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Our 12 Favorite Cities To Visit In The U.S.

TravelAwaits logo TravelAwaits 5/22/2022 Clayton McKibbin
Street view of Santa Fe, New Mexico © TravelAwaits Street view of Santa Fe, New Mexico

The United States is ripe with excitingly diverse cities. From New England to the Gulf, and from the plains to the Pacific, our nation’s cities are melting pots of culture and ideas, breeding grounds for collaboration and advancement. But how do you pick your favorite with so many great options in the mix? Our readers were given this very task and, thankfully, did not disappoint, sharing with us their 12 favorite cities.

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1. Santa Fe, New Mexico

In the very heart of northern New Mexico, you will find the enchanting city of Santa Fe. This truly unique city is framed by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east and Santa Fe National Forest to the north and west. Santa Fe is relatively remote compared to the other entries on this list, and other than Albuquerque just an hour south, the next closest metropolitan area is El Paso — a nearly 5-hour drive! The remoteness of Santa Fe is ultimately what makes it such a charming and exciting city to visit, as it was able to evolve independently from other urban areas around the country.

Santa Fe is a must-visit city, full of history and culture, and with plenty to do to keep you busy for weeks. Get outdoors and hike through the nearby forests and mountains all while experiencing a spectacular sunset. Relax away your stress at one of the area day spas or rejuvenating hot springs. Try red and green chiles, a New Mexican specialty. I lived in nearby Albuquerque for a short while in my 20s and personally prefer the green, but you will just have to make your own decision upon arrival!

Native American and Spanish influences are a large part of the artistic expression in Santa Fe, which can be seen in the architecture, music, and area art. This art culture is a major draw for many, with world-class artists and musicians making the journey to collaborate with other artists, perfecting their craft. Georgia O’Keeffe was one such artist who — after repeated visits — eventually called the area home. Visit her namesake museum while in town, or travel about an hour north to visit her former home.

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2. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Just 2 hours north of the Windy City, set on the shores of Lake Michigan, is the vibrant city of Milwaukee. Brew City is known for its thriving macro and craft beer scene; in the early 1900s before the dry years of prohibition, Milwaukee was home to four of the world’s largest breweries. While most of these breweries are no more, Miller still calls Brew City home. Stop by one of many craft breweries in the area to sample their aromatic offerings while sharing a plate of Wisconsin cheese curds. Or head to the waterfront to experience the work of art that is Milwaukee Art Museum: the museum’s roof is mobile and the “wings” move at set times throughout the day.

Milwaukee is a great town for those who enjoy the water as well, with 10 miles of lakefront shoreline and swaths of open water at your disposal. Rent a boat and motor or sail across the freshwater playscape. Or enjoy one of the many area beaches. Three rivers merge within the city, making inland waterways an exciting excursion as well. Explore by boat or by land following the Milwaukee RiverWalk, stopping in at one of the many fantastic dining options along the way.

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3. Kansas City, Missouri

Whether you call it the City of Fountains, the BBQ Capital of the World, or simply Kansas City, you will certainly call your time in town well spent. Don’t let nearby Kansas City, Kansas cause confusion, as the cities are distinct and did actually develop separately, despite their close proximity and cooperation with each other over the years.

KC has its own unique take on barbecue, so make sure to schedule your visit to coincide with the American Royal World Series of Barbecue for a classic slow-smoked treat. You will want to experience all of the great smoked meat joints from Arthur Bryant’s to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que.

Head to the Power and Light District for a great show followed by a meal and a nightcap, explore the many shops as you explore Country Club Plaza, or head out to Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums for a little tailgating. From great food to a rich culture of music, art, and sports, Kansas City is a great place to visit.

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4. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City has roots firmly planted in the Wild West, with working stockyards and a vibrant cowboy culture, so dust off your boots and hat. If you are looking for a different outdoor thrill, you can head over to the Boathouse District for some fun on the water. Here you can canoe or kayak where U.S. Olympic athletes train! Choose between RIVERSPORT Rapids, SandRidge Sky Trail, or a hike along one of the area’s many trails.

If you are looking to beat the heat during the summer, or avoid the elements, make use of OKC’s Underground. This system of underground walkways and skyways connects several downtown buildings including The Federal Courthouse, First National Center, and Oklahoma Tower. The underground passages showcase local history and are an art installation in themselves, with colorful lighting, historic photos, and fantastic art coming together to offer a truly unique experience for visitors.

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5. Nashville, Tennessee

Home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum as well as the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville is a country music lover’s dream come true. But the city’s roots extend far beyond just country music, with many genres in the mix including bluegrass, rock, blues, and Americana. Find live music all over town and enjoy the sounds while savoring a tasty meal.

Speaking of meals, no trip to Nashville would be considered complete without at least one helping of its famous Nashville hot chicken. Beyond the food and music, the region is ripe with history from the Civil Rights Movement as well as former president Andrew Jackson.

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6. Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is a big city with a small-town feel, oozing with Southern charm. Savor the unique blend of flavors that call Charleston home as you dine at one of the many top-notch eateries around town. Gaze at the antebellum architecture, learn more about the rich blend of cultures that call this city home, and spend time outdoors enjoying one of the many area beaches or hikes.

Your stay will not be complete without experiencing the comfort and charm of one of the many fine inns and vacation rentals sprinkled around the city. If you haven’t visited before, now is the time!

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7. San Diego, California

Home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park is a popular destination for many visitors and residents alike. The 1,200-acre park houses numerous museums and green space in addition to the zoo, so spend a day relishing the beautiful San Diego weather as you explore this delightful park. Nightlife seekers should head for the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown for great food, music, and a touch of theater.

The Pacific and the San Diego Bay mean ample space to enjoy boating and other water sports. For great beaches, look no further than two of our readers’ favorites: Coronado Beach and La Jolla Cove. With average highs in the 70s almost year-round, any day can be beach day in San Diego.

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8. New York, New York

The Big Apple is the most populated — and most visited — city in the United States, and for a reason. Bustling 24/7 with activity, there is always something to do in the City That Never Sleeps. From world-class shopping and eateries to sidewalk vendors and hole-in-the-wall diners, NYC has something for every look and taste. Window-shop your way down Fifth Avenue, experience a show on — or off — Broadway, take in the lights and sounds of Times Square, or enjoy a peaceful bike ride through Central Park followed by an outdoor concert.

Of course, there is far more to New York than just Manhattan, so be sure to explore the other four boroughs as well. Brooklyn is steeped in its own unique and rich history as an independent city prior to the 1898 consolidation of what we now call New York. Residents are immensely proud of being from Brooklyn, and showcase a unique blend of cultures on their side of the bridge.

Queens was the site of the World’s Fair — twice — and you can still gaze up at the iconic Unisphere from 1964. Stop in for a game at Yankee Stadium, or enjoy an aromatic walk through the gardens in the Bronx. Or take the ferry to Staten Island and enjoy views of the whole city from the water.

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9. Austin, Texas

Everything is bigger in Texas; even their capital. Austin is the second-largest state capital in the country, with just over one million residents calling the city home. Outdoor fun abounds with the Colorado River snaking through downtown. Kayak or paddle board your way along the meandering urban river, or enjoy a lovely hike around Lady Bird Lake.

If music is more your scene, you are in luck. Austin is known as the Live Music Capital Of The World for a reason: Representing all music genres, you will find live music somewhere each and every night.

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10. New Orleans, Louisiana

The Big Easy easily made our readers’ top 10. While it certainly has a reputation as a place to party — looking at you, Bourbon Street — New Orleans has far more to offer than just beads and booze-to-go. Enjoy over three centuries of history as you explore the culture-rich city that fuzes its French heritage with modern Southern charm. From tasty Creole cooking to local cocktails, the food scene alone is worth a trip. But if you do nothing else while in town, drop by a local jazz club for a heaping helping of what NOLA is truly about.

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11. Chicago, Illionis

Chicago is a true metropolis, with nearly 10 million people in the greater Chicagoland area. For over two decades, the world’s tallest building called Chicago home: The Sears Tower. The tower — today known as Willis Tower — lost that distinction in 1998 but is still a popular tourist attraction with breathtaking views across Lake Michigan as well as the city below.

Spend the day shopping along the Magnificent Mile, cool off while skipping across the waves of Lake Michigan, or drop into a local pizzeria and enjoy a tantalizingly tasty treat: Chicago-style pizza. Chicago-style pizza is hearty, so prepare yourself.

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12. Asheville, North Carolina

Rounding out the 2022 Best Of Travel list is Asheville. With a metro area of nearly half a million residents, Asheville is a much bigger city than many realize. Nestled into the mountains of western North Carolina along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the city offers a more laid-back, rural feel than its more urban counterparts on this list, yet with access to all of the same benefits of a big city. With activities to occupy your time year-round, there is no bad time to visit.

Enjoy Asheville’s great outdoors as you meander along the beautiful mountain trails, or stroll along the South Slope Mural Trail, taking in the art and culture. If you do nothing else while in the area, spend the day enjoying the expansive Biltmore estate. There is something for everyone in Asheville.

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