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3 months from September 2014

Manchester
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3 months from September 2014

We are a fit active couple in our early 50's. We live in the UK. We are having a very belated gap year from September 2014. Our first step is to take a 3 month trip to the USA to see as much of the country as we can. We enjoy outdoor pursuits, great scenery, interesting cultural stuff and the occasional big city.

We have family in San Francisco so we thought about starting either there or further up the west coast. We envisaged then heading east before hitting Washington DC and then travelling south to see Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans where we think we will end our trip. We would like to see Chicago, Mount Rushmore, some of the great national parks and as much interesting stuff as we can. If we could hit the fall colours in New England all the better. We aren't interested (because we have been before) in Florida or California below SF or NY.

We think we would like to travel by RV but don't know whether that is wise and if it is do we rent or do we buy and sell at the end of the trip. We really have no idea if you can just pull up overnight or if you have to find a camp site!

I know this is a very broad brief, we have a decent budget (actually we don't have any budget but will spend what we have to within reason), we aren't fixed on any one part of this plan but would like to avoid extreme weather.

Ideas are gratefully received; we will listen to anything and everything and can be very flexible even to the point of delaying our USA trip until the spring (we plan to do other trips in our year).

Atlanta, Georgia
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1. Re: 3 months from September 2014

If you want to see some of our beautiful national parks and Mt. Rushmore then I suggest starting there because if wait later will encounter winter weather. September is a great time to visit this area of the country especially if you begin early to middle of the month.

Some things to see and do-

Yellowstone National park

Grand Tetons National park

Badlands NP

Mt. Rushmore

Lots of wildlife, scenery, geysers, mountains, etc.

This area of the country will take you about 2 weeks or more- have done that trip before flying in and out of Denver.

For your southern part of the trip here is what I suggest- you can do that later because weather will still be warm.

Savannah

Charleston

Asheville

Great Smoky Mts. National Park

Nashville

Memphis

Vicksburg

Natchez

New Orleans

You can spend as much as three weeks doing this part of your trip.

This area of the country has beautiful plantations, southern history, Civil War history, great food, music, etc.

Hopefully this info will get you started with your planning.

If you want to fly and not do so much driving to different parts of the country then for internal flights I suggest looking at Southwest airlines- good price, no change fees and no baggage charges.

Good luck!!

Washington State
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2. Re: 3 months from September 2014

Start with this article:

RV rental - Is it right for us? tripadvisor.com/Travel-g28926-c187230

Yes, you need campsite reservations.

Manchester
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3. Re: 3 months from September 2014

That's a good start, thank you so much. The more I read the more it seems that the romantic notion of RV'ing is not quite how it is in real life. So maybe we will buy or rent an SUV.

We will look at all the places you suggest and start to map our rout out.

Ohio
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4. Re: 3 months from September 2014

agreed-- head immediately to the Yellowstone area. Head across to Cody, Devils Tower, Mt Rushmore area and the Badlands. From there-- I'd head to the Rocky Mtn Natl Park for a couple of days. Elk will be in rut and there are hundreds of them in the meadows in Sept. The last week of Sept should be peak for the aspens to be in thier peak fall color. It's gorgeous and one of my favorite places.

Uden, The...
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5. Re: 3 months from September 2014

Lasbor Day next year is monday sept 1. Just after that it's great to start your trip but head to Yosemite before Yellowstone. 3 month will give you time enough for a trip starting in SF and ending in New Orleans. I also suggest to take time for the Great Lakes area and you do have the time for this.

Cleveland
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6. Re: 3 months from September 2014

Here's a travel article still in progress on the Great Lakes region, which also offers spectacular Leaf Turn opportunities, such as in upper Michigan.

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g191-c183176/United-S…

This is one of my favorite amateur photo/travel sites, but you'll have to copy and paste the link. It covers some of the most famed locations in the country, but has a special focus on Michigan, one of the most beautiful states east of the Mississippi River.

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jensenl/visuals/album/

Leaf Turn in the east generally the last week of September and the first two week of October, later in the South. You may try to catch the very different fall colors in the West (e.g., Aspens), which may be slightly earlier. Leaf Turn would be a little later further south such as in Kentucky and Tennessee.

You might want to save New England for a later trip and move Tennessee to earlier in this trip to more enjoy nature's spectacular autumn offerings. Of course, late September and October will still be the tail end of the hurricane season.

Keep in mind also that Yellowstone is one of the greatest destinations in the U.S. and you will want to get there ASAP to lessen the possibility of winter weather shutting down the park.

Only you can weigh all of the possibilities and considerations and plot your itinerary on this ambitious trip. In all likelihood, you will want to remain flexible, especially if you face adverse weather conditions. This will be very possible, apart from reservations in major national parks (which are needed ASAP), as you'll be touring after the peak summer travel season.

Are you interested in sports, such as American baseball and football?

Good planning!

Lewes, United...
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7. Re: 3 months from September 2014

Just to interject a few critical points. What's your definition of 3 months. If you plan to stay a day over the 90 day limit, you need a visa as the ESTA is useless and getting a visa will cost time and money.

Also, buying any kind of vehicle is really a no-no unless you are prepared for a huge, and I really do mean huge amount of effort at both the start and finish of your trip, and - and this is important - you have close friends or family in the USA (which you have mentioned) who are willing to help you and let you use their address and other personal details.

Have a look at:

community.usatourist.com/forums/t/556.aspx

For some info. Also, recently, on this forum there was a long topic with an unfortunate, sad ending which offered a lot of blow by blow insight into the topic. See:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g1-i12567-k6038709…

In terms of where to go in 3 months, the USA is your oyster, but, to be serious, start north and work your way south for weather and daylight reasons. You've been offered some great ideas already. For more ideas you could do worse than just read random topics on this forum, or use the search box to enter the name of a destionation that takes your fancy, and see what else that poster wanted to add to their trip that was nearby and logical.

Oh, and I'm glad you've decided against the RV. They're great if they suit your travel style, but to jump in and rent one for your 3 month long trip without already knowing you're that type of person would be hugely risky, in my view.

Have a great trip,

SWT

Cleveland
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8. Re: 3 months from September 2014

BTW, for future reference, when you say exclude NY, do you mean New York City, or the entire state of NY? Have you been to Niagara Falls?

Will you include Canada on this trip? If so, consider coming earlier in August and seeing the Banff region, often considered the most spectacular in North America outside of Alaska. Spending some time in Canada might help you with the U.S. visa issue.... Does the 90-day limit reset if you spend some time in Canada? I believe that I've read it does reset.

Perhaps start in San Francisco in August, explore Oregon, Washington, possibly Vancouver, and Banff, and head back into the U.S. by way of Glacier NP and Yellowstone. Glacier might not seem as spectacular after Banff. Washington has great national parks. Unlike at Yosemite (where water features are fed by snow pack and will be greatly diminished by September unless enhanced by recent rainfall), the water features in Washington often are glacier fed and perpetual.

For a trip into Canada, you'll have to make certain any car rental agreement explicitly permits taking a car into Canada. The rental agreement reportedly is subject to inspection at borders, and without explicit language in the agreement, entry may be denied.

We've often suggested doing road trip loops out of several cities on long explorations such as yours. Then fly to other cities which lend themselves to road trips, such as Chicago. This avoids drop charges on rental cars, but requires domestic flights. Obviously, this strategy makes most sense when you will skip over a large region of the country.

Do you like art museums, amusement parks, historical museums, raft trips, zip lines, fishing, American history, culinary adventures, beaches, etc.? Any additional interests you provide will help us with suggestions. E.g., if you enjoy museums of all types and American history, you easily could spend two weeks in the Washington, DC, region.

Perhaps after reading through threads here, put together a tentative itinerary.

Again, good planning!

Manchester
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9. Re: 3 months from September 2014

Thank you for the advice so far, it has been invaluable. From a blank canvas a picture is now emerging. It now looks like we will start in SF and do as suggested, explore Oregon and Washington before heading to Glacier. We have been to Banff and Vancouver so won't do that loop. We are also moving rapidly away from RVing and will look at car rental.

The area I am less clear on is between Chicago and DC. We have been to Niagara and Toronto before. If we don't go to NYC or New England which is the best and most interesting route?

As for what we enjoy, well museums and art galleries are good and understanding US history is also good. Definitely no amusement parks though. We like spectacular scenery and enjoy day hikes but aren't wild thrill seekers.

Cleveland
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10. Re: 3 months from September 2014

Definitely take a look at the Great Lakes travel article which I linked in my first post.

What would be very helpful to providing some guidance is to know on about what date you will arrive in Chicago. Early in the third week of September may be best if you want to see Leaf Turn in the Midwest. Of course, Chicago is America's "Second City," with great museums and other cultural institutions and towering skyscrapers. You could spend many days there if you partake of Chicago's cultural institutions. E.g., Chicago and Cleveland are usually considered to have the two best orchestras in North America and among the very best in the world.

Upper Michigan is spectacular during Leaf Turn. If interested, you should search for "Michigan fall colors" to see if you can find a state website that provides a history/guidance as to peak colors in upper Michigan in recent years, or post on the Michigan forum. My guess is peak colors there are late in September or the first week in October. Did you look at any of the galleries for upper Michigan in the copy-paste link I provided in my first post? If you check the dates for galleries of Leaf Turn in upper Michigan, you might get some idea of when you want to be there; note that with global warming, however, Leaf Turn seems to be moving later into October in the Midwest in very recent years. Due to weather, peak colors varies locally from year-to-year. E.g., a strong storm can drop leaves overnight.

Are you interested in seeing a baseball game or experiencing a football weekend in the Midwest? This can be a great cultural experience even if you don't attend a game, some of which (select university games) are great spectacles even if you don't care one bit about football.

Many activities in the Midwest are seasonal. So if you plot out the first part of your trip, and let us know when you plan to arrive in Chicago, we'll provide some further guidance from there. E.g., Ohio Amish country and the Mohican region south of Cleveland are very popular during Leaf Turn. See discussions and links hin the following travel article, which also was linked in the Great Lakes travel article. Note the discussion of several excellent museums in northern Ohio, especially, the Glass Pavilion in Toledo and the Butler in Youngstown. Many Ohio art museums uniquely have free admission to their general galleries, but obviously contributions are welcomed. The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, likely will be one of your destinations.

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g50207-s407/Cleveland…

Also, check out Pictured Rocks and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshores, the Soo Locks and the Mackinac Bridge, all in Michigan, and let us know if these are of interest to you.

Let us know what interests you in the above Cleveland day trips travel article, as it will help us understand what you want to see on this trip. E.g., Kirtland attractions such as the Holden Arboretum (also drop-dead gorgeous during Leaf Turn), historic Kirtland and the Kirtland Temple, or Put-in-Bay (see Lake Erie islands in the travel article) for a key bit of British history in North America, or Malabar Farm State Park (which has barn dances and hay rides in October) under Mohican region in the travel article.

Check Cleveland "Things to Do." The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the best in the nation and worth a visit just to see the digital innovations such as its new Gallery One that make it currently the most technologically advanced art museum in the U.S. The world-renown Cleveland Orchestra performs at Severance Hall, arguably the most beautiful concert hall in the U.S. and Cleveland's Taj Mahal. The city also is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Do the aviation history attractions in Dayton interest you? This travel article also was linked in the Great Lakes travel article.

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g60785-c185858/Dayton…

You will have a couple options after Ohio, but they will be a function of when in October you'll be leaving Ohio. E.g., whether to head directly to Washington, DC, or whether to first visit Kentucky and Tennessee.

Edited: 08 March 2013, 15:14