May is here, bringing us one step closer to summer. This issue of American Lifestyle is full of fun ideas for the season: you'll get a closer look at some of the nation's most unique public artwork, a list of the top American cities to live in, two scrumptious Italian recipes, and information on a mysterious and surprisingly fun way to travel.
America is home to many natural wonders, including the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. However, its large-scale artwork can be equally as jaw-dropping. You’re not going to want to miss the enclosed guide to six of the most unique, thought-provoking public murals and sculptures in the country.
Deciding where to live in the United States is never an easy task, especially considering the sheer number of beautiful cities, towns, and villages. If you’re thinking of packing up and moving, check out the enclosed list of cities that are considered the best of the best.
Recipes are a great way to explore not only new cuisines but also new cultures. Inside you’ll find two Tuscan-inspired recipes that are sure to become summer favorites.
If planning a summer vacation seems like a daunting task, then a surprise-destination vacation may just be for you. Lillian Rafson, CEO of travel agency Pack Up + Go, offers a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s mystery-vacation services.
Here’s to a memorable and exciting season! As always, it’s a pleasure to send you this magazine.
The splendor of America’s landmarks has gained worldwide recognition, and it’s no great wonder why. Our nation includes such impressive sights as the impossibly large Grand Canyon, the pristine beaches of Hawaii, and the always iconic Empire State Building. But sprinkled within our cities are public sculptures and murals so compelling that they too deserve attention, an encounter, or even a dedicated visit.
Commissioned for Denver’s Cole-Clayton 39th Avenue Greenway, Eastgate spans a major roadway, forming a celebratory entrance to the recreational grounds and protected waterways that unfold to its west. Artist DeWitt Godfrey constructed this piece in 2021 to resemble a grand ribbon of steel that appears industrial yet strangely organic. As Denver Public Art explains, this sculpture “is grounded in responding to the environment of the physical site, the abstract geometry of the natural world, and community engagement.” Its construction also retells Denver’s pivotal role in America’s railway development. Eastgate is an optimal spot for visitors to take in the city’s urban structures and natural beauty, which this massive art-as-architecture piece frames perfectly.
The Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers divide at the feet of this majestic American Indian figure, which presides over the city of Wichita. Made of forty-four feet of steel atop a carved rock pedestal, this figure honors the sacred lands of the native people and reflects on Wichita’s complex, storied history. If you’re eager to view this impressive sculpture, you can take photos from one of the various bridges and lookouts spanning across the two rivers. For an immersive and majestic experience, join onlookers at the foot of the sculpture at 9:00 p.m., when various water features flow and the Ring of Fire around the titular Keeper ignites.
This dynamic depiction of acclaimed writer Edgar Allan Poe walking through the streets of Boston accompanied by a huge raven is appropriately grim for the author’s work. “With a trunk full of ideas and worldwide success, he is finally coming home,” writes the sculpture’s artist, Stefanie Rocknak, on the accompanying plaque. Across the street from the famous Boston Common, this site is also the perfect marker of one’s arrival at Edgar Allan Poe Square—a promenade rich with art.
While many adore the fine craftsmanship of Poe Returning to Boston, others speculate about the subject’s warily fearful expression. Lori Goldstein of the Public Art Archive notes that this piece “harkens to the writer’s complicated sentiments towards his hometown” and tells a story of Poe’s fascinating legacy. The statue may intrigue spectators to learn more about Poe’s personal story and the art history of one of America’s oldest major cities.
If the sumptuousness of Las Vegas doesn’t appeal to you, look no further than the Seven Magic Mountains art piece located about half an hour south of Sin City. A vibrant sculpture set against the starkness of the Mojave Desert, these towering, multicolored stacks of boulders built by artist Ugo Rondinone represent the human presence in a natural landscape. Standing beside the bustling Interstate 15, you could very well comprehend its unusual balance of technology and nature. Visitors are encouraged to park and walk through the grounds to examine these colorful towers that extend over thirty feet into the desert sky.
The stellar frontman of the Walker Art Center’s magnificent art collection, Spoonbridge and Cherry is as amusing as it is iconic in Minneapolis itself. Spanning over fifty feet, this aluminum-and-stainless-steel sculpture depicts a ripe, red cherry set precariously on the tip of a silver spoon, as if a titan figure were to scoop it up for a bite. Even more eccentric, the stem of the cherry is a fountain that streams water into the pond below. Artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen erected this piece to be the quirky centerpiece of the Walker’s Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, adding levity to both the more serious art surrounding it and the business district looming in the background. This piece has since become a local favorite for its subtle humor and originality.
New York City’s generous Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) system connects visitors to such famous settings as Times Square and Central Park. But when you’re taking a ride on one of its trains, set aside time to enjoy the journey itself. Fine art by acclaimed artists and up-and-coming names alike lines stations and platforms throughout the city.
Patricia Walsh of Americans for the Arts calls the MTA Arts & Design Program “just one of many examples of what happens when the arts are brought into large infrastructure projects, making them more friendly and beautiful.” Some of the most stunning originals include Metropolitan Faces at the 57th Street Station and Funktional Vibrations at 34th Street–Hudson Yards. But just about every stop offers something wonderfully creative and moving to examine.
It’s been said that variety is the very spice of life, and the United States certainly embodies this truth. Each of its regions—the Northeast, South, Midwest, Southwest, and West—is unique, having its own personality and customs. And with approximately 20,000 cities, towns, and villages scattered across the land, such variations can be even more pronounced.
As a result, determining which cities are the best places to live can be a daunting task. Nonetheless, several publications do just that every year. With May being National Moving Month, it’s a great time to explore some of America’s most scintillating cities—and the reasons why you should consider residing there.
These rankings are rather straightforward. We compiled the top twenty-five cities in 2022 as ranked by four sources—Money, US News & World Report, Livability, and Niche—and then made a top ten list according to the cities’ frequency and placement in the original sources.
Interestingly, all four lists varied quite a bit as a result of their unique criteria. Here are some of the more interesting facts:
The sources used here tend to update their lists annually, so keep an eye out for their 2023 versions later in the year. However, regardless of which lists you review, remember to prioritize your own unique needs and wants when it comes to your dream city. Only by doing so can you determine the best place in America to live for you.
There’s nothing like a good recipe to give you an inside look at the food and culture of a specific region. Annette Joseph’s At the Table of La Fortezza takes a deep dive into the history and cuisine of Tuscany, offering hearty, Italian recipes the whole family will enjoy.
Grilled fish is a classic summer meal, and this recipe for fresh branzino creates a smooth texture and woodsy flavor you won’t be able to get enough of.
Potatoes are loved by many for their versatility and great taste. This take on a classic scalloped potato recipe is deliciously creamy and works as the perfect side dish.
© At the Table of La Fortezza by Annette Joseph, Rizzoli New York, 2022. Photographs © David Loftus.
recipe by annette joseph
photos by david loftus
Branzino is one of my favorite types of fish. It is flaky and subtle, and it takes on flavors quite well. Recently, I smoked it with rosemary from our garden. The results were a buttery, smoky flavor with a melt-in-your-mouth texture. When you buy branzino, ask your fishmonger to gut and clean it for you. If you can’t find branzino, trout is a fine substitution. Note: On the English version of most Italian menus it’s called sea bass, but it’s really branzino.
recipe by annette joseph
photos by david loftus
Who doesn’t love scalloped potatoes? This rustic recipe has no milk or cream in the ingredients, but it still bakes to a wonderful creamy texture. The paste made from the combined oil, tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, and parsley, layered with the soft potatoes, creates alchemy in the oven. Make sure the potatoes are thinly sliced, and that you buy good quality anchovies; they really make a huge difference in flavor.
Serves 6 to 8
Lillian Rafson, founder and CEO of the travel agency Pack Up + Go, brought the concept of surprise-destination travel to the United States from Europe seven years ago. She shares how this type of vacationing works and why you might want your next vacation spot to be a mystery until the day of your trip.
What are the basics of a Pack Up + Go vacation?
Our trips start at two nights and go up to ten nights. The average is three or four nights, and you can depart any day of the week. We offer four different types of trips: you can fly to your destination, take a road trip, drive to an outdoors destination, or enjoy a staycation. You just choose your budget and how and when you want to travel, then complete our pretrip survey. On the survey, we ask about past trips you’ve taken, upcoming trips, places you visit frequently, and locations to which you don’t feel safe traveling. We also ask about your hobbies and interests, what you like to do when you travel, and if you have any dietary or mobility restrictions. Our team reads through your responses and uses them to choose your destination, book your travel and accommodations, and curate your trip recommendations.
How does a trip begin?
One week before you leave for your trip, we email you where and when to go for your trip departure, plus the weather forecast and packing tips so you know what to bring with you, such as a bathing suit, clothes for a night out on the town, or hiking boots. We then mail you an envelope that we encourage you to keep sealed until the day of your trip. The morning of your departure, you open that envelope to discover your destination and receive all the information you’ll need for your trip, including your travel plans, your accommodations, and all our recommendations for what to do during your stay.
Are all your trips based in the United States?
They are. I love that we get to support destinations that people don’t often consider for a leisure vacation, like Pittsburgh, where I grew up. The city has so much to offer, such as amazing museums, beautiful natural spots, and wonderful restaurants.
Are all your destinations a surprise?
They are except for our staycations. With those, you tell us where you want to go, whether it’s the city where you live or one you want to visit. We’ll then book a surprise hotel and activity and curate itinerary recommendations for you.
Do you book everything for your travelers, or is it mix and match?
It’s a little bit of both. We provide some structure so you know what to do when you arrive, but we also allow flexibility to choose your own adventures. We guarantee dinner reservations, and most trips have one or two prepaid inclusions, but it’s dependent on your budget. Everyone stays in four- or five-star hotels like the Omni Hotels & Resorts or the Four Seasons. For our outdoors vacations, we book unique glamping locations, cabins, inns, or bed-and-breakfasts in outdoorsy-focused locales. You won’t be roughing it and sleeping in a tent or an RV.
What kind of person is surprise vacation planning best suited for?
I love this question because the answer is unexpected. When I started my company in my early twenties, I thought I would be its target demographic since I had a big sense of adventure. But we’ve found it’s actually much broader. For instance, we help parents of young children who want to get away and reconnect but don’t have time to plan, and we provide trips for families to enjoy together. Far-flung friends who want a reunion trip but don’t want to handle logistics like finding flights that land at the same time also find this type of travel useful. We’ve learned that surprise travel really is for everyone.
What are the pluses of this kind of vacationing?
It’s a fun way to go on a trip. There are few times in our adult lives when we are genuinely surprised in a positive way. Last year, I went on a Pack Up + Go vacation for the first time, to Charleston, South Carolina. What I loved most about it was that it was so easy. I didn’t plan anything. It can be a big time-saver. It takes on average about twenty hours for an individual to plan a trip but just twenty minutes to sign up for a surprise vacation.
What are some of the destinations you’ve sent travelers to?
We’ve planned trips for more than 30,000 travelers to more than 300 destinations around the country, including small cities like Savannah, Georgia, and Portland, Maine, and bigger ones like Boston, Chicago, Seattle, and Washington, DC. For our outdoors trips, we’ve sent people on glamping excursions to Moab, Utah, and to the newest national park, the New River Gorge in West Virginia. I love that in a country as big and diverse as the United States, there is an experience for everyone.
For more info, visit packupgo.com