United States

The United States of America is a federal republic in North America. It is one of the largest countries in the world, third by population and fourth by area if you don't count Antarctica. The population is calculated to be over 317 million and the growth rate is strong at around .9%. New York City and L.A. both have over 10 million residents. European immigrants of Irish, English, and German descent form a large part of the population, and African-American and Asian-American communities are the largest minority groups. The official language is English, and countless foreign languages are spoken. Spanish is spoken at home by about 12% of Americans. Hawaiian, French, Native American languages, and varied regional languages are spoken with varying degrees of official status in some locales. The terrain includes mountains, forests, and the plains of the Eastern Seaboard, among many other features. The climate is greatly varied, especially when farflung places like Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico are taken into consideration. Native animal species include the wolverine, the giant kangaroo rat, and the common rorqual. Mainstays of the economy include natural resources, industrial production (especially of chemical products), and services such as retail. There is an incredibly wide variety of places to see and things to do. The canyons of the Southwest, such as Utah's Bryce Canyon and Arizona's Grand Canyon, are a showcase of natural splendor and geological ages. In the Southeast, you can tour swamps like Florida's Everglades and Georgia's Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge to see amazing trees and wildlife. New York and Washington, DC have extraordinary museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum. Many of these, especially Smithsonian museums, are free to enter. There are various other excellent galleries in many different subject areas. Corn, wheat, rice, and potatoes are popular starchy staples. Whole grains and whole grain products are increasingly sought-after and common. Typical vegetables include leafy greens in the South and carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce (ingredients in an average tossed salad) all over the country. Beef, chicken, pork products, and fish are very popular. Fried foods like bacon, seafood, and buckets of chicken are guilty pleasures for many. Hamburgers and hot dogs are often considered the most American of all foods, as is apple pie. Try New England Clam Chowder, or the tomato-y Manhattan version. Your average major city is likely to offer raw foods, artisanal bakeries, juice bars, and organic multiethnic cuisine. Whole Foods Market is a huge presence in the natural grocery market, and you can find numerous locations in most metropolitan areas. California cuisine with its light touches and Mexican influence highlights ingredients like avocado. Go west and dine on local, seasonal vegetable-based cuisine, and visit the great wineries of Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Ice cream would probably qualify for national dessert over apple pie, chocolate cake, or anything else.