Atlanta is the capital of the U.S. state of Georgia. It played an important part in both the Civil War and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Atlanta History Center chronicles the city’s past, and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site is dedicated to the African-American leader’s life and times. Downtown, Centennial Olympic Park, built for the 1996 Olympics, encompasses the massive Georgia Aquarium. Downtown is also home to the World of Coca-Cola, a museum dedicated to the iconic soft drink, and is a business hub dominated by sleek skyscrapers, such as the headquarters for the news-gathering agency CNN. The High Museum of Art, in Midtown, exhibits classic and contemporary art from Rembrandt to Picasso. Popular neighborhoods include Buckhead, known for its luxury malls, sophisticated Southern restaurants and hip-hop-focused nightlife, and Little Five Points, which pairs Victorian architecture with bohemian shops.
Boston is Massachusetts’ capital and largest city. Founded in 1630, it’s one of the oldest cities in the U.S. The key role it played in the American Revolution is highlighted on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walking route of historic sites that tells the story of the nation’s founding. One stop, former meeting house Faneuil Hall, is a popular marketplace. ͞Beantown is home to Symphony Hall, where the legendary Boston Pops orchestra performs, and Fenway Park, where the beloved Red Sox baseball team plays. Famous cultural institutions include the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, housing a world-class collection in a space designed like a 15th-century Venetian palazzo. Popular strolling spots include the Public Garden, featuring iconic swan boats; Newbury Street, offering upscale shopping; the Waterfront, dotted with seafood and chowder restaurants; and the North End, abundant with Italian bakeries and cafes.
Chicago, on Lake Michigan in Illinois, is among the largest cities in the U.S. Famed for its bold architecture, it has a skyline punctuated by skyscrapers such as the iconic John Hancock Center, 1,451-ft. Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) and the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower. The city is also renowned for its museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago with its noted Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. The Field Museum is a renowned natural history museum. Chicago’s green spaces include Millennium Park, home to the reflective sculpture ͞Cloud Gate.͟ The Cubs pro baseball team draws crowds to Wrigley Field. The Magnificent Mile, a 13-block stretch of North Michigan Avenue, offers upscale shopping. To the north, the leafy Gold Coast district has trails along the lake. The food scene includes trendy restaurants and casual spots offering local specialties like deep-dish pizzas and relish-topped hot dogs. Chicago also hosts 2 influential arts groups, the Steppenwolf theater company and Second City improv troupe.
Las Vegas, in Nevada’s Mojave Desert, is a resort city famed for its vibrant nightlife, centered around 24-hour casinos and other entertainment options. Its main street and focal point is the Strip, just over 4 miles long. This boulevard is home to themed hotels with elaborate displays such as fountains synchronized to music as well as replicas of an Egyptian pyramid, the Venetian Grand Canal, and the Eiffel Tower. Designer boutiques reside in the city’s numerous malls and retail areas. Famous entertainers headline extravagant musicals, concerts, and comedy shows. Swimming pools and thrill rides offer family-oriented diversions. The city’s hedonistic side is reflected in high-energy nightclubs as well as strip clubs. In the original downtown area north of the Strip, longstanding venues like the Golden Nugget, which opened in 1946, sit alongside the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall and its high-tech light shows. The diverse dining opportunities range from all-you-can-eat buffets to lavish restaurants run by celebrity chefs.
Los Angeles is a sprawling Southern California city and the center of the nation’s film and television industry. Near its iconic Hollywood sign, studios such as Paramount Pictures, Universal and Warner Brothers offer behind-the-scenes tours. On Hollywood Boulevard, TCL Chinese Theatre displays celebrities’ hand- and footprints, the Walk of Fame honors thousands of luminaries and vendors sell maps to stars’ homes. Highlights of LA beyond the entertainment industry include the Getty Center, home to European and American art and extensive gardens. Griffith Observatory has panoramic skyline views, while the Lakers and Clippers basketball teams play at Staples Center. In and around the city are notable beaches including Venice, complete with funky shops on a colorful boardwalk, and Santa Monica, whose pier offers rides and games. Live music venues dot the billboard-lined Strip, a stretch of Sunset Boulevard running through the West Hollywood area. Beverly Hills is the site of the famously upscale shopping street Rodeo Drive.
Miami is an international city at Florida’s southeastern tip. Its Cuban influence is reflected in the cafes and cigar shops that line Calle Ocho in Little Havana. On barrier islands across the turquoise waters of Biscayne Bay is Miami Beach, home to South Beach. This glamorous neighborhood is famed for its colorful art deco buildings, white sand, surfside hotels and trendsetting nightclubs. Wynwood Arts District, featuring dozens of galleries and hundreds of graffiti murals, and Pérez Art Museum Miami draw contemporary-art connoisseurs, as does the internationally renowned Art Basel Miami Beach festival in December. The Design District attracts trendy folks with boutiques and restaurants. In Coconut Grove, there’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a circa-1916 Italian-style estate surrounded by lush landscaping. On nearby Key Biscayne, spacious Crandon Park features a quiet beach with private cabanas. For alligator-seekers, Everglades National Park is less than an hour’s drive away.
New Orleans is a Louisiana city on the Mississippi River, near the Gulf of Mexico. Nicknamed the “Big Easy,” it’s known for its round-the-clock nightlife, vibrant live-music scene and spicy, singular cuisine reflecting its history as a melting pot of French, African and American cultures. Embodying its festive spirit is Mardi Gras, the late-winter carnival famed for raucous costumed parades and street parties. Following Mardi Gras in springtime is Jazz Fest, celebrating New Orleans as the birthplace of the genre. Lively bars and cafes line Bourbon Street, which runs through the center of the architecturally ornate French Quarter. This area is also home to several iconic Creole and Cajun restaurants serving dishes like gumbo and jambalaya. The Garden District is known for well-preserved antebellum mansions in styles like Italianate and Victorian. In Faubourg Marigny, Frenchmen Street is home to bars and clubs offering live jazz, blues and rock music. Streetcar lines cross the city, including the St. Charles route, operating since 1835.
New York City comprises 5 boroughs sitting where the Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean. At its core is Manhattan, a densely populated borough that’s among the world’s major commercial, financial and cultural centers. Its iconic sites include skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and sprawling Central Park. Broadway theater is staged in neon-lit Times Square. The Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan to the borough of Brooklyn, where varied neighborhoods range from Williamsburg – a hotbed of indie music, art and nightlife – to beachfront Coney Island and its amusement parks. The borough of Queens has Flushing Meadows Corona Park, with its 12-story 1964 World’s Fair globe sculpture, the Unisphere. The Bronx, NYC’s northernmost borough, is home to the landmark New York Botanical Garden and renowned Bronx Zoo. The Staten Island Ferry links Manhattan to NYC’s southernmost borough with views of the city skyline and Statue of Liberty.
Orlando, a city in central Florida, is home to more than a dozen theme parks. Chief among its claims to fame is Walt Disney World, comprised of parks like the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, as well as water parks. Another major destination, Universal Orlando, offers Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter straddling both. SeaWorld is a marine park with animals including whales, dolphins and penguins. Other popular spots include the Legoland theme park, Gatorland’s wildlife preserve, and Holy Land Experience, a Christian-themed park. The bigger parks have accompanying hotels, spas and restaurants. Accommodations are diverse away from the parks, and the area also offers golfing, lake fishing and boating tours through swamps to see wildlife like alligators and bald eagles. Fifty miles away, on the Atlantic Coast, the Kennedy Space Center features rocket launches, artifacts and an IMAX theater.
San Diego is a city on the Pacific coast of California known for its beaches, parks and warm climate. Immense Balboa Park is the site of the renowned San Diego Zoo, as well as numerous art galleries, artist studios, museums and gardens. A deep harbor is home to a large active naval fleet, with the USS Midway, an aircraft-carrier-turned-museum, open to the public. Old Town San Diego, known as “the birthplace of California,” is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement, in 1769. Today, it features a state park, with museums in original adobe buildings, costumed staff and Mexican restaurants. In the Gaslamp Quarter, Victorian buildings stand among dance clubs, swanky cocktail lounges and dive bars. Across the bay, over a soaring bridge, lies the resort city of Coronado, featuring the iconic, luxurious red-roofed Hotel del Coronado, along with upscale shops and restaurants.
San Francisco, in northern California, is a hilly city on the tip of a peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. It’s known for its year-round fog, iconic Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and colorful Victorian houses. The Financial District’s Transamerica Pyramid is its most distinctive skyscraper. In the bay sits Alcatraz Island, site of the notorious former prison. Fisherman’s Wharf features souvenir shops, seafood and a colony of sea lions. Russian Hill is home to Lombard Street, made up of 8 sharp, steep downhill turns. Sprawling green spaces include the Presidio, a onetime military base-turned-national park. Golden Gate Park has fine-arts on display at the de Young Museum, plus natural history exhibits at the California Academy of Sciences. The Castro neighborhood is a historic hub of gay culture, while Chinatown is the oldest community of its kind in North America. The gritty, artistic Mission District hosts taquerias alongside colorful murals.
Seattle, a city on Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, is surrounded by water, mountains and evergreen forests, and contains thousands of acres of parkland. Washington State’s largest city, it’s home to a large tech industry, with Microsoft and Amazon headquartered in its metropolitan area. The futuristic Space Needle, a 1962 World’s Fair legacy, is its most iconic landmark. Other major sites include historic Pike Place Market (home to the original Starbucks), nearby Olympic Sculpture Park and the Museum of Flight, with the Boeing Company’s original plant. Grunge music raised Seattle’s profile in the 1990s, and the city is still home to a vibrant independent music scene, as well as the Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP, dedicated to popular music and culture. The city’s also known for its serious coffeehouse and farm-to-table dining scenes.
Washington, DC, the U.S. capital, is a compact city on the Potomac River, bordering the states of Maryland and Virginia. It’s defined by imposing neoclassical monuments and buildings – including the iconic ones that house the federal government’s 3 branches: the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court. It’s also home to iconic museums and performing-arts venues such as the Kennedy Center. The focal point is the National Mall, a formal green space containing the Washington Monument and other memorials commemorating wars and august Americans from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr. Also on the Mall are the Museum of Natural History, Air and Space Museum and other free Smithsonian Institution museums dedicated to art, history and culture. Beyond the Mall, DC is an approachable, leafy city of Victorian row houses and varied appeals from Dupont Circle’s trendy shops and Georgetown’s posh restaurants to the vibrant nightlife along the U Street Corridor.