite National Park
With a second full day in the park, there’s an opportunity to explore a different side of Yosemite, and the group leader will take you on a guided hike to Hetch Hetchy, an often overlooked, elevated valley in the park’s northwest corner. The name comes from ‘hetchetci’, describing seeds from a grass that grows in the valley. It has a floor elevation of 1150 metres (3800 feet), and one of the main characteristics is its man-made reservoir, built in the early 20th century. The area attracts far fewer visitors than the more well-known Yosemite hiking points, and its remoteness makes it the ideal place to discover cascading waterfalls and beautiful wildflowers.
Day 20: San Francisco
Leave Yosemite behind today and drive west for about 4 hours to San Francisco. The City by the Bay has a beautiful setting and a vibrant, multicultural heart. This trip finishes on arrival into San Francisco after a stop at the Golden Gate Bridge for a walk. No accommodation provided for tonight. If you do wish to spend extra time in San Francisco, we'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Perhaps check out the vintage stores along funky Haight Street, catch the tram down to the waterfront or take an adventure cruise on the bay past Alcatraz Island. Better yet, consider booking an Urban Adventures sightseeing tour like Bridge and the Beach, where you’ll see a different side of the Golden Gate from Baker Beach (see urbanadventures.com/destination/san-francisco-tours).
- Philadelphia - City highlights stop
- Shenandoah National Park
- Memphis - World Famous Fried Chicken Lunch
- Joshua Tree National Park - Entrance Fee
- Grand Canyon National Park - Entrance Fee
- Las Vegas - Street Taco dinner
- Yosemite National Park - Entrance Fee
- Visit to Mono Lake
3 Breakfast(s) Included
1 Lunch(es) Included
1 Dinner(s) Included
Question: How many suitcases can I take with me on my trip?
Question: Is Airfare Included in the Price?
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The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
Intrepid did such a great job. I never had to worry about where I was supposed to be and it felt so good not to worry about a thing but just to enjoy myself. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about culture and history.
Taiwan people very friendly. Accommodation were centrally located and easily accessible. Did extra activities then in brochure which was greatly.
Larus our tour guide did an excellent job and was very attentive to our needs. He is very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor.
Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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