Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina

Voted one of the top cities in the country year after year, Charleston steals the hearts of travelers with its expansive history, elegant architecture, cultural offerings and local cuisine with a pedestrian-friendly downtown.

Charleston is defined by its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and antebellum houses, particularly in the elegant French Quarter and Battery districts, so the best way to see Charleston is on foot. The most iconic attractions are within easy walking distance in the compact, historic downtown district.

 


 

Your must-see list

The Battery

The Battery

This scenic promenade winds along The Battery (a fortified seawall) and is lined with exquisite, historic antebellum homes. It affords one of the most beautiful waterfront pedestrian experiences anywhere, with astonishing views of Fort Sumter and the Sullivan’s Island lighthouse. At the southernmost end lies White Point Garden, a jewel of a park offering large shady oak trees, oyster-shell paths and a 1907 music pavilion.

 

Charleston City Market

One of the country’s oldest (1804) public markets, this sprawling four-block retail venue is the cultural heart of Charleston. Many of the market’s 300 merchants produce locally handcrafted products, indicated by a “Certified Authentic: Handmade in Charleston” ceramic tile. The market is the center of sweetgrass basketry, one of the nation's oldest and most beautiful handicrafts of African origin and among the nation’s most prized cultural souvenirs. For over 300 years, people here have been weaving baskets using locally harvested bulrush, a strong yet supple marsh grass that thrives in the sandy soil of Lowcountry.

 

Fort Sumter

History doesn’t get more “living” than where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861. Narrated-tour boats leave from Liberty Square (about 3/4 mile north of the City Market), and each trip lasts about 2.5 hours. Park rangers give daily topical programs to coincide with each boat’s arrival. An added bonus is that visiting Fort Sumter lets you see Charleston as it’s meant to be seen: from the water.

 


 

Governor’s House Inn

Governor’s House Inn

Governor's House Inn (1760) is a magnificent National Historic Landmark reflecting Charleston's civility and grandeur. Over 200 years ago, this elegant inn was the home of Governor Edward Rutledge, the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. Today it’s one of Charleston's most historic and stately bed and breakfast inns.

Governor’s House seamlessly combines the unique pleasures of a historic home with the modern conveniences of a boutique hotel. Guests enjoy the perks of Southern living, including magnificent drawing rooms, expansive verandas and private porches, plus amenities like complimentary on-site parking (a rarity in downtown Charleston) and afternoon tea, wine and cheese. Conveniently situated in the heart of the Historic District, the inn is within easy walking distance of garden and house tours, the Battery, antique shopping, the City Market and fine restaurants.

 


 

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Founded by Spanish colonists in 1610, Santa Fe is the oldest city in New Mexico and the oldest state capital. It sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain at 7,000 feet and is packed with reminders of its long history. (Four flags have flown over the city: Spanish, Mexican, Confederate and US.)

Many original settlers brought their native artistic traditions, including woodcarving, embroidery, and tinwork. In the 1880s, artists discovered Santa Fe and were bewitched by its landscape, colors, light, welcoming lifestyle and cultural rituals. Today Santa Fe is renowned worldwide for its visual and performing arts scene, lively multicultural heritage and adobe architecture. It was the first American city designated as a UNESCO Creative City, and one of its nicknames is “City Different.”

 


 

Your must-see list

Museums

Museums

In a city celebrated for its visual arts, there are many museums to choose from. Among the most popular are the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (over 3,000 pieces, the largest permanent O’Keeffe collection in the world); The House of Eternal Return (an immersive multimedia art installation housed in an erstwhile bowling alley owned by Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin); Museum of International Folk Art (over 100,000 objects from more than 100 countries); Museum of Spanish Colonial Art (a small museum featuring devotional and decorative art, furniture and textiles) and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian (contemporary art plus the most comprehensive collection of Navajo and Pueblo jewelry in the world).

 

The Plaza

The heart of downtown for 400 years, the Plaza is Santa Fe’s historic, cultural and geographic center. Once the site of bullfights and gunfights, today it’s a hub for restaurants, shops and museums. Among the noted structures surrounding the Plaza and open for tours are the original palacio, the Palace of the Governors (1610–1612), an adobe structure that’s among the oldest public buildings in the country; the New Mexico History Museum; and the New Mexico Museum of Art, featuring a collection of over 20,000 pieces.

 

Canyon Road

This one-time Pueblo footpath is the artistic heart of Santa Fe. Some 100 of the city’s 250 art galleries are here, with many housed in historic adobe buildings. Walled gardens, old-growth shade trees, chili pepper ristras, wildflowers, hand-hewn wooden doors and brightly colored mailboxes dot the approximately half-mile-long stretch. One of Santa Fe’s most beloved traditions is the Christmas Eve Luminaria Walk, when thousands promenade the famous path. Canyon Road is also home to some of the city’s most iconic restaurants and watering holes offering world-class music and dancing in addition to food and drink.

 

Santa Fe Opera

Since 1957, opera lovers have enjoyed productions by one of the world's premier summer opera festivals. The Opera’s campus has won multiple awards for its design and architecture, and its stunning open-air theater boasts breathtaking panoramic views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. With over 2,000 seats and standing room spots with their own computer screens and multi-language translations, there’s not a bad seat in the house. Backstage tours, campus tours and “Opera Insider” breakfasts are offered from late May through late August.

 


 

Inn of the Turquoise Bear

Inn of the Turquoise Bear

Turquoise Bear guests enjoy a stunningly beautiful and tranquil setting with unparalleled historic charm just six blocks from the Plaza. One of Santa Fe’s most important historical estates, the inn was the home of Witter Bynner (1881–1964), noted poet, writer and scholar. Built in the Spanish-Pueblo Revival Style, the inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is noted for its signature portico, towering pine trees, magnificent rock terraces and lush gardens filled with lilacs and wild roses.

For almost 50 years, Bynner helped shape the Santa Fe arts culture with close friends and guests, including D.H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams, Igor Stravinsky, Martha Graham, Willa Cather, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Christopher Isherwood, Georgia O'Keeffe, Thornton Wilder, Robert Oppenheimer, Robert Frost, W.H. Auden, Rita Hayworth, Errol Flynn and Igor Stravinsky.

Each of the 11 rooms has a unique character befitting an adobe estate built, transformed and restored over 150 years, and each is decorated with elegant appointments honoring the region’s cultural treasures. Amenities include a three-course Santa Fe breakfast, afternoon tea and a twilight wine reception. Meandering stone walkways, colorful gardens, fountains and numerous places to sit and savor the surroundings are hallmarks of the inn’s grounds. Many of Bynner’s architectural touches remain, from Asian-inspired window grilles to curvy bancos and stone benches wreathed by flowery branches.

 


 

Savannah

Savannah, Georgia

The coastal city of Savannah is renowned for its manicured parks, antebellum architecture and a historic district filled with cobblestoned squares and parks shaded by oak trees covered in Spanish moss. Just 15 miles up the Savannah River from the Atlantic, it’s regarded as the country’s first planned city, with credit going to founder James Oglethorpe, who landed here in 1733. Oglethorpe laid out the city in a distinctive grid pattern comprising 24 squares (22 remain), each with its own distinctive character and identity.

During the city’s peak as a seaport, ships from all over the world docked adjacent to the row of waterfront warehouses, and many residents displayed their wealth by building magnificent homes around the squares. Today Savannah’s waterfront, historic homes and beautiful squares are the major attractions for visitors. As a highly walkable city, Savannah has numerous guided walking tours varying in length and theme. Visitors may take riverboat cruises, horse and carriage tours, trolley tours and “hop-on, hop-off” bus tours. Virtually every tour group in the city offers tours of the sites featured in John Berendt’s 1994 bestselling novel set in Savannah, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

 


 

Your must-see list

Forsyth Park

Forsyth Park

One of the earliest and prettiest urban parks in the country, this 30-acre park in the Historic District features a stunning ornate white-stone fountain, a Fragrant Garden for the Blind and the 300-year-old Candler Oak tree. It’s a hub of social activities like concerts, recreational sports, people watching, sunbathing, reading and relaxing. On Saturdays it’s the site of a Farmer’s Market. From the park, you can see several historic sites within walking distance, including the old Poor House and Hospital, which was used to treat wounded soldiers during the Civil War. Other attractions include a beautiful shaded walking path, lots of open space for picnics, a pool and playground and a small café.

 

Historic District

One of the largest US National Historic Landmark Districts (if not the largest), Savannah’s downtown comprises 20-some city squares, each one acre in size, making it the heart and soul of the city. River Street (see below) runs alongside the Savannah River and marks its northern boundary. Bull Street runs perpendicular to the river through the heart of the district and is the city’s “promenade,” with some of the city’s most notable buildings and landmarks. The district is also home to the landmark Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, the oldest Roman Catholic church in Georgia and the starting point for Savannah’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, the second largest in the country. The cathedral is an iconic symbol of the city, gracing its skyline with its towering steeples, and it’s open daily, except Sundays, for self-guided tours.

 

Historic Homes

Many important homes are in the Historic District and are open for tours. The most popular include the Owens-Thomas House (1818) on Oglethorpe Square, a superb example of English Regency architecture; the Mercer Williams House (Monterey Square), site of the shooting that inspired Berendt’s novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil; the Green-Meldrim House (Madison Square), one of the country’s finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture; and the Andrew Low House (Lafayette Square), the city’s premier museum house.

 

River Street

Savannah’s history as a prominent seaport and exporter of rice and cotton can still be seen along River Street, the broad avenue winding along the south bank of the Savannah River. The street is lined with centuries-old warehouses now housing antique shops, boutiques, galleries, brewpubs, restaurants, cafes and nightspots. At the eastern end are the Waving Girl statue (a tribute to Florence Margaret Martus, who waved to the vessels going in and out of the harbor) and the Olympic Flame Cauldron, lit during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics (Savannah was the sailing venue). River Street hosts some of Savannah’s biggest holiday events and annual festivals, while smaller arts, craft and food-focused events are held monthly. For most of the year, there’s a fireworks display on the first Friday of each month.

 

Leopold’s Ice Cream

A classic parlor dating back to 1919, Leopold’s is a Savannah staple. Their award-winning homemade ice cream is a must-eat with classic flavors like Tutti Frutti and Lemon Custard, both unchanged since 1919! Need something before dessert? Leopold’s also serves made-from-scratch sandwiches and salads. Grab a Pimento Cheese sandwich to complete the Southern experience!

 


 

Foley House Inn

Foley House Inn

Named “The South's Best Inn — 2017” by Southern Living Magazine and voted one of the "Top 10 Romantic Inns in America," the Foley House Inn overlooks moss-draped Chippewa Square, the filming site of the Tom Hanks movie Forrest Gump. Located in the center of Savannah’s Historic District, beautifully landscaped squares, restaurants, galleries and boutiques are within easy walking distance.

Each of the 19 guest rooms is uniquely and luxuriously decorated and includes complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast served in the parlor or, in the inn’s private garden, afternoon sweets and tea and evening wine and hors d’oeuvres (while enjoying the innkeeper’s piano-playing expertise at the grand piano). Many of the rooms feature working gas fireplaces, and some offer oversized Jacuzzis, balconies and porches, while a few offer private access to the inn’s lush hidden courtyard.

 


 

New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana

The Big Easy. Crescent City. Birthplace of jazz. Mardi Gras City. NOLA. The City that Care Forgot. New Orleans’ many nicknames reflect the enormous diversity of its culture and traditions. Famous for its cuisine, music (the birthplace of jazz) and festivals (most notably Mardi Gras), New Orleans bewitches all who visit. It’s the city that lets the good times roll, where you can hear some of the world’s greatest musicians in remarkably intimate surroundings.

And the food! Fresh Gulf Coast seafood, gator tails and boudin sausage are all must-eats while you’re in the Big Easy. And with staples like po’ boys, etouffee, gumbo and jambalaya and the variation of dishes representing Cajun and Creole cuisine, there’s always a never-ending feast. Have a sweet tooth? Sumptuous bread puddings dripping in caramel sauces and piping hot beignets are a stone’s throw away in the city!

 


 

Your must-see list

The French Quarter

The French Quarter (Vieux Carré)

The city’s oldest and best-known neighborhood, the “Quarter” is the heart and soul of New Orleans. A cultural melting pot and National Historic Landmark, the French Quarter is the site of the original (1718) colony established by the French. Wandering the narrow cobblestone streets is a delight, with charming balconies adorned with baroque ironwork and hanging plants, and leafy courtyards filled with bubbling fountains. Spanish, French, Creole and American styles meld in an enchanting setting. Home tours are offered throughout the year, a wonderful way to get a glimpse inside these architectural gems. On Bourbon Street, musicians mingle with fortune tellers and street performers, and the sounds of jazz, brass bands, R&B, hip-hop, Cajun and zydeco music fill the air.

 

National World War II Museum

This top-rated museum features exhibits, multimedia experiences, powerful images, extraordinary artifacts and thousands of personal accounts to take visitors on an immersive tour of World War II. Since its opening in 2000 as the D-Day Museum (the Higgins boats that carried thousands of Allied soldiers to the Normandy beaches were built in New Orleans), the Smithsonian-affiliated institution has expanded into an exhaustive look at American campaigns home and abroad. Highlights include the "Road to Berlin" and "Road to Tokyo" experiences for an immersive, emotional account of European and Pacific theaters of battle. Both feature painstakingly detailed soundstages, audio and visual backdrops and interactive areas that put the enormity of the conflict into perspective.

 

Jackson Square

Jackson Square

In the heart of the French Quarter overlooking the Mississippi River, Jackson Square is New Orleans' most recognizable landmark, occupying 2.5 acres with over two million tourists and locals each year. Musicians, performers and artists populate the square daily, making it a lively spot 24/7. At its center is a small garden park that provides a bit of respite to the nonstop activity. The square’s northwest side is dominated by the soaring spires of St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the country and open to the public for self-guided tours. Flanking either side of the cathedral are two important historic buildings — the Cabildo and the Presbytère — that house the Louisiana State Museum. On the opposite side of the square is the landmark Café du Monde (open 24 hours), a favorite of locals and tourists since 1862. Sitting here and enjoying beignets (New Orleans’ “doughnut”), sipping a chicory coffee and watching people go by is pretty much a required tourist activity.

 

Neighborhoods

Although the French Quarter is undoubtedly the major tourist destination, venturing a bit further afield to explore some of the city’s diverse neighborhoods is a treat. With the exception of Algiers Point, which requires a short ferry ride from downtown, listed below are just three of the many enchanting neighborhoods less than one mile from Jackson Square.

Algiers Point, known as New Orleans’ Brooklyn without the bustle, is a short ferry ride across the Mississippi River from downtown. Founded in 1870, Algiers Point still has the feel of a village and is a favorite with musicians and artists. Its riverfront offers three miles for walking, biking and picnics, and the village is populated with recording studios, glass-blowing workshops, specialty stores, ancient oaks and tidy Victorian cottages adorned with gingerbread woodwork.

The Marigny neighborhood was once the plantation of a Creole bon vivant who made the dice game “craps” popular in America. Today it’s an artist-friendly neighborhood enlivened with colorfully painted Creole and Classic Revival cottages. Historic banks, corner stores and even bakeries have been refurbished as homes, while riverfront warehouses now accommodate artists' studios and performance spaces. The Marigny is a top choice for locals and visitors looking for great music, fine food and an authentic, historic neighborhood.

Tremé is America's oldest black neighborhood and got its name from Claude Tremé, who migrated from France in 1783. In later years, free persons of color and African slaves who obtained, bought or bargained for their freedom were able to own property here, which was remarkable, given that America was still embroiled in slavery. Today Tremé is home to several museums dedicated to African-American life, art and history, as well as a park dedicated to jazz legend Louis Armstrong. This neighborhood invented jazz and is dotted with underground music clubs, including the famous Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar.

 


 

The New Orleans Jazz Quarters

The New Orleans Jazz Quarters

In the Tremé neighborhood, steps from the French Quarter and the Louis Armstrong Park, the Jazz Quarters combines the unique architecture of Creole cottages with the amenities of a first-class hotel and the charm and scale of an intimate neighborhood residence. A small historic (1725) property, the 10 cottages and suites are inspired by and named for beloved local musicians and are decorated with heirlooms, family antiques and local artwork. Guests enjoy a lovely, lush private courtyard, and many of the suites and cottages have access, via French doors, to outside spaces.

Accommodations vary in size and layout, but all feature exquisite appointments, a mini-refrigerator (some suites have full kitchens) and off-street complimentary parking. Guests are within a 5- to 15-minute walk from cafes and restaurants, the riverfront, Bourbon Street, Jackson Square and Café du Monde. The innkeepers take pride in offering personal, caring service and making Jazz Quarters their guests’ home away from home. They especially enjoy making personal recommendations for navigating the city based on their guests’ interests. Staying at the Jazz Quarters is a true New Orleans neighborhood experience.

 


 

Nashville

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville and music have been inseparable from the city’s earliest days when none other than Queen Victoria gave the city its nickname of “Music City.” Today Music City is also becoming known as Foodie City. As one of the fastest-growing cities in the US and a long history of embracing the creative spirit, Nashville has become fertile ground for those in the culinary world.

Nashville hosts numerous annual crowd-drawing events, including The Antiques and Garden Show (April; three days) featuring horticultural dealers, magnificent gardens and world-renowned lecturers for the largest show of its kind in the country; the Iroquois Steeplechase (May), the premier race meet in American steeplechasing, attracting over 25,000 spectators; the CMA Music Festival (June; four days), featuring over 400 artists and celebrities; the Music City Food + Wine Festival (September) that brings together star chefs from around the country and local Nashville culinary talent; and the CMA Music Awards (November), the pinnacle of achievement for country music artists.

 


 

Your must-see list

Country Music Hall of Fame

Called the “Smithsonian of country music” for its unrivaled collection, the CMHF is the world’s largest repository of country music artifacts. Its core exhibition, “Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music,” immerses visitors in the history and sounds of country music with its origins, traditions and the stories and voices of many of its honored architects. The story is told through artifacts, photographs and text panels, with a rich overlay of recorded sound, vintage video and interactive touchscreens. Some of the changing exhibits in 2017 and ’18 feature the stories behind music legends like Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Lynn Anderson, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Shania Twain.

 

The Ryman

Since 1892, the Ryman Auditorium, (the “Carnegie Hall of the South”) has attracted musicians and fans from around the world. The 2,362-seat theater is the most famous music venue in Nashville. Known as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” the Ryman is the former home of the Grand Ole Opry (1943–1974) and has been featured in numerous films and television shows. The Ryman offers terrific backstage daytime tours year-round, and you can stand on the iconic stage where Nat King Cole, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Dolly Parton, Diana Ross and James Brown performed.

 

The Parthenon

The Parthenon

The world’s only full-scale reproduction of the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece, stands in Nashville’s Centennial Park. Built in 1897 for the Centennial Exposition, it spoke to the city’s self-declared reputation as the “Athens of the South.” At the end of the festival, which drew almost two million people, the building had grown on the locals and no one wanted it torn down. When it was decided that the Parthenon would remain standing, citizens wanted to build a version of the statue of Athena (the Greek virgin goddess of intelligent activity, arts and literature) that once stood inside the original Parthenon. Nashville sculptor Alan LeQuire created a 42-foot-tall Athena, the largest indoor statue in the US. The unveiling of this work in 1990 made LeQuire a celebrated and controversial figure and attracted favorable notice from classical scholars, archaeologists and art critics nationwide, with articles in Art News and the New York Times Magazine. Today the Parthenon houses an art gallery and museum and is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

 

Bluebird Café

The intimate 90-seat Bluebird has hosted some of the most significant songwriters and artists in the US since its founding in 1982. It’s one of the world’s preeminent listening rooms and is internationally recognized as a songwriter’s performance space where the “heroes behind the hits” perform their own songs, songs recorded by chart-topping artists. The Bluebird’s reputation as a listening room is based on the acoustic music that is its signature style and a firm policy that audience members keep their talking low and to a minimum. Patrons repeatedly say they’re captivated by hearing songs performed by the creators themselves and the stories behind the songs. A typical nightly performance consists of three or four songwriters seated in the center of the room, taking turns playing their songs and accompanying each other instrumentally and with harmony vocals. It’s an experience that few forget.

 

Eating & Drinking

Accolades for the restaurant scene here are nonstop with mentions from Zagat, USA TODAY and more. Visitors to Nashville should definitely try its signature foods such as hot chicken, meat and threes, biscuits and fruit tea. With thousands of places to eat, from traditional Southern fare to haute cuisine, Music City has it all. Bon appetit!

 


 

Germantown Inn

Germantown Inn

Located in the heart of Germantown, Nashville’s hottest destination neighborhood, the Germantown Inn opened in December 2016 and has since received a steady stream of accolades from national media, including Forbes, Southern Living, Vogue, Conde Nast Traveler, the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. It was originally built as a private home in 1865, and the home-to-hotel renovation was undertaken with great care to preserve its historic treasures, including its original brick masonry, while giving the property a modern vibe.

Each of the inn’s six suites is named after a US president with Tennessee ties — a subtle nod to the presidential streets that run throughout the neighborhood —- and a local artist painted eye-catching portraits of each president for each room. The paintings are a whimsical blend of historical accuracy and funky pops of color that help give the rooms their unique styles.

One of the advantages to staying at the Germantown Inn is its easy walking distance to several of the neighborhood’s acclaimed restaurants — Rolf and Daughters, Henrietta Red and City House are all within a five-minute walk and Butchertown is only 10 minutes away.

At the inn itself, guests enjoy elegant and modern amenities, a beautiful rooftop deck that’s perfect for lounging with a cup of coffee or glass or wine, a lovely courtyard and the quiet pleasure of staying in an intimate hotel in a historic setting.