These five famous cities are worth a second visit for their cool cultural cachet.
What you’ve done: The skydeck of the Willis Tower, the 1,450-foot skyscraper
What to do next: Foreign films at Music Box Theatre, Oz Park
The skydeck at Willis Tower is a drawcard for many tourists who want to drink in sweeping views of the Windy City, but to truly understand Chicago culture try stepping down to street level and visiting the Music Box Theatre. The gorgeously restored theatre has hosted famous films (and not-so-famous flops) since being built in 1929, and today is a memorable mish-mash of architecture with a stunning lounge and garden area to enjoy. Take in a foreign film, or for a more hair-raising experience keep your eyes peeled for the theatre ghost “Whitey”, the manager of The Music Box from opening night 1929 to November 24, 1977, when he dies in his sleep on the lobby couch. Even if Whitey stays away, you’ll still return home with tales of your visit to a treasured piece of Chicago history.
What you’ve done: Space Centre, NASA Johnson Space Center’s Visitor Center
What to do next: Outsider art at Joystix and the Art Car Museum
Houston, we have a problem- it’s that most people only associate the Texan city with the Space Centre and NASA’s astronaut training and flight control programs. But if your interest in the space race is limited, or you’re simply looking for another element of the culture to explore, try the spectacular Art Car Museum. Dubbed the ‘Garage Mahal’, the Art Car Museum is a love song to automotive culture but also reflects the artistic roots of the city, stretching back to 1986 when the original eleven art cars were exhibited. Today, the Art Car Museum houses everything from an enormous bunny rabbit car (complete with basket of eggs) to a cockroach car and a car covered in spoons called the Spoonozoid. Top off your taste of outsider art by stopping in at Joystix after your museum experience. The huge arcade has classic games such as Pac Man and the more modern Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles plus Frogger, Donkey Kong and Centipede.
What you’ve done: The Space Needle, Seattle’s iconic observation tower
What to do next: Revisit the city’s prohibition era at Smith Tower
If you’ve ever seen the Seattle skyline, you’ll know The Space Needle forms the centerpiece of the city’s tourist attractions. But there’s an alternative way to take in Seattle’s breathtaking sunsets, one that’s not crowded with tourists taking selfies, and that takes you to another time with it Prohibition Era theme. Smith Tower offers a more cultured observatory experience, featuring an unbeatable view of downtown Seattle from the open-air viewing deck with a 360-degree view. But it’s the “throwback to another time” vibe that really make Smith Tower a memorable experience, with its speakeasy-inspired bar on the 35th floor and numerous exhibitions that track the past one hundred years of Seattle history. You can even sit on the famous Wishing Chair for a selfie- legend has it that that any single woman who sits in it and makes a sincere wish for marriage will be wed within a year.
Dallas Fort-Worth, Texas
What you’ve done: Fort Worth Stock Yards
What to do next: Bluebonnet Trails
No doubt the Fort Worth Stock Yards are a symbol of Texas and its rich Western heritage, but there’s another trail that cuts across Texas which is completely cattle free- and extraordinarily beautiful. The less famous (but utterly compelling) Ennis Bluebonnet tracks are a series of mapped drives that take you past show-stopping displays of glorious blue wildflowers in bloom throughout April each year. They’re the oldest trails in the state, and the picture-perfect sheets of bluebonnets make a beautiful background for your photography, plus you can take in the spectacular sights of Texas as you travel by car or on foot across the trails. The flower itself is a ‘floral trademark’ of the state with a rich history of its own. Top up your bluebonnet knowledge with a free Saturday docent-guided bluebonnet tour at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas. The 40-minute tour guides you through the 14-acre park that’s brimming with bluebonnets and wildflowers.
What you’ve done: Oregon Zoo and Portland Union Station
What to do next: Get art and about with Last Thursdays on Alberta
Take a tour of Last Thursday on Alberta, the “art walk” where artists, musicians and performers line the street from 15th through 30th Avenues. Last Thursdays is where locals and discerning art critics come to see and buy unique masterpieces from established and emerging artists- which means everything from paintings and sculptures to woodwork, handbags, leatherwork and jewellery. But even more impressive that the artworks to buy are the live performers showing off impressive skills in every imaginable art form. Last Thursdays on Alberta takes you straight to the beating heart of art and culture in Portland and is your chance to get up close and personal with musicians and creatives. Starting in the evening, the 6pm-9pm showcase is set against the backdrop of the dramatic Portland sunset and fills the streets with colour, scent and sound. Finish the night with a trip home on the aerial tram system that sees you float across the city in a glass bubble, looking down on the glorious buildings and greenway from the evening skies.
What you’ve done: Sun worshipping at Miami Beach and South Beach
What to do next: Stone Age Antiques
Once you’ve soaked up enough of that famous sunshine, there’s still plenty to explore in Miami, Florida. While the port city is probably best known for its outdoor offerings (like sunbaking and surfing!), step inside one of its more cultured attractions for a different take on the Miami. Entering Stone Age Antiques is a sure-fire way to come face-to-face with important aspects of Miami’s nautical history, with jaw-dropping deep-sea diving masks, old world anchors, reams of tattered netting and other treasures from the deep blue sea to fascinate you for hours. Stone Age has stood in Miami for over 45 years, so make like a local and take a tour.
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