USA in a Nutshell
The USA is commonly split into five regions – groups of states where there tend to be historical or modern-day similarities.
The North-East includes New England, a group of seven states - Connecticut and Massachusetts among them – which are renowned for their natural beauty as well as winter skiing. Elsewhere, New York state is perhaps the North-East’s most well-known, home to the Big Apple and its world-famous landmarks.
Meanwhile, the West includes laid back California, home to entertainment and technology hubs Hollywood and Silicon Valley, as well as some of the nation’s best-known national parks, such as Yosemite. Colorado’s popularity is also rocketing, with its entrepreneurial cities driving its high-performing economy and whose snow-covered Rocky Mountains provide it with some of the nation’s most exclusive ski resorts.
The South East’s most well-known state is Florida, which boasts world-beating cities in art deco-infused Miami and Orlando, the theme park capital of the world, as well as outstanding natural beauty in The Everglades. Several of the states cities have been voted the best places to retire in the USA in 2019.
The Mid West is known as the ‘breadbasket of America’ because of the scale of its agricultural industries, such as corn, wheat, milk and cattle, while the South West encompasses Spanish-influenced Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Quintessential cityscapes with towering sky scrapers personify the dominant image of America for many. Whether it’s New York, Miami, San Francisco or Los Angeles, each of these cities are classically American.
But the USA is much more than impressive groupings of glass and steel buildings. From the vineyards and forests of northern California, to the snow-capped mountains of Colorado, and the unmistakeable hues of the New England fall from Connecticut to Maine, the USA provides a near-unrivalled array of natural scenery.
Just its National Parks alone offer beautiful vistas, wildlife, mountains, deserts and rivers, all of which can be easily explored. The states along the Pacific Coast are laden with exceptional beaches and are responsible for producing abundant produce, while states along the Atlantic Coast are well-known for seafood and sailing.
State spending on education has risen in recent years, helping the country to achieve a 94% public school attendance rate.
The nation’s universities are extremely well-regarded globally, with an impressive 7 out of the top 10 higher education institutions worldwide based in America, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019. This is largely down to its Ivy League grouping of elite colleges in the north-eastern states.
However, a large number of American cities are home to popular schools and colleges, with nearly half of all states offering free public college courses to some students.
America holds the most Nobel Prizes of any nation at 368, demonstrating the calibre of its education system throughout the past century.
Beyond this, the country counts some of the world’s finest inventors and creatives as its citizens, including Thomas Edison, Samuel Morse, Henry Ford, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck.
Activities and Entertainment
America is perfect for outdoor lovers. From surfing in warm waters off Pacific coast beaches to skiing in the Rocky Mountains or hiking through the Appalachians, there are activities to suit individuals and families alike.
The country’s 61 National Parks, disbursed across 29 states, each offer a mix of activities including walking, fishing, climbing and camping, as do the thousands of state parks dotted around the nation.
America’s cities are also some of the best places to live in the US with world-leading destinations such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston providing a wealth of modern and historical landmarks to explore as well as leading sports teams to watch.
Art and Culture
America possesses a vibrant cultural scene with some of its largest cities home to the world’s best museums and galleries. New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is widely regarded as one of the best museums in the world as is San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art.
Few embrace a celebration as wholeheartedly as the Americans, with internationally renowned St Patrick’s Day parades across the country, as well as events of all sizes, from the extraordinary Mardi Gras in New Orleans to local celebrations across the nation’s towns and cities.
Beyond these spectacles, the country is home to major creative festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival, the country’s largest celebration of independent film, and Nevada’s iconic Burning Man Festival, an homage to creativity.
Sport plays a major role in American culture too, with American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey its main spectator sports at both professional and college level.
Hearty national dishes typify American cuisine but regional cooking draws its inspiration from local traditions and produce.
With the hamburger, which a Connecticut restaurant claims to have created in 1900, Chicago’s topping-packed deep dish pizza and desserts such as apple pie being quintessentially American, its classic cuisine is uncomplicated and moreish.
Across the country though, different regions and states pride themselves on their local delicacies. Whether it’s clam chowder in New England, jambalaya in Louisiana, biscuits and gravy in the south, Texas barbeque or Mexican-inspired cuisine in California and the south west, there’s plenty to explore.
For those with a sweet tooth, the USA stands out for its pancakes and waffles, both of which can be adorned with syrup, ice cream or fruit.
California is one of the most famous wine growing regions globally and almost 90% of the nation’s production comes from the state.
With an annual crop worth more than $5bn each year, if California were a country it would be the fourth largest wine producing nation on earth, behind France, Italy and Spain.
The state is renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, however, the Napa Valley alone produces more than three dozen different wine grape varieties including Merlot, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.
Beyond this dominant producer, several places in America are becoming emerging wine producers, such as Arizona’s Verde Valley, Virginia’s Monticello and Grand Valley in Colorado.
By air: All of America’s major cities including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami are served by at least one international airport. A significant network of regional airports make internal air travel between states easy and flexible.
Overland: Trains from Canada (Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto) travel across the border into the USA while it is also possible to drive between countries at various points. From Mexico, trains stop just prior to the border, which can then be crossed on foot. It is also possible to drive into the United States from Mexico. Relevant documentation is needed at each border.