The Biggest City in Every State from The Biggest City in Every State Gallery

The Biggest City in Every State Gallery

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The Biggest City in Every State
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The Biggest City in Every State

Going “off the beaten path” is a popular endeavor among many travelers. We seek out the smallest town in a state to discover its charm and sense of community or look for undiscovered beauty in the towns deemed the prettiest. Smaller towns and more remote areas may hold some of the best food and drink in the country, as well as attractions that haven’t been totally overrun by tourists. There’s something to be said, however, for the big city in all of its bustling, fast-moving glory.

With a bigger population comes more options and more variety in food, drink, culture, and entertainment. That’s why you’ll often find that the best restaurant scene or the most prolific artistic community in a given state may be located in its largest metropolis. More often than not, you’ll find a state’s best Italian cuisine or its top Chinese food in its biggest city. While cities are known for their expensive dining options, they also tend to have many more affordable alternatives as well due to demand and competition. Entrepreneurs of all stripes flock to cities where they have a bigger audience to see, taste, feel, or otherwise enjoy their business or creative endeavors. As a result, you won’t run out of things to do for a while, if ever.

It should be noted, however, that — given that some states are less dense in population — not all “big cities” are created equal. In fact, the smallest big city on this list has a population of approximately just 43,000! If you’re the type to thrive in an urban setting or simply look for a destination where you have plenty of options relative to the rest of the region, consider taking a trip to the biggest city in every state.

Alabama: Birmingham
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Alabama: Birmingham

Alabama’s largest city is where it’s at, with an active nightlife and tons of music venues. The cultural and economic hub of the state, Birmingham has a population of approximately 217,000 and is home to tons of art galleries, theaters, museums, and shopping and entertainment centers, as well as cultural events such as Birmingham ArtWalk, the Birmingham Folk Festival, Sidewalk Film Festival, and Southern Heritage Festival. The food scene here is impressive too; check out one of America’s best hot dogs at Gus’s or try a Hamburger Fon Fon at Chez Fon Fon, one of the nation’s best burgers. You’ll also find the state’s most expensive restaurant here, Highlands Bar & Grill, as well as one of America’s best fried chicken spots at Little Donkey.

Alaska: Anchorage
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Alaska: Anchorage

With just under 300,000 people, Anchorage is Alaska’s most populated city by far; its second largest city, Fairbanks, has an approximate population of just 32,000. Over 40 percent of Alaskans live here, and it’s a great spot for biking or hiking down its scenic trails or catching a glimpse of the Alaskan wildlife, such as moose, bears, sheep, and birds. With gorgeous mountain scenery and a chance to see the northern lights, it’s also one of the best places to go if you’re dreaming of a white Christmas.

Arizona: Phoenix
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Arizona: Phoenix

Although it can get exceedingly hot, Phoenix is a top destination for a wallet-friendly summer vacation, thanks in part to how big it is. Over 1.6 million people live in Arizona’s capital — more than twice the population of the next largest city, Tucson — giving rise to an impressive artistic, cultural, and culinary scene. Phoenix is full of Arizona’s best art institutions, with plenty of theaters, venues, and events celebrating American, Southwestern, and native art. It’s also home to multiple professional sports teams, such as the Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Arkansas: Little Rock
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Arkansas: Little Rock

It may have less than 200,000 citizens, but the capital of Arkansas still has a big reputation. Southern history and culture thrive in Little Rock, one of the country’s best weekend getaway destinations, where you can find multiple arts and music centers, as well as many historic sites and museums. Visit the Quapaw Quarter, made up of 15 National Historic Register Districts and over 200 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Also worth a visit is the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site and Museum, across the street from the site of the famous forced school desegregation following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954. Little Rock also has plenty of outdoor opportunities for hiking, cycling, boating, and more.

California: Los Angeles
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California: Los Angeles

With a population of nearly 4 million, Los Angeles, California is the second largest city in the United States and one of the world’s most famous, thanks to the presence of Hollywood and other creative industries, such as music, writing, dancing, and more. If you’re not the star-struck type, however, there’s still plenty to do and plenty of areas to explore, like the beach neighborhood of Venice and the hipster mecca of Silver Lake. Los Angeles is a foodie’s paradise and also has plenty of trendy bars and shops for you to visit as well.

Colorado: Denver
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Colorado: Denver

Over the past decade or so, Denver has grown into a center of culture and arts, earning it the title of the “Brooklyn” of the state. You’ll find plenty of urban life in this Colorado city of over 700,000, but the Rocky Mountains are right nearby for when one craves the great outdoors as well. A thriving music scene has given rise to dozens of outdoor festivals, and the city’s restaurant scene is noteworthy, as are its many bars and breweries.

Connecticut: Bridgeport
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Connecticut: Bridgeport

The largest city in a pretty small state, Bridgeport has approximately just 150,000 citizens and still quite a bit of significance. The Frisbee was invented here when kids started tossing around the plates of the local Frisbie Pie Company, and the first Subway restaurant opened in Bridgeport in 1965. Many movies have been filmed in this Connecticut town too, such as Die Hard With a Vengeance, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.

Delaware: Wilmington
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Delaware: Wilmington

With a population of just over 70,000, you wouldn’t expect Wilmington to be such a hip city, but it's home to many art galleries, museums, restaurants, and, of course, tax-free shopping like the rest of Delaware. Johnnie’s Dog House offers some of the best hot dogs the country, and local bars will have Delaware brews on tap, such as Dogfish Head, Blue Earl Brewing, Twin Lakes, and more.

Florida: Jacksonville
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Florida: Jacksonville

Jacksonville is one of this year’s best value destinations, with plenty of Floridian culture, music, art, and, beaches, as well as the largest population in the state — over 880,000, to be exact.  With plenty of affordable restaurants and the lowest hotel rates in Florida, Jacksonville has multiple art galleries and interesting shops that populate the downtown part of the city, which is full of great nightlife and eight local breweries. It’s is more than city, though, with the largest urban park system in the country, where you can stroll, hike, bike, or even take a guided kayak tour to enjoy the best of Floridian nature.

Georgia: Atlanta
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Georgia: Atlanta

Atlanta is a leading destination in the South, and for good reason, as it brings together a traditional Southern lifestyle with a constantly progressing modernism. Multiple popular fast food chains are headquartered in the capital of Georgia, such as Chick-fil-A, Waffle House, Arby’s, and Moe’s Southwest Grill, but Atlanta’s culinary scene also has a more sophisticated side with restaurants by award-winning chefs and even a noteworthy brunch scene. With a population of approximately 470,000, there’s nightlife here for everyone, from more alternative scenes to trendier spots and popular clubs throughout the city.

Hawaii: Honolulu
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Hawaii: Honolulu

While it’s worth checking out the many gorgeous spots that haven’t been overrun by tourists, some of Hawaii’s best attractions are in its capital of Honolulu. With an ever-growing population that’s currently estimated to be around 360,000, Honolulu has the best of both the city and the island getaway. Because of its popularity as a destination, some of Hawaii’s most affordable resorts and hotels are here (as are some of its most luxurious), as is a thriving restaurant scene. Honolulu is also home to great beaches, such as the famous Waikiki Beach, shopping centers, and a Chinatown that’s quite the favorite with island hipsters.

Idaho: Boise
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Idaho: Boise

Boise has found its groove, and its place as one of America’s rising destinations, thanks to great breweries, wine, food, and an accompanying pleasant climate at this Idaho destination. Eat some of America’s best steak at Chandlers and the most delicious fries at Boise Fry Company in what is actually one of the safest cities in the world. Outdoor adventures abound here, as well, and Boise is a great place to go hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, and more.

Illinois: Chicago
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Illinois: Chicago

Approximately 2.7 million people live in the nation’s third largest city, located in northeastern Illinois along the banks of Lake Michigan. It’s the perfect destination for those who prefer a more urban vacation with both a food-lover's and an arts scene. Its famous skyline boasts not only the Willis Tower (formerly and often still known as the Sears Tower), but also some of the world’s best museums, art galleries, parks, and more. You don’t need admission to anything to witness some of the Second City’s great art, however; downtown Chicago has an entire collection of modern sculptures that you can enjoy on your own or with a two-to-four-hour walking tour. Lake Michigan may not be an ocean, but it provides some great beaches all the same, Chicago being considered the second cleanest urban waterfront in the world. The Windy City is also home to Taste of Chicago, the world’s largest outdoor food festival, and of course, the famous Chicago deep-dish pizza.

Indiana: Indianapolis
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Indiana: Indianapolis

The capital of Indiana has approximately 860,000 citizens and is known as “the Crossroads of America” due to the fact that 70 percent of the U.S. population is within a day’s drive from it. Home to the world’s largest single-day sporting event (the Indy 500), as well as the world’s largest children’s museum and the country’s largest privately funded zoo, Indianapolis is a great Midwestern city full of American culture and history.

Iowa: Des Moines
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Iowa: Des Moines

Some people may consider Iowa just a "flyover state," but its capital shouldn't be discounted. Des Moines is one of the happiest cities in the country, with about 600,000 residents and plenty of small town charm. From locally-owned restaurants and one-of-a-kind specialty shops to new housing developments and popular cultural events, there are plenty of things to do and see in this hipster haven.

Kansas: Wichita
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Kansas: Wichita

The largest city in Kansas has a population of nearly 400,000 and is known as the “Air Capital of the World” due to the fact that many top aircraft manufacturers were established here, such as Cessna, Beechraft, and Stearman Aircraft, while others maintain their headquarters here as well, including Airbus, Textron Aviation, and Spirit Aerosystems. Today, it remains a hub of culture, cuisine, and entertainment, with expensive restaurants like Scotch & Sirloin and great date spots like its amazing WaterWalk.

Kentucky: Louisville
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Kentucky: Louisville

“The Gateway to the South,” Louisville contains a mix of Southern and Midwestern culture. With an estimated population of approximately 620,000, Kentucky’s largest city has an impressive municipal parks system and a burgeoning arts scene, providing lots to do for sporty and artsy people alike. Louisville’s horse races are world-renowned — a trip in the first weekend of May would coincide with the Kentucky Derby, though it can be hard to wrangle a ticket for that Saturday. The Highlands shopping district has plenty of wonderful cafés, bars, restaurants, and art galleries to explore as well. The Louisville food scene is known for its “farm-to-table” style, taking organic foods to heights you’ve never experienced before. Make sure you don’t leave without paying tribute to the Greatest of All Time at the Muhammad Ali Center or visiting the Louisville Slugger Bat Factory!

Louisiana: New Orleans
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Louisiana: New Orleans

A mix of black, Caribbean, Creole, French, German, Haitian, Vietnamese, and many other cultures comes together in Louisiana’s largest city, which has a population of approximately 400,000. The Big Easy is a great weekend destination, but the longer the trip, the better. Festivals throughout the year draw in millions, such as the Creole Tomato Festival, the French Quarter Festival, Satchmo Summer Fest, Southern Decadence, and the world-famous Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. New Orleans has as much history as it does party, and visitors would be remiss to neglect the historic colonial architecture of areas such as the French Quarter or Uptown, historic cemeteries, St. Louis Cathedral, and the National World War II Museum. Experience the occult and voodoo at the Tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau or attend a Gnostic Mass and classes on magick at the Alombrados Oasis.

Maine: Portland
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Maine: Portland

One of America’s best cities for food, Portland is a quaint seaside getaway perfect for a weekend of rest and relaxation. While it only has about 67,000 residents, that doesn’t mean it’s a sleepy or boring town. Portland’s food scene is thriving, having been the smallest city to hold the Feed the 5,000 festival, and its art and history museums offer plenty of Maine’s best sightseeing opportunities, as do its many lighthouses.

Maryland: Baltimore
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Maryland: Baltimore

Baltimore is crab heaven with its famous crab cakes, crab soup, steamed blue crabs and raw oysters. You can also see your seafood at the National Aquarium or visit the Baltimore Harbor. Maryland’s largest city is an independent one (meaning it has no county), and its population of just over 600,000 is predominantly black. As a result, Baltimore is a great destination for learning black history, and the Great Blacks in Wax Museum and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Black History are both fantastic sources of education. Fort McHenry, which successfully defended the harbor from the British in the War of 1812, is just across the harbor; Francis Scott Key was inspired to pen the Star Spangled Banner after witnessing the flag still waiving over the fort through the haze of battle.

Massachusetts: Boston
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Massachusetts: Boston

Boston has everything for those seeking a big city with a small town feel. History abounds in the 16 districts of Beantown, and over 16 million people come to experience it every year. Site of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, and the Siege of Boston, Boston is known as “The Cradle of Liberty” due to its pivotal role in American independence. As a result, the Freedom Trail — a two-and-a-half-mile walking history tour — is an absolute must for every visitor to this Massachusetts capital. You can also experience history indoors at the city’s many museums, saving quite a bit with one of several visitor passes such as the Go Boston Card or the Boston CityPASS to witness history, art, science, and culture. Boston also has some beautiful parks, but the best spot is the renowned Boston Common and Public Garden, the oldest public park in the nation. Downtown Boston holds Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, where you can find plenty to eat or shop. Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is one of Boston’s most famous landmarks, and catching a game there is an all-American experience many tourists make sure to partake in.

Michigan: Detroit
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Michigan: Detroit

Detroit has not had the best of reputations in the past decade or so. America’s Comeback City, however, has indeed come back with a vengeance as a top destination not just for domestic travelers but for those from all over the world. After decades of suffering due to a declining economy and population (which currently stands at approximately 670,000), Michigan’s largest city has seen a revival thanks to new additions and attractions, as well as renovations to its many historic buildings. Birthplace of Motown and home to a strong automobile culture, the city’s abandoned buildings have been turned into art galleries, distilleries, and more thanks to growing scene of artists and young upstarts.

Minnesota: Minneapolis
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Minnesota: Minneapolis

Minneapolis is a haven for bicyclists and breweries, making this city of approximately 420,000 the Brooklyn of its state. It’s also home to the Tony Award-winning Guthrie Theater and tons of music venues, such as First Avenue, which has seen the early gigs of many famous Twin Cities musicians like Prince and The Replacements. As a result, the music and arts scene is thriving here, as is its food scene; Minneapolis took over our list of the best food and drink in the state.

Mississippi: Jackson
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Mississippi: Jackson

The capital and largest city in Mississippi, Jackson has a relatively small population of approximately 165,000, and it’s city slogan is “The City with Soul” because of the jazz, blues, gospel, and folk music scenes here. Jackson also has an impressive food scene, and it’s home to some of the best food in the state, including the top Chinese restaurant as well as the best Mexican. Jackson is also where you’ll find Fondren, a hipster neighborhood known for its creative arts and independent stores, as well as Jackson’s Indie Music Week.

Missouri: Kansas City
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Missouri: Kansas City

Not to be confused with the neighboring city of the same name in Kansas itself, this is a beautiful city of approximately 480,000 that is often missed by tourists. It said that only Rome has more fountains than Kansas City, Missouri, which also supposedly has more boulevards than Paris. Art deco buildings decorate downtown streets, and the historic city market has plenty of dining and shopping options, as well as a farmers market. The 18th and Vine Historic District houses the American Jazz Museum as well as the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and other museums in the city include the National World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial, Crown Center (home of Hallmark Cards and the Hallmark Museum), and a few art museums to boot. The Crossroads Arts District has been referred to as the SoHo of the Midwest, and is particularly busy during the summer. The Kansas City food scene is another reason to stop here. Barbecue food is a local specialty, and the American Royal BBQ Contest is the largest of its kind.

Montana: Billings
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Montana: Billings

With a population of approximately 111,000, Billings is the only Montana city with a population over 100,000, and the city continues to grow at a fast pace. You’ll find plenty of outdoor recreation here, as well as some great restaurants such as Jake’s, the best steakhouse in the state, and Ten, its most expensive restaurant and a great date spot.

Nebraska: Omaha
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Nebraska: Omaha

Nebraska’s largest city has a population of over 440,000 that knows how to have fun. Many festivals take place in Omaha that celebrate the arts, such as Jazz on the Green and Shakespeare on the Green, and the Omaha Farmers Market and the Taste of Omaha festival showcase the great gastronomy in this Midwestern city. You’ll find one of America’s best steakhouses here at Gorat’s and some of the nation’s best Buffalo wings at Addy’s Bar & Grill.

Nevada: Las Vegas
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Nevada: Las Vegas

Legalized gambling put Las Vegas on the map as a tourist destination in the 1930s, and its popularity has never died down. Today the city has a population of approximately 640,000, and around 40 million people visit every year. While you could definitely spend an entire vacation trying your luck at the city’s many impressive casinos, Las Vegas is so much more than “Sin City.” You can eat your money away (the way J. Lo does) instead of gambling it, or you can drive a race car on an actual race track, go indoor skydiving, or learn some risqué moves from local exotic dancers. The Adventuredome at Circus Circus is the country’s largest theme park, and the Nevada destination also has a huge aquarium, an impressive classic car showroom in the form of the Auto Collections, multiple gardens, museums dedicated to art, neon signs, and even the mob. Don’t forget to take a photo with the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.

New Hampshire: Manchester
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New Hampshire: Manchester

Over 110,000 people reside in Manchester, the largest city in New Hampshire. You’ll find multiple institutes here dedicated to art and theater, and minor league sports are quite popular in Manchester as well. It also has an impressive food scene, being home to the best sandwich in the state, as well as New Hampshire’s top steakhouse and its best dive bar.

New Jersey: Newark
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New Jersey: Newark

Over 280,000 people live in Newark, a major hub for air, rail, and shipping in the New York metropolitan area as well as the location of Newark Liberty International Airport. Home to some of New Jersey’s top music venues as well as many art galleries, Newark’s arts scene is thriving. Its ethnically diverse population has resulted in an impressive restaurant scene that includes the best tacos in the state, as well as an Irish pub that is undoubtedly New Jersey’s best bar.

New Mexico: Albuquerque
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New Mexico: Albuquerque

There are hundreds of organizations, festivals, museums, and associations dedicated to the visual and performance arts in Albuquerque, making New Mexico’s most populous city its most creative. The city, which has approximately 560,000 citizens, has also become quite gentrified recently, and its downtown area just recently underwent a multimillion-dollar revitalization over the past decade that has left it a bastion of craft breweries, art galleries, and independent coffee shops.

New York: New York City
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New York: New York City

New York City is the United States’ most densely populated major city, as well as its largest, with over 8.5 million people calling it home. The New York restaurant scene is unparalleled, with chefs from around the world settling in the five boroughs to set trends, and the world often looks to New York when seeking out the latest in fashion, film, art, and more. New Yorkers, including their mayor, are protective of their world-famous pizza, and their restaurants are among the most Instagrammed in the country, if not the world. Broadway shows continue to lead the world of theater, Fifth Avenue and New York Fashion Week rule the fashion industry, and the modern-day hipster came out of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

North Carolina: Charlotte
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North Carolina: Charlotte

North Carolina’s largest city is divided into 16 districts, which have seen a lot of growth in the past two decades. In 2016, its population was estimated at around 840,000, a number that is expected to rise to 1.3 million by 2045. Charlotte has an entire district of museums, including museums for children, art lovers, Southern culture and history buffs, and even aviation geeks. Racing fans will enjoy the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which finds its home here, and outdoor sports enthusiasts will enjoy the U.S. National Whitewater Center where you can mountain bike and whitewater raft, among other things. For food lovers, Charlotte is also home to the state’s best pizza. Charlotte is also home to Carowinds, a Cedar Fair theme park which lies on the border of the two Carolinas, straddled by Charlotte and South Carolina’s Fort Mill.

North Dakota: Fargo
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North Dakota: Fargo

Despite being a relatively small city with a population of just under 121,000, Fargo has a lot going on, largely thanks to the presence of North Dakota State University as well as two other colleges nearby. The resulting student population gives rise to a bustling arts and culture scene with many theater productions and cultural events, as well as music groups and entertainment scenes. Fargo is also home to North Dakota’s best restaurant scene. Try the tortelloni vodka at Toscana, the best pasta dish you’ll find in the state, or have a treat at Angel’s Cups, one of America’s top cupcakes.

Ohio: Columbus
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Ohio: Columbus

Ohio’s capital is also its largest city, and the population of Columbus has grown to approximately 860,000, making it the largest city in the Midwest after Chicago.  A fantastic arts and entertainment district exists here in the form of Short North, and German Village is worth a visit to enjoy a historic neighborhood full of great restaurants, bars, and shops (it’s also home to an amazing Oktoberfest celebration). You’ll also find the best beer in Ohio at Columbus Brewing Company, and the city is also home to the best dive bar and the best cupcakes in the state.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City
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Oklahoma: Oklahoma City

A fantastic and affordable destination for summer, Oklahoma City has a population of approximately 640,000, making it the largest city in Oklahoma by a long shot (the second largest, Tulsa, has around 400,000 people). Declared last year as the best place to get a romantic dinner, it’s also home the best date spot in the state and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, among plenty of other museums, art galleries, and delicious restaurants.

Oregon: Portland
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Oregon: Portland

Portland, Oregon, is basically the West Coast’s Brooklyn, with a population of around 650,000. It’s a big city with a small town feel, perfect for a weekend getaway, and it has a ton of parks and gardens offering many opportunities to enjoy your bike or a walk with your dog. Known for its arts scene and its coffee too, Portland is also home to more independent publishers than any other city in America.

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia
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Pennsylvania: Philadelphia

Home of the Philly cheesesteak, Philadelphia has so much to offer to its tourists as well as its population of over 1.5 million. Options for things to do around town include the Adventure Aquarium, Philadelphia Zoo, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the National Constitution Center, the kid-favorite Please Touch Museum, the historic Eastern State Penitentiary, the science geek favorite Franklin Institute, and 24 hours of on-off privileges with the Phila Trolley and The Big Bus Company. Philadelphia is also home to some of Pennsylvania’s best art museums, but you don’t even need to go inside one to enjoy local art; the city is known for its murals, and you can even take a free tour of them. Reading Terminal Market is the most popular attraction in Philadelphia and a must for food-lovers, as is the neighborhood of Fishtown, and visitors should also make a trip to Independence National Historical Park, known as the birthplace of American democracy itself. Stop by the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall to see more of the history of American’s foundation.

Rhode Island: Providence
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Rhode Island: Providence

The largest city in the smallest state, Providence — which has a population of approximately 180,000 — is vastly underestimated as a tourist destination. Beautiful nineteenth-century and twentieth-century architecture lines the streets of downtown Providence, as do multiple museums. Food lovers should visit the campus of Johnson & Wales University (one of the nation’s finest culinary schools) to check out the Culinary Archives and Museum, which chronicles the history of both the culinary and hospitality industries. Visit Roger Williams Park for tons of park activity, including boat tours, the Hasbro Playground, Planetarium, Botanical Center, and Roger Williams Carousel Village.

South Carolina: Charleston
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South Carolina: Charleston

Charleston is one of the best destinations in all of America, let alone South Carolina. A popular Southern destination for quite some time, the city has a population of approximately 135,000 and still has a lot of offer in terms of hidden and harder-to-find gems, and its decadent cuisine features great seafood and Southern classics. Enjoy some of it at Taste of Charleston, one of the town’s many festivals, which also include the Lowcountry Oyster Festival and Spoleto Festival USA, one of the best arts festivals in the country.

South Dakota: Sioux Falls
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South Dakota: Sioux Falls

The great outdoors of the Midwest can be experienced in full at Sioux Falls, and a visit to Falls Park will provide plenty of places from which to witness the natural beauty of South Dakota. Museums display the history and culture of the area, as well as its wildlife. A recent increase in immigration has led to diverse ethnic cuisine, as well as a population of approximately 180,000, and the area’s shopping opportunities include the Empire Mall — the largest shopping complex between Minneapolis and Denver.

Tennessee: Nashville
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Tennessee: Nashville

Nashville is a cornerstone of Southern culture as the “Country Music Capital of the World,” but it’s also earned a name in other types of music, as more and more rap and rock artists have emerged from the city in recent years. Nashville’s economy has boomed, with some of the world’s biggest companies moving operations here, resulting in a more cosmopolitan environment with more and more tourists visiting from outside of the country. In addition to great dining and nightlife, the capital of Tennessee — which has a population of approximately 680,000 — also offers history such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Johnny Cash Museum, the Belle Meade Plantation, and The Hermitage, former home of President Andrew Jackson.

Texas: Houston
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Texas: Houston

The most diverse place in America, Texas’s largest city has a population of over 2.3 million and is fantastic for food lovers. You can find amazing and authentic Mexican food anywhere in Houston, but there are certain areas that specialize in specific cuisines. Chinatown is, of course, best for Chinese food, while the Mahatma Gandhi District is full of Indian or Pakistani fare. Go to Koreatown for Korean cuisine, Midtown for Vietnamese, the predominantly Jewish Meyerland for anything kosher, and Bissonette Street for something Nigerian or Ethiopian. Make sure you don’t leave Houston without visiting the NASA Johnson Space Center, and make sure to check out the plethora of museums as well as the Houston Zoo.

Utah: Salt Lake City
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Utah: Salt Lake City

The center of Mormon religion and culture, Salt Lake City has a special place in American religious history. The capital of Utah, which has a population of just over 200,000, is one of the safest cities in the world. Visit This Is the Place Heritage Park to see the spot where Brigham Young allegedly decided to settle his Mormon followers, or stroll through the fashionable Sugar House neighborhood, historic and now hip. Temple Square, the world headquarters of the Mormon Church, is home to the impressive Salt Lake Temple, and Mormon missionaries fluent in many languages are available to help you tour the grounds and learn about both the Mormon faith and its history. Multiple parks and gardens in Salt Lake City provide peaceful outdoor opportunities, and in the summer, the surrounding mountains provide plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and more. The Great Salt Lake and its marinas provide year-round boating, as the lake itself never freezes, and its yacht club has sailboat races all summer. Live theater is popular here as well, as is art and cinema.

Vermont: Burlington
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Vermont: Burlington

Located along Lake Champlain, Burlington is an unassuming hub of Vermont with a laid-back culture and impressive food scene. With an estimated population of approximately 43,000, this is the smallest “big city” on this list, but that doesn’t mean it has a lack of things to do. Visit downtown to witness some interesting shops and eateries or check out one of the many cultural institutions, such as Flynn Center for the Performing Arts or The Bern Gallery, a grassroots smokeshop and art gallery featuring glassblowing and local art and jewelry. There are many festivals hosted in Burlington every year, including (but not limited to) the Vermont Brewers Festival in July, the Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival, and First Night, a New Year’s Eve celebration that features fireworks, performances, and parades.

Virginia: Virginia Beach
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Virginia: Virginia Beach

The largest city in Virginia, Virginia Beach has approximately 450,000 residents and is more suburban than urban in character, but it’s still a top East Coast beach destination. In addition to the longest pleasure beach in the world, it’s also home to an excellent boardwalk, a contemporary art museum, a popular aquarium, and an impressive amphitheater where many top artists come to perform.

Washington: Seattle
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Washington: Seattle

The Emerald City is not only green due to its evergreen trees and forested views, but also due to its booming economy as a result of being the home of some of the world’s biggest companies, such as Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Nintendo of America, Costco, and T-Mobile. Over 700,000 people reside in Washington’s biggest city, which is one of the best American cities for food. The Space Needle is the city’s most iconic landmark, but Smith Tower is another noteworthy skyscraper with a cocktail bar in its observatory to boot. Pike Place Market is the city’s largest tourist area as the oldest continually operating farmers market and home to the original Starbucks coffee shop. Seattle is a big hub of culture and arts, with many art museums among its roster of science, history, and culture institutions.

West Virginia: Charleston
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West Virginia: Charleston

With a population of just 49,000, Charleston still manages to be the largest city in West Virginia. It’s home to events such as the annual West Virginia Dance Festival, Symphony Sunday, and the twice-yearly West Virginia International Film Festival, as well as many local parks and museums. Charleston also has a respectable food scene with some of West Virginia’s best, such as its top steakhouse, the best pasta and pizza at Italian favorite Fazio’s, and even the state’s top dive bar.

Wisconsin: Milwaukee
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Wisconsin: Milwaukee

Milwaukee has a population of approximately 600,000, making it the largest city in Wisconsin by a long shot — the more happening city of Madison has just around 250,000. Home to iconic American companies such as Harley Davidson and Miller Brewing, it also hosts the largest music festival in the world, Summerfest, in its hipster and historic Third Ward.

Wyoming: Cheyenne
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Wyoming: Cheyenne

Cheyenne has approximately 65,000 people, making it the largest city in Wyoming as well as the place to find some of its best food and drink. Enjoy the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration in a 10-day event held through the last full week of July known as Cheyenne Frontier Days. If you’re in the mood for more scenery than city lights, each one of the fifty states also has amazing scenic spots to offer as well.

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