The United States: 15 checks on your summer bucket list
Friday, 22 July 2016
If you're a college student, you've probably been daydreaming about your summer vacation.
Whether you're taking a break from studying for your next exam or procrastinating on your term paper, you've come to the right place. It's always smart to spend a little time planning your travel for the summer, even if you're putting off school work. In this four-part bucket list series, we detail how to take on a single country with limited funds, and give you 15 bucket-list experiences for people traveling through the United States that can help you create the summer of your dreams.
Logistics: Transportation, food, and lodging
Traveling around the U.S. can easily be done by car, especially when you have a lot of time on your hands. You can also consider the Amtrak trail, and sales are offered all the time. Megabus is another super low-cost option and runs all over the country. If you're looking for more autonomy, consider renting an RV from companies like Jucy, and park at campgrounds wherever you go.
You can always find cheap food on the road in the U.S. and there's no need to go to fancy restaurants. You can pop into grocery stores and grab ingredients for quick meals, or check out online review sites for nearby cheap eats.
For lodging, reach out to people you know around the country to see if they can host you for a night or two. It's a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and family, and you can use social media to connect and find free places to stay. Couchsurfing is a more formalized way to do this, and can introduce you to friendly locals you wouldn't meet otherwise. Those who want personal space can look for single rooms on Hostelworld.
1. The Grand Canyon
Hiking the Grand Canyon is not for the faint of heart. The trails are strenuous and the hikes are long, depending how far you want to go. Bring more water than you think you need—about one gallon per person—and start right before sunrise. Don't forget your camera! If you're hiking from the South Rim, consider the Bright Angel trail, but check with the Backcountry Information Center first for information and maps.
2. Yosemite National Park's Curry Village
Half Dome Village is an area at the base of Yosemite Valley with tents and cabins, and a meeting place for campers and hikers looking to enjoy the great outdoors. To get there, you'll need to drive deep into the valley from the entrance of the park. Camp here for two or three days and enjoy hiking Yosemite Falls and Vernal Falls. Just be sure to keep your food in the steel boxes because...bears!
3. National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The National Mall in Washington, D.C., is home to some of the most prominent memorials and monuments in the country. Spend a few days checking out the Washington Monument, the National WWII Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and gazing into the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool as you reflect on the nation's history.
4. Yellowstone National Park
Elk, bear, and bison roam free inside Yellowstone National Park. Note that these animals can be dangerous to humans, so pay attention to warnings and stay in your car if you see one. Take long hikes within Yellowstone and don't forget to check out Old Faithful. But do not approach the animals!
5. Golden Gate Bridge
The three-mile-long Golden Gate Bridge is a symbol of the American West and beautiful during the day or at night. The lights are incredible! One of the best ways to experience the bridge is biking. Rent one from Blazing Saddles and ride your way across the bridge. Stop and ask a passerby to take your photo—the view is tremendous.
6. Broadway in New York City
Going to a Broadway show is a must in New York City, and the cheapest way to see one is by getting in line at a TKTS booth for day-of tickets. These can be sold up to 50 percent off the retail price, so ask for a show that still has tickets on sale. Even if the play wasn't your first choice, it is sure to be excellent.
7. Red Rocks Park
The beautiful Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre in Denver takes advantage of its naturally-formed rock features and the resulting acoustics to put on concerts and performances. It also offers visitors a gorgeous view of the city, especially at night. Check their online calendar for show times, prices, and artist information.
8. Second City in Chicago
Chicago is known for its robust comedy scene and there is no better place to watch funny people than Second City, a legendary sketch comedy mecca that has been around since the late 1950s. Everyone from Dan Aykroyd and Stephen Colbert to Amy Poehler and Tina Fey has performed there at some point in their careers. Check online for shows before you go.
9. Lake Tahoe
Those looking for a relaxed place to enjoy nature should visit Lake Tahoe, located in California's Sierra Mountain range. Stand-up paddle boarding is popular on the lake, and relatively easy thanks to lack of waves. Check out vendors like South Tahoe Standup Paddle and Tahoe City Kayak Paddleboard for rentals, lessons, and activities.
10. Portland, Oregon
Portland is a hip city, as well as a haven for food lovers on a budget. It's often credited as being the food truck capital of the country and offers plenty of innovative and delicious eats at low prices. Worried you won't be able to take in all the flavors Portland provides? Check out Forktown Food Tours, a service that offers tours of a variety of neighborhoods. The price includes tastings!
11. New Orleans Jazz
As the jazz music capital of the country, New Orleans offers a myriad of places to see live music. Walk down Bourbon Street, listening to musicians playing on the corners on your way to historic venues like Preservation Hall and The Maison.
12. Boston's Freedom Trail
Boston is the birthplace of much of America's great history, and visitors looking to learn about it can walk along the Freedom Trail. This 2.5-mile trail includes 16 historic sites such as Boston Common, Old North Church, USS Constitution, and the Massachusetts State House. You can take a 90-minute walking tour by booking online, for around $12 for adults and $6.50 for kids 6 to 12 years old.
13. Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham was the site of many crucial civil rights demonstrations led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and visitors can pay homage to this history at these places today. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is one such place, and it offers a variety of exhibits as well as a 90-minute self-guided tour. You can also visit the historic 16th Street Baptist Church, which is directly across the street.
14. St. Louis Cardinals Baseball
Take yourself out to the ballgame! Located in downtown St. Louis, baseball fans go nuts at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals. Arrive on game day to purchase tickets at the window, or book your game in advance. Buy a hot dog and Cracker Jacks, and cheer one of the best teams in the National League.
15. Savannah, Georgia
Drive 640 miles east of New Orleans and you'll find yourself in Savannah, Georgia, a city of historic mansions and tons of Southern charm. Spend a day exploring what's known as the largest National Historic Landmark District in the country with parks, museums, adorable inns, and live theater venues. Check out Free Savannah Tours for a 90-minute tour of everything to know about the circa-1733 city.
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