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Grand Northern Tour Review 2011

1 Jul 2012 Romer said

Romer

Didn't see much in the way of reviews for this so I thought I would give a brief overview for people thinking about doing it. We went from NY--->LA in 24 days in summer 2011. It was full tour with a good mix of Aussies, Kiwis and Europeans. The tour is essentially split in 3 groups: Grand Northern NY--->LA, Grand Canadian NY----> Toronto, Northern Adventure Chicago ----> LA. So all up there were around 75 people come, go and stay on the bus. Due to the large numbers of people I didn't get a chance to meet everyone or learn everyone's name except for the GN people going all the way from NY----->LA. The bus was always full with no spare seats at every stage of the trip.

Pre tour:

Definitely spend a few days before the tour exploring New York City. It is a great place and there are so many things to see and do. Check out Times Square, Intrepid Museum, the MET, Rockerfeller Plaza and a million other things. My review will just be a brief overview. I am more of a 'ticking boxes' traveller.

First Stage: New York to Toronto
Boston: going to Harvard Uni was okay, the Boston Trolley was great it takes you all over town so you get to explore the town in short time.
Quebec City: this highlight of my tour, such a beautiful city, great to explore, great restaurants, great nightlife, just be mindful it may be summer but it does get very cold outside mid morning-late arvo.
Montreal: a nice town but a few disappointments, the Underground City is nothing to get excited about as from what I saw it is underground walkway then foodcourt then underground walkway then food court....so not exactly like Zion from the Matrix movies where is really is an underground city. Do NOT waste your money on the guided bicycle tour optional, it is overpriced and doesn't take you anywhere worth seeing. The Chamber of Commerce is worth checking out, it's the building with the multicoloured glass. Beautiful.
Toronto: The hotel is right in the middle of the nightclub area so you can have a lot of fun. I started getting sick at this point so most of my fun involved the hotel toilet. When you leave Toronto you go to Niagara Falls. The Maid of the Mist boat tour was amazing, you get so close it is amazing and this is completed within the first 30 minutes of getting there but then you are given 6 hours of free time but there just isn't much to do so after taking photos of the falls from a few different angles you are left to view the other attractions but they are pretty lame.

Second Stage: Toronto to Los Angeles
Cleveland: just a place to sleep
Chicago: all the Grand Canadian people left and we had about 20 newbies join the tour. Chicago has a great park and a great lake. Not much else that is noteworthy. You may wish to reconsider the Willis (Sears) Tower observation deck as getting thru security is just as strict as going thru airport security then up the top it was packed with creaming kids. My tip is go up the Top of the Rock in NY and skip this. From this point on the nightlife options really dry up til Vegas.
Madison: I remember nothing
Sioux Falls: The falls are underwhelming after Niagara but you get to see Badlands which is like being on another planet. Very cool.
Mount Rushmore: Very cool. Good work America. The Crazy Horse memorial was another highlight.
Cody: Whitewater Rafting. Yee Haw!!! Good time.
West Yellowstone: Yellowstone Park was great, I haven't seen anything like it before. Great experience.
Salt Lake City: Just a place to sleep
Kanab: Basically 2 days of hiking. There is a small cinema in town. I saw Transformers 3 for $5.
Las Vegas: Awesome, just Awesome. Had a great time, wish we had stayed longer. I saw and did so many things in 2 days. We went to Rain nightclub one night then Pure the next, both were great.

Overall the tour was good but way too long. I have done Contiki before but the tours were around the 2 week mark. This is roughly 4 weeks and you cover a lot of distance so that means a lot of time on the bus which can drive you crazy. I saw a lot of amazing things in each stage of the tour but I probably would not recommend it due to the length and the fact that after Chicago there is NO nightlife until you hit Las Vegas and we all go crazy there.

As for the tour group, I met some awesome people and didn't have any major issues with anyone. That being said quite a few of the people who had done Contiki previously said this was the most cliquey group they had been in where people only hung out with a certain group for the majority of the tour and didn't really mingle. I observed this to be fairly true but it wasn't an issue for me as I just sat next to whoever. The tour manager was pretty good but seemed to be a bit over it all. Which is sort of understandable when seeing the same things again and again. She didn't do anything wrong just didn't try as hard to ensure everyone had fun like on other Contiki's I have been on.

Highlights: Quebec City, Yellowstone Park, Las Vegas, made good friends, experience things outside the usual tourist stuff
Lowlights: long long drive days, every rest stop is at a Walmart, no nightlife or much else in small town

  • 26 Nov 2012 Alanna said

    Alanna

    Hi, just wondering if many people joined at Chicago to LA? I was thinking about it as I would like about a week in Chicago to visit people, but I’m unsure if I want to join a already formed group.

  • 6 Apr 2013 Selina said

    Selina

    Hi,thank you for sharing these experience with us.I’m going to do this tour in October.Your post gives us a brief overview of this tour which is great to know before we depart. Thank you:)

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