One would be hard-pressed to find a better-traveled bunch of folks than the readers of Travel + Leisure. You’ve scaled Kilimanjaro and sailed to Antarctica; scarfed kouign-amann in Paris and raised a glass of genever in Amsterdam; spotted whale sharks in the Andaman Sea and trailed elephants in Botswana. But as the most seasoned globetrotters know, there are adventures to be had anywhere you look — and the possibilities to be found in your own backyard are limitless. That’s why, as part of our annual World’s Best Awards, we bring you not merely Tahitian overwater bungalows and a lineup of dreamy faraway destinations but also lists like this one, which highlights the most beloved places to go within your own country.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.
Related: The World’s Best Awards 2019
The experiences you can have in the places on this list couldn’t be more wildly different. Whether you’re after a romantic weekend close to home or a lengthy, adventure-packed family vacation, one or more of the cities on the list is sure to fit the bill. In Washington, D.C. (No. 15), there’s history, culture, and fantastic food — and with so many free museums, there’s no better place to see some of the finest art and artifacts in the world without emptying your wallet. Said one fan, “So much to see with all the museums and loved the Metro which is so fast and convenient.”
Honolulu, in 10th place this year, has white-sand beaches, the fast pace and glamour of Waikiki, and a bevy of adventure activities, from scuba diving and helicopter rides to coastal hikes with unbeatable views. (Don’t forget to eat your weight in poke and malasadas while you’re there.) One reader gushed, “Only a person who does not care for paradise would not like Honolulu!”
Related: The Best 15 City Hotels in the Continental United States
Head to seventh-place winner Nashville to hit the honky-tonks, lunch at a meat-and-three, marvel at the Frist Art Museum’s Art Deco architecture and ever-changing galleries, and scarf Prince’s Hot Chicken until your nose runs and your cheeks turn red. “There is live music everywhere you go, with cool rooftop bars, and a crazy fun main strip,” recalled one reader. “The other side of the river where the locals hang out has a lot of secret, amazing restaurants and breweries.”
Ahead, the full list of top cities in the U.S. — including our readers’ ever-popular No. 1 pick.
15. Washington, D.C.
14. San Francisco
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 80.48
13. Williamsburg, Virginia
12. Taos, New Mexico
11. San Antonio
9. Austin, Texas
8. Asheville, North Carolina
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 83.25
5. New York City
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 84.04
4. Savannah, Georgia
3. New Orleans
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 86.06
2. Santa Fe, New Mexico
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 86.59
1. Charleston, South Carolina
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 87.04
There are endless reasons to love Charleston: The dreamy Spanish-moss-draped oaks. The candy-colored row houses. The punches-above-its-weight food scene. The history. “Southern charm at its best!” declared one fan. Its magic, perhaps, lies in an alchemy of old and new, genteel and unpretentious, city glamour and nature at your fingertips. “Rainbow Row is an absolute Instagram dream, and the Zero George Hotel oozes charm,” wrote one architecture enthusiast. “And the homes on Legare Street are so special. I think about them often.” If you’re a skeptic, raising eyebrows at the hype, the only thing to do is plan a visit for yourself. (Don’t worry, we won’t say we told you so.)
See all of our readers’ favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World’s Best Awards for 2019.
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