This is the second part of my trip to the US. here's a link to the first part of the trip https://www.tripoto.com/trip/the-american-trip-the-quiet-the-crowded-and-the-touristy-part-1-5b583fbd287cd
So strap in for this part will be taking you to Niagara falls, Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago and Milwaukee. As I mentioned in my previous part that you might find this travel account too personal, but you'll definitely find some tips on places to visit, food recommendations and expenses. Be sure to finish it.
*Mode of transport- AC bus (take4tours)
*Places visited- secret caverns, Niagara falls
*Food- Rodney burgers, food court opp Niagara falls
*Stay- Radisson, Niagara
For the next three days we had booked a tour from take4tours.com. I must say that these guys arrange their tours pretty well and with punctuality. And they know just what the tourists want to see and what to do. See here we were at their mercy, a group of 45 tourists, navigating the tour in English and Chinese, one loo break every 2 hours, and a bus ride of detailed instructions, with prompt repetitions. Not that it was a bad thing. Hahaha.
After one loo break and one food break where we had fried chicken and burgers at a joint called Rodney burgers, we reached the first attraction of the day- Secret caverns, Cobleskill.
Secret caverns are basically an accidentally discovered underground cave system with an enclosed water fall at the end of the caves. The attraction site is full of funny instructions and spray paint wall art. It was a fun place to visit. Takes about an hour at the most to complete.
Next up and last stop for the day was Niagara falls where we reached around 6pm in the evening. So the first time you see the waterfalls you are mesmerized- Seeing the sheer size of those three waterfalls and the hurtling waters, sending out a steady shower of vapours in the air. It is a must visit. On any US Trip. And you know why.
One more thing you should not miss at all is the night lights on the Niagara falls. The vivid play of colours on the waterfall in the dark adds another notch of beauty to the already scenic Niagara.
After a quick dinner at the mall right in front of the parking lot we turned in to Hotel Radisson, Niagara and concluded our first day.
*Tour booking- 264 USD for 3 people, offer of buy 2 get one free, coming down to 88 USD per head
*Attraction fees- 110 USD per head
*Tips- 100 USD for 3 people/3 days coming down to 33 USD per head
#take4tours , #secretcaverns , #niagara , #niagarafalls , #radisson , #rodneyburgers , #semiguidedtour
*Mode of transport- AC bus (take4tours)
*Places visited- Niagara falls, Maid of mist, Fort Niagara, Corning museum of glass
*Food- food court opp Niagara falls, Chipotle Mexican grill
*Stay- Days inn, Carlisle
So the first thing to do in the morning was to head back to Niagara falls and do a so called in-depth Niagara falls tour. The bus took us on a ride following the picturesque Niagara river all the way till it was possible before you reached the border of Canada. Nothing of importance in this one I must say.
Then came the Niagara fort, built by the French as a trading Post and fortification in the past. It's a good place to visit and definitely a good place to get some amazing pictures- the light house at the entrance and the two storey mansion inside with paraphernalia from the bygone era.
Next up was the most fun part of the tour. The maid of mist boat ride! We were very thankful that it was open that day, because it's all a subject of weather conditions and it may be closed and then you would miss the adventure of your lifetime. Donning blue ponchos we boarded the already crowded boat and prepared for our ride. The boat slowly takes you past all the three waterfalls that make up the Niagara falls. You can literally feel the wind and the water in your face as the boat inches closer and closer to the largest fall, like an eye of the storm. And after you are enough drenched it takes u-turn and takes you back. This was totally amazing.
That was all about Niagara falls. There is also a jet boat ride available but if the maid of mist is working, don't head for the jet boat at all. Plus it's more expensive than maid of mist and not that much worth it.
After a quick lunch at the food court again- consisting of Philly cheese steak, hot dogs and fries it was time to move on to the next stop.
Corning museum of glass (yes that's the same Corning in your mobile screen glass) located in Corning, NY is a nice place to visit and definitely put it in your itinerary. It is replete with a famous glass art works, all about the history of glass and glass making, it's myraid usages in daily life and the cherry of cake is the glass blowing live show. Here you get to see the whole process of glass blowing and one lucky person in the show gets the glass work for free! Be there to appreciate the creativity in fragility.
Dinner was on the way, Chipotle Mexican grill, another chain in US where you can customise your tacos and enchiladas to your will and enjoy them with unlimited soft drink refills.
The night stay was at Days inn, Carlisle. Now there isn't much to say about the hotel since it was under renovation but the rooms and all were decent enough.
#maidofmist , #fortniagara , #corningmuseumofglass , #chipotlemexicangrill , #phillycheesesteak , #hotdog , #rideofalifetime
*Mode of transport- AC bus (take4tours)
*Places visited- Lincoln memorial, Washington monument, Korean war memorial, Vietnam war memorial, Potomac river cruise, White house, Smithsonian air and space museum, Capitol, Independence hall Philadelphia, Liberty Bell
*Food- Famous Dave's, Subway, Dunkin donuts
*Stay- Holiday inn, New Jersey
Today was the day to visit the capital of US- Washington DC. So our day started early at 5am as the drive to Washington was a long one. We reached around 9 am and started with the Lincoln memorial.
Lincoln memorial is a must visit when in the capital. The memorial itself houses the towering statue of Abraham Lincoln and you can find the two of his famous speeches engraved on its walls. If you look at it from outside the top of the memorial displays the names of the individual states that constitute America. The peace and quiet around is alluring and also the view of the Washington monument in the distance, reflecting over the pool. We also enjoyed an orchestra practice session playing the pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack right outside the memorial.
White House was shown to us from outside. Duh. You can't get anywhere close to the headquarters of the most powerful man in the world. So we clicked the usual photos and moved on.
So all the major buildings in Washington are in a straight line, like the Lincoln memorial and Washington monument and the Capitol building. Connected by a multiple small parks in between.
Smithsonian air and space museum is a pretty cool place but I think the kids will like it more coz all we saw there was a loads and loads of high school kids. But it was worth a visit to see all the huge planes hanging in the sky and walk down through aviation history.
Potomac river cruise started cool but then it was just going around the river and showing you the buildings around Washington like the airforce one hangar, National war college, Titanic memorial and some other random stuff. Not worth the time and money is what I felt.
After the river cruise we went into the next stop which was Philadelphia and stopped along the way to eat at Maryland. Lunch was at famous Dave's and their nonveg starter platter was too good and too huge, that I had to parcel it and have it for dinner. Their variety of steak, fried chicken, chicken wings, fried fish and onion rings all tasted awesome with a side of Budweiser beer!
Last stop for the day was in Philadelphia where we were shown the Liberty Bell and Independence hall. This was where the declaration of independence and constitution were debated and adopted. It was for a very short time and we left just after clicking pictures.
The bus dropped us back in New Jersey and we headed to our hotel Holiday inn for the day. Holiday inn, Secaucus is a very comfy stay and what's more cool is you have a lot of food joints right below the hotel and there's a theatre too if you want to catch a movie. Dinner was just what I couldn't finish in the morning.
#washingtonDC , #lincolnmemorial , #washingtonmonument , #capitol , #smithsonianairandspacemuseum , #potomacrivercruise , #independencehall , #libertybell , #famousdaves , #holidayinn
*Mode of transport- flight, rental car, Uber
*Places visited- Chicago Field Museum, sky deck/Willis tower
*Food- Mughal India, McDonald's
So we caught the early morning flight back to Chicago, by united airlines again (and impressed again by the service). It was a fun one and half hours for me chatting with an elderly French couple who were visiting their daughter. You can never predict who you will meet on your trip and how you might hit it off. But a mutual love for travel and books was enough for me!
My brother picked us up at Chicago airport and we headed straight for lunch after parking at a pre-booked garage (That's a must when you are visiting downtown Chicago where all the touristy spots are). So lunch was at a place called Mughal India- definitely not the kind of Indian we are accustomed to, strictly ok, nothing great.
We had planned our itinerary beforehand and decided on 2 days to explore chicago. We had booked Chicago explorer pass- 5 choices which costs about 120 USD. It has a list of about 30 attractions all over Chicago where you can use this pass, depending on what you want to visit. We had finalised on visiting field museum, skydeck, Adler planetarium, Chicago architecture cruise and big bus tour! But there's hell of a lot more to see. Or you can opt for Chicago a city pass which has 5 set attractions on their pass and will cost you 15 USD cheaper. Check the link below to more about Chicago explorer pass
First up was the visit to the field museum. Now museums like these were very exciting to me as a kid but the only reason I visited this place was... Wait for it... Dinosaur fossils. I have always been excited about these prehistoric creatures since I was a kid and to get to see their fossils up close clinched the deal. Of course there's a lot more to see at the museum (for both adults and kids) and trust me it's all too good but you need a lot of time for that and we were on a time restraint.
After the museum we took an Uber back to Skydeck located at Willis tower. Skydeck is the observatory located on the 103 floor of the Willis tower (formerly known as Sears tower). The ledge consists of 4 clear glass balconies jutting out of the walls which give views of the city and as far as 4 different states. There's a superfast elevator which climbs 103 floors in a minute. It's a must visit when in Chicago but be prepared for long lines mostly throughtout the day except early mornings. We had to wait in line for almost 2 hours in the evening, before we reached the balcony where we could click pictures. But the views it offers made it all worth the pain.
So that was more or less it for our day today and we headed back to my cousin's place who stays in Brookfield to turn in for the night.
*Flights- New York to Chicago- 180 USD return flight subject to baggage policies
*Chicago explorer pass- 119 USD per head
*Parking- 20 USD per day reservation near Skydeck Chicago
#unitedairlines , #skydeck , #willistower , #searstower , #thefieldmuseum , #chicago , #downtownchicago , #mughalindia , #chicagoexplorerpass , #chicagocitypass
*mode of transport- rental car, Uber, bigbus
*Places visited- Architecture river cruise Chicago, Millenium park, Cloud gate, Navy pier, Adler planetarium, Buckingham fountain
*Food- Navy pier food court, Giordano's pizza
The first order of business for the day was to rush to Navy Pier for the architecture cruise. We parked the car same as the previous day and took an Uber to Navy Pier. We were lucky enough to reach just in time for the cruise to start.
Shoreline architecture river cruise of Chicago is the best thing you can do in Chicago and you should never ever miss it. Chicago is a city built of the Chicago river which is basically a system of rivers and canals throughout the city and connected to lake Michigan. So the tour takes you through these canals and sails you through the history of the high rises that dot the river sides and make up the heart of Chicago. It was a pretty informative ride, plentiful with the past history of Chicago river and city, the architects behind the scenes of the tall buildings and the hidden facts about their works. The ride is almost 2 and half hours long but you never got once get bored as you are already busy marvelling the cityscapes.
So after the cruise we roamed around Navy Pier for a while clicking pictures and had our lunch at the food court. Charred pepperoni pizza and lemon honey chicken! There are some spots at Navy Pier like the Ferris wheel and tall ship windy and a theatre which you can visit if you have time on your hands.
From here we headed to Adler planetarium but found that it was closed by the time we reached. It closes pretty early 4pm to be precise. And seeing as the sun sets after 9pm in Chicago you are bound to lose track of time. But must visit for this place as it offers the best view of Chicago Skyline. After a photo session here we hopped onto the big bus and headed to the last stop for today- cloud gate and millennium park.
Big bus tours run every half an hour or so and on selected routes and are a great way to go around the city and also if you don't get off they still take you around all the touristy spots with live commentary in the background. Hop on hop off couldn't have been easier.
Now obviously Cloud gate is a landmark sculpture in Chicago made by artist Anish Kapoor. So it's bound to be crowded. Very crowded. So make sure you head up there early morning if you don't like crowds. Also in the same spot is millennium park and gardens where concerts and stuff are usually conducted. Also a 5 minute walk from here is the Buckingham fountain right in the middle of Grant park built after the Latona fountain in Versailles. It's one of the biggest fountains and one the artistic landmarks. Don't miss these places in your chicago itinerary. And they don't take up much time either.
It was almost evening time so we headed to Giordano's to try the famous Chicago deep dish pizza. Even for take away you gotta wait for atleast half an hour for the pizza. Is that crowded. We opted for the Chicago classic deep dish pizza. And what came was a mouthwatering 2cm thick, 3 layered cheese pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and topped with the most plentiful serving of house pizza sauce. Two slices of it and trust me it are done for the meal. Its that heavy on the stomach. But just the same titillating on the taste buds.
#architecturerivercruise , #chicagoarchitecturerivercruise , #shorelinesmiles , #navypier , #cloudgate , #cloudgatechicago , #milleniumpark , #buckinghamfountain , #grantpark , #adlerplanetarium , #bigbuschicago , #bigbushoponhopoff , #giordanospizza , #chicagoclassicdeepdish , #windycity
*mode of transport- rental car (enterprise)
*Places visited- Miller brewery tour, Harley Davidson museum
*Food- Ihop, Papa John's pizza
This day we decided to explore the place nearest to my cousin's place at Brookfield. Hola Milwaukee.
First thing to do is get on a Miller brewery tour. Why? You ask me.. first-it's absolutely free, second-you get to tour the whole facility seeing the making of your favourite drink in action, third- you get tu taste three different beers at the end of it. That's equivalent to free beers! But funny things aside it actually feels awesome to be inside the gargantuan facility and see the whole process and simply be amazed at the quantities of beers is churns out in a day. The tour starts with a short introductory film showcasing the history of Frederick Miller and his beer as it went from Miller to Miller-Coors, all narrated by the lady on the moon. Then comes the actual walking tour where they take you through the various sections of the factory and explain the process of making beer and its storage facilities. Last comes the visit to the historic Miller caves as the climax of the tour followed by the beer tasting in their restaurant. Miller lite, Summer shandy and pale ale were the free samples of the day! All in all takes an hour to complete.
Apart from this tour there are other breweries in Milwaukee where you can do similar tours but alas they are all paid ones. Notable ones are the lakefront brewery, Milwaukee brewing co, City lights brewing co etc. But trust me there are lot more. After all Milwaukee is the city beer built!
Next stop was the Harley Davidson museum, the Mecca for bikers! Opt for the general admission for 20 USD, or go for an audio tour costing an extra 4 USD above the general admission, or if you are an active H.O.G (Harley owners group) member then you are in for free! The museum takes about an hour to one and half hours to cover. Immerse yourself into the world of Harley davidson and see it's evolution through the ages as just another bicycle, to 'THE BIKE'. there's plenty of bike candy for your eyes including one completed dissected bike and a vast display of bike tanks. Also spend the last bit of your time clicking photos on the ten or so odd bikes displayed for this sole purpose.
That concluded our visiting part of US. Following this we treated ourselves to a hefty lunch at ihop- home of the pancakes and omlettes. Peach pancakes, new york cheesecake pancakes, steak omlette and unlimited iced tea refills was too much in itself for me to take on. But I did finish it. Must visit chain in US for a hearty meal.
We returned back and on a closing note visited Walmart to shop for all the chocolates we had to take back and some really yummy spreads and other random stuff. Of course Walmart is where you'll find the cheapest stuff. And super centers are open 24 hours. Bonus!
Dinner was takeout from Papa John's pizza and I still had to finish the previous day's deep dish pizza. Topped with a healthy dosage of red wine!
*Miller brewery tour- free
*Harley Davidson museum- 20 USD per head
#milwaukee , #millerbeer , #millercoors , #millerbrewery , #millerbrewerytour , #lakefrontbrewery , #harleydavidson , #harleydavidsonmusuem , #ihop , #walmart
The end of the tour!
Packed the bags, bid our good byes, and headed for the airport for the evening flight back!
Chicago- Munich, United airlines
Munich- Mumbai, Lufthansa airlines
Picked up your liquor stuff at duty free! It's cheaper on the US side than on the Indian side!
Until next time! UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The long and the short of it......
1. Plan your trip well in advance and make the necessary bookings in advance too if possible.
2. Visa process takes time for the appointments and due checking, so don't rush into it in a hurry. Be patient. Once you get the visa you get it for 10 years. So that's a win.
3. Booking flight tickets atleast 3 months prior is beneficial cost wise. Try choosing flights through Germany or Paris as they don't require transit visa (UK and Canada requires the same).
4. Once in the US always consider car rentals or flights if you plan to visit places which are away from the major cities. The public transport connecting the distant places may not be great. USA is a vast country but given the excellent condition of the roadways driving around isn't hectic at all.
5. Make a choice between the calm and the crowded. Some lesser known places provide for great visits with relaxation. So research on these prior to going along with best time to visit as some places might be closed in certain seasons.
6. Visiting the east coast and the northern parts is good in the beginning of summer when the temperature have started rising but not too much and the days are pretty longer with sunlight till almost 8.30pm. More time to go around sightseeing.
7. Most of the places in suburbs and towns close by 9. So keep a check. Plus the alcohol vending times vary from state to state.
9. When travelling in major cities use some app like citymapper. Helps with the buses and the subways. Uber and Lyft are the other cab apps you can use.
10. On an average a meal per person will cost you 10-15 USD at most fast food joints. Drop in another 10 USD if you want to chug down two beers with it. At bigger restaurants you might end up spending an average of 35-45 USD per person for a similar meal and booze.
So try sticking to restaurant chains for a cheap and stomach full meal.
11. Even if you are short of time you can still visit a lot of places. Be sure to enjoy what you visit.
12. Don't shy away from booking a group tour to visit places. They do give you limited time to explore places but at the end of the day they know what the tourists want to see and it's definitely much more cheaper than if you plan to go on your own. Plus you can avail offers on their packages if more than 2 people are travelling together.
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