Topographic map showing Washington D.C.

Travel in the U.S.A.

U.S. Travel

U.S. Government map of CONUS

U.S. Government map of the continental United States.

US flag

For budget places to stay in the United States, get The Hostel Handbook.

It lists the HI hostels (with the HI stamp of approval and the HI rules, both pro and con) plus a lot of independent hostels which tend to be more fun:

The Hostel Handbook
722 St Nicholas Avenue
New York NY 10031
+1-212-926-7030
hostelhandbook.com

Table of Contents

Bob on the summit of Mount Healy, in Denali National Park, Alaska.  3.79 kilometers from the trailhead, 605 meters elevation gain.

Alaska

Alaska has its own page.


Atlanta

The Carter Center is interesting. So is the Martin Luther King historical site, although it's embedded in a downright scary neighborhood. But one of the most memorable features of Atlanta is the shuffling zombie army of vagrants and beggers. It's the place that I've most felt like I was in a Bruce Campbell movie.

shuffling vagrant zombie army

Corner of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Boulevard Avenue, 10 AM on a Monday.
#4 & #5 are across the road, partially hidden by signs and utility poles.
#9 & #10 are just out of sight to the right.

They congregate in the parking lots of fast-food restaurants and abandoned businesses, especially near intersections. If you're on foot, they will see you coming and move to intercept. Then when you cross the street, you're hit by the cluster on the opposite corner. They don't take "no" for an answer, and may follow you for some distance.

Creepy and threatening? You bet.

Atlanta Hostel on Ponce de Leon Avenue.

Atlanta Hostel, a former brothel on Ponce de Leon Avenue.

On the somewhat positive side, I was there once during the mild Georgia winter, when some charity had distributed thousands of serapes to the homeless. That gave the atmosphere a little more Clint Eastwood and a little less Bruce Campbell.

Anyway, a very nice place to stay is the Atlanta Hostel, in a former brothel:
Atlanta Hostel
223 Ponce de Leon
+1-404-875-9449
+1-800-473-9449
atlantahostel.com


The MARC commuter train runs about every hour between Baltimore and Washington, it costs US$ 7. However, it is intended for working commuters, not visitors, so it mainly runs Monday through Friday with very limited weekend service. Baltimore also has frequent Amtrak service, at least once an hour for the Washington — Baltimore — Philadelphia — Trenton — Newark — New York — Boston route.

I stayed at the HI hostel in Baltimore, in a nice location in the same block as the Latrobe House, which figures prominently in the career of Edgar Allan Poe:
HI Baltimore, 17 West Mulberry, +1-410-576-8880, baltimorehostel.org

If you have a car you might check out the National Security Agency's museum if you're interested in WWII history or information security. It's between Baltimore and Washington, a little closer to Baltimore. Click here to see my pictures.

You can take the light rail line to the BWI airport, and then it's about a 20-minute walk to the Historical Electronics Museum if you're interested in radar, radio, military communications gear, or information security. Click here to see my pictures.


Boston

The HI hostel is pretty nice: 12 Hemenway Street, +1-617-536-9455.


Michigan Central Station in Detroit.

Detroit

Detroit is filled with some amazing architecture in a post-apocalyptic setting. Much of the city appears as if humanity largely died off several years ago.

I stayed at Hostel Detroit in the northern part of the Corktown neighborhood, just a short walk from the Michigan Central Station seen here.


Chicago

My favorite place place to stay is the Chicago Getaway Hostel, formerly the Arlington International House, between De Paul University and Lincoln Park. Cheaper than the HI and a less sterile atmosphere, the place has some real character:
Chicago Getaway Hostel
616 West Arlington Place
Chicago IL 60614
+1-773-929-5380
getawayhostel.com

The International Youth Hostel in the southeast corner of The Loop is one of the best official HI places I've ever stayed. Very nice rooms, many en suite, a nice breakfast, a nice lounge area, and a real atmosphere to the place.

The University of Chicago has rented out rooms for in the International House dorm during the summers, but they don't always do that. You could try asking about the International House:
1414 East 59th St
Chicago IL 60605
+1-312-327-5350
i-house-programs@uchicago.edu

Get around on the CTA. You can get a one-day pass good on the subway, Elevated and buses for $5.75. It's good for 24 hours from first use, not midnight to midnight as in many cities. They also have 3-day, 7-day, and 30-day passes ($14, $23, $86 respectively). Any of them makes it cheaper if you take at least two or three rides per day.


Old market building at the center of Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Statue of General Henry Shelton at the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, North Carolina

I ended up in Fayetteville, North Carolina with some free time on my hands. I was to have done a cybersecurity course for some staff at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, but the class got called off half-way through.

So, what to do?

There are the old buildings of Fayetteville and its history. Also, there are three military history museums in the area: the 82nd Airborne Division Museum and the John F Kennedy Special Warfare Museum, both on Fort Bragg, and the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum on the edge of the old downtown in Fayetteville.


The boardwalk on Venice Beach and the Venice Beach Cotel on Windward Avenue.

Los Angeles

Stay right on Venice Beach at the Venice Beach Samesun, formerly the Venice Beach Cotel. A very nice location, and a very cool place to stay!
25 Windward Ave
+1-888-718-8287
+1-310-399-7649
venicebeachcotel.com

For transport from the LAX airport, take the airport shuttle bus to the bus terminal in Lot C. Take the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus #3 to where Lincoln crosses Venice Boulevard, then change to the LA Metro #33 or #733 bus to Venice. Just $1.50 for the Santa Monica bus plus $0.30 for the transfer.

Click here for lots of my pictures from Venice.


Rosa Parks' bus stop in Montgomery, Alabama.

Montgomery, Alabama

I have some suggestions if you happen to find yourself in Montgomery, Alabama. You can see the bus stop where Rosa Parks boarded a bus, sat down, and later refused to give up her seat just because a man who had boarded happened to be white. For this she was arrested and fined, but that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and a major step forward for Civil Rights. That's the bus stop itself at right.

There are other sites related to Civil Rights history including Martin Luther King's church and the exact spot where George Wallace made a point of standing in Jefferson Davis' footprints to rant about "segregation forever", the Confederate White House, and some Hank Williams locations.

Get an MTA pass for transportation, good on the subway and the buses. A 7-day pass is cheaper than 13 rides, so if you just make one trip out and back each day, you're ahead.

You could ask the NYPD for a ride, but you probably won't get one. Click here to read how I got a ride from the NYPD.

Another thing you can do is walk around Manhattan. I mean literally walk all the way around it. Plan for two long days or maybe three. According to GPS, the straight-line distance between Kings Bridge, just north of where Broadway crosses the Harlem River from the Bronx at the northermost tip to the Battery at the southern tip is 21.690 km.

Take the #1 MTA train to the first station in the Bronx. Then walk south on Broadway across the bridge over the Harlem River and keep going.

West Side 6.6 miles 10.6 km 219th to 103rd
11.8 miles 19.0 km 103rd to Battery, then up along the East River to 20th
East Side 8.7 miles 14.0 km 219th to 79th
3.5 miles 5.6 km 79th to 20th
Total 30.6 miles 49.2 km

The best place I've found is the Whitehouse Hotel. It's a very cool place, equal parts the opening chapters of The Beach and Hong Kong's Chungking Mansions. Just-big-enough private rooms (!!) and shared toilets and showers. Closest subway: #6 at Bleeker. Click here for some pictures.
White House Hotel
340 Bowery
whitehousehotelofny.com

Other places I've stayed:

Jazz Hostel 36 West 106th +1-212-932-1600
jazzhostels.com
Just off Central Park West
Jazz Hostel 307 East 14th Street +1-212-932-1600
jazzhostels.com
Sky Hostel (formerly Columbus Studios) 106 W 83rd St +1-212-799-5299
+1-888-6-HOSTELS
nychostels.com
I have liked it the one time I was there, but I got the idea that some of the nychostels.com locations were always in danger of being closed.
Village Inn Hostel 27 East 7th Street +1-212-228-0828
villageinnhostel.com
I stayed there and really liked it. Then I tried to stay there again just a few months later and found their web page saying "Currently not accepting reservations". I stayed somewhere else, and stopped by to see what was going on. Closed down for safety reasons (inadequate exits for the number of people). Check their web site to see if they have re-opened.
Central Park Hostel 19 W 103rd St at Manhattan Ave +1-212-678-0491
centralparkhostel.com
Changed policy to only accept foreigners and students the last time I tried to stay there.
Chelsea International Hostel 251 West 20th Street, between 7th and 8th Ave +1-212-647-0010 Part of the Rucksackers North America network, not HI affiliated, thus just as clean and well-equipped but with far fewer rules.
HI Hostel 891 Amsterdam Avenue (at 103rd) +1-212-932-2300
+1-800-909-4776, access code: 01
hinewyork.org
Huge, possibly crowded and noisy, and plenty of rules.

Other non-HI cheap places in Manhattan include the following. The nychostels.com places keep changing their names so verify the address. If you're traveling with the family or a group, you can also rent unused timeshare weeks at hotels like the Manhattan Club from their owners online for much less than renting through the resort.

Midtown / Chelsea Chelsea Star Hotel & Hostel 300 W 30th St +1-212-244-7827
http://www.starhotelny.com/
Big Apple Hostel 119 W 45th St
Just off Times Square
+1-212-302-2603
http://www.bigapplehostel.com/
Hotel Walcott 4 W 31st St +1-212-268-2900
http://www.wolcott.com/
Latham Hotel 4 E 28th St +1-212-685-8300
http://www.lathamhotel.com/
Vanderbilt YMCA 224 E 47th St +1-212-756-9600
http://www.ymcanyc.org/reservations/
Upper West Side Jazz on the City 201 W 95th St +1-212-678-0323
http://www.jazzhostels.com/
Candy Hostel 316 W 95th St +1-212-866-1420
+1-888-6-HOSTELS
http://www.nychostels.com/
Fresh Hostel (formerly Continental) 330 W 95th St +1-212-866-1420
+1-888-6-HOSTELS
http://www.nychostels.com/
Broadway Hotel & Hostel 2688 Broadway
At 101st St
+1-212-222-2954
http://www.broadwayhotelnyc.com/
Chocolat Hostel (formerly West End Studios) 850 West End Ave
At 102nd St
+1-212-222-2954
+1-888-6-HOSTELS
http://www.nychostels.com/
West Side Inn 237 W 107th St +1-212-866-0061
+1-888-6-HOSTELS
http://www.nychostels.com/
West Side YMCA 5 W 63rd St +1-212-787-4400
http://www.ymcanyc.org/reservations/
Harlem Jazz on Lenox 104 W 128th St +1-212-222-5722
http://www.jazzhostels.com/
Jazz on the Villa 12 W 129th St +1-212-722-6252
http://www.jazzhostels.com/
Tony's Place B&B 133 W 119th St +1-212-864-3301
http://www.tonysplacebnb.com/

I've also seen about these places:


Bank Street and the hostel just off Market in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia

The Bank Street Hostel is in a great location, walking distance to all the historical, right in the night-life of the Old Town district, and the $1 Phlash Bus can get you to more distant places like the art museum. In late 2008 it was purchased and turned into Apple Hostels, and they no longer allowed Americans to stay there. Then it became re-affiliated with Hostelling International, and Americans are allowed to stay but only if you are an HI member. If you're foreign or have a current university student ID, you are also allowed to stay there:
32 South Bank Street
+1-877-275-1971
18S 0487606 4422118 (WGS84)

The alternative is HI's Chamounix Mansion hostel, in the fantastic facility of a historic mansion in a park. However, being a historic mansion in a park, it is something like a one kilometer walk in the dark from the closest bus stop.
West Fairmount Park
3250 Chamounix Drive
Philadelphia PA 19131-3710
+1-215-878-3676 or +1-1-800-379-0017
philahostel.org

Click here for pictures of my visit to Edgar Allan Poe's house and Two Scoldings From Authority Figures.


San Diego

The HI San Diego Hostel is right in the Gaslight District, and is a very cool place. It's much more laid-back than most HI places, probably due to the location.
San Diego Hostel
521 Market Street (corner 5th & Market)
1-800-909-4776 ext.156
+1-619-525-1531
sandiegohostels.org


Victorian house in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, #710 Ashbury where The Grateful Dead lived during the Summer of Love.
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

San Francisco

San Francisco and especially its Haight-Ashbury district was the epicenter of the Summer of Love in the late 1960s, and the source of many musicians and groups including The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. It was also associated with the Hells Angels and the Symbionese Liberation Army. The district has changed a lot, but it still retains a little of its 1960s vibe.

What else — Golden Gate Park, the Mission District, the vintage streetcars, great views from the waterfront and the many hills, and side trips to the Marin Headlands, to the Muir Woods, and even to Big Sur.

Get a WMATA pass for transportation, good on the subway:

There is a lot to see and do in Washington! Check the Friday or Sunday Washington Post and the free weekly City Paper for details on what's up at the many museums, most of which are free.

Also see the many free events open to the public at Georgetown University: events.georgetown.edu.

Hilltop Hostel in Washington DC

Hilltop Hostel in the snow.

The best place to stay is the Hilltop Hostel near the Takoma Park Metro Station in the northern tip of the District of Columbia:
300 Carroll St NW, Washington DC 20012, UTM 18S 0325318 4315894 (WGS84), +1-202-291-9591, hosteldc.com.

Or, for a little more you can get a bunk in a shared room at the HI international hostel. It's three blocks north of the Metro Center metro station on 11th Street:
1009 11th St NW, Washington DC 20001, +1-202-737-2333, hiwashingtondc.org

A newer place to stay is DC Lofty. They have two locations and are aimed at longer-term stays. I've seen about them, but haven't seen the places.

Cheaper hotels in Washington include:
Hotel Harrington, 436 11th St NW (11th & E), +1-202-628-7681
Allen Lee Hotel, 2224 F St NW (Foggy Bottom — GWU), +1-800-462-0186
Gallery Inn, 1850 Florida Ave NW (Dupont Circle), +1-202-234-2340

As for a downright creepy place to stay, ask for suite 122 at the Residence Inn in Herndon, Virginia. That's where one group of 9/11 hijackers stayed before flying out of the nearby Dulles Airport. I end up at that Residence Inn a few times a year, teaching Linux and networking and information security courses in Reston. It's a very nice place to stay, but I always stay away from the upstairs rooms in the first building.

Also see the Baltimore suggestions as it's just a short and cheap commuter ride away on week days.

SOME (So Others May Eat) is an organization doing good work to get people off the street. They run a "soup kitchen", really serving more than just soup. They run a shelter, and they offer training and assistance to get people employed and off the street. The HI hostel (see above) sometimes organizes work groups to help run the meal program for a day. Very interesting and very worthwhile. See some.org.

It also makes it fascinating to stop and try to talk to one of the many Washington panhandlers. After working at the kitchen one morning and through lunch, I made it a point to stop and talk to every panhandler who asked me for money that day, to tell them where they could get meals, a place to stay, and a hand up off the street. The score for that day:


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