QUICK NOTE: I don't mean to leave out Mexico, but I have only been to a small part of it (near the border!). So, like Europe, Mexico still is on my travel "Wish List."
So here are:
THE 10 BEST CITIES
IN NORTH AMERICA
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
San Diego has one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. Standing on the harbor, the marina or the beach is just amazing with its powerful view of the Pacific Ocean. In addition to the view, San Diego boasts some of the best sites California's rich history has to offer from Mission San Diego (California's FIRST Mission) to Coronado Island to the world famous San Diego Zoo (always worth a visit!).
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA
The only Canadian city on the list (Sorry Canada!), Vancouver, as most people learned recently from the 2010 Winter Olympics, has so much to offer. What I love about Vancouver is that it is so urban in its feel (it has one of the best skylines!) with gorgeous gardens to boot. And yet, you look slightly to the north or to the east and you are blown away by the majestic glory of the North Shore Mountains. Plus, it is merely a hop, skip and a ferry ride away from the beautiful Victoria Island which features Victoria, British Columbia's capital city.
Each time I have been to the City of Brotherly Love, I have had a good time (and I'm including the great time I had during a lay-over at the Philadelphia International Airport!). Of course, for me (a history buff), the best part of the city was going to Independence Hall and seeing the site of the Second Continental Congress (where the Declaration of Independence was signed people!). I also loved stepping outside and viewing the ORIGINAL Liberty Bell (with its crack!). There are many other great things in Philly including the Philadelphia Museum of Art (whose outside steps were famously featured in the 1976 Oscar winner Rocky).
As a fan of The Wizard of Oz, Seattle is the closest to "the Emerald City" that I will ever get. From the awe-inspiring view atop the world famous Seattle Space Needle to the hustle and bustle of Pike's Market to the many many many coffee shops, the city always seems to have its finger on the pulse of the generations (maybe thanks to the University of Washington being right there!). After all, it IS the birthplace of Starbucks, Microsoft and grunge music (three things that helped define MY generation!).
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
It may not be the most economically sound choice to be on a tourist's "To-Do" list, but the beautiful desert city is worth at least one visit in your lifetime. If for nothing else, then to go for a walk down Sin City's infamous Strip, which features some of the most amazing and glorious hotels EVER! My personal favorites include the large MGM Grand, the dynamic Venetian, the delightful Paris, the gorgeous Bellagio (with its dancing fountains!) and, of course, the brilliant New York New York (but we'll get to the why on that one soon!).
WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
This city has always been on my "Love It Or Hate It" list (usually depending on WHO is in the White House or in Congress at the time!). But despite my "indecision" on the brilliance of the city, my DC experiences have been enjoyable and have made me a better person for them. In addition to the fantastic National Mall, which features most of the amazing Smithsonian Museums as well as the many monuments and memorials (Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, etc.), the city boasts several sites worth taking a look at. A few of my favorites include the Arlington National Cemetery, the National Cathedral, Ford's Theatre and the Holocaust Memorial Museum (which is still one of the most powerful and touching experiences I have ever been privileged to have).
I have only been to Chicago once (twice if you count a lay-over at O'Hare!), but I want to go back and go back soon! I'm sure I didn't see enough of the phenomenal city that one time, but I sure did see a lot. Union Station and Downtown Chicago (and the glory that is the Sears Tower) was exciting enough for that first moment in the city. Then there was Grant Park (which I was lucky enough to stay across the street from!). Going to the Art Institute of Chicago (one of the best Art Museums in the country!) as well as Museum Campus (which features the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium) was one the greatest days in my life and I thank the city of Chicago for that immense pleasure. And NO, I am not kissing up to Oprah or the President!
I LOVE Boston! No, seriously, Boston is my "go-to" getaway anytime I need a vacation. There is not one thing I dislike about this city (and I can ONLY say that about 2 other cities!). The Freedom Trail (which begins at Boston Common and ends at the USS Constitution) is a fantastic way to spend the day. The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum is amazing (especially for me as my parents and grandparents LOVED him!). And talk about a college town! When you have Harvard and MIT and Boston College and Boston University, what more do you need? And for all you Baseball fans, you MUST take a tour of Fenway Park and its Green Monster.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
As I said, only 2 cities have ever beaten the hold that Boston has over me. And one of them is the most personal city on this list. After all, it is home to Ghirardelli chocolates, Sweet sourdough bread and ME! Okay, so I live in a suburb of the City by the Bay, but every time I get into the city I am enthralled. I love to walk down Fisherman's Wharf or shop around Union Square. I also love the beauty of Golden Gate Park and crazy turns of Lombard Street. And then I just love to stand outside of City Hall in Civic Center Plaza and stare at the beautiful dome (what other City Hall has a dome, really?!?). There's always something new for me to discover in the city that I love to call my home (whether I really live there or not!).
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
If you're going to top my Golden City, then you gotta go BIG and there is nothing BIGGER than the Big Apple. What can I say about New York City that no one else has ever said? Whether you are enjoying the animals at the Bronx Zoo or strolling through Central Park or delighting in the history of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, the City that Never Sleeps always has something going on (where do you think the name came from?). What are this Broadway Baby's favorite things in NYC? My top three would have to be: 3) The artist hangouts in Greenwich Village around NYU; 2) The Museum of Natural History which is a MUST for everyone! and 1) The magnificent glory that is Times Square and the Theatre District (what else?!?).
These are my 10 favorite cities in North America (and believe me the list goes on!). Next week, I will devote 10 FAVORITES to a very special Birthday boy!