Many Americans have stayed close to home in recent years, taking advantage of the incredible urban experiences just hours away. Travelers seemed to prefer the warmer climates of the Southern and Western states for these domestic trips — only three cities on the list are in the Northeast or Midwest. But everywhere Travel + Leisure readers went, they sought out towns with a fun spirit, delicious regional cuisine, and historic sites.
Every year, as part of our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to give their opinion on travel experiences around the world – to share their opinions on the best cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, etc Readers rated cities based on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping and overall value.
After a few years of seeking space away from others, many travelers have found the rush to big cities appealing. “It was nice to be back in a big city after the pandemic, and I was happy to see people on the streets,” one reader said of New York (#6). Others were looking for a place to hang out and join the crowd at concerts. “Nashville has such a fun and creative energy,” said another Music City voter (#15). “It’s all about music, and music brings us all together.”
Yet readers also enjoyed destinations — like Honolulu (No. 5) or perennial favorite Asheville, North Carolina (No. 13) — with easy access to some of America’s spectacular outdoor offerings.
Topping our list is Charleston, South Carolina once again, which has been voted America’s Best City for 10 consecutive years, making it a winner of the World’s Best Awards Hall of Fame. Read on to find out why and for the full list of major US cities.
1. Charleston, South Carolina
There’s a reason people keep coming back to Charleston: the city expresses the perfect balance of Southern charm, jaw-dropping food and drink, and walkability. Many readers also found the city’s history to be a draw. Others enjoyed the simple pleasures of strolling the side streets of downtown.
Member of the WBA Hall of Fame. Rating: 88.70
2. New Orleans
While many readers adored NOLA’s vibrant food scene and quirky tours (especially those to swamps and cemeteries), others honed in on its singular atmosphere. “You feel the overwhelming spiritual energy of the past and the deeply complicated history of the city,” one voter explained.
Member of the WBA Hall of Fame. Score: 87.21
3. Santa Fe, New Mexico
The robust restaurants and artsy scenes are the main reasons visitors of all ages return to this southwestern city. A reader who loved the variety of attractions, including the Georgia O’Keefe Museum and Loretto Chapel, also encouraged other travelers to venture just outside of town to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. , calling it “a great place to watch the sunset.”
Member of the WBA Hall of Fame. Score: 87.15
4. Savannah, Georgia
The laid-back atmosphere and accessibility were among the top reasons voters praised this charming coastal town. “The locals are extremely friendly,” wrote one reader, who added that Savannah has something for everyone, whether they’re interested in nightlife, dining or shopping.
Member of the WBA Hall of Fame. Score: 86.84
“So much to do and never enough time,” one reader said of this town on Oahu’s South Shore. Another reader specifically called out the “incredible local restaurants” and “many hiking and walking areas to explore”.
6. New York
Everything in Manhattan is world-class, from Broadway shows and historic landmarks to art museums and retail stores, according to T+L readers. But perhaps no aspect of the city has inspired more excitement than the food. “If you can’t find a good meal in New York, you can’t find it anywhere,” wrote one voter.
Member of the WBA Hall of Fame. Score: 84.16
“Chicago offers everything good about any major American city with Midwestern charm and friendliness and great prices,” one reader summed up. Several people have remarked on Windy City’s superb restaurants and ease of navigation, thanks to a strong public transport network.
Member of the WBA Hall of Fame. Score: 83.15
8. Alexandria, Virginia
Although many people know it as a suburb of Washington, DC, this capital-adjacent enclave has a lot of its own merits, including “good food and interesting shopping,” according to one voter. Another encouraged other travelers to visit the city’s walking trails along the Potomac.
9. San Antonio, TX
Sights like the Alamo and the River Walk get a lot of attention, but as T+L readers will attest, there’s much more to the city’s vast appeal. “The food, especially at family restaurants, is amazing and very diverse,” shared one fan, while another person raved about the city’s very literal hospitality committee. “They have ‘ambassadors’ walking along the streets who are there to greet people, answer questions and help in any way they can,” the voter explained.
History has earned this New England hub numerous accolades from T+L readers, as well as cultural and sporting institutions, with one voter calling Fenway “one of baseball’s finest stadiums.” “. Even long-time visitors were impressed. “I grew up visiting family in Boston,” one reader shared. “After 40 years, the city has finally evolved into a much more cosmopolitan place. The restaurants are better than ever, the city is much more diverse, and the new Seaport neighborhood is fantastic.”
Music, food and nightlife continue to draw travelers to the Lone Star State capital, but WBA voters also cited nature as a draw. That could mean visiting Barton Springs Pool and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – and the Hill Country is an easy drive away.
12. Williamsburg, Virginia
History buffs see tremendous value in visiting this Southern destination. “Colonial Williamsburg is a wonderful attraction,” wrote one voter. “Also very close to Jamestown Settlement and several Civil War sites. You can spend a lot of time in this area.”
13. Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville’s relaxed vibe and beautiful scenery have earned praise from several T+L readers. declared a voter. “The Biltmore Estate and gardens are always a treat, and the restaurants were great too.”
Year-round sunshine and a plethora of activities — from boogie boarding at the beach to races around Legoland — make this Southern California town especially appealing to families. But there is something to please travelers of all types. “The dining room is sensational, sightseeing abounds, and its manageable, small-town atmosphere is a welcome relief to Southern California,” one voter wrote.
Music City’s vibrancy may be deeply rooted in country music — it’s home to the Grand Ole Opry and countless bars along Broadway, after all — but as T+L readers will attest, the energy s has spread much further, especially in recent years. The city’s restaurants have never been better or more eclectic, ranging from casual Tex-Mex to vegan Middle Eastern. “Gem of the South,” summed up one reader.