The Best of The US: Where to Visit in America

Visiting Grand Canyon USA

Just after I graduated uni (many moons ago now) I was so lucky to win an incredible experience road-tripping across America with Topdeck Travel.

The epic trip I was able to join departed from New York and travelled all the way to LA passing through Washington DC, Nashville, New Orleans, Austin, Gran Can, Vegas and many more amazing places along the way. I also booked some extra time by myself in Boston and New York before the trip and in San Francisco afterwards.

Every single stop along the way was fantastic and gave me an incredible insight to the varying cities and states across the US. It’s incredibly difficult to pick out just a few of the best places to visit in the USA, but I thought I’d give it a go.

New York

Times Square New York USAMajestic Theatre New YorkStatue of Liberty USA

New York, New York – if you’re a big city kind of person, New York has to be at the top of your bucket list.

Quite rightfully known as ‘the city that never sleeps’ there’s always something going on in New York, and with its eclectic mix of neighbourhoods you can go from a Broadway show and cocktails one night to a Yankees game and hot dogs the next.

With so much going on in New York it can be difficult to know where to start, but some must-dos include a picnic in Central Park, taking in the iconic city skyline from both the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building, and of course hopping the ferry over to the famous Statue of Liberty.

Theatre fans can’t visit New York without taking in a Broadway show – go for a classic like Wicked or Phantom of the Opera- and for something a little bit different check out what’s on offer off-Broadway. When I visited I got the cheapest ticket available to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway one night and followed it up with Avenue Q off-Broadway the next night.

New York is also a shopping haven – make sure to enjoy a luxury stroll down the designer stores of 5th Avenue, and for quirky independent boutiques head to the vibrant Soho area. If you’ve fallen in love with New York through your favourite TV shows check out the city’s Gossip Girl and Sex and the City Tours, or go in search of the famous Friends apartment.

I did the SATC tour while I was there and it really was great fun for fans of the show.


Visiting Nashville USAHonky Tonks in NashvilleGrand Ole Opry

If you’re a fan of country music, Nashville is your home from home. The Tennessee city is the Country Music Capital of the World – even if you’re not usually a lover of country music you can’t help but get caught up in the rhythm in Nashville.

Your first stop in the home of country music has to be the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Inductees to the Hall of Fame include country icons Taylor Swift, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley – to name just a few. The museum hosts a variety of ever-changing exhibits, and also include songwriter sessions, instrumental demonstrations and film screenings.

The streets of Nashville are lined with traditional honky tonk bars where you can enjoy live music from up-and-coming country stars – if you’re lucky you might even find a famous country musician on the bar stool next to you. And make sure to bring your comfortable shoes as many bars offer line dancing sessions, which is a great way to work off the hearty food on offer in Nashville.

When I visited (I’ve been twice) enjoying a drink and some music in a honky tonk was definitely one of the highlights. The popular TV show Nashville has shone a light on the Tennessee capital lately, and if you’re a fan of the show you’re sure to love walking in the footsteps of your favourite characters. You can even do the Nashville TV show filming spots tour, which I have tried and recommend.

For some unforgettable live music experiences in Nashville check out the Bluebird Cafe (made famous by the Nashville TV show) for an intimate atmosphere and the chance to see some up and coming artists, and of course the iconic Grand Ole Opry for bigger performances from some of country music’s greatest stars.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park USAGrand Canyon USAVisiting Grand Canyon USA

Taking in the stunning landscape of the Grand Canyon for the first time is a moment you’ll never forget. Located in Arizona, the Grand Canyon is one of the greatest natural wonders of the world – stretching up to 227 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep.

You can hike or cycle around the canyon, but if you’re not an experienced hiker (I’m not) you can also explore on a leisurely walk taking in the outstanding views.

For a truly magical way to take in the wonder of the Canyon, I recommend taking a helicopter tour – it may be a little pricey but it is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience which you’ll never forget. I’m so glad I did this while I was there.

I also recommend heading to Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim, for a spectacular view of the sunset over the Grand Canyon.

Las Vegas

Welcome to Las Vegas signLas Vegas USABellagio Fountains Las Vegas USAThere’s nowhere else quite like Las Vegas. The buzzing city is supersized and superfun, from the elaborate casino hotels, to the buffet dinners, to the big names performing Vegas shows and concerts.

While Las Vegas is known for its casinos – which are great fun, there is so much more to Vegas, meaning you don’t need to be a gambling connoisseur to enjoy a Las Vegas break. When I was there I didn’t spend too much money gambling and ended my stay having made a small profit.

One of the most amazing things about Vegas is that the grand hotels are open to non-guests to come in and enjoy the casino, pool, restaurant, shows, shops (yes they have all of this in the hotel) – which means you are not just limited to your own hotel facilities.

From Paris to The Venetian to New York, New York, you can travel around the world on a walk down the Vegas strip. You absolutely must take a gondola ride in the Venetian, while thrill seekers should take a ride on New York, New York’s Big Apple Coaster.

The luxurious Bellagio, inspired by the Lake Como town, is another must-visit hotel in Vegas. Make sure to head along for the famous Bellagio Fountain show, which takes place every half an hour in the afternoon and every 15 minutes after 8pm.

Vegas is also known for its massive all-you-can-eat buffet spreads which you can enjoy for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and as with everything else in Vegas you don’t have to stick to your own hotel’s spread.

San Francisco

I left my heart in San FranciscoGolden gate bridge at sunsettram in San Francisco USASan Francisco is one of the most chilled places in the world. The Californian city was the starting point of the hippie movement in the 1960s and has remained a home of peace and love ever since – a feeling which is ever present when walking the streets of San Francisco.

The city is also known as a forward thinker in LGBT rights, and the city boasts a lively LGBT scene in its two main LGBT districts – Castro District and SoMa. San Francisco is of course famed for its beautiful Golden Gate Bridge – which you must see on a San Francisco break. I recommend taking a night-time open bus tour to see the bridge and the rest of the city lit up.

The coloured houses and cable car transport are also iconic traits, which add to the relaxed atmosphere which is prevalent among the city. The feeling of love in San Francisco is spread further by the annual ‘Hearts in San Francisco’ public art exhibition – the choice of hearts for this exhibition was inspired by the famous Tony Bennet song I Left My Heart in San Francisco.

San Francisco is also home to a beautiful harbour – the bustling Pier 39 is filled with entertainment, shops and restaurants. The food around the pier is also delicious – make sure to try some fresh chowder in a bread bowl.
Where have you been before in the US and where do you want to visit? Let me know in the comments below.

Where to Stay in New York City

It has been 20 years since the pilot of Sex and the City aired for the first time, the show that single-handedly catapulted NYC into the dreams of wannabe Carrie Bradshaws around the world, myself included.

Sex and the City GIF
Copyright: HBO

Since SATC ended in 2004 I have been to New York twice. The second time I was travelling in the US alone and stayed in New York for a week, which was a great way of getting to grips with the city.

Of course I am still an NYC novice compared to the locals, but from the planning of my trip to the time I spent in the city I gained a good knowledge of the different neighbourhoods of NYC and the best places to stay.


The Upper East Side was the home of Carrie Bradshaw, and also gained notoriety as the home of the glamorous Gossip Girl gang.

Gossip Girl GIF
Copyright: The CW

The Upper East side has long been known as the hotspot for the upper class, however the area is also increasingly being viewed as one of the ‘coolest spots’ in Manhattan thanks to a surge in restaurant, bar and retail openings.

Carrie wasn’t the only SATC girl who resided in Uptown Manhattan – Charlotte was said to live on the chic Park Avenue, also in the Upper East Side, while successful lawyer Miranda owned an apartment on the Upper West Side – another esteemed part of the city.

Fans of SATC and GG should definitely look at visiting Uptown if you want to walk in the footsteps of your favourite characters. Plus, if you’re looking for a sophisticated night out and a taste of the Manhattan high-life make sure to pop through to the Upper East Side during your New York break – you might even spot some famous faces.


Midtown Manhattan is where you’ll find a plethora of the top tourist hotspots – from Fifth Avenue to Central Park to Times Square and Broadway; Midtown is where it’s at. If you want to be within walking distance of the main attractions then staying in Midtown is a no-brainer really. Likewise, if you’re looking for a quieter place to rest your head you would be better off staying further afield and using the city’s excellent transport links to visit the Midtown landmarks.

times square

Key things to check out in Midtown include the famous Central Park. The park is the most visited urban park in the United States and one of the most filmed locations in the world. The park includes a zoo, the famous Alice in Wonderland statue and an ice-rink. In contrast to the relaxing Central Park, Times Square in Midtown is the epitome of ‘the city that never sleeps’, with its buzzing atmosphere, bright lights and late night openings.

And of course, you can’t head to New York without taking in a show on Broadway. If you’re planning a theatre-packed New York break, staying in Midtown would be your best bet.

Between Midtown and Downtown

There are a couple of hotspots between Midtown and Downton that are also worth considering when deciding where to stay in New York. The up-and-coming Chelsea neighbourhood is where I stayed during my week in New York, and it is a perfect mix of uptown class and downtown style – where you’ll find cultured art galleries, bustling bars and world foods.

If you’re a foodie, make sure to check out the Chelsea Market – one of the best indoor food markets in the world. The Chelsea area also has a thriving LGBT scene and is a popular choice with LGBT tourists and locals.

Carrie Bradshaw
Copyright: HBO

Not far from Chelsea is the Meatpacking District – another neighbourhood famed by Sex and the City. The area has been continually developing over the past 20 years and is now one of the hippest areas in Manhattan. The Meatpacking District is celebrated as a ‘24-hour neighbourhood’ – popular with artists and designers, the area is an epicenter of activity and is filled with restaurants and nightlife to keep you entertained into the small hours.

If you’re looking for somewhere lively and stylish to stay, while not being too expensive, Chelsea or the Meatpacking District are a great choice and I certainly felt safe and comfortable during my Chelsea stay, and was easily able to travel around the city using the subway.


Downtown is the traditionally trendy area of Manhattan, packed with bars, restaurants, exciting events and hip people. Whether you head to Greenwich Village – known as the Bohemian Capital – or the trendy Soho area, you’ll find a variety of quirky boutiques, artistic haunts and food markets.


Downtown is also home to the famous Chinatown where you can enjoy the best Chinese food in Manhattan, and the equally famous Little Italy – which as its name suggests is a little taste of Italy in Manhattan.

If you’re looking for culture, bohemian chic and lots of tasty food – Downtown is the place for you.

The Borough of Brooklyn

Of course, Manhattan isn’t your only choice of location in New York. Brooklyn has been an up-and-coming destination for many years and is now seen as the hipster capital of New York. While in SATC Miranda was somewhat chastised for giving up Manhattan to settle down in Brooklyn, the trendy area was shown in a far more positive light in Girls.

From quirky coffee houses, to trendy boutiques and eclectic bars – Brooklyn is the place to head if you’re looking for something with a modern twist. Plus, Brooklyn is typically a cheaper choice than Manhattan but is only a short tube ride or a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan.

Brooklyn Bridge
Walking across Brooklyn Bridge in the rain

If you’re planning a New York break I hope this helps in finding the best area in New York for you to stay in.

A Very Merry Munich Weekend

Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year and where better to enjoy the festive season than in the home of the Christkindlmarkt? Here’s what we got up to when we visited Munich at the most wonderful time of the year.

Munich Christmas Markets

Munchen christkindlmarkt

marienplatz christmas market munich

christmas cakes munich

The Bavarian city of Munich has over 20 different Christkindlmarkts to explore, but our favourite was the original Christkindlmarkt in the main town square, Marienplatz – which dates back to the 14th century. The market stalls fill the entirety of the main square and the adjoining streets, selling decorations, chocolates, candles, toys and other treasures.

A short stroll from Marienplatz, we found the Christmas Village at the Munich Residenz – a smaller, quaint market held in the courtyard of the Royal Residence. At night, we visited the Tollwood Winter Festival which was a unique cross between a carnival, a Christmas market and a modern art exhibition.

Bavarian Beer

I’m not typically a big beer drinker, but when in Germany…

steins in munich

The Bavarian capital is renowned for its beer halls and steins, so I was happy to hang up my cocktail glass for a few days to enjoy the local specialities.

On our first night we headed to Hofbräuhaus, one of the oldest beer halls in the city, having been founded in 1589. Long tables, a brass band dressed in Lederhosen; barmaids dressed in Dirndls, and beer steins bigger than my head – it was exactly what we’d imagined from a Munich beer hall.

We ventured around a few other beer halls within the city centre during our stay, but on our last night we couldn’t resist heading back to Hofbräuhaus for another two pint beer stein to round off our trip in traditional Munich fashion (minus the Lederhosen).

Beer isn’t the only traditional drink of choice for winter in Munich, when wandering the Christmas markets we kept ourselves toasty with some hot Glühwein. And it’s not only Glühwein on offer, you can find a hot version of almost any alcoholic tipple being served around the city’s market stalls and pubs – we were particularly excited to find hot caipirinhas to be a popular option.

hot caipirinhias

hot beer

We also tried Heisses bier (hot beer) and Feuerzangenbowle – a traditional German drink made from red wine, rum, fruit, cinnamon and sugar.

Tummy Warming Food

Bratwursts alone would have made for the perfect foodie break in Munich, but we also enjoyed some fabulous hearty meals in the evening.

On our first night we wandered to the Marienplatz area to explore the choice of restaurants, where we found Haxnbauer – a perfect choice for traditional German grub in a traditional German setting.

Bavarian food

Goulash munich

We shared a platter of meats, cheeses and pretzels, which alone could have quite easily filled us up for the night, but when we saw our main meals arrive we suddenly found our appetites again. I chose goulash with traditional German Spätzle, while my boyfriend had veal. Both were delicious but it was fair to say I won in the food-off that night.

Trying to emulate my success the next evening – at the equally excellent restaurant choice of Zum Spöckmeier – my boyfriend ordered the goulash. It was good, but I once again trumped him with my choice – pork fillets in a creamy mushroom sauce with cheese Spätzle.

We were stuffed, but we did find room again the next day for two bratwursts (each) for lunch – one with sauerkraut, one without.

sauerkraut bratwurst

We didn’t love the sauerkraut personally, but if like us you like to try all of the local delicacies, it’s worth giving it a go.

I’d also recommend a side of Kartoffelsalat (potato salad), and if you’ve still got room after that, the bruschetta on offer at many of the market stalls is also a must-try.

After three days of eating, drinking, shopping and forcing the Yorkshireman to take selfies, we headed back to the UK feeling festive, and a few pounds heavier.