1. The Grand Canyon, Arizona
Even blasé teenagers are impressed by Mother Nature’s handiwork: 18 miles wide, over one mile deep and 277 miles long. On a Tauck Bridges Red Rocks & Painted Canyons guided trip (0800 810 8020; tauck.co.uk), you stay right on the Grand Canyon rim and watch the sunrise; take a float trip on the Colorado River; fly over Rainbow Bridge National Monument; ride in Bryce Canyon with a cowboy. It’s action all the way for eight days. From £2,490 (adult), £2,360 (child under 12).
Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River
2. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Molten lava spilling down a mountainside; hiss and steam as it hits the sea; the smell of sulphur: the special effects in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park outdo any in the movies. See them on the Big Island of Hawaii with Trailfinders (020 7368 1200; trailfinders.com). Drive around the crater; look down from a helicopter (two-hour narrated flights, from £347). But there is more: tropical rainforest; coffee plantations; white, green and even black sand beaches. Eight days, from £1,699.
The spectacular Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The world’s first national park deserves more than a drive-through visit. So, immerse yourself in the wilderness on Grand American Adventures’ (0333 003 8245; grandamericanadventures.com) 12-day Yellowstone Wildlife Trails that also includes the Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks. On this active camping trip, hike and track wolves; spot bison and moose; see the Old Faithful geyser and hot springs; sleep under the stars. From £1,999, with most meals and travel in a small, luxury bus. Flights extra.
Hot springs at Yellowstone
4. America’s giant, Alaska
Twice as big as France, Alaska is home to just 750,000 people. During summer’s long, long days, see brown and grizzly bears gorging on salmon in Katmai National Park. Take flightseeing trips to remote villages, the Arctic Circle and Wrangell-St Elias, the US’s largest national park. Go rafting, canoeing and climbing. In winter, go for the Northern Lights, snowmobiling and dog sledding. Windows on the Wild (020 8742 1556; windowsonthewild.com) has a 12-night Alaska Lodge fly-drive holiday from £3,655.
5. The Everglades, Florida
The landscape of sawgrass prairies, mangroves and estuaries is deceptively subtle. But this important eco-system shelters exotic wildlife: roseate spoonbills, great egrets, pig frogs, alligators, dolphins and sea turtles. Most visitors drive in from Miami; the western entrance at Everglades City is quieter. Paddle a canoe, hike or take a naturalist-led boat tour. TravelPlanners (020 3542 8888; travelplanners.co.uk) has villas on Marco Island, 45 minutes away; 14 nights from £859, based on four adults, four children sharing.
6. The National Mall, Washington DC
“America’s Front Yard” is a two-mile park between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. Flanking it are the White House and a score of top-class art and history museums – where entry is free! Touch some moonrock at the National Air and Space Museum; see the original Star-Spangled Banner in the National Museum of American History. Spend a week in DC with My America Holiday (020 8003 6081; myamericaholiday.co.uk). From £1,181. car hire extra.
7. The Statue of Liberty, New York
Standing 150 feet tall, this copper statue at New York Harbor’s entrance has welcomed affluent cruise passengers and penniless immigrants since 1886. Get there with Statue Cruises, the official ferry: book well ahead to climb up to the crown. Continue on to Ellis Island and the Immigration Museum. Travelsphere (0800 987 5110; travelsphere.co.uk) offers five-day escorted city breaks from £999.
The Statue of Liberty has welcomed affluent cruise passengers and penniless immigrants since 1886
8. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Finished 75 years ago, this colossal sculpture features four presidents, who shaped America’s history: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers spent 14 years carving this mountain in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Get up close on a ranger-led walk; return for the Evening Lighting Ceremony. On Cruise America’s Cowboy Country itinerary, you have a motorhome for 13 days. From £320 per person, based on four sharing (01304 898 159; cruiseamerica.co.uk). Campsites, flights to Denver extra.
9. Walt Disney World: Florida
There is always something new at Disney. Eagerly anticipated in 2017 is Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, as well a seven-hour Star Wars Guided Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. On a 14-night Walt Disney Travel Company package (0800 169 0730; disneypackages.co.uk), you can do all the parks, both entertainment districts – and still have time to relax. Stay at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort; get round with Disney’s 14-Day Ultimate Ticket. From £993, based on two adults, two children (age 3-12) sharing.
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida
10. Hollywood, California
In 1907, cameras rolled for the first time in sunny southern California; 1923 brought a giant HOLLYWOODLAND sign advertising real estate. Learn more on a day-long sightseeing tour that takes in Tinseltown highlights, from celebrities’ homes in Beverly Hills to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. This is one of the optional tours offered by North America Travel Service (0333 323 9099; northamericatravelservice.co.uk) that has seven-night holidays in Beverly Hills from £1,782.
Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California
Turning points in US history
11. America in the making, Massachusetts
Two of the most important dates in America’s story are 1620 and 1775. The first saw the Pilgrim Fathers land in Plymouth, south of Boston. See how they lived at the first-rate Plimoth Plantation living history museum. The second brought the opening shots of the American Revolution, in Lexington and Concord, west of Boston. The city itself balances culture, shopping and fun with history, especially along the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail. British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0122; ba.com) has three-night breaks from £569. Car hire extra.
12. The birth of the US, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“When in the course of human events” and “We the People”: so start the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. See Independence Hall, where they were debated; the National Constitution Center explains American government then and now. But Philly has much more: 18th-19th century houses and locavore restaurants, great shopping and the outstanding Museum of Art and Barnes Foundation. A week’s fly-drive in and around Philadelphia costs from £999.
13. Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Only two hours from the nation’s capital, the Battle of Gettysburg (1863) was the turning point of the Civil War – and also the site of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. The museums are moving; the battlefield is huge. A Specialist Battlefield Guide accompanies you on Leger Holidays’ (01709 787 466; visitbattlefields.co.uk) nine-day American Civil War coach tour that takes in other important sites, including Appomattox, where the surrender was signed in 1865. From £1,899.
14. Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site, Atlanta, Georgia
“I have a dream”: Dr King’s oratory inspired millions – black and white, at home and abroad. In his home town of Atlanta, you can learn about his life at the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site and then walk in his footsteps. Equally thought-provoking is the new Center for Civil and Human Rights, covering the struggles in America and around the world. Spend seven nights in Atlanta with My America Holiday (020 8003 6081; myamericaholiday.co.uk) from £829; car extra.
15. President Kennedy’s assassination, Dallas, Texas
JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald, the Grassy Knoll and the anguish of a nation still resonate half a century after the November, 1963 assassination. In the former Texas School Book Depository, where the sniper hid, The Sixth Floor Museum explores the details, the conspiracy theories and Kennedy’s legacy. Titan Travel (0800 988 5873; titantravel.co.uk) has an escorted 13-day Texas Riches holiday that includes a tour of The Sixth Floor Museum. From £2,599.
JFK’s funeral, following his assassination in Dallas
16. Jazz and New Orleans, Louisiana
The birthplace of jazz? New Orleans – of course! Stroll along Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street; tap your feet at Preservation Hall, Snug Harbor or The Three Muses. There is live jazz in dozens of clubs, both in and outside the French Quarter. Explore the soul of the Deep South courtesy of The Telegraph’s Exclusive Tour: The music of the Mississippi with Clare Teal and Jason Rebello. The 13-day trip departs 20 October 2018, from £4,995.
It’s all about the jazz in New Orleans
17. Blues, Country and Elvis, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois
America also gave the world rock ‘n’ roll, blues and country music. On Just America’s (01489 892 329; justamerica.co.uk) 14-day American Movie and Music self-drive tour, you can boogie on down in a string of destinations: Memphis, with Beale Street, Sun Studio and Graceland, Elvis Presley’s mansion; Nashville, with the Grand Ole Opry and Johnny Cash Museum; St Louis and Chicago, where jazz and blues clubs thrive. From 1,589.
18. The Mountain Music Trail, West Virginia
Undiscovered, yet only three hours west of America’s capital, this 150-mile-long trail follows West Virginia’s Highway 219. In small towns, such as Thomas, Marlinton and Lewisburg, banjoists and fiddlers play “old-time music” harking back to Scottish and Irish settlers. America as You Like It’s (020 8742 8299; americaasyoulikeit.com) fly-drive holiday has three nights in Washington DC, three nights at the Brazenhead Inn in Mingo Village on the Mountain Music Trail. From £979.
19. Showbiz, Las Vegas, Nevada
Want to see the stars? Head for Vegas. From Rihanna and Britney to Elton John and Lionel Richie, the big names strut their stuff here. But the 30 or so live shows each night also feature tributes, such as The Beatles LOVE and Michael Jackson ONE, plus David Copperfield, medieval jousting and nudge-nudge burlesque. Virgin Holidays (0344 557 4321; virginholidays.co.uk) offers four-night breaks from £672; car hire extra.
20. The City of Music Festivals, Newport, Rhode Island
Although known for its late 19th-century “money-no-object” Gilded Age mansions, this historic city is a must for music lovers during the summer festival season. First up is the Newport Music Festival (July 7-23), with classical concerts in palatial settings, such as The Breakers. Then come outdoor performances during the Folk Festival (July 28-30) and the Jazz Festival (August 4-6).
21. Hiking, Appalachian Trail
The world’s longest marked hiking trail is the real star of the book and film, A Walk in the Woods. Crossing 14 states, its 2,160-mile length demands stamina – and time. Join a group and hike the New Hampshire portion on Grand American Adventures’ (0333 003 8245; grandamericanadventures.com) 11-day Appalachian Trail Hut to Hut backpacking holiday. Overnight in mountain cabins; professional guides, meals are included; glorious scenery guaranteed. You need to be fit. From £1,789; flights extra.
22. Riding on a dude ranch
City folk (dudes) started taking ranching holidays 135 years ago – and they still go out West to swing into the saddle and ride the range. Today’s ranches vary from luxury resorts to simpler working cattle ranches. For a typical dude ranch, suited to both beginners and experienced riders, American Roundup (01798 865 946; americanroundup.com) offers a week at the 4D Longhorn Ranch in Idaho from £2,267, including all meals, riding.
23. Snowboarding, Colorado
In 1977, Jake Burton was in Vermont, perfecting what he dubbed a snowboard. Some thought it weird, others wonderful, but by 1998, it was an Olympic sport. Today, the Burton US Open attracts the world’s best riders to Vail, Colorado, which scores both for size and an annual snowfall of 366 inches. Go for a week with Crystal Ski Holidays (020 8939 0726; crystalski.co.uk). From £1,132, based on four sharing.
Mountain scenery in Vail, Colorado
24. Sailing in Maine
Saltwater has long flowed in the blood of New Englanders – especially in Maine. Harbours are home to dinghies, yachts and lobster boats. But the beauty queens are windjammers, or schooners. They cruise along the rocky coastline and drop anchor in hidden coves for clambakes. Guests can help raise the sails or relax with a beer. The Maine Windjammer Association (sailmainecoast.com) features nine vessels, carrying 16-40 guests. Four-night cruises from about £500, including meals; flights, transport extra.
25. Hawaii, the birthplace of surfing
Captain Cook saw Polynesians surfing in 1779 and E he’enalu kakou still means “surf’s up!” in the Hawaiian Islands. As part of a week’s holiday on Oahu, Audley Travel (01993 838 755; audleytravel.com) suggests learning to surf on Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach. Sign up with one of the local surf schools; the rollers in this protected bay provide long smooth rides, with no awkward undertows. From £2,260; lessons are extra.