top of page

United States: NY and California

Travel to the East Coast between New York and Boston then fly to the West Coast for a California road trip: from San Diego to San Francisco, walking the Los Angeles Walk of Fame, the Death Valley desert, the dance floors of Las Vegas to the roof of the Grand Canyon.

I made this trip back in November 2011 .. twenty days on another planet! Surely many things have changed, but the destinations I have seen are worth a visit.

East Coast

New York City

New York City, NYC, the Big Apple. After having dreamed about it so much about movies, we are finally here! I sleep in Manhattan in an apartment rented on AirBnb and I discover that the city never sleeps, police and ambulance sirens continue interrupted throughout the night.

With 8.8 million inhabitants it is the most populous city in the United States and together with London it is the center of the global economy. Lying on the mouth of the Hudson River, it owes its name to English rule during the 1600s. Its history is long and varied: it tells of the immigration of Europeans, African Americans and the Civil War, Black Panthers, crime and attack of 11 September.

But let's get to the city and what to visit no less!

  • Times Square with its huge lights and advertising screens, here we found the largest M&M shop ever.

  • In NYC there are 6,472 skyscrapers with the famous Empire State Building, symbol of the city and you can climb to the top, Chrysler Building, The Trump Building, the first and oldest Woolworth Building, World Trade Center born on the ashes of the Twin Towers (now there are fountains where the towers were positioned).

  • Central Park, a 341-hectare green lung in downtown Manhattan, where there are playgrounds, shows and statues of various characters such as Jonh Lennon, Alice in Wonderland, Balto and others.

  • Museums: MoMA (Modern Art), The Met (Metropolitan), Guggenheim, Natural History. They are all beautiful, but it takes time to visit and enjoy them. I am passionate about history and I could not resist the Met: you can walk inside the ancient Egyptian temple of Dendur and admire the original hall of the summer residence of the famous architect. Frank Lloyd Wright.

  • Rockefeller Center (where for Christmas there is a huge decorated tree and the skating rink around it) and its panoramic point on the rooftop.

  • Statue of Liberty that can be reached by ferry or admired from the southernmost tip of Manhattan.

  • Grand Central Terminal, the largest railway station in the world by number of docks and of great beauty with its great vault.

  • Walk the High Line, a park on a former elevated railway, to Chelsea Market (former biscuit factory where Oreos were invented and produced) and the nearby markets and ateliers of nascent designers and stylists.

  • Little Italy and China Town to fill your belly.

  • Broadway Theatre to see a real musical or to the Studio 54.

  • Financial district and the Wall Street bull, symbol of hope and luck (you have to touch the nose, the horns or the balls XD). This bronze statue is the work of the artist Arturo di Modica who secretly placed it on the night of December 1989 in front of the stock exchange to praise the courage with which she had risen after the financial crisis; it was supposed to be temporary and the stock exchange executives immediately ordered the removal but the New Yorkers liked the message so much that they kept it and moved it to the nearby garden.

  • Ellis island and the Immigration museum.

  • Brooklyn and its Bridge, the neighborhood is very beautiful and you can admire the Manhattan skyline.

  • Williamsburg with its hipster style and its retro' shops and cafes.

  • Harlem (not dangerous) and the Apollo Theather.

It would take a month to see all of New York. Fortunately, you can get around well on foot, there are cheap taxis, the metro and you can rent bikes.

Food is what surprised me the most: at supermarkets the packages are three times our size; many flavors are mixed (eg cherry coke, strawberry and a thousand other flavors or hot dogs with cheese pasta); if you want to eat healthy you have to pay dearly; at fast-food restaurants there is a refill (fill the glass as many times as you want) .. the fast-food that has given me the most satisfaction Five Guys (but the calories skyrocket).

Finally, even if you are not a sportsman, go to an NBA, baseball or football game; it is a unique and cultural experience not to be missed.

East Coast

Boston: University, baseball and lobsters

Boston is the city of universities, the famous Red Sox baseball team and lobsters.

Let's start with the universities: Harvard and MIT are based here. They are very close, about a 20 minute walk. You can walk around both campuses and I walked right into the MIT classrooms daydreaming. At Harvard Coop you can buy university t-shirts and gadgets, books or drink coffee while reading.

Continuing you can visit the Red Sox stadium and the nearby Beacon Hill and Back Bay, two neighborhoods with small shops and characteristic dark brick terraced houses. From these you continue in the historic Common Park, Downtown and the Waterfront where the aquarium is also located. Finally, The Freedom Trail: a 4-kilometer route with 16 significant stages for the US war of independence.

Finally, the lobsters that can be found here at very reasonable prices. They were in fact the poor dish for soldiers, sailors and prisoners; but when Rockefellers started serving it at parties, it became trendy and highly prestigious. In Boston it is a specialty and can be found as a sandwich, soup, pizza, for brunch, in coffee shops, street kiosks and restaurants.

West coast: California on the road

Los Angels (LA)

With a flight of about 6 hours and putting the clock back 3 hours, I arrive at the City of Angels.

Being passionate about cinema, I immediately go on a tour of the symbols related to the cinema world:

Walk of Fame in Hollywood Boulevard, created in 1958, has come to pay homage to 2,730 artists and not only such as Frank Sinatra (who has 3), Jonh Lennon, Micky Mouse, etc.

TCL Chinese Theater where the Academy Awards ceremony was held before they were moved to the more modern Dolby Theater.

Universal Studios with the movie sets of Jaws, Back to the Future, Jurassic World (and being attacked by velociraptor and the huge TRex); or you can visit other famous studios are those of Warner Bros, Sony and Paramount.

Here everything is reminiscent of the settings of famous films and TV series.

Sunset Boulevard, the vip neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and Bel Air, the city's vantage points to see the Hollywood sign, Melrose Avenue.

On the ocean side there are the famous beaches of Venice Beach and Santa Monica with the typical "pier" where the Ferris wheel and other funfair style rides are located.

LA is a huge metropolis and as a European I was surprised at the beginning, it is very different from NY and at the beginning I missed the historic buildings and a meeting place .. but you get used to it quickly :)

Californian coast

Big Sur, from LA to Monterey

The stretch of coast from Los Angeles to Monterey is perfect for exploring by car, and the section that runs through Big Sur is regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the US. The Pacific Coast Highway runs along the western flank of the mountains, offering almost uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean. The mountains are thrown into the sea and many seals and elephant seals sleep blissfully among rocks and bays. The whales that can be seen from the cliffs also pass twice. This is an uncontaminated area where you can go for walks and excursions.

For those who like literature, here is the Henry Miller Memorial Library (; the Nepenthe Restaurant which was owned by Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth and Miller's home; Lawrence Ferlinghetti's hut near Bixby Bridge, where Jack Kerouac got drunk and drew inspiration for the 1962 book "Big Sur" (the hut is inaccessible withsentieri insidiosi).

San Francisco Bay

San Francisco and the Silicon Valley

San Francisco is a melting pot of styles and cultures: alternative, hippie, gay-friendly, technological, unique. Famous are its trams that run up and down the city, the red Golden Gate and the island of Alcatraz. And here my day can only start with Have a nice day by Stereophonics.

The Golden Gate is the symbol of the city and is one of the largest suspension bridges in the world (2.7 kilometers long and 227 meters high). It was inaugurated in 1937 by Joseph Strauss; previously the bay could only be crossed by ferry. It deserves the view from the Viewpoint near the Golden Gate beach and it is also worth walking a few hundred meters on the bridge. Also nearby is the Golden Gate Park with the Japanese garden, Shakespeare and fragrances designed for the blind.

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was a maximum security prison from 1934 to 1963 that housed inmates considered irrecoverable and dangerous such as Al Capone "Scarface", George "Machine Gun" Kelly and Robert Stroud "the Alcatraz ornithologist".

In its history there were 14 escape attempts but only in 1962, Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers managed to escape by diving into the water. They dug tunnels in their cells and left papier-mâché heads in their beds to fool the guards; their bodies were never found and many believe they died in the cold waters of the Pacific. To get to the island, take a ferry from Pier 33 of Fisherman's Wharf and visit with a guide or audio guide; there are always a lot of tourists and it is better to book in advance.

Other magnificent neighborhoods are:

  • Chinatown, which is accessed by a large typically Chinese front door (Grant Avenue) here you can eat all the Chinese goodness and the second largest Chinese community in the United States resides.

  • Japantown, the largest and oldest Japanese district in the US, which stretches for 6 blocks and whose main street is Post Street.

  • Haight-Ashbury,near the Golden Gate Park it was the cradle of the hippie movement and is full of buildings with colorful facades.

Finally, in the southern part of the San Francisco bay there is the famous Silicon Valley, a global hub of innovation, startups and social media (it contributes 20% to the US GDP). HP was the first company to choose it as its headquarters in 1939, then in the 1950s the Stanford University technology incubator helped attract numerous companies that developed microchips (based on silicon - hence the name) and today there are the leading companies in the sector such as Google, Apple (Cupertino), Netflix, Cisco, eBay and many others.

The national parks of California

Yosemite, Sequoia National Forest, Death Valley

It's November and it's strange to go from T-shirt to down jacket in a few hours. In fact, due to snow - and without suitable equipment - unfortunately it is not possible to visit the Yosemite National Park, but I plan to return.

However, I cannot skip the Sequoia National Forest: the second most important national park in the United States (second after Yellowstone) in which there are 5 of the largest trees in the world. We arrive at the Three Rivers village and continue towards the Giant Forest, where General Sherman has been waiting for visitors since time immemorial: it is believed to be between 2300 and 2700 years old and is the largest living being in the world with 83.6 meters of height and a diameter of 9.10 meters.

Death Valley, the Death Valley National Park, is the lowest point in North America (86m below sea level) and owes its name to the climatic-environmental conditions that make it very difficult for plants and animals to survive. Temperatures from May to September reach 50 ° (which is why it is not possible to circulate during the day) and it rains very few millimeters of water every year which evaporates quickly. Even in November the sun was hot and I burned my cheek just from being in the car. This place, however, is a spectacle of nature and I recommend reading the wikipedia page to discover all the various stages from the sea, to the volcanoes and lakes that re-emerge.

Don't miss Zabriskie Point for the "bad lands" and the Badwater Salt Basin (lowest point). It is important to arrive with a full tank of fuel and a bottle of water, many had warned me and in fact in the 225km of the valley it is not easy to find petrol stations and activities.

Nevada and Arizona

Las Vegas and Grand Canyon

All you need's a strong heart and a nerve of steel, Viva Las Vegasss ..

on the notes of Elvis you enter the city of perdition. Twinkling lights, gigantic hotels, slot machines, clubs and music; here you live at night and during the day you feel like a zombie .. stumbling on the Strip and waiting for the sun to set again.

The center of it all is The Strip, the street along which the most famous hotels and casinos stand: Bellagio with its dancing fountains and which houses the Cirque du Soleil, Flamingo Hotel (the oldest casino still open, from 1946), Caesar Palace, Castle-shaped Exalibur hotel, pyramid-shaped Luxor, MGM Grand the largest hotel with 5,500 rooms hosting shows and concerts and where Tyson's ear was bitten, The Venetian with St Mark's bell tower and gondolas , Paris with the Eiffel Tower, New York Hotel and many others.

In all the hotels there are casinos, restaurants, shops, clubs for dancing (they close at 4 am, however), while in the rooms and on the streets it is full of business cards of beautiful strippers. I'm not an ace at the game but I won a game, while dancing I vented as much as I could ... even on the food I must say, there are huge buffets for brunch where you pay a fixed fee and you can eat until you feel bad.

Arizona and the return

Route 66, Grand Canyon and San Diego

A 4-hour drive from Las Vegas is the Grand Canyon and to get there you take Interstate 40, which is the stretch of the famous Route 66. The landscape is lunar, infinite and it seems surreal to see isolated and inhabited caravans after miles and miles. .at night I would never want my car to stop here, it would be the perfect place for a horror movie, but during the day the landscape and the view are spectacular.

The Grand Canyon is truly unique with incredible colors. It is about 450km long and in some places it is even 1,600m deep; it was formed over the millennia thanks to the erosion of the Colorado River. Arriving at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center you can admire the view from some viewing terraces and you can reach the Mather Point and Yavapai Point viewpoints with short walks.

The last stop on this fantastic tour is San Diego, a vibrant city on the coast with an alternative and interesting nightlife. Here the happy hour starts at 5pm, we go to dance early and at 2am the clubs close and several restaurants are waiting for the kids to refresh them. But be careful not to wander the streets with alcohol or stagger drunk because the cops go down hard.

Helpful tips:

  • Where to sleep: In cities it is best to book in advance, especially in NY and Los Angeles. In general though it is easy to find accommodation anywhere, there are various hotel and motel chains (including Motel 6 is quite good) in any place.

  • Driving respecting the limits and road signs, it is easy to get fines (and they must be paid otherwise you will be unwelcome guests the next time you try to enter the USA) and if the police stop you you have to be very relaxed and follow what they say without particular gestures. The cars in the United States are huge compared to the Italian ones, all much bigger than our SUVs.

  • Food: very loaded (a thousand pimples exploded for me after 1 day), there are a thousand fast food chains and even in restaurants they put a lot of sauces. Breakfast with pancakes, eggs and bacon is a must and you will never do without it.

Itinerary :

Click here to see the map or use it during the trip



Do you want some advice?

We will be happy to help you 😉

bottom of page