Category: Culture

5 Smallest Towns and Why They’re Great

You should visit New Glarus at least once. This small town of about 2,000 people sits halfway between Madison and Monroe in Wisconsin. You’ll find Swiss culture is prevalent throughout the community, even with the chalets that serve as residential homes.

You’ll even find an award-winning brewery operating in the community. With numerous festivals, alphorn concerns, and Swiss-related businesses, it’s a cool small town.

Here are some other small towns in the United States and why they’re great.

1. Fairhope, AL

This Southern community has a French Quarter, one of the state’s best hotels, and access to a fantastic spa. You can find two golf courses awaiting your arrival, with both often rated as some of the best in the United States.

2. Unalaska, AK

About 4,500 people live in this small town that became famous after the Deadliest Catch series premiered. Several major cruise lines have now added it as a destination. You can do some whale watching, catch a fishing charter, and explore the wartime history from the 1940s.

3. Eureka Springs, AR

This small town is often listed as one of America’s most distinctive destinations. You’ll find Victorian-style homes perched on cliffs, over 100 shops in the downtown area, and plenty of galleries to explore.

4. Carmel, CA

This village might only be one square mile in size, but it is one of the best small towns in the US. You’ll find fairytale cottages there, upscale boutiques, and a famous basilica to tour. If you love to visit the beach, this destination is for you.

5. Mancos, CO

When you visit this small town, you’ll be right outside of Mesa Verde National Bark. About 10% of the town’s population are working artists, writers, and other creatives. With the mountains on one side and ranches on the other, it’s a fantastic spot for those who want to live a slower lifestyle.

What are some of the best small towns you’ve visited?

Why Kentucky Is the Bourbon Capital of the World

Although there isn’t a law that says bourbon must be made in Kentucky, there might as well be with the production levels that happen there. The corn-based spirits age in barrels to create about 95% of the world’s supply.

If you think that something must be in the water in Kentucky to make great bourbon, you’d be right. Much of the state is on top of blue limestone deposits, adding more magnesium and calcium to the groundwater tables.

When you dunk a cup into a Kentucky stream, the water will taste better than almost anything else you’ll find in the country.

Kentucky’s Weather Contributes to the Bourbon

The continental climate you can find in Kentucky also makes the state an excellent place for making bourbon. You get hot summers and chilly winters, allowing the whiskey to develop its distinctive flavor within the charred aging barrels.

Those temperature changes allow the wood to breathe, creating the expansion and contraction needed for the alcohol to move in and out.

That facet of Kentucky life is also why corn production in the state occurs at high levels. Immigrants from Virginia were given 400 acres of land to use if they built a cabin and planted the crop, with many of them coming from Ireland and Scotland.

With the distilling knowledge they brought with them, Kentucky was a paradise for those who loved bourbon.

Kentucky Bourbon Changed the Recipe

It’s said that a Baptist preacher invented bourbon after storing whiskey in barrels that got charred by a fire. State officials say there isn’t any truth to that idea.

By 1794, there were already 500 distilleries operating in the state. Most of them got to work relatively tax-free until the Civil War, except for a War of 1812 tax.

You can make bourbon almost anywhere with the right ingredients. If you don’t get your spirits from Kentucky, what are you actually drinking?

American Novels That Wonderfully Encapsulate the Immigrant Story

Although the American story went through some stops and starts in the past four years, it is still one of the world’s most significant cultural melting pots.

You can find people from virtually every corner of the planet finding their way to the United States to make a new life for themselves and their families.

These fantastic American novels work to encapsulate those stories in unique and touching ways.

What Are the Best American Immigration Novels?

1. Behold the Dreamers

This novel introduces the reader to a Cameroonian family where the husband becomes a chauffeur for an executive at Lehman Brothers. When things fall apart because of the Great Recession, you’ll find that the drama creates a beautiful story about perseverance, love, and grace from an authentic American perspective.

2. Americanah

You’ll find one of the best contemporary characters in American immigration literature in this story. It follows a Nigerian woman who comes to the United States on a scholarship. Her significant other encounters troubles with government policies, so you’ll get a frank take on what people face in today’s world.

3. The Book of Unknown Americans

What makes this novel a must-read item is its structure. Instead of following one story, you’re getting to know several voices who all speak in the first-person to you. It’s a place where you can see blatant racism, hate, and hope – all on the same page.

4. Ha Jin

This story introduces us to Nan Wu, who came to the United States after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. After making America their permanent home, it becomes a story about one person’s search for meaning and a place in this world. How can you identify with your culture while living in a different country?

What are some of your favorite books about immigration that you’ve picked up to read over the past year?

What Makes the Boston Accent So Unique?

The Boston accent is unique in the United States because of its phonological characteristics. You’ll hear different vowel sounds, especially in the centering diphthongs, that make it more nasal and with additional short “a” sounds compared to others.

Any words that have “ar” together in them create the classic example of the Boston accent. Instead of say, “car,” you’d hear someone say, “cah.” If you were headed to the park with the kids for the day, you’d go to the “pahk.”

This accent started in the early 20th century, but it seems to be retreating with the younger generation. Although you can still hear it in the city’s older neighborhoods, the change is getting closer to a NYC accent instead.

The Pronunciation Is Over 400 Years Old

Although the city has been speaking with the Boston accent for about a century, the phonetics behind the words are over 400 years old. It’s called “non-rhotic” pronunciation, dating to the time when the first settlers came from Europe.

During the 17th century in England, it was considered a rustic part of the English language to omit the “R” sounds from most words. It’s not considered a prestige feature, but the city of Boston is who led the way in that perspective.

The removal of “R” sounds wasn’t limited to the spoken word. When you review documents from the 17th century throughout Massachusetts and upper New England, you’ll find most words had the letter removed. That means people named “George” had their names document as “Geoge.”

That’s why you can find George Washington documents that say “Geoge Washington.”

It’s not only the phonetics that set the Boston accent apart from others. You can find the city using British slang for some terms, such as “rubbish” instead of saying “trash.”

You can also engage in a fun conversation about whether you’re having soda, pop, or Coke when you need a carbonated beverage.

Cities That Celebrate Easter Like None Other

Easter celebrates several cultural moments simultaneously. It’s a time when we embrace spring, look for renewal, and when Christians look to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Although everyone celebrates Easter (or Resurrection Sunday) a little differently, some cities go all-out on their efforts to have fun.

Lingering COVID-19 restrictions might change some festivals and celebrations in 2021, but you can still find some ways to have fun in the way you prefer at these destinations.

Best Cities for Celebrating Easter

1. New York City

When you think about Easter, you might see gift baskets, flowers, and brunch in your future. That’s why NYC almost always ranks as the best place to celebrate this holiday. You’ll find more chocolate and candy stores here per capita, along with numerous egg-hunting events to enjoy.

2. Chicago

You’ll find people coming out in droves to enjoy the city’s Easter egg hunts each year. You’ll find several holiday traditions waiting for you here, along with some of the more religious tones to the day celebrated downtown and along the lakefront.

3. Cincinnati

You’ll find more churches per capita in this city celebrating the Easter holiday than in almost any other destination in the United States. Only Birmingham and St. Louis rank higher. Although the look and feel are closer to something traditional and less organized, you’ll still find lots of opportunities to spend time with your family.

4. Orlando

You’d want to come to this city for a warm-weather Easter if your city gets stuck in a cold pattern. You’ll find lots of gift shops, tourist attractions, and brunch destinations to enjoy during your stay. There are also all of the theme parks to try now that the COVID restrictions are slowly easing.

5. Las Vegas

If your Easter traditions involve fine dining and a lovely walk outside, you’ll appreciate what this city offers. You can find almost any chocolate or candy here, and there are lots of activities for the kids to enjoy.

Where do you like to do as part of your Easter holiday traditions?

How Los Angeles Became the Birthplace of Skateboarding

If you want to see the birthplace of skateboarding, you need to make your way to Dogtown. The skating culture in LA’s slums would eventually change the world, but it wasn’t always that way.

Today, a trip to Santa Monica takes you to some lovely boutiques, promenades, and people working out along the beach. It wasn’t that long ago that this area was called Dogtown, and it was the heart of LA’s lower-middle-class version of suburbia.

Instead of taking items from Amazing Grass or Sunwarrior to get your energy levels up, the goal was to survive. You worked hard, scraped by, and taught your kids how they could be resilient in a complicated world.

It All Started at Pacific Ocean Park

The city opened a pier at Pacific Ocean Park in 1958, offering another visual representation of American’s Golden Era at the time. By the 1970s, it was already abandoned. That’s when society’s “misfits” started hanging out around the area.

The place began to be known as POP, and the surfing around the pier eventually got the region dubbed as “The Cove.”

What could these young adults do on the days when the waves weren’t strong enough for surfing? Those brainstorming sessions led to skateboarding in the streets to practice surfing, and that process eventually led some to transition their tricks from the water to the land.

Some of the initial group members are revered names in the skateboarding community today: Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, Jay Adams, and Peggy Oki.

When drought came to LA during the 1970s, swimming pools dried up to become places for skateboarding to evolve. The sport took its evolutionary leap toward the various bowls, obstacles, and shapes we see today to encourage boarders to catch some air.

We wouldn’t have Tony Hawk without the pioneering work of Jim Muir or Wentzle Ruml.

That’s how LA became the birthplace of skateboarding. If you travel to Santa Monica, you’re visiting holy ground.

Most In-Depth Documentaries About America

It has been said that history gets written by the victors. When one thinks about the United States, there is a distinctly pro-colonist view of what gets taught in the history books.

If you were part of the tribal culture during the initial settlement period, your feelings about the United States could be very different than what is societally “acceptable.” The same truth applies to the descendants of those who came to America due to slavery.

When we think about in-depth documentaries about America, we must look at the country’s individual stories. Here are some of the best ones out there.

1. The Overnighters

This documentary shows what life is like in a North Dakota small town after it draws a massive influx of oil workers. These people live on day labor, call their cars home, and often receive little support. It profiles one pastor who welcomes them into a shelter at the dismay of the congregation.

2. The Hand That Feeds

After suffering years of abuse from their bosses, undocumented immigrants decide to unionize for better working conditions and fair wages. The employees partner with some young activists in NYC to fight against their managers and the well-connected investors who support the bakery where they work.

3. True Son

After an African-American man graduates from Stanford University, he returns to Stockton to run for the city council. The town is bankrupt, but that doesn’t mean race or socioeconomic circumstances exclude you from your community. The documentary’s main character talks to people that anyone can have a seat at the table, even if your father is in jail, and your mother was in her teens when she had you.

4. Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story

After managing a transgender transition, Kristin (formerly Christopher) discusses her challenges that range from military service to becoming the person she knew she could be. It’s a unique take on the concept of what it means to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

5. If You Build It

This documentary follows two designers who teach a 12-month class in the poorest county of North Carolina. The film concludes with the group building a structure while ten students learn how to be successful in the construction industry – and much more.

What are some of your favorite documentaries about America?

Most Noteworthy Comedy Clubs in New York

You can find numerous landmarks to see when visiting New York City. After you’ve shopped Fifth Avenue, explored Broadway, and got close to the Statue of Liberty, it is time to find one of the city’s top comedy clubs.

Many of today’s best comedians got their start in places like these while staying in the Big Apple.

1. New York Comedy Club

This club offers the classic look of a small stage and a brick wall. The showroom stays candlelit throughout each performance, and you can order from a traditional drink menu. You’ll find the place on E 24th Street.

2. Stand Up NY

You’ll discover this comedy fixture in the Upper West Side. It opened its doors in 1986, and the club is one of the few to offer an annual membership. You can get VIP seating, a free drink upon arrival, and access to unlimited shows with this investment.

3. The Comic Strip Live

This destination is one of the longest-running showcase clubs in the world. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy, and Adam Sandler got their start here, and many of them still come back to do a few shows. There is a cover charge, and you have a two-item minimum purchase to navigate.

4. Gotham Comedy Club

If you make your way over to Chelsea, you’ll get a fantastic laugh inside the historic 1929 hotel where the club resides. It’s arguably more famous because of the movies and TV shows where it has made an appearance, including Curb Your Enthusiasm.

5. Dangerfields

Named after Rodney Dangerfield, this comedy club sets the bar high for the new comedians who want a shot at making it big in the industry. Ray Romano got his start here, and you’ll find numerous up-and-coming talents mixing in with some of the best headliners in the business.

Comedy clubs are an underrated part of NYC’s culture. If you find yourself in the city, consider stopping at one of these spots to have a great belly laugh!

Why Is Wisconsin Famous for Its Cheese?

If you travel to Monroe, WI, you’ll find something unique. It is the only town in the United States that produces Limburger cheese.

You’ll find similar stories throughout the state. With numerous dairy farms and a mostly German-style culture, Wisconsin promotes itself as one of the world’s best cheese providers.

One reason for this attribute is the state’s Master Cheesemaker Program. It was created in 1994, and it continues to remain the only program of its kind. Only ten people can graduate from the program annually.

When you mix Wisconsin cheese with products from brands like Renew Life and Body Ecology, you can have a satisfying experience every day!

Exciting Facts About Wisconsin Cheese

1. Over one million dairy cows live in Wisconsin. That number equates to about one animal for every five residents.

2. 90% of the milk from Wisconsin dairy farms gets turned into cheese, translating into about three billion pounds per year. That’s one-quarter of what gets made in the entire United States! Hundreds of different varieties are made throughout the state, turned into curds, wheels, blocks, and more to enjoy.

3. If you want to enjoy cheddar cheese, the freshest form comes from the curds. Cheesemakers separate them from the whey, squeeze them dry, and add flavors based on local preferences. You know that you’ve got a great batch when they squeak against your teeth!

4. The average American consumes approximately 40 pounds of cheese per year.

5. Wisconsin cheese products have won more awards than any other country that competes in the annual world championships.

6. The most popular variety of cheese made in Wisconsin is mozzarella, representing one-third of what gets made. Cheddar comes in second, at 21%. Various Italian types hold 17% of the market.

7. Limburger cheese becomes spreadable about three months after it ripens. A popular way to eat it is with a thick slice of onion, rye bread, and cooked liver with strong coffee.

A Brief History of Christmas in America

Although Christmas feels like a traditional holiday with embedded roots throughout human civilization, the interpretation of our celebrations today is relatively new. Did you know that the U.S. government didn’t recognize it as a federal holiday until 1870?

The Christmas season didn’t always celebrate the birth of Jesus. It used to be a time when the solstice was more important, indicating the progression of the year.

It wouldn’t be until the Roman Empire decided to mark the day of Jesus’ birth as a celebration in the fourth century that the holiday traditions would start. Religious leaders transformed a festival called Saturnalia, a time that honored the sun, to one that focused on Christianity. 

When the colonists came to the United States in the 17th century, the idea of celebrating Christ through decadence was seen as sinful.

Christmas was outlawed for early Americans. 

What Changed Christmas in the United States?

During the 1800s, several fictional Christmas stories became popular in the United States. Washington Irving was particularly famous for his fictitious portrayals of how the day was celebrated in England before society transformed to become more Puritan.

Many of those stories inspired American practices for the Christmas holiday.

German settlers came to the United States with the tradition of having evergreen trees and branches in their homes. These actions were originally meant to signify that life is possible, even during challenging times.

At the same time, Catholic immigrants brought over the tradition of keeping a small nativity scene in their homes.

By the time the American government decided to make Christmas a federal holiday, most families were already celebrating it anyway. Since then, it has grown into a spectacle of gifts, lighted trees, and hope for a peaceful new year.

Each family celebrates in their own way today. How do you mark this joyous time of the season?