A composite guide to travel in the USA
Includes an overview of the US travel industry and profiles some of the major cities in the US most visited by foreign and domestic tourists. Also gives travellers advice about flights and accomodation in the US.
Tourism in the USA is a major industry providing services to tens of millions of tourists each year, from all over the country and the world. Tourists come to the United States to see the natural wonders such as Niagara Falls, and national parks, including the Grand Canyon. They come to see the variety of cities such as New York, San Francsisco, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, Orlando, New Orleans, and of course Las Vegas. Out in the Pacific, a favorite desination for Americans as well as globetrotters, is Hawaii - the islands of Oahu, Maui, Kona, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Molokai, Kauai, Niihau, and Hawaii. Tourism in the US is a growing industry, and one of the largest employers of people. Tourism's rapid growth to becoming one of the major industries in the US occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
As a result, it was by the 1850s that tourism in the US had become well-established both as a cultural activity and as an industry. New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, all major US cities, attracted a large number of tourists by the 1890s. By 1915, city touring had marked significant shifts in the way Americans perceived, organized and moved around in urban environments. Democratization of travel occurred during the early twentieth century when the automobile revolutionized travel. Similarly air travel revolutionized travel during 1945–1969, contributing greatly to tourism in the United States. By 2007 the number of international tourists had climbed to over 56 million people who spent $122.7 billion dollars, setting an all time record.
The travel and tourism industry in the United States was among the first commercial casualties of the September 11, 2001 attacks, a series of terrorist attacks on the US. Terrorists used four commercial airliners as weapons of destruction, all of which were destroyed in the attacks with 3,000 casualties. In the US, tourism is either the first, second or third largest employer in 29 states, employing 7.3 million in 2004, to take care of 1.19 billion trips tourists took in the US in 2005. As of 2007, there are 2,462 registered National Historic Landmarks (NHL) recognized by the United States government. As of 2008, the most visited tourist attraction in the US is Times Square in Manhattan, New York City which attracts approximately 35 million visitors yearly.
The US has a huge range of attractions throughout the country. These range from national monuments, and parks to famous beaches, and entertainment complexes. Each has their own uniqueness about them and appeal to different people, from the US and from overseas. Following is a sample of some of the attractions visitors seek out. We have also included the number of visitors the attractions attracted in the year 2008:
Times Square, New York, New York - 35 million
Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, Nevada - 31 million
National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, DC - 24 million
Faneuil Hall Marketplace Boston, Massachusetts - 20 million
Magic Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, Florida - 17.1 million
Disneyland, Anaheim, California - 14.9 million
Fisherman's Wharf/Golden Gate Area, San Francisco, California - 14 million
Niagara Falls, New York - 12 million
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee - 9.4 million
Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois - 8.6 million
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Las Vegas, Nevada - 7.6 million
Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando, Florida - 6.2 million
SeaWorld, Orlando, Florida - 6 million
San Antonio River Walk, San Antonio, Texas - 5.1 million
Salt Lake Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah - 5 million
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, New Jersey and Pennsylvania - 4.8 million
Universal Studios, Hollywood Universal City, California - 4.7 million
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York - 4.5 million
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii - 4.5 million
Grand Canyon, Arizona - 4.41 million
Busch Gardens Africa, Tampa, Florida - 4.4 million
Cape Cod National Seashore, Barnstable County, Massachusetts - 4.35 million
SeaWorld, San Diego, California - 4.26 million
American Museum of Natural History, Manhattan, New York City - 4 million
Atlantic City Boardwalk. Atlantic City, New Jersey - 4 million
Breaking News: Tourists from the U.S. to other countries in modest decline
Tourists from the U.S. to foreign countries continues at a great rate in 2009, albeit down a touch from recent years.
Figures just released from the U.S. Department of Commerce say there was a marginal drop in 2008 to all other countries other than Mexico. Generally the number of tourists frequenting overseas destinations was off 1%. Visitors to Mexico however increased by 4%.
$11.1 billion was spent in Mexico by American travelers, making it the most sought after destination. The total expenditure by Americans on overseas travel was $112.3 billion.
Britain ($10.5 billion), Canada ($7.3 billion), Germany ($6.3 billion), and Japan ($5.2 billion), along with Italy, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, the Netherlands and Argentina topped the hit parade of U.S. travelers last year.
February 2009 was the fourth consecutive month of negative growth for international travel to the US
The U.S. Department of Commerce recently announced that international visitors spent $10.1 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States during the month of February—13% less than visitors spent in February 2008.
February 2009 marks the fourth consecutive month in which U.S. travel and tourism-related exports were lower when compared to the same period of the previous year, having declined in November 2008 (-3%), December 2008 (-1%), January 2009 (- 8%), and February 2009 (-13%).
Monthly Travel and Tourism Highlights
Las Vegas, Nevada is a vibrant pulsating city and the largest adult playground in the world. It is a community that was created from the wastelands of the Mojave Desert in Nevada specifically to provide a gambling and entertainment oasis for the titillation seeking residents of post-war Los Angeles. Everything in Las Vegas has been done (or overdone) on a grand and spectacular scale.
Along the Las Vegas strip, a black glass pyramid rises over a hundred meters above the desert with a larger than full sized replica of the Sphinx at its entry. Next to it, sits a larger- than-life castle with garishly colored turrets. Across the street, is a scaled-down skyline of New York City complete with a Brooklyn Bridge and a Statue of Liberty. Beyond that, you can see a half-sized replica of the Eifel Tower, a near full sized replica of the Piazza San Marco from Venice and a large volcano that erupts flames every thirty minutes. In Las Vegas, you often ask yourself, "Is this really a city, or am I visiting some futuristic amusement park on another planet?"
On any given evening in Las Vegas, you will find hundreds of entertainment events such as the renown Las Vegas stage shows, world class sporting events, performances by world famous entertainers plus music, dance and comedy at large and small venues throughout the city. This city never seems to sleep. The frivolity continues long into the night and the serious gamblers continue their pursuit of riches until well after the morning sun has risen on a new day.
The early days
In 1931 gambling was legalized in the barren desert state of Nevada while it remained illegal in the more populous neighboring state of California. As early as 1940, the first hotel casino named El Rancho Vegas was constructed on the outskirts of a sleepy desert community in the Mojave Desert of southern Nevada known as Las Vegas. A second hotel casino named the Last Frontier was opened a year later. Both profited from their proximity to the large gambling population living in Los Angeles and other southern California communities. In December of 1946, Bugsy Siegal a reputed New York gangster, then living in Beverly Hills California, and managing various illegal gambling operations on the West Coast, built a lavish new hotel casino named the Flamingo. He dreamed of creating a whole new resort city in the desert dedicated to gambling and entertainment. Unfortunately, Bugsy was shot to death in his Beverly Hills home in 1947; so he never got to see his dream fulfilled; but the legacy of lavish hotel casinos controlled by gangsters persisted in Las Vegas for many decades to come.
Today, this desert gambling oasis is a thriving city with more than one million inhabitants and over 38 million visitors a year. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the USA, with up to 5,000 new residents settling there every month. It has fourteen of the fifteen largest hotels in the USA and over 130,000 rooms available to visitors. Gambling and entertainment are still its biggest attractions and its largest industries. Supposedly, all the mafia gangsters have been removed from the Las Vegas gambling scene, only to be replaced by large corporate owners. (Is that an improvement?) In 1999, Oscar Goodman, the flamboyant lawyer whose spirited defense of many reputed gangsters and criminals earned him the unofficial title of "mouthpiece for the mob", was elected mayor of Las Vegas. He seems to be a most appropriate character to lead the government of "Sin City" USA.
Las Vegas is located in the southwestern corner of Nevada near the borders of California and Arizona. It is 275 miles (450 km) from Los Angeles and less than a four-hours drive on excellent interstate highway. The city is situated in a broad flat desert valley surrounded by barren arid mountains. It receives only about 2 inches (5 cm) of rain per year; yet the city is an oasis of green grass, flowers and palm trees all subsisting on imported water. A vast checkerboard of low suburban homes sprawls across the valley floor for dozens of miles in every direction with new tracts of houses eternally sprouting like fields of cactus in the surrounding desert.
All the action is centered on one broad avenue that stretches from the southern fringe of the city northward for a dozen miles until it reaches the heart of old downtown. This is Las Vegas Boulevard, commonly known as "the Strip". McCarran International Airport is located adjacent to the southern end of the Strip, and nearly all of the major casinos are lined up along its sides. A drive down Las Vegas Boulevard takes you past the pyramid of Luxor casino, the skyline of New York casino, the Eifel Tower of Paris casino, the great tent of the Circus casino and the lofty tower of the Stratosphere casino. Eventually, it takes you to downtown Vegas and Fremont Street, home of the historic old gambling parlors like Binyons and the Golden Nugget. Just driving down the strip past all these spectacular casino resorts is a fantastic experience. At night, "the strip" comes alive with miles of colored neon and millions of dancing, pulsating lights.
The Bargains are often "off the Strip"
Most of the newest, grandest Las Vegas casino hotels are located along the southern end of the strip near McCarran Airport. Even the smallest of these newer casino hotels has over 2,000 rooms with MGM Grand offering more than 5,000 rooms. Each casino contains thousands of slot machines, hundreds of gaming tables, multiple restaurants, numerous shops, theaters featuring "Las Vegas Shows" plus numerous bars, cocktail lounges and smaller entertainment venues.
Along the northern part of the Strip, a few miles away from McCarran Airport, and also in the downtown area even further north, the casinos are older and a bit less spectacular. That means they usually offer their accommodations, their all-you-can-eat buffets, and their shows at bargain prices to entice you to come and gamble at their facility. There are also a few large casino hotels like Sam's Town and Boulder Station located well away from the strip. Those isolated casinos often offer some super-saver bargains.
Since the early days when Las Vegas was but a sleepy town in the desert, Nevada has had a reputation as a very permissive state that allowed legal gambling, legal prostitution and easy divorce. Many California citizens would drive across the state line to Las Vegas in order to obtain quick-and-easy divorces from their unwanted spouses. Since divorces were often instigated by the desire to marry a new mate, Las Vegas began offering quick-and-easy weddings to go along with the quick-and-easy divorces. Wedding chapels sprouted along the Strip to accommodate this unique industry of legal mate swapping.
Today, many other states offer quick no-fault divorces, so the "Las Vegas divorce" is no longer in great demand. The city has, however, kept its reputation for quick-and-easy marriages. The wedding chapels are still visible along the strip and in the downtown area near the Clark County Court House. Nearly all the major casinos have wedding chapels or wedding rooms. The City marriage office is open until midnight every weekday and open 24 hours a day from Friday until Sunday. If you suddenly decide you want to get married at 4AM on a Sunday morning, you can easily do it in Las Vegas.
Since the time of Bugsy Siegel, Las Vegas has been renowned not only for its gambling, but also for its free flowing liquor, its fine dining and its extravagant entertainment especially at the Las Vegas Shows. All these original ingredients are still available in even greater variety and quantity in modern-day Las Vegas.
The famous old Las Vegas Shows were typically variety shows featuring headline entertainment, well known bands, scantily-clad dancing girls and ribald humor. You can still find some of those shows on the Strip. The afternoon performances and the early evening performances are usually toned-down family-oriented presentations, while the late night performances are more adult oriented featuing nudity, risque humor and adult themes. A typical old-time Las Vegas Show in family-oriented theme is held at the Stratosphere Casino every afternoon, and the admission is very reasonably priced.
Some of the newer shows are even more extravagant productions than the old-time ones. Cirque du Soliel runs about a half dozen fabulous productions in Las Vegas including: Mystere, Ka, O, and Zumanity. Each production is set in an immense specially-constructed theater with fantastic sets and technological marvels. The prices are fairly expensive, but they are certainly amazing feats of entertainment.
At least two or more Broadway-style productions of musicals or plays are constantly featured in Las Vegas. There are a number of Las Vegas "regulars" playing at Casinos throughout the city, and new famous, world renown entertainers appear for limited engagements nearly every week. In addition to all this, there are free shows and free entertainments available at many of the casinos nearly every day. There is certainly no lack of entertaining diversions in this town.
Good food in large quanities has been the staple of Las Vegas hospitality since the early days, and the all-you-can-eat buffet was a renown attraction at nearly every casino. They are still popular and almost universally available. The more isolated and the less popular casinos offer their buffets at ridiculously low prices just to attract gamblers to their gaming tables. The newer casinos often feature higher priced buffets with better quality foods. All of them provide unlimited quantities.
For more serious dining, Las Vegas provides hundreds of good restaurants in the casinos and throughout the city. Each of the large casinos offers at least four or six restaurants ranging from inexpensive snack bars and all-you-can-eat buffets to high-class, expensive, five-star restaurants.
Las Vegas is ideally situated for anyone that would like to explore the Southwest of the USA. It is centrally located amongst some of the greatest natural attractions in the USA like the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. McCarran Airport has nearly 500 flights per day arriving from both domestic and international destinations, so access is convenient and often very economical.
The desert landscape surrounding Las Vegas is stark and forbidding but strangely beautiful. Red Rock Canyon, just 20 miles west of the city, looks just like hollywood scenery for a cowboy movie. Boulder Dam and Lake Mead, located just 25 miles east of the city provides the strangely contrasting images of deep blue waters set among stark arid hills and barren rock formations. About 60 miles to the north, the Valley of Fire offers some unique hiking and sightseeing opportunities in a volcanically created environment of strange contorted rocks, lava fields and ancient Native American runes.
Tours depart from Las Vegas to many sights
Grand Canyon National Park, one of the great natural wonders of the world, is only 150 miles east of Las Vegas. The drive to the South Rim Visitors Center is 300 miles by road, while the slightly less spectacular West Rim is only a 150-miles drive from downtown Las Vegas. Death Valley National Park is about 150 driving miles to the west and can easily be seen on a one-day drive from Las Vegas. Zion National Park is about 150 driving miles to the north east, and Bryce Canyon is about 80 miles past it. If you do not wish to drive to any of the attractions, there are many tour options to these great natural wonders via bus, airplane and helicopter.
If you intend to visit Las Vegas for a few days or more, you need only leave the gambling parlors for a single day or even only a half day to see some of this spectacular Southwest scenery. There are numerous tours departing from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, Death valley, Zion National Park, Boulder Dam, Lake Mead, the Valley of Fire and other interesting places. The tours can be via airplane, helicopter, bus, van, jeep or even hummer. Normally, the tour operators pick you up at your hotel, take you on a guided tour of the attraction, then return you to your hotel later in the day. This is a very convenient way to see some of the fabulous scenery in a very limited amount of time. Naturally, you can always rent a car and tour these same fabulous sights on your own.
Written by: Mike Leco for USA Tourist.com
New York is home to a number of iconic national landmarks and symbols. Times Square is the single most visited location in the world, with over 30 million tourists coming to this part of the city every year. It is the heart of New York, and in a symbolic way, it is the heart of the country's economy, for this is where the New York Stock Exchange, the biggest stock exchange ever known, is located. Out on the glistening waters of New York harbor stands the green figure of the Statue of Liberty, she has stood at the gateway to the United States for decades and is the single most recognised symbol of America. New York is also a city of great diversity and incredible history, there is a large immigrant population from just about every single country in the world, giving the metropolis a range of ethnic identities. It is one of the most significant cities in the world as well, it was from here that the Great Depression ricochetted out into the world, and decades later it was from this same city that the financial crisis of 2008 swept outwards.