Best Places to Visit in the USA
From coastlines to big cities, the United States is made up of so many diverse destinations that it's hard to decide which places deserve the distinction of the best in America. That's why U.S. News considered a variety of factors, such as attractions, accommodations and dining options, as well as votes from thousands of travelers, to determine which vacation spots can be considered the best in the U.S. Use this list for your vacation planning, and cast your vote below to have a say in next year's list. And if you're looking for lodging, see the Best Hotels in the USA »
Best Places to Visit in the USA
- Grand Canyon
- Glacier National Park
- New York City
- San Francisco
- Washington, D.C.
- Honolulu - Oahu
- Jackson Hole
- Lake Tahoe
- Grand Teton National Park
- Zion National Park
- San Diego
- New Orleans
- Outer Banks
- Las Vegas
- Charleston, SC
- Key West
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To experience some of the most inspiring views America has to offer, plan a trip to Grand Canyon National Park. The Colorado River weaves its way through the 277-mile-long canyon, making it a top destination for whitewater rafting. The Arizona park is also a superb spot to hike, offering scenic paths like the Bright Angel and North Kaibab trails. Regardless of how you choose to spend your time in the Grand Canyon, you're sure to feel small against its towering rock formations and expansive vistas.
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A vacation at Yosemite National Park in California is all about reconnecting with nature. Spend your visit checking out famous landmarks like Half Dome and Glacier Point or hiking Cathedral Lakes, the Mist Trail and other popular paths. You'll also want to save time for admiring Yosemite's numerous waterfalls, including the towering Yosemite Falls, which is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. If you're not one for camping, opt for a daytrip from San Francisco, Sacramento or Lake Tahoe.
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America's first national park provides plenty of attractions to excite nature lovers, from steaming geysers to bubbling hot springs to hiking trails that stretch more than 900 miles. Plus, animal fans will appreciate a visit to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center to learn about local wildlife. If you'd rather look for wild critters inside the park, spend a few hours driving through the Hayden and Lamar valleys. Both areas are considered popular havens for Yellowstone National Park's resident bison, wolves and grizzly bears.
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With idyllic beaches and verdant parks, Maui offers ample opportunities to relax. Here, you can spend your days admiring the scenery as you cruise along the Road to Hana, fly above the island in a helicopter or lounge across the black sands of Waianapanapa State Park. If you'd rather cool off than sunbathe, sign up for a snorkeling tour. Sampling Maui's seafood is also a must, but don't overlook other island delicacies like haupia, a creamy coconut custard.
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Glaciers are the main draw of this national park, but its more than 700 lakes, two mountain ranges and multiple waterfalls are equally impressive. Hiking is the park's most popular pastime, though the area is also a prime spot for canoeing and fishing in the summer and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during the winter. Plus, wild animals like moose, bears and elk are frequently spotted here.
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Known for its diverse cultural scene, the Big Apple boasts so many things to do that it puts most of its U.S. peers to shame. Whether you choose to spend the day perusing the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibits, catching a show on Broadway or trying the city's famous New York-style pizza, chances are you'll never find yourself feeling bored here. When you need some respite from the city's busy street life and soaring skyscrapers, retreat to scenic Central Park or the artsy High Line.
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San Francisco's culture has been affected by diverse ethnic groups and many social movements. The best way to get a glimpse of the City by the Bay's character is to explore its neighborhoods on foot or by cable car. From the Mission to the Castro, visitors will find various boutiques and eateries serving authentic regional cuisine like Mexican, Italian or Chinese. Just be sure to come prepared with a sturdy pair of walking shoes and some sunscreen.
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The nation's capital has a lot going for it. Iconic landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument allow you to sightsee for days. Plus, the city's plethora of Smithsonian museums gives you plenty to do on rainy or hot days. When the weather cooperates, explore some of the District of Columbia's green spaces, such as the U.S. National Arboretum or Rock Creek Park. No visit would be complete without checking out the city's lively restaurant and bar scene.
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Oahu features a nice balance of urban and beach environments. And with pleasant weather year-round, there really is no wrong time to visit. Waikiki Beach promises to please, but be forewarned: There's a good chance a barrage of tourists will greet you. For more elbow room, head to Kailua's Lanikai Beach. Before leaving, carve out some time for visiting Honolulu naval sights like the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and the Battleship Missouri Memorial.
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This small mountain town in Colorado draws visitors year-round. During the winter, powder hounds can barrel down the surrounding Rocky Mountains before enjoying Telluride's superb après-ski scene. Meanwhile, the summer months offer numerous opportunities for taking in gorgeous vistas from hiking trails and scenic thoroughfares. Once you've worked up an appetite, sit down for upscale or rustic mountain fare at one of Telluride's 60-plus restaurants.
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Jackson Hole's isolated location in western Wyoming draws outdoorsy types in droves. Bordered by Grand Teton National Park and national forests, Jackson Hole boasts an assortment of ski slopes and hiking trails, as well as areas for fly-fishing, mountain biking, paragliding and more. For a more leisurely activity during the warmer months, head to Teton Village to ride the seasonal aerial tram.
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Known for its stunning clear water, North America's largest alpine lake beckons to active travelers year-round. Winter draws skiers and snowboarders in droves to the slopes at Lake Tahoe's numerous resorts, while the warmer months are ideal for hiking, scenic drives and lake activities like kayaking and boating. For an active vacation with a twist, trek one of the California and Nevada region's two beer trails or sign up for an outdoor aerial fitness class.
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The capital of Alaska serves as an excellent base for travelers hoping to explore the state's rugged wilderness. The Mendenhall Glacier, the Tracy Arm Fjord and the Tongass National Forest dazzle with their natural beauty. Plus, Juneau offers exciting excursions like whale watching, helicopter and dog-sledding tours. When you need to rest your feet after a busy day outdoors, hop on the Mount Roberts Tramway or visit the Alaskan Brewing Company's bottling facility for a tasting – if you're 21 or older.
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In Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming's snow-topped Teton Mountains rub elbows with the Snake River, Jackson and Jenny lakes, wildflower fields, swamps and more. Climbing Grand Teton and trekking trails like Taggart Lake are two common ways to take in the park's natural beauty, but if you're looking to exert less energy, explore the region by car or boat. Don't focus too much on the horizon, though, as moose, elk, bears and bison all call the park home and occasionally wander near visitors.
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Awe-inspiring panoramas are available everywhere you turn in Zion National Park. This protected area in Utah features massive freestanding arches that appeal to hikers, bikers and climbers. Zion National Park is also a prime spot to try canyoneering, which combines rappelling with swimming and hiking. Those who prefer hiking will have 18 trails to choose from, including traveler favorites like the easy Pa'rus Trail and the Narrows, a challenging trek through the narrowest section of Zion Canyon.
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Nicknamed the Garden Island, Kauai relies on its immense natural beauty to stand out from other Hawaiian Islands. To drive this point home, Kauai limits the size of all of its buildings to no taller than a coconut palm so locals and travelers can enjoy excellent views from the island's pristine beaches. Visitors will also discover lush areas like Koke'e State Park and Wailua River State Park when they venture inland. Kauai's distance from the mainland and abundance of high-end hotels make it a pricey destination to visit, so book your flights and accommodations well in advance.
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San Diego appeals to many different kinds of vacationers. While the beach is the marquee attraction, the city also boasts a variety of activities, ranging from hiking in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to surfing and inline skating at Mission and Pacific beaches. Foodies won't want to miss the city's central Gaslamp Quarter, which features a variety of bars and restaurants serving fresh seafood, authentic Mexican cuisine, craft beer and more. Other must-dos include wandering around the sprawling San Diego Zoo and the museum-filled Balboa Park.
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This luxe Colorado mountain town offers world-renowned ski slopes, high-end boutiques, trendy restaurants and a see-and-be-seen atmosphere. Though skiing is the primary activity of choice for most visitors, travelers can also choose to spend their vacation hiking the beautiful twin peaks of the Maroon Bells or driving or biking the 20-mile Independence Pass. Before leaving, hop on Aspen's gondola to enjoy panoramic mountain vistas.
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Few American cities are home to cultures as unique as the Big Easy's. Offering a blend of influences from the Caribbean, Europe and other locales, New Orleans has a distinct personality. Music lovers flock here to immerse themselves in the city's rich jazz, blues and rock 'n' roll scenes. Meanwhile, foodies can feast on everything from gumbo to beignets to po'boys in between sightseeing. After filling up on tasty fare, check out Bourbon Street's nightlife or sign up for an evening ghost tour.
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There are three main reasons why people plan a trip to Boston: to learn more about U.S. history, catch a baseball game and tour some of the country's best universities. The 2-mile-long Freedom Trail, which connects Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument, offers a terrific overview of the city's rich history, while Fenway Park is a must-see attraction for baseball fans. What's more, Boston is home to top-notch universities known for their charming architecture, picturesque green spaces and wicked smart students.
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The Windy City's architecture, cuisine and museums make this Midwestern locale an excellent option for travelers with varying interests. Be sure to stuff your face at least once, whether it be with a Chicago-style hot dog (sans ketchup), an Italian beef sandwich or a slice of deep-dish pizza. Then, snap some pictures in front of Millennium Park's iconic "Bean" sculpture, check out the Art Institute of Chicago's top-notch collections or go on an architecture river cruise. If you plan on visiting during the winter, head to Maggie Daley Park to go ice skating.
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Seattle may be known for its consistently soggy weather, but this Pacific Northwest city has plenty to offer travel buffs. First things first, grab a coffee. (Seattle is the undisputed epicenter of this popular beverage.) After getting your caffeine fix, enjoy the city's laid-back aura. Spend your stay mingling with locals at Pike Place Market or on Mount Si's slopes. Or, get a dose of Seattle's art scene while perusing the exhibits at the Seattle Art Museum and the Olympic Sculpture Park.
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Outdoorsy types will love vacationing in Sedona. Home to towering red rock formations, ancient cliff dwellings and vortexes, this Arizona city features a multitude of postcard-worthy landmarks accessible by various hiking trails. Many of Sedona's trails also permit mountain biking, while the area's red rocks attract climbing enthusiasts. After an active day outside, travelers can retreat to one of the city's award-winning spas or wellness centers, where they can tap into Sedona's spiritual side during a treatment, yoga session or healing ritual.
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Travel to this South Florida city to experience a melting pot of cultures. The vibrant food and nightlife scenes are worth the trip alone, so grab a frita (a Cuban-style hamburger) in Little Havana before dancing the night away in one of the city's countless clubs. If you're not a fan of clubbing, don't fret: Miami offers a variety of museums filled with exhibits about the city's unique art, history and culture, plus proximity to the famous sands of Miami Beach.
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North Carolina's Outer Banks region features 200 miles of barrier islands. History enthusiasts will appreciate snorkeling and scuba diving the roughly 3,000 shipwrecks offshore, as well as wandering around the site of the Wright brothers' famous first flight. Meanwhile, beach bums can lounge on the Outer Banks' beaches and admire the lighthouses that tower above them. When it's time to eat, head to one of numerous seafood restaurants to savor local specialties like Hatteras-style clam chowder and raw oysters.
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Sin City astounds travelers with its smorgasbord of offerings. Whether you choose to spend your trip testing your luck at its casinos, enjoying its highly regarded buffets or relaxing at its extravagant spas and by its chic pools, Las Vegas offers something for everyone. Though the bulk of Las Vegas' can't-miss activities and attractions are available on the Strip, travelers hoping to avoid the area's thick tourist crowds can venture outside the city to go hiking or sightsee via helicopter.
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Beautiful architecture, relaxing beaches and plenty of Southern charm are the defining elements of Charleston, South Carolina. Start your day in the Battery, where you can catch an incredible sunrise over the city's harbor. Then, check out the city's historical sites and museums, including the Civil War-era Fort Sumter and the Aiken-Rhett House Museum. Once you've worked up an appetite following a busy day of sightseeing and exploring the city's picturesque streets, savor some of Charleston's mouthwatering low country cuisine at a local restaurant. Must-try dishes range from fried catfish to shrimp and grits.
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Home to the southernmost point in the continental U.S., Key West offers everything one would expect of an island in the Florida Keys. Popular activities include lounging on pristine beaches and deep-sea fishing, as well as snorkeling, kayaking and sailing. Key West offers more than just a pretty coastline, though. Travelers interested in history will find no shortage of interesting parks, homes and cemeteries here. Plus, Key West's lively Duval Street features an eclectic collection of people, restaurants and bars.
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New Englanders flock to this New York mountain region to enjoy nature while participating in all kinds of activities. During the warmer months, the area's more than 6 million acres attract travelers keen on hiking, biking, birding, rock climbing, golfing and hunting, among other outdoor pursuits. Meanwhile, the colder months are when the Adirondack Mountains turn into a winter wonderland, with superb paths for skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
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Savannah is one of the best destinations the South has to offer thanks to its old-world charm, tasty cuisine and plethora of historical attractions. In this Georgia city, you'll find restaurants that serve everything from fried green tomatoes to biscuits and gravy. What's more, Savannah's absence of open container restrictions means you can take a drink to go to sip as you wander around the Historic District. When you're not strolling beneath Forsyth Park's Spanish moss-draped oak trees, learn more about the city's past during a trolley or horse-drawn carriage tour.
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