Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

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.

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

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!

Check out the Contiki website for some amazing last minute deals!

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!

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

California Screamin’ rollercoaster and California Adventure Park, Anaheim!

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

California Adventure Park is a newer, more thrill-focussed Disney Park. Awesome for people who love rollercoasters and fact-paced rides!

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!). 

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

The very foggy Golden Gate Bridge!

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!

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York! Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

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!

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

The Golden Gate Bridge, view from the catamaran cruise around San Francisco Bay!

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!

Suggested Post: The Grand Celebration Helicopter Tour: Exploring the Grand Canyon

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

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York! Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

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!

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

A welcome greeting from the air, landing in New York City!

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

My first sighting of Times Square!

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!

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York! Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

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!

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York! Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

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.

Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York! Best of USA Contiki Tour: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York!

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.

Did you like this post? Pin it for later or share it with your friends and family!

Best of USA Contiki Tour: LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York City! Best of USA Contiki Tour: LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas & New York City!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you click on certain links within this post and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. As always, I will only ever share my 100% honest opinion, and would never endorse a company or product I would not use myself!

  • OMG! This seriously sounds like SUCH a fun itinerary! So glad you go to go to my hometown Las Vegas.. just curious.. what club did you go to. && the helicopter tour is still a dream of mine. You also made me so excited for my upcoming trip to NYC!!!

    • It’s awesome that you live in Las Vegas! I sometimes forget that there are actual people living in the city, and it’s not just for partying! haha. I’m so sorry, I can’t remember the name of the club! I know the one we visited on the first night had a pool, and the one on our last night in Vegas was a rooftop bar/club with an amazing view of Las Vegas! Ahh, New York! I’m super jealous. How long are you staying in the city for? Hope you have a fab time! Thanks for reading, also 🙂

  • Tatum Skipper

    I salute you for doing such a long group tour. Something I definitely will never be able to do! Simply for the fact that I hate group tours and move at a very fast pace…plus the “main” attractions are usually not even the best thing. Regardless, I just finished an 8k miles solo road trip across the US and can say that you hit some good, well-known places!! Glad you had an awesome time!

    • Tours can be difficult sometimes, and I definitely agree that they’re not for everyone. I probably wouldn’t do any others besides the Contiki style. But you’re right, I visited some pretty amazing places! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • As a well-traveled American I am very familiar with all of these destinations (even lived in L.A. and in Vegas for a stint) and when people ask me where they should go in the USA I often tell them that they should visit exactly this list of destinations (plus New Orleans) but always offer up a word of caution because of the difficulty and expense of transportation. I never thought about suggesting an organized tour to people though! I checked out the Contiki website and am blown away by their selection! And the prices all seem quite reasonable as well. I live in Germany now and am always looking for tour operators around Europe, of which Contiki is one, so I will have to reach out to them as well. Great review, great writing, great photos!

    • Wow thank you so much Judson! I appreciate your kind words, and I’m so glad you are impressed by Contiki! They’re a great company, with awesome tour managers and the destinations are pretty great too. I hope you find a Contiki tour that suits you 🙂 Thanks so much again, and thanks for reading 🙂

  • I would love to see San Francisco and the Grand Canyon. It’s funny as I’ve been to a similar canyon which looks so alike but no one knows it – Charyn Canyon in Kazakhstan. The US is still on my list and I hope I’ll finally make it to visit this vast country 🙂

    • Both San Francisco and the Grand Canyon are amazing places to visit! I hope you get to travel to the US soon 🙂 And no, I did not know about the Charyn Canyon! 😀 Thanks for reading 🙂

  • That’s a good way to begin solo traveling! You’re not in the comfort of your family or friends, but you’re still in the safe hands of a known tourism operator from your place! That gives the necessary push to begin proper solo travels after that! 14 days of non stop roaming of an entire country? That’s a lot to take in, in a single stretch!

    • I definitely think it’s a great way to get into solo travel! You’re right, you’re still on your own (not with family or friends), but know you’re taken care of! It was pretty fast-paced, but I loved it! Sounds like a lot, but it wasn’t so fast-paced that it made the experience less amazing! Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  • Looks like the perfect itinerary to visit the US! I’ve been in NY a couple of times already, but never in the East Coast. Will definitely check out this itinerary with Contiki!

  • i admit these group tours while traveling solo can be quite fun.. the itinerary of this tour is quite a good one.. i bet that chopper ride over nyc was worth every penny

    • Yeah they’re a lot of fun when traveling solo. Great way to meet people and feel more comfortable if you’re new to solo travel. The helicopter ride was definitely worth it! Amazing experience! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Glad you had such a good time! Next time you come to LA, definitely spend some time exploring the beautiful coastal mountains near Santa Monica and Malibu. I live here and it’s my favorite thing to do 🙂

    • Yeah I really want to! I love Santa Monica, but haven’t been to Malibu yet. I’d love to hike up to the Hollywood sign too. As cliche touristy as that probably sounds! haha. Thanks for reading, Melissa 🙂

  • Wow, you truly have enjoyed the whole time you ample around those beautiful places. I haven’t been to USA and what you have shared is something I can use I’m the future, especially the itinerary. Your photos are also naturally captivating. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    • Thanks so much for reading! I hope you get to visit the US one day soon 🙂

  • I have explored Vegas and NYC couple of times but on my own. I remembered an incident aftr reading your shopping experience at Forever 21 at Times Square. Last time when I went, I chose few dresses but after seeing the queue at the fitting room and cash counters, I gave up my idea of buying those dresses!

    • Vegas and New York are so much fun! Oh wow, yeah it’s a very busy store! But so much fun shopping in! haha 🙂 Thanks for reading 🙂

  • That actually sounds like such an awesome group tour. I have always wondered about doing a Contiki, though, was there a lot of partying and drinking? I dont drink (boring I know) so I generally look at other tour companies 🙂 Look like you had a great time and hit up all the highlight cities of America

    • Contiki is well-known for being a party scene. But it doesn’t have to be. I had way, way, WAY too much to drink on the very first night of tour, and it was one of the worst nights of my life haha. So I didn’t drink too much the rest of the tour. You are totally in control when it comes to drinking and/or partying. If you want to head out with the group at night to party, you can. If you’d prefer to explore on your own or head back to the hotel, you can do that too! 🙂 Although most Contiki tours are geared towards drinking and partying, it’s totally up to you whether you do so 🙂
      Thanks for reading! 🙂

  • Kay

    Wow I had never heard of this company before! This is a perfect itinerary! What club did you go to in Las Vegas? I absolutely love Vegas!!

    • It was a great tour – highly recommend! I’m so sorry, I don’t remember the club! 🙁 too much drinking, I think! LOL
      Thanks for reading, Kay! 🙂

  • So fun! I went Contiki to Europe many many years ago, it remained memorable cos I saw so many sights at one shot! Looks like you had such an interesting trip taking Contiki to U.S.A! I would have totally enjoyed the helicopter ride at Grand Canyon too, wow!

    • I’ve heard a lot of good things about Contiki’s Europe trips! I had an amazing time on the USA tour! Saw everything I hoped to and more! 🙂 Thanks for reading 🙂

  • I just returned from my holiday in the States and I’ve visited most of the places you’ve been. But there are just too many things in each city to see so I definitely am going back (although it’s such a long way from Singapore). This tour seems like they let you experience just enough of each city for first timers so it’s great! Will check out their other tours too!

    • You’re right, there is a lot to see in each city. The tour is a great introduction to travel, and a great way to see the major sights in 4 of the most popular cities in America 🙂 Thanks for reading, Amanda! 🙂

  • Wow!! What a great way to see the US! I have heard of Contiki tours but I have never done one. I didn’t even know one like this existed. You visited some of my favorite cities! I was born in NYC and I still love it. The Grand Canyon is amazing!

    • Yeah Contiki does a huge range of tours, in lots of places around the world! They’re awesome 🙂 I love that you were born in NYC! That’s amazing. The Grand Canyon definitely is amazing! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • That really is a great trip highlighting some amazing spots in the US! I love that they fly you in between cities because those travel distances are pretty massive! I think it’s great they included NYC along with LA, SF, and LV because a trip to the US without seeing it!

    • Yeah it was awesome that we were able to fly instead of bus it across the country! Definitely wouldn’t have chosen the tour if New York wasn’t included haha! Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  • Sounds like an amazing trip! I loved traveling through the States. love your photos too!!

  • This sounds rad! Never thought of doing America on Contiki, will look into it for sure!

    • Thanks for reading, Leah! Contiki is an awesome company, especially for people new to travel 🙂

  • this looks like tons of fun! i have always wanted to visit he US but I don’t think it’s possible as of the moment. 😀 but sure would want to do a lot from this list!

    • I hope you make it to the USA soon! It’s such a fun place 🙂