Given its size, the climate varies throughout the US but some regions experience the changing seasons more intensely than others. The West Coast enjoys fine weather year-round, while the Pacific Northwest Coast (Washington, Oregon) has cool summers and mild winters. The Midwest is known for its intense summers and winters and frequent tornadoes and thunderstorms, while Florida enjoys the warmest winters on the eastern coast.
When to fly to USA
There's never really a bad time to catch flights to the US, but New York is most pleasant in spring and autumn. May and June are comfortably warm, while LA gets hottest in August and September.
San Francisco is pleasant year-round, while Las Vegas is best enjoyed in spring and autumn. Orlando is teeming with families during US summer holidays (July and August), when temperatures can reach 37 degrees Celsius.
Cheap flights to the US are always found during the off season.
Getting around USA
Americans love their cars and their road trips, but there are many low-cost airlines, including no-frills leader Southwest, JetBlue, AirTran and Spirit Airlines to fly you around quicker.
If you're intent on hitting the highways a la Route 66, you'll find all the major car rental agencies at most US airports, including Budget, Dollar, Hertz and Thrifty.
By bus: GotoBus.com has a handy online service for more than 100 bus companies and tours throughout the US, from budget to luxury options.
By rail: AmTrak (www.amtrak.com) covers the States and the major cities in Canada. Check online for routes and weekly specials.
USA insider information
Things to do in America
- New York is a Mecca for shoppers, from mega-department and fashion stores to cutting-edge designer boutiques. Serious shoppers can maximize their time by taking a tour of one of the shopping districts. Shop Gotham's two-hour walking tours (from about US$25) have been likened to having a shopaholic New Yorker show you the coolest places to shop.
- Get a culture fix at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, which presents an annual program of mostly free recitals and concerts by students, faculty and guest artists.
- Orlando's majestic Harry P. Leu Gardens are a 20-hectare botanical oasis in the middle of the city. On site is a restored 19th century farmhouse, now a museum that evokes a time when citrus, rather than theme parks, dominated the region. (Gardens open daily from 9am-5pm; adult/child US$7/2; free admission on Mondays).
- In Las Vegas start the day with an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast at the “killer whale in a sea of buffets" - at the Spice Market Buffet at the Aladdin Resort & Casino.
- Take a historic musical journey along the Blues Highway, from the Dixieland Jazz bars of New Orleans, to Memphis (and Elvis's Graceland) and the blues trail along the Mississippi Delta to Chicago. The classic road trip takes you through the home of the blues. For information on festivals and events along the way, check out www.msbluestrail.org.
How much do you tip in America?
- Between 15 and 20 per cent is standard in the US. Irate waiters have been known to follow non-tipping diners onto the street demanding an explanation.