Are you looking to plan your summer vacation? It’s never too early. Or maybe you’re still in the spring planning mode- I definitely am. If you are unsure where you want to visit, consulting TripAdvisor is a great place to start. The vacation rating platform recently released its Best of The Best awards for 2023. One of the categories they published is the most popular travel destination in the United States. There are some great vacation hotspots on this list- some you’d expect, and others that are a little surprising. And it was great to see one of the North Carolina tourist destinations getting some national recognition from TripAdvisor.

It’s a city that comes up very often on these types of lists, and for good reason. Below you’ll find the 25 most popular tourist destinations in the United States according to TripAdvisor. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the majority of these locations and some of the ones I haven’t visited are on my bucket list. And you also most likely have one or two of these destinations on your list of dream vacays. And there is a good reason why people love them. Have you been to the North Carolina city that TripAdvisor named one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States? Do you think it’s worthy of this honor?

  • 25. Seattle, Washington

    If you want to get a taste of life in the Pacific Northwest Seattle is the place to go. Trip Advisor writes, “In Seattle, you simply can’t skip the Central Public Library – a modern architectural marvel of glass grids, unusual shapes, and a “book spiral” that climbs four stories. Stroll over to Pike Place Market to visit the original Starbucks and play catch with a fishmonger. In the heart of the city lies Chihuly Garden and Glass, which will dazzle you with its colorful and delicate works. Glide to the top of the Space Needle for panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges and Puget Sound.”

  • 24. Branson, Missouri

    Branson was not a place that was previously on my radar. But perhaps it should be. According to TripAdvisor, “Branson has limitless possibilities for a memorable vacation. While visiting you can: attend star-studded performances at Branson’s many live shows; enjoy Silver Dollar City, one of the world’s top theme parks; take in the beauty and adventure of the Ozark Mountains and three pristine lakes; play some of the best golf in the Midwest; visit museums highlighting the area’s rich history and culture; relax at spas and resorts; and shop at Branson’s many boutiques, galleries, and outlets.” They had me at theme parks, spas, and shopping!

  • 23. Austin, Texas

    Austin is definitely at the top of my must-visit list. The vibrant music scene is the main draw to me. But that’s not all. TripAdvisor explains it all, Live music is the essence of Austin, but it isn’t even close to the whole story. With spectacular entertainment districts, ubiquitous culture, and top-notch restaurants, Austin allows you to create your own soundtrack. Austin boasts more than 250 music venues, the world’s first James Beard Award-winning barbeque pitmaster, an eclectic arts scene, and the unique migration of 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. Take a look around and put the Live Music Capital of the World on your playlist.”

     

  • 22. Boston, Massachusetts

    People from Boston LOVE Boston. And it’s easy to see why. Here’s what TripAdvisor has to say about The City On A Hill, “Walk the Freedom Trail the first time you visit Boston and you’ll quickly get a sense of this coastal city’s revolutionary spirit and history. But make sure you also explore some of Boston’s fine museums (try the Isabella Stewart Gardner, featuring masterpieces displayed in their collector’s mansion) and old neighborhoods (like the North End, Boston’s Little Italy). You can’t claim to have experienced real Boston culture, though, until you’ve watched a Red Sox game from the bleachers.”

  • 21. Moab, Utah

    I’ve been to a great many National Parks, but for some reason, Moab had not ever come up on my radar until the past few years. The pictures and scenery are breathtaking. Trip Advisor writes, “>Moab attracts all types of outdoor adventurers. Mountain biking is huge here—experts claim it has some of the best trails in the world—as are rock-climbing and hiking. And the setting, with its gorgeous red rocks, can’t be beat.”

  • 20. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

    Just a short drive from North Carolina is the number 20 destination on this list. It’s been a while since I visited, and I have to admit I’m not quite sure of the difference between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. But I know both are very popular tourist hot spots in the Smoky Mountains. We learn more from the Trip Advisor description of Pigeon Forge, “Set against the misty blue backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is a gateway to 500 thousand acres of Appalachian wilderness. If hiking over 800 miles of mountain trails and camping in dense ancient forests isn’t your thing, head over to Dollywood for a different sort of fun. Founded by country queen, Dolly Parton, Dollywood combines rollercoasters, waterslides, and live bluegrass and gospel concerts, with a down-home country fair.”

  • 19. St. Augustine, Florida

    St. Augustine is famous for its rich history and as pictured above its holiday lights in the historic district. TripAdvisor says, “Saint Augustine is a luxurious, romantic vacation spot—you’ll find classic hotels and intimate restaurants. Those can be a dime a dozen, though. What sets Saint Augustine apart is its history—it’s the oldest European settlement in the U.S. And nowhere else in the world can you taste the waters of the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park (where Ponce de Leon may have landed). Who knows, if you vacation here, maybe you won’t need that Botox!”

  • 18. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

    If you have one, you have to have the other. What makes Gatlinburg rank a few spots higher than Pigeon Forge? Here’s what TripAdvisor had to say, “Gatlinburg, at the heart of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is an ideal base for a family looking to explore the park’s numerous offerings. After you’ve gone hiking, fishing, rafting, or horseback riding, ride an elevator 342 feet to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle for stunning views of the Smokies. There’s also an amusement center next door with nifty rides and games.”

  • 17. Washington DC, District of Columbia

    Of course, our nation’s capital would be on the list. It’s a right of passage for any American to visit, take in the history, and observe democracy in action. TripAdvisor writes, “From the National Mall’s monuments and memorials to vibrant neighborhoods filled with character and charm, DC is a world-class destination featuring breathtaking views, award-winning hotels and hundreds of free things to do. Experience outstanding performing arts at acclaimed theaters, shop in historic Georgetown, hear great live music at legendary venues, enjoy sporting entertainment from six professional franchises and be dazzled by a flourishing dining scene with Michelin-starred restaurants.”

  • 16. San Diego, California

    San Diego is one of my personal favorite cities, so I’m glad to see it represented by TripAdvisor. What did they have to say about this Southern California gem? “San Diego embodies laid-back California culture, complete with a Boardwalk, surfing communities, and outstanding Mexican food. Breathe in the fresh ocean air at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, then gobble down a fresh fish taco at a La Jolla seafood joint. The naval aircrafts at the USS Midway Museum will have you standing at attention. A free Sunday concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion is the perfect way to unwind after a Saturday night bar-hop in the thumping Gaslamp Quarter.”

  • 15. Sedona, Arizona

    I’m actually headed out to Arizona with a stop in Sedona next month. Therefore I’m paying close attention to what Trip Advisor recommends. They wrote, “Sedona is a true oasis, a vacationer’s paradise in the middle of the Arizona desert. Here, you’ll find resorts and spas, canyons, and red rock formations. Bell Rock and Oak Creek Canyon are great hiking spots, and the dramatic architecture of the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a religious experience itself. When the sun dips down below the horizon it introduces the best show in Sedona: the night sky.”

  • 14. Asheville, North Carolina

    Asheville is a place I visit often, usually at least once or twice a year. It’s gorgeous year-round and this mountain town has something for everyone. TripAdvisor highlights it as follows: “If you’re into eating locally and supporting sustainable agriculture, go to Asheville—and eat, eat, eat. This town of less than 100,000 people has 17 farmers’ markets, and the local restaurant scene is all about taking advantage of the seasonal produce sold there. And don’t miss the area’s microbreweries.” I’d rank my favorite parts of Asheville as Biltmore Estate and The Omni Grove Park Inn.

  • 13. San Francisco, California

    The biggest draw for me as a child to San Fransisco? My favorite TV show Full House took place there. In fact, many movies and tv shows were set in the city by the bay. So many, in fact, that they have a dedicated tour to see the locations. What else is there to do? Of course we are consulting TripAdvisor. “Every neighborhood in San Francisco has its own personality, from the hippie chic of the Upper Haight to the hipster grit of the Mission. The Marina district boasts trendy bistros and postcard-perfect views of the Golden Gate Bridge, while Noe Valley offers quaint and quiet boutiques. Wave hello to the sea lions at Pier 39, and sample local cheese and charcuterie at the Ferry Building. Sit in on a yoga session in Dolores Park or marvel at the Dutch Windmill across from Ocean Beach.”

  • 12. Savannah, Georgia

    The food, southern charm, history, beautiful houses, shopping, art, and lack of open-container laws are just some of the reasons Savannah is one of my favorite places in the world to visit. According to TripAdvisor, “Charming Savannah is the picture of antebellum hospitality, thanks to period architecture and oak-lined streets. It’s tempting to spend your trip just relaxing on vast verandas and sipping mint juleps, but there are plenty of historical sites and museums to explore. Haunting (and possibly haunted) Bonaventure Cemetery is one of the hallmarks of the city, featuring beautiful obelisks, masses of flowers, and ivy-covered crypts. Dine on fresh seafood and creamy grits for a taste of Savannah home cooking.”

  • 11. Island of Hawaii, Hawaii

    Visiting Hawaii is a literal dream of mine and so many others. I wish I could personally gush about the experience but instead I’ll let Trip Advisor do the talking. “Life on the Big Island is a little bit slower… and locals like it that way. The natural beauty and ecological features of the island are a draw for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Test your chutzpah at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to the longest volcanic eruption in recorded history, or climb to the indescribably beautiful summit of Mauna Kea. At the end of the day, there’s nothing more refreshing than a quivering plate of fresh poke, followed by a fruity shave ice.”

  • 10. Chicago, Illinois

    According to TripAdvisor, “The windy city is a cornucopia of modern art, fine dining, cutting edge comedy, and die-hard sports fans. Snap a photo of your reflection in the silver Cloud Gate sculpture at Millennium Park before heading to Grant Park to get hit with the refreshing spray of Buckingham Fountain. There are dozens of museums and theater companies in Chicago, so a cultural experience is never hard to find. You’re sure to laugh your head off at the Second City Theater, the professional launch pad of many famous comedians.”

  • 9. Nashville, Tennessee

    As a diehard country music fan Nashville was always such a draw to me. But even if you’re not a fan there is so much to see and do. TripAdvisor’s recommendations include music and more, “With live music to be heard all across town, 24/7, 365 days a year, Music City lives up to its name. From honky-tonk bands jamming at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge to songwriters in the round at the Bluebird Cafe and country music legends rocking the Grand Ole Opry, you never know who you might see. The creative spirit from Nashville’s music landscape flows into the area’s myriad art galleries, up-and-coming fashion scene, historic landmarks, and chef-driven restaurants.”

  • 8. Charleston, South Carolina

    It’s one of the most beloved destinations in the entire south and undoubtedly in South Carolina. I could gush over the entire area’s southern hospitality and picturesque nature for hours. “Historic Charleston is bursting with Southern charm and hospitality. The city feels a bit like it’s suspended in time, thanks to its antebellum architecture and surrounding plantation landscapes. Take in incredible views of the Battery and the French Quarter as you stroll the Waterfront Park, then become inspired by the cultivated beauty of the gardens at Middleton Place. At night, try a ghost tour for an introduction to the spooky side of the city,” is how TripAdvisor promotes Charleston.

  • 7. Key West, Florida

    Paradise is found in Key West Florida. This island oasis is the southernmost point of the US and is known for it’s laid-back lifestyle. According to TripAdvisor, “Does time ever pass in the Florida Keys? Everyone and everything in Key West seems to go at its own pace, right down to the ice melting slooooowly in your margarita glass. Of course, it’s not all limes and leisure – Key West is known as the “Winter White House” because of its appeal to visiting U.S. presidents, and the island has been home to literary greats like Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. The diving here is phenomenal, as is the kid-friendly Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center.”

  • 6. New Orleans, Louisiana

    I’m dying for a reason to visit NoLA. TripAdvisor writes, “New Orleans is full of life—but with a laid-back energy that sets it apart from other cities. You’ll wanna soak it all in: impromptu jazz performances up and down Frenchmen Street, the ding of the St. Charles Streetcar, moss-draped trees in the famous Garden District…even its gothic, above-ground cemeteries. (The city’s said to be one of the most haunted in America.) For some, NOLA will always be all about Bourbon Street, but for travelers looking to take it slow, the city’s distinct blend of cultures—including Creole and Cajun—means there’s tons to see, explore, and yes, eat.”

  • 5. Miami Beach, Florida

    Welcome to Miami. Here’s what TripAdvisor has to say about South Beach and the surrounding areas. “At the shore in Miami Beach, visitors can swim, surf and jet ski in the warm and crystal-clear Atlantic waters. You can also nap on the white sands, work on a tan or simply watch the beautiful people, especially at South Beach, a favorite of models and celebrities.”

  • 4. Maui, Hawaii

    Oh Maui. How I want to visit. Here’s TripAdvisor’s description of the Hawaiian Island paradise. “The Hawaiian island of Maui is a destination for true nature lovers. The ethereal bamboo forest and churning waterfalls in Haleakala National Park can be explored via the Waimoku Falls Trail. Stretch out on warm, golden sands or hit the surf for an unforgettable windsurfing or snorkeling session. Driving the scenic road to Hana along the island’s northeastern shore will be among the most spectacular journeys of your life. Time stands still at the Hawaiian village of Keanae, definitely worth a visit.

  • 3. Oahu, Hawaii

    Trip Advisor describes it’s highest-ranked Hawaiian island in this way: “The Hawaiian island of Oahu is a surfer’s paradise, with swelling waves that can reach epic heights. No wonder, then, that it’s the site of one of the world’s premier competitions, the Triple Crown of Surfing. If hanging ten isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy the beautiful beaches – particularly famous Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. Art connoisseurs will appreciate the annual Hale’iwa Arts Festival, a celebration of local crafts, painting, jewelry, sculpture, dance, and music.”

  • 2. Las Vegas, Nevada

    What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Everyone should experience the entertainment capital of the world at least once. Even if you’re (like me) not a gambler. TripAdvisor writes, “Whether you’re a high roller or a low-key lounger, Las Vegas has something to suit your vacation taste. Sample fare from top chefs and cornucopian buffets, try your luck at one of the world’s premier casinos, or take in a spectacular show. Just wandering the Strip is enough to get your heart pumping. Once you’ve had enough of the razzle-dazzle, wave hello to the toothy sea life at the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef, hike Red Rock Canyon, or visit the Neon Museum, where old signs take on new life.”

  • 1. New York City, New York

    New York comes in at the top of TripAdvisor’s list. And I’d wager that it tops most people’s list as well. It’s impossible to see all the city has to offer in a vacation but to highlight some of the must-do’s let’s see what TripAdvisor has to say. “Conquering New York in one visit is impossible. Instead, hit the must-sees – the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art – and then explore off the beaten path with visits to The Cloisters or one of the city’s libraries. Indulge in the bohemian shops of the West Village or the fine dining of the Upper West Side. The bustling marketplace inside of Grand Central Station gives you a literal taste of the best the city has to offer.”