Photo: Boeing

If you are planning on venturing to the United States for the very first time, you’ll no doubt be unable to contain your excitement.

A trip to the U.S. is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It is a culturally diverse nation, with much to see and do. Of course, America is one of the world’s largest countries too, so for most first-time visitors, it can be daunting knowing where to start to get a feel for life as an American.

Image: Pixabay
Even without a U.S. passport, you can see travel to all 50 states with a valid visa

This article puts the spotlight on three of the biggest and best vacation destinations for newcomers to holidaying in the USA.

But before you start planning a trip to any of the cities or resorts mentioned below, it’s important to note that without some kind of visa, you won’t be granted entry into the U.S. Some nationalities are permitted to apply for authorization to a visa waiver scheme, known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

This allows you to visit America for less than 90 days for business or pleasure. Other citizens will be required to obtain a visa from your nearest U.S. Embassy.

The Most Popular Destinations in the Us 

New York City is the most populous city in North America and there are many reasons why it is the most visited city in the U.S. by overseas travellers.

It’s home to many iconic landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Ellis Island. There’s also the beautiful metropolitan greenery of Central Park that offers something during all four seasons and the city’s Broadway entertainment district.

Las Vegas is also high up the list in terms of overseas visitors, thanks largely to its entertainment scene.

The bright lights of the Vegas Strip and the historic Downtown area are magnets to tourists looking to experience the city’s casinos, shows, fine dining and nightlife that make it “Disneyland for adults”.

Speaking of Disneyland, Florida’s Orlando is also one of the most popular U.S. destinations for families thanks to its Disney World resort. The raft of different theme parks and resorts offer fun and excitement for all ages, as well as guaranteed good weather in the “Sunshine State”.

A special mention should also go to Los Angeles given its home to Hollywood and some extra special coastal locations such as Muscle Beach and Santa Monica Pier. LA also offers a unique blend of cultures, with 86 different languages and 140 ethnic groups residing here.

Las Vegas: America’s Premier Entertainment Destination

Planning a first trip to Las Vegas? “Sin City” is arguably the world’s number one 24/7 destination, where there is always something to see and do.

The casino floors never sleep, with video slots ringing out day and night and table games such as blackjack and roulette bringing together tourists from all four corners of the globe.

Image: Pixabay
An overhead shot of the Las Vegas Boulevard Strip at night

With some casinos offering low house edges on their blackjack tables and low table minimums, it’s a good idea to hone your skills and understand the odds of blackjack before you arrive.

Even when you fly into Las Vegas’ McCarren International Airport, there are gaming machines in the baggage reclaim area – such is the city’s connection to casino gaming.

The beauty of Vegas in 2019 is that it’s not all about the casinos either. The city has worked hard to diversify its offering as a vacation destination, pushing its fine dining scene, fast-growing sporting events, and off-Strip attractions.

In October 2018, Vegas casino revenues for the month amounted to $593.4 million, which is still some way down on its historic earnings.

Nevertheless, its clutch of Michelin-starred restaurants and new-age hotel resorts, along with the city’s new NHL ice hockey team and soccer team, help to divert the attention of visitors across the desert city.

New York: the Magic of “the Big Apple”

There is no city anywhere else in America quite as romantic and vibrant as New York. Its non-stop pulse creates an energy like no other, with its majestic skyline characterizing the Big Apple.

JetBlue Terminal 5 at New York JFK Marketplace. (Credits: Chris Sloan)

If you are planning a first-time visit to NYC, the best way to get around town is via the subway. Driving and parking in Manhattan is a veritable nightmare. Consider getting a weekly Metrocard that offers unlimited travel on the subway for the entirety of your stay.

When the sun goes down, take a trip to Times Square to catch the neon lights and advertising boards. Only then have you truly experienced the heartbeat of the city. Getting tickets to a Broadway show is an absolute must – its theatre scene is as popular as London’s West End.

The Empire State Building affords breathtaking panoramic views from its 86th and 102nd floors, while Central Park is a magical place to visit, particularly during the festive season when the park comes alive with its iconic ice rink. Sports fans can choose between New York’s baseball, basketball, football, soccer and ice hockey teams to get their fix of live sport in a way only America knows.

Disney World Orlando: Florida’s Family Vacation Resort

If you are travelling to the USA for the first time with a young family, the ideal starting point is Disney World Orlando.

With four major theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios – two water parks and many other massive resorts nearby like Universal Studios, it’s a feast for the imagination of youngsters.

Image: Pixabay
The unmistakable Magic Kingdom at Orlando’s Disney World

First-timers looking to experience Disney World should come for no longer than a week to get the full experience. A little tip: Disney prices its seven-day park passes only a little bit more than the four-day passes, to encourage you to stay longer.

Deciding whether to stay at an official Disney resort of an off-property resort is the next biggest decision.

An off-property resort tends to offer cheaper accommodation, but you will often have to hire a car or rely on shuttle services to and from each theme park.

The New Orlando International Airport Terminal Rendering

Staying at an official Disney resort will cost more, but it will offer 24/7 Disney magic that the off-property resorts cannot compete with, not to mention free transfers to and from the airport – which is popular for flights from across the UK – via Disney’s Magical Express.

Ultimately, Las Vegas, New York and Orlando offer a broad spectrum of entertainment and cultural opportunities for all the family. This trio of U.S. cities are the ideal starting point for your first journey into the good ol’ US of A.