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The best US cities to visit in 2018

10 places to add to your travel bucket list

With two of the country’s oldest cities celebrating their tricentennials, 2018 looks to be a very happy new year for travel in the USA. While New Orleans and San Antonio throw birthday bashes throughout the year, other cities feature new museum openings, and arts, film, and music festivals. Here’s our pick of the best US cities to visit this year.

Panoramic view of Boston, Massachusetts © Dreamstime.com/Mbastos

San Antonio, TX

San Antonio’s colorful blend of Hispanic and Texan cultures has made it a vibrant city for 300 years. Birthday festivities highlighting its unique history add an extra layer of fun to lively events throughout the year, including the spectacular Fiesta San Antonio in April and the Texas Folklife Festival in June. 

San Antonio is also celebrating its selection as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, only the second city in the US to receive this designation. It’s a perfect time to indulge in its outstanding Tex-Mex cuisine and stroll the romantic downtown River Walk.

San Antonio’s restaurant-lined River Walk © Dreamstime.com/Sepavo

Kansas City, MO

Proud of its Irish heritage, Kansas City has one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country (March 17). Enjoy more Celtic culture over Labor Day weekend, when the Kansas City Irish Fest features some 30 live bands, dancers, storytellers, and more.

Why not pitch up at the American Royal World Series of Barbecue? The world’s largest barbecue contest – also held over Labor Day weekend – boasts live music, a vendor fair, and delicious food.

For sports lovers, the Kansas City Royals baseball team celebrates its 50th season in 2018 with special themed weekends each month.

Kansas City at dusk © Dreamstime.com/Wallaceweeks

New Orleans, LA

New Orleans will celebrate its 300th birthday all year long with events ranging from art and history exhibitions, to concerts and gala neighborhood block parties that highlight its rich heritage and cultural traditions. 

February’s Mardi Gras parades will feature spectacular themed floats depicting its colorful past, while tricentennial fireworks will top off the New Orleans Jazz Fest, held between late April and early May.

Or why not visit in April for the French Quarter Festival or July for the Essence Music Festival. You could also enjoy the city’s great culinary festivals: the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (late May) and Tales of the Cocktail (mid-July).

One of New Orleans’ famous Mardi Gras parades © iStockphoto.com/Photoservice

Washington, D.C.

Like the cast of characters who inhabit its hallowed halls, the landscape of the nation’s capital is always changing. 

Opening in 2018 are the expansion of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the new Audi Field at Buzzard Point soccer stadium, and a megacomplex in downtown’s Mount Vernon Square incorporating 15 historic buildings. 

Hot on the heels of the impressive new Museum of the Bible, which shines a high-tech light on this ancient tome, the National Law Enforcement Museum opens this fall. In November, a new World War I Memorial in Pershing Park commemorates the 100th anniversary of the war’s end.

Washington, D.C. at dawn © Dreamstime.com/Celsodiniz

Jackson, MS

New Year’s Day 2018 saw the launch of the US Civil Rights Trail, which links more than 80 sites through the Deep South that are landmarks of the Civil Rights era.

Mississippi was the fulcrum of this profound chapter in American history, and the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson takes a hard look at the struggle for freedom and equality. Also new this year is the adjoining Museum of Mississippi History, where themed exhibits look at life in the this southern US state from prehistoric to contemporary times.

Colorful display at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum © Mississippi Civil Rights Museum/Tom Beck

Seattle, WA

Seattle’s landmark Space Needle unveils its updated Observation Deck and restaurant this spring, with new floor-to-ceiling glass walls and other features that afford even more spectacular views. 

In April, the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race sails into Puget Sound and the port’s Bell Harbor Marina. Other key events include the Taste Washington Festival (March) which highlights the city’s outstanding restaurants and regional wineries, the Seattle International Film Festival(May–June), and the famous Bumbershoot arts and music festival over Labor Day weekend.

Food on offer at the Taste of Washington festival © Taste of Seattle/Suzi Pratt

Milwaukee, WI

Go to Milwaukee this summer and you could pretty much party around the world.

The Henry Maier Festival Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan, hosts a nearly non-stop stream of events, the better to enjoy the city’s great beer brewing tradition and diverse ethnic cuisines. After Polish Fest in mid-June comes Summerfest, one of the world’s largest music festivals. It’s followed by Festa ItalianaGerman FestIrish FestMexican Fiesta, and September’s Indian Summer Festival.

This “City of Festivals” also hosts Highland Games, a Pug Fest, and a model railroad Trainfestthroughout the year.

Milwaukee's skyscrapers and river on an autumn day © iStockphoto.com/Davel5957

Boston, MA

Late April/early May is a great time to visit this renowned arts city, when ArtWeek offers a range of creative and behind-the-scenes experiences, most of which are free. Boston Harborfest is the nation’s largest Independence Day festival, with history walks and reenactments, live bands and musical entertainment, boat tours, a chowderfest, and more, all leading up to the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on July 4. 

Don’t miss “JFK at 100” – an exhibition commemorating the 35th President of the United States – which will be on show throughout 2018 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Display in the “JFK at 100” exhibition © 123RF.com/actionsports

Denver, CO

The Mile High City has some of the most colorful events in the USA. Denver March Pow Wow presents a dazzling display of Native American dancing, storytelling, and tribal costumes. The country’s largest Cinco de Mayo festival, in early May, celebrates Mexican culture, while June’s Cherry Blossom Festival highlights Japanese food, artwork, and taiko drumming.

July brings the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, featuring more than 260 artists, plus music and family activities. This month also sees the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival take place, with exciting boat races, martial arts displays, and countless food stalls serving up cuisine from across Asia.

In September and October, you can dive into the city’s craft brewing scene at Denver Oktoberfest and the Great American Beer Festival.

The Denver March Pow Wow © Getty Images/Dever Post/ Helen H. Richardson

Phoenix, AZ

There’s nothing better than Arizona sunshine in the depths of winter, and the hot ticket for sports fans is the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament in late January/early February. 

Downtown Phoenix has been enjoying a renaissance as an arts-and-nightlife district. A great way to explore is on the free, monthly Third Friday Trolley Tour, which circulates between downtown, Roosevelt Row, and the Historic Grand Avenue Arts Districts. 

You can also discover the beauty of the natural landscape at the Desert Botanical Garden. Too hot? Beat the heat at the Heard Museum with stunning Native American art, or the impressive Musical Instrument Museum.

Phoenix’s skyline seen from the desert © iStockphoto.com/Davel5957