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The best books to read in every state in America
As soon as coronavirus arrived in New York City last winter, my brain became a tangle of anxious thoughts, pounding down on my already overtaxed amygdala. I had one salvation: a three-by-two map of America hanging in my living room. While most of my friends set their sights on the Balis and Bermudas of the world, my only travel goal has long been to visit every state in America. Ostensibly, this map’s point was to be the canvas for a smattering of pins until I created a multi-hued distribution upon all 50 sates. In actuality, the point was to accomplish something, to wrangle up America into a palm of pastel thumbtacks, to live a life full of stories. Stories from a life of zigzagging our great terrain this past year, it turned out, would not be in the cards as travel restrictions and lockdowns made all too clear from the outset of this mess. But as I squinted once again at the pin-less sweep of real estate on my wall somewhere between Minnesota and Oregon early last spring, I realized I could still get to work on these travels, if I got a little creative. Thus, my 50 states book project was born, where I embarked on a challenge to read a tome set in every state in the union. I still met people and places and things and disasters and triumphs, but I didn’t rent a car, or hop on a plane, or even scour the internet high and low for Clorox wipes to sanitize my hotel room. Instead, I let William Least Heat-Moon, Bill Bryson, and Paul Theroux lead me on road trips, I hung out with that guy who walked across America, Peter Jenkins, I chased redbirds in Kentucky with Sharon Creech, listened to crawdads singing in North Carolina, and I went on one hell of a bender with Hunter S. Thompson in Vegas. I spent a grand total of $233.96 buying used books on Amazon—less than an average one-night hotel stay in Chicago, mind you. I read classic texts and obscure novels, fiction and nonfiction, humorous and heartbreaking, and it completely changed the way I think about travel. For one thing, given the titles I read, I can now unequivocally say the best adventures are the outdoors ones. My nationwide literary adventure had me walking around my own little nook of a park, Sutton Place Park in Midtown Manhattan, like I was a Thoreauvian naturalist (I’m not sure how he’d feel about the giant neon Pepsi Cola sign across the East River). In lockdowns, these books gave me inspiration to find meaning in the toughest of days knowing that This Too Shall Pass, and the road awaited me. It even helped me feel a little less pissed when my well-intentioned best friend would send me gorgeous mountain-y snapshots from her quarantine castle in the Hudson Valley. After all, I had just gotten back from a whirlwind stint in Iowa. Perhaps counterintuitively, surveying a book from every state in America blurred the lines of my much-loved pushpin map. Alaska was Alabama was Kentucky was Kansas. On page 18 of my Michigan selection, The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, A Family, and the Land That Healed Them by Dean Kuipers, I came across this passage: “The great American anarchist Edward Abbey is probably not a terrific role model for mature relatedness—by all reports, he had prickly relationships with other people and, like Henry David Thoreau, needed the solitude he so extolled. But in Desert Solitaire Abbey addressed that need to confront our position vis-à-vis the nonhuman world…” In a quick swoop of the pen, my Michigan author had referenced my Maine essayist and my Utah wordsmith. We’re all independent, yet linked. Separate, yet dependent. Alone in the woods, yet with your friends on the forest floor. Alaska is Alabama is Kentucky is Kansas. Alabama Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep Cep does a deep dive into Harper Lee’s true-crime book about reverend Willie Maxwell, an alleged serial murderer that never was finished and published. Her portrait of To Kill a Mockingbird’s scribe, Harper Lee, is just as fascinating as the unreal story of Maxwell. Alaska Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer There’s hardly a stretch of 10 pages in this book without creased corners and underlining, in this enthralling account of a renegade college grad who abandons the conventions of traditional life on Alaska’s harsh frontiers. Arizona Arizona Then and Now: People and Places by Karl Mondon By the time I got to my Arizona selection, my eyes had glazed over from so. much. text. Thankfully, this assortment of archival photos from the Jeremy Rowe Collection juxtaposed with modern-day photography from Mondon was exactly what I needed. Nothing will beat the heavenly Grand Canyon, but the main street photos of towns like Bisbee and Winslow really made me nostalgic for wandering a new teeny town’s downtown for the first time. Arkansas Hipbillies: Deep Revolution in the Arkansas Ozarks by Jared M. Phillips Hippies of the Haight-Ashbury variety + backwoods hillbillies = “Hipbillies.” A fascinating perspective on this Southern counterculture from the 1960s and ‘70s, I was intrigued to learn about these back-to-the-landers’ incredible impact on the future of the Ozarks. California The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan Head to San Francisco in this award-winning gem from Tan that also brings you along to China in stories of immigrant Americans, the lives and pain they left behind, and the chapters they’ve built anew. Colorado The Voyeur's Motel by Gay Talese A journalist uncovers a heck of a world after receiving an anonymous letter from a peeping Tom who owns a hotel in Aurora and spies on unknowing guests. It’s creepy, it’s can’t-put-down, and it will definitely have you look around extra carefully after you check into a hotel room. Honorable mention: Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson by Juan Thompson Connecticut The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin Well, guess I need to see the 2004 movie starring Nicole Kidman now. Because, wow, what a book: When Joanna arrives in Fairfield County with her husband and kiddos from New York City an American horror classic ensues, from the same author as Rosemary’s Baby. Delaware And Never Let Her Go: Thomas Capano: The Deadly Seducer by Ann Rule This book has something for every kind of reader, true crime, politics, superb research, psychological nuances...the list goes on and on. You’ll stay up way past your bedtime finishing this one. Florida Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh Woman decamps from her busy life and heads to Captiva Island, off the coast of Fort Myers. Woman picks up various seashells and uses them as metaphors to reflect on life: work, relationships, struggles, joys. Turns out said woman is married to a Nazi (see: New Jersey), which ruins this poetic, rhythmic philosophical missive for me. Georgia Between Georgia Torn between two families, a husband and a best friend love interest, the tension is palpable in this Southern Drama with a capital D. As one reader referenced in the Amazon reviews, the saying "We don't hide crazy in this family. We sit it down on the front porch and give it a cocktail” was just made for this book. Hawaii The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings You know a book is that good, when the George Clooney movie version doesn’t even hold a candle to it. There’s a wife in a coma and her extramarital affair, a husband forced to reckon with raising his two daughters alone and being heir to a ton of primo real estate, and so much more that will leave you unable to think about anything else for a couple of days. Idaho Idaho by Emily Ruskovich I’ll be the first to admit I picked this book up for the eye-catching floral design on the cover, but I couldn’t put it down for the pathos bleeding through every page. When a mother kills her child, so much more crumbles and is lost, but the beauty here is in all that is found, practically, philosophically, and otherwise. Illinois Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond When I was an editor at Men’s Journal in 2016, I sat in the cubicle next to Mr. Diamond (remember these things called offices) and this book encpatures so much of who he is: wise, writerly, idiosyncratic, and a touch grumpy. Enjoy the ride as he commences a quest for the filmmaker behind Home Alone, Sixteen Candles, and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Indiana The Fault In Our Stars by John Green I’m still crying, but to be fair, how could you not be crying after reading this novel about two kids who love like there are thousands of tomorrows despite the terminal cancer diagnoses with which they’re both reckoning. Iowa The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson 1950s-era Iowa is brought to life in this oft humorous memoir from the beloved travel writer. It really made this New York City kid feel like she was missing out on a quintessential childhood experience by never having attended a county fair. Kansas In Cold Blood by Truman Capote A true crime classic that revolves around the brutal slaying of four family members in a small town in Western Kansas and the detective work that ensues. The book was praised for utilizing novelistic techniques to describe the characters and their feelings, a trailblazer for the nonfiction genre. Kentucky Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech Lockdowns have had me returning to tween books (don’t judge me), and I don’t regret the walk down memory lane in the least, especially in the company of the protagonist Zinny. The industrious youngster sets out into the woods and grapples with grief, blossoming love interests, and frustrating family dynamics along the way. Don’t we all? Louisiana Magic City by Yusef Komunyakaa Step inside 1950s Louisiana in Komunyakaa’s hometown of rural Bogalusa in this harrowing collection of poems. Within, the talented poet tackles racism, sexuality, and economic inequalities with a swift, vivid hand. Maine The Maine Woods by Henry Thoreau What I would give to escape this city jungle and take a walk in the Maine woods right about now. Thankfully, Thoreau’s quintessential naturalist account of three trips into the rugged woods with philosophical musings intertwined with the detailed physical descriptions of all that Thoreau witnesses. Pretty foreboding for the mid1800s: “the mission of men there seems to be, like so many busy demons, to drive the forest out of the country.” Maryland Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler Admittedly, I picked up this book because there was a tantalizing slice of pie on the cover. But I’m glad I did: Follow along for all that unfolds as one grieving Baltimore family learn about long-hidden truths and struggles to cope. Massachusetts Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom I mean, what can I say about Tuesdays with Morrie? In this blockbuster memoir-cum-biography, a journalist visits his beloved former college professor at home as he dies of ALS. A five-star book (albeit, with some four-star writing). A beautiful biography of a life well lived, and a workaholic writer who’s outlook is changed because of his inspiring teacher’s example. Michigan The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, A Family, and the Land That Healed Them by Dean Kuipers It was easy to fall in love with Kuipers’ elegant prose in a story about an estranged father and his three sons and what happens when said absent dad tries to make amends after buying 100 acres of hunting property in middle-of-nowhere Michigan. It’s a memoir I know I’ll be recommending for years to come. Minnesota Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich I had picked this book up because I was supposed to gather with a crowd of hundreds to see Erdrich speak at the 92nd Street Y this past month. Needless to say, that blessed packed auditorium never came to fruition, but I’m glad I still devoured this spooky, powerful account of a pregnant woman in a world where expecting mothers are held captive in hospitals. Honorable mentions: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen; The Good Girl by Mary Kubica Mississippi The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner I did it. I read a full Faulkner book. And while I probably would have understood more about this Deep South family and Dilsey, their black servant, had I read the SparkNotes, if only for the occasional heart-stopping quote like “Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.” Missouri The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States by Walter Johnson This Missouri native and now Harvard professor captures the oft overlooked history of St. Louis, tracing the city from Lewis and Clark’s 1804 expedition to modern times, with moving examples in each chapter. It’s a tough look at racism in our country from centuries past to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, but a look well worth taking. Montana A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean So far, I’ve lost one friend to Big Sky Country since lockdowns commenced, and I can now totally appreciate why. Penned by a retired English professor who commenced his fiction career at 70, this novella and accompanying short stories will have you eager to fly-cast and play cribbage amidst a backdrop of trout streams, drunkards, and whores (maybe not the whores). Nebraska The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert Venture to the 1898 Omaha World's Fair – filled with sinners and saints – as one ventriloquist stumbles upon a new love. The book has burlesque dancers, snake oil salesmen, and plenty of wild west drama and romance. In these strange times, what more could you want? Nevada Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson Like The Plot Against America (see: New Jersey) I didn’t think this stream of conscious book would be for me, so I was amazed that I polished it off in three evening reading sessions. Vegas is wild, life is wild, and it’s all gravy baby in this fast-paced (psychedelic) trip. New Hampshire Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving If this doesn’t make you want to traipse around New Hampshire (minus an accidental murder and an unfortunate sheriff), I don’t know what will. The inventive novel takes detours to Iowa, Vermont, and more, as you get to know three generations of men and a rotating cast of women and feel particularly drawn to say goodbye to your smartphone for a while and retreat to 1950s Coos County, New Hampshire. New Jersey The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth In this lengthy novel, Roth reimagines a world in which Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh is President, creating fantasized historical fiction that has striking parallels to today’s dystopian America. The book focuses on Philip’s upbringing in Newark in the 1940s in a tight-knit Jewish community, with a brother desperate to leave and a cousin returning home from World War II missing a leg. Overall, this book a nice reminder for me that reading beyond your typical wheelhouse pays dividends. Check out the miniseries on HBO Max after you’re done. Honorable mention: Shore Stories: An Anthology Of The Jersey Shore by Richard Youmans (Editor) New Mexico House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday After I told a friend in California about my little project, I was touched when this book arrived in my mailbox a few days later. This Pulitzer Prize novel by esteemed Kiowa journalist moved me in all the right ways during such a time of turmoil with the unforgettable Abel, a Native American man who returns to his reservation after fighting in World War II. New York The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger In a time when it was easy to forget New York City’s boisterous splendor, it was comfort food to cavort around famed landmarks and reconvene with old Phoebs, Holden, and even pimply Ackley. As for “those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South,” I’m pleased to report they appear to be COVID-free and frolicking about even as hell and temperatures freeze over. Honorable mentions: A Walker in the City by Alfred Kazin; Here Is New York by E.B. White; Manhattan’45 by Jan Morris; An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena; The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto North Carolina Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens A haunting murder story with unforgettable characters, a moving love story, and evocative descriptions of nature’s wonders, all set in the marshlands of the Old North State. North Dakota The New Wild West: Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown by Blaire Briody Part culture analysis, part travelogue, this book about the oil biz delivers on the premise of its title — especially on the wild front. Ohio Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance From page one to the end, try putting this book down as it simply yet poignantly captures the realities of growing up in a family riddled with addiction and drama. P.S. If you watched the stekkar new Netflix flick, you’ll definitely appreciate reading the original memoir. Oklahoma A Map of Tulsa by Benjamin Lytal Dubbed “a love letter to a classic American city,” this love story in a Tulsa that straddles the line between dusty and sparkling is unlike any other you’ve ever read. Oregon Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed Okay, so it also covers California and Washington, but since the author lives in Portland, we’ll give this unique, achingly beautiful memoir to her stomping grounds. Chronicling one woman’s quest to hike the PCT in the cradle of grief, this memoir will change your outlook on everything from nature to family. P.S. Reese Witherspoon stars in the 2014 movie adaptation. Pennsylvania Rabbit, Run by John Updike This was the first Updike book I read, but it won’t be the last. I think one Goodreads reviewer nailed it: “Have you ever seen something noted because it is a representation of a specific thing? For example, a building might be marked with a plaque as a perfect representation of a type of architecture. Well, this book should be marked with a plaque as a perfect prose example of America in the late 50s/early 60s.” It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t progressive in its treatment of women, but man was it enthralling. Rhode Island The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore Get to know Anthony, Joy, and Lu, three strangers whose lives become intertwined on Little Rhody’s picturesque Block Island. They may call it a summer beach read, but I call it cozy quarantine perfection. South Carolina The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank Set in Georgia and South Carolina, its a low-country love story that will leave you feeling Hallmark movie good. Also, the descriptions of towering trees, Sullivan’s Island, and Charleston restaurants, will help you indulge the armchair traveling spirit we all need right now. South Dakota Deadwood by Pete Dexter When the going gets tough, the tough head to Deadwood...at least in the 1870s if you’re Wild Bill Hickok or Calamity Jane. Expect searing grit. Booze, sex, betrayal, and murder in an action-packed work of fiction you won’t soon forget. Tennessee Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver A searing fictional narrative that grapples with the effects of climate change and draws you into the world of a young woman living on a farm in an isolated sliver of Tennessee. If you’re a lover of the mystical monarch butterflies, this is definitely for you. Texas God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright Diverse chapters covering everything from hurricanes and guns to music and Texan heroes, get a taste of this big, beautiful, and oft contradictory state. (Which, by the way, is so much more than Austin) Utah Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey This best-seller reminded me of the understated, almost eerie grandeur of Utah (I once took a SUP yoga class in thermal waters within the Homestead Crater, a 10,000-year-old crater, about a half-hour outside of Park City, if that’s not enough trendy activities rolled int one) — and had me itching to return. Through Abbey’s elegiac prose, sourced from journals and reflections of his time spent as a ranger at Arches National Park outside Moab, you’ll yearn for the day when you can visit all of the natural wonders he describes for yourself, and with new eyes. Vermont Stranger in the Kingdom by Frank Mosher It’s a real treat to get lost in fictional Kingdom County, Vermont, in this tale that centers around a small town, a murder, and life in New England. Dealing with difficult themes like racism, Mosher manages to weave in humor and moral lessons without being preachy. Virginia The Jezebel Remedy by Martin Clark What happens when a married couple who are partners in law in a small Virginia town encounter a mysterious death of their most eccentric clients will leave you surprised at each twist and turn. One of my first quarantine reads last spring, it’s a veritable page-turner and welcome distraction from the relentless news cycle. Washington Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (Spoiler alert!) The last line of this courtroom drama regarding a case of a drowned fisherman on remote San Piedro Island was well worth slogging through the entire book for me: “Accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.” West Virginia Last Mountain Dancer: Hard-Earned Lessons in Love, Loss, and Honky-Tonk Outlaw Life by Chuck Kinder This Goodreads review just about summed it up: “At turns uproariously funny and break-my-goddamn-heart sad, Last Mountain Dancer started off good and ended even better, set in a world where Hank Williams occupies the same spiritual space as the ubiquitous Jaaaaaysus.” Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to the day when I get to visit these country roads for myself. Wisconsin Population: 485 — Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time by Michael Perry I’ve visited my fair share small towns in Wisconsin like outdoorsy Door County’s fly-speck gem, Sister Bay, and Elkhorn to see the Dave Matthews Band play the much-hyped amphitheater that is Alpine Valley, but I’ve never ventured to one quite like Perry’s hometown of New Auburn, rendered beautifully in this unforgettable memoir. Wyoming Wrapped and Strapped by Lorelei James I like Harlequin romance novels, so shoot me. Hippie vegetarian meets hunky cattle farmer in a raunchy stint at the ole Split Rock Ranch and Resort in this “Blacktop Cowboys” series mass market paperback hit. Now I definitely want to visit Wyoming for the, um, scenery.
The 10 Best Diners in The US
With a casual atmosphere, familiar greasy spoon fare and a distinctive lingo all their own, roadside diners hold a nostalgic place within the greater scope of American restaurant culture. Whether you’re stopping in for a burger, fries and a milkshake or breakfast all day with a bottomless cup of coffee poured by sassy waitresses who can still get away with calling customers “hon” and “sweetie,” these iconic eateries can always be counted on to deliver a satisfying dining experience. Here are ten of the most quintessential diners to visit across the country. 1. The Roadside Diner – Wall, New Jersey New Jersey bills itself as the diner capital of the world, and the Roadside is about as exemplary as it gets. Housed in a shiny chrome unit that still contains the original 1940s stools and booths, the eatery’s been cooking up omelets, pancakes, burgers and tuna melts since the 1940s. A fun bit of local trivia: the Roadside served as the backdrop for Bon Jovi’s 1994 Crossroad album cover, and also made an appearance in Bruce Springsteen’s “Girls in their Summer Clothes” music video. 2. Tom’s Restaurant – New York City Seinfeld fans will immediately recognize this Morningside Heights corner spot where Jerry, George and Elaine frequently hung out (it also inspired “Tom’s Diner,” Suzanne Vega’s biggest hit), but the family-owned joint has actually been in operation since the 1940s. Hearty lumberjack breakfasts, traditional Greek salads and gravy-drenched hot turkey sandwiches keep loyal customers coming back again and again. 3. Blue Benn Diner – Bennington, Vermont For such a little establishment, the charming Blue Benn Diner boasts a surprisingly big menu that spans breakfast burritos, salmon burgers, open-faced sandwiches, falafel, fried scallops, gyros, vegetarian options and Indian pudding. If you can’t find something to eat here, you’re just too darn picky. The classic 1940s boxcar setting and unpretentious servers only add to the appeal. 4. The Palace Diner – Biddeford, Maine With just 15 seats to work with, it’s safe to expect a wait at this breakfast-and-lunch-only diner. The railcar that houses the restaurant was originally built in 1927, and holds the distinction of being one of just two surviving Pollard cars left in the country. The tuna salad sandwiches and tuna melts here are two of the most in-demand dishes, and good enough to make diners forget all about traditional New England lobster rolls. 5. Brent’s Drugs – Jackson, Mississippi Movie buffs may remember Brent’s Drugs from its star turn in “The Help,” but the historic Fondren district diner/soda fountain inside the pharmacy has actually been in business since 1946. Snag a vintage turquoise vinyl booth or a seat at the counter and order up some classic Southern pimento cheese, biscuit sandwiches with a side of cheese grits, or a signature Brent’s Burger washed down with a classic Coke float. 6. The Oasis Diner – Plainfield Indiana Just a few miles west of Indianapolis, the Oasis moved around a few times before finally settling into its current location on the Old National Road/U.S. 40 in 2014. Originally manufactured in New Jersey and shipped to Indiana by rail in the 1950s, the now-restored diner shines like a new penny. On the menu? Western omelets, biscuits and gravy, patty melts, hand-crafted sodas, slices of pie, and of course, breaded Hoosier pork tenderloins pounded out thin enough to overhang the bun. 7. Rick’s White Light Diner – Frankfort, Kentucky Sitting pretty right next to the “Singing Bridge,” which got its name thanks to the sonorous metal gate flooring, Rick’s ranks as Frankfort’s oldest restaurant, in business since 1943 with memorabilia on the walls that details the history of the beloved local eatery. The diner’s small stature belies a big reputation for Cajun/Creole-inspired breakfast and lunch fare — crawfish pie, chicken and sausage jambalaya, New Orleans-style muffaletta and a handful of tasty Louisiana po boy sandwich variations. 8. Mickey’s Diner – St. Paul, Minnesota Art Deco style is alive and well at this period railcar diner, shipped to the Twin Cities from New Jersey in the 1930s and entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The joint never closes, staying open (and busy) 24/7, 365 days a year slinging hash browns, pancakes, eggs, chili, burgers and creamy, hand-dipped milkshakes so thick you’ll probably want to just ditch the straw altogether and use a spoon. 9. Lou Mitchell’s – Chicago, Illinois Nearly a century old and still going strong, Lou Mitchell’s stands directly where the original Route 66 begins in Chicago’s West Loop, making it a long-time landmark for hungry “Mother Road” travelers. As a sweet tradition, Lou’s greets guests with doughnut holes (the kids get Milk Duds!) when they come through the door. The breakfast and lunch menus cover all the expected diner bases, but the ethereally fluffy omelets are the most consistently popular orders. 10. Pann’s Restaurant – Los Angeles, California Los Angeles is full of great hipster retro diners to explore, but Pann’s is required eating on the way to or from LAX. The Googie-style building with slanted roof looks like something out of the Jetsons, and the “Just Wonderful Food” motto doesn’t lie — Pann’s plates up dependably satisfying steak and eggs, buttermilk pancakes, fajita omelets, Dreemburgers and six-slice BLTs. There’s even a champagne brunch option on Saturdays and Sundays.
5 Top Year-Round Ways to Enjoy Chicago
An abundance of choices is a big part of why we love Chicago. It’s a fast-paced, year-round town that offers a spectacular array of things to do—from sightseeing, music, and culture; to famous gastronomy and sometimes-quirky history. So to help pare down the choices, here’s a rundown of the can’t-miss spots for new visitors to Chicago, along with some of the latest additions and emerging areas destined for greatness. 1. Spectacular Architecture The richness of Chicago’s architecture cannot be overstated. The cityscape has seen many waves of building and design trends, some of them dating back nearly two centuries. But ever since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Windy City began rebuilding according to the trends of each decade, including City Beautiful, Beaux-Arts, Art Deco, Arts and Crafts, and many revival styles. It helped to have some of the world’s top architects perfecting their crafts there, including native Chicagoan Frank Lloyd Wright, and the “father of modernism” Louis Sullivan. Today, 21st-century architects continue to earn fame by adding their most daring visions to the skyline. Fortunately, the Chicago Architecture Center exists to share the city’s best sights by river cruise, bus, bike, or foot. Each tour runs about 1.5 hours and start at $26, and you can choose from dozens of themes, be it a city overview or niche interest. also offers architecture tours, most of them on foot and starting at $30 for about two hours. But if you want to take in Chicago’s architecture all in one lofty panorama, buy yourself a CityPASS ($108 for five attractions) for skip-the-line access to the observation decks of both the Willis Tower (called the Skydeck), and the John Hancock Building (called 360 Chicago). 2. Cultural Abundance The beauty of a good museum is that it’s there to inspire and delight visitors in any season. The CityPASS is a smart way to visit several of them (and save time bypassing the lines), including the marvelous Shedd Aquarium, natural-history Field Museum, inspiring Museum of Science and Industry, and Adler Planetarium (America’s first planetarium). Your CityPASS includes entry to the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the world’s top art museums, with a magnificent permanent collection and brilliant temporary exhibits, all housed in a complex that combines classic and modern architecture. Add to your arts adventure at Streeterville’s Museum of Contemporary Art where exhibits will introduce you to stimulating works created between the 1920s and today. The National Museum of Mexican Art, with free admission, is well worth a trip to the Lower West Side to behold colorful, rich art and events all year. (Don’t miss bites at nearby 5 Rabanitos taqueria.) 3. Explore the Loop The Loop is Chicago’s downtown area, generally within the elevated-train “loop.” (FYI: the rail system here is called “the L.”) Within the loop you’ll find many of the city’s grand towers and attractions, including the 319-acre Grant Park along Lake Michigan. There you can check out Buckingham Fountain and Millennium Park—home to Anish Kapoor’s beloved Cloud Gate (the shiny, giant stainless-steel “bean”). The park also hosts year-round food and arts festivals; ice skating and rock climbing in Maggie Daley Park; and concerts and screenings at Pritzker Pavilion, the bandshell designed by Frank Gehry. 4. Chicago Lodging With many great hotels occupying the city’s beautiful buildings, you can enjoy the city’s architecture in an intimate way by lodging in them. On the Loop’s north end, the Swissotel Chicago sits riverside as a sleek triangular high rise, with views of the Navy Pier, Lake Michigan, the inner Loop, and Grant Park. In addition to its comfy accommodations and polished service, the Swissotel is conveniently beside the Lake Shore Drive and the River Walk, for easy access via car or on foot. Next door to Swissotel is the lovely, undulating Aqua building, wherein you can book your room at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, and swim in the elevated pool. Head out to the hip and happening West Loop (aka the Fulton Market District) to lodge in the brand-new Hoxton Hotel. To the south, check into the boutique Sophy Hyde Park for proximity to Robie House, the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 5. Flavors of Chicago When it comes to dining, there’s far more to Chicago than steak, hot dogs, and deep-dish pizza, especially outside the Loop. In Ukrainian Village, head to Split-Rail for the best fried chicken in town, plus tasty sides and unique craft cocktails (don’t miss the blue sparkle of the “tiki death punch”). Head north to Lake View for a tasty brunch with unlimited cocktails at Barcocina, where you can lounge on the big outdoor patio. A few blocks away in East Lake View, find the city’s finest cheese, charcuterie, and other dishes at Bar Pastoral, a restaurant spinoff of next door’s Pastoral artisanal market. North Broadway is lined with notable eateries, like Ceres’ Table, serving regional Italian cuisine with seasonal ingredients. In Boystown, discover how delicious all-vegetarian dining can be at the adorable Chicago Diner, famously “meat-free since ‘83.” If classic dishes are calling, Pequod’s Pizza in Lincoln Park is the go-to for locals who love deep-dish; or try an upside-down version at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder. No matter where you dine, however, enjoy breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant & Bakery in the West Loop. The old-school diner opened in 1923, and is the self-described starting point to Route 66, serving unbeatable omelets, biscuits, pancakes, benedicts, and more, until mid-afternoon daily. But even beyond its famous food and sample donuts and other bonus treats, Lou Mitchell’s represents something unique: It’s a real-deal Chicago enterprise that feels timeless, making both its food and atmosphere well worth savoring.
5 Best Southern Food Cities You Haven't Tasted Yet
If you’re thinking of planning a trip to the South in search of great regional food, popular ports of call like New Orleans, Charleston, and Nashville probably come to mind. Yet a bevy of all-too-often overlooked destinations—smaller cities, in particular—are stepping up their game in the culinary department, serving up Southern dishes with a twist alongside globally inspired flavors. Whether you’re into fancy tasting menus or more down-home plates like pimento-cheese fritters and Elvis-inspired desserts, these five unexpected cities have something to suit every taste. Plus, skipping the crowded tourist spots means it’s easier to get a reservation—though you can probably pop into any of these joints and be welcomed with that true Southern hospitality. 1. TUPELO, MISSISSIPPI Chef Mitchell McCamey of Tupelo's King Chicken Fillin' Station. (Courtesy King Chicken Fillin') Graceland may be in Memphis, but Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis—and this town of 38,000 people boasts some pretty delicious offerings that tie back to the King himself. Take, for example, King Chicken Fillin’ Station (kingchickentupelo.com). Opened by renowned local chef and butcher Mitchell McCamey in March inside a converted gas station with a still-operating convenience store, it's quickly become a local favorite, thanks to its epic fried chicken and smoked burgers. Continuing the theme of building reuse, Clay’s House of Pig hatched inside a bait-and-tackle shop, where people come from miles around for the pulled-pork baked potato topped with queso, slaw, and jalapeños. For something a bit more upscale, visit Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen (kermitsoutlawkitchen.com), one of the area’s first true farm-to-table restaurants. Also run by McCamey, it’s housed in a 140-year-old brick building with a chef’s counter downstairs and a cocktail bar on the second level. If you’re dining with a group, order the Butcher Picnic, packed with braised brisket, a half chicken, homemade tortillas, and more. Just be sure to save room for Elvis S’mores for dessert. 2. ALPHARETTA, GEORGIA The fried-chicken sandwich from Holmes in Alpharetta. (Courtesy Awesome Alpharetta) Once an unassuming suburb 25 miles north of Atlanta, Alpharetta has become a destination in its own right in the last few years. Restaurants and a hotel at the mixed-use development Avalon, which opened in 2014, make for a convenient weekend escape from Atlanta, and the area’s best chefs have taken notice. Ford Fry, who owns 11 restaurants in Georgia, was among the first to head north, opening his Tex-Mex hit The El Felix Avalon; there are now more than a dozen upscale dining spots there. A new development, Alpharetta City Center, is also home to restaurants from top toques. Chef Taylor Neary, of Atlanta favorites Marcel and St. Cecilia, opened Holmes (restaurantholmes.com) this summer, with the area’s freshest vegetables playing a starring role on the menu, and sommelier Phillip Cooper debuted Citizen Soul (citizensoul.com) in October, marrying upscale pub fare with artisanal cocktails. Finally, chef Todd Hogan, a well-known name in the local food scene, is on track to open Prairie American Kitchen in a historic Alpharetta building early next year. Southern comfort foods with a twist, like crawfish potpie, will be on the menu. 3. GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA Greenville's Husk, an outpost of chef Sean Brock's beloved Charleston original. (Courtesy VisitGreenvilleSC) The food scene in this city of 68,000 people started coming up about 20 years ago, when local personality Carl Sobocinski decided to open a restaurant called Soby’s New South Cuisine (sobys.com) in the seedy downtown area. Fittingly, it was located nearly on the exact spot the town was founded two centuries before, and as people began to venture back downtown for dinner, businesses started to reinvest in the area. Today, Greenville ranks among the best downtowns in the country, according to Southern Living. Indeed, it feels a bit magical wandering down Main Street at night, with twinkling lights strung through the trees and the smells of many different cuisines wafting out the doors of nearly 125 restaurants within walking distance of the main drag. Spots like the aforementioned Soby’s (don’t miss Sunday brunch), the Lazy Goat (get the fried goat cheese), and Pomegranate (feast on spectacular Persian cuisine) are standbys, while newcomers like Anchorage (theanchoragerestaurant.com), showcasing the area’s Upcountry’s produce bounty, and Husk (huskgreenville.com), a spinoff of chef Sean Brock's beloved spots in Charleston, Nashville, and Savannah, are fresh reasons to visit. 4. FLORENCE, ALABAMA Big Bad Breakfast is a culinary destination at the hip Striklin Hotel. (Courtesy Visit Florence, AL) This Northern Alabama town went from sleepy to trendy nearly overnight, thanks to investment in the local hospitality industry. One of three towns making up the area known as The Shoals, Florence has gained two boutique hotels within the last year or so, along with a burgeoning culinary scene. Downtown, the 10-room GunRunner (gunrunnerhotel.com) features a hipster coffee shop on the main floor that brought acai bowls and matcha lattes to a town that’d never heard of them. Down the street, The Striklin Hotel (thestriklin.com) opened this year on the second and third floors of a 1940s building, with Big Bad Breakfast on the ground level. The brainchild of James Beard award-winning chef John Currence, a native of New Orleans, this morning-meal-focused restaurant known for its house-cured Tabasco brown-sugar bacon debuted its fifth Southern location to much fanfare. Early 2019 will see the opening of Taco Garage, a down-home spot for creative takes on Mexican street food. And, of course, there's the OG local-dining pioneer. While visitors and residents alike have embraced these newcomers, the farm-to-table spot Odette (odettealabama.com)—hugely popular for its craft cocktails and great wine list—kicked off the trend in back in 2011. 5. LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY While you can find classic Southern fare around town, Lexington's dining scene presents a range of international restaurants. (Courtesy VisitLex) You might not expect to find world-class Japanese food in the bourbon capital of the world, but that’s exactly what awaits in Lexington. It all started back in the ’80s when Toyota opened a plant in nearby Georgetown. At the time, there were less than five Japanese companies in the state; today, there are more than 200. Along with the growth of the Japanese population working here came many new restaurants and markets showcasing their home cuisine, with Tachibana (tachibanarestaurant.com) among the first to open some 25 years ago. This summer, Japan natives Hidenori and Shima Yamaguchi opened Standing Room Only, a Tokyo-inspired cocktail bar serving Japanese-style tapas, in the up-and-coming neighborhood of North Limestone (NoLi). And last year marked the debut of Kentucky’s first food hall, the Barn (thesummitatfritzfarm.com/the-barn), with an all-local lineup of restaurants serving dishes from Japanese ramen to Greek street food to shrimp Po'Boys. That wide-ranging variety has made the food hall a popular, lively destination.
Best Places to Hear Live Jazz in NYC
New York City is the center of the jazz universe, the place with the densest concentration of the greatest musicians, the place where aspiring jazzers come to measure themselves against their peers. There are dozens of clubs that book these players, from big name venues to local bars to underground apartment concerts—the city is the most important destination for dedicated fans looking to hear both the old guard preserving the classic roots and contemporary players pushing the boundaries of the music. Here is a selection of some of the most notable places to hear what’s happening. VILLAGE VANGUARD 178 7th Avenue South villagevanguard.com The most famous jazz club in New York City is also the oldest. A roster of legendary musicians performed here since it opened in the 1930s. And what’s more, some of the greatest live jazz albums were recorded here. For decades a bastion of swing and hard bop, over the past ten years the Vanguard has booked more musicians at the leading edge of jazz, like David Murray and Mary Halvorson. Groups play two sets per night, Tuesday through Sunday, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra plays every Monday, as it has since 1966. SMALLS JAZZ CLUB 183 West 10th Street smallslive.com A literal stone’s throw from the Vanguard is the aptly names Smalls. Opened in 1994 by musician Mitchell Borden, is a mainstay of the New York jazz scene—it presents at least two different groups a night (with additional matinées on the weekends) and for the dedicated jazz fan has regular jam sessions that begin at 1:00 am. There are regular appearances from old hands like Frank Lacy and Johnny O’Neill, as well as major up-and-coming musicians like Noah Preminger. DIZZY'S CLUB COCA-COLA Time Warner Center, Columbus Circle, 5th Floor jazz.org At the southwest corner of Central Park is the club for Jazz at Lincoln Center, the leading jazz institution in New York, directed by Wynton Marsalis. Music at Dizzy’s honors the masters and preserves the jazz tradition, and is the best place to hear vocalists survey the Great American Songbook. Dizzy’s has more of a concert hall feel than other clubs, but still has a bar, and serves food. JAZZ GALLERY 1160 Broadway, 5th Floor jazzgallery.nyc A slow elevator (max occupancy 5) brings you up to this spare, elegant space that has become one of the most important venues for new, live jazz. The Gallery’s schedule emphasizes the contemporary and forward looking scene, and is a place where musicians debut new ideas and groups—Henry Threadgill has presented important music here—and a site for live recordings as well. Still, keep an eye out for the hippest of the old guard, like Lee Konitz. SHAPESHIFTER LAB 18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn shapeshifterlab.com Located on a quiet side street near the “shores” of the Gowanus Canal, Shapeshifter Lab is a combination cutting edge venue and neighborhood joint. The relatively spacious, no-frills room is something of an arts center—you can catch bands and also check out paintings and hear poetry. The sounds here are modern, with some international flavor and the occasional classical and new music concert. JAZZ STANDARD 116 East 27th Street jazzstandard.com Close by lovely Madison Square Park is this combination club and restaurant. At the Standard, the jazz is as good as it gets (and the lineups can include Brazilian jazz and funk groups—Dr. Lonnie Smith is a regular), and the menu is courtesy of Blue Smoke barbecue. Like the Vanguard, Mondays are for a regular big band, this one the Mingus Big Band playing music by the master bassist and composer. 55 BAR 55 Christopher Street 55bar.com The third point in the rough triangle that includes the Vanguard and Smalls, 55 Bar is just that, a bar that presents live music. Despite the prime West Village location, Bar 55 is relatively tourist free, perhaps because the only reliable way to find out who’s playing there is to go by and see what’s written on the chalkboard out front. An excellent place for blues as well as jazz, the bar entertains a regular, friendly, local crowd, including musicians there to hear their peers. BLUE NOTE 131 West 3rd Street bluenotejazz.com/newyork The jazz club with the most famous name, the Blue Note is a mini franchise, with branches in California, Hawaii, Italy, Brazil, China, and Japan. That means the club brings in the biggest names, from icons like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock to commercially prominent musicians like Cassandra Wilson and Paquito D’Rivera. Despite the glossiness (there’s a gift shop), tickets are right in line with the Vanguard, Dizzy’s, et al., and the music is top-notch. I-BEAM 168 7th Street, Brooklyn ibeambrooklyn.com South along the Gowanus Canal from Shapeshifter and in a still-industrial neighborhood is this room where you can see the leading figures on the cutting edge of jazz in New York in a truly intimate setting—it’s really just a room with a piano and chairs. I-Beam runs on a shoestring and the focus is entirely on the music—their mission statement is to support musicians as they experiment with new works—which means admission is a $15 suggested donation, and there’s no kitchen or bar, nothing but terrific music.
5 Bargain Destinations for February
Whether the phrase “February travel” conjures images of a romantic getaway, American history, or a warm beach vacation (or all three), we’ve got good news: Airfares to some popular mid-winter destinations are down. Our friends at Skyscanner crunched the numbers and came up with some trip-inspiring data. Here, five U.S. destinations where airfares are surprisingly affordable. 1. CHICAGO Domestic airfares to the Windy City are down around 32 percent compared with last year at this time. That means the taste of Lou Mitchell’s incredible breakfasts, Seven Lions’ muffalettas, and, of course, a classic deep-dish Pizzeria Uno, are all within reach. Not to mention the views from Skydeck Chicago in Willis Tower, the astounding art collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, and selfies at Anish Kapoor’s iconic Cloud Gate sculpture (better known as “The Bean”). And while you’re at it, tell Sue, the massive T-rex fossil at the Field Museum, that Budget Travel says, “hi.” 2. HOUSTON With airfares down around 28 percent, the U.S.’s fourth-largest city is ready for winter visitors. While you can expect a heaping portion of Southern hospitality down here (BBQ, comfort food, and steaks, anyone?), you’ll also love the decidedly chic shopping, cutting-edge cuisine, and crowd-pleasing hotspots such as the Johnson Space Center’s Space Center Houston (where kids of all ages will love the array of spacecraft, moon rocks, and learning activities) and the city’s vibrant Museum District (comprising 19 institutions, including the Children’s Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts). 3. WASHINGTON, D.C. Airfares to our nation’s capital are down around 16 percent, and the city’s major cultural and historical institutions are all free to the public, making it the ultimate destination for commemorating President’s Day and Black History Month. Don’t miss the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Gallery’s peerless art collection, the inspiring monuments along the National Mall, and the cool neighborhoods such as Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle where locals enjoy some of America’s finest eateries and unique shops. 4. DALLAS Flying to Dallas, with its awesome shopping and dining in West Village, history at Highland Park Village National Historic Site and the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and superb art collections at the Dallas Museum of Art and Crow Collection of Asian Art, is about 15 percent less than last year. 5. MIAMI Warm beaches, from tony South Beach with its array of stately hotels and iconic Art Deco style to the quieter, family-friendly vibe of the North Beach area, are within reach, with fares down around 15 percent. When you bite into your first cubano sandwich, you'll thank us for the airfare tips.
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Huron is a city in Beadle County, South Dakota, United States. It is the county seat of Beadle County. The Huron Daily Plainsman, also referred to as the Plainsman, is the newspaper. The first settlement at Huron was made in 1880. The city was named after the Huron Indians. It is currently the seventh largest city in South Dakota, but it once was the fourth. In recent years, Huron's population has once again started to grow after nearly 20 years of stagnation. A welcoming immigration policy coupled with an economic revival in the area has sparked development. A Walmart Supercenter opened in the mid 2000s. Since Walmart's opening more commercial and residential development has occurred with the completion of a new Runnings store (retailer specializing in farm and fleet products), and many new apartments, twin homes and houses. The greater Huron area is home to approximately 30,000 people. The population within the city limits was 14,280 according to the 2020 census. Huron was once in the running for capital of South Dakota but lost out to Pierre due to Pierre's positioning. Huron is home to the South Dakota State Fair, which is held six days before Labor Day. It is also home to a statue known as "The World's Largest Pheasant", which was refurbished in the summer of 2011. Huron has rail service, provided by the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad.
Chamberlain (Lakota: makȟáthipi; "earth dwelling") is a city in Brule County, South Dakota, United States. It is located on the eastern bank of the Missouri River, at the dammed section of the Lake Francis Case, close to where it is crossed by Interstate 90. The population of Chamberlain was 2,387 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Brule County.Chamberlain is home to the South Dakota Hall of Fame. It is the site of St. Joseph's Indian School, a Native American residential school established in 1927 and operated by the Catholic order Priests of the Sacred Heart. A 50-foot (15 m) sculpture of a Native American woman, entitled Dignity, was installed on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River outside the city.
Sioux Falls (; Lakota: Íŋyaŋ Okábleča Otȟúŋwahe; "Stone Shatter City") is the most populous city in the U.S. state of South Dakota and the 131st-most populous city in the United States. It is the county seat of Minnehaha County and also extends into Lincoln County to the south, proximate with the Iowa state line. As of 2020, Sioux Falls had a population of 192,517. The Sioux Falls metro area accounts for more than 30% of the state's entire population. Chartered in 1856 on the banks of the Big Sioux River, the city is situated in the rolling hills at the junction of interstates 29 and 90. According to Best Life magazine, Sioux Falls is the healthiest city in the United States and is often considered one of the healthiest cities in the US by many other organizations.
Yankton is a city in and the county seat of Yankton County, South Dakota, United States. Yankton had a population of 14,454 at the 2010 census and it is the principal city of the Yankton Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes the entirety of Yankton County and which had an estimated population of 22,662 as of July 1, 2017. Yankton was the first capital of Dakota Territory. It is named for the Yankton tribe of Western Dakota people; Yankton is derived from the Dakota word I-hank-ton-wan ("the end village").Yankton is located on the Missouri River just downstream of the Gavins Point Dam and Lewis and Clark Lake, and just upstream of the confluence with the James River. The United States National Park Service's headquarters for the Missouri National Recreational River are located in the city. The Human Services Center was established as a psychiatric hospital in 1882 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Yankton is commonly referred to as the "River City", due to its proximity to the Missouri River and the importance the river played in the city's settlement and development. Yankton has also earned the nickname "Mother City of the Dakotas", due to the early important role it played in the creation and development of the Dakota Territory, which later became the 39th and 40th U.S. states of North and South Dakota.Owing to the early exploitation of Fort Hays Limestone for cement manufacture, including shipment of cement to the construction of the Panama Canal, Yankton once also had the nickname "Cement City".