The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City

Ranking U.S. cities can be mind-boggling, when you consider categories ranging from the hippest spots in the U.S. to the best cities for families, for instance.

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If it’s culture you’re after in this country, then you might consider the long list of great locations for living an artistic life.

To save some time, we have scoured our sources and come up with a short list of cities where culture is not hard to find. You might want to check these out for yourself.

New York City, NY
New York is a no-brainer for the list of best cities in America to experience culture. This town practically invented it! And it always tops the charts, ranking #1 on Travel & Leisure’s 2012 list of most cultured cities. NYC offers everything from street performers (like the Naked Cowboy) to Broadway box office hits to the High Line’s outdoor art shows. Taking it all in at once would be overwhelming, so check out Time Out New York or The New Yorker for top cultural picks.

Washington, D.C.
NYC may boast Broadway, but Washington, D.C., lays claim to the seriously amazing Smithsonian. It’s the world’s largest museum and research complex, with 19 museums and the National Zoo. Many of these are located in the nation’s capital, including the Air and Space Museum, American History Museum and National Portrait Gallery. And you probably won’t be surprised to find that Washington, D.C., was also named the #3 literary city by LiveScience. (Maybe because it’s home to an institution called the Library of Congress.)

San Francisco, CA
San Francisco has always been a West Coast trendsetter when it comes to culture. The Atlantic Cities recently published their own list of artistic cities, and San Francisco took the #2 spot with an LQ of 3.825.

What the heck is an LQ? It’s a unique tallying system the magazine developed that determines a city’s location quotient measured by the number of artists in the city relative to its population.

Naturally, San Fran scored high: its score indicates that the city is home to almost four times more artists than the national average. This is likely because of its plethora of artistic-minded neighborhoods like Haight Ashbury, a hip haven since the 1960s. San Francisco is also home to the impressive SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.)

Santa Fe, NM
Several of our sources gave Santa Fe top scores – #1 most artistic city says The Atlantic Cities, and third most cultured courtesy of Travel & Leisure. This desert treasure has always been a special place for artists like the famous Georgia O’Keefe. A trip to Santa Fe wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the museum that honors her.

Artists are drawn to this town’s colorful vistas, and there are many museums to check out their work, including the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. The Santa Fe Arts Commission is also a great resource to find out more about local art happenings.

Charleston, SC
Southern charm is what makes Charleston, SC, one of the best cities in America to experience culture. In fact, Conde Nast readers ranked it as their #1 favorite U.S. city to visit. As one of the first colonies, much of Charleston’s culture revolves around history and Southern tradition. This port city features fascinating carriage tours, one-of-a-kind crafts like sweetgrass baskets, and lazy First Friday art walks. An afternoon of classic Lowcountry culture ends well with a delicious supper at Virginia’s on King.

It’s not easy to nail down the best U.S. cities for culture, and these five are just a few of the favorites, of course. Our advice is to visit galleries, theaters and museums all over the country, creating your own list of the top cultural cities with your own first-hand experience!

Photo credit: vvoe /



About The Author

Steve Harper enjoys seeking out and writing about topics that matter to renters for the Apartment Guide Blog. He hails from Atlanta, Georgia. Find Steve on Google.

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