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U.S. News Best Vacations: Travelers Seek Nature, Adventure in 2021-22

US News & World Report - Travel logo US News & World Report - Travel 5/18/2021 Erin Shields
a boat sitting on top of a mountain: Best places to visit in the world © (Getty Images) Best places to visit in the world

After a long year (or more) stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, travelers are more eager than ever to get out and see the world. While 2020 was characterized by stay-at-home orders, stringent travel restrictions and a devastating pandemic, 2021 and 2022 are shaping up to be the years of travel and exploration.

Travelers continue to be drawn to the outdoors, with numerous national parks, beach destinations and scenic areas scoring highly with editors and readers across the Best Vacations rankings. To calculate the rankings, U.S. News analyzed more than 1,100 destinations using a methodology that combines travelers' opinions, as provided by user votes, with expert and editor analysis. Each individual destination is scored across numerous categories, from sights and food to romance and value.

Take the top five destinations in the World's Best Places to Visit list, for example. New Zealand's South Island is home to diverse landscapes, stunning national parks, turquoise lakes and plenty of opportunities for sailing, kayaking, hiking, wine tasting and more. Paris woos visitors with its distinct culture, iconic landmarks, tree-lined boulevards, blooming gardens and delectable wine bars and cafes. Meanwhile, Bora Bora, Maui and Tahiti all beckon to beach and water lovers thanks to impressive snorkeling spots, water sports adventures, sandy shores and top-notch accommodations (including French Polynesia's beautiful overwater bungalows).

The Best Places to Visit in the USA ranking is filled with small towns, sprawling cities, relaxing beaches and national park options, perfect for hiking, camping and outdoor fun like whitewater rafting, fishing and rock climbing. Meanwhile, the top destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico offer a smattering of scenic beaches ideal for soaking up some sun with a cocktail (or mocktail) in hand.

Whether you're looking to continue exploring domestic destinations or you're ready to start planning a fun international trip, consult the U.S. News Best Vacations rankings to find the best destination (or destinations) for you. Read more about the top places to visit below.

(Keep in mind, not all destinations may be open to Americans yet. The rankings aim to serve as a guide to help travelers plan their next getaway, whether that's next month or next year. Consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department for details on travel before booking a trip. You can also check out the Where Can Americans Travel Right Now? article for additional information on testing, quarantine and vaccination requirements – if applicable – by country.)

World's Best Places to Visit

1. South Island, New Zealand

2. Paris

3. Bora Bora, French Polynesia

4. Maui, Hawaii

5. Tahiti, French Polynesia

See the full list »

Best Places to Visit in the USA

1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

2. Yosemite National Park, California

3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho

4. Maui

5. Glacier National Park, Montana

See the full list »

Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

1. Bar Harbor, Maine

2. Telluride, Colorado

3. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

4. Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada

5. Sedona, Arizona

See the full list »

Best Cheap Vacations in the U.S.

1. Grand Canyon National Park

2. Glacier National Park

3. Olympic National Park, Washington

4. St. Augustine, Florida

5. Sequoia National Park, California

See the full list »

Best Historical Cities to Visit in the USA

1. Washington, D.C.

2. Boston

3. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

4. Philadelphia

5. Williamsburg, Virginia

See the full list »

Best Mountain Towns to Visit in the USA

1. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

2. Bar Harbor

3. Telluride

4. Breckenridge, Colorado

5. Jackson Hole

See the full list »

Best Weekend Getaways in the South

1. Asheville, North Carolina

2. Gatlinburg

3. Orlando – Walt Disney World, Florida

4. St. Augustine

5. Charleston, South Carolina

See the full list »

Best Weekend Getaways in the Midwest

1. Chicago

2. Ann Arbor, Michigan

3. Branson, Missouri


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4. Milwaukee

5. Indianapolis

See the full list »

Best Places to Visit in Mexico

1. Tulum

2. Playa del Carmen

3. Cancun

4. Cozumel

5. Guanajuato

See the full list »

Best Places to Visit in the Caribbean

1. St. Lucia

2. British Virgin Islands

3. Turks and Caicos Islands

4. U.S. Virgin Islands

5. St. Vincent and the Grenadines

See the full list »

Best Places to Visit in Canada

1. Banff, Alberta

2. Vancouver, British Columbia

3. Niagara Falls, Ontario

4. Jasper National Park, Alberta

5. Montreal

See the full list »

Best Places to Visit in Europe

1. Paris

2. London

3. Rome

4. Florence, Italy

5. Barcelona, Spain

See the full list »

Best Cheap European Vacations

1. Porto, Portugal

2. Prague

3. Valencia, Spain

4. Tallinn, Estonia

5. Zagreb, Croatia

See the full list »

Best Places to Visit in Asia

1. Maldives

2. Tokyo

3. Phuket, Thailand

4. Bali, Indonesia

5. Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal

See the full list »

Best Places to Visit in Africa

1. Zanzibar

2. Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe

3. Tanzania

4. Serengeti National Park

5. Cairo

See the full list »

Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

1. Argentine Patagonia

2. Machu Picchu, Peru

3. Rio de Janeiro

4. Costa Rica

5. Galápagos Islands

See the full list »

Best Places to Visit in Australia and The Pacific

1. South Island, New Zealand

2. Tahiti

3. Sydney

4. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

5. Bora Bora

See the full list »

Best National Parks in the World

1. Yellowstone National Park

2. Yosemite National Park

3. Glacier National Park

4. Grand Canyon National Park

5. Serengeti National Park

See the full list »

Best U.S. National Parks

1. Yellowstone National Park

2. Yosemite National Park

3. Glacier National Park

4. Grand Canyon National Park

5. Zion National Park, Utah

See the full list »

Best National Parks in Canada

1. Jasper National Park

2. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador

3. Banff National Park, Alberta

4. Yoho National Park, British Columbia

5. Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

See the full list »

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