The Best Cities for Culture in the United States
Whenever we travel—even within our own country—we discover cultures that are entirely unique and, in their specialness, pretty remarkable.
Take Taos, for instance—the No. 10 city in the United States for culture. Part ski town, part magical artists colony, this New Mexican city is known for its $25 pass to five museums and walkable streets lined with galleries. In the summertime, travelers can seek out one of the many art festivals or the Solar Music Festival. Everything about the city’s culture, including the Native American Pueblo, seems tethered to the desert and the surrounding Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
And in San Francisco, it’s the diversity of cultures (there’s a Chinatown and a Japantown) and its underrated attractions (check out a City Arts & Lectures event, or the nature installations at The Presidio—the city’s very own national park) that helped it climb to the No. 4 spot.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities for a number of qualities, including shopping, food, nightlife, and overall friendliness. And the votes rolled in for the most cultured cities in the country.
If we had to say what common thread was shared by all the cities on the list, which range from favorite mountain towns to major East Coast cities, it’s probably that each one (in addition to an endless host of museums and historic sights) has a very distinct sense of place. You won’t confuse New Orleans, or Washington, D.C., with anywhere else on the planet.
10. Taos, New Mexico
9. Honolulu, Hawaii
8. Boston, Massachusetts
7. Washington, District of Columbia
6. San Francisco, California
5. Savannah, Georgia
4. Santa Fe, New Mexico
3. New York, New York
2. New Orleans, Louisiana
No. 1 Charleston, South Carolina
Also known as the Holy City, Charleston has quite the reputation to live up to. But the top city in the country for culture (and in the world, just in general) hasn’t failed to impressive travelers with its arts scene, cooking schools, and historic homesteads, its “old Southern charm and artsy culture.” Visitors seeking to learn about Charleston’s past should check out St. Michael’s Episcopal (George Washington frequented this society church), catch a show at the beautifully restored Dock Street Theatre, and take a walking tour of the pastel colored, Georgian-style homes known as Rainbow Row.