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A Guide to the Best Cities to Visit in the USA

Author: Charlotte Boswell

Big, bold and beautiful there really is nowhere else like America. Larger-than-life cities, spectacular scenery, warm and eccentric people and diverse cultures, the USA is a treasure trove of iconic landmarks and astounding national parks. From the music cities of the Deep South, to sophisticated New York and liberal San Francisco, here is a list of our favourite US cities.

San Francisco 

Set high on a hilly peninsula with glorious views overlooking the Pacific Ocean and ‘The Bay’, San Francisco is famous for its rolling fogs, colourful Victorian houses and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Take the historic cable car to Fisherman's Wharf and explore the crab shacks, boutique souvenir shops and spot the local sea lions sunning themselves.Wander down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world, photograph Postcard Row with its pastel-coloured homesor take the ferry to the infamous Alcatraz, a former island prison which housed Al Capone. For those looking to sample the local cuisine be sure to try San Francisco's signature dish, delicious clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl, all washed down with some craft beer. 

San Francisco cable car street California USA
San Francisco cable cars


Located on the south-eastern tip of Florida, Miami is known for its white sandy beaches, Hispanic culture, Art Deco architecture and thriving arts scene. Florida’s most glamourous city has a Latin rhythm running through it and neighbourhoods such as Little Havana and Little Haiti are well worth experiencing; try some salsa dancing or sample a Cuban sandwich from one of the many excellent food trucks. South Beach is the star of the city, with its glistening turquoise waters, pastel-coloured buildings and fantastic seafood restaurants that line Ocean Drive. It is also the gateway to Everglades where you can search for alligators, or Florida Keys where you can drive to the most southern tip of the USA, Key West. 

South Beach Miami Beach Hut Florida USA
South Beach in Miami


Priding itself on being the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin is renowned for its eclectic music scene centred mainly around country, rock and blues. It is also the state capital of Texas and any visit to Austin should include  a visit to the impressive Texas State Capitol building. For something a little more unique head to the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, home to the world's largest urban bat colony where approximately 1.5 million take to the sky at dusk each evening from March through to November or take a dip in the city’s three-acre Barton Springs swimming pool. Austin is also known for its exciting food scene and throughout the city you’ll find many inviting food trucks serving anything from gourmet donuts to Korean barbecue.

Austin State Capitol Building Texas USA
Austin State Capitol Building

New York

One of the most vibrant and captivating cities in the world, New York is bursting with world-class shopping, globally acclaimed cuisine and award-winning Broadway Shows. Lose yourself in the hustle and bustle of neon-lit Times Square, take a cycle through leafy Central Park, be inspired by the views from the Empire State Building and explore the diverse and eccentric neighbourhoods the city has to offer. Art enthusiasts should head to the Met, MoMA or Guggenheim for some of the world’s most impressive collections, or sports fans should catch a Yankees baseball or Knicks basketball game for a bucket list experience.

New York City Skyline USA
New York skyline


Situated on the Mississippi River in the southwest of Tennessee, Memphis is part of the USA's legendary music city trio alongside New Orleans and Nashville. It is most famous as the home of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and B.B. King who all recorded albums at the legendary Sun Studios. Visit Graceland, the mansion once owned by Elvis Presley or wander down the iconic Beale Street as it comes alive in the evening with blues clubs and Southern restaurants. Memphis also played a prominent role in the American civil rights movement and the city is home to the National Civil Rights Museum which is built around the former Lorraine Motel, which was the location of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968.

Memphis downtown skyline lights Tennessee USA
Memphis skyline
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Oregon’s largest city Portland is an oasis of parks and gardens and is fast-becoming one of the USA's most stylish and liveable cities. Sitting in the shadow of Mount Hood on the Columbia River, it is a city full of creativity and culture with a strong emphasis on sustainability and the environment. Portland also has one of the country’s most exciting culinary scenes with over 89 breweries and distilleries, excellent coffee houses and a tantalising food market in Chinatown. Sprawling Washington Park in the heart of the city is a definite highlight featuring a fantastic arboretum full of fauna from around the world, stunning Portland Japanese Gardens and many hiking and biking trails.

Portland Old Buildings Oregon USA
Portland / Image credit: Ian Sane


Founded in 1630, Boston is one of the oldest cities in the USA.The birthplace of the American Revolution and the capital of Massachusetts, Boston is also home to the famous Red Sox,Harvard University, fresh seafood and is the gateway to beautiful New England. Walk the significant Freedom Trail encompassing 16 historic sites, stroll along the cobblestoned streets of Beacon Hill lined with elegant townhouses and exploreone of the city’s beautiful parks which are particularly spectacular in autumn featuring a kaleidoscope of colours. Boston also offers a vibrant culinary scene; ensure you sample the quintessential Bostonian dish clam chowder or some fresh lobster rolls.

Boston old state house Massachusetts New England USA

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C the capital city of the United States sits on the Potomac River bordering the states of Maryland and Virginia. Defined by its stunning neoclassical architecture and monument, Washington, D.C. is a treasure trove of cultural sites and historical landmarks. Home to the President of the US and the Whitehouse, along with the Smithsonian Institute, the largest collection of museums in the world, it really is a city full history and intrigue. Must-sees include the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the International Spy Museum.After a day of sight-seeing, head to Georgetown and Dupont Circle, both home to boutique shops and modern eateries.

Washington DC
Washington, D.C.

New Orleans

Whilst New Orleans is undoubtedly a vibrant music city famed for the jazz and blues clubs found on Bourbon Street, it is also a cultural melting pot with diverse neighbourhoods and differing cultures. Photograph the European architecture in the French Quarter, explore the colourful Creole cottages in the oldest African American neighbourhood Treme, marvel at the impressive mansion-lined streets of the Garden District, experience Mardi Gras downtown or discover new art in the Warehouse District. New Orleans’ also has an exciting food scene with eclectic restaurants and street food stalls selling specialities such as Creole shrimp, jambalaya and beignets.

Neon Lights Bars French Quarter New Orleans Loiusiana
French Quarter in New Orleans


Situated on the island of Oahu, the capital of Hawaii is a cosmopolitan and cultural city offering a thriving dining scene and historic landmarks all surrounded by beautiful bays and mountains. Honolulu stretches from Makapuu Point to Pearl Harbour encompassing the stunning Waikiki Beach in between. Pearl Harbour is a must visit when in Honolulu, the scene of thehorrifying attackduring World War II isnow National Historic Landmark and is also an active military base to this day. Other points of interest include Diamond Head, a dormant volcano, Hanauma Bay where you can see turtles and ‘Iolani Palace a former royal residence of Hawaii’s final monarchs.

Honolulu skyline
Honolulu skyline / Image credit: Edmund Garman
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Often nicknamed as Music City, Nashville is a vibrant city in the heart of Tennessee and is a meccafor country music fans.Nashville is world-renowned for its live country music scene and honky-tonk bars; be sure to visit venues such as the famous Bluebird Cafe known for showcasing new music in an intimate environment, or The District, a thriving neighbourhood of diverse cultures and music. The city is also home to thefamous Ryman Auditoriumthe GrandOle Opry long-running radio show and the Country Music Hall of Fame, all icons in the country music world.  

Nashville Tennessee Skyline Cumberland River USA
Nashville skyline


If you are looking to experience the authentic charm of the Southwest, Albuquerque, one of the country’s oldest cities, is the perfect place. Founded in 1706 as a Spanish colony, mountains and desert frame the modern downtown and contrasting abode architecture of New Mexico’s largest city.Enjoying around 310 days of sunshine a year, it’s the ideal city to visit and enjoy the great outdoors where you can bike, hike, kayak and golf. Don’t forget to look up to the sky when in Albuquerque as hot air balloons frequently dot the skies, especially in the first week of October during the International Balloon Fiesta where hundreds of themed balloons take flight.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta New Mexico USA
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Las Vegas

Built around a natural oasis in Nevada’s Mojave Desert, Las Vegas was founded in 1905 where the city was a Union Pacific Railroad until in the early 1930s when gambling was legalised and construction of the Hoover Damn began. It quickly became a glitzy mecca attracting famous entertainers such as Elvis and The Rat Pack to entertain in the casinos. Now known as the Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas features huge themed hotels, glamourous casinos, Broadway shows, magic extravaganzas and is host to several global superstars. With daily direct flights from the UK, Las Vegas can be enjoyed on its own, or as part of a multi-city trip with Los Angeles and San Francisco or is a great starting point to visit the awe-inspiring Canyonlands.

Las Vegas skyline
Las Vegas skyline

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is situated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and overlooks the largest inland lake in the Western US, Great Salt Lake.Originally home to the Ute Indians before the Mormons settled in 1847, the city has substantially grown to become a culturally diverse melting-pot home to a first-class performing arts scene, award-winning craft breweries and an impressive tech scene. Explore the impressive Utah State Capitol Building or landscaped Temple Square, get active on one of the many biking or hiking trails or head to the Great Salt Lakeand enjoy some kayaking, sailing, or even a sunset cruise.

Salt Lake City Mountains Skyline Utah USA
Salt Lake City skyline

San Diego

Located on the southernmost tip of Pacific California, elegant and warm San Diego has over 70 miles of stunning white beaches and an array of excellent attractions. From the world-famous San Diego Zoo in leafy Balboa Park and their successful Giant Panda breeding programme, to the excellent Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden and the interesting USS Midway maritime museum.The beautiful and historic Old Town of San Diego marks the first Spanish settlement on the US West Coast and features a range of Mexican heritage and historical buildings, a theatre and museums, whereas the eclectic Gaslamp Quarter offers boutique shops, cocktail bars and a diverse programme of music, comedy and drama.

San Diego Balboa Park California USA
Balboa Park in San Diego
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Washington’s largest city Seattle lies on the shore of Elliot Bay and is framed by snow-capped mountains, emerald forest and the Pacific Ocean.Seattle is a cutting-edge city where nature meets technology and tech giants Microsoft and Amazon have their headquarters. The futuristic Space Needle built in 1962 symbolises the forward thinking and innovative spirit of the city and is a key landmark of Seattle. For nature lovers, Seattle is the perfect gateway to the Pacific North West providing plenty of outdoor opportunities in Olympic National Park, Lake Quinault and Mount Rainer.Seattle is also synonymous with coffee, taste some of the USA’s best coffee in Pike Place Market.

Seattle Skyline Sunset Washington USA
Seattle skyline


Soaring skyscrapers and the glistening Lake Michigan make up the spectacular skyline of Chicago, home to the deep-dish pizza and the starting point of Route 66. The third largest city in the USA offers visitors an excellent range of museums and art galleries, world-class shopping, a wealth of restaurants and endless choices of jazz and blues music venues. Whilst in Chicago meander down the history-packed stretch of Magnificent Mile, watch the light show atBuckingham Fountain in Grant Park; one of the world’s largest water fountains, or catch an iconic Chicago Bulls basketball game.

Chicago Skyline aerial view of Navy Pier Illinois USA
Navy Pier in Chicago

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, synonymous with Hollywood glamour and show business, is a sprawling and multicultural metropolis in Southern California. Whilst you can star spot in Hollywood and visit movie sets there is much more to Los Angeles than its cinematic roots. Discover the world-famous Getty Centre which houses a remarkable collection of art, take an electric bike tour of neighbouring Santa Monica and Venice Beach and hike up the Hollywood Hills to enjoy a spectacular sunset vista over the city. Los Angeles is also known for its innovative food scene where you can try the latest health trend, sample Asian delicacies at food trucks or be wined and dined at a Michelin star venue.

Hollywood sign Los Angeles California USA
Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles


Detroit, Michigan’s largest city, has recently been nicknamed America’s Great Comeback City as it continues to develop with new bar and restaurant openings, fantastic art exhibitions and an excellent theatre scene. A visit to the neoclassical Detroit Institute of Arts is a must, as is the Henry Ford Museum and Belle Island Park. Detroit is also renowned as being the birthplace of Motown Records, whose chart-topping history includes the likes of the Temptations, Jackson 5,the Supremes and the Four Tops. You can take a trip to ‘Hitsville USA’ which was Motown’s first headquarters and now a museum full of awards and memorabilia.   

Detroit City Skyline at Night Michigan USA
Detroit skyline

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