The U.S. is extremely vast, so we won’t even try to list all of the best places to visit. However, if you want to see and experience different types of things, such as hiking in the Teton Mountains, swimming at a black-sand beach in Hawaii, or sipping a sparkling wine at a Napa Valley vineyard, read on to learn more about some of the best places to visit in the USA.
Best for Art Aficionados
Pull a Georgia O’Keeffe and lose yourself in Santa Fe’s otherworldly landscapes. Check out local artists’ work in the many galleries along Canyon Road, and see O’Keeffe’s famous animal skull paintings at her eponymous museum — then ponder all of this artistic magnificence over margaritas and a big bowl of guac and chips.
Best for American History
Quick: How did the City of Brotherly Love by visiting must-see attractions like Independence Hall, the , and the new Museum of the American Revolution. If you got the right answer to the question, treat yourself to a Philly cheesesteak.get its crack? Brush up on your colonial history in the
Best for the Laid-Back Island Life
As soon as you step off the ferry, you’ll start to decompress on this postcard-perfect island off the coast of Cape Cod. It ticks all the island getaway boxes: gorgeous beaches, sweet gray-shingled cottages, and historic lighthouses. Nantucket also has a super cool Whaling Museum, and plenty of places for a lobster roll.
Best for Nightlife
What happens in Vegas … well, you know the saying. Sure, you can get as naughty as you want in Sin City, but you just might be too busy seeing shows, such as Cirque du Soleil’s O, dining in trendy restaurants from celebrity chefs, shopping in luxury arcades, gambling in casinos, and dancing in swanky clubs to do any permanent damage.
Best for Desert Scenery
You’ll never get over marveling at the beauty of the Red Rocks of Sedona — they’re that awe-inspiring. Get up close and personal with these rust-hued mesas and buttes via Jeep tour, then head to one of Sedona’s vortexes to soak up some positive vibes. (Using healing crystals and getting an aura photo is optional.)
Best for a Big City Getaway
Sure, it could always be New York — but don’t dismiss the Second City. Incredible architecture (the skyscraper was born here), world-class museums (Did you know American Gothic is in the Art Institute of Chicago?), deep-dish pizza, and the Cubbies make Chi-Town one of the best places to visit in the USA.
Best for a Scenic Drive
If you’ve seen HBO’s Big Little Lies, you’re no doubt blown away by the gorgeous cliff-hugging backdrops, especially around Bixby Bridge, the iconic 280-foot-high span on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). This jaw-dropping stretch from Carmel to the boho hangout of Big Sur is surely one of the world’s greatest scenic drives.
Best for Outdoor Adventures
This rugged destination in the Teton Mountains is all about being in the great outdoors. Summer brings hiking, horseback riding, and river rafting; come wintertime, it’s one of the country’s top ski resorts. Plus, in the town of Jackson, you might just mingle with real cowboys at Western-style bars.
Best for Touring Antebellum Homes
The city of Natchez, a former trading post on the Mississippi River, is known for its many antebellum mansions, including Brandon Hall Plantation, now functioning as a luxury inn with canopied beds, antique furnishings, and landscaped grounds. Other historic homes worth a visit include Longwood, Dunleith, and Auburn.
Best for Free Museums
Can we talk about D.C. without getting political? Sure we can, especially when there’s so much to say about its free Smithsonian museums. See Dorothy’s ruby slippers at the National Museum of American History, a space shuttle at the National Air & Space Museum, and Nat Turner’s Bible at the National Museum of African American History & Culture.
Best for Wine Lovers
There’s a lot to love about Napa Valley. It’s just an hour’s drive from San Francisco, there are hundreds of world-class wineries to stop in for a tasting (A pinot noir on the deck overlooking vast vineyards? Yes, please!), and there are plenty of gourmet restaurants (Thomas Keller’s French Laundry is here).
Best for the Whole Family
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is one of the best kids’ museums in the USA — just try to get them to stop talking about the massive dinosaur “attacking” the building’s facade. Indy also has a great zoo and an IMAX theater, and each May, the Indy 500 takes place. Plus, there’s a growing farm-to-table foodie scene.
Best for Exotic Beaches
You can’t mention the best places to visit in the USA and not show the Aloha Statesome love, especially its beaches. From the black sand of Punaluu, to the green (yes, green!) sand of Papakolea Beach (both on the Big Island), to the great snorkeling at Maui’s Makua Beach, Hawaii lives up to its billing.
Best for Midwestern Museums
Minneapolis is full of fab museums, including the Walker Art Center, featuring works from Jasper Johns and Chuck Close, and the recently renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, known for its famous “Spoonbridge and Cherry” sculpture. The Frank Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum and the Mill City Museum are others to keep in mind, too.
Best for Theater Lovers
Even if you can’t get tickets to Hamilton, you won’t be lacking for choice when it comes to top-notch theater in NYC. Catch Broadway shows like Tony Award winners Dear Evan Hansen and The Band’s Visit, and there are plenty of off-Broadway and off-off Broadway shows, plus warm weather brings the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park.
Best East Coast Wine Region
This upstate New York wine-making region is home to more than 100 wineries, many clustered around Seneca and Cayuga lakes. Take a tour and have a tasting (the region is known for its rieslings) at scenic wineries like Chateau LaFayette Reneau and Long Point, then overnight it in pretty little lakeside towns like Aurora and Watkins Glen.
Best for Fall Foliage
Some of New England’s most spectacular fall foliage can be found in Manchester in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains. Drive alone Route 7A, part of the Shires of Vermont Byway, where you’ll pass maple and oak trees bursting with autumnal color. Afterward, treat yourself to a traditional pot roast at the cozy Ye Olde Tavern.
Best for Nautical Charm
This upscale coastal town on Maryland’s eastern shore (two hours from D.C.) is all about seaside pleasures. Take a sunset sail along the Miles River on an antique sailboat, dine on Maryland blue crabs at a waterfront restaurant, and snap a photo beside the Hooper Straight Lighthouse at the 18-acre Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
Best Southern Foodie Town
Believe it or not, Birmingham is a full-on foodie destination. Longtime favorites like Highlands Bar and Grill and the Hot and Hot Fish Club, which pioneered the city’s farm-to-table movement, are still going strong, and joining them are Fish Club’s sister spot OvenBird, serving small plates, and the year-old Pizitz Food Hall.
Best for a Beach Party
Get your South Beach sizzle on during a trip to Miami. Catch some rays on the beach, party in the glam hotels along Collins Avenue, and enjoy the buzzing bars along Ocean Drive, which is lined with pastel-hued Art Deco buildings. If you’re feeling ambitious, check out the edgy street art in the nearby Wynwood Art District.
Best for Barbecue
Kansas City is world-famous for its finger-lickin’ good barbecue, and a few standouts include Gates Bar-B-Q, featuring mouthwatering beef brisket, Q39, from national barbecue champ Rob Magee, and, just across the state line in Kansas, Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, with ribs, pulled pork, and smoked chicken on the menu.
Best Western Town
Livingston, 20 miles east of Bozeman, embodies the spirit of the Old West. Spend your days hiking, fly-fishing, and horseback riding amid Big Sky Country, and Yellowstone National Park is a less than an hour’s drive away. Stay at the historic Murray Hotel, once frequented by Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane, and dig in to a wood-fired over pizza at Gil’s Goods.
Best for Avid Golfers
Phoenix and Scottsdale are known for their world-class golf courses, including two Jay Morrish-designed courses beside stunning rock formations at the Boulders resort and the Adobe and Links courses at the historic Biltmore. The Sonoran desert heat can get intense, so after your round, be sure to take a refreshing dip in the pool!
Best Ski Resort
Aspen is a super glamorous ski resort where you dress to impress for a day skiing down Aspen Mountain (better known as Ajax). When the lifts close, it’s time for après-ski at the J-Bar in the historic Hotel Jerome or Cloud 9 in the Little Nell. You’ll also find pampering spas, designer shops, and plenty of places to sip Champagne.
Best for Kids
If left up to the kids, they’d choose Disney for every vacation, and we get it. From classic theme parks like Magic Kingdom and Epcot (with its Frozen ride), to the soon-to-open Toy Story Land and Pandora — The World of Avatar (not to mention parades, fireworks, rollercoasters, themed hotels, and meals with Mickey), Disney truly has it all.
Best for Cajun/Creole Cuisine
While you can definitely get your drink on in New Orleans (Bourbon Street, anyone?), the Big Easy is ground zero for Cajun and Creole specialties, especially in the French Quarter at places like Arnaud’s and Muriel’s. Expect dishes like turtle soup, seafood gumbo, jambalaya, trout amandine, and blackened redfish.
Best for Architecture Buffs
Though many know that this laid-back town has sprawling resorts with glam pools is an idyllic desert getaway, you may not know that Palm Springs has the largest concentration of mid-century modern buildings in the country. Sign up for an architecture tour to see gorgeous homes designed by the likes of Richard Neutra and Donald Wexler.
Best for Lighthouses
Cape Cod is the quintessential New England summer playground, with gray-shingled cottages, dune-lined beaches, whale watching tours, and plenty of historic lighthouses along this arm-shaped peninsula, including Provincetown’s Race Point Light and Eastham’s Nauset Light, the inspiration for the Cape Cod Potato Chips logo.
Best for Glacier Viewing
Alaska is famous for glaciers and fjords — not to mention Mount Denali, North America’s highest peak. While you can take a road trip to see its top sights, a cruise is a great option, as it allows you to see a lot in a short amount of time. Highlights include sailing the Inside Passage, where you’ll view spectacular glaciers and cascading waterfalls, and visiting scenic ports like Ketchikan and Skagway.
Best for Baseball Fans
Fans of America’s Pastime should make a pilgrimage at least once to Cooperstown in central New York to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Check out the oldest surviving baseballs, a collection of World Series rings, special exhibits on iconic players like Babe Ruth, and the bronze plaques of all the inductees.
Best for Pacific Northwest Scenery
Immerse yourself in stunning Pacific Northwest scenery in the Columbia River Gorge, an hour’s drive from Portland. The area is known for its majestic waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls. After a day of hiking or biking, unwind in the town of Hood River with a craft beer at Full Sail Brewing Company, overlooking the gorge.
Best for Craft Beer Aficionados
With so many breweries in the Mile-High City, it’s hard to choose, but here are some favorites. The Denver Beer Co., with a large beer garden (and food trucks!), is always a good time, Great Divide Brewing Co. is fun for a few pale ales before a Rockies game, and Bierstadt Lagerhaus is all about German brews in a traditional beer hall setting.
Best for Visiting Amish Country
Lancaster, two hours west of Philadelphia, not only has a burgeoning arts scene, but it’s the gateway to Amish Country. Drive along route 340, passing rolling hills, to communities like Bird-in-Hand, where you’ll see Amish farms, quilt shops, roadside fruit stands manned by bonneted teens, and yes, plenty of horse-and-buggies.
Best Lake Getaway
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more spectacular setting than Lake Tahoe, the 22-mile-long crystalline lake in the Sierra Nevada (straddling the border of California and Nevada). Take sightseeing cruises, tee off on scenic golf courses, go hiking and biking in the mountains, and in the evening, try your luck in one of Tahoe’s casinos.
Best Historic District
A trolley tour is a fun way to see Savannah’s historic district, which includes shop-lined River Street, which runs parallel to the mighty Mississippi River (you can take a replica steamboat cruise from here), beautiful Madison Square, with its centuries-old live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, and the historic Owens-Thomas House.
Best for Bourbon Lovers
Bourbon fans should put the Kentucky Bourbon Trail at the top of their bucket lists. The trail consists of 10 distilleries, each offering tours and tastings of the Bluegrass State’s signature spirit. Angel’s Envy is right in the center of Louisville, while world-famous brands like Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam are a quick drive from downtown.
Best for Island Charm
To visit Mackinac Island, located in the Straits of Mackinac (where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan converge), is to step into a bygone era: There are no fast food chains, no traffic signals, and few cars. Spend your days hiking in Mackinac Island State Park, touring Fort Mackinac, and watching the world go by from a rocking chair on the 660-foot-long porch at the Grand Hotel.
Best for Visiting an Iconic Attraction
If you’ve never seen Mount Rushmore, the massive sculpture of four presidents carved into the rock face at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota’s Black Hills, make this the year. While you’re in the area, visit the Crazy Horse Memorial, Badlands National Park, and the Wild West town of Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok was killed.
Best for Gilded Age Glamour
It’s all about Gilded Age glamour in the coastal town of Newport on Narragansett Bay. Tour the opulent oceanfront mansions, including Rosecliff, The Elms, and The Breakers, considered the grandest of all of Newport’s “summer cottages.” Afterward, dine on fresh seafood on Bowen’s Wharf overlooking the yacht-filled harbor.
Best City With a Bohemian Vibe
Asheville, in western North Carolina, marches to its own New Age beat. You’ll find a mix of farmers, hippies, musicians, and artists, drawn not only by the stunning panoramas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but the city’s cultural offerings, including the Biltmore, the 250-room Vanderbilt mansion-turned-museum. This boho city also has a nationally known craft-beer scene you’ll want to enjoy.
Best Small-City Foodie Scene
New Englanders have long known that Portland has a first-rate foodie scene. After checking out the Winslow Homer collection in the I.M. Pei-designed Portland Museum of Art, have a gourmet sandwich and fries at hotspots like Duckfat. In the evening, indulge in fresh Maine oysters at Eventide and crudo at Central Provisions.
Best for Historic Florida
St. Augustine, on Florida’s northeast coast, is said to be the oldest city in the United States. Originally settled in 1565 by the Spanish, you’ll still find Spanish colonial buildings, the 17th-century Castillo de San Marcos, and cobbled, shop-lined streets. Plus, St. Augustine Beach is a 10-mile beauty where you can park right on the sand.
Best Comeback City
It wasn’t too long ago that Detroit filed for bankruptcy, but these days Motor City is revving back to life with new infrastructure projects, stylish boutique hotels in renovated historic buildings, craft breweries, and buzzy restaurants, such as The Apparatus Room, serving New American cuisine, and Prime + Proper steakhouse.
Best for Seafood Lovers
From wild salmon and Olympia oysters to Penn Cove mussels and Dungeness crabs, Seattle is heaven for seafood lovers. A visit to Pike Place Market to watch the fishmongers toss the day’s catch to each other is a must (you can have lunch there, too). Dine in classic spots like Ivar’s Acres of Clams on Pier 54, or check out the Walrus & the Carpenter, a trendy oyster bar in Ballard.
Best for Texan History
San Antonio, which recently turned 300, is chock-full of history. Learn all about The Alamo, the 18th-century mission where Texas pioneers, including Davy Crockett, fought Mexican troops, as well as the city’s other historic missions. Plus, you can’t leave town without taking a walk — or a scenic boat ride — along the famed River Walk.
Best for Southern Charm
Charleston teems with antebellum mansions, horse-drawn carriages, and historic plantations, like nearby Middleton Place, but it also has boutique hotels, craft breweries, and culinary hotspots like Husk and Zero Restaurant & Bar, which are helmed by chefs adding creative spins to traditional Southern dishes.
Best for Live Music
They don’t call it Music City for nothing. Nashville is one of the country’s premier spots for music, and we’re not just talking country music (though there’s plenty of that, too!). Check out the honky tonks along Broadway to hear anything from rockabilly to blues, then visit country music shrines like The Grand Ole Opry.
Best for Victorian Charm
Located at the tip of the Garden State is the charming town of Cape May. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976, this Jersey Shore jewel is famous for its Victorian homes (many of which now house romantic inns and bed and breakfasts), its gas lamp-lined streets, and horse-drawn carriages. The beach is pretty sweet, too.
Where to Stay: Congress Hall
Best for National Parks
Utah has five, count ’em, five national parks— each more spectacular than the next. Zion is known for its towering red rocks, while Arches has thousands of natural arches, including the famous Delicate Arch, featured on the Beehive State’s license plate. The other three parks are Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon.
Best for Family-Friendly Beaches
San Diego’s beaches are perfect for families because they’re lifeguard-patrolled and typically have calm waters. Favorites include Coronado Beach, a wide, sandy stretch, and Mission Beach, which is famous for its oceanfront amusement park with rides and arcade games. La Jolla Shores is another family-friendly strand in SoCal.