The Best Places to Live & Explore…
For Every Lifestyle


Cultural Centers: 10 of America’s Best

Category: Cultural

By Shannon Keating

Cultural capitals are such marvelous places to live because by their very definition, they have something for everyone. These cities teem with fast-paced and wild nightlife for those who like glamorous adventure. Artsy types will find solace among some of the best stationary and traveling art collections in the world. Lovers of music get a chance to experience world-class opera, jazz, rock and pop on a weekly basis. Perhaps best of all, there is always something exciting around every corner, whether it’s a guided walking tour or a continuing education class at a local school.

While the United States offers a broad, eclectic array of fascinating cultural towns, below are our top ten very favorites, best places to live for culture.


1. New York, New York An obvious but necessary addition to our list, New York is arguably the cultural capital of the world. From the artsy enclaves of Williamsburg to the ritzy glamor of the upper East side, New York runs the entire cultural gamut. Broadway, famously beautiful parks, restaurants for every taste and budget, and more museums than you could visit in a month – the Big Apple has it all.
2. Washington, D.C. This cultural capital doubles as the nation’s capital. An electric, intriguing blend of collegiate academia from some of America’s top colleges, political pep, historical splendor and fabulous nightlife, D.C. is an endlessly interesting city. A great collection of extraordinary museums, from the Smithsonian to the National Aquarium, provide educational fun year-round (and many of them, like the Hirshhorn, are free!). History buffs will be ridiculously happy here. The city streets are beautiful and clean. While it is on the expensive end, D.C. is a fabulous town for culture.
3. Chicago, Illinois A friendly, charming Midwestern town with a cosmopolitan twist, Chicago is a cultural mecca. The art-gallery-dotted community is picturesque and strewn with lovely parks, while it is also a commercial and industrial haven. The Art Institute of Chicago is just one example of culture at its finest. Living here is very manageable with a top-tier public transport system. Shopping and sports are both excellent here, while the prestigious University of Chicago adds an intellectual and cultural boost to an already lively community.
4. Charleston, South Carolina For a dose of Southern-style culture, consider “The Holy City,” undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Charleston is filled with romantic, moss-draped Spanish oaks that line a mix of classic and eclectic streets. Charming town squares give the city a sense of homey, close community. History blooms around every corner. Charleston offers a little something of everything: lovely beaches, great museums (including the first in the Americas), preserved old plantations, chic art galleries and fun cafes.

5. San Diego, California Home to one of the world’s finest and most beloved zoos, there is plenty more to love about cultural life in San Diego. Theater and dance here are strong. The neighborhood of La Jolla, chic and exclusive, offers a wide range of great restaurants, galleries and shops. Waterfront splendor and the impactful University of California – San Diego add to the vast array of cultural highlights here.

6. Santa Fe, New Mexico Famous for its unique art and music scene, Santa Fe is a cultural gem nestled amongst the scenic and adventurous terrain of the Rocky Mountains. Canyons and gorges below complete the scene. The Spanish and Native American history here is both exquisite and immaculately preserved. Enjoy a wide variety of entertainment in its signature outdoor amphitheater, over a dozen museums, hundreds of fabulous art galleries, and a Georgia O’Keefe museum.
7. Seattle, Washington The cultural highlight of the northwest, Seattle is a walkable waterside city with everything from museums to dance to symphonies. Seattle has a soft spot for the literary life, the bookstores here are fabulous, and its new and gigantic City Library is the envy of every city in the world. The University of Washington, one of the nation’s top public universities, keeps Seattle young – the average age is only 36. Peruse the many art museums here, go see the opera, and enjoy international festivals involving film, theater and more throughout the year.
8. Houston, Texas Boasting the unofficial yet prestigious title of cultural capital of Texas, Houston’s museum district alone attracts over seven million visitors every year. This district is hardly alone in cultural excellence; the downtown theater district hosts six performance halls as well as nine major performing arts organizations. If museums and theater aren’t as much your thing, try science: Houston is nicknamed the Space City, since it’s home to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.
9. Denver, Colorado Perched among the majestic Rockies, the Mile High City has plenty of culture quirks. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is a favorite. One of the city’s claims to fame is its fabulous theater; the Denver Performance Art Center is the second largest in the country. A tax specifically for Science and Culture help fund various projects throughout the city. The music scene here is active and varied, while the Botanical Gardens add to the extensive natural beauty.
10. Boston, Massachusetts  The city of the American revolution is a famously liberal and immensely historical cultural hotspot. Many of the streets are still cobblestone, making them both easily and enjoyably walkable, with various pieces of history strewn along almost every route. The Boston Arts Festival is a must-attend event. International musicians are always guaranteed to fly through Boston at least once a year. The T, Boston’s mass transit system, is just as reassuringly simple and efficient as you’ve heard. Restaurants and nightlife here are top-notch, especially since Boston is the quintessential American university town.

Small town cultural meccas.  You don’t necessarily have to be a big-city to be a world class cultural city, e.g. Santa Fe above. Other, smaller cultural capitals include Ashland, Oregon and its world famous Shakespeare Festival; Claremont, California with its 7 colleges; Sarasota, Florida and its many museums and performance theatres like the Asolo; not to mention so many college towns like Pittsburgh, PA that are filled with non-stop cultural opportunities.

While these ten are a fabulous assortment, there are plenty more cultural centers with unique and diverse elements. Check out our cultural centers in Florida, cultural centers in Oregon, and cultural centers in California for more great listings, or use our navigation to find the hotspots in your favorite state.

This “Best Retirement Places for the Arts” provides more ideas by type of art (sculpture, etc.). And so does its “Best Towns for Bookstores” feature.

Comments? Please leave your suggestions for the best places to live for culture below!

Posted by admin on December 3rd, 2011

Comments (0)
Entries (RSS) & Comments (RSS)

No Comments »

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.