TOUR: Southern Sun (Los Angeles to New York City)
DURATION: 21 days
DESTINATIONS: 16 in USA
START: Los Angeles, USA
END: New York City, USA
STYLE: Nature, Adventure, Cultural
AGE: 18 – 38
RUNS: March – October
If you’re interested, I would recommend booking through TourRadar – it’s got the best price guarantee – www.tourradar.com
My blogs from the Southern Sun tour:
- Los Angeles & Las Vegas
- Zion National Park, Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Monument Valley
- Santa Fe & Roswell & Carlsbad Caverns & San Antonio & Austin & Lafayette & New Orleans & Birmingham & Nashville & Washington DC & Philadelphia & New York
Itinerary: (The itinerary varies slightly sometimes, depending on conditions during the trip)
Day 1-2: Los Angeles & Las Vegas: You only spend a quick hour or two on Hollywood Boulevard before leaving for Vegas, so if you want a good look at LA, arrive a few days earlier and choose a central location to stay. The first two nights in Vegas are great – and you have the option of starting the night off as a group, and afterwards you are left to your own devices.
Day 3: Zion National Park: The red mountains contrasted with the blue sky is one of the most beautiful things you will see in your life.
Day 4: Lake Powell: Incredible man-made lake in the middle of the desert.
Day 5-6: Horseshoe Bend & Grand Canyon National Park: Wake up at 4AM to hike into the Canyon – it is so worth it and the view is indescribable.
Day 7: Monument Valley: Experience the Native American culture – another must-do.
Day 8: Santa Fe: A stop along the way, with some really cool artwork and a Latin American/Spanish vibe in the city and architecture.
Day 9: Roswell & Carlsbad Caverns & San Antonio: Check out the UFO museum, the caverns, and the riverwalk in San Antonio.
Day 10-11: Austin: The city with the largest young adult population (20s-30s) in Texas – great live music and bar scene.
Day 12: East Texas & Louisiana: No major sights here, just a stop on the way really.
Day 13-14: New Orleans: The Vegas of the South – partying and jazz and haunted walking tours.
Day 15: Memphis: My tour stopped in Birmingham, Alabama instead of Memphis.
Day 16: Nashville: Cowboy country – go line-dancing and try on some cowboy boots
Day 17: Ocoee, Tennessee: Another stop on the way, our group voted to go see the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg.
Day 18: Appalachian Mountains: This is a long travel day, so don’t expect to go hiking.
Day 19-20: Washington D.C.: Check out all the monuments and museums – I would recommend the Natural History Museum, and the Holocaust Museum (but there are so many it’s ridiculous)
Day 21: Philadelphia & New York Area: A quick stop at the Rocky steps, get a Philly cheesesteak for lunch, and head into the New York Area – be warned, this tour doesn’t end in New York City but just outside it. I would book a hotel inside Manhattan or Brooklyn instead of the one recommended by TrekAmerica, and make sure you spend a couple days after your tour here – most of the other travelers will do the same, so you don’t have to worry about being alone.
Transportation: Travel is done entirely in a private van that fits up to 14 other passengers, not including the guide (which can get a bit squishy at times if you’ve got a full van). The guide acts as both guide and driver throughout the trip. They make sure it’s a good atmosphere in the van though, with games, things to do, and music playing throughout the trips.
Accomodation: Be prepared to rough it out – you’ll be camping in tents the majority of the time, with the exception of the nights in Las Vegas and New Orleans. You’ll have to put up your own tents every night, and take them down in the mornings, as well as help set up and pack up.
The hotels that you stay in are located conveniently, in walking distance or with easily accessible public transport nearby. For the most part, the equipment is in good condition – with the exception of some old tents that might have broken zippers, and all the camping is done in camp grounds with showers, electrical outlets, and toilets – so the camping is kind of glamorous.
Meals: No meals are included. There is a food kitty of $10 per day that goes towards buying groceries for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. You’ll be expected to cook dinner every couple of days depending on the roster, and everybody helps out to prepare breakfast and lunches. If there is any money left over at the end of the trip is equally divided and returned to you (which is usually given as a tip to the guide). A lot of days you will be paying for your meals, e.g. when the group splits up to explore the city, or to taste a particular cuisine famous in that area.
Value for money: This was definitely one of the cheapest tour options in America – you save on accommodation with camping, and eating from the food kitty most nights, and you get to see a lot of the US.
Like most other tours, you pay for the basics, and extra for whatever activities you want to do. If there’s something along the way you’d like to do, you can suggest it to your guide. If there are enough participants and it is on the way and easy to fit into the itinerary, they will happily add it in.
I’ve marked (*) the optional activities I recommend doing. Your guide will also have some other suggestions to add for the trip (we added a baseball game in Washington D.C., and went tubing down the Guadalupe River in Texas).
- Whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River US$36-$119
- New Orleans jazz clubs US$10-$20*
- Mississippi steamboat ride US$60-$70
- Smithsonian National Museums US$FREE*
- Grand Canyon helicopter flight US$254-$284
- Tour of Elvis’ Graceland in Memphis US$33-$70
- Navajo guided 4×4 tour of Monument Valley US$45-$55*
- Grand Canyon IMAX theater US$15
- Las Vegas clubs & casino shows US$10+*
- Las Vegas helicopter flight: US$115
- Grand Ole Opry, Nashville US$19-$90
- Sun Studios in Memphis US$12
- Mardi Gras World in New Orleans US$20
- New Orleans Voodoo & Graveyard tour US$20*
- New Orleans School of Cooking US$25
- Civil Rights Museum in Memphis US$10*
- Las Vegas rollercoasters US$4-$30
- Country Line Dancing in Nashville US$10*
- Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville US$24-$35
- Alligator swamp tour, New Orleans US$23-$49
- Las Vegas Gun Range from US$50
- Las Vegas VIP Club Tour (includes 4 clubs & limo) US$100
- Get married in Las Vegas (not legally binding) US$221