The USA’s West is fantastic for experiencing the urban buzz. Rub shoulders with the stars in Los Angeles or hit the bright lights of Las Vegas. For tasty food tours (and America’s greenest city) head to Portland or sample the coffee scene in Seattle. Denver, known as the Mile High City, has a thriving craft brewery scene and some of the West’s best shopping, along with Salt Lake City’s recently opened City Creek Center.
Head to Wyoming’s capital, Cheyenne, to experience cowboy country at its best. Few regions on the planet can claim to be as diverse as America’s glorious West. Here is a place that is vastly well known, thanks in part to the famous California cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Then there is the region’s splendid coastline – sun-kissed and iconic in California, more wild and forested as it runs north into Oregon and Washington. But head inland, and the West also turns to dust. Las Vegas sparkles in its desert setting as the biggest city in Nevada. Utah throws forth epic rock formations – not least amid the high monoliths of Monument Valley and the scarred earth of Canyonlands National Park.
'California' - In many ways, California needs little introduction. This celebrated state is home to three of the USA’s most famous cities: Los Angeles, where family theme parks and the bright glamour of Hollywood light up the map; San Francisco, a metropolitan icon where the A-list landmark of the Golden Gate Bridge and the interesting history of Alcatraz are just two symbols of a city of culture; and (usually) sunny San Diego, with its beaches and laid-back lifestyle. The state is hugely renowned for its wine – produced in viticultural hotspots such as Napa and Sonoma. If you go inland, meanwhile, you can find pockets of scenic drama: Yosemite National Park, with its high peaks and plunging waterfalls; the harsh desert and heat of Death Valley National Park. Where there is sun, there is also snow. California can boast many a first-rate ski zone, with downhill runs aplenty waiting at the likes of Mammoth Lakes and Olympic Valley.
'Nevada' - Nevada means one place: Las Vegas. It is certainly true that ‘The Entertainment Capital Of The World’ is the dominant presence in this arid state (pinned between Utah and Arizona to the east, California to the west). The four-mile icon of The Strip is home to world-famous casinos, 15 of the planet’s 25 biggest hotels (on number of rooms) and lively theatre and music shows that cater to families as much as thrill-seekers.
Las Vegas has long been seen as a good start-point for a road trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona – and the city also makes a fine beginning for a journey into the dust and drama of Nevada that spreads above it (Las Vegas sits in the state’s southernmost corner). Great Basin National Park, 300 miles north, is a rugged enclave of high rocks and limestone arches where Wheeler Peak hits 13,063ft. You can find superb hiking and camping here. Equally, Lake Mead, just east of Las Vegas – the largest reservoir in the USA, formed by the Hoover Dam – is a brilliant spot for a family picnic. And if you want to ski, you can do so at Mount Rose Ski Tahoe near Reno, or Diamond Peak on the edge of Lake Tahoe.