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The American states you thought you knew

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You could spend a lifetime trying to explore the United States of America and never get bored – whether it’s the glitz and glam of Los Angeles or the call of the great outdoors along Seattle’s Pacific coastline, each American state has its own distinct character and must-see attractions. We’re looking past the stereotypes and taking a closer look at some popular American states you thought you knew to show you some of the underrated things you need to check out on your next trip. 

You can fly from Malaysia to the United States with United Airlines – take a short hop from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore’s Changi Airport, and then the non-stop flight to San Francisco International Airport. From San Francisco, it’s easy to take a connecting flight and hop over to other American states. 

Explore San Francisco’s island getaways

Most visitors to San Francisco have to book way in advance to take a day cruise to the wildly popular former prison on Alcatraz Island, but few even realise that San Francisco has several other islands nearby that showcase a different side from its iconic landmarks.

Angel Island has lovely parks with views of the bay and a museum with fascinating stories from the immigrants who stopped over here in the early 1900s before entering the USA. Drive across the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island, a man-made island built for an expo in 1939 and today a venue for flea markets, music festivals and popular with picnickers.

Across the bay is Alameda Island, a low-key hip neighbourhood home to some unusual attractions like a floating aircraft carrier museum, pinball museum and many charming restaurants and craft breweries. If you are feeling adventurous, head west towards the wild Farallon Islands, a cluster of uninhabited islands with plenty of wildlife and seabirds to observe, and where you can even dive with Great White Sharks in the right season.

Go underground in Houston

Home to the NASA Johnson Space Centre and base of operations for the International Space Station, it’s no surprise that Houston is also known as Space City and you’ll see reminders of space exploration around the city. But it also has a humid, subtropical climate and one of the best ways to avoid the heat is to go underground.

Houston’s Downtown area is home to a staggering 95-blocks worth of underground tunnels 6 metres under the surface, providing a sheltered way for downtown workers to get around without baking under the sweltering Texan sun. You are free to explore the Downtown Tunnels on your own, but a guided tour can point out some of the more interesting things down here.

Also intriguing is the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, a vast underground reservoir that’s over a century old that looks like a grand medieval hall lined with countless 8m tall pillars. Decommissioned in 2007 due to an irreparable leak, it’s since been turned into an art and event space and a favourite for photographers.

See the colourful side of Washington

The political centre of the USA is chock full of historical monuments and grand national museums, but explore the streets of Washington D.C. and you’ll find a thriving street art scene that offers an alternative perspective on America’s history and culture on its walls.

Head to the Shaw district where you’ll find many cool murals in its alleys, of note is Blagden Alley and the DC Alley Museum where murals are strewn across several garage doors of buildings in the neighbourhood. Formerly home to Black Broadway, U Street is home to many iconic murals featuring prominent African American figures, many of which were selected by the local community. The NoMa district (North of Massachusetts Avenue) around Union Station has added many new murals to the scene thanks to the POW! WOW! street art festival in recent years.

Indulge in Chicago’s underrated cuisine

You can’t say you’ve been to Chicago without trying its signature foods like deep dish pizza and the distinctive Chicago hot dog with a poppy-seed bun and no ketchup, Italian beef sandwich and the famous Garrett’s cheese and caramel popcorn mix, but don’t miss out on some of its other culinary delights.

The Michelin list is a good place to start your search for great restaurants in Chicago: As of 2020, there are 25 Michelin starred restaurants in Chicago – Alinea in Lincoln Park tops the list with 3 Michelin stars and molecular gastronomy delights, while Oriole, Acadia and Smyth each garnered 2 Michelin stars. 

Chicago’s cuisine has had much international influence: the Jibarito from La Bomba is a Puerto Rican inspired sandwich that replaces the bread with fried plantains and a long-time Chicago favourite, as is the flaming cheese dessert Saganaki that can be found in many local Greek restaurants. 

Experience the Mexican roots of Los Angeles

When you visit the city of Los Angeles, don’t just stick to its Hollywood sights and golden beaches. Did you know that Los Angeles, the City of Angels, was named by its early Mexican settlers in 1781? About a third of the city’s population today are of Mexican descent and there is a heavy influence of Mexican culture, which you can learn more about by exploring the right places.

Skip the crowds at Rodeo Drive for Olvera Street, a pedestrianised street and Mexican marketplace where you can find the El Pueblo de Los Angeles historic monument and the Avila Adobe, the oldest house in the city built in 1818. Head over to La Golondrina Cafe, the oldest surviving restaurant on the street which opened in 1924 for some traditional Mexican fare and margaritas. Also, check out the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes to learn more about the Mexican history of Los Angeles.

Visit the quirkiest museums in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is the original ‘Sin City’ filled with glittering casinos and round-the-clock, star-studded entertainment all year long, but if you prefer something more gritty and a little offbeat, it’s also home to some of the quirkiest museums in America.

The Neon Museum collects and chronicles the stories of old neon signs that are an essential part of Las Vegas history and iconic imagery. The Mob Museum digs into the city’s seedier past as a hotbed of organized crime and housed in the former Downtown Courthouse where the aforementioned mob members were prosecuted when caught. 

Those who grew up in the 70s and 80s will find nostalgic joy in the Pinball Hall of Fame which contains nothing but pinball machines of all sorts. Fans of the paranormal will surely enjoy Zak Bagan’s Haunted Museum dedicated to haunted, cursed and downright spooky objects, and we haven’t even begun to tell you about the Hollywood Cars Museum, the Erotic Heritage museum or the National Atomic Testing Museum. 

Dig into Seattle’s arts scene

It’s no surprise that the Emerald City is a favourite spot for outdoor lovers, home to spectacular national parks, magnificent mountain ranges and the wild beauty of the Pacific Northwest coastline. But if the persistent Seattle rainfall drives you to seek shelter indoors for a bit, there are some interesting art galleries and theatres worth your time.

The Seattle Art Museum is one of the city’s oldest and largest art collections – check out the adjacent Olympic Sculpture Park if you prefer to enjoy your art in an outdoor setting. You can find more contemporary works in the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, the University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery as well as the collection at the Frye Art Museum.

The Pacific Northwest Ballet is one of the country’s premiere dance companies, and the Central Public Library has an impressive glass architecture worth a look. Pioneer Square is home to myriad independent art galleries and conducts the longest-running art walk guided tour every first thursday of the month. 

Looking for Flights from Malaysia to the US?

The best way to get from Malaysia to the United States via United Airlines is to take a short flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore’s Changi Airport, and then transit to the non-stop flight from Singapore to San Francisco which takes around 15 hours. San Francisco International Airport is one of United Airlines’ major hubs in the United States, and it’s easy to hop over to any of the states above with a simple transit flight. 

Skyscanner makes it easy for you to search for the best flights and prices from Malaysia to the United States at a glance. Just key in your travel dates to compare prices, flight times and available airlines, and don’t forget to set a price alert on your selected flight to know when the price is lowest.  

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