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United States of America

 

 

The United States of America ("USA," "US," "United States," "America," or simply "the States") is a large country in central and north-western North America. The U.S. also includes several Pacific islands (primarily represented by the state of Hawaii) and an unincorporated Caribbean territory (the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico).

One of the most powerful and wealthy nations on earth and third largest in territory and people, it has a mixture of densely-populated urban areas with wide areas of low population and incredible natural beauty.

With a history of mass immigration dating from the 17th century, the U.S. prides itself on its "melting pot" of different cultures from around the globe. Even the briefest visit to the United States is a study in contrasts.

Regions
The U.S. stretches across the midsection of North America, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, with non-contiguous states to the north west and in the Pacific. As such, its many regions are varied. Following the admission of the state of Hawaii in 1959, the United States has 50 states as well as the city of Washington D.C. (a federal district independent of any state) and a few territories which are not states, such as Puerto Rico. Below is a rough grouping of the country into regions relevant to the traveler, from the Atlantic to the Pacific:

Cities

Cities and Other destinations in the United StatesThe United States has over 10,000 cities, towns, and villages. The following is a list of nine of the most notable. Other cities can be found in their corresponding regions.
  • Washington (D.C.) - The national capital, home to the United States' most grand public buildings as well as a thriving multi-cultural community.
  • Boston - The capital of Massachusetts retains much of its colonial charm, but is kept young by its multitudes of students.
  • Chicago - The "Windy City", bustling heart of the Midwest, transportation hub of the nation, notable for its large number of architectural gems and massive skyscrapers.
  • Los Angeles - The home of Hollywood and the film industry, palm-fringed Los Angeles offers mountains, beaches, sunshine, and everything else visitors look to find in California.
  • Miami - Miami is home to one of the greatest beaches in the country, and has a mix of sun-seeking northerners and immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean seeking a chance to make it in the US.
  • New Orleans - Despite a devastating hurricane, "the Big Easy" is still famous for its atmospheric French Quarter and annual Mardi Gras celebration.
  • New York - The United States' largest city, with world-class cuisine, unparalleled arts offerings, and one of the most diverse populations on the planet. Both a symbol of the country and intensely international.
  • San Francisco - One of the most photogenic cities in the world, idiosyncratic San Francisco offers a diverse array of attractions, and is a popular gateway to the California coast and Yosemite National Park.
  • Seattle - This green and rainy city is known for its trend-setting cultural scene and the business presence of international high-tech giants
Understand
The U.S. is difficult to characterize because of its size and diversity, both in geography and in people, but an overview will help travelers to see these differences and perhaps help to find what they are most interested in. It is not realistic to see a little of everything unless one has a very long time to spend; indeed, even lifetime residents have trouble taking it all in. Part of the States' appeal is that you can experience so much in one country.

Due to the vastness of their own country, and due to the fact that many of the neighboring countries did not require U.S. citizens to have them, fewer than a third of Americans have passports, although this number is expected to increase greatly. Recently, with the requirement of a passport to travel to its neighboring countries, Canada and Mexico, as well as to nearby Caribbean countries, there has been a surge in demand for passports.

Geography

the U.S. is one of the largest countries in the world in terms of area (at roughly 9.6 million sq km, it's about half the size of Russia and around the same size as China).

The contiguous United States (the 48 states other than Alaska and Hawaii) are bound by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, with much of the country's population living on these two coasts. Its only borders are shared with Canada to the north, and Mexico to the south.

The country has three major mountain ranges. The Appalachians extend from Canada to the state of Alabama, a few hundred miles west of the Atlantic Ocean. They are the oldest of the three mountain ranges, and are not particularly high, but offer spectacular sightseeing and excellent camping spots. The Rockies are the highest in North America, extending from Alaska to New Mexico, with many areas protected as national parks. Their natural wonders offer impressive hiking, camping, and sightseeing opportunities. The combined Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges are the youngest. The Sierras extend across the "backbone" of California, with sites such as Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park, then give way to the even younger volcanic Cascade range, with some of the highest points in the country.

The Great Lakes define much of the border between the United States and Canada, also known as the North Coast. Formed by the pressure of glaciers retreating north at the end of the last Ice Age, the five lakes touch the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. The lakes span hundreds of miles, and their shores vary from pristine wilderness areas to industrial "rust belt" cities. They are the second-largest body of freshwater in the world, after the shrinking polar ice caps.

 
             
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