When it comes to living your best life, why not reach for the top? Traveling is one of the very best ways to live big, and we’ve compiled a list of North American destinations that have proven their A-list status to travelers.
These visitors expressed their impressions through verified Expedia reviews throughout 2016. Scoring the highest star ratings from 3.9 to 4.5 out of 5, in categories for friendliness, cleanliness, comfort, and overall quality, these places curry favor by letting guests know they’ll be treated well and rewarded richly.
This list includes cities with 600+ reviews, scaled down from over 4,600 cities that met the criteria, and ranked in order from highest to lowest of the 50 best. From hotels that pull out all the stops to attractions that leave you speechless, the charms of these places pack a big punch, offering hospitality worthy of a prize. Here are the top-rated vacation destinations.
As one of the oldest European settlements in North America, Quebec City sets the standard for aging gracefully. Take Hotel Le Germain, for instance. The building is 100 years old, but the interiors are sleek, modern, and stylish. The bustling Old Port Market is less than half a mile west, and freshness is a virtue here, from just-picked produce to breads straight from the oven. Don’t let the name Old Quebec throw you off—while this 400-year-old neighborhood is the historic heart of the city, it remains vibrantly alive with art, culture, and activities. Explore the grounds of Citadelle of Quebec, then let history carry you away on a horse-drawn carriage ride with Caleches Quebec. Quench your thirst with a barrel-aged sanctuaire at Le Castor, one of the best microbreweries in the city. Old world meets new in the culinary creations at Café Saint-Malo, where authentic French plates will renew your appreciation of perfection.
If this were a beauty contest, these other cities might be in trouble. Though, judging on merit, Victoria still lands in the top five, so it’s obviously a city to be reckoned with from any angle. Stately splendor is on display at Hatley Castle, where the gardens, which feature statues, pavilions, hedges, and fragrant blooms, rival the house in loveliness. Live like royalty at Chateau Victoria Hotel & Suites. Book in-room spa treatments, take a dip in the indoor pool, and sip a nightcap at Clive’s Classic Lounge. Refreshed for a day of exploring, spend quality time with the incredible exhibits at the Royal British Columbia Museum. Take a walking tour of the untoward in Victoria’s Forbidden City, and learn about the underground activities that gave life to the zig-zagging alleyways and hidden courtyards of Canada’s oldest Chinatown. For eye candy that you can eat, the classic French dishes at Brasserie L ‘Ecole satisfy visual and literal hunger.
As home to one of the most prestigious universities in the country, Cambridge knows a thing or two about smarts. And what’s the wisest thing you could do but to head to this top-rated city? Don your thinking cap at the Harvard Art Museums and commune with masters of the visual arts. Learn from the locals, and get yourself to Harvard Square, where a day of shopping, entertainment, and people watching is sure to teach you about the area. Augment your personal library with a few treasures from Bryn Mawr College Bookshop, then cozy up with one at Porter Square Hotel. The smartest thing you’ll do all day, however, is going to Bondir Cambridge, where you will be treated to a masterclass in quality eating.
Shall we compare Ashland to a summer’s day? With so much natural beauty and relaxed atmosphere, the city is the perfect place to spend a summer’s day, at any rate. Start your morning at Noble Coffee Roasting, where the finest organic coffee will have you penning sonnets in its name. Next, make a date with Lithia Park. There, meandering Ashland Creek, a manicured Japanese garden, and sprawling woodlands set the scene for an enchanted afternoon. If boldness be your friend, take a journey with Indigo Creek Outfitters, during which you can face the raging waters of Hell’s Corner. When it’s time to hang up your paddle, in the Garden Suite at Lithia Springs Resort, you’ll nestle near the flowers of middle summer. Oh, did you know Ashland is home to the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival? Now you do, and you know what the Bard says, “Knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”
Charleston’s got charm, and there’s no denying it. Earning every inch of its top-ten status, this city’s best things to see and do rival those of any destination of note. Let it woo you as you stroll through the historic district on a walking tour with Charleston Footprints. You’ll see the elaborate architecture, 18th-century ironwork, and detailed doorways the city is famous for. If the neighborhood sweeps you off your feet, stay at HarbourView Inn, which, true to its name, offers one of the best vantage points in town. Once you’ve rested up, take a short walk to Charleston City Market, where you could spend a whole day getting lost in art, food, and culture. Pick up a sweetgrass basket while you’re there—handwoven from indigenous bulrush, they’re quintessential Charleston. Saving the best for last, reserve a table at Husk Restaurant for an heirloom meal steeped in low country roots.
Montreal embodies the je ne sais quoi, earning visitors’ affections with landmarks as stunning as Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal and areas as charming as Old Montreal. Stay in the latter at LHotel Montreal, where eclectic art adorns colorful walls in a made-over 1870 building. If that piques your interest, hold onto your feather-trimmed hat, because this city blends the fresh with the historic with poise and finesse. Taste its delights on the Mile End Local Montreal Food Tours. The culture-rich neighborhood has the most artists per capita in North America, so make a stop in one of its galleries. Galerie d’Avignon won’t disappoint. For a meal that will keep you guessing, go to Provisions Restaurant, where there is no menu. The ever-evolving plates are bright, fresh, and worthy of a picture that could hang in any gallery.
Minneapolis is on fire, and, no, we don’t mean literally. This Minnesota city makes best-ofs left and right, from foodie lists to most bikeable mentions. With plenty of quirky watering holes, world-class art, fine hotels, and winning restaurants, it’s easy to see why this city’s got you so crazy right now. Add Hewing Hotel to your plans. It will strike your fancy with hip woodsy details, a rooftop Finnish sauna and spa pool, and attention to guests’ comfort at every turn. Get to know the city (and one of its favorite things) on a Bitter Minnesota Brewery Tour. Meet locals and taste local brews as you’re guided to craft breweries throughout the city. For a taste of something truly of the region, go to Matt’s Bar & Grill for a Jucy Lucy. This Minnesota institution is the original home of the burger with a molten secret—the beef patty is filled with melty cheese! If you’re feeling refined, the exhibits at Minneapolis Institute of Art are a satisfying way to spend an afternoon, and dinner at Spoon and Stable should round out your evening just fine.
If you’ve been to Whistler, you understand its high marks. This place is the perfect spot to feel a world away while enjoying all the creature comforts. Start by staying at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, considered by many to be the best hotel in town. Spacious rooms decorated in clean lines scream quality, while the ski-in ski-out feature wastes no time in delivering you straight to nature. Whistler Olympic Park has seen athletes earn top accolades, and you may feel like you’ve won gold when you take your turn baseboarding or ski jumping. Change out of your gear and enjoy all the shops and restaurants of Whistler Village, but make sure to stop at Bearfoot Bistro, where you’re promised more than a meal. Suit up in a parka and sip vodka in the ice room, or learn to saber a Champagne bottle in the underground cellar…oh, and enjoy some of the best food in Whistler while you’re at it.
History, culture, a youthful population, and world-famous bars, make this east coast city a must-visit. Head to Union Oyster House, the oldest running restaurant in the United States.
History and patriotism aside, the thriving restaurant scene in D.C. is worth putting the nation’s capital on your travel bucket list. (Psst: reserve an experience at two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Minibar.)
Iconic buildings, parks, hot dogs, and sports stadiums are just a few of the reasons you haven’t really seen America until you’ve been to Chicago.
Push boundaries when you visit Bellingham, the northernmost city in the contiguous United States. Explore the downtown Cultural Arts District and catch a show at the historic Mount Baker Theatre.
Rejuvenate in Sedona, where a kaleidoscope of color paints every vista, and world-class resorts are masters in pampering.
An unspoiled village just outside of Chicago, Rosemont by any other name would small as sweet. Its hotels, restaurants, and entertainment options make it a prime spot from which to explore the region.
Miles of coral reefs, colorful conch houses, sparkling blue ocean, sizzling sunsets, and bright key lime pie paint a pretty picture in Key West. (Hint: Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe is the best place to taste the famous dessert.)
The woodsy atmosphere of Torrey Pines, seaside shine of La Jolla Cove, postcard-worthy clifftop views, and pristine downtown streets lend this city its unforgettable style and ease, making it one of the most popular vacation destinations.
Grab a bike and cycle to the farmers market, Prairie Center for the Arts, and Trickster Art Gallery before cruising the miles of biking trails that run through this charming village.
Plan to stay a while, because this city offers so much to see and do. Its 14 distinctive neighborhoods, amazing restaurants, museums, boutiques, music venues, and markets really add up to high marks.
New Orleans knows how to party, and it also knows how to treat its guests to a warm welcome, unrivaled comfort food, music in the streets, history in the architecture, and hospitality in its soul.
With beach access at the end of every adjacent street, Treasure Island is a must-do for those who love sand between their toes and warm rays on their skin.
American wine country that rivals Europe’s finest, this stretch of California land delivers the best in scenery, food, and ambience.
Pittsburgh is having a moment, and more people are choosing this destination than ever. Maybe it has something to do with the award-winning restaurants, vibrant performing arts scene, lively cultural districts, and rich history.
Follow your bliss to Solvang, where cheerful Danish culture and architecture meet California easy attitudes. Surrounded by beautiful vineyards, this historical village will keep a smile on your face.
Come for the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival, a huge community gathering that celebrates local agriculture with rides, food, and a star-studded parade over Memorial Day weekend.
Big Sky Country is known for its wide open spaces, but Bozeman packs a lot of activity in 19 square miles. Dine and drink at 14 North, shop the boutiques downtown, and learn about the area’s past at Gallatin History Museum.
Outdoor enthusiasts who haven’t been to Park City: you have a new assignment. Skiing, horseback riding, bobsledding, and mountain biking in beautiful scenery are just a few of the ways to enjoy nature around the city. Reserve a seat at Savor the Summit, a popular outdoor dinner party that celebrates local restaurants.
Music, coffee, and culture put Seattle on the map, and you’ll see why when you sample the goods for yourself. The famous skyline, lush parks, and walkable waterfront are added bonuses, making Seattle one of the best places for vacations.
There’s more to this place than its deep ties to U.S. history, though that’s reason enough to visit. Farm-to-table restaurants, area vineyards and distilleries (try Reid’s Orchard and Winery), and lively festivals introduce visitors to the Gettysburg of today.
Portland’s creative energy is as potent as the craft coffee the city prides itself on. With such lush natural surroundings, it’s no surprise the city’s chefs, artists, makers, and musicians are so epically inspired.
Mountain vistas, laidback locals, hip neighborhoods, and famous attractions make this North Carolina city an enviable destination. Take one of the essential scenic drives, and join a behind-the-scenes tour of the palatial Biltmore.
Newport has been attracting America’s finest since the Gilded Age, and it’s plain to see why. Surrounded by sea, this city is a glittering coastal jewel. Take in local highlights (like historical mansions and rocky bluffs) from the famed Cliff Walk.
Quintessentially California, this city has coastal parks, hidden coves, walkable trails, public art, farmers markets, and sunset vantage points that will have you singing the theme song from “The O.C.” with gusto.
If seeing more national parks and monuments is a life goal, make Durango your next vacation spot. It’s the perfect basecamp from which to explore San Juan National Forest, Mesa Verde, Chimney Rock, and more.
Chandler’s parks and public spaces, walkable (and shoppable) downtown, and surrounding nature provide endless ways to discover the captivating American southwest.
At the center of a Nevada trifecta, Henderson is the gateway to Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam, and Lake Mead in a tranquil residential environment that is full of nature trails, museums, cultural events, and art.
Southern California’s abundant sunshine and relaxed attitude make it a beloved destination for travelers, and Orange adds to the charm with pre-1920s historical homes and buildings, clean parks and lakes, and vibrant Old Towne.
Boomburbs like Bellevue are giving their bigger neighbors a run for their tourist dollars with draws such as open outdoor spaces, local libations, cultural attractions like the Bellevue Arts Museum, and sightseeing opportunities in mellow settings.
Pair outdoor adventures with shopping excursions in this Hawaiian town. Kapaa Beach Shop will set you up for water sports such as surfing, snorkeling, and diving. Then head to Kinipopo Shopping Village, where you’ll be sure to find a keepsake to bring home.
It’s no accident that this area is called Paradise Coast and is one of the top places to vacation. See its beauty for yourself and visit Naples Botanical Garden, take an airboat tour of the Everglades, and walk along the soft silty beaches.
Water sport enthusiasts take note: Fort Myers Beach is prime for parasailing and kayaking, and the wide sandy stretches invite you to relax and take it easy.
The Southern California desert landscape is still and silent, perfect for a meditative getaway. Palm Desert is tucked against towering mountains, which provide a sense of protection from the expansive surrounding wilderness.
Iconic Arches and Canyonlands National Parks evoke classic western film imagery, but nothing beats the in-person views in this unique part of the country.
Even if you’ve been to New York, you’d be smart to visit again. The city is a living organism, constantly changing and moving. And we don’t have to tell you it’s also home to the best restaurants, hotels, attractions, and cultural districts in America.
Which cities would you rate highest?