© Denis Tangney Jr / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Eastern USA

From a megacity to a gator-filled swamp in the space of a plane ride – the East rolls out adventure from the Atlantic to the mighty Mississippi River.

Mighty Metropolises

Brimming with 8.6 million people, the megalopolis of New York is the cultural capital of the Eastern USA, offering a mind-blowing array of cuisine and entertainment. Cloud-poking Chicago, power-brokering Washington, DC, history-steeped Philadelphia and Latin-infused Miami are close on its heels. Look deeper to find the captivating European-style charms of New Orleans, and rebounding Rust Belt cities such as Detroit, Buffalo and Cincinnati, where scrappy entrepreneurs and young DIY devotees are branching out and transforming the built environments.

Backroads Wonders

The East Coast offers plenty of chances to get your beach on, from the whale-rich waters of Cape Cod to the taffy-shop-lined boardwalks of Ocean City, the towering golden sand dunes on Lake Michigan or the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. Inland, nature puts on a show in the swampy Florida Everglades, wolf-haunted Boundary Waters, mist-tipped Appalachian Mountains and New England’s forests, which blaze red, orange and yellow each autumn. Slowpoke byways unfurl throughout so you can soak up the landscapes.

Chowhounds’ Smorgasbord

Good eatin’ reaches epic proportions here: hulking steamed lobsters with melted butter in Maine’s seafood shacks, bagels and lox in Manhattan’s delis, saucy barbecue ribs in Memphis’ roadhouses, butter-smothered biscuits in North Carolina’s diners, hot-spiced gumbo in New Orleans’ cafes…and for dessert, thick slices of berry pie. Wineries can be found from northern Michigan to North Georgia, and the craft brewery scene is even more prolific. And don't forget: Atlanta gave the world Coca-Cola.

Cultural Cradle

The museums in the Eastern USA are the nation’s greatest hits – the Smithsonian, housing everything but the kitchen sink; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a city-state of treasures; and the Art Institute of Chicago, hanging impressionist artworks by the roomful. Explore the roots of blues, jazz, and rock and roll at Memphis' Sun Studio, where Elvis got his groove on; Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for artifacts like Jimi Hendrix’ Stratocaster; and the juke joints of Clarksdale, where blues slide guitar first pierced the air. For sky-high designs, Chicago and New York City are drawing boards for the modern era’s great architects.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Eastern USA.

Featured videos

Penguins run amok in Chicago aquarium

0:49