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We all have our go-to vacation destinations—the places that dot your daydreams and find their way onto your physical itineraries time and time again. For those who live here, getting to many of the most visited cities in the US is relatively simple thanks to daily flights and the multitude of iconic American road trips. From the bustling energy of New York City to the showmanship of Las Vegas, the beauty of the United States is that every urban center has its own personality, luring travelers in for a taste of its distinct culture. Visitors come in droves to immerse themselves in city life, whether that's with a side of sunshine or skyscrapers.
To help dig into the destinations travelers are honing in on, we looked at the International Trade Administration's data as it clocked in overseas travelers’ visitation last year (2023 data is forthcoming) to see which big cities are getting the most traffic. Without further ado, here are the top nine most visited cities in America—and the reasons people can't get enough of them.
1. New York City
Annual overseas visitation: 6.99 million
The beauty of New York City never sleeping is that it’s constantly evolving. In recent years, the city’s iconic staples—the Empire State Building, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty—have been joined by fresh landmarks like The Edge (the western hemisphere’s highest outdoor sky platform), Summit One Vanderbilt (a high-tech observation deck in Manhattan’s tallest skyscraper), the Museum of Broadway (an immersive exhibit through the history of the Great White Way), and Gansevoort Peninsula (Manhattan’s first sandy beach).
Even longtime staples have found ways to reinvent themselves. The American Museum of Natural History debuted a new $465 million Richard Gilder Center for Science wing this past spring, Top of the Rock just launched The Beam experience for visitors to recreate the iconic 1932 ironworkers lunch photo, and The Tour at NBC Studios reopened last month with four new video exhibits. Buzzy new hotels are also on the city scene, like the recently opened The Fifth Avenue Hotel in Nomad, The Warren Street Hotel (opening this February in Tribeca), and The Surrey, A Corinthia Hotel, New York (opening next spring on the Upper East Side). The top of the year is one of the best times to visit, with NYC Hotel Week offering up to 24 percent off rooms, Broadway Week with two-for-one tickets, and Restaurant Week serving up prix fixe menus at a discount.
Annual overseas visitation: 4.09 million
Come for the beach, stay for the culture—there’s no doubt that there’s always a good time to be had in Miami. But while it used to revolve mainly around South Beach and Ocean Drive, where it was all about seeing and being seen, the range of experiences is so much richer these days.
Take, for example, the neighborhood of Wynwood. The former garment district had fallen into disarray until a renaissance started in the early 2000s—in the form of graffiti art. Now 35,000 square feet of walls are covered by colorful murals at Wynwood Walls, transforming the entire area into arguably the hippest district right now. Visit the Museum of Graffiti, Nader Art Museum Latin America, and Bakehouse Arts Complex, before grabbing a bite at Spanglish Craft Cocktail Bar + Kitchen, Zak the Baker, or the Japanese speakeasy Hiden.
Elsewhere in Magic City, the 10-mile-long urban park The Underline is opening in phases; a new branch of Soho House, Miami Pool House, is set to open in 2024; and the city’s highest tower, the whimsical 1,049-foot-tall Waldorf Astoria Residences is taking over the skyline.
Annual overseas visitation: 2.92 million
Endless family fun draws visitors from all over the world to Orlando year-round, thanks to the allure of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, and Legoland Florida Resort. To add to the list, the first new theme park in decades is on its way: Universal Epic Universe, which will include a Super Nintendo World and is set to welcome guests in 2025.
Contrasting the fantastical experiences, Orlando is also filled with natural experiences. Take your pick from birding at Gatorland Bird Rookery, kayaking with Epic Paddle Adventures, or zip lining at Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Garden. Also notable: an eco-friendly, faster rail service Brightline, traveling between Miami, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach debuted in September. For large groups seeking some sunshine, the long-anticipated Evermore Resort—opening January 1, 2024—is specifically built for crowds, offering two- to 11-bedroom vacation rentals.
4. Los Angeles
Annual overseas visitation: 2.75 million
The spotlight always shines so naturally on Los Angeles that it’s easy to overlook the fact that the southern California hub has grown up right in front of our eyes—and continues to do so. Always-trendy neighborhoods like Silver Lake and West Hollywood mix with those finding new life in recent years like Downtown’s Arts District and Culver City. LA's 75 miles of coastline is boosted by the glamor of the film and television industry, marked by the iconic Hollywood Sign celebrating its 100th anniversary this month. And getting an inside look at all the movie magic is easier than ever these days, with four studios bringing visitors onto their working studio lots: Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, Sony Pictures Studio Tour, Paramount Studio Tour, and the original, Universal Studios Hollywood, with its trademark backlot tram tour celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2024.
This February marks the opening of Destination Crenshaw, four acres of cultural space with pocket parks and the country’s largest Black-led public art project. Also next year, the Natural History Museum will debut a $75 million project, NHM Commons, adding 75,000 square feet of space, while LACMA is set to open a new David Geffen Galleries building for its permanent collection. To top it off, the Intuit Dome will become the new home court of the Los Angeles Clippers.
All over the city, distinct boutique hotels are capturing L.A.’s personality in their own ways. Old-school Hollywood class and sass shines at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, while a chill, laid-back downtown vibe radiates at The Hoxton, where the rooftop bar has a direct view of the Crypto.com Arena, which will unveil a bronze Kobe Bryant statue in February. Other recent openings include The Shay in Culver City, The Winfield in DTLA’s Jewelry District, and Alsace LA Hotel in West Adams.
5. San Francisco
Annual overseas visitation: 1.74 million
There's too much to do in San Francisco in a single visit, which may be precisely why it's among the five most visited cities in the US: Hop on a cable car, drive down curvy Lombard Street, climb to the top of Coit Tower, eat your way through the country’s oldest Chinatown, and even go bison-gazing in Golden Gate Park. The Presidio Tunnel Tops, which opened in 2022, has quickly become one of the new favorite public spaces, while the Landing at Leidesdorff pedestrian space offers pop-up cultural programming. Beloved museum The Exploratorium has opened a public art project in Civic Center Plaza, Middle Ground: Reconsidering Ourselves and Others. Experiences are also going more high-tech, as origami store Paper Tree launched an augmented reality origami tour in partnership with Adobe.
This fall, the Asian Art Museum opened its East West Bank Art Terrace, a 7,500-square-foot with city views. The 654-acre Filoli recently made headlines when President Joe Biden visited in November—the Georgian revival mansion and 16 acres of English gardens are located about 30 minutes south of the city in Woodside. New hotels are opening in full force, including The Jay in Jackson Square, Hotel Julian in Nob Hill, and SoMa House in the south of Market District.
6. Las Vegas
Annual overseas visitation: 1.66 million
As Google’s top searched flight destination of 2023, no doubt your social media feeds have been trending with footage from the many concerts—namely U2—at The Sphere, proof that Las Vegas always knows how to put on a show. The Irish band continues its debut series on select dates through March and will hand off the baton to Phish in April, but visitors can always immerse themselves in the stadium at The Sphere Experience. The city also set the scene for the first Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix last month and will continue to steal the show by hosting Super Bowl LVII in February.
Events aside, Vegas is also experiencing a new wave of celebrity-helmed eateries. Last year, the Jonas Brothers’ family’s Nellie’s Southern Kitchen opened in MGM Grand, bringing the distinct flavors of its original Belmont, North Carolina, location’s home cooking to The Strip. The Bedford by Martha Stewart also opened in 2022, modeled after her 1925 farmhouse in upstate New York, and Blake Shelton will be opening a branch of his Ole Red next month. The hotel scene also got a major boost this month with the opening of Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a 3,600-key mega hotel with a 150,000-square-foot casino. Fun fact: Justin Timberlake, Tom Brady, Cher, and Paul Anka all attended its opening celebration.
7. Washington, D.C.
Annual overseas visitation: 1.17 million
The best thing about visiting the nation’s capital is that the itinerary writes itself. Just head to the Washington Monument, and you’ll be right in the center of The Mall, with the Lincoln Memorial to the west, the White House to the north, the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin to the south, the Capitol on the east, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to your southwest. And all around the circumference are Smithsonian museums—all free of charge—for every interest. (Note that free timed-entry passes are required for the popular National Air and Space Museum.)
But venture further and newcomers are complementing the historic center. Planet Word, an immersive museum about the origins of language, opened in 2020 in a historic schoolhouse. Across the way, the Asian American-owned Eaton DC merges a hip hotel with community living. After a two-year renovation, the National Museum of Women in the Arts has reopened, and the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden is being spruced up ahead of its 50th anniversary next year. And just making its debut in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery is a portrait of Oprah Winfrey, which will be on display through October 20, 2024.
The Wharf district also expanded last year, bringing along with it Pendry Washington DC - The Wharf. Also new in town: the 807-room Westin Washington, DC Downtown, putting fitness at the forefront with the city’s biggest exercise studio, a 10,000-square-foot space, and a spotlight on its RunWestin program with routes throughout the capital—one of the best ways to truly get to know the city.
Annual overseas visitation: 1.06 million
There's a good reason Condé Nast Traveler readers have voted for Chicago as the best big city in the country for the seventh year running. After all, the Midwestern hub blends together the most vibrant elements: striking architecture (best experienced on a river cruise tour), expansive museums (the lakeside Field Museum has more than 40 million artifacts and specimens), and eateries helmed by top chefs (Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat remains a game-changing favorite, while Virtue’s Damarr Brown won a James Beard Award for emerging chef).
Wander through Millennium Park, with its trademark Cloud Gate structure (better known as The Bean), pop into The Art Institute of Chicago, catch a game at Wrigley Field, stroll The 606 elevated trail—and of course, make time for a Chicago hot dog and deep-dish pizza (Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company flips the pie over on your plate). New accommodations this fall include the Neighborhood Hotel in Little Italy and The St. Regis Chicago in the world’s tallest building designed by a female architect.
Annual overseas visitation: 738,000
Boston is a city that's always on the move—and it encourages visitors to do the same. One of the best ways to dive deep into its history is by following the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, connecting 16 of the most significant sites ranging from Boston Common to Bunker Hill Monument. Last year, the Innovation Trail made its debut going from downtown to Cambridge, tracing more than 400 years of scientific breakthroughs rooted in the city. This past summer also marked the opening of the Walking City Trail, connecting 17 neighborhoods on a 27-mile path. Don't forget about the city's most famous route: the Boston Marathon, the most elite of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors runs, which is set to take the streets again for the 128th time on April 15, 2024.
But of course, there’s plenty of downtime to be had as well. Grab a drink with Sam and the gang at the Cheers Boston bar (head upstairs for a replica of the set), dine at The Newbury Boston’s rooftop restaurant Contessa (don’t miss the squash carpaccio), and stroll the Boston Seaport for waterfront views. As for setting up a home base, consider checking in at the new Raffles Boston (Raffles' first hotel in all of North America) or The Envoy Hotel, Autograph Collection.