Five life-affirming trips that prove the US should be top of your travel list

·7-min read
A view from the Pacific Coast Highway  - Getty
A view from the Pacific Coast Highway - Getty

Whisper it, but there are glimmers of hope that a holiday in the USA could be on the cards for 2021.

This week, Boris Johnson and Joe Biden will pledge to restart air travel between the two countries, as world leaders gather in Cornwall for the G7 summit.

In their first face-to-face meeting, the leaders are set to announce a joint travel task force, with the mission of rebooting transatlantic tourism. The task force is due to report back in July.

With hopes growing for a USA travel corridor, five of our USA experts give their verdicts on how you should spend your first transatlantic getaway, from a Pacific road trip to the quirkiest town in Texas.

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

Kathy Arnold

Bare statistics say that the Pacific Coast Highway is a 500-mile stretch of Californian road from San Francisco to Santa Monica. That doesn’t begin to cover the half of it. The “PCH” is more than just a road-trip – it’s shore-hugging, soul-soaring days of salt-licked, wind-in-the-hair freedom in a state which enshrines that as a birthright. Out of Frisco, you’ll roll through Santa Cruz, all century-old amusements and Giant Dipper roller coaster, then plunge into Monterey, where the glossed-up Old Fisherman’s Wharf contrasts with the legacy of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. Golfers will want to hit the coastal fairways of Pebble Beach Golf Club on 17-Mile Drive.

 The “PCH” is more than just a road-trip  - Getty
The “PCH” is more than just a road-trip - Getty

Everyone else is heading into the big country: first pretty Carmel-by-the-Sea, where Clint Eastwood was once mayor, then Big Sur, all spectacular surfing waves smashing into hidden coves – Pfeiffer Beach is my pick – and redwood forests where mountain lions prowl. Onward, through San Simeon with its elephant seals and Hearst Castle (bonkers, frankly), into San Luis Obispo. Beyond is a final stretch of PCH perfection: just you, the Pacific and the open road. Enjoy it – Santa Monica is just ahead.

Read more about this Dream Trip, here.

Explore Utah’s outdoors beyond the national parks

Laura Chubb

Southern Utah’s red-rock “Mighty Five” national parks are bucket-list items with good reason. But there are mindblowing landscapes of every shade in this vast outdoor playground, where scenery can shift abruptly from snowy pine forest to candy-striped mesas, all within a matter of miles. Digging into its lesser-visited corners is every bit as thrilling. And, as the majority of visitors bunch around one small quarter of Utah, you can expect to have many spectacular moments to yourself.

Utah is huge, with enormous swathes of wilderness: its 85,000 square miles are home to just 3m people – so where to start? Our suggestion is to make a road trip of it, using designated scenic highways and the smaller state parks to plan your route.

Goblin Valley: an otherworldly forest of sandstone pillars - Getty
Goblin Valley: an otherworldly forest of sandstone pillars - Getty

Starting in Salt Lake City, you might dip into the Wasatch Mountains, home to the States’ largest ski resort and amazing off-season biking and hiking. Then head south for Goblin Valley: an otherworldly forest of sandstone pillars, eroded into outlandish, goblin-like shapes. Take Highway 12 for breath-stealing views (snow-topped Henry Mountains; the Waterpocket Fold, a salmon-pink, 100-mile rock wall). Next, choose between the aptly named Coral Pink Sand Dunes, or a Tango-orange beach at Sand Hollow. End back up north at another highlight, Antelope Island, a lush getaway home to 700 bison and little else.

Read more about this Dream Trip, here.

Explore the coastline of the Carolinas

Paul Wade

Stretching for some 600 miles, the coastline of the Carolinas is bookended by the Outer Banks in the north and the busy resorts of Kiawah Island and Hilton Head in the south. In North Carolina, the long, sandy, unspoiled barrier islands of the Outer Banks offer pure escape. Here, on the breezy dunes of Kill Devil Hills, the Wright Brothers made the first ever aeroplane flight.

In South Carolina, Myrtle Beach is synonymous with golf and there are some 70 courses to choose from. But there is also live entertainment galore – not to mention the beach. Meanwhile, Charleston is all about cobbled streets, handsome squares, gracious homes – and Fort Sumter, which saw the first shots of the Civil War. There’s also now a direct flight from the UK with British Airways.

Explore Charleston's charms - Getty
Explore Charleston's charms - Getty

As for barbecue, whether you call it Q, ‘Cue or barbeque, the debate about the right way to slow-cook and sauce pork is endlessly debated here, and it’s fun testing out all the different options.

Find out more about this Dream Trip, here.

Tucson & Tombstone – The True Wild West

Simon and Susan Venness

Getting in touch with the spirit of The Wild West is tough in the 21st century, but not in south-east Arizona, where ranches still abound, the saguaro cactus towers in iconic fashion – and Tombstone is a living homage to the cowboy era.

Modern Tucson – the home of numerous movie classics – is the starting point for a riveting journey into a world made famous by John Wayne, Randolph Scott and others, not just because much of the landscape remains untouched, but for Old Tucson. Set in Saguaro National Park, with its arid desert and signature cacti that reach 40ft tall, this full-size 1939 film set has grown to become a theme park for all things Western-related.

Welcome to the Wild West where the signature cacti reach 40ft tall - Getty
Welcome to the Wild West where the signature cacti reach 40ft tall - Getty

Close to the magnificent Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is part zoo, botanical garden and hands-on natural history museum, it’s also the gateway to Tombstone, a destination etched into folklore by the 1881 Gunfight at the OK Corral. Its core remains magnificently intact, providing a spine-tingling journey into an era of saloons, stagecoaches and shoot-outs at places such as Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, T. Miller’s Tombstone Mercantile, Crazy Annie’s Bordello and Boot Hill, where the Gunfight victims are buried.

Find out more about this Dream Trip, here.

The craziest desert art town in Texas

Laura Fowler

What looks like an ornery cowboy town reveals, as you stop at the level crossing for the clanging mile-long train, a superb and surreal gathering of world-class art: several foundations and a whole bunch of galleries and collections, which have been coming together ever since the minimalist artist Donald Judd sat down at Marfa’s crossroads in the Seventies and decided to stay. On its great empty landscapes he created installations on a massive scale, which remain today, wind-whipped by dust and baked by desert sun or housed in a former army barracks.

The famous Prada outpost in arty Marfa - Getty
The famous Prada outpost in arty Marfa - Getty

Over the decades, other artists have followed the buzz, swapping America’s coastal cities for the space of the desert and the town’s artsy, inclusive energy, where Mexicans, ranchers and painters drink side by side in bars like Planet Marfa. Alongside them are all kinds of interesting people doing interesting things: setting up artisan workshops and the most gorgeous makers’ boutiques, offbeat places to stay from vintage vans to a modernist motel, and some quirky places to eat and drink, from vegan food trucks and an eccentric late-night grilled cheese bars to top-notch restaurants serving modern French cooking. And, of course,other offbeats too: musicians, actors, poets. Robert Plant rocked up and played an impromptu gig; Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were spotted on an incognito visit; Beyonce was pictured, in very unincognito style, leaping around outside Prada Marfa.

Read more about this Dream Trip, here.

Are you hoping for a US holiday this year? Tell us in the comments section below