Instructables

Andy's American Odyssey - We're Here!

Myself, my wife and our two boys (will be 13 and 15) are planning a 3 week trip to the USA next August. We'll be staying with relatives in Lexington Park (Maryland) for a week, but would like to travel around a bit to (probably) 2 other areas to get a 'feel' for the country. We're more into the natural wonders than the Disney / Celebrity thing and would like a mix of city and country. Budget will be adequate but sensible and I'm quite happy with hiring cars and driving, although we don't want a road-trip type holiday.

In short, where should we visit to get a 'Flavorsic of the U S of A'?

Patches for my favourite suggestions.

Picture of Andy's American Odyssey - We're Here!
AndyGadget (author) 3 years ago

We arrived in NYC lunchtime yesterday and are now ensconced on the 14th floor of a hotel in the Chelsea 28th St flower district and we're watching the storekeepers putting out their displays on the sidewalk for the day.  (See, I'm picking up the lingo;¬)
Bear in mind here that back in Blighty we live in a village of around 100 houses, surrounded by gently rolling hills and fields - NYC is a bit of a culture shock, but in a really good way. We're stunned by the verticallity of the place.  We're looking UP all the time as we get a glimpse of a landmark building through other buildings. 
Cold drinks were the order of the day when we arrived hot and sweaty after lugging out baggage around the Airtrain, LIRR and to the hotel from Penn station, then a walk around the neighborhood and chill out in Madison Square park before excellent pizzas in a Broadway diner.

We had a good night's sleep after our 22 hour day yesterday (not too many sirens in the night) and off to the Empire State building and Macy's today and maybe a museum, then Times Square this evening after dark.

NYC - Incredible place.

(I'm not going to post an ongoing blog on our travels, but may post back from time to time, if anyone's interested.)
kcls AndyGadget3 years ago
How's the city treating you? Quite the place isn't it. A great place to go is the Intrepid Museum. It is quite the fun place to go when visiting. Good luck!
AndyGadget (author)  kcls3 years ago
NYC is Amazing - Such a mix of Everything and never stops moving (even when you're standing still, with the vibration from the subway underfoot).
We've walked miles, been riding the subways, been to parks, museums, up Extremely Tall Buildings; stood in the longest line I've ever been in yesterday for the Ellis and Liberty Island ferry and just stopped back at the hotel for a breather before we go out tonight to Little Italy for a meal.
Watching NY1 on TV is great.  More than once we've been places where they've had a newsteam and seen the report they were filming later in the evening.  Doesn't come much more local than that!
I thought New Yorkers had a reputation of rudeness, but we've found everyone here very polite and welcoming.  We've seen a few 'characters' and it was amusing watching a couple of people going through the trash bags of the local flower shops and walking off with armfuls of foliage. 
Last full day here in NYC as we're catching the Amtrak from Penn and going down to Washington DC for the next phase of the holiday tomorrow. 
kcls AndyGadget3 years ago
Yep, NYC is quite the exotic place. Funny thing is, I've lived right near it for a year and visited it countless times, and I've never even been to the statue of liberty! There are some very nice people there, and it gets nicer and nicer as you move upstate. Glad to hear you are having a good time!
I've been in NYC for most of my life, born and raised in Brooklyn, and I've been to the Statue of Liberty only once, to show tourists around. It does get nicer the further away from the city you get.
How large (square km) is NYC?
AndyGadget (author) 3 years ago
Hi All.  We're off the Saturday after next and just about got everything sorted.

We're flying to JFK in NYC, staying in Midtown for 5 days then Amtrak down to Washington DC. Picking up a hire car and driving to relatives on the coast near Lusby, MD. 
Few days there to chill out and then driving across to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenendoah Valley for 5 or 6 days.  Then back to the relatives and a few local day-trips before going back to DC and Amtrak  up to NYC for the plane.

A question;   We want to take in a local baseball match and looking at the schedule HERE, they are shown as being over 3 or 4 days.  What's going on here?  Do they play a match each day?   (If it was cricket I could understand - that goes on until it rains ;¬)

Too bad it won't be in Sept instead, as there is a Maker Faire in Queens, NYC I will be making every attempt to attend.

If you keep using all those weird words and phrases, Andy, people are going to know yer a furriner :-)

  • "hire car" ==> "rental car"
  • "match" ==> "game"

As Yoko said, teams play one game per day (double-headers are almost non-existent nowadays :-( ), but they usually have 3-4 game stands before changing opponents or travelling.

If you go to a Major League game, the tickets will be much more expensive ($25 each, or more), but you will see a much more "professional" (consistent) level of play. I highly encourage you to follow your first instinct and take in the Baltimore Minor League team. The venue will be smaller and more intimate, the tickets (and concessions!) will be cheaper, and everyone there will be invested in the game, not making a fashion statement :-/

AndyGadget (author)  kelseymh3 years ago
Thanks Kelsey (and Yoko). I knew the common differences in the language but I didn't realise quite how much the idiom differed until I started looking at American websites in detail.  ("Two nations separated by a common language" as GBS wrote.)

I looked at the price of tickets at the Yankees stadium - Ouch!  The minor league team appeals more and we'll make a night out of it with our relatives.  After all,  the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs are the winningest team in the league!

Kelsey, I see you've spelled 'travelling' with a double 'l'.  I've always seen it from that side of the pond spelled with one.  Do you use both ways over there?
I've picked up a number of Anglophonisms (not to mention neologisms :-) from having British and Commonwealth colleagues, and from living in Vancouver for a year and a half. I tend toward double-consonant spellings (traveller, focussing, etc.) and occasionally throw in the odd 'u' here and there. Generally, I do my best to keep the spell-checkers confused...
Nice, hey did I tell you that a few (2-3) years ago they built a minor league stadium in the town I live in? I have yet to see an entire game thoug there. . . But I was once to the one in Reading :-)
Yes, it's a game a day. Note that not all of those days are home games, the schedule is color-coordinated to show if they are playing at home or away.  If you're in Maryland, I suggest you check out the Major League team instead, and try to catch the Nationals on a day that pitching sensation Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to pitch. Link to DC's schedule.
caitlinsdad3 years ago
 Sorry I missed this before.
<--- If you need tourist info on New York City, just consult the Robolocity Traveling Robot Gnome.

Purchase a "day pass"metrocard to ride the buses and subways.  It is the best way to get about the city.  You will have to purchase the pass only at a subway station with a live clerk, not with the vendor machine. Ask for the free cool subway map. As a tourist, the cabbies will take advantage of you.

Find the NYC info kiosks/centers for discount coupons to some of the attractions.

"Downtown" starting at the southern tip of Manhattan, you can get on the free Staten Island Ferry. Ride it back and forth. It does go past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Islands. The tour there is way too crowded.  

You can wander down to Wall Street, see the outside of the New York Stock Exchange  or take a picture of the iconic Bull statue on Broadway.

You can then walk uptown to South Street Seaport, tourist mall shops/boat tours.  New York City hall area has J&R electronics superstore or Century 21 for shopping. World Trade Center grounds are nearby.  Walk the Brooklyn Bridge.

Chinatown and Little Italy are next. Weekends are mega crowded.  You will be approached by those selling counterfeit goods.

SOHO(south of Houston Street) is the trendy boutique area, Apple Store and maybe spot some TV or movie celebrities.

You then have the Village - funky mishmash - New York University.

34th Street - Macy's and shopping.  Look for Jacks Discount City, mega dollar store.  Empire State Building, go to the observatory

42nd Street - Times Square - the crossroads of the world.  Get discount tickets for a matinee Broadway play at the TKTS booth.

45th Street -5th Ave work your way up to Rockerfeller Center -upscale window shopping- Observatory, St Patrick's Cathedral

59th Street Central Park, FAO Schwartz toy store

Work your way up to museum mile - Metropolitan Museum of Art or on the opposite side of Central Park, the famous Museum of Natural History and the Rose planetarium.

Well, so much more to do to add to the list.

Expect it to be hot and muggy in the city in August.  Have fun!
AndyGadget (author)  caitlinsdad3 years ago
Hi Caitlinsdad. Where would we find the cheap electronics section of the city? I'm looking for a Canon speedlite 430ex II flash and looking at the best price on Amazon UK and US they're about $70 dollars cheaper over there.

Try http://www.bhphotovideo.com/, drop the gang off to see the Intrepid sea/air museum while you go to the toy store.

Or if in the downtown World Trade Center Ground Zero area, try http://www.jr.com/. drop the gang off to go walk the Brooklyn Bridge or see Ground Zero, shop at Century 21(discount-type of Harrods?) while you go to the toy store.  The NYC visitor center might have a $10US discount coupon.

These are two megastores that are reputable and where pros and pro-sumers(semi pro professional consumers) go.  Do not get suckered into those other phot/video/audio places with that cater to tourists in selling grey-market goods that are not warrantied because the are not sold in their designated country of import. Fun to browse in those kind of shops if you like haggling and walk out.
and roughly 9 percent sales tax if you buy it in NYC. No sales tax on clothing priced less than $110.
AndyGadget (author)  caitlinsdad3 years ago
That's brilliant - Thanks for the 'insider information' - Patched. The city days are going to be pretty hectic but we're staying right on the coast near Chesapeake Bay so will be getting some relaxation time as well. We've been warned about the weather. Hot and sticky!
Thanks, and I forgot to mention the USS Intrepid museum(Concorde, aircraft carrier, submarine), Radio City Music Hall, weekday tours of the NBC studios at Rockerfeller center and the new observatory there. Look up the free Sony interactive Museum Wonderlab (56th st) near the Trump Tower. Lots of stuff for kids. And you may be able to get that daypass metrocard at a vending machine-I haven't checked- the city wanted to make money by making it hard for regular commuters get the discount.
Washington DC is definitely a good place to go... though I strongly recommend leaving the car at home and taking the subway.  There are tons of museums and things to do in DC.  Maryland has lots of great attractions too.  There is Ocean City, and Baltimore City.  The Aquarium in Baltimore is a good place to see.. but again..leave the car home and take the subway.  For countryishness...if that is an actual word... go to Lancaster Pennsylvania.  It is a short drive from Maryland, and they have outlets, horse and buggy rides, and a few decent dinner theaters as well as lots of very good food.
AndyGadget (author)  DarkRubyMoon3 years ago
Many thanks for the reply - Have a patch.
We've just about got it worked out.  We'll be taking a train up to New York and staying there for a couple of days to see what we can of the sights, and then the same for Washington DC.  We'll also be driving across to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah National Park, then down into Tennessee. 
Should be an interesting mix and we're really looking forward to it.
(I hear you drive on the wrong side of the road over there, and your cars don't have gear-sticks #;¬)
You should stop by a museum along the way for the extra educational-ness for your children. Yes, I know that it is summer vacation, and your kids' school is out but come on, your coming to the US, you should atleast visit a museum. :)
One thing I've noted with many visitors to the US is that many don't quite comprehend the size of the country. We had visitors from Europe who thought that they could spend one day in Maryland, drive down to Florida in a few hours, and then head on over to California the next day in a couple of hours LOL. The United States is a huge country, and most of it does not have the sortof railway public transportation like much of Europe enjoys. It sounds like you have a good mix of places to see. Hahaha Wrong side of the road... that is true I suppose... am sure you can still find a rental with a gear stick if you really want one though. Forget about driving in New York City though unless you want to spice your trip up with some death-defying driving in search of a parking space lol.
Don't even think of parking here and don't sleep in the subway, darlin'.
noparking.jpg
"...cars don't have gear-sticks..."

Be careful...

We went to America (well, Florida) before most 'iblers were born, and used a rental car for a couple of weeks,

When we came back, I spent several days stalling my car at every junction, when I kept trying to pull away in fourth...

(Oh, and I am told that, unlike the UK, US traffic cops take credit cards, so you can't rely on leaving the country at the end of your holiday to avoid a ticket.)

The Shenandoah Valley is as stunning as it is reputed to be.  However, pay attention to your speedometer!  The state police catch an inordinate number of speeders, and it's awfully easy to let your speed drift up as you're taking in the scenery.

Sounds like you've constructed a nice itinterary; have a great trip!
Navisaurus3 years ago
Boston, Boston, Boston. We live in the D.C. suburbs and, of course, the D.C. area is AWESOME. If you do the D.C. then you should round it out with a trip to Boston. I hear they had one hell of a tea party a couple of hundred years or so back when.
Goodhart3 years ago
One place I forgot about, that I would love to visit one day and is in my own state, is the Grand Canyon of PA
kcls3 years ago
If you are going to be in Maryland, Annapolis is a must see. It is a great little town with an enormous amount of things to do.

Restaurants:
  • Chick and Ruth's (Make sure you ask why there are bagels hanging from the ceiling!)
  • Buddy's (For Sunday brunch, make sure you don't eat anything for dinner the night before!)
  • Charthouse (Order the chocolate lava cake!)
  • Joss cafe (Sushi. If you like sushi, Joss is some of the best I've ever had. Go to the one on Main St.)

Places:
  • Rent a boat! Annapolis is known as the sailing capital of the world, and there are tons of places to sail to and rent boats from!
  • Go sightseeing! Annapolis is a very historic town and there are a lot of historic buildings to see.
  • Walk up and down Main Street. There are a ton of shops and fun things to do there.

Let me know if you want to know anything else!
Kiteman4 years ago
If you're up for an internal flight, a certain website is based in San Francisco.

Other than that, I'm afraid all I can offer are clichés, although Roger-X did enjoy the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum when his uncle took him to New York last Easter.

AndyGadget (author)  Kiteman4 years ago
Yep, I forgot to mention, internal flights are fine. San Francisco is somewhere I'd like to see, although that website connection hadn't occurred to me before.
A flight to the pacific northwest or the southwest would be a nicediversification from the DC area.  Although I'm biased and willhave to suggest a visit to Alaska.
The full address is in the "Legal" link at the bottom of the page.

I remember that Caitlinsdad is NY-way, Lira is somewhere with tornadoes...

There is also an out of date map of Iblers' locations, which might be useful as a resource.
AndyGadget (author)  Kiteman4 years ago
I wasn't actually planning an Instructables based holiday, although it could be a way of keeping costs down. "Hi, I'm Andy and we've come to stay with you for a few days . . . ."
Lexington park to San Francisco. I've driven from Cheltenham to Oban. How much further could it be ??? ;¬) (2880 miles according to the Google Earth route planner.)
oldfogey4 years ago
Get over to DC. Take US 50 and head west. Drive until you drop but make sure you stay on 50 until you are well into West Virginia. Now go any direction you want, you will already have seen more than most foreign visitors ever see of the US. Mountains, plains, rivers, ocean, trees, cropland, pasture, forests, whitewater and so very much more. Take time to stop and just visit with the locals. Introduce yourself and explain your trip. You will enjoy it.
<input type="hidden" id="gwProxy"><!--Session data--></input>And, once they get to W.VA. they can get on Skyline Drive and they will see some really nice mountains <input type="hidden" id="jsProxy" onclick="jsCall();" /><div id="refHTML"> </div>
Goodhart4 years ago
<input type="hidden" id="gwProxy"><!--Session data--></input>Yes, thank you for the patch (I couldn't sleep, so I am catching up in here :-) <br /> If you do plan on a visit to Gettysburg, scan the History Channel for some of their specials on some of the battles in the History's Mysteries segment. It'll make the trip even more interesting. <input type="hidden" id="jsProxy" onclick="jsCall();" /><div id="refHTML"> </div>
AndyGadget (author) 4 years ago
Many thanks all, extra especially Goodhart and Kelsey - Patches all round.
Nothing decided yet but there's plenty of food for thought.
I'll update here when we know where we'll be going, and probably have more questions too.

Thanks for the patch!
Goodhart4 years ago
Since you are starting in MD, a good place would be <a href="http://www.marriott.com/hotels/maps/travel/bwish-renaissance-baltimore-harborplace-hotel/">Baltimore Harbor Place i.e. the Inner Harbor</a> . <br /><br /><br />Depending on your interests, <a href="http://www.nps.gov/gett/index.htm">the Gettysburg Nation Military Park</a>, may make a great location to visit. <br /><br />And while you are in the area, you might as well thrill your youngins with <a href="http://www.landoflittlehorses.com/">the Land of the Little Horses</a> (that is, if they like horses; <a href="http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/3507">these guys are about the size of large collie dogs</a>) . You can scroll through <a href="http://www.pbase.com/ralf/little_horses">some of their pictures here</a>...<br /> And <a href="http://gettysburgpa.wil.myareaguide.com/attraction_details.html?detailsListingId=ATTRACTIONS_a4a64e5026c6071ca558560f59b68739">a map, here</a>. <br /><br />Also, closer to my home, are the <a href="http://www.800padutch.com/historicalsites.shtml">Lancaster County Amish, and other Historic sites</a>. Many times the kids love to ride on <a href="http://www.strasburgrailroad.com/">an authentic coal powered steam locomotive</a> (not a fast moving train, nor amusment park type ride). <br />For some insight into PA history, you can visit <a href="http://www.ephratacloister.org/">the Ephrata Cloister</a>. <br /><br />In the area is also the <a href="http://www.lancasterhistory.org/">James Buchanan's house and lands</a>. Being he was the 15th president of the USA. <br /><br />Old Willaimsburg, or more properly, Colonial Williamsburg, is a historical site where the colonial period is acted out, and one can participate in some of the discussions, and even in some of the <em>action</em>, such as a parlimentary session.<br /><br /><a href="http://www.ushistory.org/tour/">Philadelphia holds a treasure</a> trove if historical areas also. But, if you are looking for areas other then historical, one can <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delmarva_Peninsula">visit the Delmarva Peninsula,</a> where a variety of old and new culters are available. The old cultures are not <em>fake</em> like at old Williamsburg, but are lived in and practiced because of he unique situation they encountered in the past. <br /><br />Finally, in Washington D.C., there is the <a href="http://www.si.edu/">infamous Smithsonian Museum(s)</a> - about 19 of them I believe. <br /><br />All this within a few hours drive of each other. <br />
kelseymh4 years ago
The U.S. is as large and as varied as all of Europe (including the Scandinavian countries all the way down to the Mediterranean).  You could spend months going from state to state and see completely different things each time.  Some states (Texas, California) are themselves as large as European countries, with just as much internal variety.

Having said that, the DC area is great for the kind of "official America" stuff.  The Northeast and Southwest have unbelievable, and completely different, natural scenery.  New York and L.A. are kind of the canonical urban metropoli.
kelseymh4 years ago
You could get a huge flavor for "early" America without leaving the area you're staying.  A great one or two day road trip would be to visit DC (see below), then drive out to Montecello (Jefferson's home), down the Shenandoah Valley (it really is that spectacular), and hit Appomatox and other Civil War sites.  Drive west along southern Virginia to Colonial Williamsburg, then back up through Richmond to DC.
rerider4 years ago
If you are into nature, you should check out the mammoth caves which are in Kentucky. this is a doable driving distance from maryland.

  Also Yellowstone is one of those places you have to go before you die. Its a little far though, but you won't be sorry. when i went a few years ago i remember getting to a point each day when i couldn't look at one more beautiful thing.
I no next to nothing about the Baltimore area, other than a girl I know described it as "The scariest place she's eve been" ;-) But if you are a Monopoly fan you could visit the B&O Railroad museum.
hunter474 years ago
Andy: You are not far from Washington DC which is a destination rich in Americana. I suggest, if DC sounds appropriate to you, and if time is short, to visit the Smithsonian museums, the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol Building and the White House. Actually the Smithsonian would take a week all by itself.
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