Only one-third of Americans have a valid passport. One thing that holds them back from getting one is that they have very little vacation time to use it. Unlike much of the world, there’s no minimum statutory leave in the U.S.
But this lack of downtime also leads Americans to take a lot of care in choosing what they do with the days that they do take off. Trip reviews are read. Travel schedules are made. Tourist attractions are judged mercilessly not just on their value for money but their value for time.
Passport holder or not, there are endless wonders to visit in the U.S. Whether you live in the U.S. or not, the American obsession with traveling locally has led to a vast repository of knowledge on which attractions are worth your time — and the sort of people to whom they might appeal.
HawaiianIslands.com wondered which attractions are the highest rated by Americans from each state and city and which cities are highest rated overall. So, we analyzed thousands of publicly available TripAdvisor reviews to find out.
What We Did
HawaiianIslands.com built a list of nearly 8,000 of the most visited U.S. attractions listed on Tripadvisor.com. We found the reviewer location data for all reviews. We then calculated the average ratings given by tourists from each state and major U.S. city to different American attractions, designating those with the highest average rating the favorites and those with the lowest the least favorite. Finally, we ranked all 50 states and major cities based on the average rating from American tourists across all their attractions.
- Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah) and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Virginia) are each the highest-rated tourist attractions of visitors from four states.
- The attraction that has received the worst overall rating from an entire state is Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park, which is rated 2.37 on average by people from Wisconsin — where the park is found.
- Kansas City, MO, is America’s favorite city for tourist attractions, which average a 4.84 rating from U.S.-based visitors.
- Wyoming is America’s favorite state for tourist attractions, which average a 4.85 rating from U.S.-based visitors.
- Visitors from New York City uniformly give Cleveland Museum of Art a 5.0 rating, making it the most loved U.S. tourist attraction from residents of any one city.
Bryce Canyon National Park is the Most Highly Rated Attraction By Out-of-State Americans
Our first visualizations show the attraction that TripAdvisor users in each state rate the highest or lowest on average. For example, there are four states whose citizens collectively rate Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah higher than any other U.S. attraction: Washington, Massachusetts, Nevada and Utah itself, each rate Bryce Canyon 4.93 or higher.
Conversely, there are seven states — including Florida — whose locals reckon Universal Studios in Orlando, FL, to be the worst place to go. “Everything about Universal was underwhelming,” writes one reviewer from New Jersey, where users rate Universal Studios 2.79 on average. “The rides weren’t impressive, and the handicapped access was insufficient.”
Waimea Canyon State Park in Waimea, HI, is the best tourist attraction in the U.S. for visitors from three states — including Hawaii itself. State and national parks are common favorites from state to state, but the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ is something else altogether: “See a different Kauai away from the beaches,” writes one reviewer from Hawaii. “The mass of beautiful land, mountains, waterfalls, and beauty can not be understated,” writes one from Virginia, where the average rating for Waimea Canyon is 4.97. “Take the trip, you will not regret it.”
The worst rating any state collectively gives a tourist attraction is the average of 2.37 that Wisconsin residents give Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park in their home state. This is also the most detested venue of Illinois and Minnesota and only scores 3.0 as its overall score on the TripAdvisor site.
Most of the complaints are about the park’s hotel: “Room was clean but so tiny it was more like an army barrack. No place to hang clothing, no table and chairs just beds. small refrigerator and a TV stand,” writes a reviewer from Illinois. “They were unwilling to accommodate a child with special needs without charging extra.” However, the “indoor water park is just average,” too, according to a Minnesotan reviewer.
Every City’s Favorite and Least Favorite U.S. Attraction
Next, these are the big cities that feel most passionately about one U.S. tourist attraction or another. First up are the ten cities whose local reviewers give the highest average rating to any particular attraction, followed by those that give the lowest ratings.
Chicago proves to be the most passionate of all about tourist attractions, with the city’s internet users giving the second-highest average rating (4.96 for the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN) and the overall lowest (2.96 for Wisconsin’s much-maligned Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park).
New York City is also pretty passionate about days out, giving the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio a perfect 5.0. “Inspiring place, inspiring spaces, inspiring works of art!” writes one reviewer from New York. “We were enthralled with our visit here and it changed our perspective on the city of Cleveland in a very positive way.”
“You can’t find a finer setting with the gardens and pond of the Wade Park in which it is located,” writes another: “A great treasure of Cleveland.”
Los Angeles and Atlanta both rate attractions in their city as the country’s worst. It’s perhaps a surprise in LA since the low-rated landmark in question — the Hollywood Walk of Fame — celebrates many of the city’s own residents. It hurts all the more when it’s a case of civic pride: “Dirty , no longer taken care of, the streets are depressing to walk around and sightsee,” says one LA reviewer of the attraction, which now has upwards of 2,700 brass stars to polish. “The decline was sad to experience.”
Kansas City Tourist Attractions Are the Most Beloved by Americans
Finally, we aggregated the average ratings of tourist attractions in major U.S. cities and states according to TripAdvisor users within the country. This is America seen from the inside.
Kansas City, MO, is America’s favorite city for travel, with its tourist attractions scoring 4.84 on average from TripAdvisor users in the U.S. The Lewis & Clark Historic Park at Kaw Point is one of its top-rated venues, offering “beautiful wooded trails, wildflowers, and wildlife” at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. There is also a historical trail to explore part of the route taken by the eponymous explorers.
State by state, however, Missouri must take third place to Wyoming and Maine — with Wyoming attractions getting an incredible average rating of 4.85 from U.S. reviewers. The ‘Cowboy State’ speaks to America’s past, whether the deep geological history of Yellowstone and Devils Tower National Monument or the Wild West memories of the Buffalo Bill Center in Cody — which scores 5.0 on TripAdvisor.
“The history, art, exhibits and education that you are exposed to here is hard to replicate elsewhere, particularly since we’re located in such a historical, cultural and environmentally unique area,” writes one local. “I would encourage people to take two days to try to see everything.”
Disagree with the above ratings of America’s favorite tourist attractions? Or perhaps you disagree specifically with the taste in landmarks that tourists from your own home state rate highly? Then do check out our previous study, which analyzed TripAdvisor data to reveal the U.S. Attractions that tourists and locals disagree on the most to discover the times that tourists thought the locals had got it wrong.
METHODOLOGY & SOURCES
To find out every state’s favorite and least favorite American tourist attraction, we first built a seed list of nearly 8,000 of the most visited U.S. attractions in all 50 states listed on Tripadvisor.com.
We then extracted the reviewer location information for all reviews and discarded international reviews, allowing us to calculate the different average ratings given by tourists from each state and major U.S. city to different American attractions.
Using this data, we isolated the attraction that tourists from each state gave the highest average rating (favorite) and lowest average rating (least favorite). We repeated this with major U.S. cities, showing the American tourist attraction that tourists from these cities rate the highest and lowest.
In addition, we ranked all 50 states and major cities based on the average rating from American tourists across all their attractions.