America certainly isn't short on sights; in fact, with so many fantastic lively cities to choose from, travelers will find themselves wondering where to start when backpacking in the USA.
Often called 'the Windy City' because of its exposed lakeside location, Chicago is perhaps most commonly associated in America with the prosperous 19th century, along with the famous gangsters who operated there during the 1920s.
Travelers can explore this rich history at the Chicago History Museum, which pieces together the story of the city through photographs, video presentations and paintings. Throughout 2009, the museum will be honoring the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln – who served in the Illinois House of Representatives – with a series of exhibitions and events. Backpackers on a budget should note that admission is free on Mondays.
With the city's scenic position on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of America's five great lakes, Chicago hostels also draw travelers with a taste for the outdoors. Water sports and fishing are among the activities on offer, whilst those who prefer to stay on dry land can keep an eye on the action from several attractive sandy beaches.
Washington DC conjures images of the White House for many travelers. The city's most iconic landmark, a visit to the president's official would be considered a highlight of a visit here, although tours can only be reserved through a Member of Congress or a Senator.
The US capital offers many more accessible attractions to travelers, though, many of which are happily affordable for those on a budget enjoying the city from Washington hostels. The city is home to a number of free museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Museum of Natural History.
The Capitol, meanwhile, is another top attraction; it's the House of Representatives where the Senate has met for almost 200 years. Guided tours of the building are offered between 9:00 and 16:30 from Monday to Saturday and there is no admission charge, but tickets are allocated on a first-come first-served basis.
San Francisco, meanwhile, is quite a unique American city; very cosmopolitan and famous for its liberal attitudes and café culture, it attracts large numbers of independent travelers and backpackers each year. The connection with the 'Beat generation' of poets and writers make San Francisco hostels a particular mecca for literature fans.
Allen Ginsberg's epic poem Howl was published by the Citylights Bookstore on the edge of North Beach and Chinatown, and it still champions the work of new writers. The city also has a large gay community and the annual Pride event attracts crowds from all over the world.
Overlooking San Francisco Bay, the city's most recognizable landmark is arguably the Golden Gate Bridge. Backpackers can walk along the 1.7 mile length of the bridge from San Francisco to Marin County or perhaps cycle across it. (San Francisco hostels can offer travelers advice on where to hire a bike.)
Another famous sight is Alcatraz Island, situated in the middle of the bay and formerly home to one of the country's most notorious prisons. Travelers can catch the ferry over to 'the Rock' where they are free to explore the island themselves or take a guided tour.