1. Birmingham, AlabamaBirmingham’s
tumultuous past may have earned it a place in the history books, but it’s the present that’s keeping it there. Industrial pioneers founded the city, 1960s Civil Rights pioneers launched the nation’s desegregation movement here, and today, cultural and culinary pioneers are leading the way, with innovative theater, museums, and restaurants – don’t miss the baked grits at Highlands Bar & Grill.
Where to stayGrand Bohemian Hotel
- This landmark property, one of the state’s premier luxury boutique hotels, is more than just a place to rest your head – it also features the luxurious Poseidon Spa, an art gallery, a cooking school, wine-blending classes and a seasonal restaurant, Habitat Feed & Social. Opened in 2015, the hotel overlooks the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and has snazzy, contemporary rooms with marble bathrooms.
What to do
Get acquainted with an important part of the history of the city and the nation as a whole, on a 3-hour guided Civil Rights Tour
2. Sitka, Alaska
The best of Alaska
converges on seaside Sitka
. There’s nature: the mighty Mount Edgecombe, a collection of windswept islands, whale-watching, and kayaking. It has a fascinating history: a rich Russian legacy, presided over by a beautiful Russian Orthodox church. Plus there’s some serious small-town charm by way of an old-fashioned downtown peppered with cozy bars. Best of all, Sitka has smartly managed to stay off the cruise-ship trail. Here, locals still outnumber visitors.
Where to staySitka Hotel
- This newly renovated, historic hotel offers a touch of old- fashioned style with some rooms offering harbour views. An in-house restaurant serves up delicious local seafood.
3. Tucson, Arizona
Quintessential Southwest, Tucson is a vibrant blend of Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures. Tucson has escaped the bulldozers of modernity (see Phoenix) by determinedly preserving its historic architecture, which is crowned by the glowingly white Mission San Xavier del Bac, the oldest European structure in Arizona. The University of Arizona lends a youthful air to the city, while the Mexican restaurants bring spice and flair (and very good margaritas).
Where to stayHotel Congress
- Central, bohemian hotel, a short walk from Amtrak and Greyhound, with vintage Art Deco furnishings. Forty plain en-suite guest rooms, with loud music and dancing at night
What to do
Combine the fun of the Amazing Race with a 3-hour Tucson scavenger hunt
. Smartphone-guided teams solve clues and challenges while learning about the history of the downtown area.
4. Little Rock, Arkansas
Unfolding on the banks of the Arkansas River, this forward-thinking state capital offers an inviting foray into the New South. Delve into the life and times of Bill Clinton at the Clinton Presidential Center and Park, roam the premier Arkansas Art Center, feast on creative Southern cuisine, and then walk it off on the city’s riverfront trails.
Where to stayRosemont B&B Cottages
- Bill Clinton was a regular visitor at this luxurious, powder-pink inn with sophisticated guest quarters, breakfasts made from locally sourced ingredients, a relaxing veranda and a manicured garden good for coffee and a paper.