|Photo by Freeimages.com/Erik Marr|
by Chris Leadbeater, The Daily Telegraph, May 12, 2016
Should the collective will of voters from Miami to Maui via Minneapolis see Donald Trump move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in January – and the rest of the globe voice consequent fears that the United States will draw into itself – the hoary chestnut about only 10 per cent of Americans having passports will surely be trotted out on a regular basis. Never mind that the real number is more like 46 per cent – 15.5million passports were issued in 2015, the fourth consecutive year that the figure has risen by at least half a million – the old stereotype of the USA as a place of enormous insularity tends to endure.
Of course, if that oft-quoted passport statistic of one-in-ten were true, it would be difficult to blame Americans for keeping their holiday focus trained on home pleasures. Here is a country which is all but half a continent, a destination where you can drive for a lifetime and never retrace your tracks. It is also an enclave which, due to its sheer scale, stretching from Arctic chill to tropical beaches via dazzling cities, coxcomb mountain ranges and parched-tongue deserts, has something to offer travellers in every section of the calendar.
January to March - Hawaii
While America's sun-swaddled mid-Pacific archipelago may seem a far-fetched thought if all you want is better weather, it is also a guaranteed source of January sun, temperatures hovering in the mid-Twenties Celsius during the first month of the year. The eight main islands of Hawaii ( gohawaii.com ) each offer something delightful and different. Oahu has the state capital Honolulu and the warm sands of Waikiki Beach. Kauai boasts beautiful scenery in the cliffs of the Na Pali Coast – stark rock faces dropping down to foaming ocean. Maui can claim splendid resorts, gazing into the sunset, at Lahaina and Kaanapali, on its west coast. The island of Hawaii (“The Big Island”) proffers the crackling, burning drama of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ( nps.gov/havo ), where Mauna Loa and Kilauea are brooding, fiery krakens – the latter behemoth, in particular, pouring forth its lava soul on a frequent basis. These four islands are all included on the “Hawaiian Island Hopping Adventure” sold by Audley Travel (01993 838 755; audleytravel.com ) – a 19-day odyssey which is priced from £5190 a head, including flights from six possible UK cities.
That Colorado ( colorado.com ) is the USA's most famous state for skiing is scarcely a secret – the Rockies rearing sharp-toothed within, the Continental Divide running sharply down the torso of the state. But its ready suitability for wintersports breaks – the season runs from the start of November until the end of April (with some snow areas open as late as June) – bears repetition. Over 30 ski zones are dotted across this jagged, frosted part of America – the most famous, maybe, being chic Aspen Snowmass ( aspensnowmass.com ), where the Buttermilk area provides comfortable gradients for families. Vail ( vail.com ), meanwhile, is the biggest mountain resort in the state, with 193 pistes. Then there is the highly popular Breckenridge ( breckenridge.com ), with its 155 runs of varying difficulty. Crystal Ski (020 8939 0726; crystalski.co.uk ) offers breaks at the latter. A seven-night holiday at the Beaver Run Resort, flying direct from Heathrow to Denver on January 11 next year, costs from £1484 a head, room only, including skis and lift passes for six days.
Skiing in Breckenridge
Louisiana's ( louisianatravel.com ) most enthralling metropolis will don its annual feathers and finery once again on February 28 2017 – and in the days building up to it. The city's ( neworleansonline.com ) feted Mardi Gras carnival ( mardigrasneworleans.com ) is far more than a single 24-hour window of noise and glamour. Visitors can expect a week of increasingly flamboyant parades and costumed colour, floats progressing noisily down St Charles Avenue – the whole fandango reaching a crescendo on Fat Tuesday. The fiesta is always an excellent reason to travel to New Orleans, though, of course, there is much else to enjoy in this evocative enclave – the balcony-fronted streets of the French Quarter; the white-facaded elegance of the St Louis Cathedral; the tootling jazz of Preservation Hall ( preservationhall.com ). A seven-night stay at the four-star W French Quarter, flying from Heathrow (via Miami) on February 23 2017, costs from £2038 a head, on a room-only basis (two sharing), through British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0787; ba.com/holidays ).
After dark in the Big Easy
April to June - Austin
It is a brave traveller who decides to feel the full force of the Texan summer – the furnace can be cranked to 35C in July. But visits in April are serenaded by a pleasant warmth of 26C. In truth, Austin ( austintexas.org ) is a splendid destination at most times of year. Texas's capital has a reputation as an arty enclave somewhat at odds with the cowboy machismo which informs the rest of the Lone Star State ( traveltexas.com ) – and supports this idea via institutions like the Mexic-Arte Museum (which gazes south of the border via a host of regional, Latin and Mexican works; mexic-artemuseum.org ) and the Blanton Museum of Art (which walks a more classical line via paintings by European masters like Rubens and Veronese; blantonmuseum.org ). Then there is the city's ever-whirring events calendar – which, in April, throws out the Jump Cut Film Festival, a showcase for young, aspiring filmmakers ( jumpcutfilmfestival.weebly.com ). A seven-night stay with breakfast at the boutique Austin's Inn at Pearl Street, flying direct from Heathrow on April 11 2017, costs from £1431 per person (two sharing) with Expedia (020 3684 2907; expedia.co.uk ).
Few corners of the planet are quite as in thrall to the heavy clip-clop of hooves in motion as Kentucky ( kentuckytourism.com ) – a fact that is borne out each May when the Kentucky Derby, the race touted as “The Greatest Two Minutes In Sport”, stirs the dust of the Churchill Downs course in the state's biggest city Louisville. The first Saturday of the fifth month is thus a perfect moment to take in this rather rustic portion of the American landscape. Tickets for the next Derby (May 6 2017) should cost from $300 (£207), and will go on sale ( kentuckyderby.com ) in the autumn. There is, though, more to Kentucky than this sporting hurrah. Louisville, set neatly on the River Ohio, pays tribute to its most famous son at the excellent Muhammad Ali Center ( alicenter.org ). Lexington markets itself as “The Horse Capital Of The World” thanks to the breeding ranches which adorn the bluegrass fields around it – and offers the Kentucky Horse Park ( kyhorsepark.com ), where visitors can meet former Derby champions in their dotage. Elsewhere, Mammoth Cave National Park ( nps.gov/maca ) comprises the globe's biggest known cave system, 390 miles of passageways snaking underground. America As You Like It (020 8742 8299; americaasyoulikeit.com ) serves up a “Bourbon, Bluegrass and Blues” road trip which explores both Louisville and Lexington. From £1260 a head – with flights, car and hotels.
Kentucky's neighbour to the south is at its most friendly of climate in May, when the swampy heat of summer is still a month away, and the thermometer is clinging to around 26C. Tennessee ( tnvacation.com ) is a state allied to music. Nashville ( visitmusiccity.com ) has the detailed Country Music Hall of Fame, where over 2.5million exhibits salute the likes of Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell, Gram Parsons and Elvis Presley ( countrymusichalloffame.com ). The latter, of course, is utterly inescapable in Memphis ( memphistravel.com ), where his former home ( graceland.com ) is a shrine in all but name – but there is also fascination to the Stax Museum, which tips its hat to the iconic soul record label ( staxmuseum.com ). Quieter in tone, Great Smoky Mountains National Park ( nps.gov/grsm ) is the most popular American national park, treating 10million visitors per year to 850 miles of hiking trails. North America Travel Service (0333 323 9099; northamericatravelservice.co.uk ) offers “Carolinas & Country”, a 16-day fly-drive which chalks off both cities, plus the Smokies – from £2079 a head, with flights, car and hotels.
Brutally cold in winter, devilishly hot in summer, New York ( nycgo.com ) is a baby bear's porridge of just-rightness in May, when its citizens have thawed out and days are wrapped in warmth of 20C. The season of blue skies and bare arms is on the horizon by the end of the month, when Governors Island – the onetime army and coastguard outcrop which lurks off the south tip of Manhattan – reopens to the public as an option for picnics and cycling ( govisland.com ; it reemerges for 2016 on May 28). And while the Big Apple will always be a cocktail of shops, galleries and restaurants, there is much to be said for a woozy afternoon at Luna Park ( lunaparknyc.com ), the Coney Island funfair which dusts itself off at this time (its attractions are in action on a daily basis from May 27 this year). Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com ) sells three-night breaks at the four-star Affinia 50 in midtown Manhattan, from £1198 a head, including flights and transfers.
July to September - Alaska
America's northwesternmost state ( travelalaska.com ) may be a snow-bearded winter god, but it can be warm in summer, temperatures clipping the Twenties Celsius in July. Its key wonders are also easily accessible in the brighter months – three of Alaska's protected spaces are clustered in its south-east. Kenai Fjords National Park ( nps.gov/kefj ) bites into the Kenai Peninsula – fingers of water, carved by glacial erosion, prodding the landmass. Thirty-eight rivers of ice still haunt the area, including the vast Bear Glacier. A hop away, Denali National Park ( nps.gov/dena ) is a rugged realm, framing the giant of the same name – the bluff also known as Mount McKinley holding its head at 20,310ft (6190m) as the highest peak in North America. Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve ( nps.gov/wrst ), meanwhile, is the largest national park in the US, a 20,587-square-mile monster where the St Elias Mountains kick up. Visitors can raft and hike. Local specialist Alaska Tour & Travel (001 808 208 0200; alaskatravel.com ) offers an eight-day “Alaska National Parks” fly-drive that calls at all three safeguarded spaces. From $1,782 (£1,235) a head, including car hire and hotels (but not flights to the jaunt's start-point, Anchorage).
If your dream of the American West involves dust smeared on a windscreen and heat haze ruffling the road ahead, then there may be no choice but to turn the car air-conditioning to its coldest setting and pit yourself against the deserts of Arizona ( visitarizona.com ) and Utah ( visitutah.com ) at the heart of the year. Temperatures in these serrated states can nudge the mercury to 40C in July – yet if you want to experience the US landscape at its fiercest, this is the month to try. Arizona's most fabled scar – Grand Canyon National Park ( nps.gov/grca ) – can be but one segment of an adventure which clips east into Utah for dalliances with Zion National Park (which cocoons a smaller, no less striking chasm; nps.gov/zion ), the 2000 sandstone formations of Arches National Park ( nps.gov/arch ) and the unmistakable ruddy monoliths of Monument Valley ( navajonationparks.org ). The American Road Trip Company (01244 342 099; theamericanroadtripcompany.co.uk ) sells “Las Vegas and the Canyons” – a 14-day fly-drive which calls at each of these significant sites, starting and ending in Nevada ( travelnevada.com ) amid the neon rush of Sin City ( lasvegas.com ). From £1699 a head – with return international flights, car hire and hotels.
The American summer does not come in more reliable packages than the Sunshine State. Florida ( visitflorida.com ) sizzles in the low Thirties Celsius in July and August, making it perfect for parents who want a school-holiday getaway where their brood does nothing more active than apply Factor 30. Miami is an obvious focal point for such indolence. Thomas Cook (01733 224 808; thomascook.com ) dispenses breaks at the four-star Miami Beach Resort & Spa, with its prime position on the sand. A seven-night room-only stay for a family of four, flying from Manchester on August 11, costs from £4800 in total. For those who have the strength to queue for rides in such weather, meanwhile, Orlando also calls. A seven-night break for a family of four at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort – a tropical-themed haven of seven pools, in sight of the rollercoasters of Walt Disney World, flying from Manchester on August 13, costs from £5080 in total, also with Thomas Cook.
The best hotels in Florida View all
- The Setai, Miami BeachMiami Beach, Florida, United States9Telegraph expert rating
Looming large as the tallest building in South Beach at 40 storeys, The Setai is a bastion of pri... Read expert reviewFrom£537inc. taxCheck AvailabilityRates provided byBooking.com
- Acqualina Resort & Spa on the BeachMiami, Florida, United States9Telegraph expert rating
A seaside retreat in Sunny Isles Beach—just 12 miles north of South Beach—the five-star Acqualina... Read expert reviewFrom£412inc. tax
- The St. Regis Bal Harbour ResortMiami, Florida, United States9Telegraph expert rating
A sprawling five-star luxury resort in posh Bal Harbour, the 227-room St Regis Bal Harbour offers... Read expert reviewFrom£351inc. tax
Such is the northerly latitude of the Great Lakes ( greatlakesnorthamerica.co.uk ) that autumn flexes its fingers on their fringes in September. This makes for colour-drenched road trips removed from the beaten path – such as a circumnavigation of Lake Michigan. The sole member of this five-lake club set solely in the USA, it has 1400 miles of shore – enough for a fortnight on the road. Chicago is the best launchpad for a drive of discovery, north through Illinois ( enjoyillinois.com ) and on into Wisconsin ( travelwisconsin.com ) – where Milwaukee is an intriguing small city, and the Door Peninsula juts out as 85 miles of orchards and beaches. However, the show is stolen by Michigan ( michigan.org ), whose Upper Peninsula, on the top side of the lake, is an unpopulated region of lost highways. Adjacent, the Straits of Mackinac cut a channel into Lake Huron – where the Grand Hotel (001 800 334 7263; grandhotel.com ), an 1887 dame on Mackinac Island, in the middle of the flow, is a superb spot to catch breath (doubles in September from $405/£280, with breakfast). A package of 14 days' car hire and flights to Chicago on September 10 costs £706 a head (two sharing) – with Virgin Holidays (0344 557 9275; virginholidays.co.uk ).
October to December - New England
“The Fall” is so much of a leading attraction on the north-east shoulder of the USA that you might think the other three seasons do not exist in Boston. Autumn in New England ( discovernewengland.org ) is a drawn-out affair, beginning in northerly Maine in early September, and heading south through Vermont and New Hampshire, before coating the trees of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts in gold in the later gasps of October. A road trip in this eulogised timeframe can be an odyssey on forested back roads – or something more gentle. American Affair (020 3424 6520; americanaffair.com ) sells “New England, Martha's Vineyard and the Southern Coast” – a seven-day trip into the south-east of the region, taking in Boston, forging onto the Cape Cod peninsula, and sliding into Newport, the Rhode Island coastal town where 19th century mansions dot the shore. It also spends three nights on Martha's Vineyard, the island which, though a fixture of the Massachusetts summer, is aflame with red and pink foliage by the closing quarter of the year. From a basic £449 per person – including hotels and car hire (but not flights).
October is a glorious month in the USA's predominant wine region ( visitcalifornia.co.uk ). California's harvest is in full flow, the vineyards are alive with people, and there is a buzz of expectation on the air. A fine time, then, to tick off a few intriguing producers – plenty of which exist just 50 miles north of San Francisco. The much saluted and sophisticated Napa Valley ( napavalley.com ) can claim more than 400 wineries – including Inglenook ( inglenook.com ) in Rutherford, which is owned by cinematic visionary and director of The Godfather trilogy Francis Ford Coppola. Immediately to the west, Sonoma Valley ( sonoma.com ) is a quieter but no less fascinating oasis of subtle pinot noir and delicate chardonnay, home to over 250 wineries. These include Paradise Ridge ( prwinery.com ), which perches elegantly on a hillside just beyond the town of Santa Rosa, its grounds festooned with artworks and sculptures. Bon Voyage (0800 316 3012; bon-voyage.co.uk ) sells “Coastal California & The Wine Country” – a 10-night fly-drive holiday which dips into both Napa and Sonoma, before going south to San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles. From £1595 per person, including flights, car hire and accommodation.
Colorado may be the undisputed king of American skiing holidays – yet, with a season that ebbs from late November to mid-April, its colleague in Rocky-Mountain cragginess is no less thrilling a destination for an icy, adrenalised escape amid copious banks of powder. True, Montana ( visitmt.com ) cannot promise the broad range of luxury resorts which sit nestled within quick range of Denver – but, pitched at the northern end of the USA's ridgeline spine, it offers size and scope, mixed with an enticing hint of the remote.
Whitefish ( skiwhitefish.com ), near the state's upper edge, is a case in point – an out-of-the-way pocket where 93 runs (a pleasing mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced gradients) criss-cross the landscape, including the 3.5-mile beast that is the Hellfire route.
Big Sky Resort ( bigskyresort.com ), meanwhile, is the largest ski zone in the US, home to 5800 acres of skiable terrain and more than 250 pistes, with an emphasis on daring black runs. It hits a top elevation of 11,166ft (3403m) at the summit of Lone Mountain – the tough descent of which is reached via the Lone Peak Tram. Seven-day lift passes at Big Sky start at $600 (£415). Specialist operators Iglu Ski (020 3696 9452; igluski.com ) and Ski Safari (01273 224 060; skisafari.com ) can organise full Montana wintersports breaks.
Notoriously humid in summer, and dogged by a (largely unfair) reputation for being a po-faced political bolthole, the American capital ( washington.org ) is a surprisingly exciting option for a festive break. Come December, the National Christmas Tree is stationed in front of the White House on the green space of The Ellipse, and the Downtown DC Holiday Market ( downtownholidaymarket.com ) has taken over three blocks of F Street NW between 7th and 9th Streets in a blur of seductive stalls and glittery gifts. To the west, meanwhile, the city's bijou Georgetown district ( georgetowndc.com ) – ever determined to present itself as some sort of Victorian fairytale – is repelling the winter gloom via the light installations of its al fresco Georgetown Glow exhibition. A five-night room-only stay at the five-star Mandarin Oriental, flying direct from Gatwick on December 14, costs from £1110 per person (two sharing), with Last Minute (0800 083 4000; lastminute.com ).
This article was written by Chris Leadbeater from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.