I have not been to every small city in America nor am I any sort of a travel guru. However, I have been to a lot of small cities having been in 44 of our 5o states. The following is an entirely subject view of what I believe to be 10 American cities that should be on anyone’s list of must see destinations. I do not believe that any of these cities exceeds a million people in population. Some, however, do exist in extended areas of over one million. Excepting the first entry, they are in no particular order.
1. Savannah Georgia — I consider Savannah to be the nicest small city in all of America. When you drive into Savannah you cannot help but notice the Spanish moss hanging from the trees. Although this is not unique to Savannah, when coupled with the beautiful old homes and parks of the city, it may be singular in that respect. The downtown portion of Savannah can be walked, entirely, in about 15 minutes. It is only about two blocks wide by 8 or 9 long, and sits next to its large port facility. Just outside of the commercial portion of Savannah sits most of its stately homes which have frequently shown up in Hollywood movies, “Forest Gump” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” were each shot there. Renown for its friendliness, Savannah is a delight to all who visit there. If there is not other small city in America that you make a must see, make this the one you do see.
2. Portland Oregon — Portland sits on the Columbia River when it makes a sharp turn northward on its journey to the sea. It is a very modern and very clean city that is steeped in the logging history of the northwest. You drive 5 minutes from downtown Portland in any direction and find yourself in the gorgeous Oregon countryside.
3. Oklahoma City Oklahoma — Oklahoma City is a sprawling small city. If for no other reason you have to visit OKC for the food. There are many many restaurants that serve either Mexican food or steaks that would put to shame similar restaurants in just about any other city in America. It is also the home to the cowboy museum, a place where the old west is put on display and its history explained. If you happen to go there during the summer, OKC has its own minor league baseball team which plays in a beautiful little stadium referred to as “the Brickyard.”
4. Honolulu Hawai’i — This seems like a no-brainer right? Waikiki is incomparable to its beauty and shops. Waikiki boasts a large number of high-end stores that those of us of modest means can peer into. But it is also rich in cultural history. The Queen Iolani Palace, the cultural center, and even the pineapple field tours speak to its rich and long history. Of course, there is also the Pearl Harbor memorial, an emotionally moving place to reflect on the tragedy of World War 2 as you stand a few feet above the sunken hulk of the USS Arizona.
5. Sacramento California — Sacramento, like Oklahoma City, is a sprawling city that sits at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers. While the city itself is slightly over 100 square miles in size, the downtown portion is just a little over one square mile. The capitol building and surrounding grounds may be the most beautiful of any of the 50 states. The is also a portion, just a short distance from downtown, know as “old town.” Old Town sits on the bank of the Sacramento River and is the oldest portion of Sacramento. The building of this area are maintained to reflect an old west flavor. Also here is the California Railroad Museum.
6. Nashville Tennessee — This, like Honolulu, seems like a no-brainer. How can anyone not like the home of the Grand Old Opry. Though rich in country music history, the city also boasts a lively blues music venue which has to be enjoyed. But Nashville is more than just that offering a good selection of restaurants that serve a variety of southern cuisine, ribs, catfish, and grits have got to be tried here.
7. St. Augustine Florida — St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. It Spanish heritage can still be found in its architecture and food. It also has long stretches of beautiful beaches that are not congested with the crowds of Floridas more southern cities, and yet rival them in beauty.
8. Santa Fe New Mexico — Santa Fe is a beautiful combination of Mexican adobe architecture and native American culture. The city sits in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains amidst the scrub pine. It is a quaint small city of just under 70,000 people where you can lose yourself in its tranquility and beauty.
9. Salt Lake City Utah — Salt Lake City sits snugly between the towering Rocky Mountains to the east and the Great Salt Lake to the west. Founded by the Mormons in the 19th Century, located in its northern portion is the huge Mormon Temple, a beautiful cathedral-like structure that is central to the religion. During the late spring the city has a stunning vista of the still snow-capped Rockies.
10. Burlington Vermont — The largest city in Vermont at about 43,000 people, Burlington sits on the shores of the gorgeous Lake Champlain. The city is the center of commerce for what is called Vermont’s “Northern Kingdom.” Its downtown area has a large collection of quaint shops and small comfortable restaurants. The lakeside portion of the city boasts a nice combination of boat rentals and tour boats.
I also want to offer ten other cities, without comment, that I consider worthy of visiting. 1. Portland Maine, 2. Louisville Kentucky, 3. Charleston South Carolina, 4. Bar Harbor Maine, 5. Gettysburg Pennsylvania, 6. Laramie Wyoming, 7. Richmond Virginia, 8. Napa California, 9. Lake Tahoe Nevada, 10. Provincetown Massachusetts.