US City Break Index
The best cities for a weekend break in the States
If you’re looking to head away on vacation but are unable to spend a week or two traveling abroad, whether that’s due to work commitments or perhaps COVID restrictions, the idea of taking a short city break right here in the US is an increasingly popular choice.
In such a vast and varied country, you could spend an entire lifetime exploring the landmarks and attractions in the major cities of the United States.
Whether you’re into strolling around the country’s museums and galleries or just finding a relaxing park or beauty spot to spend the day in, there are loads of places to enjoy a city break but which are the best?
To find out, we’ve ranked the US’s 50 biggest cities on factors such as the cost of accommodation, the number of things to do, and how long it takes to get from the airport into the city center.
The best US city break destinations
1. Miami, Florida
If you want to soak up some rays while you enjoy a city break, then there are few better destinations in the US than Miami, on Florida’s southeastern coast. Miami came top of our index with a tropical average annual temperature of 76.3°F, but it also has plenty to see and do, scoring highly for the number of restaurants, attractions, and proximity to the airport too. Known for its Art Deco architecture and skyline, Miami is a major tourism hub and a good way to get a well-earned break in the sun without having to leave the States.
2. San Francisco, California
Another city packed with things to see and do is San Francisco, which takes second place. In fact, San Francisco had a higher concentration of tourist attractions and relaxation spaces than anywhere else on our list. From watching the fog drift across the bay next to the Golden Gate Bridge to catching a tram along the steep rolling street, or wandering around Fisherman’s Wharf or the city’s famous Chinatown, the city is home to a host of attractions and cultural institutions.
3. Boston, Massachusetts
If culture is your thing, then Boston should be near the top of your city break list. The East Coast city has a rich history and the Freedom Trail path gives you a ready-made journey through the country’s journey to independence, taking in the sites of events such as the Boston Tea Party, as well as the world’s oldest ship that is still afloat, the USS Constitution. Boston also scored highly due to its proximity to the airport, located just 4.8 miles away.
The worst US city break destinations
1. Denver, Colorado
Of the 50 biggest cities in the country, it was Denver that came bottom of our ranking. While it was among the most affordable cities, it scored poorly for the number of attractions and relaxation spaces per square mile and also due to the fact that the airport is located over 25 miles from the downtown area. It was also amongst the coldest of cities on our list, with an average annual temperature of 48.2°F.
2. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee was the second-worst ranked city, with low numbers of attractions, relaxation spaces, and restaurants per square mile, as well as being a chilly 47.8°F on average. This being said, there’s still a lot on offer here, located right on the shores of Lake Michigan, especially for beer lovers, as the city is home to many important breweries, as well as motorcycle fans, with the Harley-Davidson Museum.
3. Fort Worth, Texas
Another city that scored poorly in terms of the concentration of things to see and do was Fort Worth, in Texas, although it has the Texas warmth going for it, with an average annual temperature of 66.7°F. However, you may still enjoy Fort Worth if you’re a fan of the Old West, with Fort Worth having once been an important trading post for cowboys.
The best US city for…
Average hotel price - Mesa, Arizona ($90 per night)
Affordability is obviously an important concern when planning a vacation and if you’re looking for a city break that won’t break the bank, then Mesa, Arizona, could be a good option, with a weekend night in a hotel in the city costing just $90 on average. The city is a suburb of Phoenix and its major attractions include the Mesa Grande Cultural Park, Arizona Museum of Natural History, i.d.e.a. Museum, and the Mesa Arts Center.
Attractions - San Francisco, California (49 per square mile)
San Francisco is a relatively small city, covering around 47 square miles at the end of a peninsula, but it crams a whole lot of things to see and do into that space. From the Golden Gate Bridge to the city’s cable car system, the former Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in the bay, and museums such as de Young, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and more, you won’t find yourself short of things to do in San Francisco.
Relaxation spaces - San Francisco, California (2.52 per square mile)
If spending all day on your feet from one museum to the next sounds like hell on earth, then you might prefer to use a city break to simply recharge your batteries for a few days. And once again, San Francisco was the highest-ranking city in this regard, with more parks and other natural spaces per square mile than anywhere else, such as Golden Gate Park and Lands End.
Restaurants - Miami, Florida (118.6 per square mile)
The chance to let someone else do the cooking and enjoy some top-quality cuisine is another great thing about getting away for a city break and the city which offers you the greatest choice in this regard is Miami, with 118.6 restaurants per square mile. Food in Miami is heavily influenced by its very diverse population, with restaurants serving up cuisine from the likes of Latin American and the Caribbean, as well as classic American dishes too.
Average temperature - Miami, Florida (76.3°F)
Thankfully, most of the US is blessed with favorable weather, but if sunshine is a must for you on your city break, then there are definitely some destinations that you might want to avoid. However, Miami is not one of them, with an average annual temperature of 76.3°F. The Floridian city enjoys tropical summers and has some beautiful beaches to enjoy.
Airport distance - Omaha, Nebraska (3 miles)
Once you land at your destination, the last thing you want is to spend another hour actually getting from the airport into the downtown area. One city where the airport is located very centrally is Omaha, Nebraska, where you’re just a three-mile drive from the city center, a journey that takes around five to ten minutes by car.
Public transport cost - Albuquerque, New Mexico ($1.00 per one-way ticket)
If you don’t want to hire a car then you’ll probably find yourself making use of public transport quite a lot during your city break, and the city where you can do so the cheapest is Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the average one-way ticket costs just a dollar. The city has a local commuter rail line that connects it to neighboring Santa Fe, as well as the ABQ RIDE bus system.