If you do something 3 times it becomes a habit, right? Is that how it goes? Right, well then, this is now a habit. A fortnight ago I posted all about my favourite cities in Europe, and so this week, I decided to go a little bit further away from home and write about my favourite places in North America.
Friday favourites is a fortnightly post featuring travel tips, guides, advice, and thoughts based on my travel experiences!
One of my first trips anywhere, when I was a small baby, was to California. Of course, I have no memory of this, but since then I have been lucky enough to visit many cities, states, national parks, and tiny towns. I don’t understand those who have never left their own country, but when your home country is America and there is so much to see, I can almost forgive that!! So, without further a do, my favourite destinations in Canada and the USA.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is, without a doubt, my favourite place (disclaimer: that I have so far visited) in North America. El Capitan towering over the valley as little ants (read rock-climbers) scale the world’s tallest sheer rock face; Waterfall upon waterfall dropping into the river and valley below, and half-dome, the curved rock face that is instantly recognisable for miles around.
There is so much to do there. Whether you want to visit some of the falls, or hike through the tall red wood sequoia trees; whether it’s to commit to climbing Half Dome or (my personal favourite) rafting down the river through the middle of the valley floor.
And to tie it all together, Inspiration point. A great look out high above the valley floor that allows for the perfect picture of Yosemite as a whole.
While we’re on the theme of valleys and canyons, I may as well (tokenly) mention the most famous of them all. I feel like it is a given that the Grand Canyon is on this list, but I’ve still included it just in case you weren’t aware of how amazing it is.
I didn’t get a chance to go down into the valley, or to helicopter over the top, but the 2 mile walk along the South Rim was enough to amaze and wow me. I absolutely loved it, and it left me almost speechless.
I know many people trash Baltimore, and yes, there are areas of Baltimore that are not picturesque or nice, but I loved the time we had there. The harbour area was simply amazing, we wandered round and sat in the sun and warmth losing time there. We also got some awesome pizza and I got to see the M&T Bank Stadium, home to my NFL team Baltimore Ravens.
The best bit, by far, was taking in a Baltimore Orioles ball game. Oriole Park and Camden Yards was a great place to visit, and after scoring some cheap tickets, getting 3 free t-shirts each, and a great welcome pack of paraphernalia as first time visitors, we watched the team lose to the Texas Rangers. Neither of us thought much of baseball before, but as sports fans, we loved the experience, and it definitely made me remember Baltimore that bit more fondly.
I have visited Niagara falls twice, once 7 years ago on a family holiday, and once with Jade on our year travelling. It was, on both occasions, just unbelievable. Yes, the first time we stayed in the best locaiton in a stunning hotel, but once your down at the waterfall, nothing else matters. Going into the mist on The Maid of the Mist/The Hornblower is just incredible (and very wet) and is such a unique view point. As is going behind the falls (and once again, getting soaked), which is a viewpoint not often seen. It does make me think why would anyone think it was a good idea to go over in a barrel?
Having seen it from both sides now, it is definitely better from Canada, and the Canadian Horseshoe falls is definitely more impressive. The American falls are still nice, and actually hold their own when the light show is on in the summer (the fireworks that follow, plus the light show is a must if it is on when you visit!) I think one of my favourite things is actually the walk along the river, next to the rapids, that goes along to the whirl pool. It is definitely worth buying the pass that entitles you to all sorts of entries and trips if you are spending a few days there!
I like a city on a body of water (y’know, like Liverpool.) I like a city that is big, but not huuuuge. And I like Canada, like, really like Canada. So I feel like Toronto didn’t need to work too hard really. We had a really good time there, both in the city, and in the nearby islands (where you can go cycling, go to a small theme park, or view the city from across the water). We also stayed in a really nice hostel that showed films in the basement in a makeshift cinema. We saw Guardian’s of the Galaxy there, and had a really good pizza from a local takeaway.
We could have done a lot more, like go up the tower, but we had a low key, awesome time there, and one day I will most definitely go back.
I have only visited Washington D.C. once. We planned our US travels to be there on July 4th, a simultaneously awful and dreadful idea. The place was (obviously) heaving, so everything was very busy, and very crazy. There were queues and people everywhere, from the museums, to the zoo, to the White House BUT I wouldn’t have changed where we were for July 4th for anything!
Bonus: One huge thing about Washington: so many of the attractions are free to enter. Going to see the White House and memorials, going into the museums, and even going to the zoo costs transportation only!
For me, Chicago is by far the most interesting, friendly, and awesome of the major multi-million populous metropolitan cities (that I have so far visited) in Northern America. We loved walking the through the parks and free zoo, we saw the Buckingham fountain show, and we sat enjoying theview and atmosphere on Navy Pier.
For food and pizza lovers, trying proper Chicago deep dish was an obvious must, and it was gooood. Our hostel was incredible, and we met some great people like Pola @ Jetting Around and the awesome musician Mike Mentz at an event there.
I also experienced the Blackhawks Stanley Cup winning homecoming parade, which was an insane and unforgettable experience with literally millions of fans lining the streets.
As much as I love all of the other places I have mentioned in the US and Canada, San Diego is (probably) still my favourite. I had great memories from visiting with my family just over a year ago, and was one of the only place I didn’t want to sacrifice when we were planning out trip. I love strolling through the Gaslamp quarter, wandering along the harbour, and catching some rays on the (many) beaches in the nearby area.
Fancy a bit more outside of the city? Well, there is San Diego zoo which is arguably the best zoo in the world. There is a Sea World not far away, and you’re a short hop, skip, and jump away from Mexico too!
And then there is old town and the food. The place is crawling with history and culture, and the Mexican food there is what started with love affair with chilli…and fajitas…and burritos…and tacos…and well you get the idea!
I really really love visiting San Francisco. It has so much to offer, and there are so many things I like to do while I am there. As obvious and great as seeing and visiting the Golden Gate bridge is (when the fog doesn’t make it disappear), the city is a lot more than the famous bridge. The Alcatraz tour is really interesting, and is worth the time it takes to plan and book ahead. I really like walking around Union Square under the Trans America Pyramid, and up towards Lombard Street. It highlights the hill that many of the cities streets navigates, and is famous for the single block featuring hedgerows and 8 hairpin bends.
Pier 39 is alive with people and has lots of shops, bars, restaurants, and seals, to entertain yourself with, and is only an old style cable car ride away from Union square. San Francisco is also food heaven. I am a chocoholic, and love spending time at Ghirardelli’s, and I love walking past the window of Boudin’s @ Fisherman’s Wharf. Here you can smell the sourdough bread cooking as you watch the skilled bakers construct things from bread dough. Tip: buy the renowned chowder in a sourdough bowl for an awesome meal!
New Orleans is on this list in spite of the broken foot I had when we travelled there. Yes, it is that awesome that a broken foot didn’t hamper my enjoyment. We had beignets in the café on the front, we had gumbo, fried chicken, and jambalaya in Coop’s Place. We had a look around the French Quarter and had a look in some of the voodoo museums and shops, which are both so fascinating and worth visiting. As we walked (or hobbled in my case) along the streets, jazz music did literally seep out of doorways, the people were friendly, and the river was the heart of it all.
I went to Massachusetts as a really small child, and then went back at the turn of the millennium. My memory of it is slightly patchy, yes, but what I can remember, I remember very fondly. I remember the wide open beaches (some of the best I have ever been too) I can remember riding out into the see on a star wars inflatable and having the best time. There is so much history and so much to do in the area and it is somewhere that I remember warmly.
Honorable Mention: Orlando: I know some of you who know me may be thinking, c’mon Liz, where is Orlando. Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney World, and Harry Potter world, and I love spending time there, but it’s not totally representative of the city, so I didn’t feel like it could be on here fully on it’s own. Still awesome though!
Well, that is is for another edition of Friday Favourites.
Where are your favourite North American destinations?
Are you from North America? If so, where are you favourite places?
Next Time: Cruises