The United States of America is a large country in North America, often referred to as the “USA,” the “U.S.,” the “United States,” “America,” or simply “the States”. It has a land area of about 9.6 million sq km (about half the size of Russia and about the same size as China). It also boasts the world’s third largest population, with over 310 million people. It includes both densely-populated cities with sprawling suburbs, and vast, uninhabited and naturally beautiful areas. With its history of mass immigration dating from the 17th century, it is a “melting pot” of cultures from around the world.
The country plays a dominant role in the world’s cultural landscape, and is famous for its wide array of popular tourist destinations, ranging from the skyscrapers of Manhattan and Chicago, to the natural wonders of Yellowstone and Alaska, to the warm, sunny beaches of Florida, Hawaii and Southern California.
The United States is not the America of television and movies. It is large, complex, and diverse, with distinct regional identities. Due to the distances involved, traveling between regions can be time-consuming and expensive.
The contiguous United States or “Lower 48″ (the 48 states other than Alaska and Hawaii) are bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, with much of the population living on these two coasts. Its only land borders are shared with Canada to the north, and Mexico to the south. The U.S. also shares maritime borders with Russia, Cuba, and the Bahamas.
The United States is extraordinarily diverse in its array of attractions. You will never run out of things to see; even if you think you’ve exhausted what one place has to offer, the next destination is only a road trip away.
The Great American Road Trip (see above) is the most traditional way to see a variety of sights; just hop in the car and cruise down the Interstates, stopping at the convenient roadside hotels and restaurants as necessary, and stopping at every interesting tourist trap along the way, until you reach your destination.
Indescribably beautiful scenery, history that reads like a screenplay, entertainment options that can last you for days, and some of the world’s greatest architecture—no matter what your pleasure, you can find it almost anywhere you look in the United States.
From the spectacular glaciers of Alaska to the wooded, weathered peaks of Appalachia; from the otherworldly desertscapes of the Southwest to the vast waters of the Great Lakes; few other countries have as wide a variety of natural scenery as the United States does.
America’s National Parks are a great place to start. Yellowstone National Park was the first true National Park in the world, and it remains one of the most famous, but there are 57 others. The Grand Canyon is possibly the world’s most spectacular gorge; Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park are both home to the world’s tallest living organisms; Glacier National Park is a great place to see huge sheets of ice; Canyonlands National Park could easily be mistaken for Mars; and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park features abundant wildlife among beautifully forested mountains. And the national parks aren’t just for sightseeing, either; each has plenty of outdoors activities as well.
Still, the National Parks are just the beginning. The National Park Service also operates National Monuments, National Memorials, National Historic Sites, National Seashores, National Heritage Areas… the list goes on (and on). And each state has its own state parks that can be just as good as the federal versions. Most all of these destinations, federal or state, have an admission fee, but it all goes toward maintenance and operations of the parks, and the rewards are well worth it.
Those aren’t your only options, though. Many of America’s natural treasures can be seen without passing through admission gates. The world-famous Niagara Falls straddle the border between Canada and the U.S.; the American side lets you get right up next to the onrush and feel the power that has shaped the Niagara gorge. The “purple majesty” of the Rocky Mountains can be seen for hundreds of miles in any direction, while the placid coastal areas of the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic have relaxed Americans for generations. And, although they are very different from each other, Hawaii and Alaska are perhaps the two most scenic states; they don’t just have attractions—they are attractions.
Americans often have a misconception of their country as having little history. The U.S. does indeed have a tremendous wealth of historical attractions—more than enough to fill months of history-centric touring.
The prehistory of the continent can indeed be a little hard to uncover, as most of the Native American tribes did not build permanent settlements. But particularly in the West, you will find magnificent cliff dwellings at sites such as Mesa Verde, as well as near-ubiquitous rock paintings. The Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. is another great place to start learning about America’s culture before the arrival of European colonists.
As the first part of the country to be colonized by Europeans, the eastern states of New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the South have more than their fair share of sites from early American history. The first successful British colony on the continent was at Jamestown, Virginia, although the settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts, may loom larger in the nation’s mind.
In the eighteenth century, major centers of commerce developed in Philadelphia and Boston, and as the colonies grew in size, wealth, and self-confidence, relations with Great Britain became strained, culminating in the Boston Tea Party and the ensuing Revolutionary War…
Monuments and architecture
Americans have never shied away from heroic feats of engineering, and many of them are among the country’s biggest tourist attractions.
Washington, D.C., as the nation’s capital, has more monuments and statuary than you could see in a day, but do be sure to visit the Washington Monument (the world’s tallest obelisk), the stately Lincoln Memorial, and the incredibly moving Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The city’s architecture is also an attraction—the Capitol Building and the White House are two of the most iconic buildings in the country and often serve to represent the whole nation to the world.
Actually, a number of American cities have world-renowned skylines, perhaps none moreso than the concrete canyons of Manhattan, part of New York City. The site of the destroyed World Trade Center towers remains a gaping wound in Manhattan’s vista, but the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building still stand tall, as they have for almost a century. Chicago, where the skyscraper was invented, is home to the country’s single tallest building, the (former) Sears Tower, and an awful lot of other really tall buildings. Other skylines worth seeing include San Francisco (with the Golden Gate Bridge), Seattle (including the Space Needle), Miami, and Pittsburgh.
Some human constructions transcend skyline, though, and become iconic symbols in their own right. The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Statue of Liberty in Manhattan, the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, and even the fountains of the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas all draw visitors to their respective cities. Even the incredible Mount Rushmore, located far from any major city, still attracts two million visitors each year.
Museums and galleries
In the U.S., there’s a museum for practically everything. From toys to priceless artifacts, from entertainment legends to dinosaur bones—nearly every city in the country has a museum worth visiting.
The highest concentrations of these museums are found in the largest cities, of course, but none compare to Washington, D.C., home to the Smithsonian Institution. With almost twenty independent museums, most of them located on the National Mall, the Smithsonian is the foremost curator of American history and achievement. The most popular of the Smithsonian museums are the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of American History, and the National Museum of Natural History, but any of the Smithsonian museums would be a great way to spend an afternoon—and they’re all 100% free.
New York City also has an outstanding array of world-class museums, including the Guggenheim Museum, the American Museum of Natural History,the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.
You could spend weeks exploring the cultural institutions just in D.C. and the Big Apple, but here’s a small fraction of the other great museums you’d be missing:
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh — Pittsburgh
Children’s Museum of Indianapolis — Indianapolis, Indiana
Exploratorium — San Francisco
Hollywood Walk of Fame — Los Angeles
Monterey Bay Aquarium — Monterey, California
Museum of Science & Industry — Chicago
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — Springfield, Massachusetts
National Aquarium in Baltimore — Baltimore, Maryland
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum — Cooperstown, New York
Pro Football Hall of Fame — Canton, Ohio
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum — Cleveland, Ohio
San Diego Zoo — San Diego, California
Strong National Museum of Play — Rochester, New York
Here is a handful of itineraries spanning regions across the United States:
Appalachian Trail — a foot trail along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Maine
Braddock Expedition — traces the French-Indian War route of British General Edward Braddock (and a younger George Washington) from Alexandria, Virginia through Cumberland, Maryland to the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh.
The Jazz Track — a nation-wide tour of the most important clubs in jazz history and in jazz performance today
Lewis and Clark Trail — retrace the northwest route of the great American explorers along the Missouri River
Route 66 — tour the iconic historic highway running from Chicago to Los Angeles
Santa Fe Trail — a historic southwest settler route from Missouri to Santa Fe
Touring Shaker country — takes you to one current and eight former Shaker religious communities in the Mid-Atlantic, New England and Midwest regions of the United States.
U.S. Highway 1 — traveling along the east coast from Maine to Florida.
(All the above from http://wikitravel.org/en/USA)
There are Gay Prides in many of the cities. Here are just a few to think about. of course there are many, many more gay events, and that’s why we need contacts in cities to being us news! Check here
Albuquerque Pride Albuquerque, New Mexico www.abqpride.com June
Atlanta Pride Atlanta, Georgia atlantapride.org September, Labor Day Weekend
Augusta Pride Augusta, Georgia prideaugusta.org June
Austin Pride Parade Austin, Texas www.austinprideparade.org June
Baltimore Pride Baltimore, Maryland baltimorepride.org June
Bellingham Pride Bellingham, Washington www.bhampride.org July
Boise Pride Boise, Idaho www.boisepride.org August
Bronx Pride Bronx, New York bronxpride.org June
Brooklyn Pride Brooklyn, New York www.brooklynpride.org June
Boston Pride Boston, Massachusetts www.bostonpride.org June
Capital Pride Washington, D.C. www.capitalpride.org June
Capital City Pride Olympia, Washington www.capitalcitypride.net June
Cedar Rapids Pridefest Cedar Rapids, Iowa www.crglrc.org June
Central New York Pride Syracuse, New York www.cnypride.org June (see our site for exact date)
Charlotte Pridefest Charlotte, North Carolina www.pridecharlotte.com July
Chesapeake Pride Festival Edgewater, Maryland www.chesapeakepridefestival.org August
Chicago Bear Pride Chicago, Illinois www.glbears.com May
Chicago Pride Parade Chicago, Illinois www.chicagopridecalendar.org June
Christopher Street West West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California www.lapride.org June
Cleveland Pride Cleveland, Ohio www.clevelandpride.org
Cleveland Black Pride, BGP Cleveland, Ohio www.bgpcleveland.com August
Colorado Springs PrideFest Colorado Springs, CO http://www.ppglcc.org July (3rd weekend)
Columbus Pride Columbus, Ohio www.columbuspride.org June 18–20
Come Out With Pride Orlando, Florida www.mbaorlando.org October
Dallas Pride Dallas, Texas www.dallasprideparade.com September
DC Black Pride Washington, D.C. www.dcblackpride.org May
Delaware Pride Rehoboth Beach, Delaware www.delawarepride.org June
East-Central Minnesota Pride Pine City, Minnesota www.menscircle.org June
Ft. Wayne Pride Ft. Wayne, Indiana www.fortwaynepride.org July
Gay Easter Parade New Orleans, Louisiana www.gayeasterparade.com March
Houston Pride Houston, Texas www.pridehouston.org June
Indy Pride Indianapolis, Indiana www.indyprideinc.com June
Jersey Pride Asbury Park, New Jersey www.jerseypride.org June
Jersey City Pride Jersey City, New Jersey www.jclgo.org August
Kalamazoo Pride Kalamazoo, Michigan www.kalamazoopride.com June
Las Vegas Pride Las Vegas, Nevada www.lasvegaspride.org May
Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Long Beach, California www.longbeachpride.com May
Long Island Pride Huntington, New York liprideparade.com
Los Angeles Pride / Christopher Street West West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California www.lapride.org June
Los Angeles / Valley Pride Studio City, Los Angeles, California www.lavalleypride.org October
Madison Pride and MAGIC Picnic Madison, Wisconsin www.madisonpride.org
Memorial Day Pensacola Beach Pride Pensacola, Florida www.memorialweekendpensacola.com www.gaydaypensacola.com May
Miami Beach Gay Pride South Beach, Florida April
Mid-South Pride Memphis, Tennessee www.midsouthpride.org
Modesto Pride Modesto, California www.spcpride.org September
Montana Pride Montana (rotates annually among major Montana towns) www.qnewsmontana.com June
Pride of Monterey County, Inc. Monterey, California www.montereypride.org July
Motor City Pride Detroit, Michigan www.motorcitypride.org First Sunday in June
Nashville Pride Nashville, Tennessee www.nashvillepride.org June
New York City Pride New York City, New York www.nycpride.org June
North Carolina Pride Durham, North Carolina www.ncpride.org September
Northampton Pride Northampton, Massachusetts www.northamptonpride.org May
Oklahoma City Pride Oklahoma City, Oklahoma www.okcpride.com June
Palm Springs Pride Palm Springs, California www.pspride.org November
Palouse Pride Moscow, Idaho www.myspace.com August
Philly Black Gay Pride Philadelphia, Pennsylvania www.phillyblackpride.org April
Philly Pride Parade & Festival Philadelphia, Pennsylvania www.phillypride.org June
Phoenix Pride Phoenix, Arizona wwww.phoenixpride.org April
Pittsburgh Pride Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania www.pittsburghpride.org June
PrideFest Denver, Colorado www.pridefestdenver.org
Pridefest Fort Lauderdale Ft. Lauderdale, Florida www.pridesouthflorida.org March
PrideFest Milwaukee Milwaukee, Wisconsin www.pridefest.com June
Pride Fest Bismarck, North Dakota and Mandan, North Dakota www.dakotaoutright.org Mid-summer
Pride Festival of Central PA Harrisburg, Pennsylvania www.harrisburgpride.org Last weekend in July
Pride Northwest Portland, Oregon www.pridenw.org June
Pure Heat Atlanta Pride Weekend Atlanta, Georgia atlantaprideweekend.com Labor Day Weekend
Reno Pride Reno, Nevada www.renogaypride.com August
Rhode Island Pride Festival & Parade Providence, Rhode Island www.PrideRI.com June
Sacramento Pride Festival & Parade Sacramento, California www.SacramentoPride.org June
Salinas Valley Pride Parade Salinas, California www.myspace.com August
San Diego Pride San Diego, California www.sandiegopride.org July
San Diego North County Pride Carlsbad, California www.northcountypridesd.org August
San Francisco Pride San Francisco, California www.sfpride.org June
San Jose Pride Parade & Festival San Jose, California www.sanjosepride.com June
Santa Cruz Pride Parade & Festival Santa Cruz, California www.diversitycenter.org June
Savannah Pride Savannah, Georgia www.savannahpride.org
Seattle Black Pride Seattle, Washington www.seattleblackpride.org July
Seattle Pride Seattle, Washington www.seattlepride.org June
Show Me Pride Kansas City, Missouri www.kansascitygaypride.org June
South Carolina Pride Columbia, South Carolina www.scpride.org
Spokane Pride Spokane, Washington www.outspokane.org 2nd Saturday in June
St. Louis PrideFest St. Louis, Missouri www.pridestl.org June
St. Pete Pride St. Petersburg, Florida www.stpetepride.com June
Staten Island Pride Staten Island, New York www.myspace.com May
Syracuse (CNY) Pride Syracuse, New York www.cnypride.org June
Tucson Pride Tucson, Arizona www.tucsonpride.org October
Twin Cities Pride Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minnesota www.tcpride.org June
Tulsa Pride Tulsa, Oklahoma www.tulsapride.org June
Utah Pride Festival Salt Lake City, Utah www.utahpride.org June
Virginia – Gay Pride Virginia Richmond, Virginia gaypridevirginia.org September
Wichita Pride Festival & Parade Wichita, Kansas www.wichitapride.org June
Youth Pride D.C. Washington, D.C. www.youthpridedc.org May
LGBT rights in the United States
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in the United States have evolved over time and vary on a state-by-state basis. Sexual acts between persons of the same sex have been legal nationwide in the U.S. since 2003, pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.
Family, marriage, and anti-discrimination laws vary by state. Six states plus Washington, D.C. currently offer marriage to same-sex couples. Maryland does not offer same-sex marriages but does recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Additionally, some states offer civil unions or other types of recognition which offer some of the legal benefits and protections of marriage.
Twenty-one states plus Washington, D.C. outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and sixteen states plus Washington, D.C. outlaw discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are also punishable by federal law under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.
Adoption policies in regards to gay and lesbian parents also vary greatly from state to state. Some allow adoption by same-sex couples, while others ban all “unmarried couples” from adoption.