Illinois Tourism & Travel

Crazy About Travel

20 Most Popular Places to Vacation in America

20 Most Popular Places to Vacation in America

“From California to the New York island, From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters, This land was made for you and me.”—Woody Guthrie.

In a country of such beauty and variety, where do people pick for their vacation? Handily, TripAdvisor has named the destinations that most-frequently top travelers’ wish lists.

The company said the rundown was “based on the quality and quantity of reviews and ratings from Tripadvisor travelers for accommodations, restaurants, and things to do in destinations worldwide over a 12-month period (December 1, 2019 through November 30, 2020).”

Here are its top 20 destinations for 2021…

1. New York City

New York,New York
A view of the Manhattan skyline on June 12, 2021 in New York City. The city that never sleeps is the number 1 most popular place to vacation in the United States.
Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival/Getty Images

New York City attracted a record 66.6 million tourists in 2019, according to NYC & Company, the city’s tourism promotion agency.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the city is the number 1 most popular place to visit in the U.S.

The energy, the people, the food, over 500 art galleries, more than 2,000 arts and cultural organizations: the list is endless because New York has it all.

2. Maui, Hawaii

Maui, known also as “The Valley Isle,” is the second largest Hawaiian island and is the 17th largest island in the United States. It has a very unique geography,with most of the island’s interior sitting less than 200 feet above sea level, while each side is flanked by mountains.

Maui is a natural oasis with stunning beaches, valleys, the Haleakala National Park, the imposing Haleakala volcano, or unique black-sand beaches such as Pa’iloa.

In 2019, the island received more than 3 million annual visitors, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported.

3. Las Vegas

Las Vegas Strip
The Bellagio Hotel & Casino water fountain lagoon is viewed from Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino on May 8, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas is known the world over for its entertainment and nightlife
George Rose/Getty

Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, is home to some of the world’s biggest casinos, as well as fantastic shopping, cuisine, entertainment and nightlife.

Author Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote Fight Club, once said the city “looks the way you’d imagine heaven must look at night.”

4. New Orleans

10 New Orlans
New Orleans’ French Quarter, Louisiana. USA. New Orleans is popular for live jazz music, lively carnivals and many music halls,museums, casinos,or theaters.

New Orleans, Louisiana’s largest city with one of the biggest ports in the U.S., is the perfect escape for culture and fun times.

Places on the not-to-miss list include: the scenic French Quarter, the elegant Garden District and the lively Bourbon Street.

5. Key West, Florida

florida keys cocaine
In this photo, Key West is seen during Easter Weekend 2021.The island city in Florida, has been home to famous writers like Ernest Hemingway and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ author, Tennessee Williams.
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Key West, the southernmost point of the U.S. boasts impressive beaches and historic landmark. It is “famous for watersports, lively nightlife, beaches, historic sites and its pastel, conch-style architechture,” says Visit Florida. Not to mention the fantastic diving.

6. Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu, Hawaii
Tourists enjoy a gorgeous day at the beach at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort’s Lagoon & Beach,in Waikiki in August 2018. Oahu is the “Heart of Hawaii” and the most visited of all the Hawaiian islands, at nearly 4.7 million visitors annually.
Kat Wade/Getty

Oahu, also known as “The Gathering Place,” is home to Honolulu.

Famous for the Waikiki Beach and surfers from all over the world who can’t get enough of the high-octane winter waves of the North Shore, there is a lot to do and see along the island’s 112 miles of coastline.

7. Island of Hawaii

Island of Hawaii, Hawaii
Hawaii, the largest of all the Hawaiian Islands at 4,000 square miles, features active volcanoes, large cattle ranches, unusual flora and fauna, waterfalls, rainforests, and occasionally, snowcapped mountains.
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images/Getty Images

The largest of Hawaii’s main islands—hence its “Big Island” nickname—is the home of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which encompasses two active volcanos.

The vast island is no question an awe-inspiring natural wonder.

8. San Diego

 Balboa Park
San Diego’s Balboa Park at twilight in San Diego California USA. In 1542 when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, became the first European to enter the San Diego Bay and claimed the area for Spain, little did he know that 5 centuries later San Diego would be number 8 in the Tripadvisor most popular destinations in the United States.
iStock / Getty Images Plus/f11photo

San Diego, with its thriving tech scene and laid-back atmosphere, is a favourite place to visit in the Bay Area.

It has the beaches, the bay, the culture, the weather, the craft beer and with more than 70-miles of coastline, San Diego is packed with wonderful spots for waterfront dining.

9. Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia
Tourists enjoy downtown Savannah, Georgia on March 3, 2021.
Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images/Getty Images

The oldest city in the state of Georgia, has become something of a hotspot for artists.

The city has incredible period architecture, quaint boutiques and oak-lined streets. The squares and parks of Savannah are the city’s most beloved and charming icons.

10. Kauai, Hawaii

32 Tunnels Beach Hawaii
Also known as ‘The Garden Island’, Kauai is the least commercially developed of the Hawaiian island. In the photo,Tunnels Beach,in Kauai, Hawaii, U.S.A.
Getty Images

The so-called “Garden Island” of Hawaii. The moniker aptly describes the breathtaking golden-sand beaches, emerald valleys, vast tropical rainforests and startling mountains.

11. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville skyline as photographed from the Nashville Riverfront Landing in Nashville, Tennessee on May 27, 2016.
Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images/Getty Images

A city proud of its history, Nashville is named after Revolutionary War hero Francis Nash.

Also known as Music City, the city is the mecca for Country music. Visitors love the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Grand Ole Opry.

The city is sometimes referred to as the “Athens of the South,” thanks to the replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park.

12. Sedona, Arizona

6 Best Things to Do in Sedona
Cathedral Rocks at Sunset with rising moon in Sedona, Arizona USA.
Getty Images / iStock / desertsolitaire

Tripadvisor describes the desert town’s Sedona as “a vacationer’s paradise in the middle of the Arizona desert.”

Sedona, with its rich and diverse history, bustling shopping squares and art galleries is also a great base to visit northern Arizona .

13. Charleston, South Carolina

LA Charleston South Carolina
The French Quarter in Charleston, South Carolina.
Sean Pavone/Getty

This southern beauty attracts many tourists because of its rich history and many attractions including Charleston’s old colonial homes and churches, the Charleston plantations, picturesque streets and courtyards, beautiful parks and historic buildings such as the Charleston Museum (founded 1773), the oldest museum in the U.S.

14.Orlando, Florida

Orlando, Florida
Swans in Lake Eola in Orlando, FL on July 22, 2013.
Photo by Rick Friedman/ via Getty Images/Getty Images

Orlando is the undisputed home of theme parks, and also offers more than 100 lakes that are great for relaxing in mother nature.

Visitors can also make a day trip to the Kennedy Space Center, on Merritt Island in Cape Canaveral.

15. Chicago

Lincoln Park, Chicago
A large garden scene with plants and a fountain in Lincoln Park Chicago with the city skyline.
James Andrews/iStock / Getty Images Plus

The city that invented the skyscrapers has a lot to offer, from top museums such as the Arts Institute of Chicago, to top restaurants, or endless cultural events and outdoor activities. Enjoy it all surrounded by a charming Midwestern hospitality.

16. Branson, Missouri

6 Best Things to Do in Branson
Branson, Missouri, USA—September 3, 2019: Branson, nestled in the Ozark mountains in Missouri, is known for musical entertainment and amusement rides.
Getty Images / iStock / Christine Kohler

Branson, located in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, is one of the most popular destinations in the Midwest with its many live shows and attractions, including Silver Dollar City, one of the world’s top theme parks.

17. Asheville, North Carolina

24 Asheville
“If you’re into eating locally and supporting sustainable agriculture, go to Asheville—and eat, eat, eat. The town of less than 100,000 people has 17 farmers’ markets”, says Tripadvisor.
Michael Tracey

Asheville with its beautiful scenery and fresh mountain air, is home to the largest number of breweries per capita of any city in the country, a thriving music scene and a laid-back attitude.

Asheville is also the gateway to the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains, and is also home to “America’s favorite drive”: The Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a 469-mile scenic road, passing right through Asheville and serves as the entrance to the great outdoors.

18. Miami Beach, Florida

Miami beach aerial view
An aerial view from a drone, in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Florida. According to Visit Florida, ‘most people who go to the beach while in the Miami area do so in the city of Miami Beach’.
Getty Images

One of the most visited places in Florida, this resort city with a vibrant Latin culture is the home of the South Beach Art Deco District, beautiful beaches from South Pointe Park to North Beach Oceanside Park, and a party spirit day and night.

Visit Florida says that “North Beach’s Ocean Terrace is fast becoming a smaller version of South Beach, with inviting oceanfront hotels and cafés.”

19. Washington, D.C.

washington dc shooting
In this photo, the skyline of Washington, DC, including the US Capitol building, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and National Mall, is seen from the air, January 29, 2010.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The powerhouse of politics, the city has an incredible history and culture to offer to visitors. Monuments, memorials, museums, charming neighborhoods, award winning restaurants and so much more.

Washington is a beauty day and night.

20. Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas
The Texas State Capitol is seen on the first day of the 87th Legislature’s third special session on September 20, 2021 in Austin, Texas.
Photo by Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images/Getty Images

Described as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin has a lot more to offer than music.

Excellent museums such as the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, fantastic shopping and wonderful outdoor spaces including the Lady Bird Lake Barton, make Austin the perfect quick getaway.