Happy Thanksgiving, America! As the United States gears up to celebrate the official start of Holiday season next Thursday, thousands of travellers are boarding aircraft in Dublin and Shannon Airports to join in on the party. America is finally back on the travel agenda! After an 18-month travel hiatus for one of Ireland’s best-loved travel destinations, seats to the US are now the hottest tickets to town with Aer Lingus flights fully booked as people reboot their transatlantic travels. To mark the relaunch, this week I’ve paired 10 Aer Lingus gateways and 10 awesome alternative destinations for your next, and long-awaited, party in the USA!
In its 2019 peak, more than one million passengers travelled from Dublin to either JFK or Newark airports ranking the Big Apple (and technically New Jersey!) as the most popular American destinations for the Irish market. Our love affair with Manhattan knows no limits but venture beyond 'The City' and the deceptively vast Empire State offers infinite options to explore.
The Hudson Valley has been hotly trending during the pandemic age as young city dwellers migrate north to postcard towns like Cold Spring, Woodstock and Phoenicia. Think of them as the towns where you get your chakras cleansed in the morning, ski in the afternoon, and dine at a hot farm-to-table restaurant by night. To stay over, check into Hotel Dylan, a former motel turned boutique hotbed in Woodstock, where you kick-back Upstate style by playing vinyl in your room and roast s’mores at the poolside firepit. Upstate Living at its best!
Fly to Newark with Aer Lingus from €300 return. The Hudson Line commuter train serves the region regularly from Manhattan; it’s a two-hour train ride to Cold Spring; about half that if road-tripping off rush hour.
You may think of the Hamptons as being the ritzy residential stomping ground for well-heeled New Yorkers (and the Real Housewives) but steer beyond Long Island’s top dollar real estate and you’ll find a happening — and more affordable — vacation scene. Located at the easternmost point of the island, Montauk is the former fishing village turned surfing paradise which has become the recent it-spot for city dwellers seeking a beach break. Forget Long Island iced tea, this is definitely Manhattan on the Rocks turf!
Aer Lingus fly from Dublin & Shannon to JFK from €360 return. Queens makes a handy springboard for Long Island; public transport can have you in Montauk in two hours.
Many California road trips culminate in the likes of Big Sur, Monterey, or Carmel, but venture north over the Golden Gate Bridge and California soon starts to feel, well, a little more northern. If you’ve already enjoyed the bouquet of the Napa and Sonoma Valley vineyards, head to further-flung Mendocino County where more rustic winelands flank a cliff-kissing Pacific coast.
Visit the town of Philo for a tasting at the Roederer winery (aka the home of Cristal!) while Mendocino town itself is a dreamy NorCal hamlet which old-school Tv nerds will clock as the set location of Murder She Wrote.
Mendocino lies three hours north of the Bay Area. Aer Lingus flies direct to San Francisco from February from €516 return.
Pay a visit to Reading Market in downtown Philadelphia and you can sample the best of Amish produce, fresh from Lancaster County. But take the one-hour ride west along the Pennsylvania turnpike to savour it in real life. The region is home to America’s largest (and still booming) Amish community and in towns like Bird-in-Hand you’re as likely to see a horse and buggy parked outside the local grocery store as a pick-up truck.
Amish cultural tours operate throughout the county, but can feel a little voyeuristic, so engage with friendly locals by shopping for everything from whoopie pies to Amish blankets in authentic markets and furniture barns.
Fly to Philadelphia from April from €548 return.
Seattle may be the hometown to grunge culture, Starbucks, and Amazon but it’s also the backdrop to one of the State’s most awesome nature spectacles: orca spotting. The world’s largest dolphins have one of their strongest habitats in the Pacific Northwest region and the San Juan Islands, a stunning archipelago on the Canadian border makes an incredible spot to see them.
Take an all-day tour with operators like San Juan Safaris where you can view the resident orcas gorging on Chinook salmon. To make a night of it, stay over in the charming island town of Friday Harbor.
Fly to Seattle from April from €600 return. It’s a two-hour drive from Seattle to Anacortes from where you can take the Washington State Ferry ride to the islands.
Cross the Arlington Memorial Bridge from Washington DC and you’ve already stumbled into Virginia. But wind deeper into the countryside for another hour and you’ll find yourself in one of America's top wine-producing regions.
The state is home to more than 220 wineries in all but make a beeline for the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley, nestled along the Appalachians, to experience the most picturesque!
Fly to DC daily with fares from €299.
With the shortest shoreline in the US, New Hampshire’s seacoast often gets the highway hopscotch by travellers heading northwards to Maine. But as one of New England’s hidden urban treasures, its town of Portsmouth is certainly worth anchoring down for a night. Dating from the 1600’s, postcard Portsmouth is a chocolate box trove of colonial-era properties and quirky urbane attractions: a visit to the open-air Strawbery Banke museum feels like wandering through the set of Little Women while the recently opened MONA is the town’s hot new modern art ticket.
Hungry? For food, hit Wild Valentine for coffee, Elephantine Bakery for pastries and Gino’s seafood shack for, of course, lobster rolls. Hunker down in charming spots such as The Inn Downtown. And if you’ve a little more scope on the road-trip clock, whip further north to Portland, Maine.
Portsmouth lies just 55 miles north of Boston Logan which Aer Lingus flies to daily to from €350 return.
Dreaming of Southern California but wishing to make a break from the big city? Then why not gear up (in your automatic rental) for the most epic of escapes, the Joshua Tree National Park. In the heart of San Bernardino County, the quirky oasis desert town of 29 Palms makes the perfect gateway to the wilderness.
Book a room at the town’s boho namesake inn which offers desert cottage accommodation complete with individual hammocks stretched among the cacti. Come evening, head downtown to local taqueria Edchadas for guac and margs — but don’t make it a late one — a sunrise drive of the Joshua Tree National Park, where the trees grow shadows in the morning light, is a truly epic experience.
No connections necessary! From March, take the direct 12-hour flight from Dublin to LAX with fares from €565 return. On the ground, it’s a three-hour drive to 29 Palms.
Visitors to Orlando often get sucked into the Disney razzle-dazzle, but road-trip beyond it and you’ll discover the town billed as America’s oldest city; St. Augustine. Founded in 1565, by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, today the town retains a rich colonial heritage where jelly-bean coloured streets brim with muy vibrante architecture and avenues of landmark mossy oak trees give sultry, Southern feels.
For an alternative road-trip — and more of a Floridian Nantucket vibe — head south to the coastal hamlet of Vero Beach where you can spot sea turtles and laze along the boardwalk before checking into Gloria Estefan’s popular Costa D’Este hotel.
Fly from Dublin to Orlando from €365 return.
Madison, Wisconsin may not ring too many bells for the Irish holidaymaker but any town named as America’s most liveable city must be worth a snoop. The walkable university city set on the shores of Lakes Mendota and Monona is rich in its food, arts and culture scenes — and being home to the CrossFit Games for several years, it’s also ranked as one of America’s fittest spots.
But it’s not all clean Midwest living! Wisconsin is the cheese capital of the USA so to get your fill, head to Madison’s happening Old Fashioned tavern where you can pick up a portion of crispy batter cheese curds, Mac & Cheese slathered in aged local cheddar, or take the ultimate dairy dive-in with some Wisconsin fondue.
Madison lies 150 miles north of Chicago which Aer Lingus flys to from €336 return.