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Branson, MO Las Vegas, NV Siesta Key, Sarasota, FL

Any list of favorite towns and cities in the United States will always be subjective and highly-opinionated, and mine is no different. While I find lists to be very helpful for highlighting special places, it is inevitable that some folks will feel disappointed that their favorite local place has been omitted. The places you see listed below are based on two dozen road trips taken over the past twenty years, plus a borderline travel guidebook obsession and lots of internet research. I've tried my best to highlight only the best.

The intent of this page is not to create the perfect list of U.S. places; instead, it is meant to introduce readers to more towns and cities that are nationally significant to the average traveler (as opposed to only being locally interesting). Please take note that I have listed only about 20 major/large U.S. cities on this list. Why not all of them? All major U.S. cities have at least some great things to see, do, and eat, but I only wanted to highlight those large/major U.S. cities that I felt were the most notable for travelers.

I will continue to update this page as I travel more of the United States and discover additional interesting towns and cities. If you have any recommendations (which would then be considered for inclusion on this list), please email your suggestions using the email address that you see next to my photo image below. Enjoy!

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons


(as of 2020)
Alabama (AL) Fairhope views of Mobile Bay; boutique shops and art galleries; "Alabama Gulf Coast's most charming city" 23,147
Gulf Shores sugar-white Gulf of Mexico beaches; boat tours; Gulf State Park; fishing pier; Waterville USA 15,736
Huntsville U.S. Space and Rocket Center (considered one of AL's top tourist attractions); breweries; fishing 216,963
Orange Beach sugar-white Gulf of Mexico beaches; boat tours; golfing; more upscale than nearby Gulf Shores 8,347
Alaska (AK) Anchorage/Girdwood mountain scenery; skiing/snowboarding; hiking; fishing; glaciers; Alaska's largest city; Chugach Mtns 288,121
Homer mountain scenery; art galleries; boutique shops; boat tours; "halibut fishing capital of the world" 5,719
Juneau mountain scenery; glaciers; Nugget Falls; Tracy Arm Fjord; cruise ship stop; whale-watching 32,099
Ketchikan art galleries; boutique shops; sea-kayaking; totem poles; "salmon capital of the world"; cruise ship stop 8,037
Seward mountain scenery; fishing; boat tours; kayaking; gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park 2,625
Skagway mountain scenery; gold-rush history; boutique shops; tourist railroad; cruise ship stop 1,240
Talkeetna mountain scenery; scenic flights; snowmobiling; gateway to Denali National Park 1,055
Valdez mountain scenery; fishing; boat tours; glaciers 3,907
Arizona (AZ) Bisbee historic buildings; boutique shops; copper mining history; Copper Queen Mine 4,911
Flagstaff mountain scenery; skiing/snowboarding; hiking trails; gateway to Grand Canyon National Park 76,989
Jerome historic buildings; mining history; a few boutique shops 467
Lake Havasu City London Bridge; water sports; "Jet Ski capital of the world"; spring break destination 58,284
Oatman historic buildings; wild burros (donkeys) in the street 43
Page desert scenery; boating on Lake Powell; slot canyon tours by Native Americans; Horseshoe Bend 7,375
Prescott historic downtown; "Whiskey Row"; Watson Lake; Prescott Peavine National Recreation Trail 43,463
Sedona red rock desert scenery; New Age centers; vortexes; 4WD-ing; spas; hiking trails 9,763
Scottsdale upscale resorts and shopping; tons of golfing; desert scenery and hiking (e.g. Camelback Mtn) 242,743
Tombstone wild-west history; historic buildings; boutique shops 1,307
Williams Route 66 history & attractions; various family attractions; gateway to Grand Canyon National Park 3,267
Winslow large route 66 sign; "standing on a corner" statue (great photo opp) 8,943
Arkansas (AR) Bentonville art museum; mountain biking trails and rail trails; public art/sculptures; Walmart museum 56,734
Eureka Springs historic buildings; 50+ boutique shops; religious attractions; access to nearby outdoor activities 2,171
Hot Springs boutique shops; gateway to Hot Springs National Park; distilleries and breweries 38,114
California (CA) Anaheim home of Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm amusement parks 345,940
Avalon island culture/lifestyle; Mediterranean-style architecture; beaches; boutique shops; boat tours 3,377
Big Bear Lake skiing/snowboarding; log architecture; fishing; boutique shops 5,068
Carmel-by-the-Sea beaches; art galleries; boutique shops; gateway to U.S. 1 / Big Sur Highway 3,196
Crescent City beaches; redwood trees; access to Redwood National Park 6,676
Dana Point beaches; boating; surf culture; gateway to Catalina Island; whale-watching 32,821
Healdsburg wineries/vineyards; fine dining; boutique hotels and shops 11,924
Laguna Beach beaches; art galleries; SCUBA diving; snorkeling; boutique shops 22,795
Los Angeles beaches; museums; Hollywood; celebrity culture; film studios; theatre; professional sports 3,898,747
Malibu beaches; 27 miles of beach front; surfing; fishing pier; hangout of the rich & famous; hiking trails 10,429
Mammoth Lakes skiing/snowboarding; mountain scenery; hiking; gateway to Devils Postpile National Monument 7,271
Monterey Monterey Bay Aquarium; coastal views; boutique shops; historic buildings; gateway to Big Sur hwy 29,874
Morro Bay fishing; Morro Rock; "the Gibraltar of California"; coastal scenery; not far from Hearst Castle 10,779
Napa winery/vineyard capital of the U.S. (> 400 wineries); beautiful countrysides 78,818
Palm Springs desert scenery; boutique shops; golfing; spas; hiking trails; gateway to Joshua Tree National Park 45,019
Pismo Beach beaches; coastal scenery; ATVing; surfing; hiking trails 8,036
San Diego beaches; great climate; San Diego Zoo (one of the world's best); SeaWorld; LEGOLAND; water sports 1,381,611
San Francisco diverse culture and food; Golden Gate Bridge; Alcatraz; cable cars; curviest road in U.S. 815,201
Santa Barbara beaches; surfing; Mediterranean architecture; gateway to Channel Islands National Park; water sports 88,255
Santa Cruz beaches; youthful/hippy spirit; seaside amusements 61,950
Sausalito view of coastline and San Francisco; boutique shops; boating and water sports 7,199
Solvang Bavarian-themed attractions, stores, and restaurants; "Danish capital of America"; boutique shops 6,048
Sonoma 100+ nearby wineries/vineyards; spas; historic downtown 10,644
Sonora historic downtown; boutique shops; outdoor activities; gold rush history 5,004
South Lake Tahoe skiing/snowboarding; hiking; lake activities (e.g. boating); mountain scenery; Lake Tahoe 21,414
Truckee skiing/snowboarding; hiking; lake activities (e.g. boating); mountain scenery; Lake Tahoe 17,168
Colorado (CO) Aspen mountain scenery; world-class skiing/snowboarding skiing/snowboarding; art galleries; boutique shops 6,949
Breckenridge mountain scenery; historic/Victorian buildings; art galleries; boutique shops; skiing/snowboarding 5,024
Buena Vista whitewater rafting; attractive downtown; hot springs; cycling/mountain biking; outdoor activities 2,988
Canon City Royal Gorge Bridge & Park; fly-fishing; whitewater rafting; rock climbing 17,363
Crested Butte skiing/snowboarding; "wildflower capital of Colorado"; historic downtown; mining history; mtn views 1,681
Denver breweries; professional sports: "300 days of sunshine per year"; walkable city 711,463
Durango mountain scenery; skiing/snowboarding; hiking trails; rafting; mountain biking; scenic railroad 19,223
Estes Park mountain scenery; hiking trails; boutique shops; gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park 5,880
Fort Collins bicycling; breweries; "cultural hub of northern Colorado"; outdoor activities 168,538
Glenwood Springs bicycling; hot springs pool; outdoor activities (e.g. hiking to Hanging Lake) 10,326
Manitou Springs hippy/arts culture; close to Pike's Peak and Colorado Springs; boutique shops; mineral springs 4,832
Ouray mountain scenery; hot springs; 4WD-ing and hiking trails; ice-climbing; scenic driving 923
Steamboat Springs mountain scenery; world-class skiing/snowboarding; hot springs; hiking trails 13,390
Telluride mountain scenery; world-class skiing/snowboarding; hiking trails; scenic driving 2,595
Vail world-class skiing/snowboarding; largest ski resort in the state; Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater 4,735
Connecticut (CT) Essex historic buildings; boutique shops; harbor views 6,733
Mystic waterfront views; maritime history/museums; boutique shops; Mystic Aquarium; Mystic Seaport 4,776
Simsbury attractive downtown; flower bridge; Farmington Canal Heritage Trail; Talcott Mountain State Park 24,517
Woodbury "antique capital of Connecticut"; historic buildings 9,975
Delaware (DE) Bethany Beach beaches; beach boardwalk; family-friendly atmosphere 997
Lewes beaches; coastal views; historic district; Cape Henlopen State Park; surfing, fishing, biking 3,420
Rehoboth Beach beaches; beach boardwalk; nightlife; tourist shops 1,151
Florida (FL) Anna Maria Gulf beaches on Anna Maria Island; boutique shops; very close to Bradenton 990
Apalachicola seafood; fishing; "oyster capital of the world"; Gulf beaches on Cape San Blas; antebellum architecture 2,286
Boca Raton Atlantic beaches; many golf courses; upscale shopping (e.g. Mizner Park) 95,787
Bradenton Gulf beaches; boating and water sports; art galleries; golfing; several nature preserves 55,905
Clearwater Gulf beaches; water sports; beach pier; sunsets; "the Disney World of beaches" 116,674
Cocoa Beach Atlantic beaches; surfing; fishing pier; "surfing capital of the East Coast"; other water sports 11,332
Destin Gulf beaches; water sports, including para-sailing 13,956
Fort Lauderdale Atlantic beaches; inland waterways; canal gondola rides; "the Venice of America"; close to Miami 181,818
Fort Myers Beach Gulf beaches; water sports, including para-sailing and kayaking; "small old town Florida feel" 5,636
Islamadora diving; sport-fishing; boat tours; dolphin attractions; breweries 7,076
Key West many boutique shops & art galleries; B&Bs; diving; sport-fishing; boating & other water sports; sunsets 26,527
Miami Cuban culture and food; beaches; boating activities; art museums; art deco architecture 439,890
Naples upscale shopping and dining; botanical gardens; Gulf beaches; many golf courses 19,372
Orlando amusement parks; water parks; many family-friendly attractions; gateway to Walt Disney World 309,154
Panama City Beach 27 miles of Gulf beaches; fishing; scuba-diving; sunsets; spring-break destination; water sports 18,294
Sanibel Gulf beaches; bicycling (20+ mile bike network); wildlife refuge; shelling; Captiva Island is nearby 6,461
Sarasota/Siesta Key Gulf beaches; water sports, including para-sailing; white quartz sand; often rated a top ten beach in US 54,764
St. Augustine Spanish colonial architecture; cobblestone streets; horse-drawn carriages; beaches; oldest city in US 15,065
Tampa Busch Gardens amusement park; access to nearby beaches; professional sports teams; Ybor City dining 387,050
Vero Beach Atlantic beaches; golfing; fishing; water sports 16,707
West Palm Beach Atlantic beaches; fishing; upscale shopping (e.g. Worth Avenue); nightlife; mansions; resorts 117,286
Georgia (GA) Dahlonega gold/mining history; wineries; historic buildings; holiday attractions; quaint downtown 6,654
Helen Oktoberfest event; "Alpine-inspired village"; tons of boutique/tourist shops; nearby waterfalls 545
Jekyll Island ten miles of beaches; water sports; bike trails; Georgia Seat Turtle Center; Driftwood Beach 1,116
Savannah Spanish moss; southern charm; cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages; antebellum architecture 147,088
St. Simons Island beaches on large barrier island; golfing; water sports; historic fort; lighthouse 15,291
Tybee Island beaches; barrier island; boating; water sports; lighthouse; fishing; civil war history; close to Savannah 3,091
Hawaii (HI) Haleiwa (O'ahu) beaches; water sports; "social and artistic hub of the North Shore"; surfing culture 4,589
Hanalei (Kauai) beaches; water sports; "hippest town in Kauai"; gateway to the Na Pali Coast; beautiful scenery 408
Honolulu (O'ahu) beaches (e.g. Waikiki); resorts; surfing; Pearl Harbor memorial; Polynesian culture 347,181
Kailua (O'ahu) two beaches; water sports, including windsurfing and kite-surfing; hiking trails 37,900
Kailua-Kona (Big Island) deep-sea fishing; gateway to Mauna Kea and Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park; beaches; beach resorts 22,972
Lahaina (Maui) art galleries; boutique shops; HI history museums; "West Maui’s most popping district"; whale watches 13,216
Pa'ia (Maui) beaches (e.g. Ho'okipa, HA Baldwin); windsurfing; boutique shops and art galleries; bicycling 2,285
Idaho (ID) Coeur d’Alene mountain scenery; golfing; boat tours; one of the best rail trails in the US (Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes) 51,491
Ketchum mountain scenery; skiing/snowboarding; hot springs; outdoor activities; gateway to Sawtooth NRA 2,843
Illinois (IL) Casey dozens of roadside attractions in or near downtown (the biggest cluster in the U.S.) 2,655
Chicago greatest city in US; architecture; food (e.g. deep dish pizza, hot dogs); world-famous museums and parks 2,696,555
Galena historic red-brick buildings; many boutique shops and art galleries; B&Bs; "best small town in IL" 3,168
Indiana (IN) Angola seasonal lake town; Civil War history; historic buildings; Pokagon State Park 8,706
French Lick/West Baden Beaux-Arts hotels; golfing; French Lick Springs Hotel; Spring Mill State Park; mineral springs 1,792
Madison historic district (largest contiguous district in the country); many shops and local restaurants 11,783
Nashville historic district; boutique shops; art galleries 1,266
Santa Claus holiday-loving town; Holiday World Theme Park & Splashin' Safari 2,495
Shipshewanna Dutch/Amish culture and attractions; Midwest's Largest Flea Market; Blue Gate Theatre 1,031
Iowa (IA) Pella Dutch-style architecture; huge windmill; historic downtown 10,279
Winterset gateway to the many covered bridges of Madison County; John Wayne Birthplace & Museum 5,309
Kansas (KS) Lawrence downtown district with shops and restaurants; "one of the most beautiful Main Streets in the USA" 97,348
Lindsborg "Little Sweden USA"; art galleries 3,294
Kentucky (KY) Bardstown bourbon distilleries; "Bourbon Capital of the World"; historic downtown district 13,169
Berea art galleries; boutique shops; historic buildings; Berea Pinnacles; "folk arts and crafts capital of KY" 15,773
Louisiana (LA) Natchitoches B&Bs; historic buildings; riverfront downtown district; cobblestone streets; famous Christmas Festival 17,711
New Orleans French culture, cuisine, and architecture; jazz; Mardi Gras event 391,249
Maine (ME) Bar Harbor many boutique shops; boat tours; family-friendly attractions; gateway to Acadia National Park 5,535
Boothbay Harbor boutique shops and art galleries; coastal gardens; harbor views; boat tours; "classic seaside Maine" 2,199
Camden historic downtown; coastal town with great ocean views; outdoor activities (e.g. hiking Mount Battie) 5,232
Farmington historic downtown; boutique shops 7,581
Freeport L.L. Bean flagship store; many outlet stores; "best weekend of shopping in New England" 8,737
Kennebunkport charming coastal town with many boutique shops; excellent fried clams; beaches 3,629
Lubec outdoor activities; nature preserves; coastal hikes; white and red-striped lighthouse; Quoddy Head SP 400
Monhegan Island a "car-free and care-free" island; hiking trails; ocean views; high cliffs; historical museum 64
Ogunquit beaches; boutique shops; playhouse; gay-friendly; artist colony; coastal walks (e.g. Marginal Way) 1,577
Old Orchard Beach beaches; seaside amusements; family-fun attractions; beach pier; close to Funtown Splashtown 8,960
Portland historic buildings; innovative restaurants; many boutique shops; maritime history; TONS of breweries 68,313
Rangeley skiing/snowboarding (Saddleback); hiking trails; nearby waterfalls (e.g. Smalls Falls) 1,148
York beaches; seaside amusements; start of scenic coastal drives; not far from Ogunquit 13,723
Maryland (MD) Annapolis Colonial architecture; cobblestone streets; historic sites; "vibrant waterfront w/shops & restaurants" 39,321
Frederick historic buildings; Civil War history; many boutique shops and art galleries 71,843
Havre de Grace pretty town at mouth of Chesapeake Bay; lighthouse; fishing; historic downtown district 13,808
Ocean City beaches; beach boardwalk; family-fun attractions; seafood restaurants; fishing (e.g. marlin) 6,957
St. Michaels picturesque harbor town; maritime history; boutique shops; historic downtown 1,024
Massachusetts (MA) Boston colonial/revolutionary history; historic buildings; Fenway Park; one of U.S.'s most walkable cities 689,326
Cambridge Harvard University & MIT; boutique shops and art galleries; nightlife; diverse cuisine; historic sites 117,822
Chatham beaches; boutique shops; Chatham Lighthouse; gateway to Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge 6,594
Edgartown island culture/lifestyle on Martha's Vineyard (island); white-clapboard colonial homes; boutique shops 5,168
Falmouth boutique shops; Shining Sea Bikeway; gateway to Martha's Vineyard (island); Nobska Lighthouse 32,517
Great Barrington boutique shops; access to nearby Appalachian Trail; close to Bash Bish Falls (best waterfall in MA) 7,172
Lenox boutique shops; close to spa/retreat-style resorts; Tanglewood events (orchestras/concerts) 5,095
Nantucket Nantucket Island; boutique shops; bicycling; cobblestone streets; beaches; whaling history 14,255
Newburyport boutique shops in coastal city; harbor views; sculptures along Clipper City Rail Trail; maritime history 18,197
Northampton historic buildings; boutique shops and restaurants; access to two excellent rail trails 28,552
Oak Bluffs upscale culture/lifestyle on Martha's Vineyard (island); boutique shops; "gingerbread" houses 5,341
Plymouth boutique shops on coastal town; Plymouth Rock; colonial/pilgrim history; Plimoth Patuxet Museum 61,217
Provincetown beaches; whale-watching; boutique shops; art galleries; drag shows; gay-friendly; nearby beaches 3,664
Rockport boutique shops; artist colony; photographic harbor; Halibut Point State Park 6,992
Stockbridge historic architecture; boutique shops; Norman Rockwell history; Red Lion Inn 2,018
Michigan (MI) Charlevoix beaches on Lake Michigan; water sports; harbor views; boutique shops; gateway to Beaver Island 2,347
Copper Harbor gateway to Isle Royale National Park; scenic drives; outdoor activities; historic fort; mountain biking 125
Frankenmuth Bavarian-themed town; boutique shops; largest Christmas store in the world; chicken dinners 5,193
Frankfort beaches; lighthouse; sand dunes; Victorian homes; boutique stores; gateway to Sleeping Bear Dunes NL 1,272
Grand Haven beaches; fishing; golfing; lighthouses; musical fountain; water sports 10,991
Grand Marais gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; historic buildings; boating and other outdoor activities 317
Grayling canoeing, tubing, and fishing the AuSable River; small but attractive downtown; other outdoor activities 1,832
Holland Dutch heritage and attractions; DeZwaan Windmill; tulip blooms; Holland State Park 33,329
Ludington beaches on Lake Michigan; lighthouses; fishing; maritime history; Ludington State Park 7,721
Mackinac Island Victorian architecture; boutique shops; horse-drawn carriages; fudge shops; historic fort; bicycling 585
Marquette basecamp for U.P. (upper peninsula) adventures; Presque Isle Park; Lakenenland Sculpture Park 20,394
Munising gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; outdoor activities; boat tours; many waterfalls nearby 1,973
Petoskey Victorian architecture; historic shopping district; hunting for Petoskey Stones; outdoor activities 5,905
Saugatuck/Douglas beaches on Lake Michigan; dune rides; boutique shops; art galleries on the "art coast of Michigan" 977
Traverse City beaches; water sports; cherries; wineries/vineyards; golfing; gateway to Sleeping Bear Dunes NL 15,559
Minnesota (MT) Bemidji Paul Bunyan attractions; Paul Bunyan State Trail (rail trail); "full of North Woods beauty" 15,279
Duluth historic sites/museums; gateway to North Shore Scenic Drive; Aerial Lift Bridge; outdoor activities 86,372
Ely canoeing/kayaking; dog-sledding; gateway to Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness 3,233
Grand Marais harbor village on Lake Superior; outdoor activities; gateway to Boundary Waters canoeing 1,426
Mississippi (MS) Natchez antebellum homes; "B&B capital of the south"; start of the Natchez Trace Parkway; music history 14,854
Vicksburg antebellum homes; Civil War battlefields and museums; 22,045
Missouri (MO) Branson theatre/live shows; amusement parks, mountain coasters & dozens of other tourist attractions 11,526
Eminence "canoe capital of the world"; Alley Spring Grist Mill; outdoor activities; Blue Spring; wild horses/elk 625
Hannibal Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum; cave tours; historic downtown and mansions; water sports 17,312
Hermann wineries; historic buildings; German culture; outdoor activities 2,375
Joplin route 66 history & mural park; Grand Falls; historic downtown district; golfing 50,580
Kansas City some of the best BBQ in the world; professional sports teams; jazz heritage; public art 491,158
Lake of the Ozarks boating; water activities; fishing and other outdoor activities; MO's "most popular lake destination" 2,077
St. Charles Main Street historic district; Lewis & Clark history; boutique shops & art galleries; nearby wineries 2,077
Montana (MT) Big Sky skiing/snowboarding; mountain scenery; outdoor activities; less than 1 hour from Bozeman, MT 3,054
Bozeman historic buildings; mountain scenery; hip culture; fly-fishing; skiing/snowboarding; hiking trails 48,330
Cooke City fly-fishing; hiking; horseback riding; gateway to Yellowstone National Park; not far from Red Lodge 69
Red Lodge historic buildings; mountain scenery; skiing/snowboarding; hiking trails 2,134
West Yellowstone fly-fishing; horseback riding; gateway to Yellowstone National Park 1,090
Whitefish historic buildings; mountain scenery; skiing/snowboarding; gateway to Glacier National Park 8,032
Nevada (NV) Ely mining and stagecoach history; outdoor activities; eastern edge of the "loneliest road in America" 3,993
Las Vegas mega-casinos; resorts; museums; access to nearby outdoor activities (e.g. hiking, rock-climbing) 644,594
Reno "biggest little city in the world"; casinos and neon lights; cheaper alternative to Las Vegas 250,903
New Hampshire (NH) Conway/North Conway mountain scenery; hiking trails; skiing/snowboarding; gateway to White Mountain National Forest 10,266
Hanover historic downtown; boutique shops; home of Dartmouth College; access to Appalachian Trail 8,744
Jackson skiing/snowboarding; family-friendly attractions; middle of White Mountain National Forest 860
Keene historic downtown; boutique shops; Mt. Monadnock is close (one of the world's most hiked mountains) 22,823
Lincoln/Woodstock skiing/snowboarding; family-friendly attractions; gateway to White Mountain National Forest 1,760
Meredith lake activities (e.g. boating); boutique shops; lakeshore walk; world's largest arcade (Funspot) is nearby 6,662
Portsmouth colonial buildings; boutique shops in historic downtown area (tax-free); Strawberry Bank Museum 21,418
New Jersey (NJ) Asbury Park beaches; beach boardwalk; boutique shops and art galleries 15,536
Cape May Victorian architecture; boutique shops; B&Bs; golfing; whale-watching; bird-watching 3,446
Ocean City beaches; beach boardwalk; mini-golfing; family-friendly amusement parks & attractions; a "dry" town 11,065
Wildwood beaches; beach boardwalk; amusement parks; water parks 4,985
New Mexico (NM) Roswell International UFO Museum & Research Center; other UFO/alien-focused attractions 47,751
Santa Fe adobe architecture; baroque churches; art galleries; one of U.S.'s oldest cities; Native American culture 84,418
Taos art galleries; boutique shops; skiing/snowboarding; Native American culture 5,950
Truth or Consequences hippy/art culture; hot springs; wellness tourism; historic buildings 5,839
New York (NY) Cooperstown / Otsego National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum; baseball history; historic buildings 58,524
Ithaca waterfalls and gorges; wineries/vineyards; gateway to Finger Lakes region 30,715
Lake George lake beaches; water sports; boat tours; family-fun attractions; Six Flags Great Escape 1,028
Lake Placid Olympic history; mountain scenery & hiking (Adirondack Park); skiing/snowboarding; boutique shops 2,229
New York City dozens of world-class attractions and museums; Central Park; Broadway shows; amazingly diverse food 8,930,002
Niagara Falls waterfalls, family-friendly attractions (especially on the Canadian side of the falls) 47,978
Old Forge gateway to Adirondack Park; family-fun attractions; outdoor activities; Bald Mountain; water park 606
Sag Harbor located on Long Island; nature preserves; beaches; boating 1,959
Saratoga Springs premier horse-racing events & history; boutique shops; spas; mineral springs 28,056
North Carolina (NC) Asheville awesome BBQ; many, many breweries; ghost/haunted tours; Biltmore mansion; gateway to Pisgah NF 92,328
Beaufort maritime history; seafood restaurants; boating 4,382
Blowing Rock "crown of the Blue Ridge"; historic downtown; close to Grandfather Mountain SP; Tweetsie Railroad 1,149
Boone mountain scenery; Appalachian music heritage; access to Blue Ridge Parkway; attractive downtown 19,466
Bryson City gateway to Great Smoky Mountains NP; access to Appalachian Trail; whitewater rafting; fishing 1,777
Mount Airy historic downtown; boutique shops; access to the Blue Ridge Parkway; Andy Griffith attractions 10,213
Nags Head beaches; part of the Outer Banks; Jockey's Ridge State Park; water sports 2,965
Ocracoke beaches; part of the Outer Banks; excellent shelling; fishing; 973
Topsail Beach beaches; maritime forests; sea turtles 466
North Dakota (ND) Medora theatre; gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park 142
Ohio (OH) Geneva-on-the-Lake beaches; Geneva State Park; family-fun attractions (e.g. arcade, Ferris wheel, etc.); water sports 978
Kelleys Island boating; fishing; "Walleye Fishing capital of the World"; views of Lake Erie; geological attractions 283
Marietta outdoor activities; historic downtown; Victorian houses; kayaking; Hopewell cultural sites 13,551
Put-in-Bay aka South Bass Island; boating; fishing; "Key West of the North"; Peace Memorial; water sports 56
Sandusky amusement parks; water parks; other family-friendly attractions 24,651
Yellow Springs historic downtown; boutique shops; Clifton Gorge State Nature Pres.; outdoor activities; "hippie town" 3,972
Oklahoma (OK) Medicine Park "cobblestone resort town"; gateway to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge; water sports nearby 317
Oklahoma City OKC National Memorial & Museum; Bricktown Entertainment District; cowboy/western heritage 649,821
Oregon (OR) Ashland Victorian architecture; B&Bs; Shakespearean theatre 21,607
Astoria Victorian architecture; The Goonies movie locations; fishing; Astoria Column; Lewis & Clark history 10,343
Bandon coastal scenery; seafood shacks; historic buildings; golfing; historic lighthouse  3,331
Bend hiking & mountain biking trails; waterfalls; microbreweries; skiing/snowboarding 102,059
Cannon Beach beaches; sea stacks (e.g. Haystack Rock); art galleries; boutique shops 1,547
Depoe Bay coastal scenery; "whale watching capital of Oregon"; outdoor activities 1,518
Florence beaches; historic buildings; san dunes; Heceta Head Lighthouse 9,475
Hood River breweries; gateway to Columbia River Gorge & the Cascade Range; outdoor activities; mountain scenery 8,341
Newport two lighthouses; ocean views; bird-watching; Oregon Coast Aquarium; historic bayfront 10,496
Portland breweries; green spaces and cycling; gateway to Columbia River Gorge (tons of waterfalls) 641,162
Seaside Seaside Beach; Lewis & Clark history; ocean views; Seaside Promenade boardwalk; Ecola State Park 7,234
Sisters outdoor activities; mountain views; historic buildings; boutique shops; waterfalls; scenic drives 3,081
Yachats beautiful coastal scenery; hiking; Cape Perpetua Scenic Area; "gem of the Oregon coast" 1,006
Pennsylvania (PA) Adamstown "antiques capital of the USA": dozens of other antique shops nearby (PA Route 272) 2,286
Bird-In-Hand Dutch/Amish culture; "shoofly" pies; boutique shops; farmer's market; close to Lancaster attractions 352
Gettysburg Civil War history; historic battlefield and museums; other historic buildings 7,684
Erie beaches; gateway to Presque Isle State Park; Waldameer Amusement Park; maritime history 2,890
Hershey Hersheypark; other chocolate-themed attractions and museums 14,941
Intercourse Amish culture; boutique shops; horse-carriage rides; "shoofly pies" and other Dutch treats 1,899
Jim Thorpe Victorian architecture; close to the Pocono Mountains and Hickory Run State Park 4,648
Lancaster Dutch/Amish culture; theatre performances; close to Dutch Wonderland amusement park 59,321
New Hope historic buildings & mansions; boutique shops; Bucks County Playhouse; Delaware Canal State Park 2,518
Philadelphia revolutionary/historic attractions; amazing cheesesteaks; professional sports teams; famous museums 1,603,797
Rhode Island (RI) Block Island beaches; bicycling; boutique shops; art galleries; hiking; boating and other water activities 1,410
Narragansett Narragansett Beach and other beaches; surfing; gateway to Block Island 14,532
Newport mansion tours; beaches; boutique shops; coastal walk (e.g. Cliff Walk); "sailing capital of the World" 24,697
South Carolina (SC) Beaufort antebellum architecture/mansions; boutique shops; B&Bs; historic district 13,417
Charleston historic buildings; boutique shops; southern charm; world-renowned restaurants; cobblestone streets 137,041
Folly Beach beaches; surfing; fishing; Folly Beach Pier; boating and other water activities 2,664
Greenville outdoor activities; several excellent state parks are nearby; nice downtown district 69,648
Edisto Beach beaches on a small barrier island; plantations; boat tours; only 1 hour from Charleston 1,157
Hilton Head Island beaches; golfing; water sports; boat tours; paved bicycling paths 37,661
Myrtle Beach beaches; golfing; water sports; boat tours; arcades; amusement parks; mini-golfing 33,638
South Dakota (SD) Deadwood historic buildings; gambling parlors; wild-west history; one of best rail trails in the US (Mickelson) 1,584
Hill City gateway to Black Hills attractions, including Mt. Rushmore & Custer State Park; tourist shops 587
Keystone gateway to Black Hills attractions, including Mt. Rushmore & Custer State Park; tourist shops 542
Rapid City gateway to Black Hills attractions, including Mt. Rushmore& Custer State Park; historic downtown 76,541
Tennessee (TN) Chattanooga outdoor activities; family-friendly attractions; Civil War history; nature parks; cave tours; Rock City 181,370
Franklin historic downtown/main street; boutique shops; art galleries; gateway to Natchez Trace Parkway 80,675
Gatlinburg tourist attractions; mini-golf; moonshine distilleries; gateway to Great Smoky Mtns NP 3,944
Lynchburg distilleries, including Jack Daniel's Distillery; historic buildings; Cave Spring Hollow 6,396
Memphis world-famous BBQ; music (blues, soul, rock & roll); Beale Street; Elvis & Johnny Cash attractions 650,910
Nashville the "capital of country music" ; honky-tonk bars; Ryman Auditorium; Grand Ole Opry; hot chicken 689,447
Pigeon Forge tourist attractions; live theater; amusement parks; gateway to Great Smoky Mtns 6,247
Sevierville tourist attractions; distilleries; wineries; cave tours; next to Pigeon Forge 17,185
Texas (TX) Austin live music scene ("live music capital of the world"); cool/hippy culture; awesome BBQ and breweries 965,872
Dallas several excellent museums; professional sports; Dallas Arboretum; large arts district; golfing 1,325,691
Fort Worth Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District; cattle drive history; Western heritage 892,221
Fredericksburg boutique shops; historical museums; "German heritage with Texan hospitality" 11,341
Galveston beaches; boutique shops; cruise-ship destination; boardwalk entertainment 50,307
San Antonio River Walk (#1 most popular attraction in Texas); the Alamo; Latin heritage 1,434,270
South Padre Island beaches (34 miles of them); water sports; barrier island; birding; boat tours 2,798
Utah (UT) Kanab desert scenery; hiking; adventure/photography tours; slot canyons; Best Friends Animal Sanctuary 4,767
Moab desert scenery; hiking, mtn biking, & off-road trails; gateway to two national parks & BLM land 5,303
Park City mountain scenery; skiing/snowboarding; hiking and mountain biking trails; boutique shops 8,467
Springdale desert scenery; boutique shops and art galleries; off-roading tours; gateway to Zion National Park 489
St. George desert scenery; beautiful town parks; outdoor activities (all year); gateway to Snow Canyon State Park 87,176
Torrey desert scenery; scenic drives; gateway to Capitol Reef National Park 282
Vermont (VT) Brattleboro historic downtown; boutique shops; art galleries 12,184
Burlington hip/eclectic college-town atmosphere; skiing/snowboarding; breweries; bike paths; Lake Champlain 42,645
Manchester historic downtown; boutique shops; art galleries; fly-fishing; Hildene (Lincoln historical site) 4,484
Middlebury historic downtown; several breweries; access to Green Mountain National Forest 9,152
Stowe mountain scenery; hiking trails; skiing/snowboarding; waterfalls and swimming holes; Mt. Mansfield 5,223
Woodstock Federal and Georgian-style homes; boutique shops; art galleries; close to Quechee Gorge 3,005
Virginia (VA) Alexandria Old Town district (historic buildings); colonial history; boutique shops 158,309
Charlottesville culinary hot spot; outdoor activities; nearby wineries an breweries; historic sites/areas 47,217
Chincoteague beaches; wild horses; boat tours; bird-watching; oyster beds; clamming 2,885
Williamsburg Colonial Williamsburg; Jamestown Settlement; Busch Gardens amusement park; Water Country USA 15,034
Washington (WA) Anacortes boating; coastal views; gateway to the San Juan Islands; historic downtown 17,231
Bellingham outdoor recreation; more than a dozen breweries; fishing; boating; water sports; boutique shops 90,821
Chelan picturesque lakeside town on Lake Chelan; water sports; fishing; nearby wineries 4,174
Friday Harbor kayaking; whale-watching (orcas); accessible by boat or seaplane only; Lime Kiln Point State Park 2,406
Gig Harbor views of Mt. Rainier; picturesque harbor; boating; walkable waterfront; maritime history 10,280
Leavenworth Bavarian-themed attractions, stores & restaurants; gateway to Alpine Wilderness (e.g. hiking) 2,489
Port Townsend Victorian architecture; art galleries; boutique stores; gateway to Olympic National Park 9,710
Seattle Space Needle; museums; "coffee-lovers paradise"; Pike Place Market; professional sports teams 741,251
Winthrop historic downtown; boutique shops; gateway to North Cascades National Park 340
Washington DC Washington DC Smithsonian museums; governmental attractions; bicycling paths; Cherry Blossom Festival 701,974
West Virginia (WV) Fayetteville outdoor activities; historic buildings; gateway to New River Gorge National Park; whitewater rafting 2,751
Harpers Ferry historic downtown; boutique shops; Harpers Ferry Nat. Historic Park; access to the Appalachian Trail 334
Lewisburg attractive and historic Main Street district; boutique shops and art galleries; Lost World Caverns 3,857
Wisconsin (WI) Bailey’s Harbor small town on Lake Michigan (part of famous Door County); 3 lighthouses; boating & water sports 1,003
Baraboo the "Circus City"; Circus World; great hiking in Devil's Lake State Park; geologic formations; wineries 12,133
Eau Claire "indie music capital of the Midwest"; art galleries; outdoor activities; several breweries 68,720
Egg Harbor small town on Lake Michigan (part of famous Door County); boutique shops; fine dining 250
Fish Creek small town on Lake Michigan (part of famous Door County); Peninsula State Park; theaters; wineries 1,119
Sisters Bay small town on Lake Michigan (part of famous Door County); boutique shops; art galleries 873
Wisconsin Dells "water park capital of the world"; family-fun attractions and museums; quirky roadside attractions 2,907
Wyoming (WY) Cody western themed attractions & museums; nightly rodeos; gateway to Yellowstone National Park 9,810
Jackson skiing/snowshoeing; whitewater rafting; boutique shops; gateway to Grand Teton National Park 10,585
Lander outdoor activities; gateway to the Wind River Range (famous for hiking and rock-climbing) 7,533
Sheridan Old West charm; outdoor activities; historic downtown 17,938



Here are my favorite large/major cities in the U.S.:

Top Tier/Favorites:
Austin, TX
Boston, MA
Chicago, IL - my favorite large/major U.S. city
Las Vegas, NV
New Orleans, LA
New York City, NY - my 2nd favorite large/major U.S. city
San Diego, CA
Philadelphia, PA
San Francisco, CA
Washington, DC

Second Tier/Runner-ups:
Atlanta, GA
Denver, CO
Honolulu, HI
Los Angeles, CA
Miami, FL
Nashville, TN
Portland, OR
San Antonio, TX
Seattle, WA


Here are my favorite small/medium-sized cities in the U.S.:

Anchorage, AK
Ann Arbor, MI
Annapolis, MD
Asheville, NC
Boulder, CO
Bozeman, MT
Burlington, VT
Charleston, SC
Charlottesville, VA
Fort Myers, FL
Frederick, MD
Madison, WI
Naples, FL
Orlando, FL
Palm Springs, CA
Portsmouth, NH
Portland, ME
Reno, NV
Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Fe, NM
Sarasota/Siesta Key, FL
Savannah, GA


Each of these towns, cities, or areas in the U.S. has plenty of family-friendly attractions that can keep you occupied for days:

Anaheim, CA
Bar Harbor, ME
Branson, MO
Bird-In-Hand / Intercourse / Lancaster / Amish Country area, PA
Chicago, IL
Cody, WY
Conway/North Conway, NH
Destin, FL
Erie, PA
Gatlinburg, TN
Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, AL
Hershey, PA
Hilton Head Island, SC
Hot Springs, AR
Jackson, WY
Keystone / Hill City / Black Hills area, SD
Lake George, NY
Las Vegas, NV
Lincoln / Woodstock, NH
Moab, UT
Myrtle Beach, SC
New York City, NY
Niagara Falls, NY - tip: try to stay on the Canadian side of the falls
Ocean City, MD
Ocean City, NJ
Orlando, FL
Outer Banks, NC
Pigeon Forge / Sevierville, TN
Sandusky, OH
San Diego, CA
Sedona, AZ
Siesta Key/Sarasota, FL
St. George, UT
St. Louis, MO
Stowe, VT
Tampa / Clearwater, FL
Virginia Beach, VA
Washington D.C.
Wildwood, NJ
Williams / Grand Canyon, AZ
Williamsburg, VA
Wisconsin Dells, WI

It's possible that I will add Chattanooga to this list, but I haven't spend enough time there yet to conclude on its worthiness.


You can walk for miles-upon-miles in these fantastic U.S. cities:

Boston, MA
Charleston, SC
New York City, NY
Chicago, IL
Philadelphia, PA
San Francisco, CA
Washington, DC


Each of these towns and cities serves as a great hub for nearby hiking trails:

Asheville, NC
Bar Harbor, ME
Bend, OR
Boulder, CO
Conway/North Conway, NH
Durango, CO
Estes Park, CO
Gatlinburg, TN
Jackson, WY
Leavenworth, WA
Lake Placid, NY
Lincoln/Woodstock, NH
Moab, UT - my favorite hiking destination in the U.S.
Park City, UT
Sedona, AZ
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Springdale, UT
Stowe, VT
Telluride, CO
Truckee, CA


Each of these U.S. cities is famous for its road biking/cycling trail network:

Arlington, VA
Austin, TX
Boulder, CO
Chicago, IL
Denver, CO
Eugene, OR
Fort Collins, CO
Madison, WI
Minneapolis, MN
New York City, NY
Portland, OR
San Francisco, CA
Seattle, WA
Washington, D.C


Each of these U.S. locations is world-famous for its mountain biking trail network:

Asheville, NC
Bend, OR
Bentonville, AK
Copper Harbor, MI
Crested Butte, CO
East Burke, VT
Moab, UT
Sedona, AZ


These towns all serve as an excellent gateway to at least one of the U.S. national parks:

Bar Harbor, ME - Acadia National Park
Cody, WY - Yellowstone National Park
Durango, CO - Mesa Verde National Park
Estes Park, CO - Rocky Mountain National Park
Gatlinburg, TN - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Jackson, WY - Grand Teton National Park
Key West, FL - Dry Tortugas National Park
Moab, UT - Arches National Park & Canyonlands National Park
Palm Springs, CA - Joshua Tree National Park
Pigeon Forge, TN - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Santa Barbara, CA - Channel Islands National Park
Springdale, UT - Zion National Park


These towns are often considered the best beach towns in the U.S.:

Anna Maria, FL
Bethany Beach, DE
Cannon Beach, OR
Charlevoix, MI
Destin, FL
Gulf Shores, AL
Haleiwa, Oahu, HI
Hilton Head, SC
Nags Head, NC
Ocean City, MD
Ocean City, NJ
Old Orchard Beach, ME
Ogunquit, ME
Rehoboth Beach, DE
Saugatuck, MI
Sanibel Island, FL
Siesta Key/Sarasota, FL
Wildwood, NJ


These towns are often considered the classic ski towns in the U.S.:

Aspen, CO
Bend, OR
Breckenridge, CO
Conway/North Conway, NH
Crested Butte, CO
Girdwood, AK
Jackson, WY
Lake Placid, NY
Ketchum, ID
Lincoln, NH
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Park City, UT
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Steamboat Springs, CO
Stowe, VT
Taos, NM
Telluride, CO
Truckee, CA
Vail, CO
Whitefish, MT


These U.S. towns and cities offer excellent antiquing. Some of these locations have many antique shops (e.g. Adamstown), some have a gigantic antique mall (e.g. Springfield, OH), and some have massive antiquing events (e.g. Brimfield).

Adamstown, PA
Aurora, OR
Brimfield, MA
Clinton, TN
Galena, IL
Edinburgh, IN
Hazel, KY
Henderson, CO
Snohomish, WA
Springfield, OH
Stillwater, MN
Ventura, CA
Verona, VA
Volo, IL
Wiscasset, ME
Woodbury, CT


These U.S. towns or cities are famous for their amusement parks:

Anaheim & Buena Park, CA - Disneyland Park, Knott's Berry Farm, Knott's Soak City, Adventure City
Branson, MO - Silver Dollar City
Hershey & Elysburg, PA - Hersheypark, Knoebels Amusement Resort, Funtown Splashtown USA
Jackson, NJ - Six Flags Great Adventure
Mason, OH - Kings Island
Orlando & Lake Buena Vista, FL - Walt Disney World (various parks), Universal Orlando (various parks), SeaWorld, LEGOLAND
Pigeon Forge & Sevierville, TN - Dollywood, Dollywood's Splash Country, Soaky Mountain Waterpark
Sandusky, OH - Cedar Point
San Antonio & New Braunfels, TX - Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Morgan's Wonderland, SeaWorld, Aquatica, Schlitterbahn New Braunfels
San Diego, CA - SeaWorld, Sesame Place, Belmont Park, Aquatica, LEGOLAND
Santa Claus, IL - Holiday World & Splashin' Safari
Tampa, FL - Busch Gardens, Adventure Island
Universal City & Los Angeles, CA - Universal Studios Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain
Williamsburg, VA - Busch Gardens, Water Country USA
Wisconsin Dells, WI - Noah's Ark, Mt. Olympus, many other smaller amusement and water parks


These U.S. towns and cities lead the way in terms of breweries per capita:

Asheville, NC - "Beer City USA"
Atlanta, GA
Austin, TX
Bend, OR
Bellingham, WA
Boulder, CO
Burlington, VT
Chicago, IL
Denver, CO
Fort Collins, CO
Kalamazoo, MI
Grand Rapids, MI
Milwaukee, WI
Minneapolis / St. Paul, MN
Pittsburg, PA
Portland, ME
Portland, OR
San Diego, CA
Seattle, WA
Wilmington, NC


These U.S. towns and cities are considered live music meccas:

Asheville, NC
Atlanta, GA
Austin, TX - especially indie rock, reggae, punk
Chicago, IL - especially jazz
Los Angeles, CA
Memphis, TN - especially blues
Nashville, TN - especially bluegrass and country
New Orleans, LA - especially jazz and zydeco
New York, NY
Seattle, WA


These U.S. towns and cities are famous for their cuisine:

Asheville, NC
Austin, TX
Charleston, SC
Chicago, IL
Healdsburg, CA
Las Vegas, NV
Los Angeles, CA
Miami, FL
New Orleans, LA
New York, NY
Philadelphia, PA
Portland, ME
Portland, OR
San Francisco, CA
Seattle, WA


These cities and areas of the U.S. are obsessed with professional sports:

Boston, MA area- Bruins, Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox
Chicago, IL area - Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, White Sox
Dallas, TX area - Cowboys, Mavericks, Rangers, Stars
Denver, CO area - Broncos, Nuggets, Avalanche, Rockies
Los Angeles, CA area - Lakers, Dodgers, Rams, Chargers, Clippers, Kings
Miami, FL area - Heat, Dolphins, Marlins
New York, NY area - Yankees, Giants, Mets, Jets, Islanders, Rangers, Knicks
Philadelphia, PA area - 76ers, Eagles, Flyers, Phillies
San Francisco Bay area, CA - Warriors, Athletics, 49ers, Giants, Sharks


These U.S. cities feature a strong dose of gambling / casinos:

Atlantic City, NJ
Biloxi / Gulf Coast, MS
Cripple Creek, CO
Detroit, MI
Deadwood, SD
Las Vegas, NV
New Orleans, LA
Reno, NV
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Tunica, MS


Boston, MA
Boston, Massachusetts

Charleston, SC
Charleston, South Carolina

Chicago, IL
Chicago, Illinois

Cody, WY
Cody, Wyoming

Durango, CO
Durango, Colorado

Eureka Springs, AR
Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Galena, IL
Galena, Illinois

Hershey, PA
Hershey, Pennsylvania

Key West, FL
Key West, Florida

Mackinac Island, MI
Mackinac Island, Michigan

Madison, WI
Madison, Wisconsin

Nashville, TN
Nashville, Tennessee

Old Orchard Beach, ME
Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Rehoboth, DE
Rehoboth, Delaware

Roswell, NM
Roswell, New Mexico

Savannah, GA
Savannah, Georgia

Williams, AZ
Williams, Arizona


In addition to the information found on my website, I personally recommend purchasing these road trip/travel-related guidebooks. Click on any link to read reviews and/or purchase these books on Amazon.com (affiliate).

Fodor's Bucket List USA (1st edition; 2021)
Moon USA State by State (1st edition; 2021)
Your Guide to the National Parks (3rd edition; 2022)
Road Trip USA (9th edition; 2021)

As an Amazon Associates affiliate, this website contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any products after clicking any Amazon.com link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. I only endorse products that I have personally used or those that come highly recommended by trusted peers.

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