So you want to come and visit the land of the free and home of the brave huh? Good choice my friend. There are just two problems: You need an ESTA (entry authorization) and America is massive…where shall you go? It is a tough choice as there are so many places to choice from. A lot of first time visitors to the USA opt for New York or Hollywood or even Florida (land of gators and Disneyworld). New York is never a bad choice. You could spend a lifetime visiting the USA and still not see it all. So before you get too overwhelmed with where to go on vacation – also known as a ‘high quality problem’ – and how to conquer your ESTA, I’ll give you some ideas of some cities to check out if you want to branch out from New York on your trip to the USA. So without further adieu, here are the best US cities to visit with an ESTA authorization.
US Cities to Visit with ESTA
Visit Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is probably most famous for being the home of the Mormons. The grand daddy for Mormon temples is near the heart of the city and is actually pretty interesting to visit. However, Salt Lake City is also beautiful. Surrounded by snowcapped mountains, Provo and all things skiing are close by. You can also check out Sundance Film Festival.
The secret on Nashville is out. The country music capital of America is a dream come true for foodies and music lovers alike. You don’t have to love country music either to have your heart stolen here. Visiting the Honky Tonks and dance to live music every night of the week and fill your belly with some deep friend American goodness. Everywhere you go in Nashville, you will encounter an aspiring singer of some sort. I even went to trailer dive haunt, Santa’s, and the local standards for karaoke are mind blowing.
New Orleans is famous for its Mardi Gras parade and crazy Bourbon Street antics, however, the entire French Quarter is fascinating and a very unique Creole cultural experience to explore in America. Likewise, New Orleans cuisine is one of a kind and out of this world. Going to New Orleans is a truly unique aspect to America, and fun fact – it is the only place based on Napoleonic law (vs common law) in America.
Austin has exploded in popularity over the last decade and is no longer a hidden gem, but it is still a great place to visit in America is you want to get a Texas-ish experience. The food and bar scene is insane and there are some beautiful water ways you can spend your day paddle boarding or floating. There is no end to the live music and fun Texas vibes here.
Often overlooked when people visit Hollywood, two hours south of LA (in good traffic), is one of America’s most charming little big cities. Perfect weather, great surf and the some of the best Mexican fusion cuisine around, you can’t go wrong. Also pretty interesting to check out is the USS Midway – a famous retired aircraft carrier from WW2 that you can visit. How many places can you tour an air craft carrier?
San Francisco is hardly a hidden gem. Next to New York is might be one of the most sought after places to visit in the USA, for good reason. I have yet to met a European who visited who didn’t love it. Charming architecture, streetcars, incredible nature and major wine regions only 45 minutes North, it is hard not like. You can bike across the Golden Gate bridge and around the city without any issue – highly recommended.
As the expression goes – Keep Portland Weird. Well, Portland is in fact weird, which is one reason why may tourists love to visit it. Off beat culture, street graffiti, and many hipster diners, this gateway into the Pacific Northwest is a nice place to base yourself if you want to explore the mountains and nature of the region. I may be biased since I am from Seattle, but I think the Pac Northwest has the best nature in the USA and is worth an entire trip to itself. For nature lovers this is a must.
Visiting Charleston is like visiting the a time long past. Colonials homes, planations and incredible architecture are in full effect here. Charleston is a deeply historical city in the USA and has the beauty to earn the title. Most of the South was destroyed, along with its beautiful architecture, during America’s civil war in the 1860s, however, General Sherman (the American North general who destroyed it all during “Sherman’s march”), had a soft spot for both Charleston and Savannah and did not raise them to the ground like the rest of the South. If you want a look into America’s interesting, sad, controversial past, this is a great place to start your journey.
As mentioned above with Charleston, Savannah has some incredible, intact architecture to behold. It has tons of Spanish Moss (massive trees with moss hanging), which make for some beautiful photo taking. Savannah is also a great foodie town. If you want to take dip into some Southern cuisine and some deep-friend goodness, Savannah wouldn’t be a bad place to start. Also, fun fact, Savannah is one of the few places you can walk around freely with an open container (alcohol) in the USA.
Like San Francisco, this is an obvious one for the list and not new news. However, it is a very unique place to see while in the states. Grotesque capitalism to some, city of sin and pure adult fun for others, Vegas divides the crowd. However, the important thing to know about Vegas, is that you have to have the right attitude about visiting Las Vegas. It is not a typical cultural experience. It is meant to be anything goes and not be deep. It is kitsch. Live it up. And if you want to mix it up, Red Rock, an incredible red rock area to hike is only 45 minutes away. Likewise, Zion National Park and the rest of Utah’s Mighty 5 are in striking distance.
How to get an ESTA visa to visit the USA
First things first, what is an ESTA? An ESTA is a mandatory travel authorization to travel to the US without a visa. It short, it makes your life a lot easier. No need to go the USA embassy and go through the regular visa application process. An ESTA is good for a couple of years and you can get it online without the hassle. You can check out ESTA requirements for more information on how to easily get your ESTA and get your USA trip of the lifetime underway.