There’s more to the United States than you probably imagine

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A Boat in the Sky

A view of the Atlantic from the lighthouse at the Hamptons

America hasn’t exactly been the world’s most popular country of late, internationally-speaking at least, but to dismiss the USA as Tea Party & Tinseltown would mean overlooking a rich & complex culture, from New York’s art world to the ecologically diverse & startlingly beautiful Appalachian Mountains. It’s an excellent time to take advantage of the many cheap flights to New York, LA, Vegas & the like, all currently available online, but to head, once you get there, to the less typical places:

Arizona

A familiar name, yes, not to mention its distinctive cacti or the Grand Canyon. But if you’ve ever imagined driving down that long, straight desert highway, Arizona is the place for you. And if you’re remotely interested in astronomy, head to Tucson, whose dark skies status & world class observatories render even the most casual stargazer astonished, while fans of Prof Cox will be beside themselves. There’s a free week-long stargazing festival in the Canyon every June, while Kitt Peak Observatory, 50km south west of Tucson, has a night-time observation programme for members of the public – this needs to be booked in advance, though, so call them as soon as you’ve bought your flights.

Appalachian Mountains

Emblematic of modern America’s pioneer past, the Appalachian range & its Native American inhabitants withstood the advancing frontiersmen for a century before inexorably falling to the swelling colonies. Somewhat miraculously, the wilderness remains, punctuated with forest lodges & long scenic drives. This is a great place to ground yourself & relax, be that through the exertion of long hikes, perhaps some river kayaking or horseback riding, with saunas & massage in one of the region’s many retreats, or simply by pottering around outside your lodge, enjoying the outdoors & tending your barbecue.

Houston

Not just for the space-geeks, but Houston certainly has more than its fair share of galactic kudos. Although the rockets launch from Cape Canaveral, 1,000km away, Houston has been home to NASA’s Mission Control since the 1960s. The Space Center includes a number of exhibitions, while die-hard fans can book a tour that takes in both the old & new mission control areas, & even lets you eat lunch in the astronauts’ cafeteria. Places on this are limited, though – it’s another one to book in advance. Houston is especially good if you’re traveling with kids, being home to several excellent & well-funded museums.

The Hamptons

You don’t need Andy Warhol to tell you that the art-world has a hard-edged business aspect, but you could do worse than following his example & heading to The Hamptons, where he used to escape New York’s stifling summers. Here, New York’s financiers brush off-duty shoulders with eccentric artists, successful fashion designers & a smattering of celebrities. This probably won’t be your most frugal holiday, but the lifestyle here is very pleasant indeed; from casual surfing on the pristine Atlantic shoreline to clam-bakes (yes, they really happen), art classes & farmers’ markets. Renting a holiday property is nicer & more economical than staying in the hotels – this is one place where the dip in America’s fortunes has definitely improved the situation for us non-investment bankers, especially if you group together to rent a cottage.

Guest post written by the team at Travel Zoo.

Blogs published by Adam Groffman • Please note some posts do make me some money, but I never sacrifice my integrity in exchange for a favorable review. Read the full disclosure policy.

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