Made up of 50 states, the U.S. is packed with world class cities, each one with its own story. From the island of Hawaii to the Great Lakes, the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, American cities range in their historic and cultural features ensuring there’s a one for everyone.

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Anchorage, Alaska

The city of Anchorage is where almost 40 percent of Alaska’s population resides and, with a subarctic climate, visitors should plan accordingly. Fortunately, the cool temperatures don’t mean you’ll be stuck inside. Skiing is an obvious hit, with two areas (Arctic Valley Ski Area and Hilltop Ski Area) available for enthusiasts within city limits. And if the weather doesn’t permit outdoor fun, be sure to check out the Alaska Native Heritage Center, or the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

 

Photo by Michael Miller

Atlanta, Georgia

The capital of Georgia is a storied city of the American South. Much of its history is represented in the city’s entertainment and culture, which draw from the traditions of its warm and vibrant neighborhoods. Some highlights include the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site and the Center for Civil and Human Rights. After this dose of history, don’t forget to sample the best of this state’s southern cuisine, available from a mix of old school diners and modern eateries (especially along the famous Peachtree Street).

Baltimore, Maryland

Nestled on the ocean just 40 miles from Washington, D.C., the harbor city of Baltimore is a diverse location with much to see and even more to do. With its proximity to water, the Inner Harbour is the perfect area to explore, grab some of the best food in the city, and attend annual events like the Fourth of July Fireworks. For arts lovers, there are always great exhibits at both the American Visionary Art Museum and the Walters Art Museum. The city also takes pride in its local music scene, which can be heard at venues like Pier Six Pavilion or Cat’s Eye Pub.

Boston, Massachusetts

While in Boston, it’s hard to not get caught up in the atmosphere of the city: the neighborhood accents, the sports fans, the river, and the history that has fused it all together since the 17th century. With roughly 600,000 people burrowed into the city’s core, Boston bustles with activity. Visit the famous Harvard college campus, stroll through the Public Gardens, visit the historic Boston Tea Party Ships, or catch a baseball game at Fenway Park.

Photo by Yanan Aurora
Photo by Yanan Aurora

Charleston, South Carolina

Often overshadowed by larger cities, Charleston, South Carolina consistently and quietly draws visitors in. As a coastal hub, the streets of Charleston all lead toward the water, the cheerful, pastel-hued homes building a colorful surrounding for the noteworthy Waterfront Park. The city also provides a home base for neighboring beaches, which can be enjoyed almost year round. Stroll away from the water and you’ll encounter quaint cobblestone, side streets, which fill the veins of the city with culture and tranquility.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Just 200 miles north of Charleston and across the state line, is Charlotte, North Carolina. One of the fastest growing cities in the country, Charlotte is a blend of experiences: You can walk along streets lined with Bradford pear trees en route to the NASCAR Museum, and stop in at the Freedom Park before attending a professional football game.

Photo by Ruben Clavell
Photo by Elliot Vernon
Photo by Ruben Clavell

Chicago, Illinois

On the shores of Lake Michigan lies one of the most iconic urban destinations in America. Following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which devastated much of the city, Chicago experienced one of the largest rebuilds in the country’s history. Today, it features a beautiful skyline, and is enlivened by incredible architecture — which includes numerous public art exhibits like the well-known Cloud Gate — and an envious live music scene.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Situated in the Ohio Valley, Cincinnati is the third-largest city in the state. Just north of the Kentucky state line, this Midwestern city features street festivals for both music and food, a burgeoning craft beer scene, several major league sports teams (the baseball team is the oldest professional club), and European-style architecture.

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Photo by Dennis Petkovsek

Denver, Colorado

Exactly one mile above sea level, Denver (nicknamed the “Mile High City”) is a sweet blend of Old West-era establishments and modern day design. To see the city’s history, step back in time at the unforgettable Larimer Square. Denver is also home to the second largest Performing Arts Center in the U.S. and is the perfect starting spot for trips into the snow-capped Rocky Mountains.

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit’s modern-day mission seems to be a revitalization of the city’s image to put this industrial capital back on the metaphorical map. As the home of Motown music, this Michigan city has made, and continues to make, significant waves in America’s music scene. As a river city, Detroit history is secured by monuments such as the 150 year old Public Library and the Henry Ford Museum, a homage to the industry that propelled Detroit to fame.

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Photo by Ruolin Zhang

Honolulu, Hawaii

Off the mainland of America are the islands of Hawaii, captained by its largest and most recognizable city, Honolulu. From golden beaches to crystal blue waves for surfing and snorkeling to lush rainforests — it’s hard to find something not mesmerizing about Honolulu, especially when an avid nightlife scene in Waikiki and historic monuments memorializing the Pearl Harbor attacks are added to the equation.

Houston, Texas

With a population of 2.3 million, Houston is the largest city in the state of Texas and one of the largest cities in the nation. It is home to the Houston Space Center (the official Visitor Center of NASA), and one of the most visited museums of natural science in the country. This city also features two recreational parks within the compact downtown area.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis is a Midwestern city with a population of just under one million people, making it the largest in the region. Founded in 1821, the city has been referred to as the “Crossroads of America” due to the sheer number of interstate highways that converge near the city. Big draws within the municipality are the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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Las Vegas, Nevada

Primarily known as a resort destination, Las Vegas proudly carries the self-titled claim as “The Entertainment Capital of the World.” Lights, flash, and cash distinguish the famous Las Vegas Strip, which is just south of the official city limits. The area is brimming with the bright lights of casinos, restaurants, and clubs, creating an endless spree of tourist attractions.

Los Angeles, California

With a population of nearly four million, Los Angeles is America’s second largest city. L.A. sprawls with attractions and is internationally renowned for being home to countless celebrities and icons of Hollywood — the city’s most famous neighborhood. The city is also well-known for its beaches and the legendary areas of Santa Monica and Venice Beach.

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Photo by @bay.photography

Miami, Florida

Miami is most well-known for the neighborhood of South Beach, which epitomizes the lifestyle of southern Florida. With long stretches of white sand, turquoise water, and colorful art deco architecture, Miami is a vibrant and colorful place with a bustling nightlife, Latin-American cultural influences, and consistently warm weather.

Photo by Petra Leary
Photo by Eric Ward

Minneapolis, Minnesota

One half of Minnesota’s “Twin Cities,” Minneapolis is the state’s largest city. Surprisingly, the Mississippi River runs right through the urban center, adding to the undeniable influence of water in the nearby area and emphasizing Minnesota’s “10,000 Lakes” slogan. The waterways make accessing some of the state’s best parks and recreation sites easy.

Nashville, Tennessee

Full of cowboy boots and barbequed food, Nashville is a warm and welcoming city built on its music scene. As the capital city of Tennessee, Nashville is a storied for both up-and-coming and established musicians, most notably for country artists, as well as some of the biggest music festivals in the nation.

Photo by Andrew Jorgie

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is a stylish and lively city of almost 400,000 people. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, this is an area that fuses diverse cultures — French, American, and African — and celebrates the differences that have seasoned the city over the years as a result. This combination of traditions is represented beautifully through the two-week Mardi-Gras festival that happens each year.

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New York City, New York

New York City is a place with something for everyone. People flock to “The Big Apple” from all corners of the world with hopes and dreams, and are rarely disappointed. Central Park, The Empire State Building, Times Square — the list goes on. And not to mention it features five different neighborhood boroughs packed full of things to see.

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is often referred to “the City of Brotherly Love,” and boasts a long list of historic sites and monuments, highlighted by the one and only Liberty Bell. The area is also full of universities, which adds to the city’s lively population. Other points of interest are Fairmount Park and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Sylvester Stallone made his famous stairway ascent in the movie “Rocky.”

Phoenix, Arizona

The biggest city in what is considered the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix is also the fifth largest city in the U.S. This city draws millions of tourists each year, which can be attributed to its inviting and subtropical desert climate. Must-sees for visitors are the Phoenix Botanical Gardens, South Mountain Park, and the city’s zoo — the largest privately owned zoo in the country.

Photo by Thibaut Buccellato

Portland, Oregon

Delicious pastries, great music, endless breweries and cideries — Portland seems to have it all. With the Columbia River snaking through the city, there are constant events on the waterfront, and small nooks packed with plenty of bookstores and shops waiting to be explored. And, if you feel like venturing further into the state of Oregon, there are countless day trips — like to Mount Hood — to be made into the nearby wilderness and coastal regions.

San Diego, California

A mere 120 miles south of Los Angeles, the harbor city of San Diego is one of the best places in the country to experience the tasteful collision of American and Mexican cultures. With great beaches, vibrant gardens, and favorable weather, San Diego is worth adding to any California itinerary.

Photo by Thibaut Buccellato

San Francisco, California

Consistently at the top of many best American cities lists, San Francisco is a melting pot for art and culture. Much more than its famous Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Area as a whole features an abundance of vibrancy, packing in great food and wine, public transportation, and breathtaking views.

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Photo by Wendy of Nomadic Fare

Seattle, Washington

Seattle is the hub of the Pacific Northwest, situated only 100 miles or so from the Canadian border. Squeezed between Puget Sound and Lake Washington and home to roughly 700,000 people, Seattle is also known for playing host to tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft. On top of economic prowess, the city offers amazing markets and parks filled with towering evergreens, as well as the impressive Space Needle observation tower.

 

 

St. Louis, Missouri

Situated on the western banks of the Mississippi River is St. Louis, a city best known for its iconic Gateway Arch which happens to be the tallest monument in the country at 630 feet (192 meters). The arch can be found in the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, also home to the Old St. Louis County Courthouse. This area also offers river cruises, which can be a great way to explore and see the city from different vantage points.

Photo by Dorrell Mccadney
Photo by Can Ahtam

Washington D.C.

Squeezed between the states of Maryland and Virginia, the nation’s capital is separate from other cities due to its abundance of historical monuments. Here, you will find a landmark (or 10!) featured on American currency, like the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. And, although the District of Columbia is not recognized as an official state (the land was donated by Maryland and Virginia in 1791), this city hosts an exciting glimpse into America’s history and democracy.

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Brad Donaldson is a writer and editor proudly based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although his roots are in Canada, his desire to see more of the world frequently takes him away from home. His work, both as an editor and writer, has appeared in local newspapers and publications, most recently showcased through the co-founding of his former university's inaugural creative writing journal.