With so many metropolitan cities dotting the map across the continental U.S. there are seemingly endless options for great food and nightlife, regardless of where your vacation or business trip brings you. The obvious cosmopolitan destinations of New York City and Los Angeles are always worth the trip and are certain to satisfy your cravings for culture, but they are so vast they each deserve a dedicated post. Instead, here are some of our favorite urban centers across the states and a quick look into some of their best offerings:
Deep in the heart of Texas flanked by rolling hills and clear swimming holes sits the capital of the Lone Star State. Austin is a vibrant and outdoorsy city known for its love of live music and quirky take on the cowboy spirit.
Dine – From classy cuisine to unbeatable barbecue, Austin is full of great dining options. Justine's Brasserie is a local favorite with classic French fare and a hip vibe catering to a late-night scene where you’ll run into some well-known musicians.
Franklin Barbeque boasts some of the best barbecue in the known universe and is a true taste of Texas. Wu Chow is a farm-to-table take on Hong Kong street fare offering great eats and a trendy atmosphere.
Drink – Austin is home to some of the best and longest running music festivals in the world. The annual South by Southwest takes over the town every spring and is a nonstop party with musicians outnumbering tourists and live music coming from every corner. Sixth Street is the main drag downtown where you can find countless bars and venues. The famous “Austin City Limits” TV show has turned into an epic festival that brings some of the world’s top acts to town every fall.
Discovery – Set in the beautiful hill country of central Texas with a cool calm river flowing through its heart, Austin has many options for nature outings and sightseeing. Barton Springs is the local swimming hole sure to cool you down on a hot summer day. Zilker Park sits on the shores of the Colorado River, and it is a great way to walk around the city or to escape the afternoon under the shade of an old oak tree.
San Francisco, California
With a storied past and a unique blend of tech-metropolis and counterculture, San Francisco is as California as it gets. The iconic Golden Gate Bridge crowns this city by the bay, and its allure is obvious to any who have visited.
Dine – Endless options can be found here as SF has some of the best cuisine in the world. Birdsong is an upscale classic with one of the best tasting menus in the city. Fog Harbor Fish House is a mainstay of Pier 39 and at the heart of the harbor scene. Chabaa Thai has some of the best Thai food this side of the Pacific and often has a line around the block.
Drink – DNA Lounge has three dance floors and screams SF nightlife. Vertigo often has one of the best international scenes if you’re from far away and looking to feel at home. Raven Bar is equal parts speakeasy, lounge and dance floor making it an ideal night-out destination.
Discovery – The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a must-see for any art lover. The Fillmore is a renowned theater that has hosted countless legendary concerts over the last 100 years. The Marin Headlands Park sits across the Golden Gate Bridge on the mainland and is full of beautiful beaches and soaring redwood trees.
The heart of the South isn’t always touted as a cultural or worldwide destination, but this metropolis in the magnolias should be visited by all. With hundreds of restaurants, music venues of all types and the largest and busiest airport in the U.S., Atlanta is often off the radar but always alive.
Dine - Umi has phenomenal modern Japanese food and claims the best sushi in the South. Miller Union is run by a James Beard Award-winning chef and serves creative Southern plates. Nana G’s will fill your belly and make you smile with the best chicken and waffles you can find.
Drink – The Kimball House is a stylish and unique establishment that will make you feel at home in a different era. Porter Beer Bar offers a wide range of unique beers, wines and spirits sure to satisfy even the pickiest of palates.
Discovery – Piedmont Park is the South’s version of Central Park and filled with many trails and thriving botanical gardens. There are numerous historical tours of the city which offer a great look at the architectural and colonial past of the region.
Written by Caleb Summeril