In this post, we’re going to look at the most visited cities in the US. The data comes from Euromonitor’s Report into international tourism. We have chosen 2019 figures as this was the last year when travel was “normal” and not severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Data is rounded up or down to the nearest 100,000 in all cases and relates to the number of international arrivals in each city.
The Most Visited Cities in the US – By International Arrivals
1. New York City, New York
It will come as little surprise that New York comes out on top as the US city with the most tourists and most international visitors. It is well clear of the rest, with its East Coast location, numerous major airports and plentiful flight links to European cities making it the easiest American city to reach from Europe via cross-atlantic flights.
New York boasts some of the world’s most iconic landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building. However its appeal goes way beyond that and it’s one of the few cities around the world where you could easily spend a week and still leave having failed to see and do many things.
Travellers also frequently visit the likes of Central Park, Ellis Island and the poignant National 9/11 Memorial. Throw in Broadway shows and a number of major events that take place at venues such as Madison Square Garden, and you have a place that will most likely continue to be the number one city destination in North America for many decades to come. Part of its appeal is that it is a year-round destination with the best time to visit New York open to debate.
International Visitors in 2019: 14.0 million
2. Miami, Florida
Some way back on NYC, Miami takes second place in this rundown of the most visited cities in the US by foreigners. A bit like New York, that’s also partly down to location and flight links, although the kind of visitors is very different with Miami acting as the main port of entry into the US for travellers from the Caribbean and Latin America.
It’s safe to say the Miami experience is also quite different. Most travellers shun downtown and suburban Miami in favour of Miami Beach which is effectively an island city of its own, connected to the mainland by a series of bridges.
The playground of the rich and famous, Miami Beach is hardly one of the hidden gems in Florida, but its small surrounding islands feel quite exclusive and are home to luxury mansions, yachts and numerous celebrities. There’s plenty of fun to be had on a smaller budget too with year-round sunshine in one of the hottest cities in the US, great beaches and some of North America’s best nightlife.
International Visitors in 2019: 8.3 million
3. Los Angeles, California
Heading over to California, Los Angeles is another city of contrasts and ranks as the 3rd most popular city in the US with international travellers.
It is a divisive kind of place and many visitors and locals alike loathe the horrendous traffic and extremely limited public transport. However impressions generally improve once you find a base in Hollywood Boulevard and start to experience the buzz of LA and all things Hollywood.
You can take a step back from the city by going up into the hills and taking in the views from the famous Griffith Observatory. There is also a host of theme and amusement parks that help add to the wider area’s appeal with Universal Studios a hit with visitors from far and wide.
International Visitors in 2019: 7.7 million
4. Las Vegas, Nevada
Some visitors to California extend their trip to take in Las Vegas while others fly directly into the glitzy desert city. Undoubtedly, gambling is a big reason for the city’s popularity with its giant casinos and hotels attracting both casual punters and high rollers.
It’s also another of North America’s best party cities and the wild nightlife is a big draw which makes it a popular destination for bachelor/bachelorette parties for Americans and those coming from further afield.
It would be inaccurate to suggest that Vegas only attracts gamblers and party-goers though. Many visitors come just to experience the city and its surroundings, often heading out to the enormous Grand Canyon, sometimes via helicopter flyovers of the impressive Hoover Dam which lies on the border between Nevada and Arizona.
International Visitors in 2019: 6.6 million
5. Orlando, Florida
Back to Florida, and perhaps a surprise inclusion in the list of most visited cities in North America. In truth, almost nobody flies into Orlando to see the city itself with Walt Disney World the main attraction.
It is the site of four popular theme parks as well as an array of resorts, golf courses, restaurants and shopping complexes. However there are many more of all those things completely separate to Disney World and as of early 2022, the two most popular things to do in Orlando on Tripadvisor are the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Lovers of all things theme and amusement parks will find their paradise in Orlando which comfortably made it into the top five most visited cities in the US in 2019.
International Visitors in 2019: 5.7 million
The 7 Most Popular City Destinations in the USA
|Ranking||City||International Visitors (2019)|
|1||New York||14.0 million|
|3||Los Angeles||7.7 million|
|4||Las Vegas||6.6 million|
|6||San Francisco||3.0 million|
These were the seven US cities to make the top 100 globally in 2019 although even New York doesn’t make the top five most visited cities in the world.
San Francisco comes in at number six in the US according to 2019 figures. The Californian city is home to another of the most visited US landmarks in the shape of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and visitors also enjoy experiencing its many diverse neighborhoods.
Honolulu is at number seven with just under three million international visitors in 2019. However a bit like Orlando, the city itself isn’t really the main draw with travellers largely using Honolulu as a base for reaching the beaches and wonderful nature Hawaii has to offer.
This post on the most visited cities in the US was published in February 2022.