Sunday, April 1, 2012

The United States of America… if you
are an Indian who grew up in India,
then there is hardly a chance,
you wouldn’t have, at some point,
obsessed over this almost dream
like place called “US”- in our very
popular local lingo. From proposals
for marriage to an honoured
destination for company projects
and privileged higher study, America
has been part of our everyday psyche,
consciously or otherwise. So, a holiday
here is cause for much excitement
and happiness.
Since North America is one of the
bigger continents in the world,
it is difficult to cover all the interesting
places on a single holiday.
It is pragmatic to cover one of the
coasts, either the east or the west
or ideally both if you have about
a month at your disposal. On the east
coast, the major places of interest
are Washington D.C- the capital,
New York, Chicago, Florida,
Pittsburgh and, just over the border,
Canada as well.
Capital Attraction
Washington has the best formal
investment in the history
of the continent- eternalized through
museums, memorial centres and other
landmarks. So for those interested
in the comparatively “tiny” history
of America, this would be great
indulgence. It would be futile
to try and visit all the places,
since there are a few too many,
but the must-sees would definitely
include The White House, Library
of Congress, Capitol Building
and the Washington Memorial.
The Sminthsonian Musuems of Natural
History and Air and Space merit a visit
if you are with young children.
Of course, not that they wouldn’t be
enticing for adults! They are brilliant
visual material and offer a wonderful
cognitive experience. It makes sense
to book the various city bus tours
available so that there isn’t much time
wasted figuring out travel from place
to place. A simple online search will
provide the options and the earlier they
are booked, the better the deals
at certain times of the year. Since these
tours cover most of the tourist areas
of interest, one has the freedom
to choose according to specific interest.

City of Dreams

Bus tours are quite ideal for New York
City too. Since every inch of Manhattan
would be rather overwhelming for
Since every inch
of Manhattan would
be rather overwhelming
for a first time visitor,
the double-decker buses
with open tops would ensure
a ful filling experience
National Capitol Building, Washington
a first time visitor, the double decker
buses with open tops would ensure
a fulfilling experience. One useful tip
is to find accommodation in New
Jersey and travel down to New York
(New Jersey is a mini India and easy
to find relatives/friends who can house
you for a couple of days). This is highly
cost effective because as you might well
know, NY is unreasonably expensive
and very much deprived of space.
Apart from the usual places of interest
like the Empire State Building, Central
Park, Madame Tussauds and Times
Square- all of which must preferably
be explored during the later part
of the day- New York has much to offer
to the party goer. Even a casual walk
around Manhattan will open up
a range of possibilities. But when you
are in NY, just be sure of the safety
of your belongings and yourself.
There are always those dark corners
in a big city! Apart from that, the
hustle and bustle of NYC is a nice
precursor to the palm trees of Florida.
For the child in all of us
Orlando, Florida, is the perfect
destination for a family with young
kids. Disneyworld, Universal and the
Kennedy Space Center proffer a whole
new universe to explore. There are
various combinations available on these
and you could choose your options
wisely, after some research as to what
each park has to offer. Disney world
has the following four parks- Epcot,
Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios
and Magic Kingdom. The Animal and
Magic Kingdoms may be ideal options
for the kids but Epcot is alluring for its
diversity. On certain days of the week
there is usually a show of fireworks
in the evening combined with
a laser show called ‘Illuminations’-
Reflections of the Earth. ‘Soaring’,
‘Space Ship Earth’ and ‘Mission:
Space’ are the best rides
at Epcot and definitely enjoyable
for the old and young alike.
There are a couple of water parks
in Disney and given the weather
of Florida, a good way to relax!
Universal and Incredible
Next halts at incredible Orlando are
the universally loved Universal Studios
and Islands of Adventure. That they
were conceived in the mind and then
constructed is proof of the imaginative
strength of the human mind. And every
person who is visiting for the first time
would marvel at its ingenious
uniqueness. But once that is done,
it is time to let go and indulge
in the madness. It is practical to finish
touring the Islands of Adventure
during the day as that requires more
time and higher energy levels.
From mind-blowing roller coasters
to rides fashioned to give you an
experience of horror movies like
“The Mummy” and make you feel like
a superhuman in the Spiderman ride,
this park is an experience of a lifetime.
The newly opened Wizarding World
of Harry Potter has been pulling
crowds from all over the world
and is being touted as the best ride
in America. Many of the situations
and scenes from the book have been
recreated with exceptional techniques
and this is a dream come true
for many Potter fans.
Unfortunately, most of the thrill rides
are not advisable for people with blood
pressure or heart problems but there
are some easy ones- equally worthy,
to make up for that.
Central Park, Manhattan
Universal Studio,
Disney World, Florida
The Universal Studios, right next
to the Islands of Adventure is a good
successor to the adrenaline-d morning
spent at the Island, with much scope
for buffoonery! The Kennedy Space
Center is a fantastic opportunity
for the space enthusiasts to experience
some hair-raising action. It is totally
recommended for its simulation
of a real rocket during take off!
Saying goodbye to Florida is easily
the toughest thing to do, considering
the whirlwind of an escapade
it offers, in our times.

Over the border

Canada is almost synonymous with
the spectacular sight of the Niagara.
The Canadian VISA can be applied
for after the American has been issued.
It is easy to drive up to the Niagara
from any of the places up north- like
Detroit. The drive is something one
must experience as the smooth, wide
roadways make driving an absolute
pleasure. Sometimes, it is possible
to rent cars and the GPS system that
every car is equipped with, makes it an
attractive option. Upon reaching,
there are many comfortable motels
around Niagara that offer a wonderful
view of the falls. But during peak
season, they might be booked
to capacity. So planning in advance
is a boon in multiple ways.
In the case of Niagara, the laser cum
fireworks show is not to be missed.
These usually happen closer to or
during the weekend. There are some
revolving restaurants at a high altitude
facing the falls. The view from up there
is stunning. While this is a night time
event, during the day, the ‘Maid of the
Mist’- a boat ride that takes you the
closest possible to the falls is an
inevitable compulsion. The feeling
of being almost sucked into the
overwhelming deluge is indeed
another heart thumping experience.
Just being around the Niagara Falls,
a geographical phenomenon, is highly
satisfying. Canada’s primary appeal
is the Niagara and usually the falls are
open to public only by the end of May,
making it a seasonal attraction.
But it is heavily misty around the area,
and therefore becomes essential to
carry some warm clothing.
A tip: look out for some uncommon
flora and fauna around the falls.
They are quite intriguing.
Pittsburgh and Chicago are the other
popular places on the east coast.
The former has some great
architecture- reflecting vaguely,
what one would find in abundance
in Europe. Both are highly student
populated and worth visiting for their
universities and colleges.

Some things to keep in mind

• One thing that can’t be stressed
on enough is the pre-planning.
From the much-cause-of-anxiety VISA
process to the booking of domestic
flights from place to place within
the US; it is a lot of work.
• Trains are a luxury here- the Amtrak
trains offer great deals when booked
in advance and are much better
than the flight experience. So, smaller
distances can always be covered
via the train.

• Every small thing can be booked
online using an international debit
or credit card and a useful thing here
is to look at the dollar rates for that day.
A few useful sites:
One final warning: Prepare
to be overcome by severe withdrawal
symptoms once you are back,
not to mention the jet lag! But there are
always the photographs. 


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