With 50 states plus a national capital city, avid travelers have a lot on their plate - and bucket list. Capital cities also make for amazing educational trips for student groups and what qualifies those on this list is extra, added qualities of history, attractions, and scenery. So narrow that travel list to the best, brightest, most fun, and most travel-worthy capital cities in the U.S.
Carson City, NV
Named USA Today's "Most Travel Worthy State Capital," Carson City might not automatically strike you as a top of the list kind of city. However, with borders aligning with Lake Tahoe, stunning mountain scenery, plenty of Gold Rush history, and a passion for living outdoors, Carson City has enough to keep you busy and still wanting more. While they do outdoor sports best, with amazing hiking, biking, and snow skiing opportunities, Carson City was historically in a unique position, making it educationally rich in areas of railroad history, gold mining, as well as Native American history. Several museums stand as faithful reminders to these eras while the State Capitol Building offers, like every other capital, free tours for those wishing to learn more about the state's comprehensive history in a larger scheme.
The fourth largest metropolitan area in California and named "America's Most Diverse City" in 2002 by TIME, Sacramento is a scenic and culturally exciting city in the Central Valley. A major distribution point during the Gold Rush, perhaps more than any other city Sacramento has an involved history with the American Dream. For centuries people have packed their bags and headed out to the idyllic West in search of something greater, a dream found only in California. Sacramento is the culmination of that dream and now you can visit the beautiful state capital and its over 30 museums showcasing the extent of California's history, a variety of performing arts venues including Broadway shows, outdoor fun, and of course the stunning Capital.
One of the country's oldest founding cities, Richmond has withstood the test of time and has come out on top. Delicious restaurants with stunning gourmet dishes, amazingly curated museum collections for both art and history, some of the nation's best theme parks and exciting attractions all congregate in Virginia's lively capital city. Four theme parks including Busch Gardens plus the White House of the Confederacy plus a 15th century Tudor style home shipped directly from England make Richmond not only an amazing city to visit but awesome at everything it does. There's no shortage of things to do from historic sites dating back several centuries to modern upscale shopping districts. Plus, the state Capitol Building is a stunning historical beauty designed by Thomas Jefferson. That's pretty hard to beat.
Yes, Alaska is pretty far away and yes Juneau is fairly small compared to the other cities on this list but taking into account the stunning beauty of Alaska's frontier, the graceful eloquence of the glaciers and animals living off its shores, and the history of the early Alaskan settlers make it an undeniably gorgeous destination. Cruise to the Alaskan cities along the coast or hop on a plane and head to Juneau to see not only the governmental seat of the state but some of the most beautiful sites in the country. Adventure is just a step away with live glaciers, wildlife watching opportunities, outdoor activities and more at the tip of your fingers. If you want to stay in town, no problem, stop by the Alaska State Centennial Museum, some of the city's best restaurants, or take a tour of the Capitol Building, a young Art Deco construction finished in 1931.
The largest city in the state and the second largest in the Midwest, Indianapolis is a major thoroughfare for culture, entertainment, and adventure. Home to several major sporting events including the Indy 500 NASCAR race, the NFL Scouting Combine, as well as operating as host city to three Fortune 500 companies, Indianapolis takes everything to a new level of excitement. With that down home Midwest charm and big city flair, Indianapolis offers up attractions like the nationally acclaimed Indianapolis Zoo featuring the world's largest orangutan center, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the Children's Museum of Indianapolis with the iconic dinosaur statue outside leaning against the building.
Voted "Best U.S. City" by Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards and Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards, Charleston is more than your average southern belle. With centuries of history under her jeweled belt, Charleston is a graceful addition to our list with enough flair to make her stunning. Revolutionary War and Civil War history meld with modern style, personality, and tastes. Cobblestones still line historic streets and antebellum mansions decorate the districts while contemporary upscale shops, museums, and performance venues highlight exciting attractions and give you a taste of what Charleston is today. It would be a shame to come to Charleston without visiting a restored plantation like the spectacular and mysterious Magnolia Plantation, Boone Hall Plantation (voted number one in Charleston), or Drayton Hall.
A lovely college town in Midwestern United States, Madison is the quintessential small town. However, there is more to Madison than meets the eye. Many of the city's fabulous attractions lie unseen - as in underground. Visit the popular and fantastic Cave of the Mounds and travel deep under the city to limestone caverns and echoing stone halls. As a U.S. capital city, Madison also has many inspiring cultural and historic attractions as well including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Wisconsin Historical Museum, and even the Norwegian Heritage Center. No matter what season you visit, Madison will be waiting with open arms and plenty of outdoor activities with access to five neighboring lakes and a plethora of recreational opportunities.
Sitting on the Chesapeake Bay in southern Maryland, Annapolis is both the picture of a perfect New England town and the cultural, historical head of the state. Just 25 miles outside of Baltimore, Annapolis makes the perfect "jumping off" city for great side trips if you so choose. But while you're here, you're sure to be busy visiting sites like those dating back to the Revolutionary War, colonial America, and beyond. The Benson-Hammond House, the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, B&O Railroad Museum and others work to elucidate for visitors the importance and breadth of Maryland history. Being on the Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis is home to some of the nation's best seafood and water based activities and events like the world's largest boat show, an annual Annapolis tradition every October.