Within the borders of the United States, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of versions of the country. Each of these versions contributes a critical piece to the ever-evolving ensemble. If you’re like most modern travelers, you don’t just want to see the highlights of a particular place; you’ll want to experience it like a local. Art, culture, and music help represent the people who inhabit a place. If that sounds interesting to you, you’ll have a lot to discover in this list of the nine outstanding cultural sites in the United States.
Although some American destinations are undergoing a modern cultural evolution, others continue to build on a deeply rooted past.
For example, on a trip to Washington, D.C. you’ll get a glimpse of contemporary life from the people who allowed government to move forward, as well as those who helped establish the nation’s capital in 1790. Today, on a trip to D.C., you’ll see some of the oldest buildings and landmarks in the country, such as The White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the United States Capitol. Alongside these establishments, you can find the various museums and exhibits that depict the cultural upheavals, revolutions, and many influences that have always been a part of the American narrative. A list of those select locations begins with the National Portrait Gallery, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Charleston, South Carolina
Another destination that connects history and culture is one of America’s oldest cities: Charleston, South Carolina.
Founded in 1670, this seaside town is an Instagrammer’s dream. Here you’ll find quaint cobblestone streets, pre-Civil War architecture, and a unique South Coast vibe. History is deeply rooted in Charleston, which served as the setting for much of the American Revolutionary War and Civil War, ending with the Union’s capture of Charleston. Today, Charleston is known for its relatively progressive population, burgeoning arts scene, and world-class food and beverage offerings. The best way to explore the city is on foot. You can find Charleston’s coolest galleries on Board Street, its best restaurants are on East Bay Street, its shopping mecca is on King Street, and historic buildings abound. places like Chalmers Street (Chalmers Street) and Church Street (Church Street).
Further south, immerse yourself in the Caribbean with a trip to Puerto Rico.
This island offers a cultural experience on its own. Here indigenous, Spanish and Caribbean influences are combined to give life to rich and lively forms of dance, music and gastronomy. Visit La Placita for fresh fruit and vegetables during the day, and some of the best dancing on the island at night. Puerto Rico is also known for its various festivals, stunning Caribbean scenery, delicious food, and historical footprint. You can experience all of the above in Old San Juan, where you can wander the beautiful and colorful streets of Casco Antiguo, a national historic site filled with buildings dating back to the 16th century. While you’re there, explore Castillo San Felipe del Morro, also known as “El Morro,” an epic citadel built between the 16th and 18th centuries facing San Juan Bay.
Palm Springs, Calif.
Other American destinations pride themselves on their modern cultural identities, blending the idiosyncrasies of the locals with quirky local features.
For example, Palm Springs, once a retirement community, is now known for its mid-century architecture and modern art scene. Nine cities make up the Greater Palm Springs area, which is home to a wide variety of architecture and art festivals, as well as many murals and public art installations. Adding to the area’s cultural offerings is the world-famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which typically brings its immersive music and creative experiences to the Coachella Valley for two weeks in April, although in 2020 the festival will take place in October.
Further north, in Portland, Oregon, the city’s motto calls for “Keep Portland Weird.” This city offers a unique mix of its edgy, spontaneous and eclectic communities, enjoying cycling, coffee shops, progressive ideas and punk music.
In Portland, you can find a wide variety of artwork at the Portland Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Craft, as well as iconic music venues like the Aladdin Theater and the Crystal Ballroom. Another distinctive feature of Portland is its bike-friendly environment in the city. With its dedicated bike lanes and many biking trails, you can see the city on two wheels on the Sellwood Bridge Loop, the Big Eastside Loop, and many others.