Countdown of the best sights in North America
In this day and age it can be hard to strike a balance between exploring the great outdoors and consuming as much pop culture as humanly possible. In North America, you can have it all. On one hand you’ve got wide-open spaces like the Canadian Rockies and the Grand Canyon, plus an absurd amount of national parks, glaciers, rivers, deserts and forests. On the other hand you’ve got the glitz of Vegas, the glam of New York City, the glitter of San Francisco and, well, the kitsch of Spam World. North America isn’t just full of must-sees; it’s practically bursting with them. Try not to get left behind.
8. New Orleans
If New Orleans were a meal it would be a Pot Luck Dinner, where everyone cooks their most amazing dish, plonks it down in the middle of the table and the whole night turns into a giant free-for-all. You’ve got incredible flavours, a random assortment of guests and the joyful sounds of people feasting on food and wine while your favourite jazz CD plays in the background. The story of the city’s European, Creole and Cajun culture history is told through its architecture, food and music. Just make sure you get the pronunciation right - it’s “New Or-lins” or “New Or-lee-yuns”, and not “Naw-lins” or “New Orl-eens”. Got that?!
7. Las Vegas
Vegas. Where Elvis performed 837 consecutive sold out shows. Where 30 tonnes of shrimp is devoured every day. Where it would take you 288 years to spend a night in every hotel room. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to bust out the BeDazzler, slip into some sequins or break out the bolo tie then now is your chance because nothing is too OTT for Vegas. Standing out like a shellac thumbnail in Nevada’s Mojave Desert, Las Vegas is home to the usual (casinos, restaurants, live shows, hotels), the unusual (M&Ms World, a three-storey chandelier, the Pinball Hall of Fame) and the downright ridiculous (a heavy equipment playground where you can drive bulldozers and excavators).
Suck in a lungful of Rocky Mountain air and you’ll feel energised enough to tackle all 1600 kilometres of hiking trails in Banff National Park. You’ll feel strong enough to outrun the grizzly bears, lynx, cougars and elk that live here. You’ll be rejuvenated enough to canoe to your overnight campsite in the remote wilderness. You might even feel pumped enough to climb the 2954 metres up Mount Robson. Stretching for more than 4800 kilometres, this vast mountain range is home to five major parks (Yoho, Jasper, Kootenay, Banff and Waterton) and so much wildlife that it has been compared to the African Serengeti, except without all the, you know, lions.
5. Monument Valley
OK, let’s get this part out of the way: the red sandstone spires dotting Monument Valley are called “buttes”. Giggle now, because when you come face to face with them you’ll be too speechless to crack any jokes. Rising up to 300 metres high, the famous Mitten buttes and Merrick Butte have even appeared in Easy Rider, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Back to the Future III and Forrest Gump. This 92,000-acre tribal park is considered by the Navajo to be a living landscape. You’ll learn more about Navajo culture on a jeep tour of the park before spending the night in a traditional hogan hut.
4. San Francisco
San Fran is the jumping off point for heaps of our North American trips, because we think it’s the perfect place to get you pumped up and primed for adventure. Firstly, the food here is off the hook. Think fried veggie po’ boys, water buffalo milk soft serves and America’s best burritos at La Taqueria. Had your fill? Time to walk it off up your choice of 43 hills, ride a tram, wander the waterfront or tick an icon off the list and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.
You know when something is really huge, people proclaim that it’s “Bigger than Texas”? Well, Alaska is twice the size of Texas so we feel it got kinda ripped off in the catchphrase department. Home to 17 out of America’s 20 highest peaks, this place will appeal to outdoorsy types. We’ll take you driving across frozen plains, walking along remote tundras to glacial rivers and kayaking on the waters of Prince William Sound. See if you can spot bears, salmon, moose, wolves, humpback whales and puffins. You can even sleep in a remote hostel on Resurrection Bay that can only be accessed by kayak or water taxi.
2. New York City
This thriving little city is a major shipping hub, home to America’s first municipal commercial airport and is famous for its cherry blossoms. Oh, wait…that’s the city of Newark! You wanna know what’s happening in New York City? Open a book, pick up a magazine, scroll through your newsfeed or turn on your TV. We guarantee that someone, somewhere and on some platform will be shouting about it because NYC is the greatest city in the world. Seriously! If you don’t have the time of your life here, you need a refund on life. It’s too big, too bright and too fabulous to be contained in this short paragraph, so just go see it for yourself.
1. Grand Canyon
Thank goodness the one-armed explorer John Wesley Powell renamed this place “Grand Canyon” in 1861, because “Big Canyon” clearly didn’t do it justice. At 446 kilometres long, up to 29 kilometres wide and 1800 metres deep, we’re surprised he didn’t go with “Ridiculously Epic Canyon”. Some of the rock here is 2 billion years old. There’s a tiny village at the base of the canyon where mail is still delivered by pack mule. Heck, the Grand Canyon even creates its own weather! See it on foot or from a helicopter overhead. And when you get back can you tell us if the pink rattlesnakes found here are Millennial Pink or more of a dusty pink? Cheers.
Stories on North America