1. The first flight, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
The towering, wind-swept dunes of the Outer Banks were perfect for take-off; the sand provided a soft landing for the world’s first powered flights in 1903. Learn more at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, where granite markers plot the distances, including the final 852-ft flight that lasted 59 seconds. Try hang gliding nearby in Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Or laze in the sun. Spend a week on the beach in Kitty Hawk with Travelbag (020 7001 4112; travelbag.co.uk). From From £989.
2. Skyscrapers of Chicago, Illinois
Influential architects, such as Mies van der Rohe, shaped the skyline of this lakeside city. From 1974 to 1998, the 1451-ft Willis Tower (formerly the Sears) was the world’s tallest building. Discover more on a Chicago Architecture Foundation tour; go on foot, trolley, bus – or, most fun – a river-boat. Then see Frank Lloyd Wright’s home/studio in the suburb of Oak Park. Start and finish in Chicago on a Complete North America 14-night Great Lakes Experience fly-drive holiday. From £2,899.
Chicago’s soaring skyline
3. Edison’s winter home and laboratory, Fort Myers, Florida
The light bulb, phonograph, dictaphone, telephone and ticker tape machine: Thomas Edison may not have invented them, but he perfected the design and patented his version. Understand his genius by seeing his laboratory in Fort Myers. A week at nearby South Seas Island Resort with Vacations to America (01582 469 777; vacationstoamerica.com) costs from £1,275, based on four sharing.
4. Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan
With his affordable, production-line cars, Henry Ford changed the future. But his enormous collection of Americana helped preserve the past. In the museum and adjacent Greenfield Village are everything from comic books to the courthouse, where Abraham Lincoln practised law. From here, a bus takes you to the high-tech Ford Rouge truck plant. On North America Travel Service’s (0333 323 9099; northamericatravelservice.co.uk) eight-day escorted motor coach tours of Michigan, a ride in a Model T Ford is included. From £2,880.
5. The Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Fancy being an astronaut? Test your nerves on the Shuttle Launch Experience at KSC. An hour east of Orlando, this is the home of NASA’s space launches. Buy a multi-day pass to appreciate everything on offer: IMAX views of Earth from space; the Launch Control Center; the Saturn V rocket that propelled men to the moon; the new Heroes & Legends experience; meeting a real NASA astronaut! Signature from Thomas Cook (0844 412 5970; thomascook.com) has seven nights in nearby Cocoa Beach from £779. Car hire extra.
6. The Kentucky Derby, Louisville
Nicknamed the “Run for the Roses” or the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”, the Blue Riband of American thoroughbred racing dates back to 1875. Run in early May, this 1¼ mile flat race combines the excitement of Epsom with the fashions of Ascot. On Bon Voyage’s (0800 316 0194; bon-voyage.co.uk) five-day Kentucky Derby extravaganza, you get VIP treatment and watch from the exclusive Stakes Room Balcony overlooking the finish line. From £7,465.
7. The Superbowl
In 2017, Houston, Texas hosts the planet’s biggest sporting hoopla: a pop star belting out the National Anthem; glitzy half-time entertainment; battering-ram action on the gridiron. Complete North America (0115 961 0590; completenorthamerica.com) has packages, including tickets, to the 2017 Superbowl from £5,450.
The Superbowl is America’s biggest sporting event
8. Indy 500, Indianapolis, Indiana
From “Drivers, start your engines” to the winner’s bottle of milk, some 300,000 fans cheer this 500-mile-long endurance test. Be there for the 101st running of America’s most-watched motor race on May 28, 2017, as the noisy, purpose-built Indy cars zoom round the 2 ½ mile oval track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Grandstand Motor Sports’ (0116 231 1222; grandstandmotorsports.co.uk) five-day package includes museum and stadium tours, plus an optional “meet a driver” cocktail party. From £1,999.
9. The Masters, Augusta, Georgia
When Britain’s Danny Willett donned the green jacket, he joined an exclusive group: winners of The Masters. The only major championship played on the same course every year, it is held at the Augusta National Golf Club, two hours from Atlanta. The azaleas, dogwood and magnolias provide the backdrop; the players provide the drama. Your Golf Travel (0800 043 6644; yourgolftravel.com) has packages with ticket options for April 3-9, 2017 from £2,799. Your souvenir is an official “Masters Spectator” chair.
The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia
10. World’s biggest outdoor rodeo, Cheyenne, Wyoming
For a taste of all things Western, nothing beats Cheyenne Frontier Days. This is not showbiz: ranching skills, such as steer roping and wrestling are competitive events, while the bull riding decides the professionals’ world championship. From July 21 to 30, you can smell the leather, talk to Native Americans and listen to rock concerts. With Experience Holidays (01323 446550; experienceholidays.co.uk), two weeks in Wyoming includes this jamboree. From £3,185.
Danny Willett at Augusta this year
11. Route 66, Illinois to California
Route 66 is no longer an official highway, but it continues to loom large in the American psyche. You can still follow the original road, with its diners and gas stations – but driving the entire 2,448 miles takes weeks. So, Bon Voyage (0800 316 0194; bon-voyage.co.uk) has a new holiday, called ‘Route 33’, that covers half the Mother Road. Start in Oklahoma City and 11 nights later, you are gazing over the Pacific in Santa Monica. From £1,795.
12. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina
Winding through the Appalachian Mountains, this 469-mile route is beautiful – and also relaxing, because the speed limit is only 45mph. On Audley Travel’s (01993 838 755; audleytravel.com) 14-day self-drive Blue Ridge & Great Smoky Mountains holiday, you have time to explore pretty Charlottesville, see Monticello (President Thomas Jefferson’s home), tour the castle-like Biltmore Estate and walk in national parks. Fly in to Washington DC and out of Atlanta; from £2,395.
13. Big Sur Coast Highway, California
What could be cooler than riding a motorcycle along California Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco? The most scenic stretch is Big Sur Coast Highway, the 90 miles between Carmel and San Simeon. See waves thumping against the cliffs below, perhaps migrating whales, even lumbering elephant seals. Harley Davidson specialist Orange & Black (01256 771770; orange-and-black.co.uk) offers 12-day motorcycle trips in California from £2,025.
14. Route 100 in the fall, Vermont
When Vermont Living magazine extolled the beauty of autumn in Vermont 70 years ago, a regional delight became a national – and then international – must-see. To appreciate what all the fuss is about, drive Route 100 through villages, such as Londonderry, Weston, Stockbridge and Stowe. On an eight-day New England Back Roads fly-drive with Discover North America (0800 246 1241; discovernorthamerica.co.uk), you pass white-spired churches, clapboard homes, red barns and a gazillion trees with gold, scarlet and orange leaves. From £850.
15. Ride the rails from Chicago to Seattle
Why drive, when you can travel by train, with views through panoramic windows along the way? AMTRAK, America’s national railway, offers scenic runs, including the Empire Builder linking Chicago with Seattle and San Francisco. En route is Montana’s Glacier National Park, with its craggy peaks, emerald green lakes and abundant wildlife. Sightsee and spend three nights at Glacier Park Lodge on Railbookers’ Great American West with Glacier National Park holiday. 13 nights from £3,399, including selected meals and sightseeing.
16. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Summer hols as they used to be: buckets and spades, sailing, cycling – and doing nothing at all. Rent a house and settle in; explore the 60-mile long peninsula, where villages founded in the 1630s include Barnstable, Sandwich and Yarmouth. New England summers are hot – perfect for slouching on sandy beaches. Purely New England has seven nights in a three-bedroom cottage from £899, based on six sharing.
Cape Cod is a great place to do nothing at all
17. America’s best beach, Caladesi Island, Florida
Florida’s Gulf Coast has glorious beaches, but none can better Caladesi’s white sands. Totally natural and preserved as a State Park, this island can be reached only by boat. Take the ferry from neighbouring Honeymoon Island; swim, fish, look for shells and rent a kayak to paddle through the mangroves. Stay at the nearby Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort with British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0122; ba.com); seven nights from £1,049. Car hire extra.
18. California Dreamin’ in Malibu
Half an hour from Los Angeles, Malibu epitomises West Coast lifestyle. Families love safe beaches, such as Zuma and Las Tunas; Malibu Surfrider is a designated surfing reserve, thanks to its “perfect waves”. As well as 21 miles of sandy shoreline, the ‘Bu also has movie star homes, fishing piers and world-class art at the Getty Museum. Stay at the glam Malibu Beach Inn on Billionaire’s Beach with America As You Like It (020 8742 8299; americaasyoulikeit.com). One week from £2,590.
Point Dume in Malibu, California
19. Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia
Vying to be the belle of the Southern ball, these cities are just two hours apart. Both have brick pavements, trees draped with Spanish moss and gorgeous historic homes. The first shot of the Civil War was fired at Charleston’s Fort Sumter. Quieter and smaller, Savannah retains its beautiful old garden squares. See both cities – and much more – on American Sky’s (01342 886 762; americansky.co.uk) 12-night Gone with the Windescorted tour. From £1,829.
20. America’s urban beach, Miami
At the southern tip of the Miami Beach barrier island is funky South Beach. Wannabe models parade along Ocean Drive; clubs on Collins Avenue rock till dawn; the beach itself is broad and sandy. With Hayes and Jarvis (01293 762 456; hayesandjarvis.co.uk), you can have a week at the Albion Hotel, a five-minute walk from the beach. From £1,270; car hire extra.
America in the movies
21. The Empire State Building, New York City
From King Kong to Sleepless in Seattle, the 1,454-ft skyscraper has starred in films galore. Get tickets on line; avoid queues by going at 8am or buying a VIP Express Experience pass. For romance, arrive after 10pm, when a saxophonist plays till late on the 86th Floor. New is the Premium Experience, a 90-minute guided tour of the building, from the Art Deco lobby to the 102nd floor Observatory ($175). Trailfinders (020 7368 1200; trailfinders.com) has three-night Big Apple breaks from £549.
22. Fly-fishing in Montana
The 1992 film, A River Runs Through It, made fly-fishing trendy. But was it Brad Pitt’s casting or the Montana scenery that sparked the interest? The angling scenes were filmed mainly on the Gallatin River, but brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout thrive in other streams in Southwest Montana and neighbouring Wyoming and Idaho. Go Fishing Worldwide (020 8742 1556; gofishingworldwide.co.uk) has seven-night holidays, including four days with a guide, from £2,237.
23. Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
Fans of Easy Rider will recognise Taos Pueblo village. The historic adobe dwellings of this World Heritage Site have been home to Native Americans for 1,000 years – and they still are. As for the town of Taos, that also added atmosphere to the road-trip film. Today, it charms with Spanish Colonial houses and a Bohemian mix of artists and musicians. See both on HF Holidays’ (0345 470 8558; hfholidays.co.uk) 13-night guided walking holiday in New Mexico and Colorado. From £3,689.
24. San Francisco, California
When it comes to car chases, Steve McQueen set the gold standard in Bullitt (1968). Film buffs also track down locations for Vertigo, Mrs Doubtfire, Birdman of Alcatraz and more. But everyone wants to ride the cable cars on the ridiculously steep streets, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, cruise out to the old Alcatraz prison and explore Chinatown and Haight-Ashbury, the hippy haunt. Just America (01489 892 329; justamerica.co.uk) has seven nights’ b&b in San Francisco from £1,164. Includes San Francisco City Pass; car hire extra.
Golden Gate Bridge
25. Oregon and Washington
The success of the first Twilight fantasy in 2008 put the spotlight on the Pacific Northwest. For aficionados, musts include Indian Beach and the village of Cannon Beach in Oregon, plus the “real” town of Forks on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. But there is more: laid-back Portland; photogenic Crater Lake; bustling Seattle; the terrific wine and food scene. Do it all on 1st Class Holidays’ 17-day Pacific Northwest self-drive tour. From £1,777; flights extra.