I’m not dead. Yet.
TL;DR : Spend July in NY and August travelling the US with a friend. It was amazing. Here are my best shots (taken with a Galaxy S7) : https://flic.kr/s/aHskCSSn16
I spend two amazing months in your country and got home two weeks ago. I have seen a lot and it exceeded what I hoped for. First, I want to thank you all for your recommendations, you made the trip way better than what I had planned.
During July, while in New York for my training/internship, I got the chance to discover Niagara Falls and Washington on the weekends, and see Kendrick Lamar, The National and Steven Sufjan live, which were really great.
I went to Niagara Falls on the first weekend, leaving NY Friday night, I arrived there at 7 am, taking Greyhound (it was quite good). I spend 12 hours there and went back at 7 pm, arrived in NY at 5 am on Sunday. Niagara Falls is an amazing sight, but there isn’t much to do for 12 hours there without a car. Definitely worth it though. It thought it was going to be louder, but the speed of the current was impressive. A lot of water goes by. (Thanks again flagamuffin for mentioning it).
Washington was also very nice. 5 hours away by bus from NY. I got the chance to meet wasoxygen for breakfast and spend a great night with arguewithatree and Meriadoc, which were kind enough to let me sleep at their place. The Mall is huge and beautiful. That statue of Lincoln was, with the Air and Space Museum (which have the Wright Flyer, first aircraft) and the “I have a dream”, the most impressive thing.
I got the opportunity and went to the Panorama Music Festival in New York on a Saturday, the third week of July, where Kendrick Lamar, The National, Steven Sufjan, Blood Orange and others were playing and it was incredible. The set of Kendrick Lamar was really impressive, if you like what he’s doing you should definitely see him live.
During my time in NY, I did a lot: I went to see the demise of the French Football Team during the final of the Euro Cup, I did several museums (Natural History, the MET and MoMa), visited Ground Zero, Central Park, Little Italy, China Town, 5th Avenue, went up the Rockefeller Center, I went to Coney Island to see the 4th July Hot Dog Eating Contest which was really funny and crazy. Also saw the Statue of Liberty during a roundtrip on the Ferry.
Your fireworks where kind of disappointing though, I was expecting something really huge and with an American feeling but I did not felt something special, even though it was still quite good.
The 30th of July, I had until the 26th of August to travel the US. A friend joined me at New York before we leaved. At first, we were supposed to be 3 but a family issue happened and a friend wasn’t able to come.
Some stats: we had a car for 12 days, I drove 5200 miles (8500 kms – I went full American, and my friend forgot his driving license), we slept 12 nights in the car, 2 nights in the bus, 3 nights at a friend’s place.
We leaved NY at the end of July 30th. Arrived at Las Vegas near 1 am, an Uber drove us near Fremont Street where our Motel was. Slept there. July 31st, we spend half a day visiting the Strip (The Venetian is the craziest) and half a day at a Pool Party, which was quite fun. We spend the night going to the Bellagio and the Mirage show, and the Fremont Street Experience.
August 1st, at 8 am we rented a car. Drove to Hoover Dam and then to Grand Canyon. Visited Grand Canyon all afternoon till sunset. It’s so huge and beautiful.
August 2nd, we woke up early and visited other points of view of Grand Canyon before going to Horseshoe Bend and then a quick stop at Lake Powell before spending the afternoon at Zion Park where we did a short trail of 2 hours. Drove back the night to Vegas (we rented the car for 2 days). During our way back, we stopped in a place where there was no light 30 mile around and saw the Milky Way while eating outside our car, it was the first time I saw the Galaxy this clearly and I’m thinking that, at the time, the people were enjoying this every day and it must have been crazy. After, we slept in the car in the parking of Treasure Island and that was crazy hot.
August 3th, we woke up at 5 am because it was hot as hell. We spend two hours playing 1 cents slot machine for two hours. Lost 2$ but it was definitely worth it for the time spent. We had a bus from Las Vegas to Fresno. Didn’t got the opportunity to do much else.
August 4th, we have taken a shuttle from Fresno to Kings Canyon and spend the day there. The Sequoias were really huge and it’s a nice National Park, but falls short compared to the others. The General Grant Tree is impressive. We did a hike to Panoramic Point and saw Hume Lake far away, the sight was really nice.
August 5th and 6th, still from Fresno, we have taken the YARTS Shuttle to Yosemite (4 hours to go and to come back), we arrived there at 10 am, did a day hike the two days (The Mist Trail and Mirror Lake on day 1, El Capitan Meadows, The 4 Mile Trail and Sentinel Dome on day 2). The sights were incredible.
August 7th, we travelled in bus from Fresno to San Francisco. Spend the afternoon visiting the city. The Golden Gate Bridge is impressive.
August 8th, we spend the morning visiting SF, at 5pm we rented a car at SF Airport. From there I drove 3000 kms (1800 miles) in 3 days (don’t do that). We went to Oregon, slept in a parking in the city “Weed”.
August 9th, I drove from Weed to Crater Lake, spend the morning and afternoon there. Did a hike up and down. The sight is incredible and photos don’t really do it justice. I went swimming for 5 minutes in the lake after thinking about it for 20 minutes because it was fucking cold (it was worth it). After sunset, drove back to the south of SF. Slept in the parking of a Macdo. Had Free Wi-Fi even though it wasn’t open 24/24, which was nice of them.
August 10th, drove the Highway 1 in order to do the Pacific West Coast, the weather was really bad so the photos don’t do it justice either. Near Cambria, we went east to Death Valley. Slept at the entrance of Death Valley, at a “Point of Interest”.
August 11th, woke up for the sunrise, visited Death Valley in 6 hours. We went to Badwater first, then Devils Golf Course, Zabriskie Point, we did a little hike in a canyon, and saw the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. We rented the car for 3 days and had to be at Los Angeles Airport at 5pm. I drove from 12pm to 5pm to Los Angeles. We spend the night in Hollywood. A friend in LA was able to offer a couch for 3 nights.
August 12th, we spend the day at Venice Beach, resting and enjoying the Pacific Ocean.
August 13th, we went to Universal Studio, where I experienced the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Their 3D attraction is amazing, it was the first time I tried something like this and you really feel like you’re there. It felt really good to be in a place that you’ve read so much about and felt growing up with you (let it be real!). Thanks again kleinbl00 for mentioning it opened in LA.
August 14th, we went surfing with my friend who lodged us. For the night, we went to the Griffith Observatory and had a nice view of the city. At midnight, we had a bus to go back to Vegas, arrived there at 5 am. And we had a plane at 8 am which arrived at Denver at 11 am.
August 15th, the guy at the counter at Dollar fucked us. He made us believe he was giving us a free upgrade to a Luxury car (a Chrysler) by telling me I didn’t paid the price of the car on the website Rentalcars (even though I did). He made the price of the “free upgrade” look like the price I “should have” (according to his lie) paid on Rentalcars, the smart guy. We drove 150 miles in the direction of Grand Teton, I slept because I was really tired, and realized that he fucked us, so I drove back to Denver another 150 miles. Changed cars, regularized the situation, drove to Estes Park, slept in a parking lot there.
August 16th, spend some time in the Rocky Mountains. Which are really really great. I wasn’t expecting it to be that good (Thanks steve for the recommendation, I should have tried to set up a time to see you but our schedule was tight due to the 7-hour loss of the drive back and forth). We went to the Bear Lake Area and did a loop trail where we saw Dream Lake, Lake Haiyaha and Mills Lake. After a good day there, we drove back on the way to Grand Teton and stopped 3 hours away from there.
August 17th, drove to Grand Teton and then we did two really nice hikes. We went to Phelps Lake (Phelps Lake Overview, and then we did the big lap around the lake) and to Jenny Lake (Inspiration Point). Slept at Oxbow Bend View spot.
August 18th, woke up with the sunrise over Elbow Bend. Then we did a 30 kms hike (19.2 miles), it was a loop trail including Paintbrush Canyon Trail, Lake Solitude Trail and Cascade Canyon Trail. Started at 8 am, finished at 5:30 pm under rain (for the last hour). I really recommend Grand Teton, I never heard of it until three months ago and it was the most amazing hike (with Yosemite) that I had the chance to do. We slept near a gas station in Grand Teton and the Rangers woke us up at 2 am, told us we weren’t allowed to sleep in the car and gave us a warning. They let us finish the night. It’s for security reasons, if something happens, they need to be able to tell everyone as fast as possible what to do. They were quite nice about the whole situation.
August 19th, We went to Yellowstone and saw Bison everywhere, they were on the road (like 3 meters from us), it was impressive. We went to the top of Mount Washburn and had a very nice view, we were at the top of a mini-world (30-mile radius if I remember correctly). We spend the rest of our day around Mammoth Hot Springs and finished with the Norris Basin where there were some nice Geysers. We spend the night resting on chairs at Old Faithful Inn (which is a magnificent hotel) before going back to our car to sleep, in the parking lot of the hotel.
August 20th, We went to see Old Faithful, the Prismatic Basin and Black Sand Basin, and did several other stops at smaller basin. The colors of the Prismatic Basin are unique. I never saw something as colorful. After this, I drove to Bonneville Salt Flats, we arrived there at 3 am, it was crazy because we could see in the dark that we were in the middle of nowhere. We weren’t able to see that the sea salt was right alongside the highway. We could see there was something but it wasn’t perceptible. We slept at the end of the “official road” which takes you in the middle of the salts.
August 21st, We woke up with the sunrise and the sight was incredible: white salt all around you, small mountains in the background and the sun rising. Special thanks to rthomas6 for mentioning this place and to steve again for the Tree that we would have missed if it weren’t for you mentioning it. At 11 am, I drove from there to Arches National Park. We arrived late and did two short trails, including the Delicate Arch. The colors of the rocks are splendid. When the sun went down, I drove a bit to Denver.
August 22nd, Finished driving to Denver to give the car back. There, we could either take a bus or a train to Chicago (18 or 22 hours), or wait for a plane (3 hours, but the next day). The plane was cheaper and arrived early. I was exhausted with all the driving, so we went to Cherry Creek Mall in Denver. We filled up our phones and refreshed ourselves because 7 nights in a car is a bit tiring :). Bought the new Harry Potter book (which was a nice read) and we went to the Theater, saw Sausage Party, which was weird and quite fun. We went back at the Airport at 10 pm, tried to sleep there, but didn’t get much sleep.
August 23th, We checked our bags at 4:45 am and our flight was between 7 and 10 am. The time to get our bags and to go to downtown Chicago and it was around 11 am. We went to eat brunch at Lou Mitchell’s and then went to the Zoo. Our Airbnb opened doors at 5 pm, we went there and slept a bit. At night, we went to the Green Mill Jazz, the music and atmosphere was amazing. We felt like we were in a movie.
August 24th, We did the Magnificent Mile in River North and went to the Navy Pier. Then we met a French friend living here at Lou Malnati’s for lunch and I discovered Deep Dish Pizza (which were great!). From there, we went to Jazzin’ at the Shedd, which is an event at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago where you can visit and listen to nice music while having the sunset view over the skyline of Chicago. That was also very nice. After this, we passed by the Bean and went to sleep.
August 25th, We had our bus to New York, it was 18 hours so we didn’t get a lot done.
August 26th, My friend had his plane leaving 8 hours earlier than mine. I enjoyed my last hours going to Grand Central and to the Brooklyn Bridge.
I was really lucky to get this opportunity to travel and I want to thank you again for all your input (regarding the not-so-good bus/train system, destinations, things to not miss) and for this great community.
America is a unique country that is already great. I met some very nice people there that were insightful and interesting. Your National Parks are extraordinary. I listened to music that provided experiences we don’t find in Paris.
I will definitely try to come back in a few years.