Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right The best cities to visit in the USA to get to know America
San Diego
Photograph: Shutterstock

The best cities to visit in the USA to get to know America

From NYC to L.A., the best cities to visit in the USA should be on your domestic travel bucket list

By Jenny Peters
Advertising

Travel definitley looks a little different in 2020; Quarantine and travel bans around the world has left us appreciating all the great places to see and things to do in the USA. From coast to coast, there's more than enough natural wonders, culinary offerings and famous buildings to appease even the most traveled tourist on this list of the best cities to visit in the USA. And sure, we included big-hitters like L.A. and NYC, but you'll also find up-and-coming gems like Milwaukee, Charleston and Nashville.

If you are going to check out these cities this year, make sure to follow safety guidelines carefully and review any travel restrictions. We've indicated in the text which venues might be temporarily closed, but it's always best to check ahead as some may be operating at limited capacity too. Happy travels! 

RECOMMENDED: The best places to live in the U.S.

Best cities to visit in the USA

Chicago
Chicago
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Chicago

Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, deep-dish pizza and the Cubbies: just three of the wonderful things that put Chicago on the world’s radar. It’s a big city with a friendly vibe that’s got a whole street devoted to drinking and dancing. Hit Rush Street if you’re ready to party until 4am, but save some strength for the summer festivals this city loves to put on, from Taste of Chicago and Pitchfork Music Fest in July to the big daddy of them all, Lollapalooza in August. This oh-so-cold city hunkers down in the winter, unless the Bears are playing football, in which case shirtless guys will brave subzero temps to cheer on their boys at Soldier Field.

Discover the best things to do in Chicago

New Orleans
New Orleans
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. New Orleans

After 300 years of existence, New Orleans is in the midst of a renaissance—except for the streets, which are the bumpiest you've ever encountered in a major metropolis. They love to dress up and party here, so put on a wig and mask, and hit the French Quarter and the Marigny for fabulous food at the best New Orleans restaurants, grab a to-go cup filled with craft cocktails from one of the city’s best bars, and indulge in the live music for which New Orleans is famous. Then dig deeper by visiting the Bywater neighborhood, home to an intoxicating mix of art and funk with incredible murals on every block, and stop at Bacchanal Wine for a munch, a sip and a song or two. One thing to remember while here: always look around at the architecture that makes up this one-in-a-million, music-loving city. 

Discover the best things to do in New Orleans

Advertising
Nashville
Nashville
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Nashville

Honky tonks and museums might not seem to go together, but their marriage in Nashville is a strong one indeed. For some drinking and dancing, head straight for Broadway, where Legend’s Corner, Nudie’s and Tootsie’s have been serving up country, blues and whiskey forever. You can start early (10am) and go late into the night (3am) in Music City—if you’ve got the fortitude, of course. Day drinking not your idea of vacation fun? Start with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and move onto the museums devoted to Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and George Jones (TEMPORARILY CLOSED); all are right downtown and terrific. See Historic RCA Studio B, where Elvis made countless records, and drive out to the Bluebird Cafe and the Grand Ole Opry. Don’t forget that this is a party town so feel free to visit with a group, rent a barcycle (which is exactly what is sounds like) and roam among the best Nashville bars, singing as you go.

Discover the best things to do in Nashville

Los Angeles
Los Angeles
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Los Angeles

Sun, sand and movies in which the city is often the star make Los Angeles a place the world wants to see in real life. Start at the Hotel Erwin’s rooftop in Venice for an expansive view of the whole city, then explore everything from ocean to mountains as you criss-cross L.A. County. Expect its famous traffic to slow you down as you head to Malibu for a surfing session, make a pit stop at the Getty museum (TEMPORARILY CLOSED), then step in the stars’ footprints at TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, blow your shopping budget on Rodeo Drive, then head south to Anaheim to pilot the Millenium Falcon at Disneyland’s hot new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge universe (TEMPORARILY CLOSED).

Discover the best things to do in Los Angeles

Advertising
New York City
New York City
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. New York City

Needless to say: there is no place like New York City. An incredible melting pot of cultures, neighborhoods, languages and personal styles, a stroll down any street in Manhattan is always a fascinating experience. Classic old buildings exist shoulder-to-shoulder with new ultra-modern ones like Hudson Yards, constantly morphing the city’s identity into exciting new molds. When in town, indulge in more than one Broadway show (BROADWAY IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED), visit all the museums, stroll around Central Park, eat the best bagels in NYC and any drool-worthy haute cuisine you can manage, drink at a speakeasy, catch a Yankee game or a US Open match (STADIUMS ARE TEMPORARILY CLOSED) and start wondering why you haven’t moved here yet.

Discover the best things to do in NYC

Las Vegas
Las Vegas
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Las Vegas

Ah, Vegas. The place that every foreigner cannot wait to visit when seeing America. More lightbulbs in one place than anywhere, more ways to gamble than your wallet can bear, the glitter, glitz, and jangling slot machines are the city’s signature, but Vegas is more than just casinos rising out of the desert. Head off the famed Strip to downtown’s fascinating Mob Museum and find out who built this decadent mecca in the first place. Eat at a world-class chef’s world-renowned restaurant (Joël Robuchon, anyone?), drive supercars at 200mph with Exotics Racing and zip out to Red Rock Canyon for a mind-bending desert experience. Whatever you want, Vegas always has it.

Discover the best things to do in Las Vegas

Advertising
St. Louis
St. Louis
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. St. Louis

For a small-town vibe in a big city, St. Louis is the place to be. Settled by Europeans in 1764, this “Gateway to the West” has been the center of America forever. A few musts while in town: a visit to the famous (and giant) Gateway Arch, a walk through the National Blues Museum and a stop at BB’s Jazz Blues and Soup. Clearly, blues and barbecue go hand-in-hand here, with classic BBQ joints like Pappy’s Smokehouse and Sugarfire doing slow cooking with style. Locals are so serious about the cuisine that The Q in the Lou cookoff in the fall is a hot ticket.

Discover the best things to do in St. Louis

Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Washington, DC

One of America’s most beautiful cities, stately Washington, D.C. just keeps getting better. The National Mall is truly majestic, with the Capitol building glowing at one end, the Lincoln Memorial at the other and the various Smithsonian museums lining each side. See them all (take a look at our list of the best museums in DC for a start), but plan to spend extra time at the National African American Museum of History and Culture. Beyond politics, monuments and museums, D.C. boats some cool, emerging neighborhoods like the Wharf (eat at Officina or Del Mar de Fabio Trabocchi there) and Southeast, where the Nationals play baseball and craft beer rules at Bardo Brewing and Bluejacket nearby. Take a look at our guide to where to stay in Washington, DC if you’re planning a visit.

Discover the best things to do in Washington, DC

Advertising
Miami
Miami
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Miami

Things constantly sizzle in Miami, where Latin beats and eats swirl in an Art Deco dream. South Beach is the spot for sunning all day on the white sand and clubbing all night. For a really hot time, stop in at the World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM), and don’t forget to visit our very own Time Out Market Miami (TEMPORARILY CLOSED) too. For true art lovers, Art Basel Miami arrives every December (CANCELED FOR 2020): expect a swirl of creative installations, parties and intellectualism. 

Discover the best things to do in Miami

Boston
Boston
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Boston

History and modernity are joined at the hip in Boston, one of America’s first big cities and still one of its best. It’s the place where federal architecture harkens back to the 1600s, juxtaposed with ultra-modern buildings by Frank Gehry, Walter Gropius and I.M. Pei. Speaking of architecture: be sure to see the Back Bay row houses, usual Instagram fodder that is actually eye-catching and a must-see. To keep in mind: Boston bands together in love for its sports teams and its seafood, from chowder to lobster rolls, a devotion celebrated each summer at the Boston Seafood Festival in August. Basically, a big ol’ New England clambake.

Discover the best things to do in Boston

Advertising
San Francisco
San Francisco
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. San Francisco

San Francisco, a beautiful city built on massive hills and surrounded by water, is a place that marches to the beat of its own drum. Novices are always shocked at how chilly it is here, so pack a heavy sweater at any time of year, and use it while riding a cable car (TEMPORARILY CLOSED), taking a day-tour to Alcatraz Island, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge or laughing at the chubby seals at Fisherman’s Wharf

Discover the best things to do in San Francisco

Charleston
Charleston
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Charleston

Charleston is truly one of America’s great metropolises, steeped in the history of the nation while boasting a thoroughly modern attitude toward the arts, culture and cuisine—you just need one quick glance at our list of the best Charleston restaurants to see that. Since around 1670, the architecture—and particularly the churches on every corner—has been enough of a reason to head to South Carolina’s jewel, but the recent uptick in bachelor and bachelorette parties has turned the city into a food and drink haven as well. Water views and hipsters abound at the Pavilion Bar (TEMPORARILY CLOSED); City Market sells the city’s signature sweetgrass baskets; and dinner at chef Sean Brock’s Husk is a transcendental experience.

Discover the best things to do in Charleston

Advertising
San Diego
San Diego
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. San Diego

It’s not a myth: San Diego boasts the very best weather across America, with 70-degrees-Fahrenheit temperatures, low humidity and sunny skies all year round. Add in the beautiful bay and beaches, its famous zoo and the endearing madness of Comic-Con International, the annual Godzilla of comic conventions that brings out cosplay aficionados in droves every July, and it’ll become impossible not to love this quintessential California city. Foodies adore the seafood and Mexican cuisine done to perfection here; gamblers flock to Pachanga and Viejas, the two posh Native American casinos nearby; kids dream of Legoland (TEMPORARILY CLOSED); and everyone hits KAABOO, the massive music, art, comedy and culinary festival come September.

Discover the best things to do in San Diego

Milwaukee
Milwaukee
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Milwaukee

You probably didn’t know that Milwaukee holds the world’s largest music festival every year. Summerfest happens for 11 days around July 4, and this pretty city by Lake Michigan goes more than a little crazy. With 11 stages, over 800 bands and close to a million fans rolling through, they're taking advantage of the warm weather in a big way. During the rest of the year, think cheese curds, beer breweries, cornhole tournaments and Packers fanatics, juxtaposed with a gorgeous art museum and the annual Sculpture Milwaukee outdoor showcase all over town (June to October). It’s a vibrant, friendly city that Harley-Davidson calls home—don’t miss their massive museum here.

Discover the best things to do in Milwaukee

Advertising
Orlando
Orlando
Photograph: Shutterstock

15. Orlando

With theme parks like Universal Studios Florida, Legoland and Walt Disney World, Orlando has been the place for families for generations. And now, with the arrival of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney World, there will be plenty of adults with no kids descending on Orlando as well. The city is ready, with an impressive range of restaurants in Orlando anchored by DoveCote Brasserie and La Boheme, and an equally adult club scene that pays homage all sorts of tunes, from country to hip hip to rock and pop.

Discover the best things to do in Orlando

Explore more of the US

Yosemite National Park, California
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 15 best places to visit in the US

Things to do

The natural beauty of America is legendary, which makes the best places to visit in the US bucket list-worthy items that will titillate all your senses. These national parks, forests, ingenious man-made wonders and craters are destinations in their own right.

Recommended

    You may also like

      Advertising