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U.S.A: Culture

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Outdoor pursuits
The vast expanses of wilderness, mountains, forest, canyons and coastlines of the USA lend themselves to a wide range of outdoor pursuits. From trekking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, whitewater rafting through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River, canoeing down the Mississippi River, fishing on the Great Lakes, sailing in Florida, diving in Hawaii to skiing in the Rocky Mountains, every activity can easily be arranged. The USA’s national parks are administered by the National Park Service. Hiking trails are generally well kept and well marked. The National Park system includes National Monuments, which are smaller than parks and focus on maybe just one archaeological site or geological phenomenon (such as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming), National Forests and 170 or so lesser known Parks, which are located away from the cities and highways. State Parks and State Monuments are administered by individual States. Most of the USA’s parks and outdoor recreational areas have visitor centers where advice on trails, activities and other practical information (such as weather reports or fishing regulations) can be obtained. Most parks and monuments charge admission fees ranging from US$4-20. A number of passes are available from the NPS: the National Parks Pass (US$50) gives one driver and all accompanying passengers a year’s unlimited access to nearly all national parks and monuments (users should note that this pass does not reduce fees for facilities such as camping, swimming, parking and boat launching). Only the larger parks have hotel-style accommodation, while almost all parks and monuments have facilities for camping. Fishing permits are compulsory and vary from State to State. Rock climbing and mountaineering are particularly popular in the Sierra Nevada and in the Rocky Mountains.

Spectator sports
Often called ‘the nation’s pastime’, baseball is an important part of the US psyche. The ‘boys of summer’ play Major League Baseball from April to September, 162 games in total, culminating in the post-season World Series championships, first contested in 1903. Games are frequent and tickets for regular season games are readily available and can be relatively cheap, starting at around US$9 per seat. American football tickets during the September to January National Football League season are not only very expensive but also extremely hard to come by. Many people opt for the popular college games instead. College basketball is also surprisingly high profile, although not as big a draw as professional games in the National Basketball Association (NBA), whose season runs from November to April, with the playoffs often extending to June. The popularity of ice hockey has expanded from Canadian and far northern cities to the rest of the USA. Professional teams compete in the National Hockey League (website: www.nhl.com) from October to March, and tickets are sold out quickly. The most popular tennis competition in the USA is the US Open at Flushing Meadows in New York, held from late August to early September. Individual tickets go on sale during June. Use your international cell phone rental to reserve tickets.The heart of horse racing in the USA is the ‘bluegrass country’, focused around the State of Kentucky. The most important races of the year, the Bluegrass Stakes and the Kentucky Derby (on the first Saturday in May), are run at the Churchill Downs racecourse in Louisville, Kentucky. There are also major tracks in New England. Rodeos, a legacy of the historical development that resulted from the spread of cattle ranching, are frequently held in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and throughout the western States. The USA also hosts the world’s largest motor racing event, the Indianapolis 500, held annually in May.

The USA offers some of the world’s best skiing runs, particularly in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. The Rocky Mountain States (and Colorado in particular) are exceptionally good for downhill skiing, the best-known resorts including Aspen, Big Sky, Jackson Hole and Vail. In the Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe is the major ski destination. Cross-country skiing is also well catered for, with backcountry ski lodges scattered around mountainous areas along both coasts (New England and California) and in the Rockies. Minnesota, Wisconsin and Wyoming are also good destinations for cross-country skiing. In the past few years, snowboarding has become increasingly popular, and plenty of ski resorts now offer half pipes and board rental. Use your U.S.A cell phone rental to get more info.

The American passion for golf is exemplified by the extremely high number of courses found throughout the country, as well as the massive crowds flocking to the United States Golf Association’s national championships games. In 2002, the 102nd US Open was held on a public course for the first time, at Bethage State Park (Black Course) on Long Island.

One of the activities that epitomizes US sport is surfing and Hawaii, with its legendary winter swells at northern Oahu (surfing’s spiritual home), Sunset Beach, Waimea and the Banzai Pipeline (situated in the Ehukai beach parks), remains one of the USA’s (and the world’s) most famous surfing destinations. California also has some good breaks in Malibu, Rincon and Steamer Lane. During winter, southern California is also superb, with swells at Huntingdon Beach and Santa Cruz. Diving and snorkeling are particularly good in California, Florida, Hawaii and along the East Coast.

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