Budget Travel

50 Cities Every American Should See

Salem, Oregon, is one of the most beautiful state capitals in America. Here, its cherry blossoms in spring rival those of D.C.

One of Salem's lovely garden paths in spring.

Few state capitals can match Boston, Massachusetts, for historical pedigree. Here, the city's North End includes the Freedom Trail and Old North Church.

A charming row of classic brick houses in Boston's historical North End.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, may not bring to mind cruising for those who haven't visited the lovely city, but boats are abundant.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial is a moving tribute to the lives lost in 1995

In a state renowned for its natural beauty, Montpelier, Vermont, boasts a vibrant downtown.

East Montpelier and one of the rustic sights along the road.

The Madison, Wisconsin, skyline at dusk, reflected in Lake Menona.

The University of Wisconsin's Bascom Hall on a summer day demonstrates what we love about Madison.

The Scioto River is one of the beautiful natural wonders you can enjoy in Columbus, Ohio.

A stunning view of Columbus's beautiful glass conservatory and its grounds.

Salt Lake City, Utah, is a must-visit for winter sports enthusiasts, though the city is beautiful and welcoming all year round.

Salt Lake City is definitely worth a stay if you're in Utah to explore the state's five National Parks.

Cherry blossoms adorn the other Washington: Olympia, Washington.

The classic panoramic view from the top of the Diamond Head trail suggests that Honolulu, Hawaii, may be the ultimate in beautiful state capitals.

Gorgeous Waikiki Beach is actually a neighborhood in Honolulu.

Opened in 2008, the Railyard District of Sante Fe, New Mexico, is now home to 11 contemporary galleries, a 10-acre park, and a farmers market.

Visitors drop by the Native American market in Santa Fe.

Downtown Raleigh invites visitors with great food and a bustling, forward-looking vibe.

Denver, Colorado, is home to the Denver Performing Arts Center with its landmark sculpture, Dancers, by Jonathan Borofsky.

Denver's skyline as seen from the west side of town.

Juneau, Alaska, surprises visitors with its mellow climate and small-town feel.

Juneau may be the northernmost U.S. state capital, but its flavor feels distinctly like the Pacific Northwest.

Centennial Olympic Park was built for the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia.

A stirring cityscape with skyscrapers and a colorful Atlanta ferris wheel.

Helena, Montana, is not just a beautiful state capital in the heart of the Rockies, but also a center for fine arts.

Helena's State Capitol Building is located near the prestigious Holter Art Gallery.

The skyline of Nashville, Tennessee, at sunset, reflected in the Cumberland River.

Nashville boasts an endless array of up-and-coming music artists—and such culinary delights as Nashville hot chicken.

A view of the skyline of Providence, Rhode Island, from the far side of the Providence River.

Rhode Island may be the smallest state in geographical size, but Providence is a major hub for the visual and culinary arts.

St. Paul, Minnesota, allows visitors to tour the rooftop sculpture of its state capitol building.

Beautiful Como Park, St. Paul.

The morning skyline greets the day in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Iowa Sate Capitol Building, Des Moines.

Annapolis, Maryland, is a major maritime city, not to mention home to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Aerial view of beautiful Annapolis.

The State Capitol Building in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska.

A train in the historic Haymarket district of Lincoln.

Historic Capitol Building in Tallahassee, Florida, with the new Capitol Building in the background.

State Capitol Building in Tallahassee.

Boise, Idaho, in the gorgeous early morning before sunrise.

Idaho State Capitol, Boise, in autumn.

Augusta, Maine, is in the heart of New England's "leaf peeping" scene.

Maine State House, in Augusta.

Cheyenne, Wyoming, is the host to a fabulous (and sometimes painful) Frontier Days rodeo.

Wyoming State Capitol located in Cheyenne.

The State Capitol Building in Lansing, Michigan, in the setting sun.

Spartan Stadium, East Lansing.

Rock Island Wetland Reserve, with a nice view of the downtown Little Rock, Arkansas, skyline.

Old State House building in Little Rock.

A view of downtown Topeka, Kansas, with its impressive State Capitol Building.

The Great Overland Railway Depot, in Topeka, has been preserved and restored.

Tower Bridge in Sacramento, California, with the city's skyline in the background.

Sutter`s Fort Historic State Park in Sacramento California

Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, is a gorgeous sight in autumn—or any time of year.

The Indianapolis skyline on the way into Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts.

Downtown Columbia, South Carolina, on Main Street.

Beautifully landscaped grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol Building, Columbia.

Albany, New York, is centrally located between the state's northern mountains and the Hudson River Valley to the south.

A historic cemetery in Albany, reminiscent of the one that opens William Kenneday's novel Ironweed, which is part of a cycle of books set in the upstate New York city.

The amazing view from Mount Bonnell in Austin, Texas.

Austin is a hotbed of alternative music and the arts.

The state legislative hall in Dover, Delaware.

State Street, Dover.

Downtown Phoenix, Arizona, reminds visitors that the mountains aren't far away.

A beautiful garden and stream in Phoenix.

Springfield, Illinois, best known as the home of Abraham Lincoln, boasts a variety of historically important buildings and parks.

Abraham Lincoln's home, Springfield.

State Capitol Building, Montgomery, Alabama.

Montgomery's zoo, with its adorable elephants, is a must-see for those in the area.

The State House and Capitol complex in Trenton, New Jersey.

Trenton at sunset.

The State Capitol Building in Frankfort, Kentucky.

A banjo player prepares for a performance in Frankfort, in the heart of bluegrass country.

Richmond, Virginia, is home to great restaurants and the truly exceptional Richmond Symphony.

Though we typically associate Edgar Allen Poe with Baltimore and New York, Richmond is  home to the noteworthy Edgar Allen Poe Museum.

Downtown Jackson, Mississippi.

State Capitol of Mississippi, Jackson.

The State Capitol Building, Carson City, Nevada.

Carson City is in the heart of Nevada's extraordinarily wild landscape.

Pierre, South Dakota, was built between 1905 and 1911.

The Chicago and North Eastern Railroad Bridge in Pierre.

A lovely autumn day in Riverfront Park in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Cathedral of St. Patrick in Harrisburg.

Charleston, West Virginia, skyline on a peaceful autumn afternoon.

Charleston is on the Kanawha River.

Concord, New Hampshire, with its State House dome in the distance.

The State House and Capitol Building in Concord.

Hartford, Connecticut, is home to colleges, art museums, and, of course, the insurnace industry.

Elizabeth Park Rose Garden, Hartford.

House of Representatives chamber in the State Capitol Building in Bismarck, North Dakota.

A playful river otter at the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck.

The Old State Capitol Building In Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The noteworthy stained glass rotunda in the Old State Capitol Building in Baton Rouge.

State Capitol in Jefferson City, Missouri.

The Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City.

We can pretty much guarantee that at least one of these beautiful American cities is just a road trip or weekend escape away from where you live. America's surprising state capitals are a truly varied bunch of burghs, but they have a few awesome things in common, including great cuisine, art, history, and four seasons of outdoor activities.

When it comes to uncovering great, affordable travel destinations, sometimes it takes some digging. Other times, the "secret" has been staring you in the face all along. That's the case with America's 50 state capitals, each one a gem of a destination and, more often than not, a bit overshadowed by more famous cities, national parks, and beach towns in its own state.


From Alaska to Florida, from Maine to Hawaii, the U.S. state capitals offer a vibrant cultural mix, great food, and often museums and art galleries you might not have expected. By definition, these cities are important crossroads where things are always happening, whether it's a relatively small city like Helena, MT, with its cool museums and beautiful statehouse, or straight-up urban settings like Sacramento, CA, or Albany, NY, with their great public art and history.


Above, you'll find trip-inspiring images of all 50 state capitals. The only challenge may be deciding which one to visit first!

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