Top 10 Great American Cities
Written by: Catalogs.com Editorial Staff
September 14, 2010
Filed Under Places
Contributed by Robert P. Simon, Catalogs.com Info Guru
This is not a measured ranking. No metrics or statistics were used in the making of this list.
Consider these only the ramblings of an American traveler with no shortage of opinions about what makes a great American city. Here is my list, starting with the last on the list and moving up to number one.
Though it can be difficult to embrace a city that once famously pelted Santa Claus with snowballs during a football game, the so-called City of Brotherly Love simply offers too much uniquely American history and culture to merit exclusion. From its history-steeped architecture to its grease-soaked Philly Cheesesteak, Philadelphia provides the heights of both American history and culture. If for nothing else this city deserves a visit for Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were adopted.
In many ways it’s possible to question whether one is still even in America while strolling through the diverse streets of Miami, but isn’t that the essence of the American melting pot? Take a look past the pulsing nightlife, vibrant art district, charming (if kitschy) period architecture, and sizzling beaches (if you can!) for a moment. You’ll discover an important international center of commerce that sits at the center of one of America’s most populous urban areas. And just think- for tens of thousands each year the Port of Miami represents a gateway to a new life in the same way that New York’s Ellis Island once stood as a monument to American opportunity.
Small by ‘big city’ standards, quirky, and green in every sense of the word, Portland stands as an urban icon of rugged Western individualism. Perhaps the most geographically scenic city on this list, it is neatly nestled into a hilly valley and offers breathtaking mountain and river views. As much an attraction as the city itself is its immediate proximity to any outdoor adventures imaginable, a fact never lost on Portland’s famously unconventional residents.
7. Los Angeles
Unlike the other Top 10 cities, Los Angeles is not distinctly urban, and it can be as easy to despair as to love. Urban sprawl, gridlocked traffic, and a culture of vanity– all true of America’s 2nd largest city. At the same time the weather is rarely less than perfect, opportunities are aplenty, and somehow almost everybody who lives here is beautiful. Take it or leave it, but Los Angeles is the quintessence of the 20th Century American city.
6. Washington D.C.
A city of transplants, heavy hitters, and cocky up-and-comers, Washington is at once quaint and bustling. Centuries-old architecture and well-thought urban planning create a city which draws visitors for its prominent political landscape but thrives on its idiosyncratic neighborhoods.
Boston is a teeming brew of sports-mad townies, upper-crust intellectuals, and world-class culture bottled up in a geographically compact 17th century urban center. Home to two of the world’s most prestigious universities (Harvard & MIT), site of many of the American Revolution’s defining moments, and possessing its own accent and slang, Boston is in itself an experience in the way that few other American cities can claim to be.
4. San Francisco
Probably more accessible and certainly more friendly than Los Angeles, San Francisco offers a slightly less mad gateway to the best of California culture. International culture comes together in a true melting pot of backgrounds, ethnicities, and lifestyles in what can be considered one of the most laid-back cities to make this list. Enjoy the fog on the bay, the rolling hills that make for precarious parking, and the amazing food and nightlife in this simultaneous cultural- and business- hotspot.
3. New Orleans
Ironically, New Orleans is perhaps the most European city to make this list. Built (and re-built) in fits and starts on the banks of the Mississippi, the Big Easy’s happenstance planning reflects its laissez-faire lifestyle. Old-world European aristocracy, New World Southern gentility, and a modern world working class live in relative harmony in this city as famous for its hard luck as its incredible cuisine and music. Time stops in New Orleans, and one can’t help but marvel at the coexistence of America’s true high’s and low’s in such tight proximity.
The cultural gem of the Midwest, Chicago is home to perhaps the world’s most dazzling (and certainly most carefully-composed) skyline. Nestled along Lake Michigan, one can find all of the big-city attractions of New York and Los Angeles, spun with a friendly Midwestern vibe and perhaps the most vibrant neighborhood culture of any major American city. A renewed focus on world-class architecture and Green development has Chicago neatly positioned for many more years of cultural prominence. Just don’t forget to bring a winter jacket!
1. New York
As much as it pains this Chicago resident to put New York at the top of the list, the Big Apple truly is the heart of American culture. New York is at once America’s largest and most important city– it is the international hub of business and the national pulse for what’s hip. There’s simply more things to do, more places to go, and more interesting people to meet in New York than in any other American city.
This list is bound to create some disagreement. From First City to Second City and every city that comes next, everyone has their own loves and hates. Comments, as always, are welcome.