America is home to some of the world’s most fascinating natural landscapes, breezy beaches, and architectural treasures, spanning more than 3 million miles and 50 states. The unique cities serve as the country’s heartbeat, bursting with their distinct customs. From the towns’ treasured parks scattered among the neighbourhoods to the cast of personalities who make each town unique, each location bursts with beauty.
However, due to their cultural and natural prominence, a few beautiful cities in the United States stand out from the others. Here are ten of America’s most beautiful cities, along with our favourite spots to soak in their full splendour.
1. San Francisco
San Francisco, a stunning city surrounded by ocean and constructed on gigantic hills, marches to the beat of its own drum. Beginners are often surprised by how cold it is here, so bring a warm sweater with you at all times of the year and wear it when riding the cable car, taking a day trip to Alcatraz Island, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, or giggling at the chubby sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf.
In Boston, one of America’s earliest great cities and now one of its best, history and modernity are linked at the hip. It’s a place where federal architecture from the 1600s sits alongside ultra-modern structures designed by Frank Gehry, Walter Gropius, and I.M. Pei. Speaking of architecture, don’t miss the Back Bay row houses, which aren’t only for Instagram but are also a must-see. Boston loves its seafood, from chowder to lobster rolls, so make a point of visiting the city’s greatest raw bars and lobster shacks while you’re here.
Charleston is one of America’s great cities, rooted in the country’s history but maintaining a totally modern approach toward the arts, culture, and cuisine—just look at our list of the best Charleston restaurants to see what we mean. The architecture—especially the churches on every corner—has been plenty of an incentive to visit South Carolina’s jewel since approximately 1670, but the city has recently become a food and drink haven as well. At the Pavilion Bar, there are plenty of water vistas and hipsters; City Market sells the city’s signature sweetgrass baskets, and supper at chef Sean Brock’s Husk is a spiritual experience.
Seattle is the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest, with lush parks and boundless views of Puget Sound. From the top of the famed Space Needle—a 360-degree spinning atrium with a glass floor—you can see it all, but don’t stop there. Seattle is home to some of the best restaurants in the world, as well as world-class museums such as the Seattle Art Museum and the Museum of Pop Culture. It also houses the Garden and Glass of renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. While the grunge era that made the city famous has passed, there are still lots of great music places to visit, such as Neumos and the Showbox.
You probably didn’t realise that Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival, takes place over three weekends in June and July in Milwaukee. The beautiful city by Lake Michigan turns a little crazy when the major festival takes place. They’re taking use of the nice weather in a big manner, with 11 stages, over 800 bands, and close to a million visitors. Think cheese curds, beer breweries, cornhole tournaments, and Packers fans during the rest of the year, juxtaposed with a stunning art museum and the yearly Sculpture Milwaukee outdoor showcase all around town (summer/fall). Harley-Davidson is based in this colourful, welcoming city; don’t miss their big museum.
6. New Orleans
New Orleans is undergoing a revival after 300 years of existence—except for the streets, which are the bumpiest you’ve ever seen in a large city. They love to dress up and party in New Orleans, so throw on a wig and mask and head to the French Quarter and Marigny for some of the best food in the city. Grab a to-go cup of handmade cocktails from one of the city’s top bars and listen to some of New Orleans’ best live music. Then head to the Bywater district, where you’ll find an exhilarating blend of art and funk with stunning murals on every corner, and stop at Bacchanal Wine for a bite, a drink, and a song (or two). Keep an eye out for the unique architecture that marks this one-of-a-million, music-loving city while you’re here.
The Cubbies, Frank Lloyd Wright skyscrapers, and deep-dish pizza are just a few of the beautiful things that have put Chicago on the map. It’s a big city with a pleasant vibe, with a full street dedicated to drinking and dancing, Rush Street. You can dance till 4 a.m. there, but save some energy for the city’s many festivals, which range from July’s Taste of Chicago to September’s Pitchfork Music Festival to the granddaddy of them all, Lollapalooza. Unless the Bears are playing football, in which case shirtless males will endure subzero temperatures to cheer on their lads at Soldier Field, this oh-so-cold metropolis hunkers down in the winter.
8. Salt Lake City
The snow-capped Rocky Mountains are always visible from anywhere in Salt Lake City. They tower over the spotless city, creating a breathtaking scene worthy of a painting. While Salt Lake is famed for its Mormon past, there’s more to this city than meets the eye. Restaurants include Log Haven, a fine-dining favourite, as well as a diverse selection of ethnic and international eateries. While alcohol isn’t as widely available as it is in some places, it is far more accessible than you might imagine, notably at the White Horse and Bourbon House downtown. Don’t forget to grab some fresh air while you’re there: the Great Salt Lake is a great area to start hiking, swimming, and picnicking.
Museums and honky-tonks may not appear to go together, but in Nashville, they have a solid marriage. Head directly to Broadway for some drinking and dancing, where Legend’s Corner, Nudie’s, and Tootsie’s have been serving up country, blues, and whiskey for decades. In Music City, you can start early (10 a.m.) and stay up late (3 a.m.) if you’ve got the stamina. Is day drinking not your idea of a good time during your vacation? Start with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, then move on to the Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash museums, which are all conveniently located in downtown Nashville. Visit the Bluebird Cafe and the Grand Ole Opry, as well as the historic RCA Studio B, where Elvis cut many albums. Remember, this is a party town, so bring a lunch, rent a bicycle (which is exactly what it sounds like), and wander among the top Nashville bars, singing along the way.
10. Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a destination that the globe wants to see in person because of its sun, sand, and movies (in which the city is frequently the star). Start at the Hotel Erwin’s rooftop in Venice for a panoramic view of the city, then travel across L.A. County to see everything from the coast to the mountains. Expect heavy traffic on your way to Malibu for a surfing session; stop at the Getty Museum, then walk in the footsteps of the stars at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Spend all of your money on Rodeo Drive, then drive south to Anaheim to pilot the Millenium Falcon in the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge realm at Disneyland.
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