From Las Vegas to Chicago; here are the most visited cities in the USA!

Home to 50 states and verging on 10 million square kilometres in area, it’s no surprise the USA is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. From the iconic skyline of Los Angeles to the sun-soaked beaches of Miami, for travellers, the sheer variety of potential US travel destinations is mind-boggling. 

But whether it’s the theme parks of Orlando or the historical depths of Washington, D.C., you’ll find a city-break getaway that suits your travel preferences, style, interests and budget. With that in mind, I’ve created this list of the most visited cities in the USA (measured by the number of annual tourist arrivals, both domestic and international). 

You can find inspiration in the USA’s tourist hotspots or if, like me, you prefer to escape the crowds, you’ll know which cities to skip!

Most visited cities in the USA

The following list of the most visited cities in the USA is based on the number of tourist arrivals collected by places like Statista and as reported by local news outlets and tourism boards. The cities listed all regularly appear in the top 20 most visited, but I’ve gone through and narrowed them down to provide you with inspiration, rather than data!

I’ve included the most visited cities, cities where it’s still possible to escape the crowds and cities that are seeing marked increases in visitor numbers each year (they’re the emerging destinations to watch, in my opinion!). You’ll notice a few big omissions, including New York, which sees 14 million international visitors each year and upwards of 60 million visitors in total. I’ve missed this one out because I have no desire to be overwhelmed by the crowds of Times Square and because I don’t believe it needs more attention!

Here are the most visited cities in the USA.

1. Las Vegas

Las Vegas is ‘The Entertainment Capital of the World’, and the city attracted a mammoth 40.8 million visitors in 2023. Established in 1905 and gaining momentum after the legalisation of gambling in 1931, Las Vegas has grown into a sprawling desert metropolis renowned for its lavish resorts and spectacular shows. The Strip, a 4.2-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, is home to famous landmarks like the Bellagio Fountains, the Venetian canals, and the High Roller Ferris wheel, while Las Vegas Music Venues are second to none!

It’s not all about the entertainment either, and places like Red Rock Canyon, located just outside the city, offer stunning desert landscapes, hiking trails, and rock climbing opportunities. The Springs Preserve provides a peaceful oasis of botanical gardens and walking paths, while Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Mead are great destinations for the outdoor enthusiast. 

Las Vegas, USA. Photo by Leo_Visions on Unsplash.

2. Miami

Renowned for its nightlife and beaches, according to local news outlets, Miami receives over 26 million visitors every year. Founded in 1896, Miami has grown from a small settlement into a major cultural and financial hub overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Miami’s Art Deco Historic District, with its pastel-coloured buildings from the 1930s, reflects the city’s architectural evolution, while South Beach’s lively atmosphere and the bustling Ocean Drive epitomise Miami’s energetic vibe.

If the crowds get to you, there are many ways to relax in Miami. Book yourself into a lavish beachfront hotel, visit The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, or explore neighbourhoods like Coconut Grove, which is home to tree-lined streets and historic sites. Little Havana, the heart of Miami’s Cuban community, offers an authentic cultural experience with its street life and local eateries; and I’m visiting just for the chance to try a Cuban sandwich!

From Miami, you can venture south to the wetlands of the Everglades National Park, you can road trip along the overseas highway of the Florida Keys, or you can head north to quieter beachfront destinations like West Palm Beach that aren’t quite so well-known. 

Miami is best known for its beaches (and sandwiches). Photo by Lance Asper on Unsplash.

Read more: 10 Most Visited Cities in Europe

3. Orlando

Orlando is the ‘Theme Park Capital of the World’, and that’s reflected in visitor numbers, which Visit Orlando puts at a mammoth 74 million in 2022. Founded in 1875, Orlando transformed into a mad tourist hub with the establishment of Walt Disney World Resort in 1971. The city’s other major attractions include Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and LEGOLAND, making it a favourite destination for families and thrill-seekers.

Downtown Orlando, with its mix of modern and historic architecture, provides a much less hectic experience than the theme parks. Lake Eola Park, in the heart of the city, offers paddle boating, walking paths, and outdoor performances. For a taste of local culture, the Orlando Museum of Art and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts offer enriching experiences.

The Monorail! Photo by Heather Maguire on Unsplash.

4. Los Angeles

The ‘City of Angels’ is a tourist magnet, with up to 50 million tourists drawn each year to its beaches and Hollywood attractions, according to Discover Los Angeles. Founded in 1781, Los Angeles has evolved from a small Spanish settlement into a sprawling metropolis. 

The city’s major attractions include Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world, with its Walk of Fame, TCL Chinese Theatre, and Universal Studios. Visitors flock to these sites to experience the glitz and glamour of the film industry.

The Getty Center, perched on a hilltop, offers a peaceful retreat from the city’s chaos, with its quirky architecture, art collections, and beautifully kept gardens. The Griffith Observatory provides sublime views of the city and the stars, far removed from the crowds below. 

The Hollywood Sign is one of the most iconic USA attractions. Photo by Jake Blucker on Unsplash.

5. San Francisco

Another California classic, San Francisco was founded in 1776 and boomed during the Gold Rush of 1849, before expanding to become one of the country’s most visited destinations. The San Francisco Chronicle estimates upwards of 26 million visitors annually, with key local attractions including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Golden Gate Park, stretching over 1,000 acres, offers a peaceful escape with its lush gardens, serene lakes, and attractions like the Japanese Tea Garden and the California Academy of Sciences. The Presidio, a historic military fort turned national park, provides scenic hiking trails and stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Neighbourhoods like Noe Valley and Inner Sunset offer a more laid-back atmosphere, with tree-lined streets, local cafes, and boutique shops. The Mission District, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, provides a quieter experience with its colourful murals and historic sites, such as Mission Dolores.

The famous San Fran trams. Photo by Daniel Abadia on Unsplash.

6. Washington DC

Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, is a city that’s high on my bucket list, thanks to its monumental landmarks and cultural institutions. Established in 1790, the city serves as the political heart of the nation, featuring iconic sites such as the White House, the Capitol Building, and the Lincoln Memorial. All of these really are must-visits for any discerning world traveller, which is why local media reported some 26 million visitors in 2023.

The National Mall, a vast green space lined with museums and monuments, draws visitors from around the world. Neighbourhoods like Georgetown and Capitol Hill offer a more relaxed atmosphere with their cobblestone streets, historic homes, and boutique shops. 

For a quieter cultural experience, the Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art, provides an intimate setting away from the bustling National Mall. Dumbarton Oaks, located in Georgetown, offers beautiful gardens and a museum dedicated to Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art.

Can you name the national monument? Photo by Caleb Perez on Unsplash.

7. Chicago

Chicago was founded in 1837, and the city rapidly grew into a major industrial and transportation hub. Key attractions include the Willis Tower, Millennium Park, and Navy Pier, making Chicago one of the most popular cities in the USA with a mega 50 million domestic and international visitors reported in 2022 by local media.

The expansive Lincoln Park, which includes the Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory, is home to lush gardens, scenic lagoons, and walking trails. The Chicago Botanic Garden, located just outside the city, provides another peaceful escape with its beautifully curated landscapes and water features. The city’s lakefront, particularly the Lakefront Trail, offers a quieter escape with views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline. 

Chicago. Photo by Brad Knight on Unsplash.

8. Boston

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States, and it’s high on my list of US destinations to visit purely because I’m fascinated by its history. Founded in 1630, Boston played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, and its historical significance is evident in landmarks such as the Freedom Trail, Boston Common, and the Paul Revere House. These attractions, along with Fenway Park and Quincy Market, ensure that well over 20 million international tourists visited Boston in 2023.

For a quieter cultural experience, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, housed in a stunning Venetian-style palace, offers an intimate setting with its impressive art collection and lush courtyard garden. The nearby Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, one of the largest museums in the country, provides a contemplative space with its vast array of artworks.

Boston. Photo by jacob Licht on Unsplash.

Read more: How Many Countries Are in North America? Everything You Need to Know.

9. Honolulu

Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii, and this volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is quite unlike anywhere else in the USA. Founded in 1845, the city has grown from a small village into a sprawling beachside metropolis. Key attractions include Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, and Diamond Head, which all make Honolulu one of the most popular cities to visit in the US. Things are getting heated though, with Statista reporting that visitors now outnumber locals by 5-1 (with some 10 million visitors arriving each year across Hawaii).

But this is Hawaii, and there are always opportunities to visit lesser-known attractions, even in Honolulu. The Lyon Arboretum is a 200-acre botanical garden and research facility, featuring an extensive collection of tropical plants and scenic hiking trails. The nearby Manoa Falls, with its lush rainforest trail leading to a stunning waterfall, provides the chance for an outdoorsy escape.

Honolulu, where the city meets the beach. Photo by Zetong Li on Unsplash.

10. Flagstaff

Flagstaff is a city steeped in Arizonan history. I’ve included this lesser-known destination because surprisingly, Flagstaff receives a whopping 6 million visitors (both international and domestic) each year.

Positioned on the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, Flagstaff was originally inhabited by indigenous tribes like the Sinagua and Ancestral Puebloans, before the area later attracted Spanish explorers in the 16th century. By the late 19th century, Flagstaff became a significant stop along the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, which spurred its development.

The city is surrounded by diverse landscapes, including ponderosa pine forests, volcanic craters, and ancient lava flows. Its elevation at approximately 2,100 metres above sea level provides a cooler climate compared to the desert regions of Arizona, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Flagstaff is home to the renowned Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was discovered in 1930. Visitors are also drawn to nearby attractions like the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, and the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort.

Flagstaff is a great base to explore sights like Horseshoe Bend in Arizona. Photo by Josh Levey on Unsplash.

There it is! The most visited cities in the USA. Which destinations are going on your American bucket list? Let me know in the comments below.