The most exciting travel story in America right now? The resurgence of cities large and small.
Nat Geo Travel is passionate about tales of urban renewal, about communities that have collaborated to improve their Main Streets, about smart cities that have pursued development policies that produce happiness.
They've identified the top U.S. small cities based on unconventional metrics that lead to happiness: green spaces, galleries, coffee shops, breweries, music venues, Instagrammable moments, and more.
Next we sorted U.S. cities into three groups based on their population: 40K-100K, 100K-200K, and 200K-600K.
They combined core statistics with social media data on nightlife, culture, restaurants, and the like to determine the city leaders for each population group in categories from meatiest (lots of steakhouses and delis) to greenest (most parkland), based on per capita results.
Happy places for locals are also rewarding places for travelers.
#11 Charleston, South Carolina
Instagrammers love Charleston’s abundance of art. Works by local artists will fill the rooms and public spaces of the new Hotel Bennett, opening this summer on a chunk of prime real estate overlooking Marion Square. It’s a great crash pad for checking out Charleston’s booming arts scene, which ranks high in our survey because of a large number of schools and galleries, like the Art Institute of Charleston and Helena Fox Fine Art. The latter specializes in works by southern artists such as West Fraser, known for his muted paintings of nearby Low Country. Performing arts shine at the grand, three-year-old Gaillard Center, which hosts concerts and dance shows and serves as one of the venues for the city’s celebrated Spoleto Festival, taking place May 25 to June 10 in 2018.