From west to east, see the best of the United States

Discover a chain of magnificent national parks in California, Arizona and New Mexico, Then travel through the southern stylings of New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville and on to the glitz and glamour of New York City. It's almost hard to believe that such diversity can be found in one nation. Indulge in nachos in Texas, gumbo in New Orleans and a shot of wheatgrass in California and meet city slickers in Times Square, Elvis impersonators in Vegas and members of the Navajo Tribe in Monument Valley and forever be confounded by the extreme diversity found in each and every state of this great nation.

Start
San Francisco, United States
Finish
Newark, United States
Countries
United States
Themes
Explorer
Code
SSOXC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 13
Carbon offset
0kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • The flexibility of this trip allows you to do what you want, when you want, without the restrictions of an overly packed itinerary
  • Enjoy a full day to explore Washington DC. There's lots to see and do in the US capital, and most of it is free. Visit the White House, Capitol Hill and the National Mall, and feel small next to the statue of Abraham Lincoln
  • The cities of Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans are notorious for their rich music and nightlife scenes. See live performances of blues, jazz, country and rock in celebrated musical venues
  • Towering granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, redwood forests and epic night skies - Yosemite National Park feels like utopia. While other tour groups breeze through in a day, you'll spend two nights in the park, allowing for a full day of hiking and exploring
  • For many, Death Valley conjures up images of a flat and barren wasteland. Be surprised by the park's ethereal landscapes of sand dunes, water-sculpted canyons, extinct volcanic craters and, in the spring, fields of wildflowers
  • The iconic sandstone formations of Monument Valley have played backdrop to many a cowboy western. Learn about Navajo culture and history during a jeep tour of the park, before spending a unique night in a traditional hogan hut

Itinerary

Welcome to San Fran, USA. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details, food kitty and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

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). The 'City by the Bay' has a beautiful setting and a vibrant, multicultural heart. You might like to check out the vintage stores along funky Haight Street, catch the tram down to the waterfront or take a cruise on the bay to see the impressive Golden Gate Bridge. In the evening, perhaps head out for some dumplings in Chinatown or pasta in North Beach.
This morning drive about four hours into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Your destination is Yosemite National Park, one of the most famous parks in the USA, with colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls and redwood forests. You'll spend two nights in the park in order to have a full day of exploration tomorrow.
Enjoy 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 museum, 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.
Leave Yosemite behind and drive into the eastern Sierra Nevada towards Death Valley. It's one of the hottest places on the planet, with temperatures rising to 56°C in the summer. The drive will take between three and four hours, but it's packed with spectacular mountain scenery, crystal clear lakes and breathtaking views. Once you arrive in Death Valley, explore the huge sand dunes, sculpted rocks, isolated valleys and volcanic craters. The canyon and mountain walls change colour with the changing light. Stop at the visitor centre and, if it's not too hot, take a walk on the stunning salt flats.
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.
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 or go-karting.
Drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon for about five hours. Along the way,you'll drive across a section of the famous Route 66. Words don't do justice to the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. This stunning gorge is 1.5 kilometres deep, formed by over six million years of erosion from the Colorado River. You'll spend two nights here, in order to allow a full day of exploration tomorrow.
Today is a free day to explore the Grand Canyon. Stroll along the meandering South Rim Trail or hike your way down to Plateau Point. If you're feeling extra adventurous, you might even opt for a scenic flight over the area (at your own expense). In the early evening, relax at the canyon's edge and enjoy a spectacular sunset.
The drive from the Grand Canyon to Monument Valley take about four hours today. Monument Valley is so-named after the giant sandstone formations scattered across the desert. The backdrop for countless westerns, the valley is part of the biggest Indian reservation in the US and is home to more than 200,000 Navajo Indians. See the sights from the back of a jeep with a Navajo guide. Visit areas only open to the Navajo, see traditional Navajo homes, hike up sand dunes and gaze at spectacular rock formations. Total driving time today is around three-and-a-half hours.
Continue on to Mesa Verde National Park, home to the largest and best-preserved cliff dwellings of the Anasazi Indians. The park protects over 4,000 known archaeological sites. Explore a cliff dwelling on a short walk, or (for a small fee) join a ranger-led walk to the harder-to-access sites. Total driving time today is approximately five hours.
Continue the journey south to Santa Fe today. The total drive should take around five hours. Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US. You might like to check out the pueblo architecture surrounding the town plaza or see the San Miguel Mission, the USA's oldest church. If you're an art buff, then a visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is a must. In the evening, perhaps wind down with a drink in one of the city's bars.
Head south through New Mexico and on towards Carlsbad Caverns (about five hours). One of the largest caverns in the world, Carlsbad Cavern is still only partially explored. Hike deep into the 'Big Room' and beyond. In the evening, witness the overwhelming sight of a bat flight - thousands of bats swarming out of the caverns. As the bats migrate south in October for the winter, this is a seasonal sight and is best viewed in July and August.
Join the truckers along Highway 10 to San Antonio. This is almost a full day of driving, about seven-and-a-half-hours. Mexican-influenced San Antonio is the home of the Alamo, an original reconstructed Spanish-Mexican fort from the 18th century. On arrival, you can stroll along the famous River Walk and get to know the city's many canals and backstreets by night.
It's a relatively short drive today along highway 10, just three hours. Houston is the largest city in Texas, and the fourth largest in the US. Big and modern though it is, it retains some of that Texas 'cowboy boots and pickup truck' charm. In your free time here, there are plenty of museums and shops to check out. Houston is also renowned for its arts scene and is an up-and-comer in the dining world.
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.
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.
Head north to Memphis, which should take around six and a half hours. Just out of the city you can visit Graceland, Elvis Presley's former home and the site of his tomb. Here you can see the famous jungle room, as well as his cars, private planes and much more. Back in Memphis there's the National Civil Rights Museum (where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated) and Sun Studio - the 'Birthplace of Rock'. In the evening, consider heading to Beale Street's traditional blues clubs, made famous by legends such as Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters and B.B. King.
Continue on to Nashville, the capital of country music, for about three and a half hours. Once settled into the campgrounds perhaps visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, which contains the golden Cadillac that once belonged to Elvis. Another point of interest is Music Row, where more than 50 recording studios and approximately 200 music publishing houses are located. The Wildhorse Saloon is a great spot in the evening to experience authentic southern food and live music.
Journey into the breathtaking scenery of the Appalachian Mountains, also called the Blue Ridge Mountains. 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. Later, drive to your campsite for the night. Total driving today will take around six hours.
From the heart of nature, head into the heart of politics – Washington DC (approximately 5 hours). You’ll arrive in the capital city of the USA around mid-afternoon. After settling in, take a wander through the manicured park of the National Mall. Discover the cobbled streets, harbour or university in the historical district of Georgetown, and then experience its energetic nightlife, trying some authentic American food at one of the many grill joints. Don't worry about not having too much time to explore today, as you'll have a full free day here.
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.
Leave Washington DC behind this morning, drive along the Delaware River and pass through the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ en route to New York (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.

The trip finishes on arrival into New York 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 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. 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
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Private vehicle
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (16 nights), Hotel (5 nights)
Included activities
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  • Philadelphia city highlights stop

Dates

There are currently no departures for this trip.

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Important notes

1. This trip finishes on arrival into New York in the afternoon on day 22.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our San Francisco to New York trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 5 reviews in the last year.

Best of America (Reverse) , August 2016

Best of America (Reverse) , August 2015