Travel + Leisure top U.S. cities list; New Orleans #1 but where's L.A. on the list?
It's list day in the Toronto Star travel editor's blog. Okay, I've got a cold and I'm not feeling like inventing my own copy, so instead I'm shamelessly ripping off two other outlets and adding my own comments in the hope that this looks like semi-original copy. Is that a better description of today's entry?
TRAVEL + LEISURE TOP USA CITIES
1. New Orleans. Great food, music, exuberant culture. Hard to beat. I was only there once, and I was 11 years old. I failed to appreciate the finer things but I do remember wrought-iron courtyards, jazz music and the sight of nearly naked women dancing behind a string of beads that covered the entry to a night club. My mother quickly pulled me away but not before I got a glimpse of something mysterious and sexy.
2. Santa Fe. I confess, I've never been to New Mexico. Weird for someone who grew up in California but there you go. I hear nice things about the architecture, the jewelry shopping and the food.
3. New York City and Nashville tie. I love New York. It's hard not to with the incredible buildings and parks and food and nightlife and energy. If you've never been, I suggest a trip in late April or early May before it gets too hot. New York in summer is not much fun. Nashville? Again, sorry, never been.
5. MInneapolis/St. Paul. I like it fine, having visited many times when I covered the Blue Jays. It's pretty but I don't recall the downtown being anything remarkable. Frankly, it's a nice place and probably underrated, but I wouldn't put it anywhere near the top 10 from what I recall.
6. San Diego and Savannah tie. Both on the coast but polar opposites in a lot of ways. San Diego is new and has fabulous beaches and a great brewpub culture and surprisingly good nightlife. Savannah is old-school, southern charm with great food and old-time squares and fountains. Not at all alike but both great spots.
8. Charleston and San Francisco tie. I've only spent a few hours in Charleston but found it charming in a "too many tourists walking around looking at old-time, charming buildings" kind of way. San Francisco, again, is the complete opposite; a joyful, exuberant, crazy explosion of sound and food and culture. I grew up near San Francisco so I'm biased. But I'd put it far ahead of Charleston, personally.
10. Chicago. Should be ranked higher, I'd say. Fabulous museums, a beautiful waterfront almost untouched by buildings, incredible food and culture. Plus Wrigley Field and world-class architecture. Definitely top six.
11. Portland. Very pretty and quite cosmopolitan, with fabulous brewpubs and wine bars and old, brick buildings. Great coffee culture and fabulous, fresh food add to the west coast vibe for a very cool city.
12. Austin and Boston and Providence, tie. Never been to Austin, but Boston has everything you want in a city; fun walks, beautiful parks, great shopping and hotels and another wonderful ballpark, Fenway. I've never found the food to be quite as good as I'd expect but perhaps I need to try new places. I hear great things about Austin's music and bar scene, and the local hills that are ablaze in colour in spring, but have never had the pleasure. I think I drove through Providence, Rhode Island once and thought the seashore and the marinas and huge boats with white sails were pretty. But that's not much to go on.
15. Honolulu, Las Vegas, Miami and San Antonio tie. Whoa, a four-way tie? Okay, here goes. Las Vegas does not belong on this list. It's a destination, it's not a city. Okay, okay, the shows are awesome and the food is excellent and you can do some fun things in the desert. So I guess 15 isn't too crazy. Miami? I just spent a few days there and enjoyed it. The beach is great and the hotels are fun and South Beach is a gas. But there's no downtown to speak of that I could find. So I'd have to agree with the placement, despite the great weather (most of the time). San Antonio? Sorry, never been. But I'd put Honolulu (see Waikiki Beach photo at right) closer to the 12 spot, personally. I adore Hawaii so that's part of it. But there's also absolutely remarkable food and a strong cultural component to the city to go with great beaches, sunshine, surfing, fabulous Hawaiian music and great hikes and golf. Definitely top 12, Honolulu is.
19. Philadelphia, Seattle and San Juan tie. Philadelphia is an under-rated spot with great history and fun neighbourhoods such as South Street. I'm not just where I'd put but a 19 tie seems pretty fair. Seattle I might push up just a bit given the Pikes Place market and the beauty of the water and nearby mountains, not to mention the coffee and restaurant scene. San Juan is a nice addition here, with great beaches and an old, waterfront fort that's awesome to explore, plus a very colourful old town with pastel painted buildings and a New Orleans/Caribbean feel. Also underrated.
So that's my take on the top 20 (or so). I was a bit surprised to find Los Angeles didn't make the cut. I mean, it has its faults but L.A. is a hugely underrated city. I lived there for five years at university and go back fairly often (in about eight days I'll go again, actually). It's got fabulous culture, with outstanding museums all over town. It's got great beaches. It's got some outstanding, old-time architecture. Add in the movie stuff and amusement parks and the great hiking/horseback riding in the hills and the proximity to the desert and mountains, plus some of the world's most iconic hotels and incredible cuisine, and you've got a top 12 city. Yes there are freeways and traffic. But there also are cool neighbourhoods such as Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach and Pasadena and Los Feliz that are tons of fun. Come on, folks. Where's the love? I"m also surprised to see Denver left off the list. Maybe not top 15, but I'd have expected a presence in here somewhere.