These Are the Most Beautiful Cities in the USA

The combination of natural beauty and innovative urban design makes Seattle one of the most picturesque places in the US
The combination of natural beauty and innovative urban design makes Seattle one of the most picturesque places in the US | © Niels van Kampenhout / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Amy Blyth
26 May 2021

Wild West vibes in Colorado, sleek high-rise hotels in Hawaii, Spanish architecture in Texas – no two cities in the US are the same. The country’s landscape is diverse, and its cities are beautifully designed – the country lives up to its unofficial “America the Beautiful” anthem from the late 19th century. Planning a trip to the USA? These are the country’s must-visit picturesque cities.

Chicago, Illinois

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© Pedro Lastra / Unsplash

Chicago paints a pretty picture with its skyscraper cityscape and views over glittering Lake Michigan. The Windy City is chock-full of Art Deco buildings that date back to the 1920s Al Capone era. Many, like the John Hancock Observatory and Water Tower, are clustered on the prestigious Magnificent Mile. You’ll find breathing space from city life in green havens like Millennium Park, home to Anish Kapoor’s bean-shaped Cloud Gate, but head to the 103rd-floor viewing deck at the Willis Tower to really appreciate Chicago’s urban beauty.

Seattle, Washington

Architectural Landmark
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View of Seattle's Waterfront from Bell Street Pier and Conference Center at Pier 66 - Seattle, Washington, USA
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Seattle is known for its coffee culture and surrounding nature, with Mount Rainier’s peaks to the east and the pine forests of Olympic National Park to the west. Then there’s the mammoth Discovery Park with its rugged beaches that overlook the island-studded Puget Sound. The Emerald City’s natural treasures are complemented by innovative urban design like the iconic Space Needle, as well as Victorian-era buildings in its Pioneer Square Historic District, which is marked with a 60ft (18m) totem pole.

Honolulu, Hawaii

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Beautiful Skyline of Honolulu,Hawaii
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If it’s palm trees and white-sand beaches you crave, Honolulu fits the bill. Hawaii’s sun-soaked capital boasts sleek high-rise hotels overlooking the water, a tropical harbor and stellar surf at Waikiki Beach. Aside from its coastal credentials, Honolulu’s beauty lies in its mix of architectural styles, from a Gothic cathedral to the Art Deco Aloha Tower and Iolani Palace, where Hawaii’s last monarchs ruled. Hike up the nearby Diamond Head volcanic crater for panoramic views of Honolulu in all its island splendor.

Telluride, Colorado

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Mainstreet, New Sheridan Bar in Telluride, Colorado, USA
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You’ll get Wild West vibes in Telluride, a former mining town surrounded by Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. This city, on the National Register of Historic Places, is filled with brick buildings from the 1800s mining boom. Don’t miss the Sheridan Opera House and Old Town Jail, as well as the site of Butch Cassidy’s first bank robbery. It’s the mountains that really draw crowds to Telluride, though, either for summer hiking or to ride the gondola from town to its world-famous ski resort.

Savannah, Georgia

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Savannah, Georgia, USA at Forsyth Park Fountain.
© Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
Come to Savannah for old-world Southern charm. Here, horse-drawn carriages drive down cobblestone streets lined with supposedly haunted antebellum architecture, transporting you back to the 1700s. The riverfront oozes romance, and the city’s parks and squares are filled with towering oak trees dripping Spanish moss, as well as relics from the Civil and Revolutionary Wars. The Savannah College of Art and Design, one of the country’s best art schools, offers an infusion of modernity.

Salt Lake City, Utah

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Salt Lake City, Utah at sunset
© Andrew Zarivny / Alamy Stock Photo

Grand Mormon architecture takes center stage in Salt Lake City. Its most impressive religious buildings lie in Temple Square, including the dome-topped Mormon Tabernacle and Salt Lake Temple with its towers and golden angel statues. Utah’s capital is also blessed with a backdrop of the jagged Wasatch Mountains and 900 acres (365ha) of public greenery. Liberty Park is Salt Lake City’s finest open space featuring indigenous flora, picnic lawns, a pool and sports courts.

Portland, Maine

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Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, USA. The lighthouse sits at the southern edge of Casco Bay.
© John Van Decker / Alamy Stock Photo

The heart of Portland is the 17th-century Old Port district. Its original red brick warehouses dominate the cobblestone streets, many now converted into craft breweries and restaurants where you can feast on Maine lobster rolls. From here, the Mail Boat ferries deliver to the Casco Bay Islands, and the Eastern Promenade path follows a defunct railroad to East End Beach. Get a taste of classic New England by visiting Portland’s collection of photo-worthy lighthouses.

San Antonio, Texas

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Waterfront restaurant on River Walk in downtown San Antonio, Texas, USA
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

Spanish architecture reigns supreme in San Antonio, one of the USA’s oldest cities. This is best viewed on the famous River Walk, a tree-lined boulevard complete with boutique hotels and cafés that spill onto the street. Downtown, you’ll find the ultimate symbol of Texas independence, the Alamo, which commemorates the 1836 battle of Texas Independence from Mexico. For more ancient landmarks, visit the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, the largest collection of Spanish colonial missions in North America.

Anchorage, Alaska

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Downtown Anchorage in Alaska
© Inge Johnsson / Alamy Stock Photo

Anchorage, on the edge of the Alaskan wilderness, is lapped by the whale- and salmon-rich waters of the Cook Inlet, and it is so wild that it’s not uncommon to spot moose grazing in its green spaces. Its contemporary buildings are juxtaposed with the soaring 13,000ft (4,000m) peaks of the Chugach Mountains, which rise in the distance. Explore the botanical gardens and learn about indigenous culture at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, before hopping on a train along the Alaska Railroad.

Taos, New Mexico

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Dwelling structures in Pueblo de Taos. Taos, New Mexico
© Dennis Frates / Alamy Stock Photo

The high desert and Sangre de Cristo Mountains meet in Taos, New Mexico’s artsy hub. Originally inhabited by the Tiwa people, the city is known for its adobe mud-brick buildings and the Unesco-listed Taos Pueblo, a sacred Native American site which is believed to be over a thousand years old. The city has strong creative roots and was once home to artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams, while outdoor sports enthusiasts use Taos as a base for skiing and exploring the nearby Rio Grande Gorge.

Charleston, South Carolina

Architectural Landmark
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Rainbow Row in Charleston South Carolina
© Gordon Bell / Alamy Stock Photo
The first shots of the Civil War were fired in Charleston, a coastal town from the 1600s with Gullah sea-island traditions. War cannons and memorials adorn the city’s parks as a constant reminder of its torrid history, alongside ornate fountains and beaches. The French Quarter and Battery districts exude Southern history, with pastel antebellum houses and rooftop bars loved by Charleston’s college population. Grand former plantation houses like Middleton Place respectfully tell the city’s slave-era history.

Newport, Rhode Island

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Broadway in downtown Newport, Rhode Island, USA
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Newport, otherwise known as the City by the Sea, is home to extravagant clifftop mansions where wealthy Gilded Age residents like the Kennedys lived. Featured in Downton Abbey, the most opulent houses line Bellevue Avenue and can be spotted on the windswept Newport Cliff Walk. Don’t forget the city’s glitzy yachting harbor, a world-famous sailing hub that has hosted the America Cup. Newport is at its best in the fall, when it glows with New England’s famous foliage.

San Francisco, California

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Classic view of historic traditional Cable Cars riding on famous California Street in beautiful morning light at sunrise in summer, San Francisco, USA
© Scott Wilson / Alamy Stock Photo

Climb Coit Tower to marvel at San Francisco’s staggering skyline. A cluster of modern high-rises puncture the sky, while infamous Alcatraz lies adrift in the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge beckons on the horizon. Back on ground level, antique trams chug up the city’s steep streets filled with colorful Victorian wooden houses. There’s beauty everywhere in San Francisco, from the rainbow crosswalks in the Castro District to Haight-Ashbury’s street murals, Chinatown’s dragon-topped arch and sea lions basking at Pier 39.

Lincoln, Nebraska

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Nebraska State Capitol, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

Lincoln provides a welcome change from Nebraska’s never-ending cornfields and rolling prairies. An unusual dome-topped tower serves as the State Capitol Building, which lies near the Georgian-style Governor’s Residence and the Sunken Gardens with their sculptures and water features. Start by exploring the Historic Haymarket District, which is stuffed with 19th-century brick warehouses, a water tower and antique clock; the streets here thrum with students from the university, who flood the music-filled bars.

Madison, Wisconsin

Architectural Landmark
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Madison. Image of city of Madison, capital city of Wisconsin.
© rudi1976 / Alamy Stock Photo

Madison is a northern treasure. Besides a striking city skyline, Wisconsin’s capital boasts lakeside trails that will make you forget you’re in a major city, so it’s no surprise that Madison has been touted as the healthiest, happiest and most cycle-friendly city in the USA. Its capitol building sits on a narrow strip of land between two lakes, where you can swim and boat in the summer. Discover 20mi (32km) of trails at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum to soak up Madison’s rural beauty.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

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Virginia Beach, city in the state of Virginia, at the Atlantic coast, United States of America, during clear sky, and surfers enjoying the waves
© Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

With 35mi (56km) of extraordinary coastline, Virginia Beach draws keen surfers looking to tackle its gnarly Atlantic waves. Its oceanfront boardwalk offers seafood restaurants and whale-watching tours, while a nearby wildlife refuge and Busch Gardens draw vacationing families. Sun yourself on three golden-sand beaches and hike in two state parks, including First Landing, where English colonists docked over four centuries ago. For more history, visit neighboring Jamestown.

Perdido Key, Florida

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Aerial view of Perdido Key Beach, Florida
© gdns81 / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

Perdido is a narrow strip of land connected by bridges to Florida’s Pensacola and Orange Beach in Alabama. The petite town appeals to nature lovers as it’s part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Imagine powder-soft rolling dunes, bird-filled wetlands and two state parks where you can spot loggerhead turtles and dolphins. Perdido Key boasts some of the best beaches on the Florida Gulf Coast and is popular with divers, who come to explore its sunken military ship.

These recommendations were updated on May 26, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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