Top 25 Places to Visit in the US

In this article we will take a look at the top 25 places to visit in the US. You can skip our detailed analysis of these American tourist attractions, and go directly to the Top 5 Places to Visit in the US.

The US is one of the top travel destinations for people planning their vacations. The country has a lot to offer to tourists, including snow-covered peaks, beaches, redwood forests, and sumptuous cuisines. Especially in peak travel times, the country is brimming with international and domestic tourists. According to the data from International Trade Administration, over 19.4 million international visitors traveled to the U.S. in 2020 despite the coronavirus crisis.

Effects of Covid-19 on Tourism in the U.S.

Though the travel and tourism industry in the U.S. is always blooming, the impact of Covid-19 caused a deep dent in this sector. U.S.-based airlines suffered a whopping loss of $35 billion in 2020. American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL) posted an annual loss of $8.9 billion, with a net loss of $2.8 billion in Q4. Moreover, the share price of American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL) lost 45%, which is the biggest percentage decline since its merger with US Airways. Another major carrier, Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE: DAL), posted a loss of $12.4 billion in 2020. United Airlines Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: UAL) reported a $7.1 billion loss for the year 2020.

This loss also took away the jobs of thousands of employees working in these airline companies. Nearly 50,000 airline workers were laid off from their jobs in 2020. United Airlines Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: UAL) warned nearly a third of its staff about potential furloughs.

The closure of borders for safety reasons was the main reason that international travel suffered the sharpest decline. The numbers from UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), compiled by McKinsey & Company, show that international tourist arrivals declined between 58 percent and 78 percent in 2020. The decline was not only witnessed in the international visitors, but the overall tourism and travel industry also suffered heavy losses. According to the U.S. Travel Association, the U.S. travel economy lost over $492 billion between March and December 2020.

Amid the losses, domestic travel was the saving grace for the travel industry in the U.S. Though this segment also suffered losses due to the pandemic, the decline was not as harrowing as for the international visitors. For the U.S., even before the pandemic, domestic travel represented 85% of travel spending, according to the report published by UNWTO. In 2020, domestic travel in the U.S. fell by 34% (compared to the 78% of international arrivals). Data from the Daily Travel Index, compiled by Arrivalist, tell that numbers are already bouncing back, reaching around 80% of 2019 levels.

The travel and tourism industry is recovering from the effects of the pandemic. The decline in daily cases and the vaccination process encourage the citizens to take their long-pending trips. Some of the top places to visit in the U.S. are already gearing up for tourists. According to a report by WSJ, New York City is spending $30 million on a tourism campaign to bring the tourists back to the city.

The airlines will be fast to stand back on their feet. The progress might be slow initially due to the recurrent waves of the virus. American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL) expects the capacity of the airlines to reach around 45% of 2019 levels. Similarly, Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE: DAL) looks forward to turning cash-flow positive in the coming year. According to the Monthly Travel Recovery Data Report, in April 2021, travel spending stood at $73.9 billion, reflecting a drop of a mere 24% below the levels of the same period last year.

This revival of the travel industry will result in the number of tourists making their way to the best travel destinations.

Our Methodology

We chose the best places to visit in the US based on the points of interest and the number of activities these famous destinations currently offer.

With this context and industry outlook in mind, let’s start our list of the top 25 places to visit in the US.

Top Places to Visit in the US

25. Zion National Park

Points of Interest: Zion Canyon
Best Things to Do: Hiking

Zion National Park is located in the southern region of Utah and is a dream destination of every hiker. There are over 46 trails through the red cliffs, following the Virgin River. The place is home to Angel’s Landing, which is one of the most difficult hikes in the United States.

24. Aspen, Colorado

Points of Interest: Aspen Snowmass, Aspen Mountain Ski Resort
Best Things to Do: Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowmobiling

The City of Aspen lies in a remote part of the Rocky Mountains in the state of Colorado. The city was founded as a mining camp during the Colorado Silver Boom and later named Aspen due to the abundance of Aspen trees that dot the region. Aspen is one of the top places to visit in the U.S. for locals and tourists, especially during winters. The city has four ski slopes where people can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. The mountainous landscapes of Aspen are perfect for all kinds of outdoor recreational activities.

23. Park City, Utah

Points of Interest: Utah Olympic Park, Park City Mountain Resort
Best Things to Do: Skiing, Strolling

Park City lies east of Salt Lake City in the western state of Utah. It is one of the top places to visit in the U.S. as the tourist population generally exceeds the number of permanent residents. The city is widely famous for Sundance Film Festival; an annual film festival organized by the Sundance Institute. Along with that, Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort are two of the major ski resorts responsible for the influx of tourists. Though the city is famous for tourism, it is also home to multimillion-dollar startups, with companies like Skullcandy and generating millions of dollars in revenues.

22. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Points of Interest: Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring
Best Things to Do: Hiking, Watching Wildlife, Biking

Yellowstone National Park is located mostly in the state of Wyoming, but the portions of it are located in Idaho and Montana as well. It is a massive recreational area sprawling over 3,500 square miles of wilderness. Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872 and is marked as the first national park in the world. In 2020, park visits have increased by 40% compared to 2019, making it one of the top places to visit in the U.S.

21. Ashville, North Carolina

Points of Interest: The Downtown Art District, Pisgah National Forest
Best Things to Do: Fly-fishing, Tubing, Boating, Shopping

Ashville is located in North Carolina and is one of the top places to visit in the U.S. The city has some scenic mountains located in its vicinity, famous for the popular summer hike. The historic architecture, including the dome-topped Basilica of Saint Lawrence, is what makes it a famed spot among tourists.

20. Denver, Colorado

Points of Interest: Denver Botanic Gardens, Coors Field
Best Things to Do: Sightseeing, Hiking, Exploring Natural Wonders

The capital city of Colorado, Denver, is located in the South Platte River Valley on the western edge of the High Plains. The city is a jumping-off point for exploring the rocky mountains located just an hour away. In Denver, the mild summers and snowy winters are the peak travel periods. Attractions like Red Rock Amphitheatre, the Denver Art Museum, and the Downtown Aquarium make it one of the top places to visit in the U.S.

19. Florida Keys, Florida

Points of Interest: Bahia Honda State Park, Duval Street
Best Things to Do: Boating, Fishing, Scuba Diving

The Florida Keys are a string of tropical islands stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean from the southern tip of Florida. The islands are famous for the water activities, such as scuba diving, boating, fishing, etc. Peak tourist season starts in late December and lasts through May due to Florida Keys’ subtropical climate. The Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon, one of the longest segmented bridges in the world,  draws big crowds.

18. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Points of Interest: Santa Fe Opera House, Santa Fe Plaza
Best Things to Do: Spas, Cultural Tours

Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, is considered as world’s greatest art city. The city has many art galleries and installations with many cultural highlights, including Santa Fe Plaza and the Palace of the Governors. The city also offers exceptional New Mexican cuisine, such as breakfast burritos and green chile stew. The tourists are attracted year-round by climate and related outdoor activities, which makes it one of the top places to visit in the U.S.

17. Portland, Oregon

Points of Interest: Pittock Mansion, Portland Japanese Garden
Best Things to Do: Cycling, Visiting Parks

Portland is the largest city in the state of Oregon and is a major port in the Willamette Valley. The city is famous for its food

truck scene, cool bars, and cocktail lounges. Portland’s climate is marked by warm, dry summers and cool, rainy winters, which is also very favorable for tourists. Moreover, companies like Nike, Inc. (NYSE: NKE) and Qorvo, Inc. (NASDAQ: QRVO) have offices in Portland.

16. San Antonio, Texas

Points of Interest: The Alamo, San Antonio River, River Walk
Best Things to Do: Strolling Along the River Walk, Shopping, Sightseeing

San Antonio is located in south-central Texas with a rich colonial heritage. Its deep history makes it one of the top places to visit in the U.S. The city is Texas’ most favorite historic site and attracts tourists with its museums, restaurants, and shops. San Antonio is mainly famous for River Walk; the miles-long landmark pedestrian promenade lined with cafes and shops. The peak travel in the city is from March to August.

15. Everglades, Florida

Points of Interest: Museum of Everglades, Gulf Coast Visitor Center
Best Things to Do: Outdoor Tours, Exploring Wildlife

Everglades is a 1.5 million-acre wetlands preserve on the southern tip of Florida. The place is home to hundreds of animal species and is made up of coastal mangroves, pine flatwoods, and sawgrass marshes. Everglades was established as a national park in 1934 and is only one hour drive from Miami. The park is one of the top places to visit in the U.S. as over 1 million people from all over the world tour here each year.

14. Sedona, Arizona

Points of Interest: Red Rock State Park
Best Things to Do: Biking, Jeep Tours, Hiking

Sedona is one of the top places to visit in the U.S., accented by the magnificent red rock formations. The city is famous for its natural landscapes, widely loved by tourists from all over the world. The red sandstone formations glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. Sedona has a rich art community, shopping areas, and spas.

13. Key West, Florida

Points of Interest: Truman Little White House, Mallory Square
Best Things to Do: Beach Cruises, Sightseeing

Key West is the southernmost point in the United States and a part of scenic Florida Keys. The island is famous for its quirky atmosphere, with beaches and deep-sea fishing experience. It is one of the top places to visit in the U.S., especially in spring because of its beachy vibes. Key West is also famous for traditional homes and memorable locations, attracting a lot of tourists year-long.

12. Breckenridge, Colorado

Points of Interest: Boreas Pass Road, Vail Pass Path
Best Things to Do: Snowshoeing, Sledding, Boating

Breckenridge is the top ski Colorado town, best known for its ski resort, alpine activities, and Breckenridge Ski Resort. It has over 3,000 acres of mountain terrain for skiing. The place is perfect for a summer vacation as the temperature is ideal, which calls for many outdoor activities. Hiking trails, mountain biking, boating, white water rafting, etc., are some of the many activities that are enjoyed by the tourists in Breckenridge.

11. Sonoma, California

Points of Interest: Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, Cline Cellars
Best Things to Do: Biking, Wine Tasting, Visiting Parks

Located at the heart of the renowned Sonoma Valley, Sonoma is known as part of the Wine Country. The city is best known for its art galleries, vineyards, and Sonoma Plaza. It is also home to Sonoma International Film Festival, which began in 1997 and takes place each year in April. Sonoma is one of the top places to visit in the U.S. as tourists spend here over $2.23 billion every year.

10. Honolulu, Hawaii

Points of Interest: Iolani Palace, Diamond Head State Monument
Best Things to Do: Dining, Shopping, Exploring the Nightlife

Honolulu is the capital and the largest city of Hawaii, located in the Pacific Ocean. It is famous for Waikiki Beach, which attracts millions of tourists each year. Honolulu is the major hub for international business, finance, and military defense, and is Hawaii’s main gateway to the world. The year-round pleasant weather also makes it one of the top places to visit in the U.S.

9. Big Sur, California

Points of Interest: McWay Falls, Bixby Bridge
Best Things to Do: Camping, Hiking, and Beachcombing

Big Sur is a mountainous and somewhat rugged section of the Central Coast of California. The place is frequently praised for its breathtaking scenery. The name of the town was derived from the unexplored and unmapped wilderness area along the coast south of Monterey. Big Sur has a temperate climate, especially during the spring and fall, which makes it a desirable place in the country. Winters are mild and rainy days are interspersed with periods of bright sunshine. The filming of HBO’s show ‘Big Little Lies’ in Big Sur resulted in the influx of tourists in 2019.

8. Savannah, Georgia

Points of Interest: Savannah Historic District, Tybee Island
Best Things to Do: Sightseeing, Shopping, Visiting Art Galleries

Savannah is one of the oldest cities in the state of Georgia. It was established in 1733 on the Savannah River and is rich in history, hospitality, and natural beauty. It is one of the top places to visit in the U.S. which attracts millions of tourists every year to its charming scenes, beaches, and river views. The city has a lot of parks, including the Forsyth Park, which offers lovely scenery and recreational activities. Tybee Island and the Oatland Island Wildlife Center are located near Savannah, which tourists can make short trips to and enjoy the beaches and native wildlife species.

7. Yosemite National Park, California

Points of Interest: Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Tunnel View
Best Things to Do: Fishing, Swimming, Boating

Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Yosemite National Park is best known for its massive sequoia trees. The place is famous for hiking, mountain climbing, camping, and viewing wildfires. The tourists are attracted to granite cliffs, waterfalls, lakes, meadows, mountains, etc., and 95% of the park is designated wilderness.

6. New Orleans, Louisiana

Points of Interest: New Orleans City Park, Jackson Square
Best Things to Do: Cultural Tours, River Cruises

New Orleans is a city in the state of Louisiana and is located along the Mississippi River. The city is a major economic and commercial hub for the Gulf Coast Region and also serves as the major port. Known as ‘Big Easy’, it has become very famous among tourists for its relaxed vibes, diverse culture, and a vibrant nightlife. New Orleans is the host to Mardi Gras, a late-winter festival that is famous for costume parades and street parties. Moreover, the city is also home to Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR), which is ranked 293rd on Fortune 500. Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR) is an energy company that delivers electricity to over 2.9 million customers in the U.S.

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Disclosure: No stakes in United Airlines Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: UAL),  Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR),  Nike, Inc. (NYSE: NKE), Qorvo, Inc. (NASDAQ: QRVO), American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL)

Top 25 Places to Visit in the US is originally published on Insider Monkey.