My close to 15,000 kilometres (over 9,000 miles) journey through the United States and Canada via car, bus and train has come to an end. What an experience! I was completely blown away by the diversity and beauty of the continent and there are countless places I still need to see or return to.
I cannot thank enough all of the amazing people who drove me, housed me, fed me, or just kept me company on this adventure. Looking back in retrospect I don’t think I had a single bad experience on my travels. I hit most of the major landmarks from New York to San Francisco and many more, though five places in particular stood out to me, as hidden gems and my top five favourite spots in North America.
Admittedly I only spent a little over a week in Canada so I only have limited experiences from which to draw upon but Toronto really impressed me. It felt like a smaller, cheaper, more accessible New York very modern and plenty of hipsters.
I spent most of my time in the Kensington market area trying out all the coffee shops and breweries, admiring the street murals and odd people. The Canadian reputation for friendless is exemplified perfectly in Toronto, I met some of the kindest most generous people of my whole trip.
Walking the streets is a breeze, and the city has a real charm, it is definitely one of the most liveable cities I have encountered on my trip. With all the benefits and diversity of a major city you really have everything you need.
Toronto is also extremely close to the Canadian side (the best side) of Niagara Falls and definitely doable in a day. Whether you are looking to relax, to party, or just enjoy good food and drink Toronto has got you covered.
Ok before you call me crazy and skip this one, hear me out. It is undeniable that Detroit can be dangerous with the highest violent crime rate in the country; you definitely need to be weary.
But seriously don’t let that stop you. With even an ounce of common sense you’ll make it out alive and you’ll be thankful you experienced it. I have written before about my love affair with Detroit and it’s because it really does have a lot to offer.
Strolling down the eerily quiet streets of downtown, surrounded by magnificent but abandoned skyscrapers and road so worn the asphalt has disappeared, is a surreal experience. The burnt out houses in the outer suburbs or the devastating symbol of abandon that is the former shell of Michigan Central Station have a strange beauty. A city once dubbed the next New York now in ruins, there really is nowhere else in America you can experience this.
There is more to Detroit than just post-apocalyptic scenery. Entrepreneurs, artists and hipsters have moved into the city, taking advantage of the dirt cheap property. From the best coffee I had in America, to the community art project that is Heidelberg Street, there are a lot of weird and interesting things to see.
Staying a few nights in Detroit might not be for everyone, it’s a strange place but the people, despite their reputation, are friendly and the beer is cheap. Even if you only pass through Detroit it’s worth a look. It’s inspiring to see the people who survive and persevere in the chaos and humbling to see the devastating effects of financial collapse.
Texas isn’t the first place you think of when you think art, music and extreme liberalism, but Austin is the shinning beacon of just that, nestled cosily in the heart of the South.
Outside of America I hardly ever heard of Austin, but whilst traveling it seems to be the country’s worst kept secret. Almost everyone I talked to assured me I would love Austin, and they were right, what a city!
There is a saying in Austin, keep Austin Weird, and everyone who inhabits the city seems to embody this mantra. Strange murals, oddly dressed people, Christian rap, deep fried hot dogs, everything is either shocking, weird or both and it’s beautiful.
There are countless bars full of live music and local beers, food trucks selling every kind of food you can think of and some of the country’s best barbecue. Be prepared to put on a few kilos in Austin.
From Thursday to Saturday night 6th street, the main street lined with bars and eateries Is closed off to cars. The town comes alive as people walk the streets from bar to bar, unhindered by traffic or vice versa.
The city is also home to over 50,000 college students attending the University of Texas so there is someone willing to party. To top it off, it seems every other weekend there is a festival on in town. From the big ones like South by Southwest to small beer festivals at local breweries there is always something to celebrate. Good food, good beer (and margaritas) and never a shortage of things to do or see in wacky, weird and wonderful Austin.
2. New Orleans
So maybe you have thought of going here already, but I just couldn’t not talk about New Orleans. The city of sin, the city of anything goes, one of the greatest party cities I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
Sometimes referred to as the most northern Caribbean city, New Orleans is nothing like the rest of America. People from all over the country and even the world flock to the city, for the culture, the food, the music, the parades and the wildest partying in the North.
Walking through the streets of the French Quarter is magical, creole cooking fills your nostrils, music fills your ears and the stunning architecture dazzles your eyes. At night the city really comes alive, live music, drinking on the streets, New Orleans seems to be nocturnal as people emerge from their houses awoken by the sounds of the night.
During the day you can escape the heat by heading to a pool club where of course they sell drinks, or maybe visit the beautiful parks, or better still simply walk along the magnificent Mississippi River. The culture and devotion to indulgence is unrivaled in North America.
New Orleans is a town you need to see, but be warned the city has a reputation for taking hold of you and never letting go.
Maybe I’m biased, for me personally Boulder holds such a special place in my heart. From the experiences I had there, to the people I met, and the girl who got me to hope and dream Again. Boulder was my favourite spot on my journey in the North.
Burrowed in the foothills of the Rocky Mountain range with near 300 days of sunlight a year boulder is an oasis in the center of America. Boasting breath taking scenery, adventure sports and contrasting seasons that exemplify the beauty of both summer and winter, it’s hard to think of anything wrong with boulder.
The community that inhabits the town is a mixture of college students, health and fitness fanatics, hippies and young entrepreneurs. It’s a town obsessed with mental, spiritual and physical well-being. Add legalised recreational marijuana and you have a city with almost no crime rate oozing with life.
I mentioned in an earlier post that the two days I planned to stay turned into two and a half weeks. That’s because I had to find time for hiking, swimming in the Colorado River, climbing, and trying the endless supply of good coffee and craft beer. Time constraints were the only thing that eventually peeled me away from Boulder.
Boulder is a town I will never forget and I can’t wait to get back to the mountains, breathe in the high altitude, connect with beautiful people, and relax with a beer after a day of adventure.
North America in general was spectacular, any stereo types of ignorance and arrogance were shattered. The landscapes are beautiful, the people are beautiful and there are experiences to be had that cannot be had anywhere else.
Been to North America? Let me know in the comments below your favourite spots.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot
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