From the Desert to the Coast, 11 Cities You Need to Visit Now
These are the must-see destinations in the West.
Every year the Sunset Travel Awards honor the best in travel in the West. This year we had over 600 entries across all categories (a record number!). These destinations are the 2023 winners of the Where to Go: Best City Getaways category. Check out the complete list of winners here. For our definitive directory to travel in the West, click here.
Best City Getaways
A diverse cultural hub in the heart of the Bay Area, Oakland has a decidedly artistic vibe amplified by the surrounding natural scenery, countless local parks, multicultural cuisine, and vibrant maker community, making it the ideal vacay for all ages.
O’side has been on the come-up as of late, with restaurants like Heritage BBQ and Homestate setting up shop in this historic surf community alongside new boutique hotels, Michelin-recognized restaurants, and storied surfboard shapers.
San Luis Obispo
Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco along the Central Coast, SLO exudes California’s quintessentially laid-back vibe with its independent wineries, ample areas for hiking and cycling, and inspired public art installations.
Well-kept public parks, off-the-charts dining, and exceptional shopping have travelers consistently returning to this enclave of Los Angeles, which has seen a huge uptick in restaurants and bars from name chefs and hospitality veterans opening this year, including Funke, Sur Le Vert, and Dante.
The gateway to Alaska’s expanse of nature, Anchorage is surrounded by six soaring mountain ranges and access to nearly 2,000 square miles of glaciers, trails, and mountains. While it’s an incredible spot to visit in the summer, winter is also an excellent time to plan a stay with their annual Alaska Native arts market, snow sculpture competitions, and Running of the Reindeer events.
Victoria, British Columbia
Green and positively gorgeous, the capital of British Columbia is a prime spot for urban adventure with its eclectic mix of outdoorsy activities like whale watching, exploring the blooms in Butchart Gardens, or hiking in old-growth rainforests. For refined city dwellers, there are world-class collections at museums worth exploring, and one of the country’s most authentic high-tea services at the Fairmont Empress.
Just a quick two-hour drive from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is so much more than a college town. Rightfully known as the “American Riviera,” it has a Mediterranean coastal aesthetic and climate that, paired with a quirky bohemian charm, results in a destination worth visiting again and again.
Greater Palm Springs
There’s hardly ever been a bad time to visit the desert cities, but this year countless new hotels and wellness offerings have made the region particularly appealing. Of particular interest is the opportunity to engage with and learn about the region’s Indigenous traditions at the Spa at Séc-he and the soon-to-open Agua Caliente Cultural Museum.
The central Oregon city is the gateway to the high desert’s outdoor wonders, and boasts a vibrant downtown, brewery scene, and easy access to outdoor activities such as Smith Rock State Park. With an international airport, music festivals, and increasingly diverse dining scene, this city seamlessly blends small-town charm and urban sophistication.
Two hours east of San Francisco, Sonora blends California Gold Rush history (the main street is a glimpse into the past with many of the original 19th-century buildings lovingly preserved) with modern boutiques and dining, showcasing young entrepreneurs, the newly renovated Hotel Lumberjack, and the modern Armory bar and restaurant.
The quintessential old-school wine country town, complete with a historic town square, Michelin-recognized restaurants, chic boutique hotels, and food and wine and music festivals rounding out its appeal. Whether you’re staying in town or at one of the nearby luxury resorts, it’s a must-visit Sonoma spot.