When it comes to travel, the United States of America offers a lot of variety. Not only are there 50 states to choose from, but within those states, there are almost 20,000 cities, towns, and villages of all sizes. While there are characteristics that hold true for the US in general, each region and city has a unique character.
How then, can you decide which are the best cities to visit in the USA? This guide will break down some of my top recommendations so you have a starting point to decide where you’d like to go.
New York, New York is not just one of the best cities in the United States, it is one of the best cities in the world. It is a literal and cultural hub of civilization. When people talk about the USA being a melting pot, they are most pointedly talking about New York City. It is the destination of choice for rural Americans and international jet-setters alike.
Because all of these cultures have gathered together, you are always a short walk from any type of food you could imagine, at any hour of the day.
New York City is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in the world, such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Times Square, and Central Park. These landmarks are not only significant attractions but also represent the city’s history, culture, and character.
NYC is home to some of the world’s most famous museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim Museum. Broadway shows, concerts, and festivals make it a hub for art and culture.
New York City is a shopper’s paradise with high-end department stores, trendy boutiques, and famous flea markets. Fifth Avenue, SoHo, and Brooklyn Flea Market are some of the popular shopping destinations.
The city’s nightlife is legendary, with numerous bars, clubs, and music venues to choose from. The city that never sleeps is the perfect destination for night owls and partygoers.
Broadway is the premier exhibition of live theater, and Wall Street is an integral part of the world economy. If you don’t mind a little walking and a subway ride or two, you can pretty much experience the world in one busy weekend in New York, making it one of the best cities to visit in the USA!
Los Angeles, California is one of the best cities to visit in the USA for the same reasons it was chosen as the center of the film industry: there is diverse topography and it’s almost always a gorgeous 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) and sunny. You’re never more than a short drive away from the beach, a mountain top, and the desert. And who knows, you might even run into a celebrity!
Los Angeles is home to the iconic entertainment industry of Hollywood, which is known for producing films, TV shows, and music that are enjoyed all around the world. Take a tour of the famous studios, walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or visit the TCL Chinese Theatre, which is famous for its celebrity handprints.
Los Angeles is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, such as Venice Beach, Santa Monica Beach, and Malibu Beach. These beaches offer a perfect escape for you to relax, soak up the sun, and enjoy the stunning Pacific coastline.
Los Angeles is home to several famous theme parks, such as Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood. These parks offer a fun and exciting experience for all ages.
Los Angeles is home to several world-class museums, such as the Getty Center, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the Natural History Museum. These museums offer an opportunity to explore art, history, and culture.
Los Angeles is home to several professional sports teams, such as the Lakers (NBA), Dodgers (MLB), and Rams (NFL). Sports enthusiasts can catch a game at one of the city’s famous stadiums, such as the Staples Center or Dodger Stadium.
Miami, Florida is where Americans go to party and relax. It’s full of fun beaches and zero responsibilities. Because so much of the draw is sun and sand, there is plenty to do that is free or cheap – like watching the beautiful cars and bodies passing by. Visit Miami and truly take a vacation from your worries. Just remember to reapply your sunscreen!
Known for its beautiful beaches, you can explore South Beach, Mid-Beach, and Key Biscayne. These beaches offer crystal-clear waters, soft sand, and a perfect place for sunbathing, swimming, jet skiing, and water sports.
Miami is a hub for art and culture, with several world-class museums, Florida private art collections, galleries, and cultural institutions. The Perez Art Museum Miami, the Frost Art Museum, and the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens are some of the city’s popular cultural destinations.
Home to a diverse culinary scene, Miami is a fusion of Caribbean, Latin American, and American flavors. Enjoy some of the city’s famous dishes, such as Cuban sandwiches, stone crab claws, and ceviche.
Shop at the popular Bal Harbour Shops, Miami Design District, and Lincoln Road Mall before leaving town.
There has always been a bitter rivalry between New York and Los Angeles as to which is the superior city. While it often comes down to preference, what is often overlooked is how diplomatically San Francisco, California is a bit of a hybrid of the two.
San Francisco’s history as a seaport established it as a cultural hub of diversity on the west coast, sort of like New York with a California climate and a little more space.
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in the world and is synonymous with San Francisco. The bridge offers stunning views of San Francisco Bay and is a must-visit attraction if you go.
San Francisco’s cable car system is the last manually operated cable car system in the world and is a unique attraction in the city. Take a ride on the cable cars and experience the city’s hilly streets.
Alcatraz Island is home to the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, which housed some of the most notorious criminals in US history. Take a ferry to the island and take a tour of the prison, which offers a glimpse into the lives of the prisoners.
San Francisco is home to a diverse culinary scene, with a fusion of international flavors and fresh seafood. The city is also known for its wine, with several vineyards located in the nearby Napa Valley.
A hub for arts and culture, San Francisco has several world-class museums, galleries, and performing arts venues. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the de Young Museum, and the War Memorial Opera House are some of the city’s popular cultural destinations.
For anyone who likes music, Nashville, Tennessee is one of the best cities to visit in the USA. Nashville is known as the “Music City” and is the home of country music. The city is famous for its honky-tonks, live music venues, and recording studios. Take a tour of the historic RCA Studio B or visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
More than just country, you can see local, regional, and national musicians of every genre performing live on stages throughout the city. You’ll likely never see your favorite acts in a more intimate venue. Or you’ll be able to say that you saw so-and-so before they made it big.
Beyond the music, Nashville offers plenty of Southern charm. It has a laid-back, relaxing pace and a plethora of rich, savory food. Nashville is known for its unique and delicious cuisine, including hot chicken, barbecue, and meat, and three restaurants. Try some of the city’s famous dishes at places like Hattie B’s Hot Chicken and Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint.
Nashville has a rich history and is home to several historic landmarks, such as the Belle Meade Plantation, the Parthenon, and the Ryman Auditorium. Take a tour of these historic sites and learn about the city’s past.
The Frist Art Museum, the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center are some of the city’s popular cultural destinations. Don’t miss the amazing Nashville vintage shopping scene too and pick up some unique retro goodies for your home or wardrobe!
Speaking of southern charm, don’t miss Charleston, South Carolina. It’s no wonder Charleston has twice been voted one of the best cities to visit in the USA by Travel + Leisure’s readers.
Charleston has a rich history and is home to several historic landmarks, such as Fort Sumter, the Battery, and the Nathaniel Russell House. The city played a key role in the American Revolution and the Civil War, and you can learn about the city’s past by taking a historic walking tour.
Charleston is known for its beautiful and historic architecture, with buildings dating back to the 18th century. The city’s colorful homes, historic churches, and antebellum mansions are a must-see for visitors.
A foodie’s paradise, Charleston has a vibrant culinary scene that blends Southern and Lowcountry cuisine. Try some of the city’s famous dishes, such as shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and fried green tomatoes.
Charleston is located on the coast and is home to several beautiful beaches, such as Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, and Sullivan’s Island. These beaches offer a perfect place for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports.
The Gibbes Museum of Art, the Charleston Music Hall, and the Dock Street Theatre are some of the city’s best artistic destinations.
Chicago is known for its iconic architecture, with buildings such as the Willis Tower, the John Hancock Center, and the Tribune Tower. Take an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River or a walking tour to see the city’s famous buildings up close.
Chicago is a foodie’s paradise, with a diverse culinary scene that includes deep-dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, and Italian beef sandwiches. You can try these famous dishes at places like Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, Portillo’s, and Al’s Beef.
A junction for arts and culture, with several world-class museums, galleries, and performing arts venues like the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago is great for art lovers.
Home to several professional sports teams, including the Chicago Cubs (MLB), the Chicago Bulls (NBA), and the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), you can catch a game at one of the city’s famous stadiums, such as Wrigley Field or the United Center.
Lakefront, Chicago is located on the shores of Lake Michigan and has a beautiful lakefront that offers stunning views and recreational opportunities. Take a stroll along the Lakefront Trail or visit the Navy Pier, which features an amusement park, shops, and restaurants.
Overall, Chicago offers a unique and exciting destination, definitely one of the best cities to visit in the USA!
Speaking of drinking in the streets, New Orleans, Louisiana is essentially the capital of the sidewalk alcoholic beverage. If you’re able to, make sure to visit during Mardi Gras. The 200+ year annual celebration of Fat Tuesday, the feast before Lent, is an official holiday and can last anywhere from 3 days to over a month, depending on who you ask. New Orleans is famous for its Mardi Gras elaborate celebrations featuring parades, live music, and colorful costumes that draw millions each year.
New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz and is home to several music festivals, such as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Enjoy live music at one of the city’s many music clubs, such as Preservation Hall or the Spotted Cat Music Club.
New Orleans is a foodie’s paradise, with a unique cuisine that blends French, African, and American flavors. The city’s famous dishes include gumbo, jambalaya, and beignets. Try these dishes at famous restaurants like Cafe du Monde, Brennan’s, or Commander’s Palace.
New Orleans has a rich history, with several historic landmarks such as the French Quarter, St. Louis Cathedral, and the National World War II Museum.
The city is home to several museums, galleries, and performing arts venues, such as the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Contemporary Arts Center, and the Saenger Theatre.
Boston, Massachusetts is famous primarily for its historical importance. Boston played a crucial role in the American Revolution and is home to several historic sites, such as the Freedom Trail, which connects 16 significant sites, including the Paul Revere House and the Old North Church. The USS Constitution Museum and the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum are also worth a visit.
Several prestigious universities, such as Harvard University, MIT, and Boston University, call Boston home. You can explore the campuses or attend public lectures and events.
Boston has a passionate sports fan base and is home to several successful professional sports teams, including the Boston Red Sox, the New England Patriots, and the Boston Celtics.
Boston is known for its seafood, clam chowder, and baked beans; try these specialties at restaurants like Legal Sea Foods and Neptune Oyster.
Boston has a vibrant arts and culture scene, with numerous museums and galleries, such as the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Seattle, Washington offers a unique and vibrant blend of coffee culture, technology, music, outdoor activities, and food, making it a popular destination in the northwest region of the US.
Known for its coffee culture and home to the famous coffee chain, Starbucks, Seattle is a great place to explore the city’s numerous coffee shops and try a variety of specialty coffee drinks.
Seattle is home to several technology companies, such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing, and is often referred to as the “Silicon Valley of the North.” Explore tech-related attractions, such as the Museum of Pop Culture and the Living Computer Museum.
Don’t miss out on the thriving music scene, with a history of producing famous musicians, such as Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. Check out live music venues like the Showbox or the Crocodile.
Seattle is surrounded by natural beauty, including mountains, forests, and waterways. Explore parks like Discovery Park or Olympic National Park, go hiking or kayaking, or take a ferry ride to nearby islands.
The culinary scene is diverse and offers a range of options, from fresh seafood to international cuisine. Try local specialties like salmon, oysters, and Dungeness crab!
Washington D.C. offers an exciting blend of law, government, history, museums, monuments, culture, and education. If you ask me, every American should visit at least once!
Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States and home to the three branches of the federal government: the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. You absolutely must see the U.S. Capitol Building, the White House, and the Supreme Court, to learn about the foundation of the American government.
Washington D.C. has a rich history, with several historic landmarks such as the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument.
Anyone can visit the capital’s several world-class museums, such as the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of American History, and the National Gallery of Art, for free!
Washington D.C. features several iconic monuments and memorials, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. These monuments and memorials honor important historical figures and events.
The city is home to several performing arts venues, such as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Theatre. The city also hosts several cultural festivals throughout the year, such as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Austin is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World” and is home to several music festivals, such as South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits Music Festival. You simply must enjoy live music at one of the city’s many music venues, such as the Continental Club or the Mohawk.
“Keep Austin Weird” has long been the city’s unofficial slogan, and it has indeed produced a unique city that is worth visiting.
Austin is a foodie’s paradise, with a vibrant culinary scene that features local and regional cuisine. The city is famous for its breakfast tacos, barbecue, and Tex-Mex dishes. Be sure to try these dishes at famous restaurants like Franklin Barbecue, Torchy’s Tacos, or Juan in a Million.
Austin is located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country and offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and kayaking. Explore parks like Zilker Park or Lady Bird Lake, or take a dip in the natural springs at Barton Springs Pool.
Check out Austin’s best museums, galleries, and performing arts venues, such as the Blanton Museum of Art, the Harry Ransom Center, and the Zach Theatre. The city features a vibrant street art scene, with murals and installations throughout the city.
Austin is a hub for technology and innovation, with several tech companies and startups based in the city. The annual SXSW festival also showcases new and emerging technologies in film, music, and interactive media.
These are just some of the best cities to visit in the USA. With so many diverse options, you are sure to find a destination perfectly suited to you!