The United States of America began in the cities and towns of the East Coast, from the landing at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts by European settlers in the 17th century, to the battles for independence against England in the Revolutionary War, to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Boston and Philadelphia, in particular, feature attractions that appeal to tourists' thirst for knowledge about this nation's colonial past.
While this part of the country harbors much of the nation's early history, it is also strikingly modern and features the country's biggest and most bustling cities. New York City, one of the most visited cities in the world, is the financial and cultural capital of the country; meanwhile, Washington, D.C., the capital city of the United States, is more than just the seat of government, but a young, vibrant town booming with new restaurants, bars, and activities for every type of traveler.
In comparison to the popular destinations in the western USA, the destinations of the East are relatively near one another, making it possible to visit them all over a two-week vacation. But note that each area, particularly New York City and New England, are ideal as stand-alone itineraries. Use the information in this list to learn which place best suits your travel interests. Here are the jaw-dropping must-see places on the East Coast.
New York City, New York
There have been songs written about it and countless movies made in the City That Never Sleeps: New York, New York. The Big Apple is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, let alone in the USA. And that's because New York has everything: landmarks, Broadway shows, five-star restaurants, luxury and boutique shopping, fabulous people-watching opportunities, and much more.
Some things not-to-miss: The dazzling lights of Times Square, walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, eating soup dumplings in Chinatown, sailing around the Statue of Liberty, having a picnic in Central Park, and these 11 best free landmarks and attractions.
This famous city is somewhere you absolutely must see before you die, with some of the best restaurants and finest hotels on the East Coast. Whether you're visiting for a romantic date in NYC or just want to do some discount shopping or spend the day browsing the collections of one of the city's many fine museums, there's something for everyone in the Big Apple.
Washington, D.C., is particularly popular with American travelers who come to visit the many monuments and institutions in the nation's capital, including these top tourist sites. There are, of course, obvious can’t-miss locations like the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian Museums, but the Founding Fathers created a beautiful capital city worth exploring in full with many tributes to them throughout D.C.
As home to over 180 foreign embassies and consulates, D.C. also has a world-class flair worth checking out, and, of course, there are those famous cherry blossoms. Whether you're visiting D.C. with kids or are a business traveler to the city, there's plenty to do in Washington on your trip—from getting tickets to tour the White House to potentially meet the president to a one-day tour of Washington, D.C. Just make sure you remember to book your Washington, D.C. hotel in advance as rooms fill up quickly, especially during the busy tourist season.
The United States was born in New England, and Boston has played a pivotal role in our progress as a nation, making this part of the country an essential stop for anyone with a penchant for learning about U.S. history.
In a nutshell, Boston has everything from historical landmarks like the nearby Plymouth Rock to nature travel, from sporting attractions to delicious seafood restaurants in nearby quaint seaside suburbs. Be sure to check out these top attractions, or if outdoor sports are more your thing, visit some of these skiing and riding destinations within two hours of Boston. Sports fans can also check out the Red Sox at the famed Fenway Park, where they've played since 1912.
If you’re looking for a different New England experience, check out the Museum of Bad Art to celebrate failed attempts at beauty or, for something more patriotic, stop into one of America's Largest Fourth of July Celebrations.
Another favorite city of America's Founding Fathers, Philadelphia has many important colonial attractions such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, which rank among the top historic tourist destinations on the East Coast.
This city is also home to great neighborhoods and markets, such as one of the oldest farmer's markets in the U.S. called the Reading Terminal Market; premier art museums such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and fabulous food—don't leave without trying a Philly cheesesteak and some Pennsylvania Dutch fare!
From walking tours of Old City to an evening of dancing, Philadelphia has all the attractions of New York City at a slower pace, perfect for midwestern and west coast travelers alike to get accustomed to the hustle and bustle associated with the East Coast.
From touring the historic ships that brought workers to the city through the Inner Harbor to antique shopping at Fells Point, the city of Baltimore may be a little less popular than others on this list, but that doesn't mean it's not a great destination for your east coast travels.
With plenty of unique art galleries and tourist attractions like the National Aquarium, Baltimore offers visitors of all ages plenty of opportunities to explore for a fraction of the cost of some of the other East Coast cities. Be sure to stop into some area bars and restaurants—you won't want to miss Baltimore's specialty: crab cakes.
The capital city of Virginia, Richmond, offers a nice blend of historical destinations and trendy new restaurants and bars, making it an ideal vacation for a casual weekend trip or a romantic getaway with someone you love—just be sure to check out these romantic Richmond destinations before you go!
In terms of history, Virginia has also played its part in the founding of America, but it's even more prominent as the site of our country's greatest internal battle: the Civil War. Reexperience the Civil War through the perspectives of the Union, the Confederacy, and the African Americans who fought for either side at the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar or step back in time at the Maymont Mansion, a house museum from the Gilded Age that provides walking tours of life back in the 1800s.
Tucked into the quiet Great Smoky (Blue Ridge) Mountains of western North Carolina, the city of Asheville has become a popular destination for nature-lovers, hippies, and artists of all sorts hoping to soak in some of the creative energy this city's been known to produce.
Not only that, Asheville is also full of some great historical sites like the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately-owned house in the United States that was built by the wealthy Vanderbilts in the late 1800s at the height of the Gilded Age. Whether you just want to escape into nature along the Blue Ridge Parkway or want to spend some time exploring the many artists' studios the city has to offer, Asheville makes for a great weekend getaway adventure.
The coastal city of Savannah, Georgia is perhaps one of the best-maintained pieces of history in the United States, a place where Southern charm meets Eastern hustle in the oldest city in Georgia.
Home to the National Historic Landmark district (the nation's largest), the world's longest live oak tree-lined avenue, and some of the most haunting cemeteries around, Savannah is sure to delight guests of all ages who venture down to this southeastern city. If you're a fan of southern cooking, this city is the place to get it—it even has Food Network star Paula Deen's famous restaurant right in the heart of downtown!
A perfect companion city to Savannah, Charleston offers visitors a chance to step back in time simply by walking down the brick streets of this charming southeastern town.
You can take a tour of Historic Charleston on the Gateway Walk to discover some of the most interesting pieces of architecture in the city, or you can just spend the afternoon casually sipping from a specialty cocktail at one of the city's famed rooftop bars. As an added bonus, since none of the buildings can be taller than the churches, you can pretty much see the whole of Charleston from any rooftop in the city!
Home to one of the largest airports in the world and one of the most diverse populations in the United States, Atlanta is a thriving metropolis in the heart of Georgia offering everything from world-class sports arenas to artists havens like the Little Five Points neighborhood to visitors and residents alike.
Thanks to the job boom and the filming of several major TV shows and movies in the area during the mid-2010s, Atlanta has grown into one of the biggest and busiest cities in the southeastern United States, attracting all sorts of new businesses to the area including some of the best restaurants in the region. Be sure to check out the locations for film scenes and enjoy a drink at one of Atlanta's many bars.
Nearby, you'll also find plenty of outdoor activities like tubing on the Chattahoochee River or hanging out at one of the area's many lakes and beaches. No matter what type of outdoor adventure you enjoy, you're sure to find an outlet for it in Atlanta.
The capital of Rhode Island (and its largest city), Providence, offers guests a variety of entertainment options including European-style gondola rides, exploring Colonial houses, and even the bacon at Providence's famous Kitchen Restaurant.
The Roger Williams Park (and Zoo) are popular destinations during the summer, featuring a full lineup of events throughout the season, but you'll also want to visit the Rhode Island School of Design's Museum of Art and the 1916-built Trinity Rep theatre for a taste of culture in this thriving metropolitan city.
Both the capital of Maryland and the "sailing capital of the United States," Annapolis is a nautical town on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay offering visitors and residents alike beautiful vistas amongst stunning, historic architecture.
Be sure to catch the annual Spring Sailboat Show or just casually wander down the busy streets near the Naval Academy until you find a quaint bar to grab a cheap drink. There's plenty of other events year-round in Annapolis, too, so don't let the sailing obsession distract you from visiting this great northeastern city.
A port city modeled after one by the same name in England, Portsmouth, New Hampshire is full of 17th and 18th-century homes beautifully restored and maintained, giving residents and guests alike a chance to see how our Founding Fathers lived when they originally settled the United States.
The Strawbery Banke Museum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in this quiet 21,000-population town, where costumed staffers prepare traditional crafts while regaling guests with stories of the city's foundation. Also be sure to check out the changing foliage around the city during the fall months—but come early as the winter sets in quick this far to the northeast—as well as the many gay-friendly bars this city has become known for.
Also tucked away in one of the farthest northeastern states in the United States, the quiet ski resort town of Killington, Vermont offers tourists a chance to explore the great outdoors with all the comforts of a modern city.
If you're a fan of fall foliage, be sure to visit the K-1 Gondola Ride at Killington during September and October. The peak of the mountain at Killington Park affords guests the opportunity to look across five states and Canada to take in all the wonder of the changing leaves.