JENNY Piper reveals some of the most memorable experiences she’s had in the land of stars and stripes.
I love the USA, it is my favourite place to visit. I have been lucky enough to travel there regularly through work and leisure. I love the diversity of the country — its people, the landscape and the culture. Every city is different and there are some absolutely spectacular natural wonders to see — which most Aussies probably don’t get to. In this job we are privileged to be shown some amazing places and experiences, so I’m indulging myself and sharing my top six memorable USA experiences!
Yellowstone National Park
A visit to Yellowstone in winter is quite a treat. Most of the roads in the park are closed and access to Old Faithful Geyser is by over snow transport only. We did a two-day snowmobile tour — overnighting at Old Faithful Snow Lodge, seeing the geyser and getting to visit some of the thermal areas, spotting wildlife and seeing the snow-covered meadows, frozen lakes and waterfalls.
The highlight was coming across a herd of bison on our return leg. We had the amazing experience of being only metres away from them as we shared the road.
Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor is often visited as a port of call on a Canada & New England cruise, but it’s worth staying a bit longer. Take a boat tour on Lulu’s Lobster Boat to see how they catch lobsters then tuck into some for dinner at one of the many great restaurants in town.
A highlight of Bar Harbor is the nearby Acadia National Park taking up 19,000 hectares along the Atlantic Coast. It has a vast network of old carriage ways which have been maintained so visitors can cycle or walk to experience the beautiful woodlands, lakes and rocky beaches. There is also an abundance of walking trails.
For the brave, get a tattoo at the parlour where the celebrities do! Bang Bang NYC has inked the likes of Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus just to name a few. Appointments do need to be made months in advance, but it is quite the experience, not to mention the ultimate souvenir!
For those who love food Portland is one of the most interesting places in the country to eat. The culinary scene offers something for all tastes and budgets. Known for its, food trucks, it’s also home to VooDoo donuts — a must try. We took a walk along Division Street, the hottest neighbourhood in Portland, with ForkTown Food tours, trying dishes from around the world and stopping by an urban winery to try some local blends including of course, Oregon Pinot Noir.
For coffee lovers Portland is way ahead in the coffee snob stakes with micro roasters and famous baristas abounding throughout the city. Highly recommended is a stroll around town with ‘Third Wave Coffee tours’ trying different brews and styles and learning all about the third wave of coffee. Portland is also famous for its beer having more craft breweries than any other US city as well as a vibrant art scene with loads of galleries to peruse.
Niagara Falls, NY
Everyone who visits Niagara Falls invariably ends up doing Maid of the Mist and other must-do falls experiences. But for those who like a thrill and don’t mind getting wet then a Whirlpool Jet Boat tour is a memorable adventure. Located 10 minutes from the falls in historic Lewiston, the 45-minute ride on the powerful jet boat takes you up the lower Niagara River (downstream from the falls) through the Niagara Gorge to the Niagara Whirlpool, and on to the ‘Devils Hole’ class 5 rapids, with 4-6m waves. You are guaranteed to get wet no matter how hard you try not to — a poncho just doesn’t cut it. But it’s loads of fun, exhilarating and definitely gets the adrenaline pumping. Not like any other jet boat ride!
This desert town is a couple of hours from Phoenix and is known for its spectacular red rocks and forest land — an amazing place to stay. Visited for its new age spiritual scene, arts culture and outdoor activities there is so much you can do. Hiking, mountain biking or exploring off the beaten track on an ATV are just a few of the activities on offer. For something a bit different try a visit to ‘Bearizona’ a few hours north near Williams. Visitors drive through about 4km of pine forest enclosures viewing various North American animals in their natural habitat — including wolves, bison and of course bears! There is also a walk-through zoo with many other animals to see such as otters and badgers. Well worth the drive!
I could go on because I have been thoroughly spoilt — ATV tour in Alaska, skiing in Northstar, Lake Tahoe, Nantucket Island, cycling across the Golden Gate bridge and of course Disneyland! I have seen a lot of the US but I still feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of this diverse country.