With more than 4.6 million visitors heading across the Atlantic in 2018 – and more direct flights than ever before – the United States is as popular as ever. Here’s seven top places to visit with a group.
1. New York
It’s been around since 1931, but the Empire State Building (group discounts are available) is THE place to visit this year, and next, in New York City, with developments including a new entrance hall; from autumn, a facility on the 80th floor to help you create your own NYC itinerary; and an all-access behind-the-scenes tour.
Elsewhere, check out Hudson Yards, with its movable Shed arts centre, 100 shops and, in 2020, the city’s highest observation deck; the new $17-million Statue of Liberty Museum; Empire Outlets on Staten Island, with 100 shops; the revamped Seaport District; and Spyscape, the world’s largest interactive spy museum. Find out about free attractions at nycgo.co/free.
Known as the ‘Birthplace of America’ (the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were drafted there), Philadelphia has much to offer groups. The city’s Museum Mile includes the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum and the Barnes Foundation – as well as the famous Rocky steps – while 4,000 murals back up Philly’s claim to be the Murals Capital of the World.
Other sights not to be missed – One Liberty Observation Deck, 57 storeys high; the Eastern State Penitentiary, America’s most-historic prison; Reading Terminal Market, a food lover’s dream; and tax-free shopping (clothes and shoes) at the King of Prussia Mall, America’s largest shopping mall by retail space.
3. Washington, DC
A capital city and a capital place to visit – that’s Washington, DC, with its 14 free museums along the National Mall, which include the Air & Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of African American History and Culture.
Close to the Mall, the Newseum highlights the “evolution of communication” (radio, TV, newspapers, the internet) throughout seven floors, while the newly-located and revamped International Spy Museum has doubled in size (it now covers espionage activities in 39 countries) but still offers the opportunity to go on a spy mission. At night, head for The Wharf, the new entertainment and dining area on the waterfront.
Does your group like a flutter, a tipple or the great outdoors? Then put Kentucky on your where-to-go list. Add in the home of Bluegrass music and the bizarre construction that is The Ark and Kentucky has a lot to offer. Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, has group tours visiting the grounds, the racetrack and the Kentucky Derby Museum, while countless bourbon distilleries (such as Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam) welcome groups, too.
Elsewhere, the Ark is a 51ft-high, 510ft-long replica of the structure in the Bible, the new Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Museum traces that music’s roots, and Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world.
Nashville’s nickname is Music City … and it has the museums and attractions to prove it – from the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum and Johnny Cash Museum to the Grand Ole Opry and the Musicians’ Hall of Fame & Museum.
Add RCA Studio B (where Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Dolly Parton all recorded) and the new National Museum of African American Music and you have a city that is awash with music. Tour the street called Honky Tonk Highway (with bands playing in bars from 10am to 2am) and book the Bluebird Café (in advance) for some great music experiences.
This charming South Carolina city has come within easier reach of the UK with the launch earlier this year of a BA direct flight from Heathrow. Foodies will love the city’s many and varied restaurants, such as the Establishment, housed in a 1791 building, while history buffs can delve into the background to the first shots fired in the Civil War at Fort Sumter.
With several plantations in the area, there is ample opportunity to contrast the life of the plantation families with the slaves they owned. Then, take a carriage tour or check out the Charleston Museum, the oldest museum in the US.
7. San Diego
Any thrill seekers in your group? Then they’ll love Tidal Twister, the new duelling roller-coaster at the SeaWorld San Diego park. Elsewhere, the city’s 1,200-acre Balboa Park is home to 17 museums as well as the world-famous San Diego Zoo, while the USS Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier moored in the harbour, has planes, helicopters, flight simulators and a glimpse of the living quarters.
Look out for the colourful murals decorating the pillars in Chicano Park below the approach to the San Diego-Coronado Bridge and check out the Arts District Liberty Station, where former Navy training barracks now feature museums, art galleries, gift shops and restaurants.
For more information on group trips to America go to www.visitusa.org.uk.
Many of the cities in America are linked to CityPass, which offers discounts (and some queue-jumping) of up to 50% at a range of attractions.