These vibrant Cities Belong on your USA Itinerary This year
No Travel series featuring cities and far off destinations around the world would be complete without including one of the largest and powerful countries in the world – the USA. I asked some of my travel writer friends to choose their favourites. Here are the nominees for the vibrant cities that should be on your USA Itinerary this year.
New York City, New York
Without a doubt, New York City, USA is clearly the best city in the world! Yes, that’s a bold statement, but hear me out. Not only is this city home to some of the most iconic structures in the world, like the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty, but this melting pot of international culture is a place that embraces individuality and as a result, makes anyone and everyone feel welcome.
Plus, this fast paced metropolis is always changing and growing, creating a never-ending variety of things to do, places to explore, and foods to eat. So between the world-class concerts, innovative Broadway plays, and astounding art museums, anyone and everyone can feel at home while walking through the massive billboards and televisions that create the pulsating, electric hum of Times Square.
But, step away from the frantic pace of Mid-Town and Grand Central Terminal, and you will find a quieter world of locals who live in an eclectic assortment of neighborhoods that will excite you with stunning architecture and amazing local eateries. Between the quirky coffee shops, authentic pizzerias, and bakeries that serve every bagel flavor imaginable, your stomach and soul will never tire of this vivacious urban oasis.
Not shy of accolades, Colorado has won numerous awards for it’s year-round attractions, accessibility, sustainability, innovation, and overall quality of life. Attracting millennials in droves, it’s an appealing destination for it’s outdoor recreation opportunities, winter and summer sports, and its hip, young vibe. Famed mountain towns like Vail, Aspen, and Breckenridge are playgrounds for both extreme and casual adventure enthusiasts and photogenic any time of the year. You’ll never be bored with the variety of activities from hiking, biking, skiing, and whitewater rafting to more unique pursuits like dog-sledding, rock climbing, ski biking, and hot springs hopping.
In Denver, the capital, boasts a distinctly urban, modern vibe with a plethora of small plate farm to table restaurants, food halls, rooftop bars and patios, and places to toss one back. Dubbed “the Napa Valley of Beer,” the city quickly cemented itself as the beer capital of America, with a microbrewery, pub or tap house on virtually every corner. The street art is colorful and plentiful, and murals decorate the different neighborhoods. With 300+ days of sunshine a year, it’s a great place to get outside, bike the paths, or enjoy one of the many city parks. Live music is a staple of the scene with indie bands performing at intimate venues around town. The must-see concert venue remains Red Rocks, the most acoustically perfect, naturally occurring amphitheater in the world where shows are simply described as transcendental.
Nominated by Yulia of The Foodie Miles, Instagram
You can wonder off the trail and explore one of the neighborhoods like Beacon Hill with its red brick buildings and cobblestone streets that’ll make you feel like you were instantly transported to Europe.
Last, but not least, autumn in Boston is so insanely beautiful it’s hard to describe with words. You just have to see it for yourself!
Nominated by Patti of the Savvy Globetrotter, Facebook
My hometown of Chicago easily gets my nomination for best destination. One of the largest cities in the United States, Chicago offers a large variety of indoor and outdoor things to do and see, has friendly locals and is easy to navigate by foot or public transportation. Famed for a beautiful skyline dotted with skyscrapers, this city is just as impressive from all angles. Whether a fan of architecture, food, music, festivals, culture, museums, shopping, urban exploring, beaches, water or green space, Chicago is sure to please. Visitors should definitely not miss the Chicago Riverwalk – a pedestrian walkway along the Chicago River that offers great views of the city’s impressive architecture and is a great spot to walk, jog, rent a bike or just sit and relax.
Book a Tour: Chicago River Architecture Cruise
If you enjoy being on water, rent a kayak, hop on a water taxi or take an architecture cruise on the river or jump on a boat on Lake Michigan. If being indoors is more your thing or you’re visiting on a really cold or hot day, check out some of Chicago’s many renowned museums and cultural institutions or dine at one of the many restaurants offering every type of cuisine you can imagine. Chicago is a special gem of a city that really has something for every visitor, no matter what their interests whether foodies, singles looking for nightlife, couples looking for romance or families looking for fun and active things to do with kids.
Nominated by Justine of Wanderer of the World, Instagram
My nomination for the Traveller’s Academy Awards and Oscars goes to Hilo in Hawaii; for which, there are a number of reasons why.
On The Big Island of Hawaii, it’s possible to see flaming volcanoes in the Volcano National Park, stargaze from over 9,000 ft up Mauna Kea mountain and hike through volcanic craters, such as Kīlauea Iki crater. And Hilo, one of the largest towns found on The Big Island, is a superb base from which to sightsee and get involved with activities as most top sights are less than an hour’s drive from the town.
Alongside this, Hilo is also home to many beach parks, which are not only quiet and beautiful, but are also excellent for snorkelling or scuba-diving. There’s one particular beach park that I’d definitely recommend to other globetrotters, which is Keaukaha Beach Park. The water is crystal clear and the beach park seems to be made up of multiple mini islands!
And finally, when in downtown Hilo, one of the restaurants here called Hilo Bay Cafe has some of the most delicious food I’ve come across in a long time and for excellent prices. I’d highly recommend the Mango Cheesecake for dessert!
If you do decide to embark on a trip to Hilo (and you totally should), then I’d suggest staying at Arnott’s Lodge. When staying here, you can get discounts off tours to Mauna Kea, Volcano National Park, Rainbow Falls and a number of other top attractions. How’s that for more bang for your buck?
San Francisco, California
I nominate San Francisco as best destination because it is unlike any other city in the world – and I’ve seen a lot of cities. It offers, like many cities, anything a tourist might want: top-quality museums; a buzzing cultural scene; a diverse, multi-cultural population; and wonderful shopping and eating at all price levels.
What makes San Francisco stand out from other cities, though, is its atmosphere, both in terms of its “vibe” and its beauty. San Francisco is a friendly, open place, where people feel welcome no matter their ethnicity, their sexual identity, their sexual preference or their lifestyle. It’s a hotbed of innovation, both in creative fields like art, performance, music and design and in terms of technology and digital start-ups.
It’s also the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen, built on a hilly peninsula. As the breeze blows away the morning fog and the sky turns a crisp blue, you can climb past brightly-painted rows of Victorians and Edwardians to the top of any hill and get jaw-dropping views in all directions. You might glimpse the skyscraper-filled skyline of downtown, or the famous Golden Gate Bridge, or notorious Alcatraz prison on its rock in San Francisco Bay. How could any city beat that?
Nominated by Julia of The Freckled Tourist, Instagram
Nashville, Tennessee deserves to be nominated as one of the best destinations in the world for many reasons. This U.S. city has amazing food, awesome nightlife, and an incredible music scene. Nashville is known as the country music capital of the world and it certainly lives up to its name! You’ll find no shortage of music museums, gift shops, and venues with nightly concerts. But if museums aren’t your cup of tea and a concert is a bit out of your price range, head downtown and stop in one of the many bars that have live music every day and night.
With bars like Honky Tonk and Coyote Ugly you’ll be guaranteed an awesome night out every day of the week. When you’re not enjoying the music scene, you’ll be devouring the delicious food this city has to offer. Nashville is known for “hot chicken” which is basically just spicy fried chicken and it is amazing! Most restaurants offer it so it’s not hard to find. Make sure to get in line for brunch on the weekends, even though the wait can be up to 2 hours it is so worth it! After you’ve successfully filled yourself with the amazing food this city has to offer, take an Uber over to the Parthenon which will make you feel like you’ve transported to Greece for the day. With so much to offer including food, music, and history, Nashville is a city that is not to be missed.
Book a Tour: Nashville: Grand Ole Opry, Behind The Scenes Tour
Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park in Utah, USA, is a utopia of thrilling hikes and stunning sandstone vistas. Utah’s first established national park, Zion encapsulates the awe-inspiring beauty of this state’s unique geological landscape.
A free shuttle bus will transport you along the winding Scenic Drive under the saintly gaze of towering monoliths to various destinations offering different adventures. Park regulations prohibit cars from driving this main road during tourist season, preventing air pollution and the tedious congestion you tend to find in the likes of Glacier and Yellowstone parks. Campground facilities are clean, quiet and often attract a few friendly deer!
If you like water, the route to the Narrows leads you on an exciting journey up river into an enchanting gorge, where you wade past canyon walls decorated with distinctive natural patterns. If you like heights, the hike to Angel’s Landing is the real highlight of this park. A challenging 2-mile ascending route includes walking along narrow paths with stomach-churning drops of over 1000 feet off the side, and ends with incredibly rewarding views over a sprawling valley of majestic stone monuments, cottonwood trees and winding rivers.
Whatever activity you choose to do, exploring this park will make you feel like you’re on the set of a fantasy action film. And as if Zion wasn’t fantastic enough, the town of Springdale just outside the park is home to the most amazing Mexican restaurant – Oscar’s Cafe. With burgers, tacos and desserts highly deserving of the award the café shares its name with, a lunch here is the perfect end to a few days of exploring all the opportunities this extraordinary destination has to offer.
New Orleans, Lousiana
Nominated by Brianna of The Casual Travelist, Instagram
There is no other city in the world quite like New Orleans. Take a dynamic mix of Spanish,French and Afro-Caribbean influences; add in some soulful music and throw in some amazing food and you get one of the most distinct and diverse cities in the world. The French Quarter is most reflective of New Orleans’ heritage and history, with colorful townhomes and greenery lushly draped over wrought iron balconies. Drunken revelers head to Bourbon Street, but I recommend bypassing that for the cafes, boutiques and galleries of Chartres and Royal Streets. Street musicians line every corner of the French Quarter but true jazz aficionados take their tunes at nearby Preservation Hall, one of the oldest jazz clubs in New Orleans.
Book a Tour: New Orleans: Food History Tour
For a more genteel side of New Orleans make your way uptown toward the Garden District. Home to the country’s largest collection of antebellum architecture grand mansions and lavish Southern style gardens are the hallmarks of this neighborhood. Once you’re done admiring these gorgeous homes be sure to take a stroll through Lafayette Cemetery for a glimpse into how New Orleans honors its past.
After taking in all the sights you’re going to be hungry, and in New Orleans that is a good thing. A stop at Cafe du Monde for beignets and chicory cafe au lait is a must for any trip to New Orleans, or for a bigger appetite go for a classic po’boy sandwich at Johnny’s. Commander’s Palace reigns as the grande dame of “haute Creole”cuisine while Brennen’s offers up one of the best brunches in the US.
New Orleans is the kind of place that stays with you, once you’ve experienced her joie de vive you’ll be joining in the chorus of “laissez les bon temps rouler!”, or let the good times roll!
So there you have the nominated cities that belong on your USA itinerary. Which would you include? I know that I am hoping to see New Orleans in the next couple of years!
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Fill My Passport collaborated with other travel writers on this post. All opinions are our own and none was influenced by Fill My Passport.