Quirky Places And Travel Hacks: Travel In The USA

What's better than doing the whole tourist thing? Travelling like you know the place. Here's our pick of the top quirky destinations and travel hacks to have you exploring the land of the free like you've been there a thousand times -- even if it's your first time.

Matt Snodderly / Shutterstock.com

Travel Tips with Lifehacker is presented in partnership with Visa, the easier and more secure way to take your money overseas. With Visa you can behave like a traveller, #notatourist.

Quirky Places

There are the usual suspects when it comes to travel destinations (diners, Hollywood, giant canyons), and then there are these quirky spots you really should be adding to your itinerary.

1. Tree Climbing Planet

hxdbzxy / Shutterstock.com While the United States isn’t the only country with big trees, it’s the only one with big trees and Master Tree Climbing Instructor Tim Kovar -- an all-round tree enthusiast who wants to introduce you to them, up close and personal.

These locals, like a ‘gentle’ Oregon White Oak named Pagoda, have been here for longer than any of Oregon’s human inhabitants -- and you’ll probably want to be even closer and more personal with them once you’re 70 feet in the air, swinging from one of Pagoda’s lateral branches.

2. Ben and Jerry's Flavour Graveyard

Doug Kerr / Shutterstock.com “We are gathered here today to say goodbye to the dearly de-pinted…“

Yes, that’s right, Ben and Jerry’s flavour graveyard is not just an online list of retired flavours, but an actual, real-life graveyard for varieties ranging from Crème Brûlée, to Turtle Soup, to the beloved Oatmeal Cookie Chunk.

Pay respects to your most sweetly missed pints on this picturesque, gravestone-strewn hill behind the Ben n’ Jerry’s factory -- and why not stop in for a taste of the still-living flavours while you’re there?

3. Cole's Pacific Electric Buffet

Jeffreyw / Flickr.com Cole’s P.E. Buffet is a historic restaurant in Los Angeles, squatting beneath a neon sign that loudly boasts 'French-Dipped Sandwiches Since 1908'! The French dip is a LA curiosity, and where better to experience the glory of a meat-filled sandwich dipped in its own juices than at the restaurant that (or so they claim) invented it.

After your deliciously greasy, soggy, meaty sandwich, you can even meander back through the building to a secret Prohibition-era speakeasy for a hand-crafted cocktail.

4. Winchester Mystery House

dalvenjah / Flickr.com If you inherited a fortune from your rifle-manufacturing family, what would you spend it on? A house seems like the obvious answer -- but you’ve never seen one like this. Supposedly haunted by the spirits of all those killed by her family’s famous rifles, Sarah Winchester was instructed by a medium to build this home to appease their angry ghosts.

Keep an eye out for spirits as you wander through the Mystery House, but don’t lose sight of your group. The house lives up to its name, with baffling staircases, secret passages and doors that open onto blank walls, and visitors have been known to get lost in its winding corridors.

5. Hit The Road

Matt Snodderly / Shutterstock.com If you can’t decide on any one destination, why not travel in classic American style and spend your days out on the road instead? California’s State Route 1, or the Pacific Coast Highway, is the USA’s answer to our Great Ocean Road. And it’s every bit as breathtaking.

Whether you’re travelling from LA to San Francisco or the other way around it doesn't make a difference, just hire a car and join the local population in their sun-kissed summer pilgrimage.

Travel Hacks

You know where to go, now here's how to not stand out as a wide eyed tourist.

1. Drink Local

Americans are well known internationally for liking a cold Bud Light -- but did you know that the country is also home to a huge craft beer scene? Pick up an IPA -- a California favourite, or celebrate all things American with a smoked lager, which is the closest thing you can get to bacon-flavoured beer.

2. Order From The Secret Menu

California’s In-N-Out burger chain is iconic -- but did you know they have an extensive secret menu? The menu board may only show five items, however if you ask for a ‘grilled cheese’ (a cheeseburger without the meat patty), a ‘4 x 4’ (a burger with four meat patties and four slices of cheese) or a burger done ‘animal style’ (a mustard-cooked patty with extra spread, pickles and onion), then your server will always know what you’re after.

3. Turning Right Isn't Wrong

In America it’s legal to turn right at any red light after stopping -- just make sure to check on the right side of the road for oncoming traffic!

4. Leave a Tip

In Australia, a 10 per cent tip is considered standard -- but for most places in America, that will be seen as the minimum. Tip 25 per cent of the bill for excellent service, 20 per cent for good service, and 10 per cent for passable service. Some places will add an automatic 20 per cent service charge to the bill -- you don't have to leave any more than this.

5. Soup Or Salad?

Sometimes it seems that Americans have a practiced ritual to dining out, and this baffles most foreigners. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked ‘soup or salad’ with every meal. If you pick the salad, you’ll also be asked what dressing you want. Eat like a local and try the ranch.

Travel Tips with Lifehacker is presented in partnership with Visa, the easier and more secure way to take your money overseas. With Visa you can behave like a traveller, #notatourist.