17 Best Places to Visit on the East Coast of the USA
From Maine in the north to Florida in the south, the remarkable East Coast begs to be explored. Home to some of the nation's most incredible attractions (like the Florida Everglades, Acadia National Park, and New York City), it's no wonder so many tourists flock to America's Atlantic shores.
No matter what type of traveler you are (adventurer, artsy, family, historical, or laid-back), you'll find a perfect vacation in one of the East Coast states. There are so many things to do in this region that it can be hard to choose where to go.
From watching a musical on Broadway to visiting the White House to climbing one of the Smoky Mountains or lounging on the soft, Floridian sand, you won't ever get bored, we promise!
For more sightseeing ideas, see our list of the best places to visit on the East Coast of the USA.
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1. New York, New York
Gourmet restaurants, famous tourist attractions, fabulous street art, and designer duds-New York has them all and so much more. Whatever you're looking for, you'll find it in the Big Apple, guaranteed. The only problem you'll face is running out of time to do everything.
You'll want to sightsee (hello Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and Brooklyn Bridge), shop, see a show, and reward your palate with some of the world's tastiest food (we're salivating over Gramercy Tavern and Daniel). When you're through with all of that, you'll need to make time for the museums. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA, Guggenheim, and American Museum of Natural History all top the list.
Short on cash? There's plenty to do that won't dent your pocketbook. A few of our fave free activities include, watching the sunset from a rooftop patio, wandering the paths of Central Park, walking the High Line, window shopping in SOHO, and people-watching from a park bench in Union Square.
Our advice: plan your itinerary before leaving home. That way you won't waste precious seconds standing on a street corner deciding where to go next. Plus, if you buy your tickets online (i.e. to Broadway shows or major attractions) you'll find much better prices.
2. Boston, Massachusetts
It's easy to fall in love with Boston. The city's cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and beautiful harbor beckon visitors to grab their cameras and stay a while. In the heart of the town center, charming Quincy Market invites tourists to sample delicious foods and practice a bit of retail therapy.
One of the top things to do in this revolutionary city is walk the Freedom Trail. Winding its way around the center, this famous path passes 16 important historic sites (like the Old State House, Paul Revere House, Boston Common, and the site of the Boston Massacre), all of which bring the past to life.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace is where it's at. With buskers, street performers, food stalls, and eclectic shops, you could spend hours in this fun spot. When walking around, don't miss out on Beacon Hill, the city's most captivating neighborhood.
Whether you're a baseball fan or not, Fenway Park is worth a visit if only to see the Green Monster up close. This 37-foot green wall boasts a historic hand-operated scoreboard.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Boston: Best Areas & Hotels
3. Miami, Florida
One of the top tourist destinations in the U.S., Miami is a place to see and be seen. Its streets are lined with funky and high-end shops, Art Deco buildings, and beautiful people. People flock to this coastal Floridian town for a variety of reasons.
Miami Beach is the top draw. Its soft, white sand beckons bathing-suit clad bodies to sprawl out for a day spent frolicking in and out of the warm turquoise water.
The boardwalk, situated behind South Beach, is a source of entertainment in and of itself. From rollerblading grandfathers wearing speedos to stiletto-clad fashionistas carrying dogs in their purses, anything goes.
Next up is the South Beach neighborhood's trendy Art Deco Historic District. This is a perfect place to spend time when you're sick of feeling sand between your toes. It's where you'll find a ton of shops, restaurants, and a happening nighttime scene.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Miami
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4. Acadia National Park, Maine
It's easy to lose yourself in Acadia National Park, and not just in the physical sense. The beauty on offer in this natural wonderland is so spectacular, you'll forget you ever had a worry.
The only national park in New England and the first national park in the east of the US, Acadia boasts immense forests and a dramatic coastline. No wonder it's become one of the top 10 most visited national parks in the country.
With 158 miles of hiking trails and over 70 miles of roads (both motor and carriage) to explore, visitors should plan to spend a good deal of time here. Many choose to camp overnight.
5. Washington, D.C.
Best known for its role as the nation's capital, Washington is packed with iconic monuments and memorials. The city's top four tourist attractions include, the White House, Capitol Building, Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial. You haven't really been to Washington if you haven't seen these.
There are a ton of other visit-worthy attractions, especially for those in search of first-hand political history. The vast National Mall houses most of the city's grandest icons, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Women's Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial.
One of the city's biggest draws, though, has less to do with the political climate. Its renowned museums and galleries are some of the best in the world. Don't miss the National Air and Space Museum, National Gallery of Art, or the National Museum of Natural History.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Washington, D.C.: Best Areas & Hotels
6. Baltimore, Maryland
Nicknamed "Charm City," Baltimore may well be one of the friendliest places in the U.S. A port town featuring a good mix of the historic (like Fort McHenry, which inspired the National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner) and trendy (like boutique hotels and eclectic shops), Baltimore is worth a visit at any time of the year.
Top attractions include Walters Art Gallery, the National Aquarium, and the American Visionary Art Museum. You'll find most of the action in the Inner Harbor, which was updated in the late 70s. Today, the harbor bustles with visitors to its fun stores and impressive eateries. Most of the excitement, though, can be found outside. Street performers and musicians hosting open-air concerts are regulars at this hub.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Baltimore: Best Areas & Hotels
7. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Nature's calling, and it wants you to get outside-now! That would be an easy feat if you lived close to Virginia's spectacular Shenandoah National Park. With beautiful wildflowers, giant rolling hills, cascading waterfalls, and verdant forests, there's nothing to dislike in this natural paradise. Keep quiet and look closely; you might even spot a deer, black bear, or bobcat.
Before settling in for one of Shenandoah's beautiful hiking trails, visit one of the park's two visitor centers: Dickey Ridge or Harry F. Byrd. The park covers a whopping 200,000 acres, so you'll want a map to help guide you.
Not big on hiking? Don't worry, there are 400 miles worth of trails to choose from in varying forms of length and intensity. Beginners will favor Traces, which is less than two miles each way, while a more advanced hiker may opt for the more strenuous White Oak Canyon (over nine miles return).
8. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston exudes old-world Southern charm that's so enjoyable you won't want to leave. Imagine spending a day with your kindest, most beautiful friend who happens to be an excellent cook. That's what it feels like to explore the quaint streets of this Southern belle.
Every local you meet seems to wear a smile that extends from ear to ear, and they speak in a Southern drawl that's utterly enticing. They'll direct you through the town's brick-laid streets to its most stellar attractions, like the harbor's Waterfront Park, Middleton Place Plantation, and Magnolia Plantation & Gardens.
Hop on a carriage ride through the Historic District. With over 1,400 ancient structures to ogle, Charleston transports each visitor back in time to its tumultuous heyday during the 18th century.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Charleston, SC: Best Areas & Hotels
9. Savannah, Georgia
Walking through Savannah's tree-lined cobbled streets is akin to jumping out of a page in Gone with the Wind. Moss-laden oak trees usher you around the city's main attractions, offering a comforting piece of shade in the numerous public squares and parks.
Historic Bull Street, home to City Hall, also houses Chippewa Square, which you might recognize from the film Forrest Gump.
Don't miss Forsyth Park, a mid-19th-century marvel featuring a huge cast-iron fountain. You'll also want to add the National Museum of the Mighty Eight Air Force and Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences to your "to-see" list.
While visiting a cemetery may not top your "things to do" list, Bonaventure Cemetery will change your mind. The stone monuments, obelisks, and lush blooms are so beautiful, you'll forget that some believe this place is haunted.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Savannah, Georgia
10. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia (a.k.a. Philly) is best known for its role in US history (in particular during colonial and revolutionary times). It was here that the Declaration of Independence was signed (at Independence Hall). Eleven years later, the Constitution was created right here.
Today, you'll find a wide mix of modern skyscrapers and bright art murals juxtaposed with historic redbrick terrace buildings and narrow cobblestone streets. The Liberty Bell Pavilion houses the liberty bell, a long-held symbol of freedom and independence. Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, an incredible immersive mixed media experience, features walls (and floors) covered in mosaics.
Hop in a horse and buggy and ride through Independence National Historical Park, or shop for local produce, Amish bread, clothes, and jewelry at the Reading Terminal Market.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Philadelphia: Best Areas & Hotels
11. Charlotte, North Carolina
Uptown is where it's at when you're touring North Carolina's largest city. This modern section of town plays host to Charlotte's best shopping and dining options. It's also where you'll find many of the city's museums.
Racing fans won't want to miss the NASCAR Hall of Fame, while flying enthusiasts will covet time spent at the impressive Carolinas Aviation Museum. The younger, more energetic generation will love you forever if you take them to Paramount's Carowinds, an amusement and water park that boasts animatronic dinosaurs.
Freedom Park is the place where locals come to unwind. In addition to offering a ton of sporting options (i.e. volleyball, basketball, and tennis courts), walking paths, and baseball diamonds, the park hosts concerts and houses a playground.
Accommodation: Pet-Friendly Hotels in Charlotte, NC
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12. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is the crowning glory of South Carolina. Its neon lights, constant musical entertainment, giant spinning Ferris wheel (a.k.a. SkyWheel), and boardwalk games feel (and look) as if a fairy lit them up with a magic wand. Basically, Myrtle Beach is like New York's Coney Island or England's Brighton Beach on steroids.
The fantastical stretch of beach is called the Grand Strand, and it proffers visitors 60 miles of sun-drenched sand on which to relax. When they become bored (which isn't likely due to the vast people-watching on offer), beachgoers can avail themselves of the multitude of kitsch-from mini putt courses to souvenir shops to WonderWorks Myrtle Beach.
Ripley's Aquarium is worth a visit, as is the Priates Voyage, a dinner show you won't forget.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Myrtle Beach: Best Areas & Hotels
13. Orlando, Florida
Who doesn't want to go to Orlando? Home to theme park giants Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, this top US vacation destination also houses SeaWorld Orlando, where visitors can pet a dolphin or hop on a manta ray-themed roller coaster.
Next to SeaWorld lies Discovery Cove, another top attraction where visitors can get up close and personal with marine life. Those with a penchant for biology will enjoy the Orlando Science Center, featuring the ever popular interactive "Kids Town" exhibit for those under 48 inches tall. Or get face to snout with an alligator at Gatorland.
Still craving something to do? Head to Cape Canaveral, a short drive away. It's home to the Kennedy Space Center, where you can meet an astronaut or watch a space shuttle launch.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Orlando
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14. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
Those looking for a grand adventure will find it in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With more than 500,000 acres to explore, this phenomenal wonder will leave visitors in awe of its natural beauty.
The park's jagged mountain peaks, mist-covered summits, cascading waterfalls, verdant forests, and blossoming wildflowers join to create a magical utopia. With so many things to see and do, the park is wonderful to discover in every season-summer's lush grassy meadows, fall's festive foliage, winter's snow-covered trees, and spring's bright blooming azaleas are breathtaking. The best time to visit the Smoky Mountains really depends on what you want to do.
Don't miss the picturesque Cades Cove, unsurpassable views from the top of Clingmans Dome, or the misty Rainbow Falls. Also, Mt. Leconte, the park's third-highest mountain, is worthy of a climb.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Gatlinburg, TN
15. Everglades National Park, Florida
Were those eyes you spied peeking out above the murky waters of Everglades National Park? Probably.
The Everglades span 1.5 million acres across southern Florida and are home to a wide array of animals, including alligators, pythons, manatees, egrets, and the elusive panther. You'll never leave the Everglades without spotting some kind of fantastic creature.
The area is a biological marvel boasting numerous different eco-systems, as well as flora and fauna. From freshwater sloughs to pinelands and cypress trees to mangroves, the mostly swampy Everglades is vital to the area's survival.
The best way to explore the Everglades is via an airboat, which whips through narrow channels winding around the region. Kayaking through the mangrove canals is another popular method of transportation, just try not to fall in! The park is one of the best day trips from Miami.
16. Lake Placid, NY
There's little as serene as sitting lakeside, admiring the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York. Add a steaming mug of tea, and you'll never want to get up. See, getting outside really is good for you!
Most famous for hosting the Winter Olympics twice (in 1932 and 1980), Lake Placid is an uber popular place to visit during the winter months. Beautiful Mirror Lake, which perfectly reflects colorful fall foliage, freezes during the coldest spurts, turning into a natural ice rink popular with tourists.
Those who crave a winter adventure can try their hand (or feet in this case) at skiing, bobsledding, and even dogsledding. Summer visitors find plenty to do as well, like hiking, waterskiing, swimming, canoeing, and kayaking.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in the Adirondacks
17. Niagara Falls, New York
One of the most majestic Wonders of the World, Niagara Falls should be on everyone's bucket list. Standing beside the falls as its water thunders over the edge, spraying mist on everything in sight, is an extraordinary experience.
While in the area, visit more of Niagara Falls State Park than the three waterfalls you've come to see. With 400 acres of land to explore, there's plenty to keep you busy. For the best view, head to the Observation Tower.
One of Niagara Falls' most popular attractions is the Maid of the Mist boat cruise. Don a plastic blue poncho and prepare yourself for an up close and personal visit to the rushing falls on both sides of the border-the American Falls and Canada's spectacular Horseshoe Falls. There's really nothing like it.