I live in the United States: near Washington D.C., to be exact, which means I’ve had my fair share of experiences in America.
Virginia. Virginia is technically my home state, and we’ve explored it extensively. Starting off with the natural beauty of Shenandoah Valley National Park. We visited it years ago, when I was six years old. We began the drive before dawn, hoping to get a view of the sunset. Groggily, I got out of bed. I would sleep in the car for the first leg of the journey.
“Look at the stars,” I said. We were at Skyline Drive. Unlike in suburbia, the nature of Shenandoah hadn’t eclipsed the stars, which looked like thousands of little shiny white sprinkles in the sky. My dad opened the sunroof, and I gazed up.
“Eshaan, look here! A bear!” my mom said. There was a bear in front of us. A black bear to be exact. Shenandoah can be amazing like that. It was already morning by the time we arrived, but we had a great hike nonetheless.
Great Falls Park is also a great place for natural beauty. It is on both sides of the Potomac River (it’s also in Maryland). The best part of the Virginia side is the lookout. You can see a waterfall almost as great as Niagara Falls, with roaring rapids culminating in a ten-story drop. They don’t call it Great Falls for nothing.
I’ve also visited both Richmond and Jamestown on field trips (both in 4th grade). Richmond, the state capital, is an interesting place. We visited the church where Patrick Henry famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” We also visited the capitol building and took a bus tour. The best part of the trip, though, was the blanket fort we made on the bus. That was fun.
Jamestown was a little disappointing. Not because of the tour, but because it rained, which meant we couldn’t see the dig site. We got to see many artifacts, such as muskets, skulls, and gunpowder, among other things.
We’ve visited many other places in Virginia, such as Assateague Island, the bridge to the Delmarva peninsula, Virginia Beach, as well as the historic homes, Monticello and Mount Vernon.
Next is D.C. proper. Visiting Washington is always a great experience. We go on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, approaching the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. By this point, we would see the densely packed old D.C., where the Washington National Cathedral towers over the surprisingly small brick buildings (no building in D.C can be taller than the Washington Monument). By the time we’re on the bridge, the Washington Monument is in clear sight, a marble and granite pencil the size of a skyscraper. Then we turn towards the Jefferson Memorial, a rotunda now in view. From there, we usually get off at the National Mall, where a pantheon of memorials come into view.
The reflecting pool is a sight that will make you go wow. One side is the Washington Monument (though the World War Memorial is in front). The other is the Lincoln Memorial, with its gigantic statue of Lincoln. The Washington Monument is situated on a hill. Around it is a ring of American flags. Behind it is a lot of green space, where the Smithsonian Museums are located, each of them worth visiting.
I’ve visited three – the Museum of Native American History, the Air and Space Museum, and the more famous Natural History Museum, which contains the Hope diamond, as well as much more. The Air and Space Museum is also worth a visit, especially because it holds an older version of Air Force One, as well as an array of other fascinating aircraft. Really, Washington D.C. is easily worth a week just because of its museums. Around the National Mall is a plethora of government buildings, such as the National Archives, which houses the Declaration of Independence, and the White House. We have visited the White House, but only once, and I don’t remember it well. Its rooms resemble the rooms of an old mansion (it is essentially an old mansion). We also took a tour of the Pentagon, which I sadly don’t remember. If you ever visit, D.C. has much to offer.
One activity we enjoy doing in D.C is embassy hunting. There are 177 embassies in D.C., so if you walk around, you’re guaranteed to come across a few.
“Oh look! Turkey!” I might say. Then we continue walking.
If you are looking for good food in Washington D.C., enter Georgetown Cupcakes, which are some of the best cupcakes you’ll ever taste. I recommend chocolate.
That’s my hometown for you. The United States is such a big nation, and we’ve visited so much of that nation that it would be impossible to cover everything. I will try my best.
Maryland is an interesting state. It has two different panhandles, just like West Virginia, and its borders are plain wrong. We have visited the rural side of Maryland (Deep Creek, in the western panhandle, as well as Catoctin Mountain Park), and urban Baltimore. I highly recommend visiting the National Aquarium and downtown Baltimore.
We visited Pennsylvania a while ago. Not Pittsburgh, or the west, though we’ve driven through there, but Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and Gettysburg (there was a Confederate rally when we were there).
I don’t remember visiting New Jersey, but my parents and I visited on the way to New York City. Once, we even visited Princeton University.
New York City. The biggest city in America. My parents and I visited to attend hackathons, but once we went to Times Square, the Empire State Building, and the Brooklyn Bridge. We also ate pizza, which I hated. It was too cheesy. We’ve also visited upstate New York, I’m told. I don’t remember anything about upstate New York.
We’ve driven through West Virginia countless times, but we haven’t visited that much. In fact, I don’t even remember what we did. I remember driving through the Appalachians, which is interesting at first, because the huge mountains are a change of pace, but quickly becomes as boring and monotonous as the farmland behind and ahead of us.
We didn’t do much in South Carolina. That’s an understatement. We went to a BMW factory (the largest in the world), and then left. The only fact I remember about the factory is when our guide in Munich talked about how tariffs would make their operations in South Carolina harder.
We went to Georgia to visit my uncle in Atlanta. We saw the Coca-Cola Museum and downtown Atlanta. The biggest part of the trip was the ten hour commute from D.C to Atlanta. My grandparents, who live in Cincinnati, also visited, and arrived more quickly, which was a surprise to me at the time.
We have visited the aforementioned grandparents many times, and therefore have visited Ohio many times. It’s a seven hour drive, which can get tiring. We’ve visited Cincinnati downtown, but we’ve also gone to Dayton to see the Air and Space Museum.
We haven’t visited many of the interior states nor the Great Plains, but we have visited relatives in Texas, where we looked at the Texas Capitol in Austin, among other attractions.
California is the most populous state in America. Again, we visited friends in California. They lived in the Bay Area, so we also visited the Youtube, Google, and Facebook headquarters, among many others. We then visited the Golden Gate Bridge (which I don’t remember), drove the 17 mile drive, and went to San Diego, where we visited the San Diego Zoo, where the first Youtube video, Me at the Zoo, was created.
Florida is the last state I will talk about. In Florida, we went to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, where we had a great apartment (which even had a kitchen and great sunset views), and the Florida Keys (mainly Key West, where we saw mile zero, where there was a rainbow. We also went to many beaches).
We also went to Orlando. In fact, I’ve had the fortune to visit Orlando twice. The first trip was to three Disney parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom.
We began our trip the usual way: through a flight from IAD. It was the Labor Day weekend, so though there might be a crowd, the park wouldn’t be at peak stress. We got a rental car, and we hoped that we would be able to visit the Kennedy Space Center on the way to the hotel, but by the time we arrived, it was closed. Instead, we went to our hotel, which was near International Drive. Afterwards, we went to Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney is just as advertised. Unlike the Disney parks, Downtown Disney doesn’t have rides. It doesn’t have anything except shops, really. What impressed me was the shops. They were very fancy. For example, the T-Rex Cafe, which was built so that it looked like a cave with bones on top. What really disappointed me was the lack of any rides (unless you count shops as rides). They would come soon.
Magic Kingdom was the first theme park I’ve ever visited. It began with the famous Walt Disney World sign: “Where dreams come true.” Then we got to the parking lot. We didn’t even try the first sets of rows. In fact, we parked at “S”, which was nicknamed Simba. After that, we got on a small choo-choo train to get to the entrance. After that, we had to get on either a monorail or a boat to get to the actual park. We chose the monorail. Then, the grand entrance.
Wait, where are all the rides? The entrance area didn’t have any rides, just a photo booth. My second thought was wow. The beginning of the Magic Kingdom was a sort of cross between the intended effect: a magical city, and the unintended effect: a Wild West town. We first took photos at the worldwide famous Disney Castle, which was definitely more fairy-tale magical than the castles and palaces of old.
Then we began exploration. We began at Tomorrowland, a future inspired area. My first ever ride was Space Mountain. It was basically a super fast car ride. I felt a thrill that I’d rarely felt before, the wind in my hair. As quick as that, it was over. It was O.K. We still had the rest of the park left. Some of my favorite rides there were the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, one of the more exciting roller coaster rides. My sister enjoyed the Aladdin Magic Carpet Ride.
The next day, we visited Epcot, a park with a theme centered on the world. I was now extremely excited to get on the ride. Again, we visited for the day. One attraction we visited was Soarin’ Around the World. It was very unique. We were taken into a sort of movie theater, where we were given very special seats with very tight handles. I wondered why for about two seconds, because then we were brought into the sky. The big screen in front of us lit up, and as quick as that, we were gliding across the many wonders of the Earth, the seats tilting to make the experience all the more interactive. Afterwards, we went through the whole park. Some of the most crowded, but best attractions were the Test Track ride, which unfortunately had an hour’s wait, and Mission: Space.
The night show was the highlight of the day: fireworks bombarding the central lake, which illuminated the park temporarily. The next day, we visited Animal Kingdom. Our first destination there was Pandora: The World of Avatar. It had a horrendously long line, a wait of nearly an hour. For an attraction that was only a few minutes at most. Was it worth it? Nonetheless, we waited. We were mainly brought in by the mountains. There were huge mountains that replicated the world of Avatar, and for someone who watched the movies, it might bring them back to that wonderful world. I didn’t watch the movie, so I had no clue why it was decorated like that. The waiting was worth it, though, because we got to ride perhaps the best ride in all of the Disney parks. We were put into a seat, similar to Soarin’ Around the World. The difference was that this chair was tight, and that the screen was right in front of you. Might not sound like a big difference, but the mind can easily get distracted from a ride, no matter how mesmerizing it is. Pandora: The World of Avatar felt like Avatar. That was the difference. The rest of the park was great too, and there were many water rides, though I also enjoyed Expedition Everest, a more intense coaster ride.
We also visited Universal Studios the next year, and we visited both the Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. We rode The Incredible Hulk Coaster, which was my favorite roller coaster (I was too scared to go on one). Generally, Universal Studios has more extreme rides, and this meant both more fear and more fun. My favorite part of the Universal parks as a whole, though, has to be the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, just because I’m such a fan of the series. It was truly magical to visit Ollivanders, and go on the Hogwarts Express.
Finally, Seaworld. Seaworld was unique because of its shows, which feature real animals. My favorite was the dolphin show. It was absolutely amazing to see the tricks the dolphins would do, and the killer whales were close behind. But Seaworld has an underrated selection of rides, the best of which being Manta. You really did glide like a manta ray in the ride, because the ride was literally head first, and belly down. You could see the ground, and it was amazingly unique.
And that’s what I’ve done in America, yet I still haven’t explored most of the country. In fact, I’ve only scratched the surface of America. I’ve visited these states:
- West Virginia
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
- New York
- New Jersey
The more you explore, the more unexplored places you find.
- Split your visit to America into regions. I would recommend visiting the East Coast in two separate trips: one for the north and one for the south. Similarly, California needs a trip of itself, as do the National Parks of America and Alaska. The U.S. is a nation that could take a lifetime to explore.
- Visit to your interests: if theme parks are your paradise, then ask to visit Orlando. If you prefer a more rugged lifestyle, then maybe visit Yellowstone or Yosemite. America is a huge nation with infinite possibilities, so have the ideal trip.