Many people have a list of places they’d like to visit before they move on to the next world; here are a few American suggestions of my own.
For conversation’s sake, I have avoided the obvious targets, but a stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge or a trip up the Empire State Building is still definitely worth it.
Though we are lucky to live in a beautiful country, I have focused on smaller, man-made locales, simply because a catalog of pretty American places could stretch on forever.
This list is admittedly subjective, but it comes from three decades of professional wandering. Some places are more well-known than others, but all share a sense of tranquility and wonder.
Montana’s Madison Valley, which runs between the Madison and Gallatin ranges down to West Yellowstone, is magnificent Lewis and Clark territory.This is unspoiled land, vast and uncompromising – everything you hope Big Sky Country will look like.
Famously painted by Georgia O’Keefe and described by her as “one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards,” this handsome adobe mission outside of Taos Pueblo yokes together a staggering five centuries of American history.
At its whaling peak during the first half of the 19th century, the small island of Nantucket had 88 ships scattered across the oceans. The Whaling Museum is wonderfully evocative of this era (plenty of scrimshaw and rusty harpoons), and out-of-season Nantucket Town, with its Greek Revival mansions and cobblestone streets, is equally enchanting.
The historic Battery District of Charleston, South Carolina, home to dozens of stately antebellum mansions, is one of the prettiest American neighborhoods I’ve ever explored. Follow the promenade along the shores of the Charleston peninsula; Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, sits broodingly across the Cooper River.
Housed in a charming Venetian-style palazzo, this gem of a gallery displays works by Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Whistler and Sargent. It’s small enough to tour in an hour or so and you can spend the rest of your time enjoying the sunny, flower-filled courtyard. And if your name happens to be Isabella, you get in free.
If you had to choose only one restaurant in New York City to visit, the Four Seasons Restaurant would be the one. The city’s prettiest dining room was designed by architects Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, and astutely hasn’t been touched since its introduction in 1959. The Pool Room is a study in muted sophistication, despite some of the outsized egos at the tables.
Editors' note: The iconic Four Seasons Restaurant is set to close on July 16, but the owners have found space at 280 Park Avenue, between 48th and 49th streets. No word on when the new location will open.
This small, non-denominational chapel located just off the Menil Collection in Houston’s Museum District seems unassuming at first, but spend some time surrounded by the 14 mysterious paintings by Mark Rothko, and it may start sinking into your skin.
Mr. Huntington did quite well in railroads and he’s left us with a wonderful afternoon escape just outside of Los Angeles. After admiring some of the spoils of his industry – a Gutenberg Bible, a Shakespeare folio, Thomas Gainsborough’s “The Blue Boy” – venture out into the superb botanical gardens, home to dozens of unique environments: an almost eerily authentic Japanese garden, a lily pond straight out of a Monet painting, and an entrancing collection of cacti.
The Robie House, the world’s first modern home, was designed in 1908 by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and still seems startlingly contemporary 100 years later; with its broad horizontal lines and sleek art glass windows, it looks like a modernist yacht. Wright himself showed up to protest the planned demolition of the house (it was to be replaced by a seminary dormitory) at the ripe old age of 90.
Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast swerves through 360 miles of jagged cliffs, rocky outcrops, sweeping dunes and temperate rain forests. The coastline lacks deep harbors so there are no large cities here – just old logging towns, fishing villages and the occasional artist colony. And the entire coast is public land which makes for excellent picnic opportunities in rugged and remote spaces.