This Is the One Must-Visit City in Every State
Yes, America's landscapes are epic, but don't overlook the country's vibrant urban communities.
The United States is a patchwork of vibrant urban communities. But in every state, there's one city that shines brighter than the rest thanks to its burgeoning cultural scene, red-hot restaurants, or unique personality that leaves you wanting more. From the spiritual desert of Sedona and the sultry seaside of Miami to the adventurous peaks of Park City, here are the must-visit cities across the country that are guaranteed to inspire your next adventure.
Alabama's biggest city may surprise you with its numerous cultural attractions. Get a glimpse into the city's industrial past at Sloss Furnaces, and learn about its history at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. For art lovers, the Birmingham Museum of Art houses more than 20,000 paintings, sculptures, and prints, making it one of the largest collections in the southeastern U.S. For some activity, rent a Zyp bike to explore downtown, or for more fresh air, head right outside the city to Oak Mountain State Park or Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, where you'll find dozens of miles of hiking trails. Birmingham boasts a mixture of Southern comfort food and regional farm-to-table fare: Don't miss elegant French-meets-southern cooking at Highlands Bar & Grill and a taste of famous Alabama white sauce at Saw's BBQ.
If you're looking for the comforts of urban life combined with the raw beauty of nature, it doesn't get much better than Anchorage. The city is surrounded by the snow-capped Chugach Mountains, and it's the perfect base for exploring Denali National Park and the jagged fjords of the Kenai Peninsula. Outdoors enthusiasts will love hiking Flattop Mountain, Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, or Chugach State Park. Anchorage also has a burgeoning restaurant scene that includes favorites like The Bubbly Mermaid for oysters and Champagne, Snow City Cafe for a comforting breakfast, and Moose's Tooth for artisan pizza pies.
Just south of Flagstaff, this desert city is surrounded by fiery red-rock buttes and is known for its healing vortexes and sense of spirituality. Travelers flock to Sedona's many wellness resorts and spas like Enchantment Resort and L'Auberge de Sedona to meditate, relax, and get back to nature. With a relatively moderate year-round climate, the weather is perfect for hiking Cathedral Rock and Bear Mountain, exploring Oak Creek Canyon, and gallery hopping around the arts and crafts community of Tlaquepaque. There are plenty of health-focused eateries like Local Juicery, but you'll also find places to indulge like Mariposa, for Latin-American inspired plates, and Creekside for comfort food like barbecue wings and shrimp and grits.
Home to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville is a vibrant, creative, and progressive college town. Book a room at the Dickson Street Inn, a quaint bed and breakfast centrally located in the heart of downtown. From there, you can explore Dickson Street and its popular farmers' market, small stores like Dickson Street Bookshop, and side streets lined with colorful murals. When you need a bite to eat, stop by The Farmer's Table for hearty breakfast bowls or Petra Cafe for Mediterannean platters. Pro tip: Fayetteville is a sports town, and if you're around for a Razorbacks football game, don't miss it.
San Francisco, California
Picking the one must-visit city in California is like choosing a favorite child—it's nearly impossible. But as you walk the steep streets of Russian Hill or Pacific Heights and gaze at the fog rolling over the bay, you'll quickly realize that San Francisco possesses a certain awe factor that is unlike anywhere else in the country. You could easily spend a week just eating your way through the city, from dim sum in Chinatown to Baja-style tacos and burritos in the Mission. There is green space and ocean almost everywhere you look, but when you really need to get out of the concrete jungle, Sonoma wine country and the beautiful state parks of Big Sur are just a short trip away.
Colorado is a vacationland full of mountain resort towns and cities, but if you want to combine the striking scenery with an exciting dining, shopping, and art scene, Aspen is in a league of its own. There's no getting around it, Aspen is an expensive zip code, but there's something for every type of traveler. Book a room at the Inn at Aspen for around $100 per night or splurge on luxury accommodations at The Little Nell. Dine on upscale sushi at Matsuhisa or a relaxed meal of ribs and mac 'n' cheese at Home Team BBQ. No matter what time of year you visit, you can always take advantage of nature. Hit the world-class ski slopes during the winter, or hike the picturesque Maroon Bells in the warmer months.
New Haven, Connecticut
Connecticut is full of quaint towns like Westport, Darien, Madison, and Guilford, but if big city life is what you're after, look no further than New Haven. Home to prestigious Yale University, New Haven is a progressive and creative powerhouse. Art and history buffs will want to visit the Yale Center for British Art, the Peabody Museum for Natural History, the University Art Gallery, and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. If there's one thing you can't miss, it's New Haven pizza, so pick your loyalty between Pepe's and Sally's, two legendary spots for coal-fired pies.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
This lively and family-friendly beach town is known for its busy boardwalk, biking trails, and state parks. Just a 90-minute drive from Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Wilmington, it's also an easily accessible vacation for most East Coasters. Stroll around the boardwalk and stop for frozen custard at Kohr's or for taffy and peanut brittle at Dolle's. Along Rehoboth Avenue you'll find small shops like Bella Luna for cute gifts and Little Egg Harbor for handmade soaps, and every Tuesday there's a local farmers' market where vendors sell crafts and local produce. When hunger strikes, reserve a table at Back Porch Café for Mediterranean food and toe-tapping live music.
Say what you will about Miami, but this buzzy beach haven has one of the most eclectic and vibrant atmospheres. Even if sunbathing on South Beach isn't your M.O, you'll never be bored in Miami. Check out the chic fashion showrooms in the Design District, chow down on Cuban sandwiches in Little Havana, or walk around Wynwood, a trendy neighborhood with street murals. Speaking of which, the city is home to a flourishing art scene that you can experience at the Perez Art Museum or Rubell Museum. Miami's diverse population also means it has a variety of global cuisines to try: Transport yourself to a taverna in Santorini by way of Mandolin, share Catalan plates at NIU, or sample Peruvian Nikkei cuisine at Itamae.
Savannah oozes southern charm, with its antebellum plantations, cobblestone streets, and oak trees draped in Spanish moss. Book a room at the adorable Eliza Thompson House where happy hour every afternoon includes free hors d'oeuvres and wine. Then, stroll through Forsyth Park, and sign up for a ghost tour of Savannah's haunted sites. Beyond its historical sites, Savannah's most prized trait may be its culinary scene. Dig into the home-style spreads at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, Australian-inspired breakfast at The Collins Quarter, and craft cocktails at Artillery.
While many travelers make a beeline for the islands of Maui or Kauai, Honolulu is well worth a trip. Set on Oahu's south shore, Honolulu offers crescent-shaped beaches and lush palm trees all before a backdrop of Diamond Head volcano. It's home to the bustling Waikiki beach, but you'll also find quieter stretches of sand like Waimea Bay (a renowned surf spot), Kahana Bay, and Laniakea Beach, where you might stumble upon some nesting sea turtles. Explore the area's exciting food scene, making sure to try the famous shrimp and rice at Giovanni's, sweet custard-filled donuts at Leonard's Bakery, and rainbow shaved ice at Matsumoto.
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Just a stone's throw from the Washington border, Coeur d'Alene is probably not what you imagine when you think of Idaho. But this lake city—best known for its watersports, hiking trails, and natural beauty—is the perfect getaway for any lovers of the great outdoors. There's golfing at Galena Ridge, hiking and cycling along the North Idaho Centennial Trail, and fishing on Hayden Lake. Make sure to spend some time exploring downtown Coeur d'Alene, which is lined with independent small shops, art galleries, and restaurants like local favorites Hudson's for no-frills burgers and Moon Time for the best comfort food in town.
It may be nicknamed the Windy City, but weather aside, Chicago is still one of the best cities in the U.S. An ideal time to visit is during the summer when music festivals and street fairs are common, and the whole city seems to flock to Oak Street Beach and Rainbow Beach on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan. Chicago also has an impressive dining scene, from Korean plates at Parachute and comfort food at Honey Butter Fried Chicken to deep dish pies at Pequod's and Michelin-starred dining at Alinea. While you're in town, catch a free concert at Millennium Park, get cultured at the Art Institute of Chicago, and cheer on the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
An hour from Indianapolis, Bloomington is a city that feels more like a college town (and it is, technically, thanks to the Indiana University campus). Start off the day at Square Donuts or with pastries at La Vie En Rose; for lunch, sit down at Upland Brewing Co, and wash down burgers and nachos with IPAs and sour ales. Then for a great dinner, FARM Bloomington serves delicious farm-to-table dishes. Burn some calories walking the three-mile B-Line trail, hiking around Monroe Lake or Hoosier National Forest, or browsing the stands at the Bloomington Community Farmers' Market, held on Saturdays from April through November. If you're looking for indoor activity, check out the Eskenazi Museum of Art at IU, and you can't go wrong catching a Hoosiers game if the team is in town.
Des Moines, Iowa
Fly-over country no more! Des Moines is a destination all to itself. Stay downtown close to all the action and explore Iowa's capital by foot. If you're visiting on a Saturday, stroll through the local market, where vendors travel from across Iowa to sell flowers, produce, and bites such as donuts to breakfast tacos. Rent a bike and peddle across the High Trestle Trail, and visit the Des Moines Art Center, a free museum showcasing works from artists like Georgia O'Keeffe and Jean Dubuffet. Des Moines has a food scene that might surprise you. For some great meals, try an Aussie-style breakfast of avocado toast and eggs at St. Kilda, locally sourced flavors at Proof, and southern comfort food at Bubba.
It's possible you've never heard of Lawrence, but this eclectic enclave—home to the University of Kansas—has a lively downtown, an exciting sports scene (thanks to the Jayhawks), and fun restaurants. Your first stop: the university's Spencer Museum of Art, followed by a pleasant afternoon at Clinton State Park, the Baker Wetlands, or Prairie Park Nature Center. Come nighttime, you'll want to join the crowds at Jefferson's (don't miss the chicken wings) then have drinks at The Wagon Wheel or The Jayhawker, two popular college bars. Shake off the hangover the next morning over brunch at The Roost.
Home of the annual Kentucky Derby and the Bourbon Trail, Louisville is one of the most underrated cities in the U.S. Art-lovers should book a room at the 21c Museum Hotel, a contemporary art exhibit-meets-boutique hotel. You could spend a long weekend in Louisville just eating and drinking: Visit some distilleries like Copper & Kings and the spots along Whiskey Row, but don't overlook Akasha Brewing Co. and Against The Grain, two musts for beer lovers. Soak up the suds at chef Edward Lee's upscale eatery, 610 Magnolia, or Jack Fry's, a Louisville icon for southern plates.
New Orleans, Louisiana
There's a reason why the Big Easy is one of the most visited cities in America. It has a lively, round-the-clock nightlife and a unique, melting-pot culture and cuisine that is reflective of French, Spanish, African, and American influences. Even if you're not going for Mardi Gras or the annual Jazz Festival, you'll always find a party culture along the bars of Bourbon Street and the jazz clubs of Frenchmen Street. But think beyond the French Quarter and make sure to explore the bohemian neighborhoods of Marigny and Bywater as well as the manicured mansions of the Garden District. NOLA is one of the best food cities, so sample southern specialties at Willa Jean, fresh seafood at Peche, and Creole-meets-Caribbean flavors at Compère Lapin.
Coastal charm meets urban comforts in Portland, Maine's largest city. Portland has become increasingly popular in the past decade due to its thriving food and art scenes. It's also close to the quaint New England seaside towns of Kennebunkport, Ogunquit, and Rockport, all ideal day trips. Stay at The Press Hotel for its central location, or for something more remote, the Chebeague Island Inn, which is a ferry ride from downtown Portland. Whether you're looking for a casual lobster roll at The Lobster Shack at Two Lights, an upscale Italian meal at Fore Street, or Asian noodles at Honey Paw, you'll find that and more among Portland's excellent restaurants. If you're looking to shop, Middle Street and Congress Street are lined with cute boutiques, home goods stores, and art galleries.
Often overshadowed by neighboring Philadelphia and New York City, Baltimore is in the midst of a resurgence. Beer aficionados can tour the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in addition to a handful of craft brew pubs like Diamondback Brewing Co. and Heavy Seas. The city has also seen a slew of new upscale food halls, including Cross Street Market and The Food Market. Of course, no trip to the Mid-Atlantic would be complete without some famous blue crabs, so satisfy your craving at L.P Steamers or Cantler's Riverside Inn.
As the center of the American Revolution, Boston is a small but mighty city. It's made up of diverse neighborhoods worth exploring one by one. In the historic North End and Little Italy, you'll find old-timey trattorias and bakeries like Mike's Pastry; Beacon Hill and the South End are made up of cobblestone streets and dreamy brownstones; and in Chinatown you'll find a mixture of old-school haunts like Gourmet Dumpling House and trendy new eateries like Shojo. Make sure to spend some time at Harvard's pristine campus and the bustling streets of Cambridge, on the opposite side of the Charles River. If there's one thing that unites all Bostonians, it's their love of sports, so snag tickets to a Bruins, Celtics, Pats, or Red Sox game, and see for yourself what the fuss is all about.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Despite its population of over 120,000, Ann Arbor offers more of a friendly, suburban feel. This low-key vibe is a cool contrast to the sprawling and spirited University of Michigan. For a relaxing weekend, rent a kayak or go tubing down the Argo Cascades to see the city by water. Or have an upbeat stay by listening to folk music at The Ark, visiting the University's Museum of Art, or taking in the colorful walls of Graffiti Alley, next to the Michigan Theater. Just save time to chow down on a Reuben sandwich at Zingerman's, one of the best delis in the country.
As the land of 10,000 lakes, you can't go to Minnesota and not experience some aquatic adventure. Even in the urban sprawl of Minneapolis, there are plenty of waterfronts to explore. One favorite is Lake Bde Maka Ska in the Uptown neighborhood; here, you can hit the trails, go swimming, and lounge on the beach in the summer as well as ice skate in the winter. If you're craving an art fix, check out the collection of contemporary works at The Walker Center and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Make sure to spend plenty of time in The North Loop, the city's trendiest neighborhood, where old warehouses have been turned into boutiques and popular restaurants like The Bachelor Farmer and Spoon and Stable.
Jackson is one of the rare cities where you can still find pockets of nostalgia in the form of old-school diners and soul food restaurants. With its distinct neighborhoods and laid-back vibe, it's easy to forget you're in a city entirely. Explore Jackson's coolest area, the Fondren District, which is home to chic boutiques and family-owned shops like Fondren Guitars. Sit down at Brent's Drugs, a classic soda fountain diner, or at Babalu for southern-style small plates. Avid readers will fall in love with Lemuria Books, and culture vultures should visit the Mississippi Museum of Art.
St. Louis, Missouri
Nicknamed the Gateway to the West, St. Louis is famed for its 630-foot arch that marks the starting point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The lawn surrounding the memorial is one of the many beautiful green areas in the Midwestern city. You'll also find the locals picnicking in the 1,300-acre Forest Park, which has a summer concert series, a zoo, and the St. Louis Art Museum. Explore the neighborhood of Soulard with its many live music bars and a colorful farmers' market, open Wednesdays through Saturdays. Then head to Union Station, an old train depot-turned-entertainment complex, complete with an aquarium, ferris wheel, and more. Foodies can't miss the great barbecue at Pappy's Smokehouse, Vietnamese food at Lona's Lil Eats, and a late-night jaunt to John's Donuts.
Home to Montana State University and an entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Bozeman is one of the coolest locales in the country. The Rocky Mountain city attracts students, nature lovers, and creative types seeking the beautiful scenery and laid-back atmosphere. There are year-round outdoor activities, including kayaking on Hyalite Reservoir or hiking the M Trail during the summer and skiing Bridger Bowl or snowshoeing on Lava Lake during the winter. Start the morning with eggs Benedict or pancakes at Nova Cafe, and after a long day, sit down at MAP Brewing for beer flights and pub food.
Omaha is a leisurely place to spend a long weekend, with a revitalized downtown worth exploring. Top priority is the Old Market District, where century-old buildings have been converted into boutiques and restaurants (it's also celebrating its 50th anniversary, so expect a line-up of events, starting in April). For a more hipster atmosphere, breeze by Benson's coffee shops and bars. When it comes to food in Omaha, think beyond steak. Sushi might not be the obvious choice, but a meal at Yoshimoto will surprise you. There's also great farm-to-table dining at The Grey Plume and Block 16. If you're looking for fresh air, head to the Fontenelle Forest with its miles of hiking trails.
Las Vegas, Nevada
There are two types of people in this world: Those who love Vegas and those who hate it. In any case, you'll need to go once in order to find out which camp you fall into. Even if you aren't into gambling and partying (because, of course, there's plenty of that), Vegas has incredible live shows from Cirque du Soleil "O" at the Bellagio to Absinthe at Caesars Palace. There are also great comedy clubs like Aces of Comedy or Laugh Factory. There's no denying Vegas's impressive culinary scene. You'll find everything from ultra upscale restaurants like Joël Robuchon and Twist by Pierre Gagnaire to edgier spots like Hong Kong spin-off Mott 32 and Vietnamese comfort food at the Black Sheep.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
One of the Northeast's most underrated cities, Portsmouth combines New England charm with a historic past. The third oldest city in the country, Portsmouth is a mix of old and new: As you wander around the cobblestone alleys and vibrant waterfront, you'll find new restaurants, bars, and cafes like Cava Tapas Wine Bar, Cure Restaurant, and Portsmouth Brewery. Stay at the Hotel Portsmouth, a Victorian house-turned-bed and breakfast, and spend some time exploring the nearby coastal towns and beaches like Pierce Island, Rye Beach, and North Hampton.
Hoboken, New Jersey
In the past few years, Hoboken has sprung onto the scene as a young and cool town with great shopping and dining, all just a stone's throw from Lower Manhattan. Most of Hoboken's action is located on Washington Street, and the best way to see it is on foot. Take in the views of the Manhattan skyline from the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, or if you're craving more of the city, the PATH train will bring you to the Financial District in minutes. Head to nearby Edgewood for a spa day at SoJo, or relax at Pier 13, where you'll find food trucks and a beer garden during the warm months. On weekends, join the locals and bar hop along Washington Street or have a Latin American-inspired brunch at La Isla or Cucharamama.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
A visit to New Mexico's capital will show you exactly why the state is nicknamed the Land of Enchantment. Set in the blue foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe has an almost magical quality to it thanks to the adobe casitas (adorned with wooden doors and framed by succulents) and the colorful sunsets that paint the sky in streaks of pink. For a small city, Santa Fe is a hotspot for the arts, so make a point of visiting the Georgia O'Keefe Museum and SITE Santa Fe, with its collection of contemporary art. In the winter, you can head to nearby Taos Ski Valley, and fall is the best time to day trip to White Sands National Park. Make sure to try the regional cooking at restaurants like Sazón and Arroyo Vino.
New York, New York
It doesn't take much convincing to book a trip to New York City. The more difficult problem is: With so much to see, eat, and do, how should you spend your limited time in the Big Apple? To get a feel for the city's diverse draws, choose a few neighborhoods across the five boroughs. If you've already seen all of Museum Row, check out the Brooklyn Museum or the Whitney. If you've been to Central Park, opt for a morning in Brooklyn's Prospect Park instead. Ditch Mott Street's Little Italy for Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, and skip Manhattan's Chinatown for Flushing's larger one. Walk along the brownstone-lined streets of Brooklyn Heights or Manhattan's West Village, shop the boutiques in Nolita or Cobble Hill, and bar hop in Alphabet City or Williamsburg. Eat pizza at Lucali, grab a bagel from Russ & Daughters, slurp soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai, or devour a corned beef sandwich at Katz's.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville has become a top destination in the south for its incredible food and wine scene, artistic spirit, and location, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Spend a few hours in the River Arts District, where you'll find eclectic street art and small galleries. Asheville is home to one of the best craft beer scenes in the country, and Asheville Brewing, Catawba Brewing Co., and Wedge Brewing are just a few favorite spots to drink local ales and IPAs. Fuel up at stand-out restaurants such as chef Katie Button's tapas bar, Cúrate, Rhubarb for farm-to-table American fare, and Cucina24 for Italian food with a southern flair. And no trip to Asheville is complete without a day trip or two to the surrounding working farms or state parks like Pisgah National Forest and Chimney Rock Park.
Fargo, North Dakota
If you've heard of Fargo, it's most likely in the context of the Coen brothers' dark comedy. But Fargo is a funky and friendly city in North Dakota's Great Plains, ideal for an off-the-beaten-path vacation. For starters, Fargo has a cool art scene: There's the Plains Art Museum, which focuses on local Native American art, and you can even sleep among art at the Hotel Donaldson, where the 17 guest rooms are decorated with works by different artists. Beer lovers should head to Fargo Brewing Co., Wurst Beer Hall, and Dekker Brewing, which is located in an old train station. And don't underestimate the city's restaurants, either. Blackbird Woodfire dishes out some seriously delicious pizzas, and Mezzaluna is an elegant and impressive fine-dining option.
Cleveland—once a rather unexciting industrial hub in the Midwest—has over time become a revitalized city. There are the obvious tourist attractions like the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but there's also the Cleveland Flea, the theater district of Playhouse Square, and nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Sports are big in Cleveland, so score some tickets to an Indians, Browns, or Cavaliers game. Or eat your way through the city, starting with Great Lakes Brewing Co., Lola Bistro for all things steak, Salt+ for craft cocktails and shareable plates, and Mabel's for barbecue.
Whether you're looking for a stop along Route 66 or just seeking a new city to visit, consider Tulsa. Book a room at The Mayo downtown, and you'll be steps from the Arts District, a hot spot for bars, galleries, and shops. Check out Magic City Books and Ahha Tulsa, an art space with rotating exhibitions. Then, swing by the Philbrook Museum of Art and the Gilcrease Museum for a culture fix. When you're hungry, there's casual Burn Co BBQ, Vietnamese food at Lone Wolf, and Juniper for locavore dining. For some nighttime entertainment, catch a concert at Cain's Ballroom, try local Oklahoma ales at Prairie Brewpub, or sip cocktails at Valkyrie.
It's hard not to love Portland, the hipster, eccentric, and outdoorsy Pacific Northwest city. Every food-lover should make a pilgrimage to Portland simply to eat. Charcuterie at Olympia Provisions, ice cream at Salt & Straw, ramen at Afuri (an offshoot of the Tokyo totem), pierogi at Kachka, a sandwich at Lardo, and so much more. When you can't take one more bite, stop and smell the roses at the International Rose Test Garden or walk off the carbs at Forest Park, one of the country's largest urban forests. Listen to live music in a church-turned-music venue at Mississippi Studios, browse the epic Portland Saturday Market, caffeinate at one of Portland's artisan coffee roasters, drink beer at one of the many microbreweries, or get cultured at the Portland Museum of Art. If you're up for a day trip, you can reach the Columbia River Gorge or Cannon Beach in under two hours.
Philly deserves way more attention than it's given, and due to its location between New York and Washington, D.C., it's a convenient destination. The historic city—home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the National Constitution Center—is also teeming with great restaurants (Zahav, Vetri Cucina, and Vernick Food and Drink), art (The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Institute of Contemporary Art), and lush parks (Rittenhouse Square is just the beginning). Don't miss eclectic neighborhoods like trendy Fishtown, UPenn's University City, and Midtown, where you'll find some seriously picturesque streets.
Providence, Rhode Island
Thanks to Brown University, Johnson and Wales Culinary School, and the Rhode Island School of Design, there's a sense of creativity in every corner of Providence. Visit the RISD Museum, then walk around downtown and see colorful murals among the brick warehouse-style buildings and cobblestone streets. Thayer is the main artery that passes through Brown's campus (so expect lots of boutiques, bookstores, and coffee shops), while Wayland Square is a more high-end area. Providence is also surrounded by a cluster of New England coastal towns, so take the Sea Streak Ferry to Newport for an afternoon touring the Gilded Age mansions, and get back to the city by dinnertime for a meal at Oberlin.
Charleston, South Carolina
With its pastel houses and peaceful waterfront, it's easy to be enamored by Charleston. Wander the adorable streets, admiring the architecture, and eating and drinking… a lot. Make sure to try some fresh-as-can-be seafood from 167 Raw, the epic burger from Husk, melt-in-your-mouth brisket from Lewis Barbecue, oysters and fried chicken at Leon's, and so much more. In addition, there's King Street's restaurants, Waterfront Park's scenic views, the much-Instagrammed Rainbow Row, and Charleston City Market, where you'll find local crafts and food vendors. Just outside the city, Boone Hall Plantation, Sullivan Island, and Folly Beach are all worthy escapes.
Rapid City, South Dakota
Rapid City is more than just the gateway to Mount Rushmore. In fact, it's a perfect stop along any great American road trip, especially if you want to explore the nearby Black Hills or Badlands National Park. Downtown is where you'll find Main Street Square, which houses public art, concerts, and a skating rink; Prairie Edge Trading Co., a gallery for Native American crafts; and Art Alley's edgy graffiti. When you're ready for a bite to eat, stop by Kol for coal-fired pizzas or Firehouse Brewing Company, a pub housed in an old fire station.
It's difficult to have a bad time in Music City, which is why it has a reputation as one of the best bachelor/bachelorette destinations in the country. Visit the Nashville Farmers' Market (open all week), walk along Pedestrian Bridge for skyline views, look at the murals on 12th Ave and Gulch, window shop in the 12 South neighborhood, and bar hop around the honky tonk music spots from Fifth Avenue. As far as the perfect food day goes, start with brunch at Henrietta Red, an afternoon "snack" of hot chicken at Hattie B's, and dinner at chef's counter spot, The Catbird Seat. For live music, the options are endless, but the famous (and hard-to-score) Bluebird Cafe, The Station Inn, or Mercy Lounge are all solid options.
Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, which makes perfect sense, given that once you visit you won't want to leave. A liberal pocket in the middle of the Lone Star State, Austin is home to the University of Texas, a renowned food scene that goes way beyond barbecue, and lots of urban parks. Spend some time on South Congress, a street lined with unique boutiques, wine bars, taco stands, and the famous Allen's Boots. If you're looking for barbecue, Micklethwait Craft Meats and La Barbecue are some local favorites, but you'll also find outrageously fresh sushi at Uchi, the best breakfast tacos of your life at Veracruz All Natural, and seasonal plates served dim sum-style at Emmer & Rye. There's Barton Springs, a natural swimming pool, and Lake Travis, perfect for cooling off on sweaty summer days. And if you have the time, rent a car and explore the wineries, breweries, and state parks of Hill Country.
Park City, Utah
Thanks to ski season and the annual Sundance Film Festival, winter is the most popular time to visit Park City, but this old mining town is lovely year 'round. If you want to splurge, book a room at the Washington Square House Hotel, located walking distance from Main Street, where you'll find galleries like J Go, bars such as No Name Saloon, and top restaurants like Vinto Pizzeria, Firewood, and Tupelo. You'll also want to eat plates paired with whiskey at High West Distillery. Spend your days skiing Deer Valley or Park City Mountain Resort, and pop into Cloud Dine for lunch with alpine views. In town for the weekend? Peruse the open air Park Silly Sunday Market.
Vermont might be best known for farms, orchards, and green mountains, but the seriously cool and low-key city of Burlington shouldn't be overlooked. Set on the shore of Lake Champlain and home to the University of Vermont, Burlington offers both urban comforts and access to nature. Church St. Marketplace is the hub of downtown life. Have an incredible meal at Hen of the Wood, listen to live music at ArtsRiot, and sip a few beers at FOAM or cocktails at Deli 126. For some local activity, explore the beaches lining Lake Champlain or pedal along the Burlington Bike Path. And if you're looking for a day trip, hike Mt. Mansfield, ski Smugglers Notch, or cross the border into Montreal.
Two hours south of the nation's capital, Richmond is Virginia's hidden gem. Drop your bags at the Quirk Hotel, which has a sceney restaurant, a coveted rooftop bar, and walls lined with modern art. Then take in more creative works at VCU's $41 million Institute for Contemporary Art, a sprawling space designed for rotating exhibits, film screenings, and live performances. Craving a cocktail? Bounce between the happy hours at The Jasper, in the quirky Carytown neighborhood, and Little Nickel, just across the James River.
With its innovative tech scene and surrounding mountain ranges, Seattle offers the best of both worlds. Shop for antique collectables, furniture, and clothing at Fremont Vintage Mall, buy some affordable jewelry at Baleen, and browse for books at the Elliot Bay Book Company. Art lovers should visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum as well as the Seattle Art Museum. And for some nature, rent a bike and ride the Burke Gilman Trail, walk around Discovery Park, or head to the water at Alki Beach Park. When you need a bite to eat, sit down for oysters at The Walrus and the Carpenter, dumplings at Din Tai Fung, the daily pasta special at Il Corvo, or cheese and charcuterie at The Shambles. Of course, no trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to (and a few bites from) Pike Place Market.
Morgantown, West Virginia
Perhaps you haven't given much thought about a vacation to West Virginia, but you will now after hearing about Morgantown's happy-go-lucky vibe. In town, check out the Monongalia Arts Center, unwind over a local beer at Mountain State Brewing Co. or make reservations at Table 9, an upscale gastropub with a great Sunday brunch. Or for an upscale evening, save a seat at Tin 202, a speakeasy slinging craft cocktails and tapas. Just don't miss the scenery the state is known for: Cycle along the Monongahela River, camp at Coopers Rock State Forest, or canoe on Cheat Lake (the fishing is A+ here too).
A port city on the shore of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee has witnessed a revival thanks to trendy neighborhoods, excellent restaurants, and an influx of young, hipster-types. Stay at the historic Pfister Hotel, and you'll be steps from all the best downtown addresses. Follow the pedestrian-friendly River Walk, bar hop around the many breweries (Good City Brewing and MobCraft are two good places to start), check out the exhibits at the Milwaukee Art Museum, experience a Friday Fish Fry at Kegel's Inn, tuck into an afternoon snack at Wisconsin Cheese Mart, and explore the Historic Third Ward neighborhood, which is home to the Milwaukee Public Market. For some of the best bites in the city, Amilinda specializes in Spanish-inspired plates, and Third Coast Provisions serves fresh seafood. For a splurge-worthy meal, it doesn't get better than the tasting menu at Ardent.
Due to its proximity to Snake River, Grand Teton, Yellowstone National Park, and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Jackson offers just about every outdoor activity like skiing, fishing, rafting, hiking, rock climbing, and more. Do you prefer to kick back and relax? Well, there's plenty of that, too. There are dozens of art galleries like Heather James Fine Art, antique stores, clothing boutiques, and heavenly spas, such as the one at Amangani. Epicurean travelers will approve of the pastries at Persephone Bakery, tapas at Bin 22, or hearty American plates at Snake River Grill. At night, have a drink at Snake River Brewing and listen to live music at the renowned Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.
And if you prefer cozy enclaves over sprawling cities, check out The Most Beautiful Small Town in Every State.