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If you’re all about culture, these American cities offer some of the best when it comes to the chance to immerse yourself in the world of art and culture in all of its many forms.
The Big Apple offers so much in the way of culture, it can literally be exhausting, with everything from Broadway to the Met and well beyond. You could easily spend an entire week or more at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or The Met as it’s often called. The largest museum in the Western Hemisphere, its collection of over two million spans the entire globe from antiquity to the present. European paintings include works of art by Rembrandt, Rodin, Vermeer and Botticelli, while the Egyptian Collection features the Temple of Dendur, circa 23-10 BC, and the tomb of Perneb, circa 2440 BC. Visitor favorites include Italian artist Caravaggio’s The Musicians and the seven-ton Sphinx of Hatshepsut. In Brooklyn, you can experience music, dance, theater and film at the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and in the Bronx, you’ll find the New York Botanical Garden, which also happens to host beer tasting and brewing lectures amid the lush greenery.
Taos is what put the “Southwestern” in Southwestern Art. A century or so ago, a group of what’s considered to be one of the greatest collections of artists ever to live in one place, made its way to the village, lured by its stunning landscapes and incredible natural light. One of those artists was Ralph Meyers, a gifted painter who enjoyed camping out at the pueblo. Today, his paintings are extremely rare and very sought-after. His son Ouray Meyers carries on the family artistic tradition from his two galleries in town. Taos is home to an abundance of museums and galleries that highlight Native American culture, including the Millicent Rogers Museum which houses important collections of Native American arts, including pottery and jewelry. Along the northern edge of town, Taos Pueblo offers a unique insight into the culture of the first Americans. The sixth-century-old settlement is still used by the 2,000 or so Tiwa-speaking people who live on the adjacent reservation for ceremonial rites. The pueblo is open to the public for guided walking tours and fry bread eating as well as shopping, with outstanding jewelry, beadwork, carvings, pottery, and weaving, all still created using traditional methods.
Boston is well-known as one of the best cities for history buffs. The “Birthplace of the American Revolution” is a city of American firsts, home to the first public park, the first library, the first public school and the first subway system. On the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, you can experience some of its most famous landmarks like Faneuil Hall, the Old South Meeting House and the Old North Church, strolling the same cobblestone streets as the revolutionaries and puritans. And, while it’s frequently overlooked by its larger, more cosmopolitan rival to the south, this city is home to plenty of modern cultural attractions, including the forward-looking Institute of Contemporary Art that sits along its revitalized waterfront, the Museum of Fine Arts and private collections, like the Venetian-style Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
America’s capital may even beat New York City when it comes to museums and galleries. There’s no doubt that you’ll get one of the best crash courses on U.S. history there is, from the National Portrait Gallery with its hall of presidents to one of the latest, most highly anticipated museums: the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum complex, made up of 19 separate museums and galleries and entrance to most is free. Over 137 million objects are housed by the Smithsonian, including the Hope Diamond, the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer, the original Star-Spangled Banner and the ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Houston is a lot more than oil refineries – the fourth largest city in the nation has a thriving cultural scene. Its oak-tree-lined Museum District has 20 institutions, including the private Menil Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Rothko Chapel, which hosts 14 of the artist’s abstract paintings. At Space Center Houston you can walk through the space shuttle replica Independence and the enormous shuttle carrier aircraft it’s mounted on, and even wander inside a replica of America’s first space station, Skylab, to touch a rock from the moon. If you’re into performing arts, you’ll have a host of events to choose from. Check out the Houston Ballet, catch an intimate, free singer-songwriter show at the legendary music store Cactus Music, or big-name music performance at the House of Blues, Warehouse Live, or the Revention Music Center.
Charleston is a rare southern city that’s managed to retain the charm of its past while reinventing itself for modern times. The cobbled streets in the Historic District are especially alluring, offering something interesting around nearly every corner, and when it comes to cultural attractions, there are many gems, including the Dock Street Theatre, America’s first building devoted to dramatic performance. There’s also the Scottish Ballet, the Beaux-Arts Gibbes Museum of Art, and a live music and nightlife scene that dates back to a time when the city was teeming with swashbuckling pirates. Of course, Charleston’s many eateries are often lauded for their delicious low-country cuisine, like Husk, which serves up favorites like deviled eggs with pickled okra and trout roe.
In a place that’s home to Hollywood, it’s really no surprise that the cultural landscape runs rather deep. If you’re a film history enthusiast, you won’t want to miss catching one of the monthly silent films hosted at Cinefamily. Stargazers can enjoy views of the starry skies through telescopes free of charge at the Griffith Park Observatory, which stands on a hilltop overlooking the city. The park is also home to a Greek theater, an equestrian center and the Los Angeles Zoo. The city is also home to practically an endless number of live music – no matter what your style, you’ll find it on tap here.
The La Brea Tar Pits host one of the world’s most famous ice age fossil excavation sites. Formed nearly 40,000 years ago when oil seeped through the rock, the pits would entrap passing animals that would get stuck in the substance. The tar has served as a natural preservative for fossils throughout the ages. Visitors can see bones being worked on and what takes place before bones and skeletons are ever displayed. The onsite Page Museum features fully reconstructed fossils of a variety of mammals including mammoths, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, and others all dating back some 10,000 to 40,000 years.
Chicago ranks high for culture with its world-class museums, like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History, as well as its highly-rated theater scenes, like the legendary Steppenwolf and Goodman theaters. Theater lovers also come to take advantage of the Windy City’s annual Theatre Week. The Loyola University Museum of Art is a not-to-be-missed city treasure, with its Martin D’Arcy, S.J. Collection considered being one of the finest collections of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art in the Midwest. When it comes to food, you’ll discover a mind-boggling array of options with a melting pot of international flavors that fulfill the dreams of even the hardest-to-satisfy foodie. In fact, Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile alone is lined with more than 200 dining establishments, including ethnic eateries for indulging in all sorts of traditional Midwestern fare, including Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza and classic steak houses.
In this city that’s especially popular with nerds, outdoor enthusiasts and those who like to stray off the well-worn path, it makes sense that some of Seattle’s most beloved public art is, well, a little weird. The giant Fremont Troll is a local institution, and residents regularly decorate the Waiting for Interurban statues with hats and ties, while some trees in the city even wear sweaters. Then, there is the Hiroshima statue and the Thousand Cranes where visitors can add their very own origami paper crane. Of course, we can’t forget about the legendary gum wall – it really does exist. The Emerald City also hosts a vibrant downtown waterfront that’s home to the Seattle Aquarium and the Seattle Great Wheel, as well as an extensive selection of live performance venues.