The votes are in! For the 20th year in a row, Travel + Leisure magazine has announced the winners of the World’s Best Awards, a readers’ survey ranking the top cities, hotels, airlines and more in North America.
And the best part? You don’t have to go far to see some of the winners. Here, in reverse order of popularity, are five of T+L readers’ favorite cities, located right here in the USA, along with tips on how best to see them.
Ranked No. 7 in the World's Best Awards, the Windy City remains popular with Travel + Leisure readers thanks to its historic architecture, thriving food scene, and sweeping views of Lake Michigan. Stay at the hip Longman & Eagle (from $95 per night), an industrial-chic inn in Logan Square where you'll find a gastropub serving creative comfort food like wild boar sloppy joes, duck cassoulet with pickled shitake mushrooms, and fried chicken and waffles. For activities, don’t miss the newly expanded Chicago Riverwalk on the water below towering buildings. Or head to sprawling Millennium Park, a green space with art projects and gardens. Be sure to check out artist Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture, the Crown Fountain, and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. (And here’s a tip for family travelers: kids are allowed to play in the Crown Fountain!)
San Francisco (No. 5 in the World's Best Awards) is a foodie mecca. At the beautifully refurbished 1898 Ferry Building, there’s a farmers’ market every Saturday. But that’s not all: The waterfront complex contains more than 40 gourmet shops and snack counters. San Francisco City Guides is currently offering regular walking tours, which are free and start at noon on Saturdays and Tuesdays. For a dinner out, book a table at Aster, Daniel Patterson’s new spot in the Mission, where the creative Californian menu showcases heirloom grains and heritage meats in dishes like roasted lamb shoulder with Indian spices, cabbage, and wheat berries. Embrace the city’s eco-friendly vibe at the Good Hotel (from $179), whose green-leaning touches include a bike-lending program, bed frames made of reclaimed wood, and sheets that are 75 percent made from recycled soda bottles!
This New Mexican city, No. 4 in the World's Best Awards, is big on historic charm. The Plaza, a downtown National Historic Landmark famous for its adobe architecture and San Miguel Chapel, is nearly 400 years old. Today, it’s home to markets selling both Native American and Hispanic crafts and jewelry. Another must-see is the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, an intimate space with some of the artists’ most famous large-scale flower and landscape paintings. Then there's the Museum of International Folk Art, which contains some 20,000, 19th- and 20th-century textiles and costumes from countries as varied as Guatemala and Sweden; other collections include Zambian pottery, Indonesian shadow puppets, and Japanese woodblock prints. Stay at the Santa Fe Sage Inn (from $115 in July; from $99 in late August), just six blocks from the historic plaza. This charming, pet-friendly hotel has 155 rooms in a Southwestern style, and offers a complimentary breakfast of fresh waffles, bagels and fruit.
The Big Easy, No. 2 in the World's Best Awards, is in the midst of a big boom, with new hotels, restaurants, and shops popping up fast. One of the hippest new spots is the Old 77 Hotel & Chandlery (from $109), a newly converted 1854 warehouse with 167 rooms in the Warehouse Arts District. What’s cool about it? You’ll be three blocks from the French Quarter and have access to amenities like pillow menus, a curated Spotify channel to to suit your mood, and an upscale French-Caribbean dinner spot from "Top Chef" alum Nina Compton. Spend time in the emerging Marigny-Bywater area, where a 1.4-mile stretch of Crescent City Park along the Mississippi River has opened. You can bike along the Promenade and picnic in the garden next to Piety Wharf. As for shopping, Travel + Leisure recommends Exodus Goods, a chic clothing store that supports NOLA designers, co-owned by Solange Knowles; located on a breezy street in the French Quarter.
This iconic Southern getaway is full of activities ideal for couples, families, and girlfriend getaways. Stroll along King Street, a 3-mile shopping promenade thats lined with independent boutiques, including the well-known Heirloom Books. Ever since the bike-pedestrian lane opened with the new Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in 2005, families have made it a tradition to walk the span together. You can park on either the Mount Pleasant or Charleston side, hike up to the center of the bridge, and snap photos in the sea breeze. Head to Marion Square for the weekly Farmers Market, a 200-year-old tradition; graze on snacks from food carts and have a picnic on the grass. For an affordable home base, try The Vendue (from $175), making its debut in the World’s Best Awards with a No. 4 spot among top small city hotels. This boutique property hosts an afternoon art reception where they serve wine and canapés while guests take in the hotel’s collection of more than 300 pieces.
The complete list of Top 10 cities in the U.S. and Canada chosen in Travel + Leisure's 2015 World's Best Readers' Survey comprises:
1. Charleston, South Carolina
2. New Orleans
3. Savannah, Georgia
4. Santa Fe, New Mexico
5. San Francisco
6. Quebec City, Quebec
8. New York City
9. Victoria, British Columbia
10. Asheville, North Carolina