Grand Northern (Until Oct 2016)
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The dizzying city of New York is home to a whopping 8 million stories, and from the minute you meet up with your Contiki crew, you’ll have your own to add to the mix. Today we bid a fond farewell to the city and make for Boston, stopping by Providence on the way - the Rhode Island capital famous for its big ol’ brains and thriving student culture.
Achingly cool Boston is a delectable mix of history, hipsters and – thanks to the world-famous Red Sox - baseball. Spend the afternoon with your Trip Manager getting acquainted with the city’s core spots and distinct Irish flavour, then come night get friendly with the team over an included dinner and boogy round town.
Boston is steeped in history, so weave your way through the 18th century today on the Freedom Trail. This red-brick path winds past a plethora of sites integral to the revolution, and is guaranteed to inspire your inner rebel. Visit Harvard University (yes, the very same) and get a tour with one of the students. This hilarious look at student life will bring out the LOLs. Take well-deserved coffee breaks at groovy cafes, have a snooze in one of the nine parks that comprise the city’s “Emerald Necklace” and reward yourself with a mouthwatering seafood feast.
With the luck of the Irish, we pack our bags without leaving anything behind and make for Quebec via the wilds of Maine. Whizzing by jaw-dropping scenery and spotting the occasional moose or beaver out the window is sure to give you a second wind before we cross the border to Canada.
Quebec’s capital – Canada's Paris – is the only walled city in North America, and once you cop an eyeful of its beauty, you’ll see why they wanted to lock it away. We’ll pull in late today, and tonight you're welcome to take a traipse through town and sample the local watering holes.
With its cobbled streets and ancient stone houses, Quebec City’s UNESCO World-Heritage-listed old town is an open-air museum. After a history lesson with a Local Guide, get out and explore more of what the region has to offer: its vibrant art scene, Parisian-style eateries and quaint river boardwalk. If your tastebuds are feeling adventurous, try munching on duckling with maple syrup – a local delicacy. What else? You could check out the Chateau Frontenac - this red brick building built in 1893 is a landmark the city is definitely proud of. Champagne anyone?
Bid Quebec au revoir as we head towards the jazzy island city of Montreal. Pretty scenic views, yes yes yes, we're talking panoramic. Camera at the ready.
Together, we’ll take a spin around Montreal’s Old Port and quays before crawling up Mt Royal, which offers sensational views of the city that will leave your head reeling. Back on sea level, we’ll familiarise ourselves with a few signature sites. If you’re hungering for an adrenaline rush this afternoon, jump in a jet boat and get wet in the rapids of the St Lawrence River, or perhaps just take a wander around time trying out your best high school French.
Today is all yours - soak up as much of Montreal’s creative juices and infectious joie de vivre as you can take. Add some cutting-edge threads to your wardrobe at The Main, munch your way through various countries at Jean-Talon market and dance the night away at a jazz bar downtown or in the Latin Quarter. It would be rude not to grab a serving of poutine on the way home, wouldn’t it?
Still bopping along to the sax from the night before, we bid farewell Montreal.
These 1000 islands are as pretty as a picture and a great way to relax and take in the views before we hit the city. On our stop, you'll have chance to board a boat and float your way along the water for an hour of bliss. These islands are dotted with historic buildings and castles (who said castles were just for Europe, right?). Back on land we make our way further into Canadian territory, with Toronto in our sights.
Welcome to Toronto, the largest city in Canada. Your Trip Manager will fill you in on the hot spots of this fabulous city soon after we arrive, and will then give you the afternoon off to find your niche in its cosmopolitan melting pot.
Toronto caters to everyone’s taste – and we’re not just talking about food (though the cuisine is pretty phenomenal, as is the beer which we give you the chance to sample). Go bush on one of the city’s leafy islands via a local ferry, honour Canada’s national sport at the Hockey Hall of Fame or get lost in the kitsch chaos that is Chinatown. If you’d rather experience Toronto from above, ascend the CN Tower and brave its glass floors. When it gets dark, make your night in the city one to remember - or forget - and party it away.
We leave Toronto behind us and continue on back across the border into the US and Cleveland, home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
What was once a workingman's town has now had a complete musical make over and cultural re-awakening. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is it’s most popular attraction with memorabilia like Janis Joplin’s Porsche, Jimi Hendrix’s hand written lyrics and Ray Charles’ sunglasses. Even if you aren’t a music head this place will inspire you. Tonight we head out to see just what all the Cleveland fuss is about, if there's a game on you could head to the Baseball, or hit up the the town for a taste of the nightlife.
Get right up in Chicago’s grill today with plenty of free time to see whatever you want, and jeez have you got options. Head to Navy Pier for great city views, bike around town for a street level perspective, jump on an architectural cruise to further understand the city’s skyline, scoff down a Chicago style street vendor hot dog or even see the White Sox or the Cubs play in a huge stadium game. Feel like some LOL's? Head to the Second City Comedy club, where some of America's most famous comedians started out their side splitting careers. What. A. Day.
After a day of food, sports, museums and shopping in Chicago, we continue on into the USA’s heartland and across the sprawling plains of Wisconsin.
Next stop: Milwaukee. It’s home to the nation’s largest beer brewers and also Harley Davidson. Learn about the city’s famous brew in a behind the scenes look at the Miller Brewery. What more could you want than an ice cold amber ale while listening to the sweet purr of motorbikes?
Later on we pull into the town of Madison, know for it’s friendly college vibes. If you’re up for a night out, grab a few buddies and hang out as the students do on the popular State Street, where the taverns, local specialty breweries, comedy clubs and bars will have you spoilt for choice.
Cross the Midwest and see the pretty as a picture Minnesota farmlands before hitting the wild yet wonderful state of South Dakota.
We travel across the county’s biggest prairies and enter a region once dominated by the Sioux Tribes – the only Native American Nation to defeat the US army. You’ll learn the background of the city’s name (and maybe even learn how to pronounce it properly) and also visit the SPAM Museum, yes travellers you read that right. Think weird, wacky and most definitely spammy.
After learning about Sioux Falls (Sioux is the name of a native American tribe we'll have you know) and seeing the beautiful landscapes, it is time to move on to Mt. Rushmore, but not without a stop off at Badlands National Park on the way.
An interesting name, and an even more interesting place. You will notice the amazing natural sites of South Dakota go by as we journey through Badlands National Park, past a surreal, lunar landscape of rugged-edged cliffs, sharp spires and crevices. We'll stop off here for a leisurely walk along the Fossil Trail.
It is here we stay for the night, where the excitement really builds in the group, because tomorrow we see the incredible carvings of four past Presidents faces etched into the mountainside. With one week left to go on the trip, it's time to really start making every single moment count with the crew who by now will be feeling like family.
It’s a crazy concept but yes, there are 18m (60ft) faces of Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington and Roosevelt carved into the side of a stony mountain. It is quite surreal to see it in such natural surrounds, especially knowing that it took 14 long years to create this work of art. You’ll be blown away by the massive 563 feet tall monument of the famous Sioux warrior, Crazy Horse, currently a work in progress being gradually carved from stone. What else is in store today? Custer State Park, where you can get some good old MN (mumma nature) time, or get on 4 wheels for a jeep safari through the park.
Today we continue west as we steer toward the cowboy town of Cody & the heart of the American West.
The real yeehaa times are about to happen when we settle into Cody’s saddle. It’s all pick-up trucks, dusty streets and lots of cattle in the ‘rodeo capital of the world’. Use your free time here to learn the ways of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or even catch a true show of professional cowboying at a raucous nighttime rodeo.
Nature works in very mysterious ways sometimes. Yellowstone National Park is the incredible result of a massive volcanic eruption, and what a sight it is. The scenery is like something out of a film, and if you are lucky (and super quiet) you might even get to experience the wildlife too - this area known for grizzly bears, buffalos and wolves. We'll stop to visit the glorious Old Faithful geyser, the most famous in the world, and with erruptions on the regular it's a must to have the camera at the ready.
It’s back on the coach this morning with wide eyes as we travel through the stunning mountain ranges of Idaho and onto Park City, but not before thrillseekers could take to the Snake River for some rafting to really awaken the body and mind.
Home to the Sundance Film Festival and a helluva lot of snow, Park City definitely has something for everyone, adrenalin junkie or not. Even if you aren’t familiar with wooshing down a ski slope, you’ll be glad to know this is also a summer playground. Tonight, rub shoulders with the locals on a night out with the group.
Back on the coach for yet more incredible nature. Starting to feel in awe of the planet yet?
You’ll get active and join in on a hike with the group through the richly coloured rock formations of the Canyon, culminating at 2400m and some seriously epic views. Bryce Canyon is legitimately one of the most beautiful places in the world, where you’ll find yourself speechless as you make your way through the bizarrely shaped spires and canyons called ‘hoodoos’. Nature satisfaction levels on high, we make tracks to our next destination.
Kanab is our home for the night, where we'll pull up and get cosy. A big day ahead tomorrow, with a new perspective on the incredible Grand Canyon, this time from the North Rim.
Escape to the mind-blowing Grand Canyon once more as we see this wonder from a different angle, the North Rim, a little more off the beaten track from what we saw a few weeks back. Hike along the rim of the canyon at your own pace to really get a feel for the size and drama of it all. There are trails for all levels of ability so no matter your fitness level you will definitely be able to have the full experience. Drink it all in, these are the travel moments you'll be re-telling for years to come.
Say goodbye Kanab and hello to the finale of the breathtaking outdoors of America for your last wilderness experience of the trip - Zion National Park.
Scene change! We cut back into Utah where we visit Zion National Park, with waterfalls, colourful cliffs and lush green as far as the eye can see. Famous landmarks including the Watchman and the West Temple will be on the agenda for this stop. What's on offer? Perhaps a hike through the 'narrows', also known as small canyons, or maybe get your toes wet with a visit to the lush emerald pools - the name says it all.
That’s right. We are back in Sin City for one more round of debauchery. If you feel like you only scaped the surface before, here’s your chance to finish what you started. This gigantic man made oasis in the desert is larger than life in oh so many ways.