If you are looking to add a little spice to your cross-country vacation, this might help you add an activity here or there. If you are looking to this book to help you plan a detailed trip, you will want to buy the more detailed travel guides that are available.
I like how the book is written. The text is easy to read, and lends itself to good family conversation (reading it aloud over the dinner table or in a family meeting as you plan your vacation).
It gives the basic visitor information. The same things you can find advertised at your hotel chains, or at visitor services or chambers of commerce.
The pictures are beautiful, and honestly make me want to go visit some of these places.
If you are like me, though, and you want to see where the locals go--or to see things and places that aren't inundated with travelers--try out the "Off The Beaten Path" series ([...]). There are State-specific editions of Off the Beaten Path as well. Heck, when I bought the book associated with the area in which I live, I found attractions that were 20 minutes from my own home that I didn't know existed.
If you're looking for a basic overview that can spur on great vacation planning, check out this book for ideas. If you are looking for the less-trafficked attractions, check out the Off the Beaten Path books.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA--Terrific Travel Guide to the USA--29 July 2011
When I saw this book advertised, I knew it was the book that I'd been looking for, an up-to-date guide of scenic trips in our very own United States of America. The Essential USA is a great book! It features many color photographs and maps with current information about roads and airports! Over the years, my husband and I traveled quite a bit. Now, we're thinking of revisiting places in the USA that we would love to see again and traveling to some states that we've never visited.
Beginning with What's Where, you can learn quickly what to expect in the five distinct sections of the country. 1. New England & the Mid-Atlantic, 2. The South, 3. The Mid-west & the Rockies, 4. The Southwest and 5. The West Coast.
A chapter called Experience the USA, provides descriptions of the Natural Wonders like the Grand Canyon and various National Parks; The All-American Landmarks are included-- The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas and The Golden Gate Bridge in California and The Top Interesting Neighborhoods including The French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana and the various Theme parks around the country are also described! I also found the 10 Tips for Great Road Trips to be interesting.
You learn about the best times of the year to visit, what weather to expect, places to stay and restaurants worth checking out.
Personally, I was expecting something different from this book. I thought it would be road trips and cool small towns. In reality, it covers many large cities and a few of the larger national parks. And for each of the places it covers, it does not go very much in depth. For someone who travels a lot on business and needs bare-bones info, this would be good. But if I was taking a trip to Boston for example, I would not take this book - I would get a book specifically about Boston.
I read the Portland section in detail because I've read 4 other Portland books and I wanted to see how this book compares. This book gives the highlights if you were in town for about 2 days and had a few hours each day. That's why I think this would be good for a business traveler, but there certainly isn't enough information to spend a whole week in these destinations.
And that title is ESSENTIAL USA: SPECTACULAR CITIES, NATURAL WONDERS AND GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIPS. That, and no more, is precisely what this book offers. This is sort of a "Highlights of the United States" travel book. And it limits itself to cities, natural wonders, and road trips. So, for example, there's not much at all on Civil War Battlefields--Gettysburg is completely left out. But that's to be expected given the limited scope of this book.
In fact, there are entire states left out of this guidebook, but then, this is a just the highlights book. This is an enormous country, packed with amazing sights and cool stuff, and it's not possible to see all of it. But if you'd like to see the best of New England, or The South, or The West, or all three, then this is a good place to start. The color photographs have a "you are there" quality to them, and the text is informative without being too dense or overwhelming. All the sights listed just barely begin to skim the glory of the United States, there's nothing off the beaten path, no places where the locals hang out to eat, drink and dance. It's very much tourist America. But that's exactly what this book set out to be. And it does a fine job of it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Essential" Guide to America's Highlights!16 Sept. 2011
I have much more experience in an even larger country, Russia, than in the United States (even though I was born in America and lived here most of my life). However, often I will be making recommendations to visitors and/or visiting serveral cities for business, and wanted one guide book that would give me an overview of the sights, history and culture of each of these cities to help me select what to do in case I should have an afternoon free. Fodor's Essential USA is perfect for that.
All major cities covered Many popular tourist routes covered Great desktop reference (see below)
Not very comprehensive for each place (a feature, though, not a flaw). Sights listed are somewhat opinionated and for me at least too general
A bigger question is: How often do visitors come to "see the USA", visiting, say, New York, Miami, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, San Francisco? In my experience people see a REGION of the US (California, Hawaii, Texas), or a combination of two regions (New York and Miami, Washington and Los Angeles). For these travelers I would recommend getting a book for each region, rather than a generalized USA guide.