Touring North America - USA and Canada

Grand Canyon

Encompassing some 277 miles depths of 6,000 feet North America’s Grand Canyon is one of the most geologically significant sites in the entire world.

Carved by years of erosion from the pounding Colorado River, sightings of the Canyon manages to steal the breath of even the most jaded traveller.  Whether looking over the edge or far into its immense horizons; Mother Nature’s mammoth might can be felt.

Surprisingly, the Canyon is made up of several different ecosystems, from riverbed to scrub bush and of course the arid desert landscape that many associate with its legendary geologic formations.

As such the region is a veritable feast of both geological and archaeological wonders.  Recording nearly 5,000 archaeological resources within the national park, the Grand Canyon is home to finds as old as 12,000 years.

Touring the canyon can be done in two ways, from the ground and from the air, and if travellers have time, both options should be explored as they offer completely different perspectives of the canyon.

An aerial tour of the canyon is a must, may it be by light plane or helicopter.  From the air, you really begin to appreciate its intricate and connecting nature.  As some aspects become blurred, its grandiose purpose is revealed.

Ground tours offer vast vistas of the Grand Canyon spread out in front of you, while knowledgeable guides can cover its history from its natural birth, to its guardianship by the native Indians, settlement and exploration by Europeans, and of course it’s currently threatened environment.

While its heart lies in the American state of Arizona, many Australians opt to travel to the Grand Canyon from the Casino town of Las Vegas.  Vegas is closest to the South Rim, which is convenient as that part of the park is open all-year-round.

The West Rim and the new Skywalk attraction is also not far from Vegas.  Jutting out 70 feet from Eagle Point rim, the open-air walk way offers not only vistas outwards but also downwards – 4,000 feet downwards through glass to be exact.

Also if the time is available, travellers should spare some time to catch either a sunrise or sunset, with so many vantage points to choose from, there is no ‘best’ viewing point, but with little to no obstruction simply finding a jutting point facing East or West will do.  When deciding between dusk and dawn, remember while there are less people out for sunrise, desert temperatures can get quite cold at night.

For those nature buffs, tails for hiking and biking are aplenty, and a trek from rim to bottom is a must-do.  For those less actively inclined, a drive around the national park, or out to Lake Mead and Hoover Dam will also take much of a day.



Point Judith Lighthouse Rhode Island

For those that like to visit places with some serious 'alternative history', try this spot!

The lighthouse itself is beautiful, tall and rugged along the rocky New England coastline. The original building, which used whale oil to light its revolving spider lantern, was completed in 1810 and subsequently destroyed by a hurricane five years later. The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1816, and then replaced in 1857 by the building that remains today. The coast guard administrative buildings were added in 1937, and the lighthouse became automated in 1957.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about the Point Judith Lighthouse is what happened on May 5, 1945 a few miles offshore. On May 4, 1845, Adolf Hitler's successor, Admiral Donitz, ordered all German forces to surrender, effectively ending World War II. As part of the surrender process, all U-boats were radioed a "cease and desist" message. A few submarines, however, remained submerged at the time of surrender and did not receive the communications. U-853 was one of those submarines. On the morning of May 5th, the S.S. Black Point, a World War I era coal transport ship, passed Point Judith on the way to Boston with a shipment of coal. As the Coast Guard lookout prepared to log the ship sighting in his notebook, he saw the old ship stop, and then heard an explosion. The S.S. Black Point quickly sunk, taking twelve of the forty-six person crew with her in what became the final wartime act in the Atlantic theater of World War II. U-853 was discovered and sunk later that day, marking the official end of hostilities.

Beerlidays or Beercation - touring where not only the landscape and historical sights are visited, but you also sample and in some cases stay at, the magnificent range of Boutique Breweries the United States can offer. Forget those sullied view you have that the only beer is Bud or Schlitz (wash my mouth out with soap) and see that civilisation does actually exist!

Tour USA's small Rock Venues Theatres.

Bluebird Theatre -- Denver, CO
Why it's awesome: While considered by some the red-headed stepchild to Denver's bigger Fillmore Auditorium and Ogden Theatre, this historic, balconied venue was built in 1913 (restored in '94) and boasts not only a classic old-school vibe, tiered floors, and an attention-grabbing vintage neon marquee, but a bar in the back so you don't have miss any of the show during a drink run.

Most famous band to play here: Known more for showcasing up-and-coming indie bands (they book 250 acts a year), a few hot ones to come through recently include Alt-J, The Lumineers, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Nobody else knows: The Bluebird played a cameo role in the 1995 possibly-straight-to-video movie, “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead.”

Bowery Ballroom -- New York, NY
Why it's awesome: One of the newer venues on the list at only 15yo, what the Bowery Ballroom lacks in history it makes up for in personality (and that's not just a nice way of saying it's overweight). This standing-room-only, Lower East Side spot is intimate, boasts solid acoustics and sightlines, and has become, without argument, the de facto “must” for any budding band on the rise.

Most famous band to play here: It may be young but this place's already seen its fair share of pretty impressive acts: Metallica, Coldplay, Wilco, and The White Stripes, to name a few. Fun!
Nobody else knows: The Bowery Ballroom's building was completed weeks before the stock market crashed in 1929 and, as a result, stood vacant for decades. As a result, loads of original elements -- brass rails, iron metalwork, mahogany walls, and the coffer-vaulted plaster ceiling of the front bar -- still remain today

40 Watt Club -- Athens, Georgia
Why it's awesome: The 40 Watt Club's known around the world for helping launch the New Wave and College Rock music scenes. It's called five different locations around Athens home since first opening in 1978 (though they've been in the current spot since '91), but the 40W isn't about any one building -- it's more about music history in the making.

Most famous band to play here: Come on, it's Athens… take your pick. R.E.M played their early shows here, as did other music pioneers like the B-52s, Sonic Youth, Drivin N Cryin, and Patti Smith. Nobody else knows: The club actually started out as nothing more than a series of parties (dubbed “The 40 Watt Club”) held in the rehearsal space of local band legend Pylon.

Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel -- Providence, RI
Why it's awesome: About an hour south of Boston, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel is a “secret” among local music fans, as acts swinging through the area will often stop here before or after playing one of Boston’s clubs. This means you can still catch bands whose shows sold out in the Hub, and save some cash -- at least on parking, food, and beer.

Most famous band to play here: Opened in 1975, Lupo’s started out as a blues and early rock 'n roll club, and booked some of the greats -- James Brown, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Muddy Waters. Punk acts, like The Ramones and Iggy Pop, also graced this stage in the ‘70s.
Nobody else knows: Lupo’s has had three different locations in downtown Providence. Also, the original owner’s only goal when opening the club was to book Bo Diddley, and he did just that.

Great American Music Hall -- San Francisco, CA
Why it's awesome: The Great American Music Hall first opened its doors in 1907 and is SF's oldest music club.

Most famous band to play here: The Grateful Dead launched its “From the Vault” series with “One from the Vault”, recorded at the hall in 1975.
Nobody else knows: While most rock clubs have the ghosts of bands long-gone drifting through their halls, the GAMH takes it one further and claims to actually be haunted.

The Crocodile -- Seattle, WA
Why it's awesome: The Crocodile, which opened in 1991, was an epicenter of the grunge explosion of the early '90s. And it's still driving the Northwest music scene today -- even when there's no large act on the main stage of this 500-capacity club, a smaller band's always performing at the back bar for just $5.

Most famous band to play here: Grunge royalty starting from the top: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and Mudhoney. Nobody else knows: You could have seen Nirvana and Mudhoney play here in 1992 -- for $3.

The Troubadour -- West Hollywood, CA
Why it's awesome: Holding around 400 folks, The Troubadour is the perfect sized venue to see the hottest up-and-coming acts. Not only that, but having opened in 1957, it maintains so much history that it attracts current stars eager to play small venues, like Thom Yorke and Jack White.

Most famous band to play here: Where to begin? This joint birthed legends like Neil Young, The Byrds, Tom Waits, Guns N Roses, and Korn. It's also where Pearl Jam played their first show under that name (they were called Mookie Blaylock, but the NBA star -- and fan -- made 'em change it). Nobody else knows: Not long after The Troubadour opened, American comedic legend Lenny Bruce was arrested on the scene for obscenities in his stand-up act. Known as an epic party spot (Cheech and Chong were discovered here, after all), it was the last place anyone saw Janis Joplin alive before her fatal heroin overdose