My favorite big cities

I always wanted to live in a big city, the kind where big things were happening, and even when I was in high school, people were telling me that’s where I should be. But, oh my, my life’s gone in quite another direction!

So here are ten I’ve experienced, all in North America.

  1. Boston: For more than three decades, I lived an hour to the north and came to know it well. The fact it’s so pedestrian friendly makes it unique, in my mind. Much of it has a small-town feel, especially when you add in all of the suburbs that retain their original, Colonial-era, village roots. Besides, even I have come to appreciate that Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins regional identity.
  2. San Francisco: One visit, and it’s still love, though way out of my budget these days. We had a cheap place where we slept in sleeping bags. I now think of it as being somewhat like Boston, in a hip West Coast incarnation.
  3. Baltimore: I lived there for three years and know it can be Charm City, with a character all its own. It took me a while to readjust later to Boston.
  4. Cincinnati: A great place for classical music. Still is, from everything I see. Other than that, not quite so big as I remember, though Procter & Gamble, Macy’s, and Kroger are all headquartered there. I grew up an hour to the north, where everybody was a Reds’ fan.
  5. Chicago: Let’s start with the art museum, with all of its muscular heft, matching the city. Or the two years I worked for the Tribune, out on the road, and came in for conferences at the paper. Yes, I have stories!
  6. Seattle: For four years, it was my closest metropolis, back when everybody was worried it was going to go the way of San Francisco and lose its intimate charm. These days, I doubt I would know it all.
  7. Cleveland: For three years in my life, this was two hours away in one direction. Despite being the butt of a lot of bad jokes, the city was once the home to some of the nation’s leading industrialists, John D. Rockefeller among them. The art museum is definitely one of the nation’s top five, and admission is free. For genealogists, the Western Reserve Historical Society’s library is a mecca. The town as a whole has made quite a turnaround, though the Browns are another matter.
  8. Pittsburgh: And this was two hours away in the other direction. We usually headed for the university district.
  9. New York: I lived Upstate for a few years, plus a few more out in the Poconos, and during that time most of my friends were from The City. I’ve even spent the night in all five of the city’s boroughs, often in a sleeping bag, something few of the natives can claim. I know there’s a lot more than Manhattan.
  10. Washington, D.C.: Living up the road in Baltimore gave me repeated opportunities to zip down for a few hours, especially since one of my best friends lived there. There are still tons of the big attractions I never quite visited, though. I can tell you about the genealogical files at the National Archive, however, or the greenhouses at the National Cathedral, that sort of thing, and I still admire the subway system.


I still recall Montreal with wonder, from a trip back in the early ’60s. Someday, I hope, I’ll get back. And there are the repeated tastes of Philadelphia, enough to know I’ve missed much.


OK, your turn to tout a big city. What’s your favorite? Or one I’ve missed?

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