With the opening of beautiful new hotels, public projects reaching completion, and a lot of special anniversaries to celebrate, 2018 is an exciting year for U.S. cities.
Editor’s Note: For the latest version of this story, see The 10 Best U.S. Cities to Visit in 2019.
Best U.S. Cities to Visit in 2018
When it comes to attracting visitors, these cities are upping their game and gaining a reputation as the best U.S. cities to visit this year.
San Antonio, Texas
Downtown San Antonio is not only flourishing but will actually continue to grow in 2018. Already buzzing with shops and restaurants, the River Walk is expected to get an expansion late this year with the Tricentennial Public Art Garden, which will feature a collection of artwork from local and international artists and add a new must-see in downtown. This year also marks the 300th anniversary of San Antonio—the city will be celebrating in a big way, hosting events for the tricentennial throughout the year. Plan to go during Commemorative Week (May 1 – 6) when the city’s cultural diversity and heritage will be celebrated with events both educational and entertaining.
Where to Stay: Originally a brewhouse, Hotel Emma is a San Antonio landmark in the Pearl Neighborhood north of downtown San Antonio. The hotel offers luxury accommodations draped in South Texas charm.
If you’re a bourbon lover and haven’t made your pilgrimage to Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, 2018 is the year to do it, since you’ll be among the first to try out new stops along the trail. With a starring role along the route, Lexington has plenty to offer, including its Distillery District, which has become a thriving retail and culinary hub thanks to the revitalization of distilleries like James Pepper Distillery, which will open this Spring. Also set to open this Spring, located outside the Distillery District, is Castle & Key. Abandoned in in 1972, this European-inspired property is being brought into a modern era with Kentucky’s first female bourbon Master Distiller at the helm.
Where to Stay: The 21C Museum Hotel in downtown Lexington offers plenty for art lovers in an airy and colorful space.
Greenville, South Carolina
With over 120 resplendent restaurants along the tree-lined Main Street, Greenville already has serious culinary chops. The city—with its prime spot in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains—has been a welcoming base for nature lovers for decades. But an influx of even more new eateries secures its place as a culinary destination as well. With a brand new food hall and 60-room boutique hotel on the horizon, it’s clear Greenville is getting ready for company. And if you’re lucky, you might still be able to get tickets to Hamilton when it comes to Greenville’s Peace Center Stage this year.
Where to Stay: For a unique stay, the Aloft Greenville offers travelers a lively hotel experience with a friendly bar and prime downtown location.
Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth has been on destination watch-lists since last year with its evolving culinary scene and art museums like the Kimbell and the Modern Art Museum. But in late 2018, you can expect to hear even more about Dallas’ neighboring city. TexRail, a brand-new train expected to open later this year, will help travelers get straight from the airport to downtown Fort Worth … where they can dive right in to all the city has to offer. 2018 will also be the second year of Fortress Festival, a two-day music festival in April. And foodies can look out for new restaurant openings including Tinie’s Mexican Rotisserie and Cocktail Lounge, a family-style rotisserie created by the owners of Taco Heads, one of Fort Worth’s original food trucks.
Where to Stay: The Stockyards Hotel is a throwback to Texas’ old west, offering a unique experience in the center of the city’s history-rich entertainment district.
St. Louis, Missouri
You might know St. Louis for its iconic silver arch, but perhaps you didn’t realize there was so much to do beneath it. After many years of construction, the Gateway Arch Grounds will reopen this summer, allowing visitors to take advantage of the new biking trails; outdoor concerts; and the freshly renovated Museum at the Gateway Arch, which explores the history of America’s westward pioneers. Fair Saint Louis will be also returning to its original site under the arch on July 4th to mark the opening of the revitalized grounds.
Where to Stay: The Moonrise Hotel is a pet-friendly boutique hotel with a quirky futuristic design. It also boasts the first hotel roof in America made out of solar panels, and has great dining options as well.
Detroit has been steadily on the rise among travelers, and the affordable flights and hotels are helping give the city a well-deserved tourism boost. This year, Motor City will become even more accessible with a brand-new rail system connecting downtown and Midtown, as well as a new bike share system—Mogo Detroit. There’s a lot to explore in this revitalizing city, and you can fuel up by grabbing a slice of the city’s signature square pizza, or by dining out at the trendy Apparatus Room or the Grey Ghost. You can also pair that meal with a stay in one of the city’s new hotels such as The Siren Hotel, which combines eclectic and clean design and panoramic views inside the formerly abandoned Wurlitzer Building.
Where to Stay: Trumbull & Porter is another artistically decorated hotel located not too far from Detroit’s main attractions.
As the host of Super Bowl LII, Minneapolis is revving up for the big game with a free 10-day Super Bowl Live festival that will feature live music, ice sculptures, and snowmobile stunts, proving that winter in Minneapolis can be a reason to celebrate. Come summer, this city will have plenty of new public green spaces, thanks to the Big Build project. From the sculpture garden at the Walker Art Center to Prince’s Paisley Park, there’s a lot to discover.
Where to Stay: Located in the North Loop neighborhood, the Hewing Hotel is both dapper and comfortable. It also has a restaurant that offers rustic Nordic cuisine.
Orlando—already a family-travel hot spot for its wealth of theme parks—is debuting even more reasons to visit in 2018. New theme park attractions that will be hot in 2018 include Disney’s Toy Story Land and Universal Studio’s new Fast & Furious ride. New resorts will also make their debut in Orlando, including Universal’s Aventura Hotel, and the new waterfront Margaritaville Resort, and downtown Orlando’s boutique Delaney Hotel.
Where to Stay: The Delaney Hotel will open in late spring of 2018 and will feature modern digital amenities like remote check-in and smartphone room keys.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Just named as The New York Times’ number one place to visit in 2018, New Orleans is getting ready to put on a show for visitors in its tricentennial year. The city will be commemorating its 300th birthday with community projects and events like the unveiling of a new saxophone sculpture in April and the opening of the Duke of Orleans exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art in October. The annual Jazz Fest is also promising an extra grand fireworks finale in honor of the anniversary of the city’s founding. The party will keep going all year long, so check out this event calendar to keep up with the latest.
Where to Stay: In walking distance of the French Quarter, Q & C HotelBar is a boutique hotel that boasts plenty of exposed brick plus a trendy restaurant and bar.
Baltimore is stepping into 2018 with swagger. There are plenty of great dining and cocktail options like Tagliata and its next-door speakeasy The Elk Room, but one of the best way to experience this on-the-rise city is by booking a night in an exciting new hotel. Opening early this year in the city’s cultural center, the Revival will offer travelers beautiful rooftop views … and a hidden karaoke room. Meanwhile, at the Pendry, guests can book the Sagamore Experience, which includes a full schedule of exciting Baltimore activities including preferred restaurant reservations, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Sagamore Spirit Distillery, and a scenic helicopter tour.
Where to Stay: On the historical Recreation Pier, the Pendry offers luxury right on the water.
San Francisco, California
If San Francisco has stolen your heart before, 2018 is a great year to discover new and different sides of the city to fall in love with. Take advantage of free admission at the brand-new Haight Street Art Center, a museum dedicated to the art of posters. This is a great place to indulge in nostalgia and maybe find a souvenir from your past. While you explore, consider staying at the recently renovated Hotel Kabuki in the heart of Japantown. On top of an updated look, you can also indulge in this boutique hotel’s hot springs, which are complimentary for all guests.
Where to Stay: Hotel Kabuki offers a chance to explore San Francisco’s Fillmore District and enjoy that brand-new hotel feel.
More from SmarterTravel:
- A Budget Destination for Every Month of 2018
- 11 Epic Hotels Worth Planning Your Whole Trip Around
- 10 Most Intriguing Places to Visit in 2018
Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.