The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - Travel
How to double your fun on a US city break
Make the most of a stay in one of America’s great cities by twinning it with a smaller or lesser-known alternative, says Jacqui Agate
America’s biggest cities need no introduction. You have likely already seen the skyscrapers in New York, pounded the Freedom Trail in Boston, and soaked up Miami’s beachside glitz.
But eclipsed by those big hitters are the country’s smaller cities, which often fly under the radar – and that is a real shame. More approachable than their giant sisters, many have stellar art and food scenes, distinct and culture-rich neighbourhoods, and a fierce sense of identity. A twin-centre break is a great way to make the most of a trip stateside. Don’t eschew the likes of Chicago or Nashville entirely – instead, sew them into a multi-city break that combines a bucket-list stop with a lesser-known destination.
Of course, distances are wide, but most cities of note have a wellconnected regional airport and sometimes an Amtrak railway station, too. Ultimately, though, the US is the land of the road trip, and while it may take longer, driving between destinations is often richly rewarding. The path from Miami to Key West, for example, takes travellers on an odyssey across the Florida Keys that includes the famous Seven Mile Bridge, while the path from the Big Apple to Buffalo winds through bucolic swathes of upstate New York.
Convinced to try a double-city escape? Then here are 10 pairings to consider …
Visiting New York?
The mother of all city breaks, the Big Apple is a tough act to follow – so Buffalo doesn’t really try. Instead, it moves at a pace that is decidedly sleepier than “the city that never sleeps”, which is precisely its appeal. You won’t find yourself racing through a tick-list of sights, but instead bedding into friendly neighbourhoods and hanging out by the shore of Lake Erie or the Buffalo River.
There is more to New York state’s second city than its eponymous chicken wings – yet they are a pretty good place to start. The fiery morsels were first cooked up in Anchor Bar (anchorbar.com) in the 1960s and the veteran joint still makes them to a closely-guarded secret recipe, serving them with a cooling blue cheese dip and celery.
Buffalo’s waterfront area has also been smartened up in recent years, with abandoned warehouses being conjured into music venues and the development of the Shoreline Trail along the banks of Lake Erie. The city serves as a springboard for one of North America’s great wonders, too: Niagara Falls thunder around 30 minutes northwest of the city proper. Make your base at the Richardson Hotel (therichardsonhotelbuffalo.com; rooms from £108), a Romanesque revival confection set within sprawling parkland and is fresh from a facelift
Getting there: 1.5 hours by plane,
or 4 hours by car
Getting there: 1.5 hours by plane,
or 6 hours by car
Many of the country’s smaller cities have stellar food scenes and culture-rich districts
Nothing Stops Detroit – so the adage goes. And nothing should stop you from coupling a break to Chicago with a jaunt to Motor City, a four-hour drive eastward around the southern curve of Lake Michigan. Population-wise, Detroit is about a quarter of the size of Chicago, but it has all the cultural clout of a much bigger city, with institutions such as the Detroit Institute of Arts (dia. org) and mind-boggling outsider art installations such as the Heidelberg Project (heidelberg.org).
After the fall of the city’s automotive industry and a bankruptcy in 2013, Detroit was far from travellers’ wish lists. Now, however, boutique hotels and swish restaurants breathe new life into once-abandoned buildings along Woodward Avenue, while the Motown Museum (motownmuseum.org) – which preserves the studio where the peppy yet soulful sound of Motown was born – is undergoing a major expansion. The city’s dazzling beaux arts-style Michigan Central station, which stood abandoned for more than three decades, is being revamped by Ford, too.
Make time to visit the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation (thehenryford.org/visit/henry-fordmuseum), where exhibitions celebrate American ingenuity from the invention of the lightbulb to the first flight. Then, make the pilgrimage to the hip Corktown neighbourhood, where fan favourite Slows BBQ (slowsbarbq.com) sits elbow-to-elbow with craft cocktail bar Sugar House.
The sumptuous Shinola Hotel (shinolahotel. com; rooms from £228) sits in a prime spot on Woodward Avenue. Expect chic, mid-century moderninspired interiors and fine Southern Italian plates at onsite San Morello
Visiting Los Angeles?
PALM SPRINGS Getting there: 1.5 hours by car
After the boundless sprawl that is LA, compact Palm Springs feels very manageable indeed. Dropped in the Coachella Valley, just a 90-minute drive east, Palm Springs has a wonderfully retro vibe due to a preserved crop of glittering mid-century modern buildings. You won’t drive far without spotting a low-slung, glass-clad property, whether it is a smart boutique hotel or a city landmark such as the House of Tomorrow, where Elvis Presley famously honeymooned in 1967.
In the Downtown area, the Modernism Museum (psmodernismmuseum. com) opened last year and is a celebration of mid-century style, while vintage clothing stores and treasure-filled antique shops also honour the trends of yore. Superbloom (superbloom.world), meanwhile, bring things bang up to the 21st century, selling its signature range of colour-splashed clothing and accessories from a trendy storefront on North Palm Canyon Drive. Finally, the newly opened Spa at Séc-he Palm Springs (thespaatseche.com) allows visitors to bathe in hot spring water hailed for its healing properties which has long been sacred to the local Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla native Americans. J W Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa (marriott.com; rooms from £239) offers a lesson in luxury just outside the city in Palm Desert, with a giant pool, a golf course and gondola rides from the lobby
Visiting Las Vegas?
TRY SCOTTSDALE Getting there: 4.5 hours by car
Had your fill of slot machines? Then head to Scottsdale, a Sonoran Desert oasis less than five hours’ drive southeast of Vegas in Arizona – but a world away.
Begin at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve (mcdowellsonoran.org), which has some 225 miles of walking routes snaking into the desert, ranging from mellow walks to more challenging hikes into the McDowell Mountains. Another leg-testing ascent is the Pinnacle Peak Summit Trail – the 3.5-mile route takes you to and from Pinnacle Peak’s granite tip.
Follow a day on the trails with a day at one of the city’s chic spas. Treatments run the gamut from clay body wraps inspired by traditional indigenous practices to elaborate, multi-step rituals involving energy-cleansing sage smudges, rain showers and salt stone massages. Spend some time wandering Old Town Scottsdale, too: the quaint downtown is crammed full of curio shops, boutiques selling southwestern-style clothing and galleries filled with paintings inspired by the desert. Grab dinner at crowd-pleasing FnB (fnbrestaurant.com), which milks Arizona’s agricultural bounty to create a menu of imaginative, veg-forward plates with world influences.
Four Seasons Scottsdale (fourseasons. com; rooms from £684) has a glittering spa and elevated dining, from ceviche at poolside Saguaro Blossom to steak at Talavera, with epic desert views
Getting there: 3 hours 45 minutes by car
This dual Georgia escape combines one of the United States’ mightiest metropolises with a good dose of small Southern city charm. It is less than a four-hour drive from buzzing Atlanta – which has mega attractions such as a giant CocaCola museum and the poignant National Center for Civil and Human Rights – to Savannah, a Spanish-moss-cloaked jewel that has earned itself the moniker of the “Hostess City of the South”.
You can put that fabled hospitality to the test at Savannah’s fine restaurants and cocktail bars. A perennial favourite is Mrs Wilkes Dining Room (mrswilkes. com), which sees heaping plates of fried chicken, mash, mac and cheese and black-eyed beans served family style at giant round tables. Husk (husksavannah. com), meanwhile, which specialises in elevating classic Southern dishes, has become a destination, too.
Otherwise, the best thing to do in Savannah is to wander around – through the tightly-knit historic core, with its statue-studded squares and historic
cathedral; through oak-dotted Forsyth Park; and down by the Savannah River, where a 1912 power plant has been filled with restaurants, cocktail bars and a swish hotel. You will be within striking distance of the coast, too – spend the day on Tybee Island, a cheerful coastal community and barrier isle that has become known as “Savannah’s beach”. The new J W Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District (marriott.com; rooms from £208) has exposed-brick rooms, a string of restaurants and even a life-size replica dinosaur skeleton in the lobby Visiting Boston?
PROVIDENCE Getting there: 1 hour by car
Beantown is already loved for its palpable Revolutionary War history, but around an hour southwest of Boston is Rhode Island’s handsome city of Providence. The capital of the country’s smallest state is often overlooked, which is criminal – it offers plenty of history of its own, and on an even more manageable scale. Its art scene is especially robust, helped along by the Rhode Island School of Design, which is located in the city. The school’s own RISD Museum (risdmuseum.org) is replete with 18th-century furniture and ceramics, ancient antiquities and paintings by European masters, while the more offbeat Chazan Gallery (chazangallery.org) focuses on contemporary work.
When it comes to history, the John Brown House Museum (rihs.org) – once home to its namesake, a prominent merchant and slave trader – explores Rhode Island’s role in the American Revolution and in the institution of slavery. The food scene matches that of its Massachusetts cousin, too: delicacies from the Ocean State include clam cakes, lobster ravioli and Rhode Island chowder – try Persimmon (persimmonri. com) or the Matunuck Oyster Bar (rhodyoysters.com), a little out of town. The quirky Graduate Providence (graduatehotels.com; rooms from £166) dates back to 1922 and has sumptuous interiors befitting its historic shell
Visiting New Orleans?
If it isn’t the music that convinces you to stay in New Orleans – jazz pooling from charmingly ramshackle clubs, or brass bands on street corners – it will be the
Providence, the capital of Rhode Island state, is often overlooked – which is criminal food. Étouffée, gumbo, po’boys and sugar-heaped beignets are turned out everywhere from veteran whitetablecloth spots to legendary cafés.
The challenge, then, is to find a place that matches the Big Easy in spirit and soul – Lafayette, a city in the heart of Cajun and Creole country, is as close as it gets. The best way to get acquainted with the city is by visiting a dance hall – Southern Louisiana institutions where crowds perform the Cajun two-step to the croon of an accordion. Local favourites include La Poussiere (lapoussiere.com), over in nearby Breaux Bridge.
The city is also a jumping-off point for adventures on the vast Atchafalaya Basin, the largest river swamp in the United States, stitched with cypress trees and twitching with alligators. Atchafalaya Basin Landing and Swamp Tours (basinlanding.com) will get you out on the water. Another regional highlight is the Tabasco Brand Factory Tour and Museum (tabasco.com) on Avery Island, where you get a behindthe-scenes look at the production of Louisiana’s legendary hot sauce.
The boutique Juliet Hotel (juliethotels. com; rooms from £104) is right in the centre of town, with old-school interiors characterised by decorative columns and paisley furniture
Getting there: 1 hour 15 mins by plane,
or 3 hours by car
Florida’s final flourish, Key West is a rainbow-coloured town dangled at the end of the Florida Keys, the subtropical island chain that trails into the Gulf of Mexico.
Much of the action centres on Duval Street, which has an impressive amount of bars in a rather compact space – perennial favourites include longrunning dive bar Sloppy Joe’s (sloppyjoes.com). Sandwiched between the watering holes are laid-back restaurants and cafés (many plating up the ubiquitous key lime pie) and shops hawking surf gear and souvenirs. Writerly types will get a kick out of this town, too – this was the island home of Ernest Hemingway and you can tour his former house (hemingwayhome.com) and meet the resident six-toed cats – descendants of Hemingway’s own feline companions.
The Keys are defined by the water and no trip to the southernmost city in the US would be complete without a jaunt out on the ocean. Book an excursion with Honest Eco Tours (honesteco. org); expert guides take you in search of dolphins on an electric hybrid boat – hailed as the first of its kind to be certified by the US Coast Guard – with the chance to snorkel along the way.
With a stellar location right by the sea, Opal Key Resort and Marina (opalcollection.com; rooms from £238) is laid-back and family friendly, with a string of waterside restaurants to boot
TRY LOUISVILLE Getting there: 2 hours 45 mins by car
Whether on a honky-tonk hop on Broadway or catching a crooner at the Bluebird Cafe, it is easy to get sucked into Music City – but its central location means it is a perfect jumping-off point for many a Southern charmer.
Among them is Louisville, Kentucky’s largest city, where one of the finest sights in town is the Muhammad Ali Center (alicenter.org) – the boxing legend was a Louisville local and interactive exhibits spotlight his career and legacy. Just about on par with Louisville’s love for its most famous son is the city’s fondness for bourbon. About 95 per cent of all the bourbon produced in the US comes from Kentucky, and there are plenty of places to sip it here. The tours at distillery-cum-museum Evans William Bourbon Experience (evanwilliams.com) are fascinating, as is the offering at landmark Old Forester Distilling Co (oldforester.com), which claims to have produced the first bottled bourbon. There is also an impressive bourbon list at Doc Crow’s (doccrows.com), which doubles as a fine spot for lunch. Southern classics are on the menu here – whatever you order, be sure to get a side of hush puppies, deep-fried savoury balls.
The Grady (thegradyhotel.com; rooms from £241) wears its Kentucky identity on its sleeve – housed in an old apothecary, it features a stylish bar and artwork that takes cues from the state’s horse racing heritage
Getting there: 35 minutes by car,
or 55 minutes by train
Seattle is a gateway to the Pacific Northwest, with its wild (and underrated) national parks, sweeping forests and coffee-loving cities. It also benefits from a couple of West Coast Amtrak routes, including the Cascades train, which swoops down from Vancouver to Eugene, Oregon. It also joins Seattle with Tacoma, an attractive city on the Puget Sound estuary. Easy access to the great outdoors is Tacoma’s premier draw – it is just a 90-minute drive to Mount Rainier National Park, with its many hiking trails.
Back in town, Tacoma’s arts scene punches above its weight, and the Museum of Glass (museumofglass.org) is a good place to start – the excellent gallery has live glass-blowing demos and works by masters of the craft, such as Tacoma native Dale Chihuly. There are more treasures to be found at the Tacoma Art Museum (tacomaartmuseum.org), where a sizeable collection focuses on works from the Pacific Northwest, including contemporary indigenous art.
Hotel Murano (provenancehotels.com; rooms from £113), is a funky spot full of colourful glass artworks. Contemporary BITE and BAR960 are top spots for breakfast and a cocktail