As of the start of November 2021, UK travellers have been able to fly to the USA with restrictions lifted for the first time since March 2020, when the pandemic hit and the borders closed. Now fully vaccinated travellers can visit the US – where COVID restrictions were lifted in July – but must take a COVID test before and after travelling. There are some exceptions to also allow non-vaccinated travellers to enter the US.
This means the many and varied delights of the USA are back open to the millions of visitors who cross the Atlantic every year, seeking out the wealth of attractions and sightseeing opportunities America has to offer. None of that has changed and there’s still plenty to see and experience. So here’s a quick reminder of the most popular US destinations and the amazing things you can do there.
Without question, Orlando is the theme park capital of the world. Even though Orlando is slap bang in the middle of Florida, you might have very little reason to explore the rest of the state, because Orlando itself has it all. The theme parks highlight is undoubtedly Walt Disney World Resort (which includes the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon) while Universal Orlando rivals it for pizzazz, with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and Islands of Adventure. Elsewhere, you’ll find SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida Resort.
If you need an escape from the theme parks, then International Drive – or I-Drive as it’s locally known – should be your USA destination of choice. Here you can enjoy Icon Park, the Orlando StarFlyer, the Museum of Illusions and Madame Tussauds. Other attractions include escapology, skydiving, airboat rides and Gatorland. But if you fancy some retail therapy, head to Millenia Premier Malls, Florida Mall and various Designer Outlets, such as Lake Buena Vista and Vineland. There’s also plenty of boutique shops on Park Avenue and in Downtown Orlando.
Prepare to be dazzled, because Las Vegas has lost none of its sheen during lockdown and is still a sensory overload in all directions. Centred around the famous Strip, Vegas is an adventure you won’t forget. All the famous hotels still line the Strip, such as Mandalay Bay with its beach, the pyramid-shaped Luxor, MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood and The Venetian. You can easily walk between these hotels, which are all entertainment hubs in their own right.
You should also check out the famous fountains at the Bellagio, and all the hotels have theatrical shows on, featuring famous music artists, cabarets and acts such as Cirque du Soleil. Or visit the Stratosphere Tower and the High Roller big wheel for some spectacular views of this desert hotspot – or go all-out with a helicopter tour or balloon ride. The endless shops, casinos, bars and clubs will also keep you occupied.
There are some great day trips on offer too – we’d definitely recommend seeing the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam. If you thought Vegas was the centre of excess, you were probably right; it’s pretty hard to even scratch the surface of all the attractions here.
If theme parks aren’t your thing, the other main feature of Florida is its endless beaches. Miles and miles of golden coastline attracts many visitors to the Sunshine State and its major destinations such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Key West. South Beach in Miami is perhaps the most famous, while Miami itself showcases Latin American culture with a great arts scene and plenty of cosmopolitan style. The sunset boat trips around the string of islands that constitutes Key West and Key Largo are unrivalled anywhere else in the world, while the Everglades on the southern tip of Florida provide some of the most scenic and adventure-filled excursions you’ll experience anywhere.
Animal-lovers can enjoy a number of dolphin-watching excursions around Florida, while the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral just outside Orlando is another major attraction. You can go on various cruises around Millionaire’s Row, as Florida is the go-to destination for the wealthy of the world. But, if you have more down-to-earth tastes, then the Dry Tortugas National Park at Key West or the Wynwood Walls Museum in Miami is a must for your USA holiday.
If Orlando is the theme park capital of the world, New York is the sightseeing focal point. Around every corner of central Manhattan is a famous landmark, which makes New York one of the planet’s most popular and intense tourist destinations. If you like ticking off famous buildings, you’re in for a treat. You’ll never be more than a few blocks away from the Empire State Building, Flat Iron Building, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, Brooklyn Bridge or Times Square. Admire the skyline from the viewing decks of the Rockerfeller Centre and the One World Observatory, or retreat to Central Park’s natural sanctuary amid the hustle and bustle.
There’s plenty of culture to be enjoyed in NYC, too,, with the Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the 9/11 memorial and museum, and the Natural History Museum. And the theatres of Broadway have a dazzling array of shows. You can chill out in the cool and sophisticated boroughs of Greenwich Village and Soho, or discover the multi-cultural delights of Chinatown and Little Italy.
In terms of excursions in New York, there are all-day hop-on and hop-off bus tours (we recommend the night-time one into Brooklyn to get spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline), as well as visits to Coney Island and the Staten Island Ferry. Make sure you also stroll down the High Line – a suspended park of gardens and walkways which runs along a disused railway line. Shopping should be high on your agenda, too, with famous stores like Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales intermingled with lots of malls and some charming markets. And if you are a foodie, you might just find some of the best restaurants in the world, if you look hard enough.