Five low key American destinations

Glendale will be getting a lot of love next week when the city hosts the 2015 Super Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium.  But if you’re not a NFL aficionado, leave the Arizona city to the athletes and their fans and check out these five intriguing yet underrated US cities

 

Chicago
“It’s my kind of town”. So sang Sinatra, of Chicago, back in 1964. Old Blue Eyes wasn’t wrong: nowhere beats Chicago – both metaphorically and literally (it’s the home of the skyscraper). The Windy City is one of those rare places that looks stunning at any time of year: it boasts art and culture, professional sports, world class museums, hip hotels and restaurants plus the sort of energy that only a city has. Little wonder then for many who come, Chicago immediately becomes their favourite American metropolis. True it’s a long way to go, but then then finest things in life are not always the easiest to achieve.

Fort Worth
Cowtown – as Fort Worth is often referred to – maybe just 30 miles down the road from Dallas but it’s a world away from Big D’s bright lights and big hotels. Make the Downtown district – home to the newly developed 55,000 square foot Sundance Square Plaza – your first Fort Worth port of call. When savvy urbanites close their eyes and dream of the perfect urban neighbourhood, chances are it looks a lot like Downtown with its cool, independent boutiques. But much of Fort Worth’s appeal lies in the famed Stockyards National Historic District: don’t miss the daily cattle drive. Saddle up and go now (when the weather is less stifling than in the scorching high summer months) before everyone else wises up…

Lafayette
Lafayette - aka the heartbeat of Acadiana - has a strong sense of character. It’s brimming with one off boutiques like Parish Ink - a shop set up by siblings Bram and Jillian Johnson selling quirky t-shirts – and independent cafes and restaurants (Lafayette is regularly voted one of the tastiest towns in the south). Lafayette isn’t all about food, it’s also a hotspot of music – where festivals fill up the calendar including the annual Zydecco festival and Black Pot Festival. Make no mistake: locals love their music and can be found crowding into hip bars such as the Blue Moon Saloon listening to bands into the wee small hours, even on a school night.

Salem
The seaside port city is only 30 minutes away from bustling Boston by train, but Salem – with its cobblestone streets chock full of old clapboard homes and quaint shops feels like another world. Salem is the site where the colony of Massachusetts was first established in 1629 but it is the outrageous witch trials of 1692 that catapulted the town onto the world stage. Yet while this small seaport is powerfully linked with its witch history, there’s more to Salem than witches. I enjoyed immersing myself in novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne’s stories at the House of Seven Gables. America’s oldest wooden mansion was made famous by the American author in his 1851 novel of the same name.

Santa Cruz
Looked around LA? Lost your heart in San Francisco? Seek out Santa Cruz - a small yet lively, Californian beach town recognised as the world’s fourth surfing reserve. The pros ride world class breaks off Steamers Lane but if, you’ve never set foot on a board before, Cowell’s Beach (where the waves and thus wipeouts are gentler) is arguably the best place to get schooled in the ‘sport of kings’. Back on shore the big attraction is the famous 1907 Santa Cruz Boardwalk that appeared in The Lost Boys. When you’ve screamed your head off on the wooden 1924 roller coaster, one of the best things to do is to stroll and people watch along Pacific Avenue. It’s here that Santa Cruz’s strong 1960s spirit pervades: expect to see laid back hippies, stoners and shops selling ‘Keep Santa Cruz Weird’ bumper stickers.