Day 1 - San Francisco
Welcome to the USA! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the hotel lobby at 6pm on day 1. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
San Francisco is a chilled-out city with a vibrant, multicultural heart. You can catch a tram to visit the waterfront, feast like a king in Chinatown or peruse zany artwork in SoMa.
As there's no time spent in San Francisco on this trip, we recommend you arrive a few days early to see the sights. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Day 2 - Yosemite National Park
Drive 300 km to the east, into the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Our destination is Yosemite National Park.
One of the most famous parks in the USA, Yosemite National Park's colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls and redwood trees attract visitors from all over the world.
Day 3 - Yosemite National Park
Today is a free day to get out and discover the park. 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 photo gallery, shops and restaurants along the way. In the heat of summer, a relaxing float down the Merced River followed by a few drinks at the park's cafe is just the trick.
Day 4 - Sierra Nevada
Leave Yosemite behind and drive into the eastern Sierra Nevada. Spectacular mountain scenery, crystal clear lakes and breathtaking vistas are in store for us today. Total driving time is about 3-4 hours (170 km), depending on weather conditions and road access over Tioga Pass.
Day 5 - Las Vegas
Travel east through Death Valley to Las Vegas (about six hours). Las Vegas may be the gambling capital of the world, but there's plenty to do if gambling isn't your thing. Hit the shops, feel your stomach drop on a rooftop roller coaster or simply stroll along the Strip, soaking up the glitz and gaudiness. In the evening, perhaps feast on an 'all you can eat' buffet, check out one of the many shows on offer or party the night away in a Vegas nightclub.
Day 6 - Las Vegas
You'll have another day to further enjoy the delights of Las Vegas. Use the opportunity to find a swimming pool to relax by, have a crack at black jack, check out a show or just soak up the craziness that is Vegas. You may also choose to go on an optional adventure on the infamous Las Vegas Roller Coaster.
Day 7 - Grand Canyon
While the lights of Las Vegas might be dazzling, your eyes are in for a real treat today as they'll fall on the incredible Grand Canyon. Leave Vegas and drive along a section of famous Route 66 to one of the world’s seven wonders (approximately 5 hours). You’ll have two nights here to help you’ll fully comprehend this amazing sight. There are plenty of things to see and do during your time here, so be prepared for busy and active days. Peer over the rim and stand in awe as you watch the setting sun ignite the multi-coloured rock walls. For the next two nights you’ll camp out in one of the world’s most magnificent settings, surrounded by the smell of pine and cedar and enveloped by a stunning canopy of stars at night.
Day 8 - Grand Canyon
Take time today to explore at your own pace. Maybe rise early for an incredible sunrise, then soar like a California Condor over the canyon with a scenic helicopter flight (not included). If you get active, then descend through pine trees into the heart of the immense abyss, hiking from red rock to white powder. Discover this stunning gorge – 1.5 kilometres deep and formed by over six million years of erosion from the Colorado River – by strolling around the edges, or hiking along the South Kaibab trail or to Plateau Point. Or perhaps join rangers to learn about the park’s geological story, watch an IMAX film to discover the canyon from a different perspective, or simply relax with a book and a backdrop like no other. Whatever you choose, you’ll find that the canyon depths are nothing short of mind-blowing.
Day 9 - Monument Valley
Cruise the scenery of classic Western cinema into the Navajo Nation, home to Monument Valley and one of the largest North American Indian tribes (approximately 4 hours). The reservation here is the largest in the US and home to more than 200,000 Indians of the Navajo Tribe. The towering sandstone formations scattered across the landscape give the area its name, and the angle of the sun means that the landscape is constantly changing colour and it's near impossible to take a bad photo. When you arrive, let a Navajo guide share their culture and knowledge on an optional Jeep ride through the beautiful landscape, taking in flaming red cliffs, visiting traditional Navajo homes, and hiking up sweeping sand dunes. You’ll visit places that are only accessible with a Navajo guide, and tonight you can choose to join the locals for an authentic Navajo dinner around a campfire, listening to their traditional songs and stories.
Day 10 - Mesa Verde National Park
Step back in time today and understand human history in North America with one of the best and largest archaeological sites in the country. Travel from Monument Valley to Mesa Verde National Park (approximately 3.5 hours). Although the desert-scapes and cactus-spiked mesas might seem pretty uninhabitable, this part of the American Southwest has been settled for thousands of years. The park protects over 4,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloans, who made the area their home for over 700 years from A.D. 550 to A.D. 1300. Explore a cliff dwelling on a short walk – where you can descend a ladder into a kiva, a round, subterranean ceremonial structure – or (for a small fee) join a ranger-led walk. The ranger will help you access the more difficult sites like ‘Cliff Palace’ or ‘Balcony House’, and help you learn more about this ancient site.
Day 11 - Albuquerque
Driving time 5 hours into New Mexico and Albuquerque. Fans of Breaking Bad will recognise the city as the setting for the show. It was also the setting for High School Musical. Otherwise you can explore Pueblo culture at the city's museums, hire a bike and cruise through the city on its interconnected trails system, or stroll along Central Avenue, which was originally part of Route 66 and still retains some of the original neon signs. This is also a great place to sample some southwestern cuisine (think chile) or Native America food at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. You should also try to track down New Mexico's state cookie, the anise-flavoured biscochito.
Day 12 - Amarillo
Driving time 5-6 hours.
Follow the old Route 66 for 286 miles from Albuquerque to Amarillo, Texas. This is a quintessentially Texan town - think cacti, cowboys, steak and oil. If you're into steak, this is the place to try it, at the Big Texan Steak Ranch. Home of the 72oz steak challenge (that's 2kg in metric). If you can eat the whole steak, including shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad and bread roll in under an hour, you get the meal for free.
Day 13 - Dallas
Long drive approx 7 hours through Texas to Dallas. If there's time on arrival, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is highly recommended. This is where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shot that killed JFK. The museum takes you through the whole story from the beginning of the day, to the conspiracy theories that followed.
Day 14 - Lake Charles
Six hour drive across the border into Louisiana. Camp the night at Lake Charles.
Day 15 - New Orleans
Head across the state of Louisiana to New Orleans - the 'Big Easy' (approximately 2.5 hours). After checking in to your hotel in the French Quarter, use your free time getting to know the ‘Big Easy’. An eclectic mix of European, Creole and Cajun culture manifests in the city's architecture, cuisine and music scene. Possibly take a walk down rowdy Bourbon Street or through the former plantation area of the Garden District. Perhaps join the rest of the group tonight for a typical Cajun-style dinner and toast to your adventure.
Day 16 - New Orleans
Today is free to fit in as much of New Orleans as you can. Founded by French traders in 1718, there are many layers of history in this city and its many attractions combine to make it one of the most visited cities in the USA – a trend that was only momentarily halted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Tour the Honey Island Swamp (watch out for ‘gators), 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 17 - Memphis
Head north today and get into the groove of Memphis, the 'home of the blues' (approximately 6.5 hours). Memphis is a paradise for music lovers – feel the blues at live music venues on Beale Street, made famous by legends such as W.C. Handy, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King; visit the cradle of rock n’ roll – Sun Studios – which boasts the first recordings of legendary performers like Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis; or shimmy out to the pilgrimage site of Graceland, the place where Elvis left the building. The King’s former home and the site of his tomb, you can tour the mansion, including the famous Jungle Room, and also see Elvis' cars and private planes. For a different type of history you can visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Day 18 - Nashville
From the home of blues to the land of country, break out the cowboy hat and boots as you head east to Nashville, Tennessee (approximately 4 hours). Outside of its music credentials, Nashville is also the capital of Tennessee and the state's second largest city after Memphis. Situated on the banks of the Cumberland River, it was established as a major river port by settlers in 1779. Once settled into the campgrounds, use your free time to explore. Country music is built into the foundation of the city, so maybe take a stroll through history at the Country Music Hall of Fame, which contains the golden Cadillac that once belonged to Elvis. Music fans should also make their way to the Grand Ole Opry concert hall and to Music Row, where more than 50 recording studios and around 200 music publishing houses are located. You could also take a walk around the pristine gardens of Centennial Park. In the evening, the Wildhorse Saloon is a great spot to experience authentic southern food and live music. Or maybe you could catch a show at the legendary Bluebird Cafe or ‘honky-tonk’ between the city’s great selection of bars.
Day 19 - Appalachian Mountains
Escape the city, cross into the state of Virginia and traverse the jagged Blue Ridge Mountains, a segment of the Appalachian Mountains (approximately 6 hours). Shenandoah National Park is one of the highest and most scenic portions of the Appalachian Mountains, one of the most beautiful and iconic parts of the American landscape, with an abundance of flora and fauna peppering the steep slopes. Dating back over 400 million years, the mountain range is home to wildlife, lush forest, scenic peaks, waterfalls and shallow rivers. You’ll camp here in the heart of the great outdoors for one night en route to Washington DC.
Day 20 - Washington DC
Taking the Skyline Drive along the crest of the mountains, travel through deep woods and past spectacular vistas. Stop to stretch your legs under the impressive oak trees and admire the gorgeous views on the way to Washington DC (approximately 8 hours). Don't worry about not having too much time to explore today, as you'll have a full free day here.
Day 21 - Washington DC
Today is a free to explore Washington DC, with the city being easily discovered on foot. To see as much as you can today, it may be an idea to get a map and make a plan. 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 iconic monuments and buildings, so don’t miss the White House, Capitol Building, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, MLK Monument, FDR and Jefferson Memorials. You’ll most likely do a lot of walking today, so maybe reward yourself with a relaxing evening.
Day 22 - New York (Newark)
Leave Washington DC behind this morning, drive along the Delaware River and pass through the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ en route to New York (Newark) (approximately 5 hours). Philadelphia is the birthplace of America and the perfect place to brush up on your history. It was here that Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and where the United States Constitution was signed 11 years later. You'll have time to see a couple of the highlights of the city’s clustered cultural centre before continuing onto New York (Newark).
The trip finishes on arrival into Newark and no accommodation is provided tonight. The arrival time depends on each group, but if you decide to fly out on this day, please don't book a flight before 9pm. This will give you enough time to catch a shuttle from the hotel to the airport and be there two hours before departure.
If you are staying on, perhaps catch the train over to Manhattan to see the lights of Times Square, or head out for a slice of New York style pizza. As there's a great deal to do in New York City, staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city is recommended. See our list of optional activities below for suggestions of things to do if you are staying on. If you need help booking extra accommodation (subject to availability), our reservations team will be happy to assist you. You could also consider doing one of our one-day Urban Adventure sightseeing tours of New York. For more information, visit urbanadventures.com
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Meals Included: Breakfast: 0 Lunches: 0 Dinners: 0
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