Ten of the best American cities
The USA’s diversity makes it one of my favourite countries and there are many cities I’ve revisited – or hope to do so – over and over again. Here’s my top ten: what are yours?
New Orleans, Louisiana
Sultry New Orleans ticks all the boxes: history, colour, a sense of fun and plenty of quiet, atmospheric corners to retreat to when the buzz gets too buzzy. The mansions of the Garden District stand in haughty contrast to the tackiness of Bourbon Street, but you don’t have to stray far from the notoriously crass party hub to find wrought iron balconies and heart-lifting melodies within the iconic French Quarter.
New York, New York
I’ve been back to New York countless times yet never tire of the place. But now I’ve ticked off the sights, on recent trips my focus has been on some of its most fascinating neighbourhoods and ethnic food joints. It delivers. But then I’d expect nothing less from the self-styled “Capital of the World”. Where else can you enjoy a southern-style Gospel brunch, El Salvadorean pupusas for lunch and the most succulent steaks outside Argentina for dinner?
Savannah’s centre has a split personality. On the one hand, its genteel tree-filled squares host historic mansions, each with its own intriguing tale to tell. Yet barely a stone’s throw away lies River Street, which comes alive each evening with bars and restaurants thronging with customers. This Georgia gem has it all – and some of the best beaches in the State just a short drive away.
Charleston, South Carolina
Elegant Charleston oozes sophistication from every cobble and porch, yet somehow manages to make you feel you’re worthy of a stay here. Beautifully tended gardens force you to stop and stare, even though you know you shouldn’t intrude. Yet in the bay lies Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War were fired – there’s passion and fervour behind that steely façade.
Bar Harbor, Maine
A visit to Maine is a lesson in Geography, as Down East is actually north and residents travelling south to Boston say they’re going up. The map might be a bit squiffy but there’s no mistaking you’re in New England with fresh lobster, seal boat trips and the dark greens of Acadia’s firs and pines set off to perfection against a muted palette of pink granite and yellow sand.
The Liberty Bell draws a crowd who queue patiently to inspect the crack in the iron that signalled the very first reading of the Declaration of Independence. Beyond that historic district is a city that is proud of its heritage and isn’t afraid to work hard to make a living. Best time to visit? New Year’s Day, when Philly lets its hair down for the annual Mummers Parade.
San Antonio, Texas
The city famed for the Alamo delivers, but the surprise is that the Alamo is overshadowed by the city’s other attractions. The River Walk, a flight of steps down from street level, is lined with restaurants and bars where minutes turn into hours without you even noticing that the time’s passed. With plenty of museums, galleries, and a Stetson hat store to rival anything anywhere, this place begs to be revisited.
The iconic skyline with the instantly recognisable Space Needle might be what draws visitors to Seattle (or at least fans of Grey’s Anatomy) but this is another city where the memorable attractions are those which you didn’t know about before you landed. The fascinating story of a city built on lumber and a whole other world of underground storefronts and sidewalks awaits visitors who’ve watched the fish fly at Pike Place Market and sipped their coffee in the Starbucks where it all began.
San Francisco, California
The seaplane pilot wore a grin with a span to rival that of the Golden Gate Bridge. Visibility, he said, was the best he’d seen in thirty years. Luck like that burns memories into your brain so deep they never fade. And under blue skies, sights like Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf and the artists of Sausalito don’t get any better. Just check those brakes before you drive down the world’s most crooked street…
Green shag pile carpet on a stairwell ceiling? Check. Acid yellow walls framing a bank of chunky televisions? Check. A private jet in the car park bearing the name Lisa Marie? Check. Graceland might not impress in terms of size but its Seventies style will leave you gawping, mouth open wider than the zip on that white jumpsuit. Oh yeah, and there’s music on Beale Street when you’re ready to return to the present.
There you have it; I’m sure Miami, Chicago and Boston will have their fans, as will Vegas, DC and the City of the Angels. What makes your list?