Davis: Do you want to chat about North America?

General View

Just like the other continents, it is difficult to describe North America with just a few adjectives. Greenland, Alaska and the northern parts of Canada border the Arctic Sea are together with Siberia the coldest areas north of the Equator.. Very few people live here, vegetation is generally sparse and some areas are completely covered by ice around the year. Most Canadians live in the southern parts of the country near the northern border of the United States.. Here you can find cosmopolitan and interesting world cities and relatively easily accessible national parks for friends of nature and wildlife. The middle of the continent is covered by the United States of America, which is a naturally and culturally diverse superpower..

The size and non uniformity of the country results in increased travel time and many unique destinations and experiences. The southwestern part of the continent consists of Mexico and Central America, where modern Latin American culture meets ancient Maya and Aztec heritage.. The southeastern part of the continent consists of the Caribbean islands, popular destinations for cruise and beach holidays..

General Info

North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It can also be considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas.. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.. North America covers an area of about 24,709,000 square kilometers, about 4.8 of the planet's surface or about 16.5 of its land area. As of 2013, its population was estimated at nearly 565 million people across 23 independent states, representing about 7.5 of the human population..

Most of the continent's land area is dominated by Canada, the United States, Greenland, and Mexico, while smaller states exist in the Central American and Caribbean regions. North America is the third largest continent by area, following Asia and Africa, and the fourth by population after Asia, Africa, and Europe.. The first people to live in North America were Paleoindians who began to arrive during the last glacial period by crossing the Bering land bridge. They differentiated into a number of diverse cultures and communities across the continent..

The largest and most advanced Pre Columbian civilizations in North America were the Aztecs in what is now Mexico and the Maya in Central America. European colonists began to arrive starting in the 16th and 17th centuries, wiping out large numbers of the native populations and beginning an era of European dominance..

What To See

The range of things to see in North America is enormous. There is spectacular natural scenery ranging from mountains and tundra to deserts and tropical rain forests. The Rocky Mountains (Rockies) are the continent's largest mountain range, running from northern Canada to the southwestern United States.. The Rockies contain some of the world's most visited national parks including the famous Yellowstone. North American cities like New York City, Chicago, and Washington DC are home to some of the world's finest museums..

Stunning architecture can be found from Panama City to Montreal.. Some of the best Scenic areas include. Alaska Highway (BC - Yukon - Alaska).

How To Get In

You can get into major cities in the USA and Canada by direct flights from all the other five continents. Latin American carriers fly directly between Central and South America and from Europe you can fly directly to many of the Caribbean islands.. It is possible to travel across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by freight or cruise ship, but these cruises tend to be quite expensive compared to flying (and infrequent). There are ferries from the northern rim of South America to Central America and to the Caribbean..

Even if the Americas are physically connected, there are no roads or railroads between Panama and Colombia. Theoretically it is possible to hike through the jungle, but if you want to take your vehicle with you, you need to take the ferry. Because population centers are often widely spaced, most long range travel is by air, with an extensive network of major hubs and smaller regional airports, usually supplemented with car rental services to cover local travel (see " By car "). Because population centers are often widely spaced, most long range travel is by air, with an extensive network of major hubs and smaller regional airports, usually supplemented with car rental services to cover local travel (see " By car ")..

How To Get Around

There is prolific long range bus service across most of the US and Canada, but travel times are excessively long (on the order of three to five times as long as a direct trip in a personal vehicle) and many stations are relatively unsafe.. Most bus service is useful only for traveling within a dense metro area or along major commuter routes and is then limited or unavailable outside of business hours. Bus service is extensive in Mexico as well.. Most travel in Canada, the United States, and Mexico is by personal vehicle. Almost all highways in Canada and the United States are well maintained, with amenities such as gas, food, and lodging ranging from adequate to very convenient..

If you experience an emergency that endangers your life, safety, or property, you will be able to dial 911 from a compatible cell phone on almost any major highway and reach an operator at any time.. Vehicle and medical insurance issued in either Canada or the U.S. is usually valid in the other, though the wise traveler will confirm with their insurer. Canada and U.S. insurance coverage in Mexico is sometimes limited or not honored.. Again, the wise traveler will confirm with their insurer.. Car rental agencies are available at almost every airport. Normally, a valid driver's license and a major credit card or cash deposit are required. Rentals are sometimes restricted for drivers under age 25..

Many agencies offer short term insurance and additional coverage.. Although it once held much of the continent together, and remains useful for local travel in many metro areas, intercity train travel now ranges from relatively convenient in the Northeast Corridor, to manageable in California and parts of southeastern Canada, to sparse in other parts of the continent.. If you prefer to travel by rail, it's still possible (depending on where you go), but is slower and sometimes more expensive than air travel for long distances..

Among the areas with most frequent service is the US Northeast Corridor which links Washington, D.C. to Boston with frequent stops in intermediate cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, New Haven, and Providence.. In Canada, the heavily populated Windsor Quebec corridor has several trains daily which compare favourably in speed to freeway travel, although the cost to put one passenger on the train often exceeds that of intercity bus or of the fuel to travel by car.. In communities off the beaten track, often the rails have simply been removed and the former rights of way used as bicycle, snowmobile or nature trails. There are no railways still extant on Prince Edward Island or the island of Newfoundland..

Most private intercity rail carriers have abandoned passenger service as unprofitable, leaving federally owned entities such as Amtrak (in the US) or VIA Rail (in Canada) to operate the services that remain.. Short commuter train runs are often regionally or municipally operated. See Rail travel in Canada and Rail travel in the United States.. The cruise industry is a large industry in some parts of North America, and cruises to places such as Bermuda and the West Indies are readily available, as well as to parts of Mexico..

Cruises are offered as tours, and, if your travel begins or ends at a port in the United States, you generally must embark or disembark either at the same port or in a different country at the other end of the cruise.. (This is due to cabotage laws) The exception is if the line is owned and staffed by Americans, using American built ships.. (Most cruise lines are multinational operations) Generally, cruises stop at a given port for only a few hours, so this method of travel may be inconvenient for people who want to stay longer at a port..

Some locations, such as the states of Washington and Alaska, have ferry service, allowing trips to various locations in or near them.. If you find yourself in a large city, like New York, walking might be the best way to get around because of the large amount of traffic that many large cities have. There are many sidewalks and footpaths to take in less populated areas.. For the dedicated long distance hikers the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail are United States National Scenic Trails running thousands of miles between Mexico and Canada through some of the most mountainous and rugged areas of North America..

Videos

How To Get In

You can get into major cities in the USA and Canada by direct flights from all the other five continents. Latin American carriers fly directly between Central and South America and from Europe you can fly directly to many of the Caribbean islands.. It is possible to travel across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by freight or cruise ship, but these cruises tend to be quite expensive compared to flying (and infrequent). There are ferries from the northern rim of South America to Central America and to the Caribbean..

Even if the Americas are physically connected, there are no roads or railroads between Panama and Colombia. Theoretically it is possible to hike through the jungle, but if you want to take your vehicle with you, you need to take the ferry. Because population centers are often widely spaced, most long range travel is by air, with an extensive network of major hubs and smaller regional airports, usually supplemented with car rental services to cover local travel (see " By car "). Because population centers are often widely spaced, most long range travel is by air, with an extensive network of major hubs and smaller regional airports, usually supplemented with car rental services to cover local travel (see " By car ")..

How To Get Around

There is prolific long range bus service across most of the US and Canada, but travel times are excessively long (on the order of three to five times as long as a direct trip in a personal vehicle) and many stations are relatively unsafe.. Most bus service is useful only for traveling within a dense metro area or along major commuter routes and is then limited or unavailable outside of business hours. Bus service is extensive in Mexico as well.. Most travel in Canada, the United States, and Mexico is by personal vehicle. Almost all highways in Canada and the United States are well maintained, with amenities such as gas, food, and lodging ranging from adequate to very convenient..

If you experience an emergency that endangers your life, safety, or property, you will be able to dial 911 from a compatible cell phone on almost any major highway and reach an operator at any time.. Vehicle and medical insurance issued in either Canada or the U.S. is usually valid in the other, though the wise traveler will confirm with their insurer. Canada and U.S. insurance coverage in Mexico is sometimes limited or not honored.. Again, the wise traveler will confirm with their insurer.. Car rental agencies are available at almost every airport. Normally, a valid driver's license and a major credit card or cash deposit are required. Rentals are sometimes restricted for drivers under age 25..

Many agencies offer short term insurance and additional coverage.. Although it once held much of the continent together, and remains useful for local travel in many metro areas, intercity train travel now ranges from relatively convenient in the Northeast Corridor, to manageable in California and parts of southeastern Canada, to sparse in other parts of the continent.. If you prefer to travel by rail, it's still possible (depending on where you go), but is slower and sometimes more expensive than air travel for long distances..

Among the areas with most frequent service is the US Northeast Corridor which links Washington, D.C. to Boston with frequent stops in intermediate cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, New Haven, and Providence.. In Canada, the heavily populated Windsor Quebec corridor has several trains daily which compare favourably in speed to freeway travel, although the cost to put one passenger on the train often exceeds that of intercity bus or of the fuel to travel by car.. In communities off the beaten track, often the rails have simply been removed and the former rights of way used as bicycle, snowmobile or nature trails. There are no railways still extant on Prince Edward Island or the island of Newfoundland..

Most private intercity rail carriers have abandoned passenger service as unprofitable, leaving federally owned entities such as Amtrak (in the US) or VIA Rail (in Canada) to operate the services that remain.. Short commuter train runs are often regionally or municipally operated. See Rail travel in Canada and Rail travel in the United States.. The cruise industry is a large industry in some parts of North America, and cruises to places such as Bermuda and the West Indies are readily available, as well as to parts of Mexico..

Cruises are offered as tours, and, if your travel begins or ends at a port in the United States, you generally must embark or disembark either at the same port or in a different country at the other end of the cruise.. (This is due to cabotage laws) The exception is if the line is owned and staffed by Americans, using American built ships.. (Most cruise lines are multinational operations) Generally, cruises stop at a given port for only a few hours, so this method of travel may be inconvenient for people who want to stay longer at a port..

Some locations, such as the states of Washington and Alaska, have ferry service, allowing trips to various locations in or near them.. If you find yourself in a large city, like New York, walking might be the best way to get around because of the large amount of traffic that many large cities have. There are many sidewalks and footpaths to take in less populated areas.. For the dedicated long distance hikers the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail are United States National Scenic Trails running thousands of miles between Mexico and Canada through some of the most mountainous and rugged areas of North America..

What To Buy

Usually, you can buy large ranges of clothing and lots of electronics. North America is known for manufacturing lots of electronics, such as Apple, Hewlett Packard (HP) and Dell, which are all major electronics manufacturers from North America.. Many North American cities have famous shopping districts such as 5th Avenue in New York City, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. Downtown shopping districts have spawned some of the world's most famous retailers including Macy's, Bloomingdale's, and Neiman Marcus..

Many tourists enjoy shopping at the biggest shopping mall in the United States, the Mall of America. It's located in Bloomington, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis.. As well as having an amazing number of stores, you'll also find a multi screen movie theater, an amusement park, and many restaurants -- including both sit down and fast food. Also, the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta is a popular destination having once been the world's largest mall..

What To Eat

Since the United States was heavily populated by pioneering peoples and global immigration, the diversity of cuisine is immense. Many cosmopolitan cities (Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas to name a few) have a broad array of dining options to offer tourists.. These cities attract both famous chefs from around the world serving world class fare in Michelin starred restaurants, as well as enclaves of various ethnic groups offering inexpensive regional cuisines from their homelands..

You will want to experience the foods of the region you are visiting; seafood in San Francisco, lobster in Maine and Boston, steak in Texas, Creole in New Orleans, barbecue (BBQ) throughout the South and Texas with each region having its unique sauces and preparations.. Fresh food availability is particularly obvious in California, which is also enjoying a prominence of organic food and " slow food " movements. In Florida, you will want to tour the orange groves for that freshly squeezed taste..

Georgia is renowned for fresh peaches. States on the southern borders, such as New Mexico, serve lots of Mexican foods, and the spiciness and flavors will vary based upon the Mexican state they border.. Potluck suppers are held throughout the midwest and south (you may find a few on the coasts if you are lucky). If you can get invited to one of those... be sure to go !. You'll enjoy everything from jello salad to venison (deer) and elk, to southern fried chicken. It's soul food of the best kind..

Canadian food, like that of the U.S., varies from region to region and is heavily influenced by its immigrant culture. Broadly speaking, you should think seafood on the coasts, meat and potatoes in the center of the country, and pretty much anything you can think of in the cosmopolitan major cities.. Poutine, french fries covered in cheese curd and gravy, may be the nation's favorite fast food snack.. The Caribbean is known for its seafood and specialties like Jerk chicken..

Options For Drink

Europeans used to mock American beers for their lack of diversity and flavour. No longer. While a light beer can still be enjoyed in hot regions on sandy beaches, the U.S. has microbreweries dotting the country.. Major concentrations of microbreweries can be found in New England, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and Northern California. The diversity of beers is now enormous and most beer lovers will find at least one or two to their liking.. Mexico is known for the lighter beers (Corona, Dos Equis, Pacifico) that go well with their cuisine and warm climate, although darker options are also available..

The lighter beers are also more common in southern areas and the Caribbean, though many of these areas also have special non beer options (regional types of rum are quite diverse, for example).. Canada and the U.S. have various wine regions and variants which have become internationally recognized and respected. Try the ice wine from Ontario and you will never forget the clean, clear beauty that is extracted from the frozen grape.. The US has become the fourth largest wine making region in the world, with California producing roughly 90% of that volume..

A trip to San Francisco, should be accompanied by a drive through the famous Napa Valley, although if the crowds deter you, you can easily enjoy lovely wineries a few hours south along the Central Coast of California (add a stop at Hearst Castle) or beautiful Pinot Noirs in Oregon.. Upstate New York (Finger Lakes Region) is another major wine producing region.. Again, the immigrant influx to North America brought with it culturally diverse methods of alcohol production. Regional drinks and types of liquors abound. Beverages in the southern regions will often be mixed with tropical fruits; and of course, Mexico is famous for fermentation techniques with the agave plant (Tequila, anyone)..

Rums abound in the southern most regions (Southern areas of Mexico and the Caribbean), and have much diversity in methods of production. Cocktails made with gin and vodkas have undergone a renaissance in the US and Canada, evoking memories of old movie stars from days gone by.. And of course, who has not heard of the Mint Julep from Kentucky, or the Hurricane from New Orleans.. As with all cultures, there will be sports bars with large television screens and avid fans.. If this is something you enjoy, be certain to check the season and game times to see when the next hockey, (American) football, soccer (football), or baseball game is on and join the noisemaking..

North America is the birthplace of another drinking trend that is spreading throughout the world; the Fake Irish Pub. These establishments will usually be decorated with nicknacks from Ireland and may even have an authentic looking 19th century interior.. Sometimes the interior is actually imported from a real Irish pub that has gone out of business. The bar menu almost always consists of Guinness, Harp, and Jameson.. Fake Irish pubs may seem tacky to those who have been to the real thing, but they are a genuine part of the landscape in the U.S. and Canada and are often among the most popular bars in town..

If you're in a major American city on St Patrick's day, a visit to one of these establishments is a must.. Drinking ages vary by country. In the U.S., a government issued ID, demonstrating its holder is 21 or above, is required to purchase or consume alcohol.. Availability to purchase will vary as well; some states issue liquor licenses more broadly allowing you to find alcohol in many shops and stores (California, Washington); while others may only be purchased in state run shops (Utah), or licensed bars and restaurants..

In Mexico, the drinking age is 18, sending many young US border residents into the casinos and nightclubs on weekends. In Canada, the drinking age (18 or 19) will vary by territory and province..

Where To Sleep

Hostels are available in the cities, though often in less desirable locations. If hostels are your usual lodging choice, consider options such as the YMCA or a cheap hotel. Independent hotels and international and regional hotel chains are widespread across both Canada and the USA.. Most hotel chains have free smart phone apps to make it easy to schedule and keep up with travel itinerary while on the road. In these countries, as well as major tourist regions of Mexico and the Caribbean, high speed internet service is typically available, though sometime at an additional fee..

Hotel chains also offer reward programs and bonuses for frequent travelers, as do some of the online options. Bed and breakfasts are available in many cities and other popular tourist destinations.. Camping spots are widely available, generally along highways or near lakes and rivers, many require a small fee, so read signs and enquire. It should be noted that in more populated US national parks (Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone) camping and accommodations within the parks will often need booking up to 12 months in advance..

You may also experience challenges with accommodations at the small hotels just outside the parks during high seasons.. To really experience life in the United States, a small bed and breakfast is the way to go ! Bed and breakfasts, which are usually run by the owners who live on the property, will give you a better feel of what it's like to " be an American ".. Many of these owners have traveled widely, read widely and have knowledge of their area to guide you to those unique experiences in the United States..

Connect

Mobile telephone frequencies in the Americas (ITU region 2) differ from most of the rest of the world, with 850 MHz / 1900 MHz being the most common frequencies in North America for GSM (AT&T, T Mobile, Rogers) and 3G UMTS / WCDMA / HSPA (AT&T, Bell / Telus, Rogers).. A few new entrants, regional carriers and higher speed data services use 1700 MHz or 2100 MHz.. You should check if your phone operates on the North American frequencies - if it's a quad band cell phone it probably will, at least for GSM (a few also support North American 3G bands)..

If it doesn't you won't be able to call, receive calls, or send or receive messages while in North America.. As a further wrinkle, North America was one of the few to widely use CDMA (a 2G system used by Sprint and Verizon, and gradually being phased out by Bell and Telus).. CDMA is not GSM compatible; CDMA handsets are not required to provide a removable SIM card It is therefore common for North Americans to have to replace the entire handset (and not just a SIM) when switching to a new provider, even within the same country..

How To Stay Safe

Police and other emergency services are widely available most anywhere throughout the United States and Canada as well as most areas of Mexico and usually have fast response times. In the United States and Canada, police and other first responders can be summoned in an emergency by dialing 9-1-1 on a compatible phone.. Safety varies widely from place to place, so see the appropriate article on the region of interest. Like anywhere, remember to practice good common sense safety procedures and you should be fine..

History

Laurentia is an ancient craton which forms the geologic core of North America; it formed between 1.5 to 1.0 billion years ago during the Proterozoic eon. The Canadian Shield is the largest exposure of this craton.. From the Late Paleozoic to Early Mesozoic eras, North America was joined with the other modern day continents as part of the supercontinent Pangaea, with Eurasia to its east.. One of the results of the formation of Pangaea was the Appalachian Mountains, which formed some 480 million years ago, making it among the oldest mountain ranges in the world..

When Pangaea began to rift around 200 million years ago, North America became part of Laurasia, before it separated from Eurasia as its own continent during the mid Cretaceous period.. The Rockies and other western mountain ranges began forming around this time from a period of mountain building called the Laramide orogeny, between 80 and 55 million years ago.. The formation of the Isthmus of Panama connected the continent to South America about three million years ago, and the Great Lakes were carved by receding glaciers about 10,000 years ago..

North America is the source of much of what humanity knows about geologic time periods. The geographic area that would later become the United States has been the source of more varieties of dinosaurs than any other modern country.. According to paleontologist Peter Dodson, this is primarily due to stratigraphy, climate and geography, human resources, and history. Much of the Mesozoic Era is represented by exposed outcrops in the many arid regions of the continent.. The most significant Late Jurassic dinosaur bearing fossil deposit in North America is the Morrison Formation of the western United States..

Anthropologists have a number of models explaining the origins of the early human population of North America. The indigenous peoples of North America have many creation myths by which they assert that they have been present on the land since its creation.. The consensus is that indigenous North Americans first arrived from Asia during the last Ice Age, most likely through the Bering Land Bridge and possibly by primitive boats also.. Before contact with Europeans, the natives of North America were divided into many different polities, from small bands of a few families to large empires..

They lived in several " culture areas ", which roughly correspond to geographic and biological zones and give a good indication of the main lifeway or occupation of the people who lived there.. Native groups can also be classified by their language family. Peoples with similar languages did not always share the same material culture, nor were they always allies.. Anthropologists think that the Inuit people of the high Arctic came to North America much later than other native groups, as evidenced by the disappearance of Dorset culture artifacts from the archaeological record, and their replacement by the Thule people..

It is possible that North America had several peoples among its early settlers. The best known evidence that supports this theory is Kennewick Man.. During the thousands of years of native habitation on the continent, cultures changed and shifted. One of the oldest cultures yet found is the Clovis culture of modern New Mexico.. Later cultures include the Mississippian culture and related Mound building cultures, found in the Mississippi river valley and the Pueblo culture of what is now the Four Corners. The more southern cultural groups of North America were responsible for the domestication of many common crops now used around the world, such as tomatoes and squash. Perhaps most importantly they domesticated one of the world's major staples, maize..

As a result of the development of agriculture in the south, many important cultural advances were made there. For example, the Maya civilization developed a writing system, built huge pyramids and temples, had a complex calendar, and developed the concept of zero around 400 CE, a few hundred years after the Mesopotamians.. The Mayan culture was still present in southern Mexico and Guatemala when the Spanish explorers arrived, but political dominance in the area had shifted to the Aztec Empire whose capital city Tenochtitlan was located further north in the Valley of Mexico..

The Aztecs were conquered in 1521 by Hernn Corts.. During the Age of Discovery, Europeans began exploring and staking claims in various parts of North America. Upon their arrival in the " New World ", the Native American population declined substantially, primarily due to the introduction of European diseases to which the Native Americans lacked immunity, as well as violent conflicts.. Native peoples found their culture changed drastically. As such, their affiliation with political and cultural groups changed as well, several linguistic groups went extinct, and others changed quite quickly..

The names and cultures that Europeans recorded for the natives were not necessarily the same as the ones they had used a few generations before, or the ones in use today.. Britain, Spain, and France fought over and established extensive territories in North America. In the late 18th century and beginning of the 19th, several independence movements started across the continent, which would create its modern countries.. The 13 British colonies on the North Atlantic coast declared independence in 1776, becoming the United States of America. Canada was formed from the unification of northern territories controlled by Britain and France..

New Spain, a territory that stretched from modern day southern US to Central America, declared independence in 1810, becoming the First Mexican Empire.. In 1823 the former Captaincy General of Guatemala, then part of the Mexican Empire, became the first independent state in Central America, officially changing its name to the United Provinces of Central America..

Economy

Canada, Mexico and the United States have significant and multifaceted economic systems. The United States has the largest economy in North America, and in the world. In 2014, the US had an estimated per capita gross domestic product of 54,980, and is the most technologically developed economy in North America.. The United States' services sector comprises 76.7 of the country's GDP, industry comprises 22.2 and agriculture comprises 1.2. Canada's economic trends are similar to that of the United States, with significant growth in the sectors of services, mining and manufacturing..

Canada's per capita GDP was estimated at 44,656 and it had the 11th largest GDP in 2014. Canada's services sector comprises 78 of the country's GDP, industry comprises 20 and agriculture comprises 2 Mexico has a per capita GDP of 16,111 and as of 2014 is the 15th largest GDP in the world.. Being a newly industrialized country, Mexico maintains both modern and outdated industrial and agricultural facilities and operations. Its main sources of income are oil, industrial exports, manufactured goods, electronics, heavy industry, automobiles, construction, food, banking and financial services..

The North American economy is well defined and structured in three main economic areas. These areas are the North American Free Trade Agreement, Caribbean Community and Common Market, and the Central American Common Market.. Of these trade blocs, the United States takes part in two. In addition to the larger trade blocs there is the Canada Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement among numerous other free trade relations, often between the larger, more developed countries and Central American and Caribbean countries..

The North America Free Trade Agreement forms one of the four largest trade blocs in the world. Its implementation in 1994 allowed for strong economic cooperation with hopes of eliminating barriers of trade and foreign investment between the three northern nations.. While Canada and the United States already conducted the largest bilateral trade relationship and to present day still do in the world and Canada - United States trade relations already allowed trade without national taxes and tariffs, NAFTA allowed Mexico to experience a similar duty free trade..

The free trade agreement allowed for the elimination of tariffs that had previously been in place on United States Mexico trade. Trade volume has steadily increased annually and in 2010, surface trade between the three NAFTA nations reached an all time historical increase of 24.3 or US791 billion.. The NAFTA trade bloc GDP is the world's largest with US17.617 trillion. This is in part attributed to the fact that the economy of the United States is the world's largest national economy; the country had a nominal GDP of approximately 14.7 trillion in 2010..

The countries of NAFTA are also some of each other's largest trade partners. The United States is the largest trade partner of Canada and Mexico; while Canada and Mexico are each other's third largest trade partners.. The Caribbean trade bloc CARICOM came into agreement in 1973 when it was signed by 15 Caribbean nations. As of 2000, CARICOM trade volume was US96 billion. CARICOM also allowed for the creation of a common passport for associated nations.. In the past decade the trade bloc focused largely on Free Trade Agreements and under the CARICOM Office of Trade Negotiations free trade agreements have been signed into effect..

Integration of Central American economies occurred under the signing of the Central American Common Market agreement in 1961; this was the first attempt to engage the nations of this area into stronger financial cooperation.. Recent implementation of the Central American Free Trade Agreement has left the future of the CACM unclear. The Central American Free Trade Agreement was signed by five Central American countries, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.. The focal point of CAFTA is to create a free trade area similar to that of NAFTA. In addition to the United States, Canada also has relations in Central American trade blocs. Currently under proposal, the Canada Central American Free Trade Agreement would operate much the same as CAFTA with the United States does..

North American nations also take part in inter continental trade blocs. Mexico takes a part in the G3 Free Trade Agreement with Colombia and Venezuela and has a trade agreement with the EU.. The United States has proposed and maintained trade agreements under the Transatlantic Free Trade Area between itself and the European Union; the US Middle East Free Trade Area between numerous Middle Eastern nations and itself; and the Trans Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership between Southeast Asian nations, Australia, and New Zealand..

Geology

Geologically, Canada is one of the oldest regions in the world, with more than half of the region consisting of precambrian rocks that have been above sea level since the beginning of the Palaeozoic era.. Canada's mineral resources are diverse and extensive. Across the Canadian Shield and in the north there are large iron, nickel, zinc, copper, gold, lead, molybdenum, and uranium reserves.. Large diamond concentrations have been recently developed in the Arctic, making Canada one of the world's largest producers. Throughout the Shield there are many mining towns extracting these minerals. The largest, and best known, is Sudbury, Ontario..

Sudbury is an exception to the normal process of forming minerals in the Shield since there is significant evidence that the Sudbury Basin is an ancient meteorite impact crater. The nearby, but less known Temagami Magnetic Anomaly has striking similarities to the Sudbury Basin.. Its magnetic anomalies are very similar to the Sudbury Basin, and so it could be a second metal rich impact crater. The Shield is also covered by vast boreal forests that support an important logging industry.. The lower 48 US states can be divided into roughly five physiographic provinces.

The geology of Alaska is typical of that of the cordillera, while the major islands of Hawaii consist of Neogene volcanics erupted over a hot spot.. Central America is geologically active with volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occurring from time to time.. In 1976 Guatemala was hit by a major earthquake, killing 23,000 people; Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, was devastated by earthquakes in 1931 and 1972, the last one killing about 5,000 people; three earthquakes devastated El Salvador, one in 1986 and two in 2001; one earthquake devastated northern and central Costa Rica in 2009, killing at least 34 people; in Honduras a powerful earthquake killed seven people in 2009..

Volcanic eruptions are common in the region. In 1968 the Arenal Volcano, in Costa Rica, erupted and killed 87 people. Fertile soils from weathered volcanic lavas have made it possible to sustain dense populations in the agriculturally productive highland areas.. Central America has many mountain ranges; the longest are the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, the Cordillera Isabelia, and the Cordillera de Talamanca. Between the mountain ranges lie fertile valleys that are suitable for the people; in fact, most of the population of Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemala live in valleys..

Valleys are also suitable for the production of coffee, beans, and other crops..

Demographics

The prevalent languages in North America are English, Spanish, and French. The term Anglo America is used to refer to the anglophone countries of the Americas namely Canada and the United States, but also sometimes Belize and parts of the tropics, especially the Commonwealth Caribbean.. Latin America refers to the other areas of the Americas where the Romance languages, derived from Latin, of Spanish and Portuguese predominate the other republics of Central America, part of the Caribbean, Mexico, and most of South America, and the Falkland Islands..

The French language has historically played a significant role in North America and now retains a distinctive presence in some regions. Canada is officially bilingual.. French is the official language of the Province of Quebec, where 95 of the people speak it as either their first or second language, and it is co official with English in the Province of New Brunswick.. Other French speaking locales include the Province of Ontario, the Province of Manitoba, the French West Indies and Saint Pierre et Miquelon, as well as the US state of Louisiana, where French is also an official language..

Haiti is included with this group based on historical association but Haitians speak both Creole and French. Similarly, French and French Antillean Creole is spoken in Saint Lucia and the Commonwealth of Dominica alongside English.. Economically, Canada and the United States are the wealthiest and most developed nations in the continent, followed by Mexico, a newly industrialized country. The countries of Central America and the Caribbean are at various levels of economic and human development..

For example, small Caribbean island nations, such as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Antigua and Barbuda, have a higher GDP per capita than Mexico due to their smaller populations. Panama and Costa Rica have a significantly higher Human Development Index and GDP than the rest of the Central American nations.. Demographically, North America is a racially and ethnically diverse continent. Its three main racial groups are Caucasians, Mestizos and Blacks. There is a significant minority of Indigenous Americans and Asians among other less numerous groups..

Socially and culturally, North America presents a well defined entity. Canada and the United States have a similar culture and similar traditions as a result of both countries being former British colonies. A common cultural and economic market has developed between the two nations because of the strong economic and historical ties.. Spanish speaking North America shares a common past as former Spanish colonies. In Mexico and the Central American countries where civilizations like the Maya developed, indigenous people preserve traditions across modern boundaries. Central American and Spanish speaking Caribbean nations have historically had more in common due to geographical proximity..

Northern Mexico, particularly in the cities of Monterrey, Tijuana, Ciudad Jurez, and Mexicali, is strongly influenced by the culture and way of life of the United States. Of the aforementioned cities, Monterrey has been regarded as the most Americanized city in North America.. Immigration to the United States and Canada remains a significant attribute of many nations close to the southern border of the US. The Anglophone Caribbean states have witnessed the decline of the British Empire and its influence on the region, and its replacement by the economic influence of Northern America..

In the Anglophone Caribbean this influence is partly due to the relatively small populations of the majority of English speaking Caribbean countries, and the fact that many of these countries now have expatriate diasporas living abroad that are larger than those remaining at home.. The most populous country in North America, over doubling the second largest country in population, is the United States with 318.4 million persons. The second largest country, and only other country to maintain a populace above 100 million persons is Mexico with a population of 112,322,757..

Canada is the third largest country with a population of 32,623,490. The majority of Caribbean island nations have national populations under one million, though Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago have populations higher than one million.. While the United States, Canada, and Mexico maintain the largest populations, large city populations are not restricted to those nations. There are also large cities in the Caribbean. The largest cities in North America, by far, are Mexico City and New York..

These cities are the only cities on the continent to exceed eight million, and two of three in the Americas. Next in size are Los Angeles, Toronto, Chicago, Havana, Santo Domingo, and Montreal.. Cities in the sunbelt regions of the United States, such as those in Southern California and Houston, Phoenix, Miami, Atlanta, and Las Vegas, are experiencing rapid growth. These causes included warm temperatures, retirement of Baby Boomers, large industry, and the influx of immigrants.. Cities near the United States border, particularly in Mexico, are also experiencing large amounts of growth. Most notable is Tijuana, a city bordering San Diego that receives immigrants from all over Latin America and parts of Europe and Asia..

Yet as cities grow in these warmer regions of North America, they are increasingly forced to deal with the major issue of water shortages.. Eight of the top ten metropolitan areas are located in the United States. These metropolitan areas all have a population of above 5.5 million and include the New York City metropolitan area, Los Angeles metropolitan area, Chicago metropolitan area, and the DallasFort Worth metroplex.. Whilst the majority of the largest metropolitan areas are within the United States, Mexico is host to the largest metropolitan area by population in North America Greater Mexico City. Canada also breaks into the top ten largest metropolitan areas with the Toronto metropolitan area having six million citizens..

The proximity of cities to each other on the Canada - United States border and Mexico - United States border has led to the rise of international metropolitan areas. These urban agglomerations are observed at their largest and most productive in DetroitWindsor and San DiegoTijuana and experience large commercial, economic, and cultural activity.. The metropolitan areas are responsible for millions of dollars of trade dependent on international freight. In Detroit Windsor the Border Transportation Partnership study in 2004 concluded US13 billion was dependent on the DetroitWindsor international border crossing while in San Diego Tijuana freight at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry was valued at US20 billion..

The North America continent has also been witness to the growth of megapolitan areas. In the United States exists eleven megaregions that transcend international borders and comprise Canadian and Mexican metropolitan regions.. These are the Arizona Sun Corridor, Cascadia, Florida, Front Range, Great Lakes Megaregion, Gulf Coast Megaregion, Northeast, Northern California, Piedmont Atlantic, Southern California, and the Texas Triangle.. Canada and Mexico are also the home of megaregions. These include the Quebec City Windsor Corridor, Golden Horseshoe both of which are considered part of the Great Lakes Megaregion and megalopolis of Central Mexico..

Traditionally the largest megaregion has been considered the Boston Washington, D.C. Corridor, or the Northeast, as the region is one massive contiguous area. Yet megaregion criterion have allowed the Great Lakes Megalopolis to maintain status as the most populated region, being home to 53,768,125 people in 2000.. The top ten largest North American metropolitan areas by population as of 2013, based on national census numbers from the United States of America, and census estimates from Canada and Mexico..

Geography And Extent

North America occupies the northern portion of the landmass generally referred to as the New World, the Western Hemisphere, the Americas, or simply America. North America's only land connection to South America is at the Isthmus of Panama.. The continent is delimited on the southeast by most geographers at the Darin watershed along the Colombia Panama border, placing all of Panama within North America. Alternatively, some geologists physiographically locate its southern limit at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico, with Central America extending southeastward to South America from this point..

The Caribbean islands, or West Indies, are considered part of North America.. Before the Central American isthmus was raised, the region had been underwater. The islands of the West Indies delineate a submerged former land bridge, which had connected North America and South America via what are now Florida and Venezuela.. The continental coastline is long and irregular. The Gulf of Mexico is the largest body of water indenting the continent, followed by the Hudson Bay. Others include the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Gulf of California..

There are numerous islands off the continent's coasts; principally, the Arctic Archipelago, the Bahamas, Turks amp; Caicos, the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the Aleutian Islands, the Alexander Archipelago, the many thousand islands of the British Columbia Coast, and Newfoundland.. Greenland, a self governing Danish island, and the world's largest, is on the same tectonic plate and is part of North America geographically.. In a geologic sense, Bermuda is not part of the Americas, but an oceanic island which was formed on the fissure of the Mid Atlantic Ridge over 100 million years ago..

The nearest landmass to it is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. However, Bermuda is often thought of as part of North America, especially given its historical, political and cultural ties to Virginia and other parts of the continent.. The vast majority of North America is on the North American Plate.. Parts of western Mexico, including Baja California, and of California, including the cities of San Diego, Los Angeles and part of San Francisco, lie on the eastern edge of the Pacific Plate, with the two plates meeting along the San Andreas fault..

The southernmost portion of the continent and much of the West Indies lie on the Caribbean Plate, whereas the Juan de Fuca and Cocos plates border the North American Plate on its western frontier.. The continent can be divided into four great regions the Great Plains stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian Arctic; the geologically young, mountainous west, including the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, California and Alaska; the raised but relatively flat plateau of the Canadian Shield in the northeast; and the varied eastern region, which includes the Appalachian Mountains, the coastal plain along the Atlantic seaboard, and the Florida peninsula..

Mexico, with its long plateaus and cordilleras, falls largely in the western region, although the eastern coastal plain does extend south along the Gulf.. The western mountains are split in the middle into the main range of the Rockies and the coast ranges in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, with the Great Basina lower area containing smaller ranges and low lying desertsin between.. The highest peak is Denali in Alaska.. The United States Geographical Survey states that the geographic center of North America is " 6 miles west of Balta, Pierce County, North Dakota " at approximately 4810N 10010W 48.167N 100.167W 48.167; -100.167, approximately 24 kilometres from Rugby, North Dakota..

The USGS further states that " No marked or monumented point has been established by any government agency as the geographic center of either the 50 States, the conterminous United States, or the North American continent. " Nonetheless, there is a 4.6 metre field stone obelisk in Rugby claiming to mark the center.. The North American continental pole of inaccessibility is located 1,650 km from the nearest coastline, between Allen and Kyle, South Dakota at 4322N 10158W 43.36N 101.97W 43.36; -101.97..

Countries, Territories, And Dependencies

Below is a table of North American countries and territories divided into three basic regions..

Usage Of The Term

The term North America maintains various definitions in accordance with location and context. In English, North America may be used to refer to the United States and Canada together. Alternatively, usage sometimes includes Greenland and Mexico, as well as offshore islands.. In Ibero America and other parts of Europe, North America usually designates a subcontinent of the Americas containing Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and often Greenland, Saint Pierre et Miquelon, and Bermuda.. North America has been historically referred to by other names. Spanish North America was often referred to as Northern America, and this was the first official name given to Mexico..

Outside of North America, going into the twentieth century, the whole American continent was referred to simply as " America " or " The Americas ", one of the " Five Continents "..

How To Talk

The three major languages of North America are English, Spanish and French. The United States and the majority of Canada are majority English speaking countries and is by far the best language for getting around these vast countries.. English is also spoken in many Caribbean nations and the small country of Belize. Mexico and the majority of Central America and portions of the Caribbean are majority Spanish speaking, making it an important North American language as well.. Spanish is spoken as a second language in many parts of the United States. French plays a substantial role in Canada, (including Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and New Brunswick), and a role in other places, namely the Caribbean..

Dutch is spoken in the southern Caribbean. Several indigenous languages are spoken by Native Americans and the Inuit peoples of North America including Greenland. Danish is also spoken in Greenland. Other important immigrant languages spoken in many ethnic neighborhoods of North America are Cantonese and Mandarin and Tagalog.. German is still spoken in some rural communities in United States and Canada..

Etymology

The Americas are usually accepted as having been named after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci by the German cartographers Martin Waldseemller and Matthias Ringmann. Vespucci, who explored South America between 1497 and 1502, was the first European to suggest that the Americas were not the East Indies, but a different landmass previously unknown by Europeans.. In 1507, Waldseemller produced a world map, in which he placed the word " America " on the continent of South America, in the middle of what is today Brazil. He explained the rationale for the name in the accompanying book Cosmographiae Introductio.

For Waldseemller, no one should object to the naming of the land after its discoverer. He used the Latinized version of Vespucci's name, but in its feminine form " America ", following the examples of " Europa " and " Asia ".. Later, when other mapmakers added North America, they extended the original name to it as well in 1538, Gerard Mercator used the name America to all of the Western Hemisphere on his world map.. Some argue that the convention is to use the surname for naming discoveries except in the case of royalty and so a derivation from " Amerigo Vespucci " could be problematic..

Ricardo Palma proposed a derivation from the " Amerrique " mountains of Central AmericaVespucci was the first to discover South America and the Amerrique mountains of Central America, which connected his discoveries to those of Christopher Columbus.. Alfred E Hudd proposed a theory in 1908 that the continents are named after a Welsh merchant named Richard Amerike from Bristol, who is believed to have financed John Cabot's voyage of discovery from England to Newfoundland in 1497.. A minutely explored belief that has been advanced is that America was named for a Spanish sailor bearing the ancient Visigothic name of ' Amairick '. Another is that the name is rooted in a Native American language..

Cities

Havana — the capital of Cuba is famous for its cigars, its strong Hispanic Caribbean culture, and its legendary nightlife. Kingston — the center of Afro Caribbean culture, it is cosmopolitan, diverse and the Home of Reggae.. Los Angeles — Hollywood and movie stars; mountains and beaches; and lots of traffic. Mexico City — capital city of Mexico, the third largest city in the world is chock full of museums, centuries old architecture, modern amenities... and people. New York City — the Big Apple is the center of North American commerce and culture, immortalized in film and song alike.

Panama City — the capital of Panama, a friendly city sitting at the nexus between two continents. Toronto — Canada's largest city, a cosmopolitan melting pot with ethnic enclaves and cultural attractions galore. Vancouver — a city of steel and glass condominiums and outstanding natural beauty, where you can go skiing and sit on the beach all in the same day. Washington, D.C. — the capital of the United States, with many cultural and historical attractions.

Other Destinations

Banff National Park — Canada's first national park is also one of its largest. Chichen Itza — the largest of the archaeological cities of the pre Columbian Maya civilization in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Corcovado National Park — very biologically diverse national park in Costa Rica. Grand Canyon — a massive canyon in Arizona, carved over several million years. Niagara Falls — three grandiose waterfalls on the border between the United States and Canada. Teotihuacan — the ' city of the gods', with some of the largest ancient pyramids in the world.

Tikal — an archaeological site in Guatemala, one of the largest and most important of the ancient Mayan cities. Walt Disney World — the flagship of Disney's worldwide theme park network, near Orlando, Florida. Yellowstone National Park — the world's first national park is also home to most of its geysers and an amazing concentration of animals.

Infrastructure

The Pan American Highway route in North America is the portion of a network of roads nearly 48,000 km in length which travels through the mainland nations of the Americas.. No definitive length of the Pan American Highway exists because the US and Canadian governments have never officially defined any specific routes as being part of the Pan American Highway, and Mexico officially has many branches connecting to the US border.. However, the total length of the North American portion of the highway is roughly 26,000 km..

The First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States was built across North America in the 1860s, linking the railroad network of the eastern US with California on the Pacific coast.. Finished on 10 May 1869 at the famous Golden spike event at Promontory Summit, Utah, it created a nationwide mechanized transportation network that revolutionized the population and economy of the American West, catalyzing the transition from the wagon trains of previous decades to a modern transportation system..

Although an accomplishment, it achieved the status of first transcontinental railroad by connecting myriad eastern US railroads to the Pacific and was not the largest single railroad system in the world.. The Canadian Grand Trunk Railway had, by 1867, already accumulated more than 2,055 km of track by connecting Portland, Maine, and the three northern New England states with the Canadian Atlantic provinces west as far as Port Huron, Michigan, through Sarnia, Ontario.. Many of the nations of North America cooperate on a shared telephone system known as the North American Numbering Plan which is an integrated telephone numbering plan of 24 countries and territories the United States and its territories, Canada, Bermuda, and 17 Caribbean nations..

Regions

North America consists of three large nations and one large island territory that covers most of its area. They are Canada, the United States of America (USA), Mexico and Greenland.. There are also seven smaller nations at its southern extreme (collectively known as Central America), around two dozen island nations and territories of various sizes in the Caribbean, and one isolated French territory off the Canadian Atlantic coast.. Although the Central American and the Caribbean regions are technically part of the North American continent, they are commonly listed separately from their larger neighbors to the north and hence the distinctive region names for both cultural and geographical reasons..

Bermuda — overseas territory of the United Kingdom. Saint Pierre and Miquelon — overseas department of France. Geographically the North American continent is composed of many regions and subregions. These included regions formed by cultural, economic, and geographic standards. Economic regions included those formed by trade blocs, among notable inclusions, the North American Trade Agreement bloc and Central American Trade Agreement.. Linguistically and culturally, the continent could be divided into Anglo America and Latin America. Anglo America includes most of Northern America, Belize, and Caribbean islands with English speaking populations..

The southern North American continent is often recognized as being composed of two regions. These recognized regions are Central America and the Caribbean. The north of the continent maintains recognized regions as well.. In contrast to the common definition of " North America ", that which encompasses the whole continent, the term " North America " is also used to refer to Canada, Mexico, the United States, and Greenland.. The term Northern America, originating in reference to the northern most countries and territories of North America, is used in reference to Canada, the United States, Greenland, Bermuda, and St Pierre and Miquelon..

Although rarely used, the term Middle Americanot to be confused with the Midwestern United Statesgroups the regions of Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.. The largest countries of the continent, Canada and the United States, also maintain well defined and recognized regions. In the case of Canada these are the British Columbia Coast, Canadian Prairies, Central Canada, Atlantic Canada, and Northern Canada.. In the case of the United States and in accordance with the US Census Bureau definitions these regions are New England, Mid Atlantic, East North Central States, West North Central States, South Atlantic States, East South Central States, West South Central States, Mountain States, and Pacific States..

Regions shared between both nations included the Great Lakes Region. Megalopolises have also formed between both nations in the case of the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes Megaregion..

How To Stay Healthy

Tap water is usually safe to drink in Canada and the United States..