The United States has so many diverse cities and attractions that it is difficult to narrow down the list to the 12 top travel destinations. These are the destinations most often cited as the places to see before you die, another version of saying they should be on your bucket list, and offbeat and trendy spots are not included here. That’s another topic altogether.
This list is an introduction to the best and most popular places to go in the United States, from hotspots in New York City to when to see the cherry blossoms in Washington.
New York City
American icons like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Times Square are on every first-time visitor’s list, but they are just a few of the attractions to see in New York City, America’s most populous and most popular city. Also known as the “Big Apple,” New York City is a favorite destination for both domestic and international visitors. Don’t miss a leisurely walk on the High Line, an old-railroad-track-turned-park that features greenery, artwork, and beautiful skyline views. Broadway and the Theater District is the place to go to see the latest plays and musicals, and if you’re an art lover, New York has an embarrassment of riches: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Frick Collection. Or go shopping on Fifth Avenue, check out Washington Square and Greenwich Village and Rockefeller Center, take a walk through Central Park, and get awed by Grand Central Terminal. If you’re staying for more than a few days, dig deeper into NYC’s architecture or make a trip to Brooklyn.
The lure of Hollywood and its celebrities and the mild breezes from the Pacific Ocean keep Los Angeles on the top of the list of U.S. tourist destinations. Search for top-rated hotels on TripAdvisor near LA’s famous beaches like Malibu or Santa Monica for a luxurious stay. Go shopping on Rodeo Drive, tour Beverly Hills, and walk along the boardwalk in LA’s most famous beachfront neighborhood, Venice Beach.
Chicago has long been called the “Second City,” coming in second to New York City in both size and population. A beacon in the Midwest, Chicago is actually third in population these days, but it has a skyline, restaurants, shopping, museums, and activities that easily rival NYC and LA. If it’s baseball season, don’t miss seeing a Cubs game at famous Wrigley Field. Check out the Magnificent Mile, where you’ll find every upscale shop imaginable and fantastic restaurants. Chicago is home to some of the nation’s most important buildings, and you can see them all on a guided architecture tour on land or from a boat on Lake Michigan. The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the top art museums in the country, and Millennium Park is Chicago’s newest attraction.
Washington, the capital of the United States, has miles of museums and monuments—almost all of which are free. That’s just one reason why it is one of the most visited cities in the country, especially for families and school groups. It’s the perfect place to learn about U.S. history at places like Mount Vernon, George Washington’s plantation; Ford’s Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was shot; the White House; the Capitol; Georgetown; and Alexandria, along with museums like the Smithsonian, the National Museum of American History, and the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, and the National Museum of the American Indian. You can overdose on museums if you add the United States Holocaust Museum, the Newseum, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the National Gallery of Art.