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Living in the US

Tourist Attractions in the US

As is known all over the world, the United States is not only one of the most popular countries for expatriates, but also a leading tourist destination. In their report for 2012, the World Tourism Organization ranked the US second worldwide in the number of international tourists.

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The country’s impressive result of 67 million visitors only trails France with its 83 million. International tourism contributed a staggering 126.2 billion USD to the national economy, particularly the food services, transport, and lodging sectors. Keep in mind that this number excludes the millions of domestic tourists flocking to the nation’s countless attractions each year.

Of course, the laughably simple question that might come to mind, the question as to what makes the US such a tourist magnet, beckons a disproportionally complex answer. Is it the huge variety in natural beauty and the vast dimensions of the country that make discovering it such an adventure? Is it the thrill of enjoying in person the hustle and bustle of the many world-famous cities that plenty of visitors grew up seeing on TV? Is it the American culture and way of life that tourists want to experience firsthand? We can only touch upon the wealth of reasons.

Popular Cities in the US

Below, you will find a small selection of cities – all of them famous around the world – which exude the biggest attraction to visitors. On page two of this article, we take a closer look at some of the spectacular natural sights the USA has to offer.

New York City

New York City is probably the first metropolis that comes to mind when foreigners think of the United States. The Statue of Liberty has been the symbol for a new beginning in the new world for generations of hopeful immigrants, and it continues to be one of the most recognizable icons of the country.

The depictions of the city on TV and in movies, its vibrant art and music scene, its legendary skyline, as well as Wall Street as the center and heart of American (and, in fact, global) capitalism have all helped to give New York City the almost mythic aura that attracts millions of visitors annually. In our City Guide, we take a closer look at life in the Big Apple.

Washington, D.C.

As the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. is the unparalleled center of political power and has, not unlike other cities in this list, become shorthand for the political dominance and influence of the world’s only remaining superpower. Obviously, Washington, D.C. is a haven for all kinds of foreign staff, from correspondents to ambassadors, and one of the premier field trip destinations for school kids around the country.

Tourists are attracted by the city’s captivating history, tangible in its countless landmarks and historic sites (just think of the White House, Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, or the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and the adjacent Washington Monument), its wealth of highly esteemed museums, and an air of political gravity as well.


To reduce the attraction of the country’s third largest city to its legendary gangland past (who has not heard of Al Capone?), its contributions to the worlds of art and music (particularly in the fields of comedy, as well as jazz, blues, and house music) its famous sports teams (the Bulls and the Blackhawks for triumphs in the recent past, the Cubs for their infamous championship drought), or its culinary inventions (most notably in the form of deep-dish pizza) would not do Chicago justice. But all the above factors, combined with a wealth of sights and landmarks in the city center, do make a very good argument for paying the Windy City a visit.


As one of the oldest cities in the country and the backdrop of many an important historical event and milestone of the nation, particularly during its formative years, Boston is probably among the top ranks of cities of interest for history buffs. It’s also the one city with the most ‘European’ feel to it. Following the Freedom Trail alone is sure to produce many delighted gasps from those interested in early US history.

San Francisco

San Francisco is heralded for being a significant center of the hippie and gay rights movements. It has been able to retain much of the liberal thinking and spirit that made the city so special towards the end of the 1960s.

Today, San Francisco is known not only as one of the most open-minded cities in the US, but also as one of the most cutting edge places: its metropolitan area is home to the famous Silicon Valley, where many of the tech world’s leading companies are headquartered. However, the city will probably remain most famous for the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most noteworthy structures in the US.


Orlando, Florida is perhaps most notable for being home to a number of hugely popular theme parks which, combined with the near-constant sunshine, make the it the single most visited city in the United States. Orlando’s popularity as a destination for domestic tourists exceeds that for international visitors many times over. Still, chances are that if your expat child has not heard of SeaWorld or Universal Studios Florida, he or she will definitely know Disney World: you might need to travel to Orlando one of these days after all.

Los Angeles

So much has been said about Los Angeles in song, films, and literature that we could not add much to the mental image each and every one of you already has. Theme parks, the Sunset Strip, the Walk of Fame, the world-famous beaches, and, of course, Hollywood and the motion picture industry – it is easy to understand the city’s popularity with tourists. 

Las Vegas

Las Vegas could be considered a prototypical boomtown if there ever was one. Born of nothing much more than a railroad town in the middle of the desert, Las Vegas skyrocketed into the dreams of millions of people around the world in a few short decades. From the 1950s onwards, it has turned into one of the top tourist destinations worldwide. The main draw of the city are obviously its countless hotels and endless entertainment options (just think of all the world class boxing fights, illusionist shows, and nightly concerts of former and current celebrities), although many also follow the call of the quick and cheap wedding options in Las Vegas.

Updated on: December 06, 2018
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