East Coast versus West Coast. It’s an argument that has gone on for over a hundred years, and it will go on for as long as the United States exists. These two sides of one of the world’s biggest and best countries are very different in a lot of ways, and everyone seems to have their preference as to which is better.
Personally, I love visiting the west but I don’t think anything beats living on the East Coast. Being from here and having visited every major city between Maine and Florida, I’d say I have had the chance to formulate my opinions on which cities are the best to visit on the East Coast. Here is my list.
10. Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
While these is technically two cities, they always tend to go hand in hand. Raleigh and Durham are located just a few miles apart from one another, and while neither is an especially big city, there is a lot going on here. Three of the most notable universities on the East Coast – Duke University, the University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State University – are all located here. Because of the huge student body and young professional community here, the cities have molded themselves to cater to younger crowds, meaning great bars, cafes, and places to hang out.
Because of the prestigious universities in the area and the alumni bases that have stuck around, many fantastic museums have sprung up. From the North Carolina Museum of Art and the North Carolina Museum of History to the Marbles Kids Museum, there is a lot of great learning to be had. This city’s museums have nothing on the ones in this list’s number one city!
Located in the state right to the south of Raleigh-Durham, Charleston is quickly becoming a favorite among visitors. While it is the smallest city on this list by a really wide margin, this little city packs a punch. Known for its beautiful colonial architecture and cobblestone streets, Charleston offers some big-city amenities with a small-city feel.
With a population of only about 150,000 people, Charleston hardly even counts as a medium-sized city. Nevertheless, its location on the coastline in South Carolina coupled with the rapid boom that the city is seeing makes Charleston one of the best cities to visit on the East Coast!
If you’re thinking of visiting Charleston, I recommend bundling the trip with a visit to Myrtle Beach, which is quickly becoming one of the top beach destinations on the East Coast.
Orlando is honestly underrated as a city. While it is predominantly known for its massive theme parks – like Disney World, Universal, and Epcot – there is so much more to this central Florida city. While the theme parks are the best in the world and are worth a visit at least once in your life, they are not the only thing that Orlando has to offer.
The presence of these parks has spiked the tourism that Orlando sees, and the city has capitalized really well on this increased traffic by investing largely in other markets of tourism like sporting events, concerts, and a wide range of restaurants.
After all, tourists come first for the theme parks, but they come a second time because of all the other things that Orlando has to offer!
7. Baltimore, Maryland
Don’t sleep on Baltimore. While it tends to get a bad rap for its high crime rates and poor economic situation, this doesn’t tell the full story of the city.
There are definitely problems in Baltimore, and it certainly has some parts that aren’t the nicest, but there are so many redeeming qualities that make Baltimore an awesome city to visit. Due to its proximity to some other cities on this list, taking a side trip to Baltimore isn’t that hard, either!
If you decide to head to Baltimore, the one thing that you absolutely must do is head to Inner Harbor. Inner Harbor is widely considered to be the nicest area in Baltimore. It sits right along the harbor and is the host of many great restaurants and attractions, like the aquarium and the observatory.
6. Charlotte, North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina, otherwise known as the Queen City, is personally one of my favorite cities on the East Coast. The city is growing rapidly which is a plus, but it has been a fantastic place to visit since long before its boom.
As one of the most easygoing, clean, and friendly cities I have visited in the United States, Charlotte is a place that is very accepting of visitors and very fun to explore. With a population of over half a million people, Charlotte has a little bit for everyone.
From several professional sports teams like the Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte Hornets, to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, to the incredible barbecue restaurants scattered around the city, you’re bound to have a great visit here. What sticks out to me the most about Charlotte is just how clean and open it is – imagine wide city blocks and beautifully clean streets. Nice people, great food, a beautiful city, and lots of fun.
5. Boston, Massachusetts
Oh, Boston. Boston is one of the first cities to really spring up in the United States, as its history goes back centuries. As one of the beating hearts of the American Revolution, Boston is one of the most historic cities in the entire country.
A visit to Boston today is filled with tributes to its historic roots. The Freedom Walk is the best example of this, and it is a marked path that winds through the city and stops at some of the most important places in American history. From where Paul Revere yelled “The British are coming” to where the colonist dumped tea into the Boston Harbor, history is very well preserved in the heart of New England.
Boston offers a lot more than just history, though. Firstly, the seafood up there is incredible. New England clam chowder, anyone? Lobster rolls? Additionally, my favorite major brewery, Sam Adams, is located here, and the brewery tour is probably the best one I’ve ever been on – and it’s free.
4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Okay, this one is personal. You know how they say that everyone has “their city?”
As in, the one they either lived in or visited all the time as a kid? For me, that is Philly. I feel like a lot of people forget about Philadelphia, and this is probably because it is so close to the country’s biggest city, New York. Philadelphia is the fifth or sixth biggest city in the country, though, and passing on it is a big mistake. After all, it was the first capital of the United States, and it is probably the most historic city in the country!
But specifically, why should you visit Philadelphia? Frankly, the food and museums are easily the best part (unless you’re a sports fan). Philly cheesesteaks, anyone?
On top of just that local delicacy, the food scene in Philly really is great. From Italian food, to one of the best Chinatowns on the East Coast, to all of the Lancaster County Amish and Mennonite food coming in from the middle of the state, the food here really is spectacular. Just visit Reading Terminal Market and you’ll see. Checking out Dilworth Park around Christmas time is a good idea, too!
3. Miami, Florida
How could Miami not be this high on the list? To be honest, I thought about putting it one slot higher on this list. Miami is really incredible. I think one of the best things about Miami is that you can experience several different worlds while you’re there. What do I mean by that?
Firstly, Miami is a super Latino city, and the amount of Spanish, Latin American, and Caribbean culture here is incredible. Secondly, the range of prices and income levels is extremely wide, meaning you have some of the richest of the rich in among the rest of us normal folk everywhere in the city.
One way to sum that up is by saying there are very few places in the world where you can find $50 tacos, but Miami is probably one of them.
Miami is more than just Latino flare, though. It is world renowned for its offerings in the way of arts and fashion. Some of the biggest art and fashion shows in the world are held here, and the city is probably the second or third most international place on the East Coast as a result.
In fact, I collaborated with Made at Madearchives.com, a Miami-raised fashion influencer, to put together a Miami travel guide with everything you need to know for your trip. Miami Beach is such a cool place and you’d be remiss if you decided to skip Miami. As far as I am concerned, Miami is the number one place to visit in Florida without any question or debate.
Wow, New York isn’t the top city on this list? No, it is not!
Still, New York is a really incredible place to visit, and it is normally the first place that people mention wanting to visit on their first trip to the United States. New York’s name just has a flare to it that few other places in the world have, and this flare brings tourists from every corner of the world.
This is probably because when the United States was on a tear towards being the world’s superpower, New York was the center of class and culture in the nation. So as the United States climbed to world power and fame, so did New York.
Nowadays, I feel like New York isn’t quite as incredible as it was back then, but it is still worth the trip. I think that part of what made New York so great was how it was always alive and ahead of the times, but now that so many big cities have sprung up, I don’t think it holds much of an edge over places like Miami.
As a tourist, though, there are so many things to see. Check out a show on Broadway, go for a stroll through Central Park, take a ferry out to the Statue of Liberty, and ride The Bull on Wall Street, at least!
Does this surprise anyone? Washington D.C. takes the cake as my top city to visit in the United States, and there are a few reasons why.
There are museums around the world that are better than individual museums in Washington D.C., but there is no single city that can outdo the entire Smithsonian system. It is the top museum curation in the entire world and that is pretty much indisputable when you look at just how many museums are in it.
Washington D.C. is more than just museums though, and it is definitely a lot more than just politics. This city is truly alive and buzzing with action, from big businesses everywhere to beautiful parks and hip districts.
Before moving to the area I had no idea how much there really was to do other than check out the White House and the museums. Areas like Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan are super fun neighborhoods in D.C., while suburbs like Bethesda, Maryland and Arlington, Virginia are some of the coolest suburbs in the country.
Really, they’re their own satellite cities. If you are looking for a single place on the East Coast to visit that has great dining, activities to fill your day, and stunning green spaces scattered all throughout, Washington D.C. is the place for you.
Thanks for reading my post on the top 10 best cities to visit on the East Coast of the United States. Hopefully, this list helps you plan the best places to visit on your next trip to the United States’ colonial beginnings.
If you have any questions about visiting the East Coast at all, comment below – we’ve got you covered.