Empire State? Been there. Grand Canyon? Done that. Yosemite Valley? Do they even do t-shirts? When it comes to exploring the USA, you'll need a bit more substance than the main tourist sights. And that's where this little lot come in. From alternative views of New York City to under-the-radar towns and cities to visit once you've taken your bucket list snaps, here are a few lesser-known spots that are worth the journey.

You've seen the Empire State Building, now try the Hudson river (on a jet ski)

New York City

We don’t care how that iconic picture at Top of the Rock made you feel, the proper way to get up close with NYC is to whack on a lifejacket and hit the Hudson river on a jet ski. Sure, you won’t see any yellow cabs or food trucks down there, but those low-angle views of Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty will give you a proper appreciation of just how big the Big Apple really is.

Need to know: Rockaway Jet Ski offers NYC Harbour tours from £254pp. rockawayjetski.com; Primera Air flies from Stansted to New York Newark from £249 return. primeraair.co.uk


Downstate from the Grand Canyon, you’ll find equally inspiring red rocks and a much more relaxed vibe in the high-desert town of Sedona. The region’s ethereal stillness is no secret to US holidaymakers, but it’s relatively under-the-radar to Europeans. Get out of town and you’ve got 1.8 million acres of national forest, four wilderness areas and two state parks to explore – plus the vineyards of the nearby Verde Valley. Basically, book an extra week off.

Need to know: For more information on, go to visitarizona.com; Finnair flies from Heathrow to Phoenix, Arizona from £700 return. finnair.com


Yosemite’s glorious big walls have every right to be on your must-see list, but once you’re done gawping at the sheer size of those slabs, take the 45-minute drive east through the High Sierra mountains to Mammoth Lakes. You’ll find mountain-view hot springs, an eerie million-year-old salt lake, a whopping great pillar of solidified lava called Devil’s Postpile and a waterfall that regularly generates rainbows. Yes, really.

Need to know: For more information on Mammoth Lakes, California, head to visitmammoth.com; Delta flies from Heathrow to Oakland, California from around £412 return. delta.com

You've been to Mount Rushmore, now visit Devil’s Tower, Badlands and Wind Cave

South Dakota and Wyoming

While the carved stone heads of Mount Rushmore are one of America’s most famous views, there’s plenty nearby to justify more than just a flying visit. Trade the faces of the founding fathers for the jaw-droppingly monolithic Devil’s Tower a two-hour drive away in neighbouring Wyoming – its cultural significance to Native American tribes goes back centuries. Then head back across to South Dakota’s Badlands National Park, which contains fossils from millions of years ago, as well as tons of wildlife, from bighorn sheep to the ox-like bison.

Need to know: For more information on South Dakota and Wyoming, visit realamerica.co.uk; Norwegian offers flights from London Gatwick to Denver, Colorado from £360 return. norwegian.com; United offers onward flights from Denver to Rapid City from £301 return. united.com


If you’re looking for certified sun without the buns and biceps of Miami Beach, the St Pete/Clearwater area – located about half an hour’s drive west of Tampa – is the perfect place to head. Expect a slower tempo, countless craft breweries, retro motels converted into cool new boutique hotels, and a coastline with everything from powdery sand to mangroves for kayaking. It’s also an antidote to a whirlwind couple of days at Disneyland in Orlando. Parents, thank us later.

Need to know: For more information on St Pete/Clearwater, head to visitstpeteclearwater.com; BA flies from Gatwick to Tampa, Florida from £514 return. ba.com