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Help! What should I see in my maiden visit to US??

Bengaluru, India
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Help! What should I see in my maiden visit to US??

Hello,

I am planning to attend my cousin's wedding in Chicago(hence the posting here) in September. Would like to take the opportunity to see at least some parts of US - cant do full justice I know.

I am from India, intend to visit for around 3 weeks...I would be travelling solo (female) for most parts..hope that is not a concern in US?

I like nature(trekking, nature parks et al), history, art. Would really appreciate it if I could get some suggestions on what I could plan around these themes that would make best use of time & not be too expensive(dont mind travelling around)!

And I dont have an international driving license, so cant drive rentals. Would that be a significant deterrent? Can I use trains/buses to get around?

Thanks in advance...

Illinois
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1. Re: Help! What should I see in my maiden visit to US??

Within Chicago - explorechicago.org/city/en/things_see_do.html

Within Illinois - http://www.enjoyillinois.com/home.aspx

Being without a car will limit your options. It might be worth the small investment to get an international drivers license.

Train travel - www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer…

Bus travel - http://www.greyhound.com/home/ or http://us.megabus.com/

You might want to purchase a travel book to get some ideas.

Bengaluru, India
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2. Re: Help! What should I see in my maiden visit to US??

Many thanks Dave for those resources. Would it be difficult to visit National Parks like Yellow stone/Grand Canyon without a car?

Edited: 22 June 2010, 11:39
Chicago
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3. Re: Help! What should I see in my maiden visit to US??

Yellowstone is truly spectacular, and on a grand scale. Last time I was there, I did a hiking tour with the Yellowstone Association. Their programs are a bit pricey, but they are first-rate, and they get you situated in nice hotels. It helped greatly to have an expert guide show off the park. You can always do a 4 day, like their "Trails Through Yellowstone", then come back to anything that really resonates with you.

There are lots of transport services for folks without cars; it's a very common situation. Generally, you end up being dropped off at a trailhead. If you want more flexibility, it's easy to rent a car locally.

As for other parks, I would advise not over-committing your schedule. There are professional guides, specializing in Yellowstone, who complain that they can't see it all.

Have a great trip.

Chicago
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4. Re: Help! What should I see in my maiden visit to US??

I see now that you are not able to rent a car, so ignore my advice to do so.

Illinois
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5. Re: Help! What should I see in my maiden visit to US??

Yellowstone is indeed an amazing place to visit, but I would be hesitant to recommend it to someone without a car since there is no public transportation within the park. If you are intent on visiting there, would you consider some kind of group tour?

The Grand Canyon might be easier to plan. Amtrak has a train called the Southwest Chief that originates in Chicago and ends in Los Angeles. It makes a stop in Williams, Arizona, and I believe that from there you can take the Grand Canyon Railway to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here is a link for an Amtrak package, but you may be able to plan a similar itinerary on your own.

www.amtrakvacations.com/index.php?id=588

The Southwest Chief also makes a stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico and from there you could get the Railrunner train up to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe is a beautiful, very compact, walkable town. If you enjoy history, you would love this place.

Another option is Glacier National Park in Montana. Amtrak’s Empire Builder originates in Chicago and terminates in Seattle or Portland, with a stop in Glacier. I’m not sure what the weather would be like at Glacier in September. I think it is better in the summer.

www.amtrakvacations.com/index.php?id=590

The national parks in this country are spectacular and if you like the outdoors they would be my first choice of places to visit. Unfortunately, public transportation to them is somewhat limited. It might be easier to plan visits to major cities, like New York, Washington, or San Francisco.

Happy planning!

Bengaluru, India
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6. Re: Help! What should I see in my maiden visit to US??

Thanks a ton IlliniTrav for that informative post.

Yes I wouldnt mind doing a group tour for Yellowstone...would you be able to recommend any particular one/company?

Thanks again!

Illinois
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7. Re: Help! What should I see in my maiden visit to US??

We visited Yellowstone last summer, flying into Jackson and renting a car. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to make any recommendations on a reputable tour company, but perhaps you could post this question in the Yellowstone forum? I’ve never gone on any kind of organized tour, but I think they tend to be costlier than what you could do on your own. It might be a fun way to meet people though, and you wouldn’t have some of the worries that go along with being in a foreign country.

Just an opinion, but long distance bus travel isn’t exactly pleasant. I think the train or a plane would be more comfortable, but also costlier.

There is a lot to do in Chicago, but if I had never been to the United States, I wouldn’t want to spend all my time here. If you want to pack a lot of sights into a short time, you could fly to the East Coast. You might be able to get round trip fares from Chicago for under $200 to major cities if you book soon. (I am seeing $179 round trip to New York on Southwest Airlines.) Travel between Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington via trains might not be too bad. The cost of accommodations in these places might be high though.

Do your relatives or friends in the U.S. have any suggestions for you?

Chicago, Illinois
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8. Re: Help! What should I see in my maiden visit to US??

These websites should help you:

http://www.caravan.com/

http://www.affordabletours.com/USA/ (use the search function)

Any tours you find on these web sites should be fine. Look carefully what is included and check the price if you travel alone--some companies will try to find you someone to room with.

At the moment it is likely that air travel is cheaper than the train, but also look up the megabus.

Plenty of websites for US travel--just use Google. I like kayak.com for airfare and hotels.

Also, greyline often has city tours, just google for the city. PM me if further questions.

Bengaluru, India
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9. Re: Help! What should I see in my maiden visit to US??

Thanks, nkbwilmette & IlliniTrav - will check out those sites...

My friends/family there tell me that I shouldn't be too ambitious - given time & budget restrictions(as IlliniTrav mentioned, stay costs seem formidable...)!!!

The suggestions I have received so far - Smoky Mountains NP, Wisconsin, Niagara Falls....New York because thats on my wishlist!

Any more suggestions?

Thanks again for all your help!

Edited: 28 June 2010, 11:44
Illinois
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10. Re: Help! What should I see in my maiden visit to US??

I found this website on “U.S. vacations without a car”:

ezinearticles.com/…

If money is tight, and you have a place to stay here in Chicago, would your friends and relatives be willing to take you on some day or weekend trips, just so that you aren’t in the city for your entire stay? That way you could see a little of the natural beauty of the Midwest. Some possibilities would be Door County or Wisconsin Dells in Wisconsin, the area along Lake Michigan in Southwest Michigan, or Starved Rock State Park here in Illinois (lots of hiking trails, canyons, and waterfalls).

You should be able to get a flight to Buffalo, New York, for under $200 if you would like to see Niagara Falls. You could then get a shuttle to the falls, so you could do this without a car. The falls are spectacular, and the town of Niagara Falls on the Canadian side is very touristy (fun houses, wax museums, t-shirt shops, etc. if you like that kind of thing). I don’t know how long you could stay there before you saw everything though.

The Smoky Mountains are lovely, but visiting there would be difficult without a car. It’s about 600 miles from here to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the gateway to the Smokies.

New York is on my wish list too. I think the airfares are reasonable now, but staying in Manhattan is super expensive. But, there is so much to see and do!

September is a great time to visit since the weather should be pleasant. Hotel rates in some of the touristy parts of the country go down since children are back in school.

You may get some good ideas on the Tripadvisor Road Trip forum:

tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g1-i12567-Road_Tri…