Back in 2015, I made one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made. After dreaming about visiting New York City for most of my life, I started doing some research. I couldn’t find anyone who was able to travel overseas with me, so I looked into solo travel. There are quite a few choices available when it comes to safe and easy solo travel, and the one I went with was Contiki! I had heard a bit about Contiki before, but not enough to be able to make an educated decision right there and then. So I researched as much as I could and spoke to a couple of people I knew had done a Contiki tour before. Eventually, I took a chance and booked my first solo adventure overseas.
Technically, I wasn’t solo traveling while on Contiki. I had over 20 other people along for the ride with me. Most of them were fellow Australians, but there were a few different cultures scattered amongst the group. It was a cool experience, getting to know people from all over the world, and share something that was so special to all of us.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Best of USA Contiki Tour
- 2 Day 1 – Los Angeles (Downtown LA, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach & Pub Crawl)
- 3 Days 2 and 3 – Los Angeles (Disneyland, California Adventure Park & Universal Studios)
- 4 Day 4 – Los Angeles to San Francisco (City Tour, Golden Gate Bridge, NBA Finals Game)
- 5 Days 5 – San Francisco (Alcatraz & Bike Tour)
- 6 Day 6 – San Francisco (Shopping in Downtown San Francisco & Catamaran Cruise)
- 7 Day 7 – San Fransisco to Las Vegas (Dinner at Planet Hollywood & Las Vegas Clubbing)
- 8 Day 8 – Las Vegas (Helicopter Ride Over the Grand Canyon & Limo Ride Down The Strip)
- 9 Day 9 – Las Vegas (Cirque du Soleil Show & Rooftop Club/Bar)
- 10 Day 10 – Las Vegas to New York City (Times Square)
- 11 Day 11 – New York (Bus Ride Around City, Helicopter Ride Over NYC, Dinner & Shopping in Times Square)
- 12 Day 12 – New York (Statue of Liberty, World Trade Centre Museum & Yankees Game)
- 13 Day 13 – New York (Central Park Bike Tour, Shopping in Soho & Friends Building)
- 14 Day 14 – New York (Top of the Rock)
- 15 Conclusion – The Best of USA Contiki Tour
- 16 Did you like this post? Pin it for later or share it with your friends and family!
The Best of USA Contiki Tour
After doing some research and looking into each individual United States Contiki tour, I ended up choosing Best of USA! The Best of USA Contiki tour takes you to 4 major cities in the United States: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and New York City. There are at least four days allotted in each city, which is the perfect amount of time for a fast-paced, yet still enjoyable and stress free trip. The main draw of this tour for me, was the five days spent in New York City!
Generally, most Contiki tours are done as ‘road trips’. Which means you’re traveling across the country on a bus, as opposed to flying between cities like you do on the Best of USA tour. This was also another main factor in my choosing of this particular tour, as I wanted to spend as much time as possible exploring each city, instead of being forced to waste time traveling on a bus!The Best of USA @contiki tour is perfect for anyone dreaming of New York City! #contiki Click To Tweet
Keep reading for the itinerary from my Best of USA Contiki tour, back in June 2015!
Day 1 – Los Angeles (Downtown LA, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach & Pub Crawl)
Our first official day on Contiki started with a short walking tour around Downtown Los Angeles. Since our hotel was actually in Downtown LA (it’s a very loud place, with a lot of sirens), that’s where we started our tour, as opposed to catching a bus to a certain starting point! It was cool being able to walk through the heart of Los Angeles – definitely a great way to see the city!
The rest of the day is filled with a bus tour around Los Angeles and surrounding areas. You’ll have a chance to spend a couple of hours walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard and trying to get a good shot of the Hollywood Sign. My favourite part of the day was our short stops in Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Two very different beachside towns, but both wonderful in their own way!A bus tour around Los Angeles is the perfect way to see the city! @contiki #contiki Click To Tweet
One of the cool things about Contiki, is the cost of the tour includes some meals and activities. The first night’s dinner was one of those included meals! After dinner there’s an option to head out on a Hollywood Pub Crawl. You’ll be taking the metro though, so there’s quite a bit of walking involved. Wear appropriate clothing and shoes!
Days 2 and 3 – Los Angeles (Disneyland, California Adventure Park & Universal Studios)
Days two and three are free days. You can choose one of the suggested activities, or head off on your own and explore something totally different. Most of our group decided to spend the day at Disneyland and California Adventure Park! Although I had been to both of Anaheim’s Disney parks multiple times before in my life, I always get just as excited!
Suggested Post: Disney Parks Guide: Tips For Anaheim & Tokyo’s Disney Resorts
On day three, a small group of us headed to Universal Studios for the day. Just like Disneyland, I had been to Universal Studios before. So instead of opting for the VIP Tour* like the rest of my friends, I bought myself a regular day ticket and explored at my own pace! I have to say, it’s definitely weird walking around a theme park and going on rides alone! It was nice not having to wait for anybody, though! If you don’t want to spend the day at Universal Studios, it’s another free day to do anything you like!A day at Universal Studios is one of the awesome optional extras on the Best of USA @contiki… Click To Tweet
* Universal Studios VIP Tour: This pass gets you a personal tour guide for the day, who will also take you on a private tour of the Universal Studios Backlot. You’ll also get a few extra bonuses that people who purchase a regular day ticket, wouldn’t get!
Day 4 – Los Angeles to San Francisco (City Tour, Golden Gate Bridge, NBA Finals Game)
I had never visited San Francisco before, so this was another reason why I decided to do the Best of USA Contiki tour!
Bright and early on day four of Contiki, we headed to the airport to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco! Remember when I mentioned what’s included in your tour cost? Well, domestic flights between cities are one of them! We flew with South West Airlines, and they were awesome!
A bus picked us up from San Francisco Airport, and took us on a short city tour on the journey to our hotel. We stopped at one of the best places for photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, and got to see the wonderful city of San Francisco!
The Best of USA Contiki tour that I went on, happened back in June 2015. It was the tail end of basketball season while we were there, so we were given the awesome opportunity to go to a street fair and watch the Golden State Warriors finals game! Cool things like this tend to happen quite frequently on Contiki (this wasn’t the first time during our two week trip – keep reading for a surprise in New York City!).
Days 5 – San Francisco (Alcatraz & Bike Tour)
Our first full day in San Francisco was a free day. Just like Los Angeles, you can use this day to do absolutely anything you want. Either choose from one of the suggestions, as your tour manager, or do some research on your own. It’s a great way to head off and maybe see something you wouldn’t if you were with the group.
A couple of friends and I had previously booked an Alcatraz tour for early that morning. There are a few different Alcatraz ticket options, but each of them include the ferry ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to Alcatraz Island! Click here to find out more about Alcatraz, or book your tickets! It was a great experience, and the incredible views of San Francisco Bay from Alcatraz Island made it even better!Have you visited Alcatraz in San Francisco? Check out my experience while on @contiki back in… Click To Tweet
Most of our group decided to do an optional bike tour around San Francisco that afternoon. The tour goes for around 2 hours, and departs from/returns to Blazing Saddles in Downtown San Francisco. As this is an optional extra, there is a cost involved not included in the price of your Contiki tour. If you choose to do the bike tour, be prepared for some steep hills!
Day 6 – San Francisco (Shopping in Downtown San Francisco & Catamaran Cruise)
Day six is another free day to explore at your own pace! A couple of friends and I decided to hit up Downtown San Francisco for some shopping! We all needed an outfit or two for our next stop, which was Las Vegas! So we made a day of it. There are some pretty awesome shopping malls in Downtown San Francisco, and definitely something for everyone!
Our last night in San Francisco was spent on an incredible catamaran cruise around the Bay. This was probably one of the highlights from my experience on the Best of USA Contiki tour. Being able to admire the views of the city, while cruising under the Golden Gate Bridge was unbelievable! The best part is, the catamaran cruise is also included in the cost of the tour!
Tip: Make sure to bring warm clothes on the catamaran cruise. Even during summer (when I did this tour), it can still be cold at night. Even more so when you’re on the water, so wear layers just incase. Oh yeah, and bring a camera!
Day 7 – San Fransisco to Las Vegas (Dinner at Planet Hollywood & Las Vegas Clubbing)
Our included flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas left quite early on the morning of day seven! After being dropped off at our hotel (Harrah’s), we were able to explore at our own pace, until the included group dinner at Planet Hollywood Restaurant! After dinner, the Contiki group headed out for a bus tour down the Strip, then onto a night of clubbing and partying! You can either choose to head out for the night to party, or have a more laid back night in Las Vegas. The bus will drop you back at the hotel if you decide not to head out after dinner.
I had visited Las Vegas a couple of times before this, but I hadn’t been 21 yet. That meant, I couldn’t drink or party! It was fun being able to go back and enjoy Vegas in a totally different way.
Day 8 – Las Vegas (Helicopter Ride Over the Grand Canyon & Limo Ride Down The Strip)
One of the optional extras (not included in the cost of the tour) is a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. Of course I decided to pay the extra $300 for this once in a lifetime experience. Let me just tell you, it was one hundred percent worth the cost. Not only do you fly over the Grand Canyon, you also land at the bottom for a champagne lunch! With endless Instagrammable photo opportunities and incredible scenery, it’s definitely something that you should budget for on your trip!
Later that night, we all headed out for an included limo ride down the strip. This is an awesome chance to act a little silly, feel like a celebrity for an hour, and make the most of being in the crazy city of Las Vegas!A helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon is one of the most unforgettable experiences I've ever… Click To Tweet
Day 9 – Las Vegas (Cirque du Soleil Show & Rooftop Club/Bar)
Day nine is another free day in Las Vegas. Depending on the time of year that you book your Best of USA Contiki tour for, the available and suggested activities will vary. However, one thing you can count on year round, is having the chance to see a live show! We were lucky enough to see a Cirque du Soleil show, which was incredible!
The last stop on our Las Vegas clubbing adventure, was an epic rooftop club and bar on the Strip. We had incredible views of Las Vegas, while drinking and dancing the night away. It was definitely a fitting way to end our time in Vegas.
Side Note: Make sure you always bring your passport while out in Las Vegas (and all other states in the US). The legal drinking age in the USA is 21, so unfortunately although Contiki tours are created for people between the ages of 18 and 35, you’ll only be able to purchase alcohol if you are over 21.
Tip: The optional extras that are offered for each city, don’t have to be decided on when you first book your Contiki tour. Before arriving in each new city, you’ll be told the extras and will then have the choice to say yes or no! Payment is generally taken either before boarding the next flight, or at the end of the trip.
Day 10 – Las Vegas to New York City (Times Square)
Ahh, the day I had been waiting for! 23 years of my life led to this moment: seeing New York City for the very first time! Our included flight left on day ten, from Las Vegas to New York. Since we flew from the west coast to the east coast, it was quite a long journey. By the time the shuttle dropped us at our hotel, it was around eleven o’clock at night. That didn’t stop us from catching the Subway (for the first time) to Times Square, though!
The hotel that was chosen for us by Contiki was super close to multiple Subway stations, and surprisingly, it’s pretty easy getting the hang of New York City public transport! You just need to remember the difference between downtown and uptown!
Day 11 – New York (Bus Ride Around City, Helicopter Ride Over NYC, Dinner & Shopping in Times Square)
Our first full day in New York, started with an included bus ride around the city. We saw tons of famous sights and landmarks, and explored as much as we could! One of our short stops was in Rockefeller Plaza, where we actually saw a live filming of the American Today Show! Right next door to the studio, is an NBC store which sells TV show merchandise. I bought myself a giant Friends mug, which is honestly more like a small bowl.After dreaming about visiting New York City for 23 years, I finally made it thanks to @contiki!… Click To Tweet
One of the optional extras in New York, is a helicopter ride over the city. Before leaving for this trip, I spoke to a couple of people who I knew had done the helicopter ride on their own Best of USA Contiki tour, and they highly recommended it. So I decided to go for it! Being able to see New York City from the sky, was an incredible experience. Although it was a bit foggy on the day, the experience was still amazing. The tour costs $150 and goes for around 20 minutes.
That night, you’ll head out to Times Square for another included group dinner! Afterwards, the night is totally free. Some of us decided to head out shopping, while others went out to explore New York’s night life. I was dying to check out the gigantic Forever 21 in Times Square, so a couple of friends and I headed out for a shopping spree – New York style!
Day 12 – New York (Statue of Liberty, World Trade Centre Museum & Yankees Game)
Today we finally headed out on our included ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty! Since the Statue of Liberty is on its own island, whichever ticket package you decide to purchase, will have the ferry ride included in the price. This was definitely another one of my favourite memories from the Best of USA Contiki tour.
The rest of day twelve is a New York City free day. A friend and I decided to spend the afternoon visiting the World Trade Centre Museum and Memorial. I highly recommend that anyone who is visiting New York City, takes the time to walk through the museum. It was one of the most upsetting and unexplainable moments in my life, and definitely an eye opening experience.
Remember back when I was telling you about our opportunity to watch the Golden State Warriors basketball final at a street fair in San Francisco? I said there was another awesome, unplanned opportunity when we got to New York City. Well, this was it! One of my favourite memories from the Best of USA Contiki tour, was our evening at a Yankees baseball game! Having the chance to not only watch a Major League Baseball game, but a New York Yankees baseball game was awesome! Definitely worth the extra $50
Tip: Make sure to budget a little bit of extra money for these types of unplanned occasions. Sometimes they will be once in a lifetime experiences, so it’s best to come prepared!
Day 13 – New York (Central Park Bike Tour, Shopping in Soho & Friends Building)
The last official day on Contiki, was another chance to explore the city at our own pace. However, most of the group decided to spend the morning on a bike tour through Central Park! This was another awesome optional extra, but it’s only available during the warmer months in the year. Don’t worry though, no matter which time of year your Best of USA Contiki tour is happening, there is bound to be a ton of amazing New York City experiences.
The rest of day thirteen was spent with a good friend of mine, shopping up a storm in Soho! Considering it was my second to last day in the USA, spending almost $300 on clothes probably wasn’t a good idea. But the sales were crazy good, and come in, it’s New York City!
We also tracked down the exterior building used as Monica and Rachel’s apartment in Friends. If you’re a huge fan like me, type 90 Bedford Street, New York into Google Maps. You’re welcome.
Day 14 – New York (Top of the Rock)
The Best of USA Contiki tour officially finishes on day thirteen, but when I booked the tour many months beforehand, I decided I’d spend an extra night in New York! That morning, a friend and I (who also stayed a bit longer) visited the Top of the Rock building in Rockefeller Plaza. It’s definitely the best place to go for incredible, panoramic, unobstructed views of the city.
Suggested Post: For my full guide to New York City, click here!
Conclusion – The Best of USA Contiki Tour
There are a lot of awesome things about a Contiki tour, and the Best of USA Contiki tour is no different. Your tour manager organises absolutely everything, all you have to do is show up at the time you’re told to and not be late! I loved having everything planned for me and being able to see a lot of places in a short amount of time. This can be disappointing for some, but sometimes fast paced travel is fun!
The Best of USA Contiki tour is perfect for someone who wants to visit the highlights and – essentially – the best of USA! If you’ve dreamed of seeing the bright lights of New York City, or you’ve always wanted to take a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, the Best of USA Contiki tour is perfect for you.The Best of USA @contiki tour is the best way to see LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas AND New York… Click To Tweet
Have you done a Contiki tour before? Which one did you do? Tell me in the comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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