The US claims to be the greatest success story of the modern world - a nation fashioned from an incredibly disparate population who, with little in common apart from a desire to choose their own paths to wealth or heaven, rallied around the ennobling ideals of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence to forge the richest, most inventive and most powerful country on earth.
Despite polemicists who justly cite the destruction of Native American cultures, racism and imperialism at the top of a long list of wrongdoings, half the world remains in love with the idea of America. This is, after all, the country that introduced the world to the right to the pursuit of happiness, free speech, electric light, airplanes, assembly-line automobiles, the space shuttle, computers, blues, jazz, rock & roll and movies that climax at the high-school prom.
Full country name: The United States of America (USA)
Area: 3,618,000 (9,370,000 sq Km)
Population: 302 million
Capital: Washington, DC (population: 570,000)
Languages: English, many secondery languages, Shiefly Spanish
GDP: $11,9 trillion
Number of airlines passengers in 2006: 661 million
Religion: Protestant (56%), Roman Catholic (28%), Jewish (2%), Muslim (1%)
Time: GMT + 7 (West) in Sumatra, Java and Western Borneo; GMT + 8 (Central) in Sulawesi, Lesser Sunda Islands, Bali and Eastern Borneo; GMT + 9 (East) in Papua and Maluku.
Major industries: Oil, electronics, computers, automobile manufacturing, aerospace industries, agriculture, telecommunications, chemicals, mining, processing and packaging.
Major Trading partners: Canada, Japan, Mexico, and the EU
Visas: Most visitors to the US require a visa. However, Canadians need only proof of citizenship. A reciprocal visa-waiver program allows citizens of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland to stay up to 90 days without a visa if they have an onward ticket.
Health risks: None, apart from the high cost of medical care
Time: Eastern (GMT/UTC -5), Central (-6), Mountain (-7), and Pacific Standard (-8)
Electricity: 110V, 60Hz
Weights & measures: Imperial
When to go
America’s size plays to the traveler’s advantage when it comes to weather: it’s always perfect somewhere in the US and just shy of Hades somewhere else.
In other words, either your destination or your trip’s timing may need tweaking depending on the season. For current forecasts, visit www.weather.com.
The main holiday season is, naturally, summer, which typically begins on Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) and ends on Labor Day (the first Monday in September). But Americans take their holidays mainly in summer because schools are closed, not because the weather’s uniformly ideal: yes, hit the beaches in August, because Manhattan is a shimmering sweat bath and the deserts are frying pans.
The seasons don’t arrive uniformly either. Spring (typically March to May) and fall (usually September to November) are often the best travel times, but ‘spring’ in parts of the Rockies and Sierras may not come till June. By then it’s only a sweet memory in Austin, while in Seattle, spring often means rain, rain, rain.
And winter? It’s expensive high-season at ski resorts and in parts of the southern US (blame migrating snowbirds), but planned well, winter can mean you have the riches of America’s landscape virtually all to yourself.
Whether you’re planning to join them or avoid them, holidays and festivals are another thing to consider.
The vast expanses of wilderness, mountains, forest, canyons and coastlines of the USA lend themselves to a wide range of outdoor pursuits. From trekking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, whitewater rafting through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River, canoeing down the Mississippi River, fishing on the Great Lakes, sailing in Florida, diving in Hawaii to skiing in the Rocky Mountains, every activity can easily be arranged. The USA’s national parks are administered by the National Park Service (NPS; website: www.nps.gov).
Often called ‘the nation’s pastime’, baseball is an important part of the US psyche.
The USA offers some of the world’s best skiing runs, particularly in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. The Rocky Mountain States (and Colorado in particular) are exceptionally good for downhill skiing, the best-known resorts including Aspen, Big Sky, Jackson Hole and Vail. In the Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe is the major ski destination.
The American passion for golf is exemplified by the extremely high number of courses found throughout the country, as well as the massive crowds flocking to the United States Golf Association’s national championships games.
One of the activities that epitomizes US sport is surfing and Hawaii, with its legendary winter swells at northern Oahu (surfing’s spiritual home), Sunset Beach, Waimea and the Banzai Pipeline (situated in the Ehukai beach parks), remains one of the USA’s (and the world’s) most famous surfing destinations. California also has some good breaks in Malibu, Rincon and Steamer Lane
Attractions - New York
New York City is located on the eastern coast of the United States about 1000 miles north of Florida and 200 miles South of Boston. It is situated at the mouth of the Hudson River, and is divided into five districts called boroughs. Long Island stretches almost 100 miles to the east of New York City and the state of New Jersey lies just across the Hudson River to the west.
The "Big Apple", as the city is often called, is the largest city in the US with over 7 million residents. It is filled with a diverse mixture of inhabitants including immigrants from many countries. Some of its many neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, Little Italy, and Spanish Harlem reflect the rich ethnic heritages of the resident's original homelands.
New York is one of the most exciting cities in the world. It is often called "the city that never sleeps." In fact, Times Square at midnight seems more vibrant and active than most other cities at noon. New York has many tourist attractions like the Statue of Liberty, the United Nations headquarters, the Empire State building and over 300 museums. It is renown for its wide variety of entertainments including the world famous Broadway theaters. There are over 30,000 restaurants in New York City plus countless bars and clubs. If you like big cities and lots of excitement, the Big Apple is a great place to visit.
Manhattan borough, the business and commercial center of New York City, is situated on a large island in the middle of the Hudson River. Just south of it, across the main harbor, lies the borough of Staten Island, a large residential community.