In 2017, Orlando became the first American city to welcome more than 70 million visitors in a single year. Vacationers in the Theme Park Capital of the World descend on must-see attractions that include the Walt Disney World Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, and Universal Studios Florida, the last of which includes the spellbinding Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
New York, New York
A record-breaking 65.2 million visitors pounded the pavement of the Big Apple last year, marking the ninth consecutive year of increased tourism to the most populous city in the United States. The city hosts a full calendar of events, including the Times Square New Year's Eve celebration, the New York City Marathon, and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Visitors are truly spoiled for choice, with world-class museums and a wealth of historically significant sites like the Empire State Building, Central Park, and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum to pick from.
Action-packed sporting events? Check. Mouth-watering deep-dish pizza? Check. Exciting architecture and great museums? Check. Down-to-earth people? Double check. Chicago ticks all the boxes for fun-loving, food-loving tourists, which explains the record-breaking 57.6 million visitors the city welcomed last year.
Atlanta worked its Southern charm on more than 53 million tourists in 2017, allowing the city to fill up nearly three quarters of its 95,000 hotel rooms. Downtown continues to be a draw, with such attractions as the World of Coca-Cola, summer concerts at Centennial Olympic Park, and the Sweet Auburn Historic District, home to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park.
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles received a record-breaking 50 million visitors in 2018. The city, which is home to tourist magnets like Hollywood and Rodeo Drive, can credit some of its recent popularity to an increase in seat capacity at Los Angeles International Airport and the city's growing reputation as a top culinary destination.
While steeped in the past, this 337-year-old city attributes its popularity to its continual evolution. In 2017, thanks in part to its 10 new hotels, three sports championships, four new James Beard culinary award winners, the 58-story Comcast Center, and a refurbished LOVE sculpture and park, Philadelphia welcomed a record-breaking 43.3 million visitors.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Although casino expansion is on the rise in the eastern United States, travelers looking to strike it rich still prefer to take a gamble on Vegas. Sin City saw more than 42.1 million tourists in 2018, 9 percent of whom cited gambling as a major motivation for their visit.
Rain aside, the tourism forecast is bright for Seattle. The city’s 605-foot Space Needle and nine-acre Pike Place Market alone draw 1.3 and 10 million visitors annually, respectively. So, it’s no surprise that tourism topped 39.9 million total in this gem of the Pacific Northwest in 2017.
San Diego, California
The quest for sun and surf drew a record-breaking 35.8 million visitors to San Diego in 2018. In search of even greater growth, the city is reinvesting part of its earnings into a $19 million tourism advertising campaign. Not that it needed the buzz, of course, given local attractions like Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, and Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre cultural destination, as well as its long-standing reputation as a mecca for water sports enthusiasts and sun worshipers.
San Francisco, California
Watch the sun set behind the Golden Gate Bridge, eat some crab at Fisherman’s Wharf, take a ferry to Alcatraz Island, or stroll through Chinatown, the largest Chinese enclave outside of Asia. There’s no shortage of amusements or cultural sites in Fog City, which is perhaps why it attracted an impressive 26.3 million tourists in 2018.
Thanks to real estate development investments, theme park enhancements, and the addition of 1,555 hotel rooms in 2016 and 2017, 2018 was a banner year for Anaheim. Tourism soared to 24.4 million in the city renowned for Disneyland Park, nearby beach destinations, and well-attended conventions like VidCon.
From the towering Washington Monument and the stately White House to the bustling shops and restaurants of DuPont Circle, the attractions are legion in our nation's capital. No doubt there were plenty of history and culture enthusiasts among the city's 22.8 million visitors in 2017.
From the Romanesque-style Trinity Church to the Classical Revival-style South Station, Boston is peppered with historic architecture and old-world charm, perhaps one reason for its appeal among international tourists. In 2018, the city drew 2,653,000 international visitors and another 19,183,026 domestic travelers, bringing its total tourism for the year to 21.8 million.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is justly famous for its Fat Tuesday traditions like king cake, parades, and Mardi Gras beads. But with the sumptuous Creole cuisine, world-renowned jazz, and historic Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, the Big Easy is an exciting destination year-round—and the 17.74 million tourists who flocked there in 2017 would no doubt agree.
Thanks to a 2.3 percent increase in international tourists, Miami welcomed almost 15.9 million visitors in 2017, a 1 percent increase over the prior year. Their preferred hot spots in the sun-soaked city included South Beach, Lincoln Road, Bayside Marketplace, and Downtown Miami.
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