10 Favorite American Cities to Be a Tourist
Travel Channel rounds up U.S. News & World Report's 25 Best Places to Visit in the USA, World Atlas's The Most Visited Cities in the U.S. and Expedia's Most Tourist-Friendly Cities in America for a crowd-sourced list of the best places in America to whip out our cameras, hop on tour buses and explore.
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1: Anchorage, Alaska
Alaska’s largest city serves as a gateway to the great outdoors. Visit from September to April to see the Northern Lights or plan your trip between April and September to experience the Midnight Sun—when Anchorage enjoys more sunlight than any of the other 49 states.
Gateway to Outdoor Adventure
Use Anchorage as home base for biking the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, salmon fishing at Ship Creek, hiking in the Chugach Mountain Range and whale watching in Turnagain Arm. Book a day cruise to the Kenai Fjords, do some flight-seeing over Denali National Park and keep your eyes peeled for moose and bear in the wild.
Beautiful Downtown Asheville
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, Asheville appeals to tourists of all types. From craft beers to artisan crafters, the nation’s largest private residence to secluded state park hiking trails, the Paris of the South offers something for everyone in your crew.
History and Nature in the Mountains
Arrive in autumn to bask in the glory of the changing colors in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests as you drive along the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway to the Biltmore Estate. Warmer months afford access to the French Broad River and its tributaries: perfect for fly-fishing, whitewater rapid riding, stand-up paddle boarding and sliding down at 60-foot natural waterslide.
3: Chicago, Illinois
Head to the capital of the Midwest for art, architecture, sports and world-class dining and drinking options. From shopping the Magnificent Mile to America’s favorite past-time (with plenty of Chicago-style hot dogs), the Windy City offers tourist options that will satisfy first-timers, repeat visitors and locals alike.
Spending time inside museums makes Chicago a viable tourist destination even during the coldest months, when visitors can save money on hotels and airfare. Top museums include the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry, the DuSable Museum of African American History and the Oriental Institute Museum.
Sports and Snacks
Whether you like baseball, basketball, football or hockey, Chicago has a team for you—and in some cases, it has more than one! Satisfy your post-game hunger at one of the city’s Michelin-starred restaurants like Alinea, Acadia or Temporis, or keep it budget-friendly with deep dish pizza, hot Italian beef sandwiches or Chicago-style hot dogs.
4: Denver, Colorado
The Mile High City makes a mighty fine place to play tourist. Denver serves as a gateway to outdoor adventures but also exists as a formidable tourist destination in and of itself. Visitors can enjoy a highly-walkable historic downtown full of shopping, entertainment, dining and more against the scenic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
Head to the Golden Triangle Creative District downtown for the Denver Art Museum (free admission on the first Saturday of every month and free admission all the time for kids under 18!). Stop and smell the flowers at the top-rated Denver Botanic Gardens, which is adjacent to Cheesman Park, or roar into the Denver Zoo inside the massive City Park.
The Colorado Craft Beer Scene
5: Los Angeles, California
With over 100 distinct neighborhoods, Los Angeles offers something for every kind of tourist. Whether you go celebrity-spotting in Hollywood, slip away to the seaside in Santa Monica, hit the theme parks in Anaheim, or explore the museums, restaurants and historical sites that appear over the 500 square miles that comprise Los Angeles, you’ll find no shortage of entertainment in the City of Angels.
The Hollywood Hills
6: Louisville, Kentucky
This charming city on the banks of the Ohio River brims with activities for tourists of all persuasions. From baseball to bourbon, playing the ponies to zipping through the zoo, the food-focused metropolis of Louisville makes for a budget-friendly location for your next touristy adventure.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Beyond
Book a guided adventure on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which includes stops at distilleries like Angel’s Envy, Bulleit, Evan Williams and Jim Beam. Spend the day at the top-rated Louisville Zoo (don’t forget to head underground to the nearby Louisville Mega Cavern—the largest structure in Kentucky—while you’re at the zoo). Explore Museum Row downtown to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, Muhammad Ali Center and Kentucky Science Center. Don’t forget to check out the Kentucky Derby Museum at historic Churchill Downs Racetrack.
7: New York, New York
There are infinite ways to experience the most populous city in the United States. You can go highbrow with circle seats to the hottest Broadway musical, or you can keep it low-key by watching buskers perform in the subway system. New York City can be the perfect trip for both budget-minded tourists and high-rolling globetrotters. A picnic in sprawling Central Park is an essential activity for the first-time tourist that residents still enjoy, too.
Beyond the Brooklyn Bridge
Classic New York City activities include exploring at least one of its great museums: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History or the Museum of Modern Art. Hop on the free Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. Take a stroll over the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset for epic selfies and explore the beloved borough across the bridge—there’s more to NYC than just Manhattan. Even the most well-heeled traveler shouldn’t resist the siren scent of a $1 slice of pizza from just about any intersection in the city.
8: New Orleans, Louisiana
The Crescent City has more to offer than just Mardi Gras. This budget-traveler favorite offers endless photo opportunities, intriguing history and delectable delights that simply cannot be found elsewhere in America (or maybe anywhere else at all, period). New Orleans has family-friendly fun on offer, but its primary draw is for the revelers. Make sure your pack your party pants if Nola is on your bucket list.
Uptown, Mid City and the Marigny
Grab a to-go creamy, boozy bushwacker from Molly’s at the Market and stroll the French Quarter with your beverage in hand. Take the historic St. Charles Street Car on a ride from the Central Business District to the Garden District to admire the beautiful homes that line the boulevard. Catch live music in a cozy venue on Frenchmen Street, visit the New Orleans Jazz Museum or let the buskers on Royal Street keep you and your afternoon al fresco beer company. Must-eats include Central Grocery’s muffuletta sandwich, raw gulf oysters (during the cooler months) and a midnight-hour po’boy from Verti Marte.
9: Savannah, Georgia
The crown jewel of the coastal south, Savannah makes for a dreamy vacation for those who crave history, culture and relatively quick access to a beach. Join a tour (hopefully a haunted carriage ride!) or create your own path through downtown’s historic squares. Make sure you get in line for a family-style lunch at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, a soul food institution.
Sunshine on the Square
If the weather permits, drive out to Tybee Island for a glimpse at what an uncommercialized beach community should look like (pro-tip: try the North Beach for fewer crowds). Visit Bonaventure Cemetery—made famous in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil—on your drive back from the beach. Spend rainy days inside the Telfair Museums or on the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Museum of Art.
10: Washington, D.C.
Monuments, museums and more make Washington, D.C. an amazing tourist destination. Wandering around the National Mall will expose you to classic American sights like the Washington Monument, Capitol Building and Lincoln Memorial, just to name a few. Have fun seeing how many politicians you can name when picking up lunch at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a favorite among staffers and presidents alike.
The Smithsonian Institute boasts 17 museums and galleries (and the National Zoo!) in D.C., and admission to all of them is free. Visit the stunning National Museum of African American History and Culture, go out of this world at the Air and Space Museum and go back in time at the Natural History Museum. The United States Holocaust Museum cannot be overlooked, either. Explore the neighborhoods of Georgetown and Chinatown and enjoy one of the finest underground public transit systems in the United States.