Secret spots in the USA's best-loved cities
The Statue of Liberty, Beverly Hills, Bourbon Street – well-known and loved attractions in some of the USA's most popular cities. Equally enjoyable though is seeking out some of their hidden corners, here are our recommendations.
Look beyond the New York legends
By USA specialist Alex
Growing up near New York, I've visited the city many times, and I always aim to explore somewhere new every time I return. While popular spots such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty garner a lot of the attention, the area is home to some lesser-known attractions that are well worth seeking out. This past summer I fell in love with the High Line.
An old disused railroad spur that has been reinvented as a beautiful hanging garden, the High Line offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of central Manhattan. Best of all it's free to explore. Strewn with intricate sculptures and alternative local art projects, it runs from Gansevoort Street via Chelsea to the Lower West Side of Manhattan. The elevated nature of the park means you can enjoy views of the Hudson River along with the striking New York City skyline.
When you're ready for some lunch you can take a detour and visit Chelsea Market, just off West 16th Street. Tucked away in the Meatpacking District, the market is home to a fantastic range of culinary delights from local suppliers. From taco stands to artisan vinegar producers, there’s an abundance of delicious food waiting to be tasted.
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Uncover the Cuban hideaway of Little Havana, Miami
By USA specialist Matt
Miami is often known as a stylish beach destination, but my favourite place of this south Florida hub goes beyond the Art Deco boulevards and swanky hotels. It's the second sunniest city in America and the heat adds to the energy of this colourful and culturally diverse metropolis, which is home to a large Cuban population.
The sprawling neighbourhood of Little Havana is around 30 minutes from the beach. At its heart is Calle Ocho, where the streets are lined with small, sun-bleached cafés and bars, and the sound of salsa music spills out onto the sidewalk. There's plenty here to satisfy anybody with a curiosity for Central American culture, the smell of freshly rolled cigars lingering outside long enough to draw people in.
It's no surprise to find some of the island's best food, art and culture in Little Havana. I'd recommend heading to Versailles for dinner, where a large neon sign outside proclaims it to be "the world's most famous Cuban restaurant". I've enjoyed many hearty, soulful dishes here including sweet potato, ground beef and roast pork served with a freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.
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Explore the depths of architectural Chicago
By USA specialist Dave
Located on the southwestern edge of Lake Michigan, Chicago is a thriving metropolis that serves as the starting point for a number of trips around the country.
There are countless things to see and do in the Windy City. One of the best-known is a visit to the Skydeck at Willis Tower, where you can step outside the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere to look out over the city's gleaming skyline. I'd also recommend a stop at the renowned Route 66 sign, which signals the start of the 'Mother Road'.
One area, which is a must-see for architecture enthusiasts is Oak Park. This was the private residence and studio of architect Frank Lloyd Wright who spent the first 20 years of his career here. Using his home as an architectural laboratory, he tried out design concepts before sharing them with clients. The neighbourhood surrounding the historic 'Home and Studio' has the highest concentration of Wright buildings in the world.
Just a ten minute walk from the studio is another Chicago institution. Lou Milnati's Pizzeria is the home of the calorie-loaded deep dish pizza. Just one is enough to feed a family of four.
You'll find plenty of other examples of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, including Taliesin, Kentucky Knob, and the impressive Fallingwater, in the surrounding southern Great Lakes area and western Capitol Region.
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Discover the history of New Orleans
By USA specialist Alice
New Orleans has a varied history reflecting a melting pot of different cultures, including French, Spanish and Caribbean influences. The best place to begin exploring the city's past is the renowned French Quarter, home to the wrought iron balconies and street cocktails that New Orleans is so famous for.
But it's venturing beyond the bustle of Bourbon Street that reveals the city's hidden gems and a favourite spot of mine is Frenchmen Street where you'll find the best of the music scene. Locals pour out of underground jazz bars, and the sound of saxophones and gritty vocals fill the air as the night goes on. You'll also find other live music here, from country music to rhythm and blues, reflecting the diversity of the region.
I love escaping the crowds and sampling New Orleans' classic dishes, from gumbo and jambalaya to classic red beans and rice. One of the best ways to do this is with a hands-on cooking class, learning how to use the unique spices and flavours that make the cuisine of this city so delicious.
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Immerse yourself in the diverse culture of Portland
By USA specialist Emma
The culture of Portland epitomises the ultimate clash between the intellectual elite and those in search of peace and quiet: the hippies who migrated north in the 1970s. It sits in an idyllic location along the Columbia River Gorge and is home to vintage clothes shops, trendy coffee bars and the Pearl District, an area synonymous with new music.
The city is a great place to wander, and I'd recommend making a stop at the International Rose Test Garden, a pretty park lined with scented roses. The garden receives visitors from all over the world who come here to propagate their own new and unique type of rose. Also worth visiting is Powell's, the city's largest book store, which spans an entire block and sells old and new books.
Food is a large part of any visit to Portland and there's plenty of choice. You will never go hungry here with the wealth of locally grown food served out of converted vintage Volkswagen campervans. I also remember sitting outside on a city street that was closed to traffic because of an excess of picnic benches and fairy lights, munching on the local delicacy, a voodoo donut.
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Expose the other side of Los Angeles
By USA specialist Alex
Most people are familiar with the city's glamorous celebrity haunts of Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica Beach, but there are plenty of enticing places away from the spotlight for those seeking quieter alternatives.
My favourite place to spend the day is the lesser-known Manhattan Beach, just south of Santa Monica. Here you can hire bikes for the day and take a peaceful ride along a cycle path that cuts right through the sand. Along the route there are a number of beach huts that serve quintessentially American food, from massive omelettes and frittatas to pancakes with maple syrup. Park up outside and watch the local surfers catching waves as you refuel.
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