6 Reasons Why We Love UNESCO

Paducah, KentuckyPaducah, KentuckySanta Fe, New Mexico
Detroit, MichiganAustin, TexasTucson, Arizona
Iowa City, Iowa
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Each one of UNESCO's 116 Creative Cities is a hotbed of culture and the arts. Representing the fields of crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, music, and media arts, these urban hubs span the globe—and six of them can be found right here in the United States. Take a photo tour and see why Budget Travel always has, and always will, support UNESCO's mission.

Courtesy Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau

Paducah, Kentucky: Crafts and Folk Art

Located halfway between St. Louis and Nashville at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, this city of 25,000 is home to both the American Quilter’s Society and the National Quilt Museum, hosting biannual quilt festivals with exhibits, events, vendors, classes, and lectures and serving as a year-round mecca for fiber artists and enthusiasts alike. (In 2016 alone, travel and tourism to the city and surrounding county generated $226.8 million in direct expenditures.) But Paducah’s dedication to craft doesn’t end at quilt-making. Scope out the floodwall murals for a concrete example of the community’s commitment to public art, take a ceramics class or a makeup workshop, stroll through the revitalized Lower Town Arts District, where working artists, students, and artists-in-residence live, and visit the Paducah School of Art & Design campus, then celebrate the culinary arts with a meal at Freight House, a local favorite that’s generating national buzz. For a pit stop, may we suggest a craft beer at a repurposed Coca-Cola plant or Greyhound station, or a moonshine tasting at a localdistillery? Or see something completely different: Harry Truman veep Alben Barkley is a native son of Paducah, and a collection of his memorabilia is on display at a historic home that doubles as a highway welcome center—the only one in the country.

Courtesy Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau

Santa Fe: Crafts and Folk Art

With its winning combination of Anglo, Spanish, and Native American cultures, adobe pueblos, and postcard-perfect mountain vistas, it’s no wonder visitors flock to Santa Fe—the oldest capital in America draws more than a million people a year. It also has a thriving film industry that’s played host to productions like Breaking Bad and Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (this month, you might spot Vincent D’Onofrio or Ethan Hawke around town), but it’s more than just a pretty face. There’s a wealth of cultural capital on display here: Native American pottery and jewelry, Spanish colonial applique and tinwork, Spanish and Native American traditional dance; music festivals, art markets, 250-plus galleries, and a dozen museums focusing on everything from international folk art to contemporary Native arts to the iconic work Georgia O’Keeffe, a New Mexico resident for the last 30-some years of her life. Browse the shops and galleries on Canyon Road or Santa Fe Plaza; explore the Railyard, a revitalized district centered around an old train depot, with restaurants, a movie theater, a nationally renowned farmers’ market, and even more galleries; or plan your trip around one of the big annual art fairs—the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, the Traditional Spanish Colonial Market, and the Santa Fe Indian Market. Any way you slice it, your stay supports the creative community: One percent of Santa Fe’s hotel tax goes to local arts organizations.

Jay Beiler/Dreamstime

Detroit: Design

Detroit may be known for its automotive-manufacturing history—they don’t call it the Motor City for nothing—but there’s more to this metropolis than Model Ts. Over the years, Michigan’s most populous city has become a bastion of industrial design and technology, with a high concentration of engineering services and a hospitable environment for startups and bigguns alike. That might sound like all work and no play, but the D pulls in some 19 million visitors a year, thanks to events like the ever-popular North American International Auto Show, which more than 800,000 people attended this year, and the annual Detroit Design Festival, which offers a look at the role design plays in society. Pop into the Detroit Institute of Arts for a peek at one of the top-six collections in the U.S., take a breather on Belle Isle, the island park designed by Central Park landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and immerse yourself in the African-American experience at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Soon, you’ll be able to wander the Garment District (currently a work in progress) and purchase pieces from the next Anna Sui before grabbing a drink at one of the many breweries and taprooms in the metro area—craft beer is big business in Detroit, with seven new establishments slated for 2017 alone. Don’t forget to line your stomach: Even if you can’t snag a reservation at the critically acclaimed Mabel Gray, there’s still plenty to eat, from Japanese to Jamaican and most everything in between.

Atomazul/Dreamstime

Austin: Media Arts

A haven for tech startups and individual creators alike, the city known for its festivals—SXSW, Austin City Limits, Fantastic Fest—has pretty much cornered the market on cool, but that doesn’t mean it’s snobby or standoffish. On the contrary, the state capital offers a warm Texas welcome to makers of all sorts, and that embrace is repaid in a big way: Austin’s creative industries kick in billions in economic activity and millions in tax revenue annually, supporting some 49,000 local jobs. As a nexus of art, music, and digital technology, the city takes its position seriously, commissioning local new-media artists to run public arts projects and building up  artists-in-residence programs, among other initiatives. All of which to say: It’s a great destination for the culturally inclined. Catch a film at the Paramount, a former vaudeville theater dating to 1915, or at the flagship location of Alamo Drafthouse, a cell-phone-hating (warning: NSFW language) mini-chain that offers dinner and drinks with a side of cinema; tour the University of Texas’s public art collection, and while you’re on campus, consider a deep dive into the archives of Nobel laureates Kazuo Ishiguro, Gabriel García Márquez, and more; and check in at the Bullock Museum for a crash-course in state history. Cool off at one of the city’s naturalpools, then take a spin through Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum to whet your appetite. This year, Texas Monthly named seven Austin spots to its list of the Top 50 Barbecue Joints in the state, including the Obama-anointed, heavily hyped Franklin Barbecue (recently damaged by a fire but aiming to reopen soon). But be warned: The battle for local barbecue supremacy is hotly contested, so make sure you do your due diligence and taste around a bit before you choose a favorite.

Lonely Planet

Tucson: Gastronomy

As the only City of Gastronomy on these shores, Tucson has a reputation to uphold, and in good news for hungry travelers, it doesn’t disappoint. The city with the longest agricultural history in the country has a cuisine that’s evolved from three centuries of tradition, with classic preparations and heritage foods that local chefs rely upon to this day. Combine that legacy with a clientele that takes pride in its past, and you get a culinary scene that’s hopping. There are farmers’ markets every day of the week—two at hospitals, a few hosted by the Community Food Bank, and three heirloom markets, to name a few. Food and wine festivals take place all year, from Tucson Meet Yourself—a celebration of the food and traditional arts of local folk and ethnic communities—to bashes that honor agave, Mexican food, and Christmas-time tamale-making to a wine fest complete with a grape-stomping competition. And then there are the eating establishments that contribute to the city’s standing as a gastro-tourism destination. Pick up a slow-fermented loaf at Barrio Bread, where baker Don Guerra incorporates white Sonora wheat, one of the oldest varieties in North America, into his creations; learn about ancient crops like cholla buds and mesquite pods at a Desert Harvestersclass or workshop, then conduct your own personal scavenger hunt to see how many of those ingredients you can find on menus around the city; or stop by the Native Seeds/SEARCH retail shop for heirloom seeds, foods, crafts, and swag. Even better, befriend someone with a library card, borrow seeds from the Pima County Public Library, and go home with a free souvenir that will remind you of your time in the desert for many harvests to come—no returns necessary.

Harold Stiver/Dreamstime

Iowa City: Literature

Word lovers, this one’s for you. From the pioneering Iowa Writers’ Workshop to the legendary Prairie Lights bookstore, not to mention publishing houses, writing groups, and readings galore, Iowa City’s literary scene is unparalleled. The list of authors who have called this storied (*ahem*) city home is a long one—think Tennessee Williams and Flannery O’Connor, Marilynne Robinson and Kurt Vonnegut—and you can walk in their footsteps. Belly up to the bar at Micky’s Irish Pub, where Dylan Thomas and John Irving once downed pints (though not at this particular location—the bar itself was moved from their original haunt), swing by Vonnegut’s old house, and get a good night’s sleep at the Iowa House Hotel, where John Cheever and Raymond Chandler stayed during their teaching stints in the ‘70s. Be sure to go by the university’s main library for a tour of the archives, and meander along the Literary Walk to take in the words, captured in bronze, of Iowa-affiliated greats. The city has so many book festivals that it’s hard to find a weekend without one, but even if your visit doesn’t coincide with an event, there are moreyear-roundreadings here than you can shake a stick at. And if that doesn’t scratch the itch for all things bookish, Poets & Writerscity guide may provide inspiration; further afield, check out Book Riot’s state-wide literary itinerary.

Americanspirit/Dreamstime

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