The Best Scenic Train Trips in North America

In the past decade more and more people have taken to the skies, leaving train trips a thing of the past, but let us be the first to tell you, they shouldn’t be. Exploring a continent by whisking along the rails not only takes us back to the first pioneers of the areas but allows us to rewind, dine and take in amazing scenery. From towering mountains to beautiful seascapes to the changing colors of the leaves; these 10 train trips in North America will change the way you think about travel forever.

10. Coast Starlight -Seattle to Los Angeles

It can be argued that this is one of the most scenic train rides in all of North America and runs all the way along the west coast from Seattle to Los Angeles. It takes about 35 hours and covers over 1,300 miles and is one of the last remaining full-service sleeper trains. What exactly does that mean though? It means a dining car, an observation car with floor-to ceiling windows, a movie theater, and a slew of entertainment options, including complimentary wine tastings and free champagne. The train passes through the rugged Pacific Northwest, the mountains and forests of Northern California and the beautiful central coast. Along with all of this scenery, this train takes passengers through Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose. Whether this is just a scenery trip for you, or a full blown railway experience, you will not be disappointed.

Photo by: There From Here
Photo by: There From Here

9. Ethan Allen Express -New York City to Rutland, Vermont

In just five hours and thirty minutes you can leave the hustle and bustle of New York behind and escape to the wilderness of Vermont. This Amtrak train travels 241 miles through the Catskills in New York to the Green Mountains in Vermont. Riders can choose to ride in the economy class or for a bit of extra room upgrade their ticket to business class. Depending what time of year you choose to travel depends on what you will see on this train journey. During the fall and early winter, riders are privy to the changing colors of the leaves, while summer brings fields of wildflowers growing on the roadside. There are many stops along the way that offer numerous activities and towns to explore if you don’t feel like riding the entire journey. Insiders tip: Make sure to sit on the left side of the train facing the front for the best scenic views!

Photo by: Subway Nut
Photo by: Subway Nut

8. Cass Scenic Railroad -Cass, WV to Bald Knob

Step back into a time where steam-driven locomotives were an everyday part of life at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. The town of Cass remains relatively unchanged from over 100 years ago and is the starting point of your historic train ride. The Shay locomotives complete with passenger cars that were once old logging flat cars are the same locomotives that were used back in the early 1900’s. Passengers can choose from a variety of routes but we suggest take the four and a half hour ride to Bald Knob, the third highest point in West Virginia. The steam locomotive will billow black smoke as it pulls you up two switchbacks and offers spectacular views. Make sure to dress warm if you are heading up to Bald Knob as the temperature does drop and check out the landscape at the top, which resembles Canadian wilderness in a lot of way.

Cass Scenic Railroad

7. Rocky Mountaineer -Vancouver, BC to Calgary, AB

For 25 years the Rocky Mountaineer has been providing breathtaking train trips through British Columbia and Alberta. It would be hard to narrow down one particular route as being better than the rest as they each offer spectacular scenery, the same levels of exceptional service and first-class dining. There are different classes of passenger’s cars here but we do suggest splurging for the Gold Leaf package which offers riders 360-degree view of glacier and peaks from domed, double-decked carriages. These train only travel throughout the day and if you are on a multi-day trip, overnights are at hotels. Besides breathtaking mountain views, lakes, streams and waterfalls; riders will want to keep their eyes open for bald eagles and other wildlife that is in abundance. It has been called the ride of a lifetime and it will certainly pay to take this train ride at least once in your life.

Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com
Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com

6. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad -Bryson City, NC to Nantahala Gorge

This scenic railway journey takes riders over 44 miles through the remote corner of North Carolina, over four and a half hours. Riders will travel with Bluegrass musicians and an occasional Appalachian story while traveling along the Tennessee and Nantahala River. The historic trellis bridge Fontana Trestle takes you across Fontana Lake and into the beautiful Nantahala Gorge. Riders will arrive at the Nantahala Outdoor Center for a one-hour layover where many choose to relax by the river. You have to time this excursion right as this journey only operates March through October. With a choice of first class cabins, family first class, open air gondola, crown class and many others; it is easy to ride this train well within your budget.

Photo by: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Photo by: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

5. Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad -Durango to Silverton, Colorado

This train trip is solely meant for sightseeing and tourism and the 3.5 journey will take riders 45 miles from Durango to Silverton, an elevation gain of 3,000 feet. Riders will feel as they have taken a journey back in history when they chug along at a mere 18 miles an hour in the 1880-era passenger cars being pulled by a 1920’s steam locomotive. The narrow-gauge railway with tracks just three feet apart is not for the faint of heart but the views are absolutely worth it. Colorado’s snow-capped peaks steal the show here in this breathtaking landscape. Choose from four different seating classes or get adventurous and ride up in the open-air gondola. With historic narration from characters, high bridges to cross and a step back in history; this train ride is truly unforgettable.

Photo by: Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Photo by: Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

4. Coastal Classic -Anchorage to Seward, Alaska

The Alaska railroad system covers over 500 miles of unforgettable landscape but the 114 miles between Anchorage and Seward are the absolute best. To start the journey the route hugs the coast of the Turnagain Arm and the heads into areas unreachable by car, away from the Seward Highway. Riders should expect to travel through five tunnels, over a river gorge and past an impressive blue glacier. The rugged coastal mountains, forests and glaciers are home to some of the best wildlife that can be seen from a train. Riders will want to keep their eyes peeled for moose, bears, Beluga whales, Dell sheep and bald eagles. This 4 ½ hour journey can be stretched into a few days by staying overnight in Girdwood or Seward and taking advantage of the day trips from those towns. Make sure not to miss out on the sunset over Cook Islet on the way home though.

Cvandyke / Shutterstock.com
Cvandyke / Shutterstock.com

3. California Zephyr -Chicago to Emeryville, California

This epic train ride takes riders through seven states, mimicking a journey that was taken by the pioneers to settle the American West. The stunning Rocky Mountains are just the beginning of what you will see along the route. Other notable scenery includes the Sierra Nevada’s, Moffat Tunnel, Truckee River, Donner Lake, San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait. This 3,000 mile four day trek is also a steal of a deal, costing riders just a mere $250 or so. The cars on this route include the observation car, lounge, dining and sleeping cars. We suggest splurging on the sleeper cars and having all your meals included in your price. Although it is not fine dining aboard this track, these down home meals sure hit the spot. This journey has many stops along the way, to get out and stretch your legs, perhaps the most important thing on a journey that can take 4 days.

"Amtrak California Zephyr Green River - Floy, Utah" by Kabelleger / David Gubler (https://www.bahnbilder.ch) - Own work: https://www.bahnbilder.ch/picture/6533. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Amtrak California Zephyr Green River – Floy, Utah” by Kabelleger / David Gubler (https://www.bahnbilder.ch) – Own work: https://www.bahnbilder.ch/picture/6533. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

2. Amtrak Cascades -Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, BC

If you are looking for a train ride that offers the most variety of scenery that is downright beautiful, look no further than the ride from Oregon to Vancouver on the Amtrak Cascades. This journey takes riders along the coast to discover seascapes, through the mountains with views of Mt. Rainer and Mt. Baker and through rainforests, farms and cloud forests. This is one train ride you will want to pack a pair of binoculars as you can see whales breaching, seals playing, bald eagles flying and an abundance of other wildlife. Free WiFi, plenty of food options, big windows and exceptional service makes this one of the best train rides in all of North America. With a ride time of 11.5 hours, there is no shortage of time to take in all of the beauty that will surround you.

Photo by: Amtrak Cascades
Photo by: Amtrak Cascades

1. Grand Canyon Railway -Williams to Grand Canyon, Arizona

This train ride has been operating on and off since 1901 and takes passengers to the South Rim of the famous Grand Canyon. There are five different classes to choose from when riding this train and as each one get more expensive, the views get better and the luxury services better as well. The trip to the South Rim takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes each way and guests of this ride have the opportunity to spend a good 4 hours at the Canyon exploring before getting back on board. Some of the amenities offered on-board include Western entertainers, snacks, refreshments and big windows. We suggest booking one of the glass observation dome car that offers the best views.

Grand Canyon Railway

The Top 5 Must-Visit Destinations for Coffee Lovers

“Caffeine fix”, “cup of Joe”, “java”—whatever you call it, warm, delicious coffee has rabid devotees all around the world. Coffee’s worldwide prevalence also makes it the perfect sipper to seek out while travelling, so you can compare how coffee in a foreign city tastes to the kind you’re more familiar with back home. If you’re a coffee lover, consider a jaunt to one of these five cities; these destinations all boast coffee cultures that are certainly alive and kicking (thanks in part to all the caffeine running through their residents’ veins)!

5. Seattle, Washington, U.S.

Yes, Seattle is the home to coffee monolith Starbucks, but smaller specialty coffee shops thrive in this chilly city by the sea, too. In fact, Seattleites consume more coffee than residents of any other U.S. city! If you’re a ‘bucks devotee, then you can’t miss checking out the original Starbucks location at Pike Place Market, which opened in 1971—and is still operating in the same location today. In addition to Starbucks, Seattle is the home base for bigger roasting outfits like Tully’s Coffee and Seattle’s Best, although beloved independent coffeehouses like Café Allegro and Victrola Coffee Roasters help the city’s coffee scene really shine. Turns out nothing goes better with Seattle’s famously chilly, dreary weather than a warm cup of coffee.

Photo by: ctj71081 via Flickr
Photo by: ctj71081 via Flickr

4. Melbourne, Australia

It’s not all vegemite sandwiches down under—Australia’s got some good things brewing when it comes to coffee. Nowhere is that truer than the hip city of Melbourne, Australia’s unofficial coffee capital. Café culture is strong here, with the vibe of coffee shops shifting depending on their locations in Melbourne’s diverse neighborhoods. One thing that unites the city’s coffeehouses, though, is their focus on fostering community; you’ll often find long, communal tables in Melbourne’s coffee shops so patrons can sip their coffee while enjoying one another’s company. For a taste of the best that Melbourne has to offer, head to the Captains of Industry café off Somerset Place. Once you down your flat white, feel free to stick around for a while and pick up some grooming tips from the dapper men that hang out here—there’s even a barbershop and bespoke shoemaker upstairs!

Photo by: Captains of Industry - Gentlemans Outfitter and Cafe
Photo by: Captains of Industry – Gentlemans Outfitter and Cafe

3. Istanbul, Turkey

In Istanbul, they don’t serve up your “typical” cup of American-style coffee, so don’t even ask for it. Turkish coffee is famously rich, dark, and flavorful thanks to a unique brewing method. Turkish baristas grind their beans very finely into a meal, then boil the coffee in a specially designed Turkish coffee vessel called a cezve. The result? A full-bodied, thick cup of joe that’s certain to jolt you awake. Just make sure you don’t consume the last few sips of coffee left in your cup — since the coffee beans are ground so finely, quite a bit of grinds will collect in the bottom of your cup. For coffee sipping with a view, head to Galata Konak Café. The café’s terrace is situated on the top floor of a historic building, affording café goers great views of the Galata Tower, Bosphorus, and Golden Horn.

Photo by: Galata Konak Cafe
Photo by: Galata Konak Cafe

2. Vienna, Austria

Café culture is a point of pride in Austria’s capital; in fact, UNESCO listed the city’s coffee shops as “intangible heritage” in 2011. And with good reason—the stylish Viennese deck out their cafes with inspired furnishings and finishes, making them great spots to while away an afternoon in. On your trip to Vienna, accompany your stint of people watching with a cup of Melange, an espresso, steamed milk, and milk froth concoction that’s especially popular in Vienna. If you’re looking for a Viennese coffee shop that’s just a tad out of the ordinary, head to Cafe Neko, a “cat café” that opened in 2012. Here, you can stroke and play with a handful of rescue cats while you sip on some coffee—talk about a purrfect combination!

Photo by: American in Vienna
Photo by: American in Vienna

1. Rome, Italy

When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and drink lots and lots of coffee. Café culture is strong here, where shots of espresso are served up alongside cups of black coffee that may be slightly sweetened. And if you don’t want to be taken for an ignorant tourist, don’t order milk- and cream-based coffee drinks, like lattes, outside of breakfast time. To Italians, that’s a big no-no; they think milky coffee drinks later in the day contribute to indigestion. A must-stop destination on your Italian café tour? Antico Caffè Greco, an historic café off of Via dei Condotti, which opened in 1760 and owns the distinction of being the oldest bar in Rome. Goethe, Wagner, Byron, and even Casanova were reportedly regulars there. It’s time to add your name to that illustrious list!

Photo by: Italy Travelista/Nancy Aiello Tours
Photo by: Italy Travelista/Nancy Aiello Tours

10 Things to See and Do in Seattle

Seattle has a reputation for cloudy skies, coffee cups and software development. But those infamous rainy days ensure some of the bluest skies ever seen when the clouds finally lift. The increasing number of tech companies are responsible for attracting workers from all over the world, enlivening the city’s culture to no end. And the coffee? That’s just what fuels locals and tourists alike, whether they’re taking in an exhibit, attending a sporting event or simply wandering the city’s neighborhoods. Read on for 10 things that definitely must be done in Seattle.

10. Wander Through Olympic Sculpture Park

Even those who don’t necessarily fancy themselves as art lovers will find themselves charmed by the Olympic Sculpture Park. The city of Seattle took a formerly industrial site, north of downtown and edging the waterfront, and turned it into nine acres of green space, throughout which paths meander through works of art. The scenery, too, is a work of art in itself: it’s hard to choose whether Alexander Calder’s “Eagle”, a soaring red monument to flight, or the Olympic Mountains glimpsed across Puget Sound are more beautiful. The park, open daily and with no admission charge, is part of the Seattle Art Museum. SAM, on the other end of Seattle’s compact downtown, features a large collection of Native American carvings, as well as Asian art and more sculptures. It’s free on the first Thursday of each month.

Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle

9. Take a Ride on a Ferry Boat

There’s nothing like taking a ferry away from the city to get a feel for Seattle. The Washington State Ferry is the largest in the United States, operating 10 routes, with two leaving from downtown Seattle. Pedestrians and cars alike can ride the ferries, but for a fun getaway, grab a bike and head to Bainbridge Island, 35 minutes away. The trip across the Puget Sound is likely to be spectacular – barring rain, of course – with views of jagged mountains rising up from the water. The island, too, is beautiful, with rolling hills, quiet roads and plenty of trails to choose from. Bikes can also be rented on the island itself, or those seeking more time in the water can choose to kayak instead. On the return trip, bundle up warm and stand on the deck to take advantage of amazing views of the Seattle skyline.

Ferry Boat in Seattle

8. Join the Cheering Crowd at CenturyLink Field

In 2013, the Seattle Seahawks set a record for the loudest outdoor sports stadium, recording 137.6 decibels of sound as the home team went on to beat the New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks went on to win the Super Bowl that season, a feat that the fans, referred to as the “12th Man”, and believed to be no coincidence. The Seattle Sounders have yet to set a noise record, but routinely shatter Major League Soccer attendance records. The south end of the stadium fills with fans dedicated to waving flags and chanting their team on, while the rest of the crowd provides plenty of noise as well. With both teams routinely selling out every game, it may be difficult to get in, but it’s worth the effort for one of the best tickets in town.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

7. Head to Fremont Neighborhood

At first glance, the Fremont neighborhood, located north of the Ship Canal dividing Lake Washington and Puget Sound, looks just like any other recently gentrified area in any other city. Yes, the “People’s Republic of Fremont” has moved away somewhat from its countercultural roots, but many residents still try to live out its motto, “Freedom to Be Peculiar”. Tourists visiting in late June will find the Solstice Festival impossible to miss, particularly if they wander into the nude cyclists who kick off the day’s parade. But even if not visiting in June, there are plenty of weird, wonderful reasons to visit Fremont. Check out the troll nestled under the Fremont Bridge, crushing a Volkswagen in his fist, or pause to wonder how a statue of Vladimir Lenin wound up on a Seattle street.

cpaulfell / Shutterstock.com
cpaulfell / Shutterstock.com

6. Explore Seattle’s Food Scene

One of the first cities to embrace the food movement known as “localism” – eating seasonal foods grown nearby – visitors to Seattle must take time to eat and drink like a native. From The Walrus and The Carpenter in Ballard, which specifies the local coves that hosted the oysters on the plate, to Local 360, where all ingredients are sourced within 360 miles of the café, to any of local celebrity restaurateur Tom Douglas’s dozen eateries, it’s clear Seattle takes the motto farm-to-table to heart. But it’s not necessary to fork over a wad of cash to get a taste of local eating, not in a city where food trucks advertise where they bought their beef. Be sure to drink local as well. Seattle has a great craft beer scene, and Fremont Brewing is one of its best, with its emphasis on the use of local ingredients.

Photo by: Jim Linwood via Flickr
Photo by: Jim Linwood via Flickr

5. Visit the Iconic Space Needle

It’s not cheap to travel to the top. It’s argued that the observation deck may not even have the best views of Seattle (although the views are astounding). But the Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, is one of the most iconic structures in the world, and it’d be a crime to visit Seattle and not stop by. Up the retro factor by traveling there on the monorail, another World’s Fair relic that transports passengers between just two stations on a two minute ride. When done taking photos – either from the ground or the observation deck, 520 feet up – continue the trip back in time with a stop at the nearby Experience Music Project. The museum goes beyond music to all that influences contemporary pop culture, with exhibits centered on everything from Nirvana to Star Wars to video game development.

Downtown Seattle as seen from the Kerry park in the evening

4. Indulge in the Tastes of Seattle’s International District

Despite its presence on Puget Sound, Seattle’s most famous cuisine isn’t seafood, but rather teriyaki. That’s no surprise, really, seeing as the city’s Chinatown emerged shortly after the town was founded and together with Japantown and Little Saigon is now known as the International District. While teriyaki, dim sum and pho are widely available throughout the city, this is where Seattleites come to experience other Asian delicacies. Get sushi at the venerable Maneki, the Vietnamese crepe known as Bánh xèo at Green Leaf, and hand-shaved noodles at Seven Star Pepper. For those wanting to take the flavors home, stop in at Uwajimaya, an Asian grocery store founded in the International District, which also features a food court of its own.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

3. Take a Tour of Seattle’s Spooky Side

The Underground Tour is often recommended to those visiting Seattle, and while it’s certainly a great way to gain a sense of Seattle history, the Spooked in Seattle tour also ducks underground, while also introducing participants to the weird and wonderful world of Seattle ghost lore. Spooked in Seattle provides multiple tours, including trolley tours and pub crawls, but its Pioneer Square tour is best for soaking up Seattle history. The tours, all lead by actual paranormal investigators, begin at the company’s underground office, which doubles as the Northwest’s only death museum. From there it’s up to Pioneer Square, where the city of Seattle was founded, and through the surrounding blocks, accompanied by an interesting guide who offers facts about both the historic buildings and those that continue to haunt them.

Photo by: Spooked in Seattle
Photo by: Spooked in Seattle

2. Take in the View at Alki Beach

Ever wonder where those postcard-perfect shots of the Seattle skyline are taken? Wonder no more, because a great many of them are taken at Alki Beach in West Seattle. As the name suggests, this is the neighborhood to the west of the city, across Elliott Bay from downtown, so it’s a little off the tourists’ beaten path. Buses serve the area, but the most direct route is via the Water Taxi, which ferries passengers from downtown to Duwamish Head, at the northern tip of Alki Beach. Bike, jog or simply stroll along the beachfront path, gazing out at both the city’s skyscrapers and the snow-covered Olympic Mountains. Later, walk up the hill to West Seattle’s quaint downtown, where the buildings may look old-fashioned, but there’s plenty of modern day food and drink to make up for those calories burned getting up the steep slopes.

Alki Beach, Seattle

1. Find the Hidden Gems at Pike Place Market

At times it may feel like a tourist trap, but don’t be fooled: this historic market, established in 1907, is loved by locals as well. Visitors should do their best to catch one of the famous fish-throwing displays, but truly experiencing the flavor of the market requires venturing off its most popular corner. Rub Rachel the Pig’s copper snout for good luck, then cross the street to what is known as the “Sanitary Market” to Jack’s Fish Spot, where nearby workers also stop to enjoy some of the city’s best fish and chips. Head north on Pike Place to grab a coffee at Starbucks’ original location, then back across the street to the “Main Arcade”. Sample the fresh produce on offer, then head downstairs to browse the market’s eclectic collection of shops. Finish up at the famous Pink Door in Post Alley, featuring one of the best outdoor patios in Seattle – and a burlesque show on Saturday nights.

Pike Market Seattle

The 10 Best Chinatowns Across America

America is a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures. Most major American cities have neighborhoods settled by the people who crossed oceans and began an unpredictable journey to America to provide a better life for their children, escaping poverty and war in their homeland. Little Italy, Germantown and of course, Chinatown are all staples of America’s cities, their residents establishing their identities in America while holding onto their native cultures. Among the oldest of these miniature ethnic pockets are the Chinatowns that dot the U.S., from Seattle to Boston, San Francisco to New York City. Here are the 10 best you’ll find in America.

10. Washington D.C.

Though one of the smallest Chinatowns on this list, Washington D.C.’s Chinese neighborhood benefits from a great location-walking distance to many other landmarks and neighborhoods-and a more calm atmosphere than others. Only about a fifth of the neighborhood’s 3,000 residents are actually Chinese, as recent college grads have moved to the area in recent years, attracted to the affordable housing. This does not take away from the authentic Chinese atmosphere, however. Like many Chinatowns, there is a classically styled archway over H Street and 7th Street, just a few blocks down from the Verizon Center, where the hometown Wizards (NBA) and Capitals (NHL) compete. You’ll find a handful of shops selling pastries and little knickknacks, as well as some great restaurants, such as Tony Cheng’s Seafood and Pho DC -one of the best bowls of Pho in the D.C. area.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

9. Houston

Not to be confused with the city’s “Old Chinatown” neighborhood, the current community of Chinese residents, shops and restaurants can be found in the southwestern part of town. Unlike most Chinatowns, which usually occupy a number of dense city blocks, the Houston Chinatown is a widely dispersed set of strip malls over 6 square miles. It’s probably the most automobile friendly Chinatown on this list, so if you’re a tourist without a rental car this one would be a tough draw. Chinese food is not the only kind you’ll find here. Filipinos, Indonesians, Japanese, Koreans and more have populated the area, and have brought the cuisine of their home countries with them. Some people are hesitant to even refer to this part of the city as Chinatown, since there are so many other Asian influences present.

Photo by: Capital Realty Group
Photo by: Capital Realty Group

8. Boston

Boston, a city more known for its Irish heritage as seen in films like Good Will Hunting and The Town, is also home to a stellar Chinatown, the only one in all of New England. 70% of the population is Chinese, though there is a strong Vietnamese influence as well, which can be felt in the number of Vietnamese restaurants and food stalls. Located near Boston’s theater district and Tufts Medical Center, Chinatown is a convenient place to stop for an authentic Chinese dinner before a night around town, but its also got enough to keep your attention for a full day. There are some great hot pot (a Chinese fondue of sorts) restaurants, as well as dim sum and some hole in the walls with cheaper options but still quality eats.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

7. Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Chinatown traces its roots all the way back to the mid 19th century, when Cantonese immigrants opened restaurants and laundries in the city center. In the late 1990s, an influx of immigrants from other Asian countries including Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, began moving into Philly’s Chinatown. Like many other Chinatowns in America, there is a Friendship Gate (an archway) that’s built in the colorful style of the Ming and Qing dynasties, which acts as symbol of connection between Philadelphia and its sister city of Tianjin. It’s a beautiful landmark, and well worth a picture or two. Hong Kong style eateries can be found on 10th Street and Race Street, where restaurants serving other Asian fare-Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese-can also be enjoyed.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

6. Los Angeles

Forever immortalized by the 1974 film Chinatown, and also featured in the buddy-cop classic Rush Hour, L.A.’s Chinatown is vast, full of things to see and do (and of course, eat). When the Central Pacific Railroad Co. began work on the country’s first transcontinental rail in the 1860s, they started to recruit laborers from China, who then moved here and settled in what is now known as Chinatown. Among the highlights: a statue of Bruce Lee and Sun Yat-sen (father of modern China); a beautiful Wishing Well, a dragon mural and a main plaza strung with red lanterns. There are restaurants with glass displays of roast duck and pigs, but some of the more popular eateries include an Italian place called Little Joe’s and a French deli called Philippe’s.

LA Chinatown

5. Honolulu

Hawaii might be well known for its East Asian influence already, particularly its Japanese roots, but did you know that Honolulu has one of the best Chinatowns in America? Chinese laborers from the area’s sugar plantations settled here in the 19th century, only to have the entire neighborhood burned down in the Great Honolulu Chinatown Fire of 1900. It has since been rebuilt, a bustling, open space full of fruit stands and restaurants. Given Hawaii’s tropical climate, the Honolulu Chinatown feels like a small city in the south of China. The famed Wo Fat restaurant, known as the namesake for a character in Hawaii Five-O-is now out of service, but its historic façade is still worth a visit.

Honolulu Chinatown

4. Seattle

America’s Pacific Coast has long been concentrated with immigrants from East Asia, and while officially named “Chinatown”, this Seattle neighborhood is more Little East Asia. The bulk of this Chinatown is on King Street, though just off the main thoroughfare is Japantown, which as you can imagine is modeled after a Japanese city. There is a vibrant and lively Chinese New Year celebration with lion dancers and fireworks, and the China Gate restaurant has a beautiful gate modeled after the walls of the ancient Chinese capital Peking (now Beijing). Hing Hay Park is an idyllic outdoor spot with a traditional Chinese Pagoda and chess tables. The Nippon Kan Theatre and the Wing Luke Asian Museum are also must see attractions.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

3. Chicago

Located on the Red Line, Chicago’s Chinatown provides great views of the city skyline as well as a variety of restaurants and landmarks to check out on a fine summer day in Chicago. The Nine-Dragon Wall is a beautiful jade and yellow colored monument built in the style typical of imperial China. Chinatown Square, decorated with statues of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals, is full of shops; tea shops, traditional medicine shops and massage parlors that have the feel of the dense hutongs (alleyways) of Old Beijing. Lao Beijing and Lao Szechwan are local staples, serving traditional cuisine from those cities, and Hing Kee is a great noodle spot that makes their noodles by hand. Get a foot massage at one of the area’s massage parlors, and visit a Buddhist temple, which can be easy to miss among the abundance of grocery stores, restaurants and gift shops. Make sure to stop by the shop that specializes in swords! The Bruce Lee poster in the front display is hard to miss.

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

2. Manhattan

Manhattan’s Chinatown is huge, so huge that it can almost be considered its own mini-city, and it has the second largest population density of Chinese in the entire Western Hemisphere. There are 9 Chinatowns scattered across all of New York City, but Manhattan’s is the largest and the oldest, and it’s easy to forget that you’re still in America, not a metropolis of China. There are fish markets and fruit markets, theaters and museums. There’s a Little Hong Kong, a Little Fuzhou, a Little Guangdong. It’s almost like a Chinatown within a Chinatown within a Chinatown. Between 90,000 and 100,000 people live in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and its easy to get put off by the density and activity, but if you’d like to experience what life in a modern Chinese city is like, and are willing to have an open mind while doing so, then dive right in and take in all it has to offer.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

1. San Francisco

The oldest in the country, San Francisco’s Chinatown sees more tourists every year than the Golden Gate Bridge. Every September, the neighborhood hosts the Autumn Moon Festival, a Chinese tradition that celebrates the summer harvest, and it’s a must-attend event for those who’d like to experience a traditional Chinese holiday other than the New Year. Boasting two hospitals, a post office, schools, libraries, parks, restaurants and grocery stores, San Francisco’s Chinatown is essentially an autonomous enclave, and is also home to the highest Chinese population outside of Asia. For the most authentic taste of China outside of Asia, San Francisco’s Chinatown is the #1 place to visit.

EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

10 Most Sacred Sites in the United States

There is a world of variety in what different belief systems find sacred, some have passages of rites, others have sites of worship or holy animals and without a doubt all have a list of defining principles to follow. Great thinkers have struggled with the definition of the truly sacred. But it should be safe to say that in the multicultural melting pot of the United States, there are places of impossible beauty that are undeniably sacred, no matter what your religious background is, these sites will instill a feeling of awe at being in the presence of a higher power. Whether man-made or a natural wonder, they can be considered sacred because of what history has unfolded there or simply the depth of faith their natural beauty displays.

10. Sakya Monastery -Seattle, Washington

Sakya, meaning “grey or pale earth”, is one of four major branches of Buddhism. The monastery was a Presbyterian Church from 1928 until converted in 1975. The name resonates with the original Sakya monastery now in China, built in the 13th century containing some of Tibet’s greatest art works. The saffron robes, beaming Buddhas and the gentle teachings give it an aura of peace. Its devotion to the preservation of Tibetan heritage and culture in the face of the overwhelming power of the Chinese government is striking. The Head Lama has reflected that “the changes in Tibet are an example of the true nature of human existence: all is impermanent, and everything changes” adding to the sense of being in the presence of a heavenly power far beyond anything a mere earthly superpower can muster.

Photo by: Wonderlane via Flickr
Photo by: Wonderlane via Flickr

9. Cahokia Mounds -St. Louis, Missouri

Over a millennium ago, Cahokia was a huge settlement cross the river from what is now St. Louis. With an estimated 40,000 people in and around it, it is believed by many to have been the largest city in the world at that time, certainly the biggest in North America before Columbus. The High Priest literally ruled over the center of Mississippian Native culture from Monk’s Mound (so named by Trappist monks centuries later) where the Sacred Fire burned. In shades of England’s Stonehenge Monk’s Mound and the burial site of the Ruler-Priest are aligned by the stars. In fact, a circle of wooden poles nicknamed Woodhenge was used as a solar calendar. There are dozens of mounds once used for ceremonies, burials, sacrifices and with them the tingling feeling that ancient spirits still roam over them.

Cahokia Mounds

8. Unity Temple -Chicago, Illinois

The renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built the Temple after the Unitarian Church of which he was a member was struck by lightning and reduced to ashes in 1905. Its replacement, too, appears to be an act of God, like no other church on the face of the earth with a complete absence of anything resembling tradition liturgical shapes and textures. Instead of soaring domes and gold leafed chapels there is a mesmerizing geometric precision. Wright saw it as a “democratic’ religious space for the worship of God and a “meeting place, in which to study man himself for his God’s sake.” Like a late Mozart symphony, it seems like a masterpiece that could only have been achieved with the help of the angels. Modern and unconventional it may be, but it still induces a powerful urge to fall on one’s knees in wonder. It is designated a National Historic Landmark and attracts visitors from around the world.

Photo by: Teemu008 via Flickr
Photo by: Teemu008 via Flickr

7. Crater Lake -Medford, Oregon

With a depth of 1,949 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest in the country and Top Ten worldwide. It is an underappreciated scenic gem with one-tenth the four plus million visitors the Grand Canyon gets. The Klamath nation still regards it as a sacred site, created long ago by a terrible battle between the Chiefs of the Above and Below Worlds that completely destroyed the mountain that stood there. Scientists believe that Mount Mazama imploded some 8,000 years ago after a series of cataclysmic eruptions to form a caldera or volcanic depression, which became the lake with an unforgettable shade of blue seen only here. New Age spiritual adherents believe that the lake is a major vortex site and the source of positive energy from the earth’s natural power grid.

Crater Lake

6. The Islamic Center -Washington, D.C.

The mosque and cultural center has been ensconced on Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue in downtown D.C. since 1957. It was one of the earliest mosques in the country and for a time was the largest in the Western hemisphere. The interior is lush and imposing, recalling the legendary works of the great Ottoman architect Sinan, called the Muslim Michelangelo. In happy historical coincidence, it was in fact built by an Italian architect. There is something about great mosques that are piously humbling but artistically uplifting. It was there that President George W. Bush read the Koran just six days after the terrorist attack of 9/11: “In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule”. As the place the President of the United States reached out to a shaken Muslim community, invoking the words of the Prophet and the souls of the victims, in the name of peace, this must forever be a hallowed, sacred place.

Islamic Center, Washington

5. Mount Shasta -Mt. Shasta, California

Part of the Cascade Range in northern California, Shasta is central to the Creation story for local Native Americans and remains a sacred place for them. They have lived there for 9,000 years and though their numbers have dwindled shockingly, descendants still conduct ceremonies in its honor. The towering extinct volcano, once an active part of the notorious Pacific Ring of Fire, stands over 14,000 feet. No other mountain on the continent has been ordained by so many groups with mystical significance. As with many Native American sacred sites, its spirituality has been adopted by contemporary belief systems. Buddhists built a monastery there with the belief that it is one of the Seven Sacred Mountains in the World. Many New Agers believe it to be a vortex emitting earth’s subterranean energy. More than a few believe it to be a refueling base for UFO’s. Some of it may seem sacrilegious, but in a way underline the beauty and power of a place whose beauty has been put here by a Creator for a higher purpose.

Mount Shasta, California

4. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary -Baltimore, Maryland

Maryland was founded as a safe haven for Catholics persecuted in England, but the pious Puritans took up the persecution in the New World to the point that in some places Catholics could be sentenced to death. It took 145 years after the Declaration of Independence to build this Cathedral in Baltimore, so when the Basilica opened its doors in 1821, it was a major landmark for the country. It is sublimely warm and welcoming inside. Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II have blessed it. He called it “the worldwide symbol of religious freedom”. In a sense it can be said that people died for this to be realized and so remains a moving testament to their faith and conviction in the face of intolerance.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary -Baltimore, Maryland

3. Devil’s Tower -Crook County, Wyoming

It is as much as 70 million years old. A stunning geological formation, from a volcanic eruption, it has been shaped and scarred by a millennium of erosion. Known in contemporary culture from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, some twenty Indian tribes have said to had close and sacred encounters with this natural beauty for thousands of years. It is also known as Bear Lodge and Bear tipi. There are many different legends of how it was created by the Great Spirit Legend. The crevices down its side are said to have been left by a bear sliding down in futility after his erstwhile victims found refuge on top. It was the first site declared a National Monument in 1906 and is still a place for Sun Dances, vision quests and other ceremonial customs. Its commanding presence juts out of the Black Hills looking down on its domain- does it have a supernatural power and in its mystery lies the questions by the grace of whom?

Devil's Tower, Wyoming

2.  Touro Synagogue -Newport, Rhode Island

The English settled Jamestown in 1607 and the Puritans landed famously at Plymouth Rock in 1620. The first Jewish settlers found their way to New York in 1654 and to Newport Rhode Island in 1658, likely fleeing persecution (as their ancestors and descendants have) in the Caribbean. The community thrived and decided it was time for a synagogue in 1759, so they chose Peter Harrison, who was considered the colonies’ greatest architect of the 18th century. Its interior is exquisite like a small English palace. Intensely symbolic, it was built so that people inside face east to Jerusalem and the number 12 is a recurring theme honoring the Twelve Tribes of Israel. It too is a historic site, but moreover it is a symbol of the devotion of a tiny group who lit a torch of hope for their ill-treated people in the New World.

LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com

1. Bighorn Medicine Wheel -Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming

They are scarce, with only a hundred or so remaining set in starkly, spectacular, settings. medicine wheel’s are intensely spiritual, places that were made for worship. The Bighorn is the grandfather of all medicine wheels, though its 10,000 foot elevation makes it a daunting destination. Its intricate celestial significance is captivating. It’s a circle with 28 spokes, the number of days in the lunar calendar and a sacred number to many tribes. The spokes point to the rising and setting places of stars near and distant, the Sun at summer solstice, Rigel in Orion, and Sirius, the Dog Star (whose apogee in August gave rise to The Dog Days of summer) in Canis Major. Medicine wheels are the New World’s Stonehenge. Despite their name, they were not used for medical purposes. They should more appropriately be called ‘sacred hoops’ honoring the gods and seeking divine wisdom to guide them in every facet of tribal life.

Photo by: The Cut via Flickr
Photo by: The Cut via Flickr

10 Best Baseball Stadiums to Watch America’s Pastime This Summer

There are few things more American than baseball, and there’s little more enjoyable than staking out a spot in the bleachers to bask in the sun while the players get put through their paces. The key, though, is knowing which ballparks are the best for catching a game. It’s not just about which teams are leading their division. Consider which stadiums have the best sightlines to catch all the action, which offer up spectacular views of their surroundings, and which have unique amenities. We’ve considered all these points and come up with a list of the top 10 Major League Baseball stadiums to visit around the country:

10. Kauffman Stadium -Home of the Kansas City Royals

Kauffman Stadium, just outside Kansas City, Missouri is actually one of the oldest in the major leagues, but you’d never guess it was built in 1973 just by looking. Extensive renovations completed in 2009 make this one of the best places to watch a game. Gaze into the outfield to watch the stadium’s signature feature, the magnificent fountains, and enjoy the feeling of being among some of the friendliest fans in the country. And while you’re in Kansas City, take a trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which charts the progress of the Negro Leagues and hosts a large collection of artifacts from the period.

Ffooter / Shutterstock.com
Ffooter / Shutterstock.com

9. Safeco Field -Home of the Seattle Mariners

Safeco might have a chance to pull itself higher up the list if the Mariners ever manage to become relevant. But even without any hope of the team challenging in the American League west, Safeco Field remains a beautiful spot to catch a game, particularly on a summer’s evening. Grab a craft beer and a box of sushi, then angle your view toward the Puget Sound for one of Seattle’s gorgeous sunsets. If Seattle’s frequent rain makes this an impossibility, worry not: Safeco Field is one of just two stadiums in the world with a retractable roof, meaning you’ll stay dry no matter the weather.

alens / Shutterstock.com
alens / Shutterstock.com

8. Target Field -Home of the Minnesota Twins

The Twins’ new home, located in downtown Minneapolis, is the newest ballpark in the United States. Even lovers of history won’t miss the crumbling concrete Metrodome, especially once they snuggle up to the fire pits in left field and gaze out over the city skyline. The sightlines are clean and the stadium feels cozy, and because of Target Field’s location, fans can easily walk or take the light rail to the nearby station – especially important after the stadium installed the major leagues’ first self-serve beer stations.

Ffooter / Shutterstock.com
Ffooter / Shutterstock.com

7. Petco Park -Home of the San Diego Padres

Take a stroll through San Diego’s Gaslamp District and you’ll be sure to stumble upon Petco Park. The Padres’ humble home suits the team  – a quietly lovely stadium that doesn’t seek to overshadow its neighbors, instead using its stucco façade to blend in. The sightlines are nearly perfect and it’s practically impossible to get stuck with a bad seat. Even sitting in the “Park in the Park” above the outfield isn’t a hardship, especially for just five dollars. Choose to sit in the bleachers instead, and you’ll have a beautiful view out over San Diego Bay and Balboa Park.

Petco Park

6. Fenway Park -Home of the Boston Red Sox

If you’re a fan of any baseball team not named the Red Sox, you’re likely sick of fans in your hometown who’ve hopped on the Boston bandwagon after the team finally won another World Series title in 2004, but hanging out with the diehards at Fenway will give you a whole new appreciation for the team. The fans that routinely sellout the stadium are knowledgeable and devoted to their boys, and thanks to the closeness of the seats, you’ll quickly feel like one of them. The packed-together atmosphere is just part of the stadium’s charm, along with the hand-operated scoreboard and the Green Monster.

Joyce Vincent / Shutterstock.com
Joyce Vincent / Shutterstock.com

5. Busch Stadium -Home of the St. Louis Cardinals

There are few things more quintessentially American than taking in a baseball game at Busch Stadium on a summer’s day. Named after Anheuser-Busch, headquartered in the city, you’ll certainly have a chance to down a few cold lagers. Even better though, is that you might get invited to a tailgate party happening before the game even starts. Then you’ll move into a packed stadium, filled with fans all proudly wearing red, and take in the view of the St. Louis Arch rising above the city skyline. Or you can even stay outside, watching the game from the sidewalk with other like-minded souls.

Matt McClain / Shutterstock.com
Matt McClain / Shutterstock.com

4. Camden Yards -Home of the Baltimore Orioles

In 1992, Camden Yards forever changed the course of history. The Orioles moved out of Memorial Stadium, a multipurpose arena like so many others used by baseball teams at the time, and into their new retro-chic home. From the brick outside to the incorporation of the old B&O Warehouse in right field to the regional food served on the concourses, Camden Yards was meant to glorify its locale. Other baseball teams followed suit, and almost every stadium built or renovated since the opening of Camden Yards gives a nod to this game changing stadium.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

3. PNC Park -Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates

You want to be close to the baseball action? PNC Park is your best bet. This intimate stadium, opened in 2001, boasts that its highest seats are a mere 88 feet from the field, and it certainly has the best sightlines of any major league park. You’ll also get tremendous views of the Pittsburgh skyline’s distinctive architecture, and on game days the Roberto Clemente Bridge is closed to traffic so fans can walk along the Allegheny River to the game. Locals bring their boats and kayaks alongside the stadium, hoping a foul ball will splash into the water nearby.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

2. Wrigley Field -Home of the Chicago Cubs

For fans wanting the best old-school atmosphere, nothing beats a day game with the bleacher bums at Wrigley. The park opened in 1914, meaning it’s never seen a Cubs championship, but that doesn’t mean the fans have given up on their home team. Groups congregate on nearby rooftops to watch the games, while kids hope to catch a home run ball out on the sidewalk. The ivy on the outfield walls grows so thick that sometimes players lose a ball they’re chasing, while the enormous scoreboard remains hand-operated. Bypass the seats and put your own bum in the bleachers, where the wonder of Wrigley is best experienced.

Wrigley Field

1. AT&T Park -Home of the San Francisco Giants

Was it this stadium opened in 2000, that led to the Giants capturing three World Series titles since moving in? Considering they didn’t manage even one championship in the 40 years spent at the drafty dungeon of Candlestick Park, this theory might not be too much of a stretch. Their new home is a gorgeous tribute to their city, from the kayaks waiting to fish balls out of McCovey Cove to the delicious local eats. The giant Coca-Cola bottle, complete with slides, and the enormous glove behind left field add whimsical touches, as does the foghorn that blares each time the Giants hit a home run.

Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com
Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com

The 15 Most Unfriendly Cities in America

It seems that America isn’t just full of friendly locals, welcoming Texas BBQ’s and charming southerners. Indeed in a recent study by Travel and Leisure, it is evident that America is also full of a slew of unfriendly cities. Avoiding these cities isn’t always possible and many of them boast amazing attractions and things to do, as well as big business centers. Whether it is the locals or tourists, the weather or politics, these 15 cities have been named the most unfriendly in all of America. Discover what makes them so unfriendly and how you can find the friendliest spots in each.

15. Chicago, IL

Chicago is full of museums, great restaurants and a spectacular view, but that doesn’t mean the people are friendly towards outsiders. What visitors here will find are people walking with their heads towards the ground, rushing from one thing to the next and an overall vibe of unfriendliness. Perhaps it is due to the high amount of crime that happens, or maybe people are just too busy to start up a conversation. Whatever the reason is, don’t bank on making any new friends in this city, and make sure you buy a map so you don’t have to ask for directions. For a friendlier Chicago head to the neighborhood of Old Town for a root beer float spiked with Stoli and hang out with the locals or get your laughs on at some stand up comedy at Second City.

photo.ua / Shutterstock.com
photo.ua / Shutterstock.com

14. Providence, RI

These New Englanders are not happy to welcome anyone or anything new in this city. Providence is known for their locals being downright rude and snobby. The weather here is pretty awful, bringing a lot of cloudy days as well as rain, snow and ice in the winter which may contribute to the attitudes of people. This city also happens to be highly unaffordable. The taxes are high, as is the cost of living. Visitors here often have spent enough time here after two days and won’t want to stick around getting to know the locals who often throw them rude glances and downright ignore them when spoken to. The Dean Hotel welcomes visitors and plan on staying here if you want to experience any type of friendliness.

Providence, RI

13. Seattle, WA

Seattle has been deemed unfriendly for many years, but in fact it just seems that this city is unsocial. They won’t slam the door on you, or not make eye contact but rather these locals just seem maddeningly impersonal. The weather can’t help matters as it is seriously grey, wet and miserable looking most of the year. Seattle is a very segregated city, meaning that people stick in their cliques and often have a hard time letting anyone knew in. For visitors, you probably won’t notice the unfriendliness that much as people will still tell you to “have a good day” but it’s people who move here that really suffer. Just look up the definition of “Seattle Freeze” and you will understand what we mean when we call this city unfriendly.

seattle_image

12. Baltimore, MD

We aren’t quite sure how Baltimore got the nickname of “Charm City” but visitors to this city certainly don’t agree with it. Along with recent turmoil that has literally caused this city to be on a curfew; people just aren’t friendly to outsiders, or each other. Crime is at an all time high in this city and both locals and visitors walk around being afraid, which means no eye contact and no small talk with strangers. The city is known as being a little quirky and off-beat, but sometimes that rubs visitors the wrong way. If you are looking for a bit of friendliness in this city, head to one of the concerts by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra or grab brunch in the neighborhood of Hampden.

Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

11. Orlando, FL

In a city that boasts “The Happiest Place on Earth”, it seems surprising that Orlando is actually really unfriendly. It is not certain whether it is the locals who are unfriendly, or just the tourists who are snapping at each other. Either way you can expect a lot of horns being honked, a lot of snappy comments and a slew of crying kids. Maybe it is all the tired feet or low blood sugar that comes from visiting the theme parks, but whatever it is, people here can’t wait to return to their hotels. The theme parks tend to be the worst place to deal with unfriendly people, but also tends to be the main draw here.

Orlando, Florida

10. Dallas, TX

Many people have the notion that all people from Texas are friendly and welcoming but that certainly isn’t the case when it comes to the city of Dallas. The people of Dallas certainly seem to be in a rush and are generally stressed out, which leads to a lot of fast walking, plugged in ear pieces and a lack of eye contact. It is interesting here because most people that live in this state don’t actually like people from Dallas, adding to the notion that they are quite rude. Perhaps they are just tired of the cowboy and oil jokes or maybe they just want to keep their city to themselves, either way don’t plan on getting a friendly Texas welcome from this city.

mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com
mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com

9. San Francisco, CA

If you ask the people here they will probably outright admit that they can be both rude and snobby, especially when it comes to food. Locals in this city seem to put themselves on a pedestal slightly higher than everyone else. Locals here aren’t afraid to laugh at the tourists in their shorts and t-shirts shivering at the piers, nor are they quick to judge visitors who don’t know how to get around. San Francisco does gain a lot of points for being LGBT friendly though and if you want to experience the friendliest of the city, head to the neighborhood who welcomes anyone of any nature. Just don’t start judging what they eat, trust us on that one.

San Francisco bridge

8. Los Angeles, CA

It has long been known as a snobby city and as the years go on it seems that this city just can’t figure how to be charming. Whether you are trying to exchange pleasantries with the locals and getting shut down, or trying to snap a selfie in the crowds at the hall of fame, chances are you will leave this city feeling bruised. Known as having some of the most beautiful people in the country, chances are you will feel a little down about yourself. To immerse yourself into the locals, try some retail therapy to boost your happiness and connect with some of the shop owners who are friendly if you drop enough cash.

Los Angeles

7. Las Vegas, NV

It should come as no surprise that this city is actually unfriendly. Think about what happens in Vegas, the wild parties, the rambunctious outsiders who come in droves and crowd up the city with large amounts of drinking and gambling. Therefore we aren’t entirely sure who the ones are that are being rude in Vegas. Is it the locals or the tourists? Either way, this city that sits at the top of the list for tourism certainly doesn’t know how to play nice. Expect business men talking business, women brushing off your smiles and people generally avoiding eye contact. If you want to avoid the overly rude tourists make sure to get off the strip and visit the downtown bars where the locals hang out.

Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com
Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com

6. Miami, FL

Horn honking, people yelling at each other, rude customer service and stuck up individuals who think they are better than you, all of this and more awaits visitors to Miami. This city is thought to be the capital of “me”, where everyone only cares about themselves and makes sure everyone else knows it. People here love to flash their expensive cars and clothes while looking down on those who aren’t on par with them. Racism is still a problem in this city and contributes to the unfriendliness of their nature. Don’t plan on heading to South Beach if you are looking to chill with the locals and be accepted, instead head somewhere like Virginia Key Beach for a more mellow and laid-back beach scene.

Miami Beach

5. Boston, MA

This city has a horrible history of race relations and that can’t help with people thinking that this city will forever remain unfriendly. Things have changed in this busy city, but people are still not warm and fuzzy. The city rates are high when it comes to intelligent people and perhaps they are just too smart to want to make small talk with visitors. The winters are awful, everything closes early including the bars and red sox fans; and all we will say about that is that you better be cheering for them when they are in town. Visitors should expect that locals will be rushing with heads down, cell phones in hand and far too busy to make new friends. On the plus side, the city is very pretty and if you can find some accepting locals, they promise to be both smart and funny.

Boston

4. Washington, D.C

Politics are ugly, perhaps getting more ugly as time goes on and therefore it is no surprise that Washington is unfriendly, rude and just too busy to make newcomers feel welcomed. Lobbyists and lawyers make up the majority of people in this city and they tend to be too self-absorbed or busy to throw a smile your way. Many commuters tend to use public transit, as do tourists to get around this city and it seems that the unfriendly vibe is picked up by tourists as they watch the commuters on their way to work and home. This city is also high on security which means that entering something like a children’s museum means getting your bags searched and many of the security guards are not warm and fuzzy. Fighting terrorism is a serious job here and it seems they lack in customer service when they do so.

Washington DC

3. Philadelphia, PA

We suggest you don’t come to this city of “Brotherly Love” wearing anything but a jersey that represents Philly as you will more than likely clash with the locals. Locals here also have some colorful and unusual language, being the one city that likes to drop the “f” word on Twitter on a consistent basis. If you can go to visit and act like a local, wear an Eagles jersey and eat a cheesecake with the best of them, it will be no doubt that you will be welcomed in. But if you show up with a New York accent, wearing a Giants jersey and turn your nose up at one of their beloved food choices; plan on someone telling you where to go. Philadelphia has always known for being a bit rough and if you can’t respect them don’t plan on being welcomed.

Marco Rubino / Shutterstock.com
Marco Rubino / Shutterstock.com

2. Detroit, MI

Motor City has been called the armpit of the world by more than one person and does nothing to help its reputation. Unwelcoming, loud and having an incredible amount of lousy drivers makes this a city people love to stay away from. Crime levels have not helped this city as more and more people who visit become afraid of walking after dark or in unknown neighborhoods. Detroit was one of the hardest hit cities by the recession, making it even more unfriendly. The huge numbers of unemployed people tend to be less than happy to see other people visiting that have jobs, houses and cars. If you do want to find some friendlier times here, head to one of the live music venues and chat with other patrons.

Detroit, MI

1. New York City, NY

Sure, New York offers an insane amount of theatres, shops, restaurants, hotels and other entertainment, but it seems that people just can’t get past the unfriendliness of the city. It starts with the angry cabs that are incessantly honking their horns at other drivers and pedestrians. The unfriendliness continues in the stores and restaurants, who are more concerned with how much money you have to spend rather than to make your experience a good one. Perhaps the extremely high cost of living turns people off from this city or maybe they just don’t love the extreme hustle and bustle that is constant. Whatever the reason is, New York has and continues to be one of the most unfriendly cities in America and chances are it won’t get any friendlier in the future.

Aerial view of Manhattan skyline at sunset, New York City

Breads By The State –What and Where to Sample

In a time where so many are going gluten-free, there is still a large portion of the U.S. that just can’t get enough bread. And that might even be an understatement. Rolls in the morning, sandwiches with lunch, and pastries after dinner. Maybe a snack of toast or croutons throughout the day, too. It’s a meal staple that so many have grown to love, even crave throughout their lifetime. What makes us even bigger bread eaters is the sheer variety it can be baked into. There are breads with vegetables, dessert styles, thin slices, and loaves that are baked plump and puffy. If you can imagine it, chances are there’s a bread style already in place. When traveling, however, you have the opportunity to try new recipes in new regions. Enhancing your bread tasting repertoire and expanding just how many blends you’re able to enjoy. When on the road, be sure and order up a fresh slice of some of these specialties:

1. Cronut -New York City

Like its blended name might suggest, the Cronut is a mix between a croissant and a donut. An item that still hosts the latter’s shape, but comes with plenty of flaky and tasty layers. Versions have been done up in all types of styles, offering fillings, toppings, and various levels of infused flavors. And though it can likely be found anywhere, its roots remain firmly planted in New York City, where it was invented at the Dominique Ansel Bakery (named for the creation’s founder). Many customers have tried Ansel’s versions, as well as copycats, and report that the comparison simply doesn’t exist. This is one case where the original is the absolute best, they say.

Photo by: Dominique Ansel Bakery
Photo by: Dominique Ansel Bakery

2. Rustic Breads -Seattle

“Rustic” might not be a term you generally think of when explaining food, but for anyone who’s ever tasted said blends, it absolutely makes sense. Taking its name from throwback recipes, such as potato loaves and rolls, as well as other concoctions that are perfect for meal add-ins (think hearty, yet flavorful), these rustic options are perfect table breads. One of the most popular (and delicious) bakeries serving up these breads can be found in Seattle, at the Macrina Bakery. Stop in and sample their various artisan offerings, or order a baguette or two to go.

Photo by: Macrina Bakery
Photo by: Macrina Bakery

3. Fry Bread -Southwest

Bread might be traditionally baked, but what dish doesn’t gain great flavor when it’s fried? That’s exactly the thought behind fry bread, which serves as a Southwestern staple. (It can be traced back to Native Americans, who cooked up the recipe over campfires rather than searching out an accessible brick oven.) Flat and generally round, it can be eaten with a meal, or under fruit as a dessert. Folks agree it’s delicious either way. Stop at a bakery throughout the Southwest to give your own version a try the next time you’re traveling. Just beware that it’s not the healthiest bread you’ll encounter!

Photo by: Fav Family Recipes
Photo by: Fav Family Recipes

4. Coffee Cakes -Midwest

Technically named “cake” and not bread, this pastry has been eaten in breakfasts anywhere from Colorado, to Minnesota. What makes it so universal, however, is its ability to be personalized to local produce and ingredients. For instance, mixing in different types of fruits, or substituting what flour for organic blends milled right in the area. No matter how it’s mixed, coffee cake has continued to be a scrumptious choice (for breakfast or dessert) that, when paired with a strong cup of coffee, simply can’t be beat. To get the most out of your coffee cake survey, order a different flavor in each state you travel through when crossing the vast Midwestern region.

Photo by: Weeknight Gourmet
Photo by: Weeknight Gourmet

5. Cornbread -The South

This listing comes as no surprise, especially for anyone who’s ever had a cup of gumbo. Cornbread is a Southern staple, and can help beef up any meal. Whether it’s sweet, spicy, full of vegetables, or a simple muffin alongside your favorite barbeque dish. Cornbread has made a solid name for itself and doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. In reach or baking time (though to be fair, this stuff cooks fairly quickly in bread world.) Stop along the South for a tasty bout of bread the next time you need a serious carb fixing!

Corn Bread

6. Flatbread -Pennsylvania or other Amish Areas

Flatbread has gotten a serious popularity upgrade in recent times. But the real stuff still hasn’t forgotten its roots. First hailing from Egypt, before making its way into Amish culture, flatbread has become a tasty way to enjoy grains without all the guilt. Because it’s thinner, and therefore less filling, many opt for flatbread as a side or with lighter meals. It can also be paired or topped with cheeses, olives (think naan or pitas), vegetables, or other creamy spreads. Others prefer to dip their flatbread in vinegars and oils to help soak up flavor. No matter how you plate it, these breads are a delicious choice, especially when looking to cut back on vacation calories.

flatbread

7. Sourdough -San Francisco

While you’re likely to find sourdough bread all over the country (and even the world) traditional San Francisco sourdough is something special that you can’t pass up on. This bread is made in the french style using a unique culture of wild yeast started in the San Francisco area. It’s this home grown starter that gives the bread it’s characteristic tangy flavor that many have come to know and love. If you’re in the Bay Area and looking to try a loaf for yourself, head over to Boudin Bakery, home of “the original San Francisco sourdough”.

Photo by: Boudin Bakery
Photo by: Boudin Bakery

8. Buttermilk Biscuits -The South

Getting into a discussion about biscuits with anyone from the south can be downright dangerous. Everyone has their own opinion on where the best biscuits can be found, and it’s often via a family recipe passed down through generations. It would be pretty hard to visit the southern states like South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana without sampling at least a few of these golden, flaky rich beauties since they’re served for any meal. Enjoy with butter and preserves for breakfast, topped with ham and creole mustard for lunch, and smothered in sausage gravy for a hearty dinner. Check out The Silver Skillet in Atlanta, known for their flaky, melt-in-your-mouth homemade biscuits.

Biscuits

The 12 Best Summer Music Festivals in America

Nothing says summer like gathering up your closest friends and hitting one of the many epic music festivals that take over this country. Known for hosting some of the best festivals in the world, from early spring until late summer, fans can choose to bring out their inner hippie or dance the night away in an all-night fantasy forest. From interactive festivals that feature more than just amazing musicians, to festivals that focus on sustainability and nature; here are the best 12 summer music festivals in America.

12. Outside Lands, California

This festival normally held in August started back in 2008 and has been gaining momentum and popularity ever since. Although the epic music is at the forefront of this festival, the array of culinary experiences caters to more than just music lovers. Past headliners have included Stevie Wonder, Radiohead and Willie Nelson. One thing festival goers can count on is the unexpected. Beerlands, Winelands, Chocolands and the Cheeselands are all very real and offer unique and local food and drink, along with the other plus 80 vendors. What other music festival in the world is there that one can dine on oysters and lamb? Great music, great local food and drink and a festival wide arts show that takes place throughout this weekend, coupled with an amazing line-up of musicians makes this one of the best music festivals in all of America.

Photo by: Outside Lands Music Festival
Photo by: Outside Lands Music Festival

11.  Electric Daisy Carnival, Nevada

It has been deemed the largest electronic music festival outside of Europe and with nearly a million people attending; it is easy to see why this festival makes the list. It takes place in late June at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway which is turned into an adult’s amusement park complete with interactive art installations and a huge array of performers. This energetic party rages from dusk until dawn and when the clock strikes midnight the party really starts. Performers are world renowned and couple with top-notch production standards including mind-warping light displays and pyrotechnics. This is an adults-only festival and you won’t find any camping or sleeping in cars here. Festival goers are encouraged to dress up to the extreme and will be surrounded by dancers, stilt-walkers, clowns and other unique performers. If you are a fan of electronic music; this is one festival you won’t want to miss out on.

Photo by: Electric Daisy Carnival
Photo by: Electric Daisy Carnival

10. What the Festival, Oregon

This is one of the newest festivals on this list but it is quickly becoming the most popular interactive music and art festival in the state of Oregon. The festival takes place on a ranch, semi open fields and partly wooded areas. Everyone camps at this three day festival with most choosing to haul their camping gear into the woods. A garbage bag is provided upon arrival and this festival strives to encourage sustainability and ‘leave no trace’ camping. Festival goers here can expect a large wading pool perfect for splashing around, Hookah lounges, larger-than-life interactive art and a non-stop array of electronic music. Although this festival can hold up to 5,000 people, organizers like to keep the festival smaller, choosing to go with a more boutique feel. Workshops, lectures, yoga and even a comedy stage turn this electronic music festival into something pretty special.

Music Festival

9. Bumbershoot, Washington

There is no better way to end off your summer than heading to Seattle Washington for this three-day festival that not only features world-class musicians but also comedians, theater, and literature. This festival is well-loved across all borders and has become one of the biggest contemporary festivals in North America. What makes this festival even more unique is its focus on family and kids. Starting with free admission for kids six years of age and under followed by a kid’s only festival called Youngershoot that happens within the confines of the festival; it is truly all inclusive. Main stage acts have included BASSNECTAR, Tegan and Sara and Ellie Goulding. Along with those more popular acts come intimate tiny concerts for true fans. For 45 years this music and cultural festival has been evolving and growing, promising to continue as one of the most sought after festivals in America.

Photo by: Bumbershoot
Photo by: Bumbershoot

8. Lollapalooza, Illinois

It is a festival with a lot of history, change and promises two days of music from famous artists to new and emerging bands and musicians. Back in its early days Lollapalooza was compared to Woodstock for its counter-culture vibe with activities such as shaving your head, smashing a TV and getting a tattoo. It has evolved over the years into a festival where kids are welcome and celebrated, Chicago’s best food is put on display and remains true to its dedication to sustainability and supporting young and emerging artists. What it hasn’t lost is its true dedication to amazing musicians and giving fans the opportunity to see them in action. Bands such as Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Foo Fighters, Imagine Dragons, Pearl Jam and more have graced the stages at Lollapalooza. Eight stages, an art market, plenty of food and drink, all set the stage for this epic festival in Chicago.

Photo by: Lollapalooza
Photo by: Lollapalooza

7. Firefly Music Festival, Delaware

Firefly broke into the music festival scene in 2012, with high ambitions to be the biggest music festival on the East Coast. Musical acts have included the Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, Snoop Dogg, The Killers and more over the seven different stages. The festival is open to music fans of all ages and encourages participants to camp on the grounds offering numerous different options such as glamping, carefree camping and bring your own tent. One of the most unique options at this festival is The Thicket; an exclusive party experience hidden in the forest where participants pop on a pair of headphones and lose themselves in beats spun from the hottest DJ’s. Other popular attractions at this festival include a free arcade, the hammock hangout and The Pathway; a forest clearing that boasts unbelievable lighting displays after sunset.

Photo by: Firefly Music Festival
Photo by: Firefly Music Festival

6. Summerfest, Wisconsin

It is the longest running festival to make this list and also one of the most inexpensive at only $19 a day. It also happens to be the biggest, featuring 11 stages, over 800 acts and nearly a million festival goers. The array of musical talent that hits the stages here at Summerfest is unlike any other festival and has seen the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones, Keith Urban, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Kings of Leon and more. Festival goers will have free admission to all of the shows with their one time admission ticket (with the exception of headlining acts) making this one affordable music festival! Besides trying to take in the amazing music, there are plenty of other activities here to keep any age group happy. Mini-golf, parades, zip-lining, playing in a splash pool, experimenting with instruments, climbing a rock wall and eating an array of food will certainly keep you occupied all day long.

Fun Festival

5. Coachella, California

Although this festival technically takes place in the spring, it is just far too large and popular to leave off of this list. Described as a musical playground for die-hard music fans, the desert of Southern California is transformed into a harmony of art, fun and music under the shining sun. This festival was started in 1999 and took a few years before becoming successful. Now Coachella is a two weekend long event featuring the likes of AC DC, Drake and many others. Think elaborate costumes, misting stations, WiFi, food booths, free water dispensers and one epic campground. Gigantic art installations are located throughout the grounds; many borrowed from the Burning Man Festival and create a magical landscape. This festival is always a sell-out so make sure to get your tickets early!

Photo by: Coachella
Photo by: Coachella

4. TomorrowWorld, Georgia

Hailing from Belgium, the mother festival of TomorrowWorld came to the forests of Chattahoochee Hills in 2013 and is quickly becoming America’s largest 21 and over festival. This electronic music festival features over 250 DJs across the three-day festival, in addition to dramatic stage designs, beautiful scenery, and a massive onsite camping community. The camping community is called ‘Dreamville’ and offers a festival camping experience unlike any other in America. Campers can expect a marketplace with multiple shops, food vendors, and experiences, several community centers and many other activities. Besides making extreme musical explorations and watching stages come to life, participants will have the opportunity to do yoga, take in a variety of workshops or play a game of Twister. Buy your tickets early, pack your camping gear and cooler full of food and get ready to experience a unique electronic music festival in the magical forests of the Chattahoochee Hills.

Photo by: TomorrowWorld
Photo by: TomorrowWorld

3. High Sierra Music Festival, California

Nature and good music take the center stage at the High Sierra Music Festival which takes place in the lightly populated wildlands of Northern California. This all inclusive, family friendly, nature loving, immersion into peace, happiness and never-ending music that reaches your soul is one of the most thoughtful and peaceful music festivals in America. The music here ranges from bluegrass to funk to reggae to jazz to electronic, and even throws in things like ‘newgrass’ and ‘country punk’. Along with the famous musicians that grace the stages, festival goers will find workshops, parades, games of kickball and even a magic foam tub. This festival has an emphasis on everything natural and organic and produces some of the most high quality festival food out there, along with a great selection of craft beers and wines. Prepare to release your inner hippie and transform yourself at this amazing music festival.

Summer Music Fest

2. Electric Forest, Michigan

This surreal electronic music festival brings Alice in Wonderland to life with its four day woodland dance fantasy vibe in a mystical location with an unbelievable lineup. Festival goers here can expect world-famous DJs, electronic acts, and jam bands; all located throughout an immersive, creative setting. The Sherwood Forest is the brains of this festival, offering a chill area throughout the day complete with art and hammocks. It is during the night hours though that this forest is transformed, into a sweaty all-night dance party complete with surprise performances, interactive art displays and extravagant lights. Camping is the choice for most of the festival goers here and the on-site lake provides the perfect place to cool off during the day. This is also one of the only electronic music festivals where kids are allowed. An experience unlike any other awaits fans at Electric Forest in Michigan.

Photo by: Electric Forest

1. Bonnaroo, Tennessee

This festival began with its focus on jam bands and folk rock and although has diversified greatly over the years, stays true to its roots and creates an unforgettable four day festival that is held in a 700-acre farm. It is attended by over 80,000 people who flock to this intimate venue to see artists such as The Black Keys, Pearl Jam, Paul McCartney, Kings of Leon, The Black Crowes and more. This festival is consistently sold out every year and despite the dust, heat and crowds that accompany it; it remains one of the best festivals in America, year after year. Besides music, festival goers will love the mini film festival in the cinema, the outstanding beer garden, the silent disco and the amazing southern grub. A festival that promises to be a laid-back, once in a lifetime opportunity is what Bonnaroo is truly about.

Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock.com
Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock.com

The 10 Quirkiest Cities in America

Take a walk around many of America’s major cities and you’re bound to see someone or something that’s just a little odd. Take for example, Manhattan; any New Yorker will happily regale you with tales of the crazy things they’ve seen in the subway. Don’t get us wrong though, a little kookiness is definitely amusing and can even be downright charming. It’s actually something that many locals say they love about their cities. In a recent reader poll by Travel and Leisure magazine, readers voted on their favorite cities in America for a number of different categories from romance, to craft beers and even quirky locals…which we discuss here –because some cities have a lot more kooks than others you know.

10. New York City, New York

If you’ve ever been to New York City, you won’t be surprised to see the Big Apple on this list as it’s brimming with quirky things and quirky people. Of course you have the street performers of Times Square (Naked Cowboy anyone?), the freakishly interesting individuals at the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, and let’s not forget about the people watching opportunities right out on the street or in the subway.

In a city where you can find just about everything, you might not be surprised that this city is also home to such kitschy establishments as Earth Room; a gallery in SoHo that’s actually filled with dirt and the Elevator Historical Society Museum, located in Queens; for those who just can’t get enough of lifts.

Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com
Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

9. Seattle, Washington

Seattle –the west coast gem that inspired grunge music and a certain iconic coffee chain might not be at the top if your mind when it comes to all thinks quirk. The people here might not seem as outwardly odd as those in big cities like New York, but there’s another reason Seattle made the top 10; it seems from recent census numbers that, in this city, the number of dogs actually outweighs the number of children.

Yes, statistics show that Seattle residents really love their 4 legged friends -and it shows. If you make the trek to the Fremont area which is known for a giant stone troll, a statue of Lenin that gets regular decorations and home to summer solstice parades -including nude cyclists, you’ll also find one of the most dog-friendly restaurants around. Norm’s Eatery & Ale House welcomes your furry friends and lets them even dine with you at your table. If your pooch is behaving particularly well, maybe head over to Scraps Dog Bakery where locals flock for gourmet baked dog treats as well as pet-sized Seattle Seahawks swag.

Matt Ragen / Shutterstock.com
Matt Ragen / Shutterstock.com

8. Kansas City, Missouri

In this survey, T&L readers reported Kansas City Midwesterners to be ‘thrifty and no-nonsense’, and while that might not seem like the most flattering of descriptions, it doesn’t mean they’re dull either. The city also ranked highly for its museums and history in the survey and Travel and Leisure reports that some of this history may be just a little ‘outside of the box’. Like the 1950’s All-Electric House for example, which was constructed by the Kansas City Power and Light co. in 1954 as a showcase for futuristic gadgets like the electric curtain opener, hidden television and ‘year-round air conditioner’.

There’s also the Arabia Steamboat Museum which features a wide array of pre-civil war artifacts collected from the sinking of the Steamboat Arabia on the Missouri River. If you get thirsty in KC just visit Oddly Correct, where you’ll find artfully crafted coffees, whose beans are roasted on site as well as a quirky concoction of coffee infused beer.

Sharon Day / Shutterstock.com
Sharon Day / Shutterstock.com

7. Baltimore, Maryland

If you’ve been to the city of Baltimore, you’ve probably heard the quirky dialect known as ‘Bawlmerese’ in action…and you’ve probably been called “hon” more than once or twice. Rather than lurk in the shadows of the big Eastern cities like Boston and New York, this city has long celebrated its outsider status. One city attraction, the American Visionary Art Museum, exemplifies this perfectly with its vast collection of outsider art from around the country.

The quirky factor doesn’t just end there, visit Atomic Books located in the Hampden neighborhood to possibly catch a glimpse of native oddball director John Waters who picks up his fan mail at the bookstore.

Graffiti Ally Baltimore

6. San Francisco, California

You had to know at least one city from the off the wall state of California would make this list…well those surveyed in the T&L poll agreed and say San Fran is just a little left of center. What else do you expect from the city that gave us hippies? You can experience this city’s quirky side yourself with a walking tour from Wild SF Walking Tours. Not your average walking tour, guides take you off-the-beaten path to explore the city’s “history, civil rights and social movements, presented as the residents of these neighborhoods would tell it.”

We can’t mention San Francisco without mentioning The Castro –also known as ‘America’s Gayborhood’. If you’re familiar with the Story of Harvey Milk and the gay rights movement, The Castro was ground zero for this civil rights movement of the 1970’s.

f8grapher / Shutterstock.com
f8grapher / Shutterstock.com

5. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Making it into the top five, the city sometimes referred to as ‘Albuquirky’ has many odd and unusual sights and attractions for those that seek them. The city has definitely embraced its ties to the TV series ‘Breaking Bad’ which is evident in everything from the coffee and faux-meth sprinkled Blue Sky donut at Rebel Donuts to ABQ  Trolly’s Bad Tour, where you can explore the city as seen through the eyes of Walter White.

There are off-kilter accommodations to be had as well, like Hotel Parq Central which is a renovated former psychiatric hospital –not that you would know it from the elegant modern décor. The hotel does feature one of the best rooftop bars in the city so it’s worth a visit even if you’re not staying the night.

meunierd / Shutterstock.com
meunierd / Shutterstock.com

4. Providence, Rhode Island

Providence –the little Rhode Island city that spawned such occult authors as H.P. Lovecraft and C.M. Eddy Jr, has no shortage of sights to see in the quirk department. Take a tour through the life of eccentric Providence-born horror author H.P. Lovecraft with a visit to his last place of residence, followed by a visit to his grave which is found in Swan Point Cemetery.  Given the historic significance of this city, it’s no surprise that more than a few notable figures reside in the city’s cemeteries; the graves of both Elizabeth Tilley Howland –one of the passengers of the Mayflower, and Thomas Willet –the first English mayor of New York City, can be found in Little Neck Cemetery.

It’s not all about historical figures though, there’s plenty of oddly entertaining experiences to enjoy as well; such as the Big Nazo Theater –which is an international performance group that includes visual artists, puppet performers and masked musicians. It all combines for a very entertaining and highly unusual performance art piece.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

3. Portland, Oregon

Coming in the #3 spot according to T&L readers, the city of Portland definitely lives up to its reputation of hipsters, wacky food, and things that generally go against the grain. The people of Portland aren’t shy about their demand for all things local; all the way from the food to interesting products like mustache wax and locally crafted six-pack holders for your bicycle –all of which can be found at the MadeHere PDX store.

The love of ‘tasting rooms’ is also apparent in this west-coast city and you can find them for just about anything including coffee -like at Coava, a trendy coffee roaster with 2 locations, beer –which can be found at Coalition Brewing co. among other places, and even salt –like the Oregon pinot noir salt that can be sampled at Jacobsen Salt co.

Portland Timbers Flag

2. Austin, Texas

You may have expected the city that aims to keep it weird to come in first place in this reader poll, but another city stole that spot landing Austin in second place for quirkiest city in America. This runner-up can still firmly hold its place on the strange-scale with all the offerings that can be found here.

How about a drink at one of the many wild and wacky Austin bars like Lala’s –where it’s always Christmas no matter the time of year, or The Little Longhorn Saloon –where you can play Austin’s favorite gambling game: chicken s—t bingo (seriously). And if that’s not enough fun for you, head over to Javelina, where they’ve been known to host the occasional armadillo race.

Alfie Photography / Shutterstock.com
Alfie Photography / Shutterstock.com

1. New Orleans, Louisiana

So what city could top one whose slogan is all about keeping it weird? –The Big Easy of course. If you’ve ever been to the city of New Orleans and experienced its crazy mix of Cajun-French-Voodoo influences (among others), you know why this city was voted #1 in overall quirky-ness by Travel and Leisure readers.

Where else can you find non-stop festivals, funeral processions that feature dancing and big bands, chicory coffee, beignets and of course the infamous Mardi Gras parade? It seems the people of New Orleans will use any excuse to dress up in costume, be it fancy attire like big ball gowns or the more off-the-wall costumes that come out during Mardi Gras festivities. Even the luxury hotel brand Ritz Carlton joins in the quirky fun of this city by offering voodoo massages in their spa; which include ritual chanting and scents of absinthe with your rub down.

Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock.com
Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock.com