Of this year’s top 15 urban centers, eight are in the American South. They are cities where the past is still very present, including Williamsburg, which ranked No. 12. Especially popular with families, the Virginia town turns a holiday into a living history lesson. Travelers can get a taste of early America at Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown Settlement, as well as more contemporary flavors at local restaurants.
Soulful, romantic Savannah comes in at No. 4. Readers marveled at its vintage beauty — the cobblestoned streets, oak-shaded squares, and lacy architecture — as well as the way the city keeps pace with the times. Eateries such as the Grey and Cotton & Rye put modern spins on traditional ingredients like grits (topped with foie gras) and crispy chicken (dusted with sumac).
New Orleans, a perennial favorite, came in No. 2 this year. Aficionados of the Big Easy love the serene residential neighborhoods as well as the raucous Mardi Gras parades, the street music as well as the laid-back locals. One World’s Best voter offered a tip: “Stock up on antiques and pralines!” No doubt readers will be eager to return and support one of the U.S. cities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic as soon as they’re able.
While a couple of the country’s very biggest cities made the list — New York came in 6th and Chicago 5th — many of the winners were smaller or midsize towns. Minneapolis/St. Paul (No. 14), Nashville (No. 11), and Asheville (No. 9) are big enough to be interesting (robust arts and culinary scenes, shops and markets featuring local makers of all stripes), but still small enough to feel manageable and welcoming. One tiny exception: Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Located just off the popular Highway 1 road-trip route, it has fewer than 4,000 residents — but views that draw many, many more.
Still, no city has yet to knock beloved Charleston from its eight-year perch. Read on to find out why — and which other places made this year’s list of the best cities in the United States.