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I spent two months traveling the U.S.A., and without a doubt the highlight was Chicago. A big city with friendly people, a stunning waterfront, and real vibrancy. The inner northern suburbs like Lakeview and Lincoln Park are full of great bars and restaurants and awesome nightlife. Check it out.
Stay out of West Baltimore.
Madison is a great city with friendly people. Other than being the state capital, it's mostly a university town. State Street, running between the university and the capitol building, is the center of all downtown activity.
Pack a sweater! Because Santa Cruz is in California and a beach town, many people think it will be warm and sunny. Actually, it can get surprisingly cold. Also, don't count on swimming in the ocean, unless you wear a wetsuit. As with most of Northern California beaches, the water is freezing.
Kauai is packed with adventures and it's easy to fall in love with the scenery. It's a small island without much in the way of nightlife or shopping, so I recommend coming here for farm work or camping. I worked on a small farm in Kilauea it was beautiful but don't expect the bus to get you unless you are in a very well traveled area, instead hitchhiking works fine. You are going to want to do the Kalalau trail for sure, it's intense and a bit intimidating. Make sure to give the trail plenty of time, you don't want to have to rush out from poor planning. I think Kauai isn't the best for clear waters of snorkeling or surfing, but hiking is your best bet. The many local farmers markets make cheap and healthy eating easy.
If you are only going to be visiting San Francisco I would advise that you stay in San Francisco. Being in Oakland and having to travel to San Francisco would take an hour or more. Also if you go out at night in the city you would not have to worry about making it back to Oakland.
Tampa is the only true city in Florida -- real people, no attitude, and great nightlife. Go!
I lived in Austin for nine years. Austin is very cool, except that it's so darned hot in the summer. Check out Barton Springs pool in Zilker park, an enormous spring-fed pool, always seventy degrees, perfect for a scorching day. A music reviewer for the Austin paper once wrote "Who's playing this weekend? Ho, hum, the usual embarassment of riches." No kidding. You can find live music any night of the week. Halloween in Austin is a sight to behold, thousands of people partying downtown.
VIVA Las Vegas!!! Las Vegas rocks. We only slept at the hostel 5 hours daily, we were out on the Strip in the casinos, or at the titty bars or out hiking at the Grand Canyon. Hoover Dam rocks too! You either love or hate this town, and I LOVE IT!!
This was a fantastic place, loved the waterfall. Tour was really good, even swimming in the mangroves. I got to see a lot of wildlife -- apparently unusual for this time of year. I recommend the Everglades as a place to stay but you will need a car or hook up with friendly people.
Albuquerque doesn't have much going for it except for the area called Nob Hill around the U of New Mexico. A funky, hip enclave of intreresting stores, restaurants and galleries.
Anchorage is a world class city. One of my 5 favorite cities in the US.
Boulder is a beautiful place with friendly people, but be warned, it's easily as preppy as the Orange County, so if that isn't your scene you may not want to spend much time here.
The bus station is very near the airport just west of downtown. The Amtrak however pulls up to a spitoon in the middle of a tiny Native American reserve town half-an-hour out of town. This year in Late September, it's still over 100 degrees F every day. Tempe is probably a more interesting place for 20 somethings to hang out. Phoenix metro is very spread out but there are good desert hikes sprinkled throughout the neighborhoods. Just look for big hills and you're likely to find a trailhead. Phoenix is a hotbed for bar culture and you'll not be want for great happening friendly venues no matter your persuasion. September is also a good time to hit town and score a resort job. Apartments are cheap (compared to LA NY or SF for instance) and roomate situations are plenty. Aparently the one available hostel begs an alternative. If you have a car the 'burbs have $2-$3 second run movie houses. Some communities have cheap-to-get-in community pools but they may not be open all year…
Monroe is a beautiful little town full of friendly people. I would love to visit there again very soon
Stayed in Glenwood Springs in 1999! Went there for a 10 day ski trip and stayed 4 months. What an awsome spot. So much to see and do. Plenty of outdoor life, skiing in winter, mountain biking, hiking, frisbee golf in summer. The Glenwood Springs Hostel is great with all the assistance you need and a wonderful atmosphere. A definate hotspot!
Arches National Park was full of wonderful sights. The La Sal Mountains are gorgeous!! I love Moab and will come back there someday.
I think Houston is a great city. It may not be the most exciting place to visit, but hell that doesn't matter. It's one of the greatest cities in the world.
Gainesville is mostly a college town, so if you're there you're probably there to do something related to the university, such as going to a game.
Come visit for Christmas, if you can. On Christmas Eve, everyone's houses are lined with luminarias (paper bags with candles), and everyone walks through town and visits. It's a beautiful, non-commercial, community-oriented way to spend Christmas! Also, the best restaurant in town is Fuego, in La Posada de Santa Fe-- but it's VERY expensive. If you enjoy the arts or architecture, be sure to visit the Santa Fe Opera House. It's a gorgeous semi-outdoors building-- I saw Carmen there, and during her death scene, we were also watching a lightning storm. Cold, but fabulous! Santa Fe is a great place to visit. Be warned, however, that the shopping is expensive-- and if you don't like pretentious art galleries and boutiques, you probably won't enjoy shopping there at all.


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