Day 1 - Las Vegas
Welcome to the USA! Kick off this adventure in the Neon City, Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm – double check with reception to confirm the time and place. There are no activities planned today so you can arrive at anytime before then. If you can't arrange a flight that arrives on time, you may wish to arrive a day early – we’ll happily book you additional accommodation (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. As there’s so much to do in Vegas we recommend arriving a few days early anyway! We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at the meeting, so please ensure you have these on hand. Las Vegas caters to all tastes, from opulent casinos on the Strip and all night party spots, to stimulating museums, dazzling circus shows, aquariums and botanical gardens. Try your luck on the casino floor, catch an eye-popping show, hit top speed at a theme park, relive the city’s past at the Neon museum (graveyard of iconic Vegas signs), head downtown for a slice of retro Vegas, or just simply relax at the pool. This evening, maybe head out with the group and test your limits at an all you can eat buffet!
Day 2 - 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 3 - 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 4 - 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 5 - Mesa Verde National Park
Step back in time today and understand human history in North American 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 6 - Santa Fe
Continue the journey north to Santa Fe (approximately 6.5 hours). Welcome to a place that the locals call ‘the city different’, a place often seen as a haven for colourful characters. Santa Fe is a city whose artistic, musical and culinary offerings are greater than its size suggests. The capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US, and a place where artists and culture-buffs flourish under the hot desert sun and year-round blue skies. Pop your head into the museums (like that dedicated Georgia O'Keeffe or those dotted around downtown), or contemplate eccentric (weird, wonderful and just downright bizarre!) folk-art at the numerous galleries. You might like to check out the pueblo architecture surrounding the town plaza or see the San Miguel Mission, the USA's oldest church.
Day 7 - Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Head south and unearth a world hidden beneath the stark, barren desert after leaving Texas behind for New Mexico (approximately 5 hours). When you arrive, head deep underground for a world-class cave experience in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Marvel at the massive, ornate formations that burst from the cavern’s edges in the 8.2 acre ‘Big Room’ and beyond. One of the largest caverns in the world, Carlsbad Cavern is still only partially explored, with 119 caves recorded so far. There are yet more wonders outside the cave – take a seat outside the park at sunset and watch hundreds of thousands of bats spiralling out in a swarming column in search of food. Please note that as the bats migrate south in October for the winter, this is a seasonal sight and is best viewed in July and August. You’ll spend the night in a campground near the town of Carlsbad.
Day 8 - San Antonio
Take a long full day’s drive southwest across the Lone Star state of Texas to San Antonio (approximately 9 hours). This is the perfect chance to soak up the scenery, catch up on some reading, and ask your fellow travellers any questions you’ve been dying to know the answer to. In San Antonio discover a little piece of Mexico in the US and a city full of rich history. San Antonio is home to the famed Alamo, a shrine to Texan liberty. The 18th century Spanish-Mexican fort has been reconstructed and you can relive Davy Crockett’s last days here. The famous frontiersman was one of 187 people who died trying to defend the fort against a 1,000-strong Mexican army. San Antonio is also brimming with historical missions and fine art museums. Don’t miss the chance to meander through the shops and restaurants that line the city’s famous River Walk, sample the impressive cocktail scene, and seek out some of the city's amazing food trucks.
Day 9 - East Texas/Louisiana
Join the truckers along Highway 10 for the drive towards Louisiana (approximately 7 hours). Today is flexible as we try to cover as much ground as we can to get us as close to New Orleans as possible. We will likely camp somewhere in East Texas, or near Sam Houston Jones State Park or the town of Lafayette in Louisiana.
Day 10 - New Orleans
It's quite a journey from Houston, Texas to Louisiana (nearly 700 kilometres). You'll be on the road for around six hours today, so sit back and enjoy the ride. There may be time for a stop at the Tabasco factory or a swamp tour en route. When you arrive at New Orleans, you'll check into your hotel in the French Quarter and 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 11 - 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 12 - 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 13 - 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 14 - 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 15 - 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 16 - 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 17 - 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
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