Best Destination for Culturephiles (2015)


Museums, opera, art galleries, orchestras, libraries, theaters and aesthetic architecture – these are some of the many traits that make these 10 winning cities such favorites among lovers of art and culture.

  • Santa Fe

    Santa Fe

    At 400 years old, Santa Fe is the nation's oldest capital. Native American, Latino and Western cultures have produced an abundance of fine arts and colorful festivals. Museum Hill, art galleries, studios and historic churches draw admirers year round. Summers bring performances by the acclaimed Santa Fe Opera and free concerts are headliners in the Plaza. Other performing arts favorites are the Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
    Photo courtesy of

  • Indianapolis


    A mecca for sports fans, Indianapolis also boasts a robust cultural side. Top quality exhibits fill the halls of the Indianapolis Art Center and the beautifully landscaped Indianapolis Museum of Art, while the Children's Museum of Indianapolis ranks among the best in the world. A host of theater companies add to the cultural milieu after dark.
    Photo courtesy of Lavengood Photography

  • Houston


    Everything's bigger in Texas and, as you might expect in America's fourth largest city, Houston offers a treasure trove of cultural wealth. The pedestrian-friendly Museum District showcases 18 cultural institutions - including the Museum of Fine Arts and the magnificent Menil Collection. Fascinating tours run the gamut from history to architecture to ghosts. For something "livelier," whether ballet, symphony or opera, Houston is a leader in performing and visual arts.
    Photo courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau (photographer: Julie Soefer)

  • Phoenix


    Phoenix, a cultural hub of the American Southwest, features an opera, symphony, numerous theaters and three of the best museums in the region: the Heard Museum of Native Cultures and Art, the Museum of Musical Instruments and the Phoenix Art Museum. The walkable Roosevelt Row Arts District is famous for hosting numerous arts and culture events, while nearby Scottsdale is home of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Phoenix

  • Minneapolis


    World-class museums, more theater seats per capita than any city in the US outside New York and breath-taking architecture have landed Minneapolis a spot as a premier destination for lovers of art and culture. Everything from Shakespeare to pop music, comedy and children's theater is available. A selection of art, science and history museums add to the cultural appeal, while areas such as the Warehouse District come alive at night with music and improv.
    Photo courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

  • New York

    New York

    Always a favorite with visitors from around the world, the Big Apple is a treasure trove of cultural delights. Aside from New York City's obvious icons, such as the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, it's museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art that really set the city apart. High-profile concerts, on and off- Broadway shows, ongoing cultural festivals and seasonal parades are icing on the cultural cake.
    Photo courtesy of NYC & Company/Joe Buglewicz

  • Philadelphia


    Said to encompass the most historic square mile in America, Philadelphia is home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and more than 90 fascinating museums, Colonial churches and notable row houses. History buffs can visit where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and tour George Washington's home - perhaps encountering actors clad in period garb as they portray historic personages. Visit Avenue of the Arts to appreciate the city’s major performing arts attractions, or the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, home to the Philadelphia Orchestra.
    Photo courtesy of B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia

  • Memphis


    Mention Memphis and Graceland - Elvis Presley's over-the-top mansion - likely comes to mind.  Music is the heart of this city on the Mississippi and many of its attractions have to do with soul, rock 'n' roll and blues. Performing arts and museums are plentiful, and Broadways shows make a stop at the historic Orpheum Theatre. A nationally acclaimed ballet company and symphony orchestra complement museums boasting fine art and music. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame celebrates the city's musical heroes.
    Photo courtesy of Tennessee Department of Tourist Development

  • New Orleans

    New Orleans

    Think of New Orleans and visions of raucous Mardi Gras celebrations and mysterious voodoo rites may come to mind, but there is a softer side to this genteel city. Rich in history and traditions, historic colonial buildings in the French Quarter and Garden District and other diverse neighborhoods house art galleries, amazing museums and petite clubs where you can experience cool jazz and Cajun blues. Jazz Fest showcases the city's food, culture and music with headliners from around the world.
    Photo courtesy of Richard Nowitz

  • Chicago


    The quintessential American city, Chicago offers world-class culture in hundreds of venues. Critically acclaimed art exhibits, performances, architectural tours and film screenings are ongoing.  Home to the largest Tiffany-stained glass dome in the world and Sue - the biggest Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever uncovered - the city showcases opera, symphony, Broadway shows and edgy original plays and musicals in more than 200 theaters. The highly acclaimed Chicago Theatre Week highlights the city's world-class theater scene with more than 100 reasonably priced shows.
    Photo courtesy of Adam Alexander Photography

We asked USA TODAY 10Best readers to vote for their favorite culture-centric destination, and after four weeks of voting, the results are in!

Santa Fe, the winning city, isn't only the capital of New Mexico; it's also a major cultural capital of the American Southwest and especially stellar when it comes to the quality of its museums and art galleries.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Destination for Culturephiles are as follows:

  1. Santa Fe
  2. Indianapolis
  3. Houston
  4. Phoenix
  5. Minneapolis
  6. New York
  7. Philadelphia
  8. Memphis
  9. New Orleans
  10. Chicago

Other nominees for the title of Best Destination for Culturephiles included Atlanta, Boston, Charleston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Larry Bleiberg, Marla Cimini, Jessie Festa (Epicure & Culture and Jessie on a Journey) and Lydia Schrandt (10Best Editor) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of culture and travel.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners.


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AlertThe Experts

Larry Bleiberg

Larry Bleiberg

Larry Bleiberg

Marla Cimini

Marla Cimini

Marla Cimini

Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa

Lydia Schrandt

Lydia Schrandt

Lydia Schrandt