Both a move or a vacation can be a mind-boggling affair, but it doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavor. As an inveterate traveler, I have either visited or resided in a variety of metro areas across the country. Sure, Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago have amenities that have put them on the global map, but there are other cities I have seen and enjoyed firsthand that are either overlooked or forgotten. As a continental “nomad,” I think the cities listed below deserve their own honorable mention.
Madison, Wisconsin, is the capital of America’s Dairyland. Madison is more than cows, though. It is situated on an isthmus between two, pristine lakes, Lake Monona and Lake Mendota. Not only is it the political heartbeat of Wisconsin, it is the hub for educational pursuits as well. The University of Wisconsin in Madison has about 55,000 students and boasts one of the finest healthcare facilities in the nation. You may find, as I did, its Capitol Building to be highly-reminiscent of our nation’s own Capitol Building, an architectural masterpiece with a high, imposing dome.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, is home to the International Balloon Fiesta and the annual New Mexico State Fair. The University of New Mexico Lobos–in the Mountain West Division–always turn out a big crowd at “The Pit.” UNM also boasts an excellent healthcare facility. If you want to learn more about native American history, there is the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center which attracts thousands of visitors yearly. For animal lovers, there is the Rio Grande Zoo. As a native southwesterner, I found historic Old Town to be a nostalgic stroll down the streets of America’s rough-and-tumble, pioneering Old West. About an hour from Santa Fe (New Mexico’s capital), Albuquerque is surrounded by incredible mountain vistas and the Sandia Peak Tramway offers its passengers a view overlooking both the mountains and the city. The 32nd-largest city in the United States is a booming area for skiers, hikers, bicyclists, and outdoorsmen of all kinds.
Knoxville, Tennessee, is one of those “southern belles” that caters to northerners as well as those from Dixieland. The Thompson-Boling Arena, also called “The Summit,” has been a primo venue for attractions like The Harlem Globetrotters, Cirque de Soleil, and musicians such as Willie Nelson and Allison Krauss. And Willie still croons one of my faves, “On the Road Again,” like he never lost a beat. Both Hampton Inn and Hampton Inn & Suites are rated numbers one and two, respectively, by tripadvisor.com.
Missoula, Montana, is home to the University of Montana at Missoula. An old pioneer town, founded in 1860 as Hellgate Trading Post, it has grown and adapted to the 21st century. The Montana Snowbowl, located 12 miles northwest of Missoula, is one of the nation’s most-underrated alpine ski areas. “The Garden City” is fast becoming a home to a large community of artisans and artists alike. I felt strangely at home there among its eclectic populace. For those who like to whet their whistles with a good lager or ale, Missoula boasts several breweries, including Big Sky and Tamarack. DoubleTree by Hilton and Red Lion Inn are two very popular hotels in the area.
Eugene, Oregon, home of the University of Oregon and its “Mighty Ducks,” has a lot going for it. The Willamette River Bike Trail is rated high among its users. Cascades Raptor Center is the place to be if you want to see “birds of prey” such as eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls. Another bohemian sort of city, I especially enjoyed its artistic appeal–its painters, writers, performance artists, and eccentrics from all walks of life. The Hult Center for the Performing Arts is a great place to take in a symphony or an opera. Hotels such as Inn at the 5th and Comfort Suites have wonderful accommodations.
Charleston, South Carolina, was where the first battle shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861 at Ft. Sumter. The oldest and second-largest city of South Carolina, it is located on a small inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, the Charleston Harbor. Charleston epitomizes “Southern hospitality”; it has even received honors from Travel and Leisure for being “America’s Most-Friendly (City)” in 2011, an honor that I found well-deserved. The historic Dock Street Theater is nationally-renowned for its dramatic productions such as “Sherlock Holmes.” The Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge is easily accessed on foot or bike. Charleston also offers tours of its breath-taking harbors. The College of Charleston is the nation’s 13th-oldest university. Charleston is also home to the Military College of South Carolina, The Citadel. So if you are heading to Charleston, be prepared for a history lesson–and if you are a Civil War buff, you will enjoy it all the more. Charleston offers great accommodations such as French Quarter Inn and the Wentworth Mansion.
I highly recommend these six cities as places to inhabit or visit. Surely, there are others I have not visited that may be as equally romantic and chockfull of adventurous possibilities but, from my experience, this list is one that any traveler–American or otherwise–should definitely explore.