Travel filter: 3 weeks in the US. NYC, and then what?
August 10, 2014 7:18 PM   Subscribe

The Red Thoughts consort and I want to go to New York City as part of a 3 week getaway in October. We thought that we might also visit some other places in the US. The problem is, we don't know where else to go. Hope us, MeFites?

Are there other cities on the East Coast or elsewhere we should visit that would be substantially different from NYC? How far are they? How should we get there?

We've never been to the USA before. We like food, musicals, theatre, cabaret and museums. Recommendations welcome.

I like outdoorsy stuff - I would love to visit some spectacular outdoor sites or national parks. The consort would probably consent to a gentle day hike but camping is out.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Come to DC! It's still on the east coast and it's very cheap and easy to get here by bus from New York but it's a hugely different city. It's pretty manageable and we have tolerable public transportation and there are TONS of museums and they're mostly free (many of them are run by the Smithsonian Institution and those are all free and largely awesome). There is some excellent food too. If you are interested in hiking you could go to Shenandoah National Park which is south of here. Have a great trip!

If you do come, definitely call a meetup or let a DC Mefite know and we can schedule one for you. DC Mefites are generally super pleasant and we love meeting people from other cities.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:26 PM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Well, the nation's capital, Washington, DC. is right there. Lots of interesting stuff and very different from NYC.
posted by trip and a half at 7:26 PM on August 10, 2014

Ha! Hi, Mrs. P!
posted by trip and a half at 7:27 PM on August 10, 2014

I recommend New England in October, since the autumn leaves and weather are basically my favorite things ever, and also you can enjoy such wonderful American things as hot mulled apple cider (not alcoholic, unless you add dark rum, which I do recommend), a variety of pumpkin (American pumpkin) dishes and flavored things, apple butter and basically all other wonderful apple stuff, etc. If I were you I'd head to Boston from NYC (you can fly, take a wicked cheap bus, or fairly expensive train) and explore that city a bit (I am biased, as a former Bostonian, but I think Boston is great and it's very, very different from New York), then hire a car and make your way through the New Hampshire and Vermont mountains. There are lots of great state parks in both states with well marked and maintained hiking trails for all levels. Google "leaf peepers" for info on the best way to plot a path through those two states depending on what time in October you'll be there.

I love love love New England, but anything I might describe as "spectacular", other than autumn foliage, is probably more in the western half of the US... those are things like the Grand Canyon, some pretty serious mountain ranges, etc. I don't have much personal experience with those but if leaves and such don't appeal to you, that's where I'd start researching.
posted by olinerd at 7:28 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Also: October is probably the best season ever to visit DC.)
posted by trip and a half at 7:29 PM on August 10, 2014

Agreed that you should definitely do DC--it's an easy trip from NYC and a very different feel. Toronto, while not the US, is also a pretty great place to spend a week, different from both DC and NYC.

If you wanted a week of cheaper accommodations, etc, while still staying in a city, you could consider venturing out to Cleveland or Chicago, say--both cheap, underrated cities that are an easy, short flight from anywhere east coasty. Cleveland is especially great for inexpensive theatre, in my experience, and has an unexpectedly fantastic parks system. (I'm a lot more familiar with Cleveland than most other midwestern cities; don't take my rec there as a slight to Chicago or anywhere else.)

Autumn is a great time of year to visit any of these places, btw--the scenery's all going gorgeous, the weather's nice, etc.

Possibly relevant question: do you want to come and feel like you've "seen the US", or do you want to come and feel like you, say, saw amazing theatre, etc? Figuring out what the priority is might make things easier to plan. If you wanted to focus on theatre and nature, say, I'd say a week of New England and two weeks in NYC; if you wanted to do culture and theatre, maybe NYC, Toronto, and DC; if you wanted to feel like you'd seen the US, I'd say NYC, Baltimore or DC, [midwestern city of choice], and a stop out somewhere on the left coast.
posted by MeghanC at 7:37 PM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: do you want to come and feel like you've "seen the US"

I don't think so. That's not really possible in a country as large and complex as the US in any case (in 3 weeks, anyway). I'm more interested in having a good experience and seeing new and cool and different things.

Broadway and off-Broadway is a big draw for us in NYC. If we get our theatre fix there, we may not need to focus on that in other cities.

The consort is pro-DC.

If you do come, definitely call a meetup or let a DC Mefite know and we can schedule one for you. DC Mefites are generally super pleasant and we love meeting people from other cities.

We will definitely try for meetups!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:19 PM on August 10, 2014

Another easy trip would be to go to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (this would pretty much require renting a car because there's no mass transit to speak of, though it's on the Amtrak train line) - pretty farms, good food and crafts, and of course seeing the Amish community, which is definitely an only-in-America experience. It's about halfway between NYC and DC distance-wise, though not directly in between.
posted by Mchelly at 8:32 PM on August 10, 2014

What kinds of vacations do you like to take? Do you want to rent a car or rely on public transit? Do you like to stay somewhere for 2-3 weeks or take other side trips?

I'd personally suggest doing an open-jaw flight if you can. Fly into NYC, stay for 6 days there, take a train to DC (or Boston) for another 4-5 days, and then fly to San Francisco for a totally different experience for the last week or so. Fly to your home location from San Francisco. You can buy the DC-SFO route on JetBlue or another US carrier -- it doesn't have to be part of your international ticket from Home-NYC and SFO-Home.

I actually LOVE vacations where I go to one spot for three weeks and explore and get a feel for it, but if this is your first real trip to the US, San Francisco is such a different experience than the East Coast and it's a super fun city to visit. Lots of gorgeous day trips from San Francisco - the giant redwoods, down the Pacific Coast, up to the Napa area, further inland, etc.
posted by barnone at 8:36 PM on August 10, 2014

Your profile says Australia -- would you fly direct to NYC? Stopover on our west coast first?

If you travel through San Francisco or LA, maybe extend the stopover here in SF or LA for a few days and then go east.

DC and NYC could fill 3 weeks most wonderfully, but a few days out west might be a fun addition.
posted by mamabear at 10:38 PM on August 10, 2014

Chicago is an amazing city. It doesn't get enough praise, I think. Amazing architecture and food and art. Take the architecture boat tour.

IMO, there are three cities you must see: NY, Chicago, and SF. I say this as someone madly in love with LA, where I live.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:23 AM on August 11, 2014

You should see Chicago--though personally I was not overly impressed. (Though if you do go, get tickets to Second City and Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.)

You might also consider Philadelphia, which is an easy, if pricey, journey by train from NYC. It is night and day, big American city-wise, NYC to Philly. The incomparable Mutter Museum is there--the reason I went actually--as well as a plethora of historical sites.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 5:53 AM on August 11, 2014

Yay! We want to see you when you come!

We will show you around Brooklyn, if you want.

Lots of good suggestions in this thread. If you want some rural America along with your urban, Vermont could be really lovely, and is accessible by train.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:56 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you can swing a week on the West Coast, do that. Seriously. It's totally different. If you are, indeed, coming from Australia, you might be flying through there anyhow. Here's a possible itinerary:

Fly into San Francisco, spend 3-4 days in the city and 3-4 days exploring the surrounding coast/countryside. Hit wine country, a redwood forest, drive along the Pacific Coast Highway a bit.

Then fly to DC from SF. Spend spend another 3-4 days in DC, then a few days somewhere roughly in between DC and NYC. The Amish country (Lancaster County) suggestion was good - its not too far out of the way, and its a pretty unique experience. You could also spend a day in Philadelphia.

After that, spend a full week in NYC, soaking it all in.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:42 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, I love Chicago and I love New England and both places could be worth your time if you can't get out west. But the West Coast is really, really different from the East Coast, and its what most people think about when they think about spectacular outdoor scenery in the US (the East Coast has a lot of "pretty," but not a whole lot of "spectacular"). NYC, DC and the West Coast are really must-sees in my book, in ways that Chicago and New England - great as they are - just aren't.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:51 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: DC is a great plan.

If it's early October, New England is a good plan. Late October may be past peak for the beautiful colors and nicer weather - we have some nasty cold wet Octobers. Depends on the year and can't be predicted.

If you go West Coast, I strongly recommend SF and Yosemite. Fly in to San Francisco, enjoy a couple days of city, then rent a car and drive to Yosemite. It is a 5 hour drive and you get to go through three or four different California geographies? climates? What's the term I want here? You start in the foggy Bay, then pass through giant windmills to to dry Tracy, turn off the highway to drive through citrus plantations in the Central Valley, keep on through golden rolling hills, ending up in the pine covered mountains and finally reach the Yosemite redwoods. Yosemite should be cheap (also, cold) that time of year and you can probably afford to stay in the Valley a couple of days. Then you can drive back to SF and have a couple more days of city life before heading elsewhere.

If you don't like driving this is clearly not a great idea, but it's a really great way to see a little slice of America and understand that California is not all surfboards and movie stars.
posted by maryr at 8:04 AM on August 11, 2014

Response by poster: Your profile says Australia -- would you fly direct to NYC? Stopover on our west coast first?

Flying direct to NYC from Sydney is not possible. Looks like we have to stop over on the West coast.

We can fly into San Fran direct, and might stop in LA for a day or two so we don't have to face a 24 hour flight on the way home.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:35 AM on August 14, 2014

Response by poster: We're booking tickets! A week-ish in San Fran and the surrounds (inc. a couple of days in Yosemite for me), a few days in DC, a week in NYC, and 2 days in LA on the way home.

See you guys soon, and thanks for the help!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:59 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just checked back on this -- excellent, so glad you've found some plans that work for you! Hopefully see you soon!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:03 AM on August 20, 2014

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