The hottest summer-travel destinations in the U.S.

Lyft highlights five of the hottest cities to travel to this summer for good times.

Sarah Conlisk
Posted 5/23/24

Lyft highlights five of the hottest cities to travel to this summer for good times.

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The hottest summer-travel destinations in the U.S.

Lyft highlights five of the hottest cities to travel to this summer for good times.

Posted

Three young people carrying bags for a summer trip load a car trunk.

Lyft

With the pandemic clearly in the rearview, Americans are getting out and about, exploring their cities and their country. To help you make the most of your summer, Lyft dug through two years of ride data to find the hottest cities for eating, partying, gambling, sports, or exploring the great outdoors.

Hottest food city: Las Vegas

Chart showing rides to non-chain restaurants in Vegas

Lyft

Sin City has been burnishing its reputation as a foodie paradise ever since Wolfgang Puck opened a Spago next to Caesars Palace in 1992. Soon, casinos began competing for diners as well as gamblers, kicking off an arms race that has resulted in nine Michelin star–earning eateries, at least 38 celebrity chef restaurants, and frequent mentions among rankings of the country's best food cities. As Las Vegas's tourism industry has come roaring back from the pandemic, its dining business has as well, with restaurant rides jumping 12% over the past year. 

Las Vegas' food offerings are so vast and varied that no one restaurant or cuisine can claim credit for the uptick. Diners flocked to casual joints like Nacho Daddy and swanky newcomers like The Pepper Club by Todd English. They visited celebrity chef restaurants like Gordon Ramsay's and the all-you-can-eat 888 Japanese BBQ by some lesser-known geniuses. Best of all, many of them hopped in a car to explore food away from the Strip — including the highly regarded Esther's Kitchen in the Arts District and the Bavarian Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas near the airport, which proudly offers to spank visitors with a wooden paddle if they so request. Hey, you know what they say about what happens in Vegas!

Hottest city for nightlife: Detroit

Chart showing rides to nightlife destinations in Detroit.

Lyft

Since declaring bankruptcy in 2013, Detroit — the birthplace of Motown and also (disputably) early punk rock and techno — has leveraged and promoted its musical legacy to attract visitors. And it's paying off. Over the past year, after-midnight rides to hotels, bars, and clubs increased by 30%. Late-night revelers were drawn to last May's Movement Festival, which featured electronic-music legends like Carl Craig and Moodymann. They also hit venues like Leland City Club and "intimate disco oasis" Marble Bar, which saw their late-night ride activity nearly double. 

The Motor City shows no sign of taking its foot off the gas. Detroit launched three new stylish hotels last year ahead of April's NFL draft (which drew hundreds of thousands of visitors) — and economists predict the hospitality industry will keep booming next year. So if you want to spend your summer dancing into the wee hours, you know where to head.

Hottest city for outdoor activity: Milwaukee

Chart showing rides to outdoor activities in Milwaukee.

Lyft

Last year, National Geographic declared 25 places as "best in the world" travel destinations. The list was filled with exotic locales — Laos, Botswana — but also included a surprising entry: Milwaukee.

Well, maybe not so surprising to American travelers, who have been visiting the city in record numbers in recent years. They have particularly flocked to outdoor attractions and venues. Summertime Lyft riders were most likely to visit waterfront destinations like Veterans Park, located on a peninsula in Lake Michigan, and Bradford Beach, a sandy strip just 1.5 miles north. But it wasn't the lake alone that drew the crowds. In summer 2023, Milwaukee earned its moniker as a city of festivals: Veterans Park hosted Independence Day fireworks and the Harley-Davidson Homecoming, a four-day festival with motorcycle parades and music (last year, Green Day and Foo Fighters headlined); Bradford Beach held The Playa Fest, Milwaukee's first Latin Beach festival; and the Wisconsin State Fair (Lyft riders' #3 destination in the Milwaukee area) drew folks from all over the region. All told, Lyft rides to outdoor activities in the city increased by 43% over the past year.

Hottest sports city: Philadelphia

Chart showing rides to summer sports venues in Philadelphia.

Lyft

In 2023, the MLB saw a 9.1% increase in attendance, its greatest in 30 years, after instituting new rules meant to speed up the game. One team in particular reaped the benefits: the Philadelphia Phillies, which saw a 34% increase in rides to its home, Citizens Bank Park. (Its against-the-odds 2022 World Series appearance probably didn't hurt either.) 

But Philly fans didn't just turn out for baseball. The 76ers have sold out every home basketball game for the past six years. A massive crowd turned out for the WrestleMania Week event at the Wells Fargo Center this spring. And last July's bump in sports-related rides coincided with the Premier League Summer Series, where the likes of Chelsea, Newcastle United, and other English soccer teams took to Lincoln Financial Field, drawing nearly 150,000 fans over two days. So if you want to be where the fans are this summer, Philadelphia is chanting your name.

Hottest gambling city: Chicago

Chart showing rides to casinos in Chicago.

Lyft

Chicago has been associated with gambling since the days of Al Capone, but until recently, the only legal casinos could be found on riverboats — or over the city border in Des Plaines or Peoria. That all changed in September, when a long-awaited Bally's opened in a temporary location within the city limits and sent casino drop-offs soaring 60% over the past year. (Need more evidence that Chicago is the latest gambling hotspot? The American Gaming Association now ranks it the third-largest gambling market in the U.S., behind only Las Vegas and Atlantic City.) 

It's unclear whether Chicago will maintain its status. Critics say the casino has contributed less tax revenue than expected, and the plan to build a permanent complex in River West has reportedly hit some snags. Then again, what would a new gambling mecca be without a little risk?

 

This story was produced by Lyft and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.