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All About the United States of America - Virtual Travel Guide

The United States is a prime travel destination for people from all over the world – even those who already live in the U.S.! It is a vast and varied country filled with nearly endless possibilities for your vacation.

 

Many choices in just one country

The old cliché really is true – there is something for everyone to like when travelling to the United States. Bustling urban centers like New York, Chicago and San Francisco are popular, as are rugged mountain retreats in the Rocky, Cascade, Appalachian Mountains.

If coastal recreation is more your style then the United States has much to like, thanks to extensive coastlines along the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Ocean. You can even enjoy tropical coastlines in the state of Hawaii or Arctic coastlines in the state of Alaska.

   

Ease of travel

Travel to and from the United States is exceptionally easy and convenient. It has several hundred international airports in locations throughout the country, along with an extensive network of smaller regional and commuter airports. Most major international carriers serve the United States, and there are several hundred domestic airlines as well.

The United States also enjoys an extensive interstate highway and road system. Travellers often choose to fly in to a particular city or region, and then rent a car to explore the area in depth and up close. The majority of highways and roads have free access, but in some areas there are still toll roads that require a small fee for use. Such toll roads are typically well marked on maps and with road signs, giving travellers ample opportunity to take a non-fee route.

 

Weather and climate

The United States features many different climates and weather patterns. The northern and midwestern states typically experience four distinct seasons, with the southern states enjoying more moderate seasonal differences. Within all of these areas, there are cities and regions that have extreme weather at some times of year, such as high summer temperatures in desert areas and wet, rainy weather in coastal and other areas.

Before taking any trip to the United States it is a good idea to check the weather forecast for the area you will visit and pack your clothes accordingly. Most travel experts recommend you dress in layers, which allows you to easily adjust to many different weather conditions.

 
Boston's Beacon Hill

Boston

No trip to New England is complete without a visit to Boston, the region’s creative and historical hub. Founded in 1630, Boston prides itself on being one of the country’s most historic cities, sometimes to an almost ridiculous degree – with park rangers dressed in period costumes and the like.

Really though, a lot of very cool historic events did take place here: much of the rumblings of the Revolutionary War (including the Boston Tea Party) centered on Boston and the city is also considered the birthplace of abolitionism.

To get yourself oriented, it’s smart to walk at least a portion of the Freedom Trail, which traces the town’s historical hotspots and gives you a good sense of the city. Be sure to stroll through the North End, Boston’s Italian-American neighborhood, full of Italian groceries, cafes and some of the world’s best cannoli. In swanky Back Bay, upscale Newbury Street is the place to go for designer threads, and it’s a convenient walk to the atmospheric Boston Public Garden, home to flower beds and swan boats.

Across the river, the town of Cambridge (home to Harvard and MIT) makes a lovely day trip, with the Harvard Square area a great spot for cheap eats and hipster hangouts.
 

The new ICA sits about Boston Harbor.
Photo: Iwan Baan

Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

The newly-opened Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston signifies an inspired shift in Boston’s architectural and creative landscape. The building - an airy, modern space designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro - is a creative marriage of contemporary art, theatre, film and seascape.

Perilously perched above the chilly Boston Harbor, the building’s show-stopping design features a gorgeous front hallway that gives patrons a sense of hovering over the water.

As well as its strong collection of contemporary art, the ICA has an innovative theatre space that exhibits everything from modern dance to The Matrix. Visit on a sunny day so that afterward you can stroll the Boston Harborwalk.
 

 
 

Boston NHP

Bostonians blazed a trail of freedom from colony to independence. They met in town meetings to argue contemporary issues, they spoke against excessive taxes, and they were among the leaders in organizing a defense against British dominion. Today the sites of Boston National Historical Park symbolize the accomplishments of that revolutionary generation...

 
 

What To See

Boston National Historical Park tells the story of the events that led to the American Revolution and the Navy that kept the nation strong. Visit the historic sites that make up Boston National Historical Park.

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Kid Stuff

Want to have fun while you learn about Boston history? Check out the Kid Stuff.

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Things To Do

Take a tour, attend a special event--find out what's happening at Boston National Historical Park.
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Climate
Temperatures range from warm, humid summer days to cold New England winter days. Wear comfortable sportswear in season, with comfortable walking shoes.

 
 
   

Did You Know?
The Internal Revenue Service used to conduct ceremonies rewarding its best collectors and other employees at Faneuil Hall? Considering that Faneuil Hall was the site of some notable tax resistance meetings before The Revolution, we must conclude that the IRS does have a sense of humor after all.

 
         
    Did You Know?
Next time they pass the plate at King's Chapel in Boston, give generously. The steeple hasn't yet been completed. They started working on it in 1749
 
         
    Did You Know?
Owning a shop to sell sewing supplies was one of the few occupations available to women in 18th century Boston. Many women were widowed by the French & Indian War and supported their families by working in the sewing trades. By 1770 over 70 shop-owning women in Boston were called "She-Merchants."
 
         
   

Did You Know?
Did you know that not until 1835 did folks start referring to the event of December 16, 1773 as "The Boston Tea Party?" For the previous 62 years, the event had been called just what it obviously was, "The Destruction of The Tea.

 
         
    Did You Know?
When the Boston Massacre monument was erected on Boston Common in the 1880s, the president of The Massachusetts Historical Society protested, "The crown of the martyr should not be placed on the brow of the ruffian." Come to think of it, John Adams didn't speak too highly of the victims either.
 
         
   

Did You Know?
Did you know that the financing for The Bunker Hill Monument was a hand-to-mouth project, culminating in a bake sale in 1840, three years before the dedication? By contrast, The Dorchester Heights Monument was financed by an appropriation from the Massachusetts Legislature amounting to $100,000.

 
         
    Did You Know?
Daniel Webster was once rebuffed in his effort to speak at Faneuil Hall. His support of The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 earned for him the enmity of New England's abolitionists, and a worry that if he were allowed to speak, his appearance might spark a riot. He later spoke without incident.
 
         
   

Did You Know?
The request to reserve Faneuil Hall on December 16, 1873, identified the event as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. In truth, Suffragette Lucy Stone held the first women's suffragette meeting in the "Cradle of Liberty." She surprised many with her real agenda that day.

 
         
   

Did You Know?
Did you know that Old North Church's steeple has been replaced twice since the display of the signal lanterns on April 18, 1775? In neither case was the downfall caused by revolution, but by a mighty wind, a nameless storm of October, 1804, and Hurricane Carol, August, 1954.

 
         
    Did You Know?
Four of the five Massachusetts signers of The Declaration Of Independence are represented in the artwork in Faneuil Hall. The missing member of the delegation is Elbridge Gerry.
 
         
 

Last Updated: September 26, 2006 at 16:54 EST

All about New England

Cape Ann in Massachusetts

New England is often described as “quaint”, and here, among the rambling byways and quiet communities, you’ll discover this much-used word rings true. Tucked into the snowy northeast corner of the United States, New England brims with colonial homes and old-school churches, tidy green lawns trimmed with white picket fences and comfort food like cranberries and maple syrup.

New England is also vintage Americana, tracing its origins to the staunch group of Puritan pilgrims who barely survived their first winter here in 1620.

Maybe it’s this hardy ancestry or perhaps it’s the harsh winters, but New Englanders are still viewed as a little reserved and rough-around-the-edges. This salty charm only adds to its appeal, however – New England has a pull-yourself-up-by-the bootstraps spirit and a gorgeous, challenging landscape to match.

New England (comprised of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island) is very much marked by its four distinctive seasons. Winter is snowy, blustery and full of snowshoes, hot cocoa and skis (though the season can feel decidedly less romantic after three hours of shoveling). Springtime comes as a much-needed respite from the winter, with a mild climate and bright daffodils. Summer is hot and muggy (temps reach up to 33 degrees C) and locals generally head east to the coast, or to one of its three breezy islands. During the beloved fall, New England’s meandering roads are filled with tourists gaping at the foliage – colorful leaves that swirl together in fiery reds and yellows.

Whenever you decide to go, expect an open road marked by rambling countryside and spirited discovery.

Survival Guide

Outside of the major cities, public transportation is largely unavailable. To truly get a sense of the area, it’s best to rent a car. Boston, however, is an exception to this rule – one should not drive here (unless you’re feeling particularly adventurous) as the streets are notoriously confusing and the drivers shamelessly aggressive.

New England’s climate ranges wildly according to the season and it’s a good idea to dress appropriately, with down coats for winter and shorts and T-shirts for summer. Fall is perhaps the most spectacular time to visit, with crisp, sunny days (temperatures are around 7 degrees C) and trees in vivid displays of color.

Accommodation is readily available throughout the area, although prices tend to go up in the fall and summer. If you plan to visit a seaside spot in the summer (say, in Nantucket or Cape Cod), definitely book ahead. The same can be said of fall, where, particularly around northern Vermont, it’s advisable to book in advance.

One detail that’s handy to know in advance: due to a number of archaic “blue laws” there are areas of New England where alcohol cannot be purchased on Sundays. There are also a number of “dry towns” spread throughout the region that don’t have liquor stores (usually though, you can just drive down to the next town to pick up what you need). Basically, if you’re looking to liquor up, do a little investigating before heading out.

 

Martha's Vineyard

Aquinnah Cliffs at Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard is a small island off the southern coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. With its beautiful sweeping beaches, Martha’s Vineyard is a handy summer escape for city slickers from the East Coast mainland. Its laid-back charm attracts many celebrities and politicians.

The island - which is about 100 square miles in all - can get quite crowded in the summer, when the population swells from 15,000 regular residents to about 80,000 people. Despite the summer influx, Martha’s Vineyard remains a relaxed and easygoing place where you can enjoy the benefits of a small community.

There is a thriving arts and theater scene on the island - Martha's Vineyard supports its own theater company and hosts a number of annual arts and culture events.

Martha’s Vineyard has six main towns – Aquinnah, Chilmark, West Tisbury, Vineyard Haven, Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. The bustling “down island” towns of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven offer activities and attractions that can keep the most ambitious traveller busy during their vacation. “Up island” toward the towns of West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah is more rural and relaxed.

Because Martha’s Vineyard is so popular during the summer, it can be difficult to find last-minute accommodation. Unless you own your own cottage on the island or plan to stay with friends, make reservations well in advance. This is especially true on big holiday weekends such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.

The weather on Martha’s Vineyard is quite pleasant in the summer months. Unlike the mainland areas of the northeast, the temperature rarely goes above 90°F. If you choose to go during the fall or winter however, prepare for the storms that whip in from the Atlantic Ocean by bringing along layers of warm clothing and a windproof and waterproof jacket.

A gay pride flag flaps in the breeze over Provincetown in Cape Cod

Cape Cod and the islands

While New England doesn’t usually conjure up images of sand and sea, the region is actually quite blessed with hot-weather hangouts.

Cape Cod, the “arm” of eastern Massachusetts, juts out for 100 miles into the ocean and brims with gorgeous stretches of beach, sand dunes and bright lighthouses. Eastham, and particularly Chatham, are upscale mainstays of the mid-Cape (right near the “elbow”), featuring sweet shops, good restaurants and great beach access.

The Cape’s best time however, is down in Provincetown, the Cape’s terminus, a charismatic, gay-friendly hot spot with old weathered cottages, sweeping beaches, fantastic food and nightly drag shows.

The “islands” refer to breezy Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, although Block Island, off Rhode Island, is another fantastic getaway spot with 32 miles of hiking trails and 17 miles of beach.

Massachusetts

Cape Ann in Massachusetts

Massachusetts, one of the original 13 colonies that later became the United States of America, is a scenic and historic state.

It is located in the northeast corner of the United States and is one of the six states making up the region of New England. Massachusetts is famous for the dramatic colors of its fall foliage and many people flock here in autumn for ‘tree peeping'.

Further east, along the scenic Atlantic coastline, Cape Cod is a prime tourist draw with its rugged beaches, historic lighthouses and picturesque fishing villages. There are popular resort islands nearby, such as Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. “The Vineyard”, as it is often called, was immortalized in the 1970s blockbuster Jaws.

Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and home to Harvard University, the New England Aquarium and the newly-opened Institute of Contemporary Art. Boston is rich in history, home to the famous Boston Tea Party and the site of the Siege of Boston and the Battle of Bunker Hill. There are many reminders of British colonial rule still visible in the city, most notably in the ‘Shaker' style buildings.

Massachusetts has a typical New England climate – warm and humid in the summer, cool in the spring and fall and downright cold in the wintertime.

The main gateway to Massachusetts is Logan International Airport in Boston. From there, visitors can rent a car or access the rail system. In most urban areas it is easy to go wherever you want to go using mass transit, but if you intend to explore the countryside and get out of the cities then a car is a must.

 
Boston's Beacon Hill

Boston

No trip to New England is complete without a visit to Boston, the region’s creative and historical hub. Founded in 1630, Boston prides itself on being one of the country’s most historic cities, sometimes to an almost ridiculous degree – with park rangers dressed in period costumes and the like.

Really though, a lot of very cool historic events did take place here: much of the rumblings of the Revolutionary War (including the Boston Tea Party) centered on Boston and the city is also considered the birthplace of abolitionism.

To get yourself oriented, it’s smart to walk at least a portion of the Freedom Trail, which traces the town’s historical hotspots and gives you a good sense of the city. Be sure to stroll through the North End, Boston’s Italian-American neighborhood, full of Italian groceries, cafes and some of the world’s best cannoli. In swanky Back Bay, upscale Newbury Street is the place to go for designer threads, and it’s a convenient walk to the atmospheric Boston Public Garden, home to flower beds and swan boats.

Across the river, the town of Cambridge (home to Harvard and MIT) makes a lovely day trip, with the Harvard Square area a great spot for cheap eats and hipster hangouts.
 

The new ICA sits about Boston Harbor.
Photo: Iwan Baan

Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

The newly-opened Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston signifies an inspired shift in Boston’s architectural and creative landscape. The building - an airy, modern space designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro - is a creative marriage of contemporary art, theatre, film and seascape.

Perilously perched above the chilly Boston Harbor, the building’s show-stopping design features a gorgeous front hallway that gives patrons a sense of hovering over the water.

As well as its strong collection of contemporary art, the ICA has an innovative theatre space that exhibits everything from modern dance to The Matrix. Visit on a sunny day so that afterward you can stroll the Boston Harborwalk.
 

All About Maine - Virtual Travel Guide

Maine is the largest and northernmost state in New England, in the North East of the United States. Maine is a beautiful travel destination with hundreds of miles of beautiful and dramatic coastline, studded with white sand beaches, lighthouses and fishing villages, plus thousands of tiny offshore islands. Many visitors are attracted to Maine's coast for a relaxing holiday in tranquil surroundings.

Inland, 90% of Maine is forest, earning it the nickname of the ‘Pine Tree State', but it also has many mountains, lakes and rivers making it an ideal destination for an outdoor vacation. Activities which travellers can enjoy include canoeing, kayaking, white water rafting, golf, hiking and hunting.

If your idea of a holiday is slightly less adeventurous, then head out onto Maine's many scenic roads. Maine has 4 of the USA's 95 National Scenic Byways, including the Arcadia route, which winds it way through the Arcadia National Park and along the Maine coastline, and the old Canada Road, which travels right up to the Canadian border through old forests.

Antique enthusiasts can also tour the scenic byways and stop off at over 400 antique shops and dealers on the scenic roads, while holiday makers keen on art and culture can visit Maine's seven leading art musems on the Maine Art Museum trail, all within one day's drive and easy reach of great accommodation and dining.

Maine offers accommodation for all travellers' tastes and budgets, from luxurious hotels to comfortable guest houses and camping. Maine is a very accessible destination to visit, with the Portland International Airport and Bangor International Airport.

Portland, Maine

Lobster boats in Portland, Maine

Perhaps because of its northerly status, Portland often gets slighted as a destination. Really though, it’s only a two hour drive from Boston (it’s also accessible by the affordable Amtrak Downeaster train) and is well worth the scenic drive.

Portland is currently experiencing a resurgence, with a spruced-up waterfront enhanced by the historic buildings of the “Old Port” district, an excellent arts district (including the Portland Museum of Art – one of Maine’s foremost museums) and best of all, a standout restaurant and brewpub scene.

Situated at the mouth of the Fore River, it’s a lovely place to stroll around, with pretty harbor views on Commercial Street and atmospheric shopping and café options along Exchange Street.

If you’re hankering after a lobster roll, the nearby town of Cape Elizabeth is home to the fantastic Two Lights lobster shack. With some of the best scenery in all of Maine (lighthouse to the left, unruly ocean to the right), this low-key eatery gets top marks for its tasty seafood.

All About Vermont - Virtual Travel Guide

Vermont is one of the USA's smallest states, and is located in New England in the far North East of the US. Vermont is very rural and has some of New England's finest scenery and most picturesque villages, and is well known for its Green Mountains and Lake Champlain in the North West.

Vermont is a great destination for an outdoor holiday, with its beautiful countryside. Autumn is a good time to visit, when holiday makers can see the red, orange and golden foliage of the state's trees. Active visitors can hike the Green Mountains' Long Trail, a 270km trail running along the range, or explore by mountain bike. Vermont does not have a coastline, but kayaking and sailing are popular on the waterways, as is fishing for trout and bass. Vermont offers visitors excellent hunting in its untouched woods and lakes, for grouse, deer, moose and hare.

Many travellers come to Vermont for its great skiing – there are 20 alpine resorts with over 4,500 acres of ski runs, with facilities for downhill, cross country and snowboarding. For travellers looking for a more relaxed holiday, tour Vermont's many historic places, galleries and museums and enjoy the charming New England villages and vibrant cities such as Montpelier and Burlington.

Vermont has four distinct seasons, with temperatures reaching the mid-70s during the summer, and becoming cold during the winters. Vermont is very accessible to the traveller, via Burlington International Airport.

The Berkshires

Autumn foliage in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts

Nestled in quiet western Massachusetts, word is slowly getting out about this summertime arts mecca. Generally viewed as a playground for the rich, there’s more to the Berkshires than lofty estates and upscale digs (although these, too, are fun to explore – check out Wheatleigh or Blantyre in Lenox, MA).

The fantastic Tanglewood concert series, summertime home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, features performances of classical and jazz as well as a “wine and food classic”.

While Tanglewood put the Berkshires on the map, there are other important festivals here – Jacob’s Pillow, near Becket, MA, is the country’s foremost contemporary dance festival, and (further north) is the renowned Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Williamstown is also blessed with two lovely art museums: the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Williams College Museum of Art. The area’s creative showstopper however, is the Mass MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), a whimsical, sprawling former textile factory that’s now filled with modern art installations, contemporary videos and upside-down trees.

What to do in New England

A boiled lobster awaits a sticky end

Eat a lobster

A trip to New England wouldn’t be complete without a lobster dinner – it’s a culinary rite of passage for first-time visitors. Maine is regarded as the lobster capital of the region (in 2004 there were 3.2 million lobster traps in Maine waters) and across the state people line up at seafood shacks and lobster pounds to get their hands on this sublime, sweet meat. Lobster generally comes in two forms: as a lobster roll (made by mixing lobster meat, mayo, and salt and stuffing it inside a toasted hotdog bun) or as a boiled lobster dinner, served with butter, a disposable bib, and lobster-carving tools. While Maine is the center of the lobster trade, good lobster (and other types of seafood, as well) can be found across New England – don’t miss a chance to sample some of the region’s fresh fish fare.

Fall foilage sets Vermont ablaze

Watch the leaves fall

Travel agents and tour guides make much of New England’s autumn season, spinning what is essentially a bunch of colorful leaves into an oft-used selling point. For once though, it’s safe to believe the hype – there isn’t anything quite like an autumn in New England, where the temperature, climate and species of trees converge to create a technicolor landscape unique to this little corner of the world. Across New England and particularly around northern Vermont, the trees blaze and undulate in spectacular shades of crimson and yellow. It’s a beautiful time of year, loved by locals and tourists alike. Also, take note: if you decide to visit New England in the fall, aim to arrive around mid-October, when the leaves are at their peak.

Enjoy 40 miles of protected coastline

Lounge on Cape Cod’s National Seashore

Sure, you can hit the beach in a lot of places. But a beach so lovely as to be preserved by a president? Such is the case with the Cape Cod National Seashore. In 1961, John F. Kennedy, Jr established the Cape Cod National Seashore – nearly 40 miles of fragile coastline – so that this sugary sandscape would remain protected for future generations. You can enter the park via Eastham, MA, just past the “elbow” on Cape Cod (the shape of the Cape is often described as an “arm”), or even better, head further down to fun-loving Provincetown, located at the Cape’s terminus. Here you can cycle among the breezy heaths and moors, sunbathe by an unruly sea and if you’re lucky, maybe even glimpse a whale.

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