Best for jaw-dropping views: Grand Canyon, Arizona

Carved out by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon overwhelms the senses with its immense size and intense colour palette. Nothing can prepare you for the natural beauty of the canyon, and it is essential that you get to see both the breath-taking sunrise and sunset while in this world-renowned National Park. There are several trails to cover if you fancy taking on a hike – including the Bright Angel Trail that winds down towards the canyon base. This can be done in one day, but only for the fitness elite, so be sure to turn back up when you start to feel tired.

Going down is the easy part; it’s the calf-crucifying trek back up under the baking heat of the Arizona sun that will really work off the American diet. Then, after you’ve seen all you can from the ground, it’s time to take to the air with a helicopter flight, getting a bird’s-eye view of all 277-river-miles long and 18-miles wide of the canyon. Soaring over the lush green forest that surrounds it, get ready for the stomach churning drop as the canyon dips to its base, allowing you to see the winding river and all the beautiful formations.

What else? While in Arizona you can visit part of the iconic Route 66 and the town of Seligman, which was the inspiration for Radiator Springs in the Pixar-animated film, Cars. If you’re looking for a night under the stars, there’s no better place than Lake Havasu with its stunning mountain views and clear waters for sunset dips.

Best for architecture: San Francisco, California

A week in this city would be perfect, but if you only have a couple of days then get an itinerary together as there is so much to see and do. San Francisco is home to the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and it is packed full of quirky little shops such as the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, where you can see the magic happening. A short walk from Chinatown is the Beat Museum, celebrating the Beat generation of 1950s San Francisco – there’s even a street named after Jack Kerouac.

A visit to the famous Lombard Street should also be on your list of things to see – with its steep one-block section that consists of eight tight turns. Featured in several films and TV shows, it is amusing to watch the cars struggle to negotiate each bend. We would advise travelling by tram instead, so hop aboard and watch the colourful houses – each unique in design and decoration – and give your legs a rest from the steep, unforgiving streets.

Book well in advance if you want to see the eerie Alcatraz; but if you can’t there’s always a lovely sunset cruise on a catamaran to get a decent view of the island as well as the towering Golden Gate Bridge. You can also walk or ride a bike along the bridge for some amazing views and blustering winds.

What else? Further down the West Coast you can experience Big Sur State Park and its 90 miles of stunning coastline. Make sure your camera is fully charged as there is little that you won’t want to capture, including the stunning panorama of McWay Falls from the viewing platform. While here, be sure to grab a burrito from the River Inn restaurant where you can sit on chairs in the river to cool your feet.

TNT Tour Search offers bespoke trips to the USA – find out more and book your adventure here.

Best for tree hugging: Yosemite, California

Whether you are looking for a hiking challenge or just somewhere to kick back and relax among amazing natural beauty, you can spend several days exploring what Yosemite has to offer. The biggest pull to this part of California is usually the impressive collection of giant sequoia trees. Scaling heights of up to 88 metres in the Mariposa Grove, it is almost impossible to capture the size of the trees in a picture. Because of some lightning damage, you can walk (and then crawl as the tree tapers) through the inside of a fallen tree. You can also stand inside one of the sequoias, looking up into the heart of the tree.

While hiking, keep your eyes peeled for some amazing waterfalls such as Vernal Fall and the unusual Horsetail Fall, which appears to be on fire when it reflects the reds and oranges of the sunset. Lake Tuolumne is the perfect place to take a dip with its crystal clear waters and a stunning mountain backdrop.

Another great place to relax and enjoy a swim is Merced River, next to Housekeeping Camp. Littered with fallen trees and mossy underfoot, the river provides an ice-cool retreat even in high-summer heat.

What else? Nearby to Yosemite National Park is Mono Lake. The ancient salt lake is home to a unique ecosystem of no fish but trillions of brine shrimp and alkali flies, as well as being a prime spot for millions of migratory birds each year.

Along the lakeshore, scenic limestone formations, known as tufa towers, rise from the water’s surface, providing distinctive scenery.

%TNT Magazine% Dam

Best for debauchery: Las Vegas, Nevada

There is so much more to do in Vegas than gamble, but if you do fancy a flutter there is nowhere better than The Strip. When you tire of slot machines and poker tables you can watch the dancing fountains at The Belagio just like the cast of Ocean’s Eleven. Take a gondola ride indoors at the decadent Venetian or take in a show at the behemoth that is The Mirage.

At every turn along The Strip there is something new to see and a new novelty drink to enjoy, so come armed with cash and plenty of it. Party buses are available if you have a large group and provide a unique experience of drinking in a moving vehicle with a stripper pole. Be sure to get a picture at the iconic Las Vegas sign and try to catch the Freemont Street light show before the strawberry daiquiris kick in.

During the day you are welcome to carry on drinking and gambling, but if you fancy something even more thrilling then why not try your hand at shooting? Several gun ranges are on hand (of course, it is America) so you can take on a machine gun or go old school with rifles and handguns.

What else? Built to tame the mighty Colorado River, The Hoover Dam took five years to build during the Depression and its colossal size is hard to fathom until you stand on the bridge overlooking it. Also worth a visit is Gold Point in Nevada. With only a handfulof permanent residents, an old post office, jail, general store and several cabins, it truly feels like a ghost town.

If you ask for Herb (co-owner of the majority of the town), he will cook you something nice and serve you from his bar, all for a small contribution to the upkeep of Gold Point.

TNT Tour Search offers bespoke trips to the USA – find out more and book your adventure here.

Best for beaches: San Diego, California

With a laid-back atmosphere and the promise of blazing sunshine, San Diego is the prime location for getting an impressive tan and enjoying some beautiful beaches. Mission Beach is a must and is surrounded by shops, bars, eateries and street performers to keep you entertained.

You can also visit Belmont Park, which has rides and arcades as well as the chance to test your surfing prowess with the artificial wave at the Wave House. The sea can be very choppy, so get ready to jump high to get over the waves, or admit defeat and watch from the comfort of your sun lounger. San Diego is also home to Casa Beach, also known as Children’s Pool, where you will see a healthy population of seals and sea lions. Strangely mesmerising, you can spend an hour or two watching them sunbathing and barking.

The beautiful city of Coronado is not far from San Diego and is home to the famous Hotel del Coronado, which was the setting for the 1959 Marilyn Monroe film, Some Like it Hot.

What else? Salvation Mountain is situated in the lower desert of southern California and is a very strange but necessary part of your West Coast travels. Standing 50 feet high and 150 foot wide, the mountain is one man’s tribute to God in multi-colour.

Among the assault of colour there are messages such as ‘God is Love’ and other religious writings peppered among the painted clay stripes, flowers, waterfalls and bluebirds. You can also visit the majestic sand dunes for a photo opportunity that will look more like ancient Egypt than California.

TNT Tour Search offers bespoke trips to the USA – find out more and book your adventure here.

Image credit: Images: Thinkstock, Getty and Positive/Negative and john-fisher via Flickr

%TNT Magazine% canyon