Chicago Ranked No. 2 Travel Destination in U.S. by Conde Nast

(Tim Emerich)(Tim Emerich)

Chicago surpassed San Francisco in this year’s ranking of U.S. travel destinations by Conde Nast Traveler. In the publication’s 29th annual Readers’ Choice Awards, Chicago was named the number two destination, while New York City held onto its place in the top spot and San Francisco came in at number three.

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The list was limited to major metropolitan areas with a population of 150,000 or more.

The traveler’s website cites the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial as a major driver of tourism last year. The event drew more than 530,000 visitors and was the largest international exhibition of contemporary architecture in North America. Last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the event is returning in 2017. According to the event website, it will run from Sept. 16, 2017 through Dec. 31, 2017.

David Whitaker, president and CEO of the tourism agency Choose Chicago, believes the city’s success isn’t a result of just one major event.

“Clearly, one of our greatest assets as a must-visit destination, and one that never fails to surprise, is that there is something amazing going on just about every week and weekend,” he wrote in an email. “Adding to that, of course, is the diversity of the events and the neighborhoods in which these events take place.”  

According to the mayor's office, Chicago attracted a record-breaking 52 million visitors in 2015 and tourists spent an estimated $14.9 billion – a 34-percent increase since 2010. This is the first time Chicago has surpassed 50 million tourists, inching closer to the mayor’s goal of bringing in 55 million tourists to the city annually by 2020.

“Chicago is breaking tourism records and creating thousands of jobs that reach every corner of the city,” Emanuel said in a press release. “This recognition shows that our efforts to bring even more visitors to the city are working and driving economic opportunities in Chicago's neighborhoods.”

Twenty Chicago hotels were featured on Conde Nast Traveler's list of the nation’s best hotels. The Virgin Hotels Chicago and Thompson Chicago highlighted the list as the top two hotels in the country.

The magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards is billed as the longest-running travel industry guide in the country. More than 300,000 people participated in the annual survey. 

Full list:

  1. New York
  2. Chicago
  3. San Francisco
  4. Honolulu
  5. New Orleans
  6. Boston
  7. Portland, Ore.
  8. Naples, Fla.
  9. Seattle
  10. San Diego
  11. Washington, D.C.
  12. San Antonio
  13. Nashville
  14. Minneapolis
  15. Austin

Follow Reuben Unrau on Twitter: @reubenunrau

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