United States of America
The USA is home to several of the world's most exciting cities, some truly mind-blowing landscapes, a strong sense of regionalism, a trenchant mythology, more history than the country gives itself credit for and, arguably, some of the most approachable natives in the world. Read more...
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Cities and Destinations in United States of America
The USA is home to several of the world's most exciting cities, some truly mind-blowing landscapes, a strong sense of regionalism, a trenchant mythology, more history than the country gives itself credit for and, arguably, some of the most approachable natives in the world.
The U.S. stretches across the midsection of North America, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, with non-contiguous states to the north west and in the Pacific. As such, its many regions are varied. Following the admission of the state of Hawaii in 1959, the United States has 50 states as well as the city of Washington D.C. (a federal district independent of any state) and a few territories which are not states, such as Puerto Rico. Below is a rough grouping of the country into regions relevant to the traveler, from the Atlantic to the Pacific:
New England (United States of America)
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
Home to gabled churches, rustic antiques, and steeped in American history, New England offers beaches, spectacular seafood, rugged mountains, frequent winter snows, and some of the young nation's oldest cities, in a territory small enough to reasonably cover (hastily) within a week.
Delaware (state)Ranging from New York in the north to Washington DC, the Mid-Atlantic is home to a number of the nation's most densely populated cities, but also rolling mountains and traditional seaside resort areas like the Long Island beaches and the Jersey Shore.
South (United States of America)
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia (state)The slow-going, friendly South is celebrated for its down-home cookin' and its blues, jazz, rock 'n' roll, and country music traditions. This lush, largely subtropical region includes verdant (and refreshingly cool) mountains, stately agricultural plantations, and vast cypress swamps.
Northern Florida is similar to the rest of the South, but head further south into the megaresorts of Orlando, retirement communities, tropical Caribbean-influenced Miami, the Everglades swamp, and 1200 miles of sandy beaches.
Midwest (United States of America)
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin
The Midwest is home to rolling farmland, large forests, picturesque towns, and many bustling industrial cities. Many of these states border the Great Lakes, the largest system of freshwater lakes in the world, forming the North Coast of the U.S.
The second biggest state in the nation, it's like a whole other country (and in fact, once was). The terrain ranges from southeastern swamplands to the cattle-ranching South Plains to the miles of sandy beaches of South Texas to the mountains and deserts of West Texas.
Great Plains (United States of America)
North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma
Travel westward through these supposedly flat states, from the edge of the eastern forests through the prairies and onto the High Plains, an enormous expanse of steppes (shortgrass prairies) as desolate as in the frontier heyday.
Rocky Mountains (United States of America)
Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming
The spectacular snow-covered Rocky Mountains (United States of America)
Southwest (United States of America)
Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah
Heavily influenced by Hispanic culture, the arid Southwest is home to some of the nation's most spectacular natural attractions, and a flourishing artistic culture. Although mostly empty, the region's deserts have some of the nation's largest cities.
In some ways quintessentially American, and in others completely atypical, California offers world-class cities, deserts, rain forests, snowy mountains, and a famous beach lifestyle. Northern California (centered around the Bay Area) and Southern California (centered around Los Angeles) are culturally very different.
Pacific Northwest (United States of America)
Washington (state)The pleasantly mild Pacific Northwest offers outdoor pursuits as well as cosmopolitan cities. The terrain ranges from spectacular rain forests to scenic mountains and volcanoes to sage-covered steppes and interior deserts.
One fifth as large as the rest of the United States, Alaska reaches well into the Arctic, and features expansive mountainous wilderness.
A volcanic archipelago in the tropical Pacific, 2, 300 miles from California (the nearest state), laid-back Hawaii has long been a vacation paradise.
Politically, the U.S. is divided further into semi-independent states (hence the name); see list of American States for a full listing.
Most visitors from outside Canada and Mexico arrive in the United States by plane. While many medium sized inland cities have an international airport, there are limited flights to most of these and most travelers find themselves entering the U.S. at one of the major entry points along the coasts:
From the east New York (city) New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Miami are the primary entry points from Europe and other transatlantic points of departure. All the major west coast airports have service from a few key European cities.
From the west Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland (Oregon), and Honolulu are the primary entry points for travelers from Asia and other transpacific points of departure. Several carriers are already offering nonstop flights between South East Asia and New York. Of course, if you arrive in Honolulu, you must take another flight to get to the mainland. Foreign airlines are not allowed to transport passengers to/from Hawaii or Alaska and the other 48 states (except for refueling and in-transit).
From the south Miami, Florida is the primary entry point from Latin America, primarily South America. Also, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Charlotte are major international waypoints. From Mexico, most major U.S. airports have non-stop service.
From the other side of the world New Delhi, India has non-stop service to Chicago and Newark. From Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Dubai you can also fly to New York (JFK). Qatar, and Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabian fly to Washington, DC, and South Africa South African Airways goes to New York (JFK) and Washington, DC (Dulles).
Note that the United States requires entry formalities even for international transit, and the current state of international affairs means that this is not going to change anytime soon. You must have a valid visa to enter the United States if required by your citizenship, even if you are immediately continuing on a flight to a different country. If your citizenship requires a visa to enter the U.S., Avoiding a transit of the United States avoid transiting through the U.S. unless you want to spend time and money to obtain a C-1 transit visa. Further, when booking flights to the U.S. note that you will be required to clear customs and immigration at your first U.S. stop, not at your final destination, even if you have an onward flight. Allow at least 2 hours of stop-over (ideally more than 3) at your first U.S. stop.
Warning: ALL persons wishing to enter the United States by air must now possess a valid passport or similar travel document (such as a NEXUS card or Laser Visa).
Traffic on American roads travels on the right hand side (as it does in Canada and Mexico). Entry through certain checkpoints can be slow and difficult.
If you are entering under the Visa Waiver Program, you will need to pay a US$6 fee, in cash, at the port of entry.
Warning: ALL persons wishing to enter the United States by land must now possess a valid passport or similar travel document (such as a NEXUS card or Laser Visa).
Entering the U.S. by sea, other than on a registered cruise ship, may be difficult. The most common entry points for private boats are Los Angeles and the surrounding area, Florida, and the Eastern coastal states.
Some passenger ferries exist between Canada and the U.S., notably from the Atlantic Provinces to New England (United States of America) New England, and from Victoria (British Columbia) Victoria, British Columbia to Seattle.
Cunard offers transatlantic ship travel between the United Kingdom and New York City.
Warning: ALL persons wishing to enter the United States by sea must now possess a valid passport or similar travel document (such as a NEXUS card or Laser Visa).
Amtrak offers international service from Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal into the U.S.
The size of the U.S. and the distance separating major cities make air the dominant mode of travel for short-term travelers. If you have time, travel by car or rail can be interesting.
By far the most convenient form of intercity travel in the U.S. is air travel. Coast-to-coast travel takes about 6 hours from east to west or 5 hours from west to east (varying due to prevailing winds), compared to the days necessary for land transportation. Most cities in the US are served by one or even two airports, with many small towns also having some passenger air service, although you will often have to detour through a major hub airport to get there. Depending on where you are starting from, it can sometimes be cheaper to drive to a nearby large city and fly from there or, conversely, to fly to a large city near your destination and drive a rental car from there.
Major carriers compete vigorously for business on major routes, and bargains can be had for travelers willing to book two or more weeks in advance. However most smaller destinations are served by only one or two regional carriers, and prices there can be surprisingly expensive. There are some discount air carriers in the U.S. and they are becoming more dominant all the time. Southwest Airlines is the largest and best known.
Online travel agencies, such as Expedia Travelocity Priceline and Orbitz list most flights of all the airlines and you can pick and choose based on price, travel time, number of stops, etc. A little time spent familiarizing oneself with these websites can often save considerable money.
There are a number of ways to save money when flying domestically in the United States. See Cheap airline travel in North America.
By private jet
Private jet travel within the United States is no longer the exclusive realm of the super rich; the merely rich can pull it off also. In general, the advantages of private jet travel are:
You can fly directly to small, more remote airports that would be inaccessible by commercial flights. You can fly at the time and schedule of your choosing, and on short notice.You can bring pets on board the aircraft.You can avoid the hassles of airports and receive luxury service throughout your journey.
Air Charter refers to hiring a private jet for one time journey. Jet Cards are pre-paid cards entitling the owner to a specific number of flight hours on a specified aircraft. As all expenses are pre-paid on the card, you do not need to concern yourself with deadhead time, return flights, landing fees, etc.
The cost of chartering the smallest private jet can begin at around $4000 per flight hour, with the cost substantially higher for larger, longer-range aircraft. While private flying is by no means inexpensive, a family of four or more can often fly together at a cost similar to or even favorable to buying first class commercial airline tickets.
Passenger trains in the United States are surprisingly scarce and relatively expensive. The national rail system, Amtrak (1-800-USA-RAIL), provides service to many cities, concentrating more on sightseeing tours than efficient intercity travel. They have promotional discounts of 15% for students and seniors, and a 30-day U.S. Rail Pass for international travelers only. Separate from Amtrak, commuter trains carry passengers to and from the suburbs of major cities.
Amtrak offers many amenities and services that are lacking from other modes of transport. Amtrak offers many routes that traverse some of America's most beautiful areas. Travelers with limited time may not find travel by train to be convenient, simply because the country is big, and the bigness is particularly evident in many of the scenic areas. For those with ample time, though, train travel offers an unparalleled view of America's scenic beauty, without the trouble and long-term discomfort of a rental (hire) car or the hassle of flying.
Travellers choosing Amtrak should be prepared to pad their schedules somewhat. Since Amtrak does not own the rails on which they operate their trains stop and go at the whim of the freight operators who do own them. In general it's a good idea to pad the schedule by 25% when planning connections with other trains or other transport modes. In recent years this is especially true for those few Amtrak lines which cross the Canadian border, since customs officials seem to delight in delaying the train for as long as possible. Expect to wait two hours rather than the advertised 30 minutes.
A major Amtrak line in regular daily use by Americans themselves is the Acela Express line, running between Boston and Washington, D.C.. It stops in New York (city) New York, New Haven, Philadelphia and many other cities on the way. This line is electrified, with top speeds of 150 miles per hour (though the average speed is a good deal slower). The Acela Express has first class service, but can be quite expensive. Given the difficulty and expense of getting from the center of some of the major Northeastern cities to their respective airports, trains can sometimes be more convenient than air travel. There are also frequent, slower regional trains covering the same stations along the Northeast Corridor for lower fares.
All Amtrak trains in the northeast as well as all long-distance trains now require reservations. The only routes that don't require reservations are Hiawatha trains between Chicago and Milwaukee, and Capital Corridor (Sacramento-Oakland-San Jose), and Pacific Surfliner (San Diego-Las Angeles-Santa Barbara) Trains in California. During usual American vacation times, some long-distance trains can sell out weeks or even months in advance, so it pays to book early if you plan on using the long-distance trains. Booking early also results in generally lower fares for all trains since they tend to increase as trains become fuller.
One major scenic long-distance train route, the California Zephyr, runs from Emeryville in the Bay Area (California) Bay Area of California to Chicago, via Reno, Salt Lake City and Denver. The full trip takes around 60 hours, but has incredible views of the Western deserts, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains, things that you just cannot see if you fly. Many of the sights on this route are simply inaccessible to cars. The trains run only once per day, and they usually sell out well in advance.
Amtrak's single most popular train is the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder train via Milwaukee, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Fargo, Minot, Glacier National Park, Whitefish, and Spokane. In FY2007, this train alone carried over 503, 000 passengers.
Amtrak also provides reasonably speedy daily round trips between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada and several daily trips between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon on the Amtrak Cascades line.
Passengers traveling long distances on Amtrak may reserve a seat in coach (Economy class) or pay extra for an upgrade to a private sleeping compartment (there are no shared rooms), which also includes all meals in the dining car. Amtrak trains in the West feature a lounge car with floor to ceiling windows, which are perfect for sightseeing.
Bradt's USA by Rail book (ISBN 1841621277) is a guide to all Amtrak routes, with maps, station details and other practical advice.
America's love affair with the automobile is legendary, and most Americans prefer the convenience of car travel for getting to nearby cities in their state or region. Besides intercity travel, a car can be necessary even to get around in a single city (such as Phoenix ). Travelers from outside the country may not sufficiently appreciate the need for an automobile here. Of course in very large cities like New York City or Chicago there are extensive in-city bus and/or train services and large numbers of cruising taxicabs, but in most medium-sized American cities, particularly in the west and south, cities are very spread out and public transportation thin. Taxis are often available, but except at airports you may have to phone for one and wait a half-hour or so to be picked up, and make similar arrangements to return. Even in some very large cities (such as Los Angeles and Atlanta ), a private car is your most practical option.
A romantic appeal is attached to the idea of long-distance car travel; many Americans will tell you that you can't see the real America except by car. Given the dearth of public transportation within most American cities, the loss of time traveling between cities by car rather than flying, can be made up by the convenience of driving around within cities once you arrive. In addition, many of the country's major natural attractions, such as the Grand Canyon, are almost impossible to get to without an automobile. Just keep in mind that because of the distances, this kind of travel can mean many long days behind the wheel, so pay attention to the comfort of the car you use.
The United States is covered with a convenient system of U.S. and Interstate highways. Interstates are always freeways (limited access; no grade crossings), while U.S. Highways may be freeways on some sections and not on others. These roads network between major (and minor) population centers, and can make it easy to cover long distances – or get to the other side of a large city – quickly. Primary Interstates have one-or two-digit numbers, with odd ones running north-south (e.g. I-5) and even ones running east-west (e.g. I-80). Three-digit interstate numbers designate shorter, secondary freeways. An odd first digit signifies a spur into or away from a city; an even first digit signifies a loop around a large city. The second two digits remain the same as the primary Interstate that travels nearby. The U.S. Highways are generally older routes that lead through town centers. In many cases, Interstates were constructed roughly parallel to U.S. Highways to expedite traffic that wishes to bypass the city.
The vast majority of freeways do not charge tolls, but those that do are also known as turnpikes. Tolls are also frequently levied for crossing large bridges or tunnels.
American drivers tend to drive calmly in residential neighborhoods. Freeways around big cities, however, can become really crowded with a significant proportion of hurried drivers-who will exceed speed limits, pass unsafely, or follow other cars at unsafely close distances. Enforcement of posted speed limits is somewhat unpredictable and varies widely from state to state. Keeping pace with most local drivers will usually avoid a troublesome citation. Beware of small towns along otherwise high-speed rural roads (and medium-speed suburban roads); the reduced speed limits found while going through town are taken very seriously.
Traffic signs often depend on the ability to read English, using only words. The country is gradually adopting signs with internationally understood symbols, usually with English translations for locals not yet familiar with them. Signs rarely use metric units; distances and speeds will almost always be given in miles and miles/hour, without these units specified. (1 mile = 1.6 km.).
Renting a car in the U.S. usually runs anywhere from $30 and $100 per day, with some discounts for week-long rentals. The major rental agencies are Enterprise Rent-A-Car http://www.enterprise.com/ (+1 800 RENT-A-CAR); Hertz http://www.hertz.com/ (+1 800 230 4898); Avis http://www.avis.com/ (+1 800 230 4898); Thrifty Car Rental http://www.Thrifty.com/; and Dollar Rent A Car http://www.Dollar.com/. There are no large national discount car rental agencies but in each city there is usually at least one. A couple discount car rental companies, usually restricted to areas of the country, are Advantage Rent A Car, E-Z Rent-A-Car http://www.e-zrentacar.com/ (+1 800 277 5171) and Fox Rent A Car. The internet or the Yellow Pages are the easiest ways to find them. One widespread chain is Rent-A-Wreck http://www.rentawreck.com/ (+1 800 944 7501). It rents used cars at significantly lower prices. Most rental agencies have downtown offices in major cities as well as offices at major airports. Not all companies allow picking up a car in one city and dropping it off in another (the ones that do almost always charge extra for the privilege); check with the rental agency when making your reservations.
Most rental agencies accept an International Driver's Permit only when presented along with a valid driver's license from your country. You may wish to join some kind of auto club before starting a large American road trip, and having a cell phone is a very good idea. Most rental agencies have some kind of emergency road service program, but they can have spotty coverage for remote regions. The largest and most popular club in the United States is the American Automobile Association http://www.aaa.com/ (1-800-391-4AAA), known as Triple A. A yearly membership runs about $60. AAA members also get discounts at many hotels, motels, restaurants and attractions; which may make it worth getting a membership even if you don't drive. Alternatively, Better World Club http://www.betterworldclub.com/ (1-866-238-1137) offers similar rates and benefits as AAA with often timelier service and is a more eco-friendly choice (1% of revenue is donated to environmental cleanup programs).
Gasoline ( gas ) is sold by the gallon. The American gallon is smaller than the UK gallon, and equals 3.785 liters. The U.S. octane scale is different from that used in Europe; a regular gallon of U.S. gasoline is rated at 87 octane, the equivalent of about 92 in Europe.
Despite increasing petroleum prices worldwide and some increases in gas taxes, the American consumer-voter's attachment to his automobile, combined with abundant domestic oil reserves and relatively low taxes on gasoline, has kept retail fuel prices much lower than in many parts of the world. Prices fluctuate by region and season, generally ranging from around $3.00 to $4.00/gallon ($0.75 to $1.10/liter) in recent years.
Intercity bus travel in the United States is widespread, but is not available everywhere. Many patrons use bus travel when other modes aren't readily available, as buses often connect many smaller towns with regional cities. The disadvantaged and elderly may use these bus lines, as automobile travel proves arduous or unaffordable for some. It's commonly considered a lower class way to travel, but is generally dependable, safe, and affordable.
Greyhound Bus Lines (+1 800 229 9424) has the predominant share of American bus travel. Steep discounts are available t o travelers who purchase their tickets 7-14days in advance of their travel date. Their North American Discovery Pass allows unlimited travel for ranges of 4 to 60 days, but you might want to try riding one or two buses first before locking yourself in to an exclusively-bus American journey.
Megabus offers inexpensive daily bus service in the Midwest from their hub in Chicago to Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Kansas City, St. Louis, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Toledo (Ohio) Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Louisville.
Jefferson Bus Lines (+1 800 767 5333) is another option, with service from Minnesota to Texas, including, but not limited to, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Winnipeg, Canada.
For bus service between large East Coast cities (particularly Washington, D.C., New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston ), travelers can purchase deeply discounted (below Greyhound prices) tickets from a number of small operators, typically called Chinatown bus operators, because they usually enter and depart from the Chinatown area of the cities they serve. These type of services are also beginning to appear on the West Coast.
By Recreational Vehicle (RV)
Recreational Vehicles – large, sometimes bus sized vehicles that include sleeping and living quarters – are a distinctly American way to cruise the country. Some RV'ers love the convenience of being able to drive their home anywhere they like and enjoy the camaraderie that RV campgrounds offer. Other people dislike the hassles and maintenance issues that come with RVing. And don't even think about driving an RV into a huge metropolis such as New York. Still, if you want to drive extensively within the United States and are comfortable handling a big rig, renting an RV is an option you should consider.
The thrill and exhilaration of cross country travel are magnified when you go by motorcycle. Harley Davidson is the preeminent American motorcycle brand and Harley operates a motorcycle rental program http://www.harley-davidson.com/wcm/Content/Pages/RentalsandTours/rentaharley.jsp?locale=en_US for those licensed and capable of handling a full weight motorcycle. For those unexperienced with motorcycles, Harley and other dealerships offer classes for beginners. Wearing a helmet, although not required in all states, is always a good idea.
American enthusiasm towards motorcycles has led to a motorcycling subculture. Motorcycle Clubs are exclusive clubs for members dedicated to riding a particular brand of motorcycle within a highly structured club hierarchy. Riding Clubs may or may not be organized around a specific brand of bikes and offer open membership to anyone interested in riding. Motorcycle Rallies, such as the famous one in Sturgis, South Dakota, are huge gatherings of motorcyclists from around the country. Many motorcyclists are not affiliated with any club and opt to ride independently or with friends. However you choose to ride, and whatever brand of bike you prefer, motorcycling can be a thrilling way to see the country.
A long history of hitchhiking comes out of the U.S., with record of automobile hitchhikers as early as 1911. Today, hitchhiking is nowhere near as common, but there are some nevertheless who still attempt short or cross-country trips. The laws related to hitchhiking in the U.S. are most covered by the Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC), adopted with changes in wording by individual states. In general, it is legal to hitchhike throughout the majority of the country, if not standing within the boundaries of a highway (usually marked by a solid white line at the shoulder of the road) and if not on an Interstate highway prohibiting pedestrians.
In many states Interstate highways do not allow foot traffic, so hitchhikers must use the entrance ramps. In a few states it is allowed or tolerated (unless on a toll road). Oklahoma, Texas and Oregon are a few states that do allow pedestrians on the highway shoulder, although not in some metropolitan areas. Oklahoma allows foot traffic on all free interstates, but not toll roads) and Texas only bans it on toll roads-and on free Interstates within the city of El Paso. Oregon only bans it in the three counties that make up the tri-met transit district ( Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington (Oregon) Washington (Metro Portland).) Missouri only bans it within Kansas City and St. Louis city limits.
Hitchhiking has become much less popular due to increasing wariness of the possible dangers (fueled in part by sensational stories in the news media). International travelers to the U.S. should avoid this practice unless they have either a particularly strong sense of social adventure or extremely little money. Even many Americans themselves would only feel comfortable thumbing a ride if they had a good knowledge of the locale.
When to go
Like most things in the US, crime varies greatly depending on the area. Most (but NOT all) large cities have higher crime rates, as might be expected. Outside of major cities and urban areas, however, crime rates are usually lower. As always, common sense goes a long way: do not go out alone at night, avoid high-crime areas, be wary of strangers, and do not draw attention to yourself. Carrying large quantities of cash is generally also not a good idea; tourists are sometimes targeted by thieves since they are more likely to be carrying cash with them. Credit cards are much safer and widely accepted.
When in cities, be ready for strangers who will approach, tell a tale of woe (often involving a car in need of refueling or some other scenario requiring a modest amount of money), and then request several dollars. In the majority of cases the tale is untrue, and they pose no threat, so don't feel any obligation to part with your cash. A polite Sorry, I can't help will usually be sufficient; a firm No and walking away will almost always work.
Gay and lesbian
Americans' opinions of homosexuality are incredibly diverse, ranging from very accepting to extremely intolerant. Younger Americans in general tend to be less intolerant than those older. Several states and many major cities require equal treatment in public accommodation, and a 2003 Supreme Court decision struck the last remaining sodomy laws from the books. However, same-sex marriages and civil unions are not recognized by the federal government nor by most states (only Massachusetts and California recognize same-sex marriage, although, Vermont, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Oregon, Washington, and a few other areas do have civil unions or legal equivalents) and in many states it is legal – but uncommon – for a gay couple to be denied a shared room. Also beware that it is legal for gays to be fired from their jobs in over 30 states. Gay-bashing is not especially common, but physical and verbal attacks do happen. Remember that, especially in the south (known as the Bible Belt ), fundamentalist or otherwise conservative Christians intolerant of open displays of homosexual behavior. Anti-gay political groups are active in US politics and if you go to any kind of gay celebration or event, you may encounter such groups (although this is not very likely). The residents of most large cities are used to visible homosexuality, with smaller towns – especially those where fundamentalist Christianity is prevalent – being less comfortable with it. But even those who disapprove of homosexuality would usually prefer to ignore it or channel their opinions into political or religious activism, so if you don't identify yourself as gay, it will probably not become an issue.
Many large cities have neighborhoods where large numbers of gay/lesbian people live quite openly; New York (city) New York 's New York (city)/Greenwich Village Greenwich Village, Chicago 's Chicago/Boystown Boystown, San Francisco 's San Francisco/Castro Street Castro Street and San Francisco/Noe Valley Noe Valley, Washington, D.C. Washington 's Washington (D.C.)/Dupont Circle Dupont Circle, and Los Angeles ' West Hollywood are among the most established. Even outside of gay neighborhoods, major cities are often overwhelmingly gay-friendly, especially in the Northeast and the West Coast. An increasing number of resort areas are known as gay-friendly; these include old standbys like Fire Island, Key West, Asheville, Provincetown, Ogunquit, Rehoboth Beach, Saugatuck-Douglas Saugatuck, and newer hotspots like Asbury Park. In these areas, it is not a problem to be open about one's sexual orientation. In many other smaller cities, there are small neighborhoods with a gay presence although not necessarily known by a specific name. The presence of a rainbow flag hanging outside of a building almost always indicates that whoever owns or runs the building, be it a home, hotel or shop, is gay-friendly.
Street drugs, including marijuana, are illegal throughout the U.S. Marijuana use is more widely accepted than other drugs (particularly on the West Coast), but generally not to the degree that it is in Canada or Western European countries. Although a few states have passed laws legalizing the medical use of marijuana, this will not protect any foreign citizen caught in possession. Outside of drug-using circles, most Americans frown upon illicit drug use regardless of quantity, and travelers would be wise to avoid using such substances in the United States. Attempting to bring any quantity into the U.S. poses a serious risk of being arrested for trafficking.
Prostitution is illegal in all areas except at licensed brothels in rural Nevada counties. In other states, tolerance and enforcement of prostitution laws vary considerably, but be aware that police routinely engage in sting operations in which an officer may pose as a prostitute to catch and arrest persons offering to pay for sex.
The American health care system is world-class in quality, but very expensive for the uninsured. Americans generally use private health insurance, paid either by their employer or out of their own pocket; some risk paying high hospital bills themselves, or depend on government subsidized health plans. As a traveler, it is advisable to acquire health insurance with medical evacuation coverage before arriving in the U.S.; should you not do so and a medical incident occurs, you may face enormous hospital bills.
In a life-threatening emergency, call 911 to summon an ambulance to take you to the nearest hospital emergency room ( ER ), or in less urgent situations get to the hospital yourself and register at the ER's front desk. Emergency rooms will treat patients without regard to their ability to pay, but you will still be presented with a bill for all care. Do not use ERs for non-emergency walk-in care. Not only can this be 3-4 times more expensive than other options, but you will often wait many hours before being treated, as the staff will give priority to patients with urgent needs. In most areas, the charge for an emergency room visit starts around $500, in addition to any specific services or medications you may require. Most urban areas have minor emergency centers (also called urgent care, etc.) for medical situations where a fully equipped emergency room would be excessive. However, their hours may be limited, and few are open overnight.
Walk-in clinics are another place for travelers to find routine medical care, letting patients see a doctor or nurse-practitioner without an appointment (but often with a bit of a wait). They are typically very up-front about fees, and always accept credit cards. To find one, check the yellow pages under Clinics, or call a major hospital and ask. Make sure to tell the clerk you will be paying out of pocket ; if they assume an insurance company will be paying for it, they may order tests that are not medically essential and in some cases bill for services that aren't actually provided.
Dentists are readily available throughout the United States (again, see the yellow pages). As most Americans do not have dental insurance, dental offices are accustomed to explaining fees over the phone, and most will accept credit cards.
Most counties and cities have a government-supported clinic offering free or low-cost testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases; call the Health Department for the county you are in for more details. Many county clinics offer primary health care services as well, however these services are geared towards low-income residents and not foreign travelers. Planned Parenthood (1-800-230-7526) is a private agency with clinics and centers around the country providing birth control and other reproductive health services for both females and males.
America was once populated by peoples who migrated there from northeast Asia. In the United States those that remain are known as Native Americans, or American Indians. With populations once in the tens of millions, most led tribal, hunter-gatherer lifestyles, although some developed political enclaves based on agriculture, such as the Five Nations of the Northeast and the Pueblo peoples of the Southwest.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, various parts of the region were colonized by several European nations and/or their religious missionaries, including Spain, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Russia. The United Kingdom British colonies in Virginia and Massachusetts were the kernel of what we now know as the United States of America. By the early 18th century, 13 colonies ranged along the Atlantic coast from Georgia (state) Georgia to present-day Maine. Their growth drove the displacement the Native American population westward and the extinction of many others, as well as the end of the embryonic Dutch and Swedish footholds.
The southern areas, because of a longer growing season, had richer agricultural prospects, especially for cotton and tobacco. Large plantations developed with most of the labor being provided by African slaves, as was typical of most of Central and South America. The Northern colonies developed as mercantile societies modeled after the home country, Britain.
In the late 18th century, colonial revolutionaries declared independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, eventually realized by a bloody Revolutionary War. The colonies formed a federal government, with its Constitution inspired by Enlightenment-era ideas about government and human rights. In the late 18th and early 19th century, this government established itself and expanded westward, under a Manifest Destiny for the nation to expand to the Pacific Ocean.
Territories in the Midwest were added as new states, and the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 gave the United States nominal control of former French territory along the Mississippi River. Florida was purchased in 1813 from the Spanish; American settlers in Texas rebelled against the Mexican government, setting up a republic that was absorbed into the union. The Mexican-American War of the 1840s won the northern territories of Mexico, including such states as California, Arizona, and New Mexico, giving the continental US the rough outlines it has today. The marginalization of the Native Americans, and their concentration in the west by treaty, military force, and by the inadvertent spread of European diseases, continued apace.
By the mid-19th century the differences between North and South had become severe. Though slavery was not the only issue between the two, it was an important one. By the 1860s, the Southern states decided to secede from the Union and the American Civil War broke out. It was one of the bloodiest conflicts in history, costing hundreds of thousands of lives. With the victory of the North a single country was maintained. While slavery was abolished, the former slaves by and large remained an economic and social underclass in the South.
The late 19th century saw the U.S. cementing its power on the continent and making tentative expansions abroad. Alaska was purchased from the Russians in 1867, and Hawaii was annexed in 1898. The Spanish-American War gained the first colonial territories: the Philippines (later granted independence) and Puerto Rico (which remains by choice a US territory).
In the Eastern cities of the United States, an immigration boom had begun. Southern and Eastern Europeans, especially Italians, and Slavs, including many Jews fleeing Russian pogroms, joined Irish refugees to become a cheap labor force for the country's growing industrialization. Many Southern African-Americans fled rural poverty for the relative security of industrial jobs in the North. Other immigrants, including many Scandinavians and Germans, moved to the now-opened territories in the West and Midwest, where land was available for free to anyone who would develop it. A network of railroads crisscrossed the country, allowing faster movement of people and materials, and thus accelerating development.
With its entrance into World War I near the end of the conflict, the United States established itself as a world power. The creation of real wealth grew rapidly in this period. In the Roaring 20s stock speculation created an immense bubble which, when it burst in October of 1929, contributed to economic havoc, known as the Great Depression, across the country and around the world. This crisis exacerbated the disaffection among the working classes in the United States and around the world and led to a rise in socialist thinking that was to have a large effect on the rest of the century, particularly the mid-century.
At the end of 1941 the United States entered World War II. In Alliance with the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, the U.S. helped defeat the fascist regimes in Italy, Germany, and Japan. At the end of this war of unprecedented scale, the United States, which had been mostly spared from fighting on its own soil, became the dominant economic power in the world, responsible for nearly half of the world's production. It stood as the primary opposing power to the Soviet Union, a former ally which was attempting to recover from devastation and ensure its security by asserting its influence with military backing, giving rise to what is now known as the Cold War.
Also at the end of WWII, African Americans, who had long suffered de facto disenfranchisement, demanded equal rights, with widespread demonstrations. This, and the status of women and other overdue societal changes that had been contained by the effort of the war, flowered into a virtual revolution. The unpopular war in Vietnam, a by-product of the Cold War, added to the social strife. Taken together these changes led to significant change in the country: the economic and political conditions for African Americans substantially improved; a majority of women entered the workplace, and this had a powerful effect on homelife, the workplace and the economy.
Articles and Stories about United States of America
Quick Facts about United States of America
301,139,947 (July 2007 est.)
English, Spanish (spoken by a sizable minority), Hawaiian (in Hawaii), Creole (in Louisiana), various indigenous and other languages
UTC -4 to UTC -10
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During any emergency, dialing 911 at any telephone will connect you to an area call center for all the emergency services in the area (police, fire, ambulance, etc). Calls to 911 are free from payphones and any mobile phone capable of operating with local carriers. Dispatchers will send appropriate personnel to deal with accidents, serious sickness, criminal, or any other emergency situations. Unless you are calling from a mobile phone, the 911 call center can almost always trace your call to locate you; with mobile phones location technology is less accurate and reliable. Abuse of the 911 program for non-emergency purposes can result in a heavy fine; only use this service for true emergencies. Some cities have a 311 number for situations which are not of immediate danger.
All Lodging in United States of America:
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An unforgettable experience is the stay at Redbury@Hollywood and Vine. This jewel opened its doors in 2010 and its the result of many artists and specialists. The Redbury offers flats of superb aesthetics with above the standards amenities, such as 24 hour in flat dining service, private patio and many more. The Redbury at Hollywood and Wine hotel is located seven miles from Burbank Bob Hope Airport and less than a mile from Pantages Theatre...
Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Hotel in San Diego, United States
Silvertree Hotel, Hotel in Snowmass Village, United States
The Silvertree Hotel is Snowmass Village's only full-service ski-in/ski-out hotel. Centrally located on Fanny Hill and the Village Mall the Silvertree offers complimentary transfers to Aspen's Sardy Field airport (approximately three miles). It is roughly a three-and-a-half-hour drive to Denver International Airport. The full-service gym includes a steam room massage rooms men's and women's locker rooms an outdoor heated pool whirlpool...
Mgm Grand At Foxwoods, Hotel in Mashantucket, United States
The MGM Grand at Foxwoods offers a dynamic and sophisticated guest experience that surely bolsters Foxwoods preeminence as the ultimate meeting and resort destination on the East Coast. The hotel has a 170000 square-feet of function space. It acts as a gateway into Las Vegas-style entertainment nightlife and gaming. It also offers 115000 square feet of premium meeting space including a 50000 square foot pillarless ballroom and picturesque...
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Hotel in Bay Lake, United States
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is a 33-acre wildlife reserve and African-style hotel located near Disney's Animal Kingdom® Theme Park and approximately 25 miles from Orlando International Airport. Local attractions include Disney's Magic Kingdom® Park and Disney-MGM Studios.The perfect resort for animal lovers guests at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge can watch antelope giraffes exotic birds and other creatures from most balcony rooms...
Discover the Best Western Atrium Gardens a home away from home. Experience the charm of the tropical plants and trees in the hotel. We are located in the heart of the Historical Park City and the town is well known for the Walnut Valley Festival Arkalalah Festival car shows drag racing one-fourth of an acre of magnificent woodlands prairies and streams. We are adjacent to a golf course restaurants twenty-four Wal-Mart Super Center....