Discover the museums, memorials and monuments along the American History trail – from the small-town charms of Philadelphia to the capital-city icons of Washington DC.. Pump up your camping experience in the jaw-dropping Appalachian Mountains. Share stories around the campfire as you make s’mores (a traditional night-time campfire treat in North America) with your fellow travellers.. Get into the groove of Memphis and indulge in the kitschy glamour and over-the-top Southern charisma of this musical metropolis.. Take a bird’s eye view and admire the winding gorges and desolate rock landscape of the Grand Canyon by helicopter in an unmissable optional activity.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.