England is an incredible country to explore. We’ve got some stunning history, beautiful villages and gorgeous national parks that dotted all across the lands. That being said, sometimes, the best places in the north of England are forgotten in lieu of amazing cities like London or the pretty spots in the south of England.
That being said, the north of England is pretty vast, with a whole heap of beautiful places to explore. This is exactly why I wanted to share some of my favorite and best places in the north of England to visit on your next trip.
Now, for clarity, there’s no real defining line of what constitutes, north and south England, it seems like everyone has their own cutoffs of where this border exists. To make things simpler, I’m going on the notion that anything lower than the Peak District National Park is south.
With that in mind, take a look below at the best places in the north of England to see. Have the best trip around England, we really have a beautiful country.
1.) The Lake District
One of the UNESCO protected national parks, the Lake District is one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you love the countryside. Consisting of around sixteen lakes, the Lake District is filled with stunning mountains, rolling hills and a heap of lakes that are nestled within the countryside.
Now, with the Lake District, you do have ‘popular’ lakes and some that are much quieter. For me, I prefer the quiet ones like Ullswater Lake that is totally pristine.
Here, you can head out paddle boarding, hiking and even take the historic Ullswater Steamer that crosses the lake itself.
That being said, don’t forget Windermere Lake, too. It’s probably the most famous lake in the Lake District with plenty of little places to explore around the shores.
Perched on the north-east coast of England, Whitby is a pretty historic fishing town to visit.
The town’s skyline is overlooked by the historical ruins of Whitby Abbey, a gothic structure which inspired Bram Stoker to write his classic horror masterpiece, Dracula. They’re incredible to see and easily one of the best places in the north of England to see if you love history.
Afterwards, pop over some classic fish and chips from the Magpie Cafe. For dinner, don’t forget the Star Inn (the harbour) for some yummy fresh seafood and local treats.
Finally, if you fancy a little jaunt from the town itself, head over to Robin Hood’s Bay, it’s a stunning little smugglers village that is so beautiful to see.
3.)The Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Nestled on a small tidal island off the coast of Northumberland, the holy island of Lindisfarne is beautiful to see.
First off, to get here, you have to pay attention to the tides, each day, the island gets cut off from the mainland when the sea washes over the road. Only ever attempt to travel this road when it is safe to do so as your car can get washed away.
Once you’ve got over to the island, make sure to spend some time exploring the historic abbey, head to the Lindisfarne Castle and have a tipple of Lindisfarne Mead that has been made on the island for centuries. The island itself is steeped in history and is considered the starting point for the Viking Age in northern Europe.
It really is one of the best places in the north of England to explore ancient beauty and history.
York is one of the oldest cities in England and easily one of the best places in the north of England to visit whilst you’re here. Honestly, York itself is absolutely teeming with history and dates way back over a thousand years.
Once you arrive, make sure to visit and explore York Minster, a cathedral that dates back to the 13th century. Here, you can even climb the stairs to the roof, with a lovely view across York itself.
Also, don’t forget Clifford’s Tower and the Castle museum nearby. Afterwards, rent your own little red boat and charter the river that runs through the city. Afterwards, take a little road down the medieval street called the Shambles and explore the totally quaint side of York.
Finally, for some amazing food, head over to Skosh or Roots that both have some of the tastiest grub in the city. You won’t be disappointed with either of them.
Oh yeah, and if you fancy a little jaunt from the city, head across to Castle Howard that is about 25-minutes in the car from the center. It’s huge and totally magnificent to see.
Nestled on the pristine coastline of Northumberland, Bamburgh is a tiny little place that has some of the best coastline and castle around. Only about 60-minutes from the Holy Island, it’s quite easy to partner a trip to Bamburgh with a wider trip across Northumberland.
As soon as you arrive, make sure to wander around the little town and make reservations for dinner at the Potted Lobster. It’s so yummy and they serve the best local seafood. Afterwards, head on over to Bamburgh Castle itself and explore the ancient history of this gorgeous place. Finally, take some time to enjoy the stunning beaches around the castle, too. They’re totally pristine and offer some gorgeous views over the castle itself.
Finally, if you fancy going on a little adventure, pop over to the uninhabited Farne Islands on a boat. You might even see whales or puffins during your trip.
Honestly, if you love castles, you’ll easily find Bamburgh one of the best places in the north of England to visit.
6.) Peak District
The Peak District National Park is the oldest national park in the UK and one of the best places in the north of England to explore.
Once here, make sure to explore Winnats Pass and discover the underground river on a tiny boat. Afterwards, head across to the plague village of Eyam and learn about this isolated community during the plague.
Afterwards, check into your own safari-style lodge that is just so cozy with the wood burner roaring.
Nestled on the coast of the North Sea, Scarborough is a gorgeous town to visit for a weekend trip.
Once here, head on through Peasholm Park and also explore the historic harbour that makes this spot so picturesque. Also, make sure to explore Scarborough Castle and visit St Mary’s Church where you can also see Anne Bronte’s final resting place.
Finally, for a good spot of lunch, head over to the Green Room Brasserie which has some of the freshest dishes around. If it’s a traditional fish and chips you’re after, pop into the Lifeboat Fishbar – they serve some of the best on all the east coast. Scarborough really is one of the best places in the north of England to visit.
Leeds is a pretty cool city to visit in the north of England and an easy spot to explore when heading further north.
Once here, make sure to explore the city Centre and head to explore the Corn Exchange with all their little eateries and shops. Afterwards, head across to the arcades which are totally beautiful and really gorgeous to see.
If that’s not your thing, head to Kirkstall Abbey (one of the largest in England) or even Harewood House (out of the Centre) that was built in the 1700s. Finally, for some tasty grub, head across to The Swine That Dines for a gorgeous dinner.
That being said, if you want something quick and easy, pop into the Station House Café for some of the best Italian food in the city. It really is one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you like a little city break.
The Market town of Malton is not too far from York and pretty easy to visit on your trip around this area.
Now, one of the things that makes Malton so special is its foodie heritage. It might be a relatively small town but it’s got some of the best independent food spots in Yorkshire. Once here, head over to Roost for some of the best coffee in town and find McMillans for a tasty bottle to take home.
Afterwards, head to Florian Poirot (near Roost) for an incredible french bakery. They make the most delicious sweet treats. Malton is certainly one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you’re a foodie.
10.) Hebden Bridge
A whimsical little market town, Hebden Bridge’s Rochdale Canal is nothing a totally gorgeous spot to visit.
While, like most of northern England, the weather can be a little unpredictable (take your umbrella), Hebden Bridge is easily one of the best places in the north of England to explore.
Once here, head out on the 15-miles of footpaths and walkways around the Hardcastle Crags. That being said, if you’re feeling a little lazier, head to the Heptonstall Museum which has far less walking.
After strolling the canal, pop over to Sowerby Bridge and gorge at Engine. The tapas-style plates are just so yummy.
Being one of the larger cities in England, there’s a whole heap of amazing things to see and do whilst in Manchester. Plus, it’s one of the best places in the north of England to explore if you want a vibrant city.
You see, Manchester has a long history, which makes for some totally gorgeous places to explore. Once here, make sure to explore the Science and Industry Museum, see Old Trafford (if you’re a footie fan), or check out the Manchester Art Gallery. The latter is totally stunning and a great thing to do if the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Oh yeah, and if you fancy some nightlife, Canal Street is famous for being one of the oldest LGBT+ neighbourhoods in Europe, while the Northern Quarter has loads of trendy bars to explore. Also, for a tasty and juicy steak, pop into Fazenda Rodizio Bar which is totally gorge-worthy. You’ll leave stuffed.
Also, for a great place to stay, check into Hotel Gotham that is totally unique.
An absolute must-visit for any literary lover, Haworth is home to the longtime home of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Ann.
While the girls worked under pen names, they released some tremendous successes which continue to resonate with readers today, including the classics Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. You can visit the gravesite of the majority of the Bronte family at the Haworth Parish Church as well.
Although Haworth is pretty small, it’s a great place to spend a pit stop on your way further north (or south) for an hour or two.
Of course, most people know Liverpool as the hometown of the Beatles, right? Liverpool is certainly one of the best places in the north of England to visit if you love the Beatles! That being said, there’s so much more to this city to experience.
After arriving, make sure to explore the waterfront (marked by a trio of buildings popularly known as the Three Graces). If that doesn’t float your boat, the Liverpool Cathedral is worth visiting for its stunning Gothic architecture, too. Finally, head across to the Royal Albert Dock, visit the Beatles Story and visit the Walker Art Gallery, too.
Oh yeah, there’s also a shed load of yummy spots to grab a bite to eat, too! From high-end spots to a pint and some fish and chips at the local pub, Liverpool has a spot for everyone.
Now, for a tasty dinner, head across to the London Carriage Works. Once you arrive, make sure to try their incredible cocktails and seasonal menu. Their salted cod with clams is so good.
Originally constructed as a Roman fortress (almost two-thousand years ago), Chester still maintains some of its Roman past in what remains of the city’s walls. Now, with a city that’s so steeped in history, it’s easily become of the best places in the north of England to see. Plus, it’s really easy to get to from the likes of Manchester or Liverpool.
Once here, make sure to explore Chester’s gothic cathedral and stroll along the Groves that are totally lovely. Oh yeah, the Old Town is worth a visit to gaze upon the black and white Tudor-style homes that line the streets too.
Afterwards, head across to visit the Grovesnor Museum or walk the city walls themselves. It’s the perfect thing to do before gorging at The Yard for their tasty seabass.
Based just west of Newcastle, Durham is pretty easy to get to from most places in the UK, especially by train. Now, although Durham is a relatively small city (as cities go), it’s still got a shed load of history and gorgeous things to do.
After stepping off the train, head across to explore Durham Cathedral in all its glory. It’s so imposing and can’t be missed when visiting the city. Afterwards, stop over to Durham Castle and learn more about the ancient history of this place. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the quaint Palace Green and see Finchale Priory (that sits outside the centre).
The Sunrise On The Top of Masada & Dead Sea
I love a historical destination with a great story, and that’s exactly what Masada provides. Masada’s legacy is shared primarily through details provided by Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, the commander of the Jewish forces during the First Jewish-Roman War from 66-73 AD who made it his mission to share Masada’s tragic ending.
Visiting Masada, the ancient fortress built atop a mountain plateau in modern day Israel, is a life-changing experience. No caveats necessary.
There’s simply nothing like visiting an ancient mountaintop fortress that overlooks the Dead Sea. It doesn’t feel real. But because of its isolation and the arid desert climate, the fortress once occupied by King Herod is a remarkably well-preserved relic of humanity’s ancient past, one you can climb to on the same paths used by visiting dignitaries and invading Roman troops.
Masada was most likely built between 37 and 31 BC by Herod the Great. While Josephus’ writings claim Hasmonean king Alexander Janeus built the site decades earlier, there is no architectural evidence that any type of construction was built earlier than Herod’s fortress. Herod ordered the development of the fortress because its geographical position made it a terrific strategic location for him. Masada sits on a plateau that is part of a cliff jetting more than 1,300 feet into the air. Around Masada are smaller but difficult to navigate cliffs with only three narrow paths leading to its gates. From the fortress Herod would be able to see enemies approaching from long distances, and the limited access served as an additional level of protection.
Two events defined Masada between 66 and 74 AD: the Great Revolt and the Siege of Masada. Prior to 66 AD Masada was controlled by the Romans, as it had been since Herod the Great ruled there. The Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans was led by Eleazar Ben Yair and the Sicarii. The Sicarii were a group of Jewish extremists who fled from Jerusalem and ultimately settled at Masada after taking possession of it following the Great Revolt. More and more of the Sicarii relocated to Masada in the years after the revolt as they were run out of Jerusalem due to ongoing conflicts with other Jewish groups.
By 72 AD, Masada had become the last Sicarii stronghold in the region and home to almost 1,000 people. With plans to take the fortress back, the Romans constructed a wall and built camps around Masada; they also built a ramp and a tower with a battering ram to breach the walls. As it became clear that the Romans siege would succeed and the Sicarii would be either enslaved or killed, Eleazar Ben Yair delivered speeches to his people and convinced them it would be better to die in honor than it would be to surrender and live in shame and humiliation. Judaism prohibits suicide, and so a small number of people were selected to murder almost the entire community, ensuring only one final volunteer would have to commit suicide. When the Romans arrived, they found the Sicarii destroyed everything except for food, which presumably they intentionally saved to prove they died not of starvation but because they chose to sacrifice themselves. According to Josephus in The War of the Jews, VII:
“[The Romans] were at a loss to conjecture what had happened here, encountering the mass of slain. Instead of exulting as over enemies, they admired the nobility of their resolve and the contempt of death display by so many carrying it, unwavering, into execution.”
Not all stories have a happy ending.
Masada’s history since the Siege has been far quieter with significantly less bloodshed. The Romans stayed there only through the 2nd century AD, after which time a Byzantine monastery was founded in the 5th century and abandoned just two centuries later. Masada was rediscovered in the 19th century, with explorations and excavations marking much of the last 100 years. Today, Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
THE DEAD SEA
The Dead Sea, known in Hebrew as Yam Ha-Melakh (the Sea of Salt) is the lowest point on earth, surrounded by the stunning landscape of the Negev Desert. The shores of the Dead Sea are the lowest point on the surface of the earth, and the saline water of the lake give lead to the name because no fish can survive in the salty waters. The other result of the salty water is their renowned health and healing properties and the unique feature that one can float naturally in them.
The Dead Sea represents the lowest elevation on Earth; it stands more than 1,400 feet below sea level. Herod the Great once used it as a health destination, as the salt and minerals from the water carry some solid health benefits. To this day many people flock to its shores to float, cover themselves in mud, or simply admire it. Those shores are a little harder to reach each year; they have been receding for decades, which is causing an environmental impact on the surrounding region. This is in part due to large sinkholes that have formed in its vicinity, which impacts the rate at which groundwater is replaced by freshwater—freshwater is a primary factor in the receding shorelines. While plans are in place to restore the balance, success is not guaranteed. Not far from the Dead Sea are the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found; although you likely won’t stop and won’t have the chance to visit them, most tours will point them out as you drive past them.
Experiencing the Dead Sea is pretty straightforward. In some ways it’s a lot like visiting a beach; you can pick a spot with a chair or two, unload your belongings, and head into the water. From there, it’s a swim unlike any other you may have taken before. As soon as I waded into the water I could feel the salt water pushing my body up, and it took some effort to keep my feet on the sea floor. Once Adam and I were waist-deep, we submerged a bit and really felt the water’s efforts to force us into a floating position. I love to swim; I have dived into the warm waters off the coast of Bermuda and Florida’s Tarpon Springs, and I have cannonballed into the icy Southern Ocean in Antarctica. Floating in the Dead Sea was nothing like those experiences. The water was exceptionally hot—almost uncomfortable as we stood ankle-deep and started our walk out to deeper sections—and it’s not really designed for swimming. Given how it pushes you up to the surface, it’s best to just let the water do what it does best and force you into a relaxing floating position. We were happy to enjoy the sensation for a little while, smiling as we heard similar exclamations and observations from fellow travelers around us. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is a great way to end a day trip in Israel!
The Old City of Jerusalem is one of the most intense places on Earth! At the heart of the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian religions, this one-kilometer, walled-in area in the center of Jerusalem is beyond words and cannot be missed. The Old City is home to the Western Wall (aka Wailing Wall and in Hebrew Kotel). This is the last remaining wall of what was once the Jewish Temple and is today the holiest site in the world for Jews.
Above the Western Wall lies the Dome of the Rock, which is important for Muslims as the site where the prophet Muhammad is said to have risen to heaven.
Just a few minutes’ walk away lies the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where some believe Jesus was crucified and buried.
The Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters; The Jewish Quarter, The Armenian Quarter, The Christian Quarter, and The Muslim Quarter. The walled city is entered by one of seven entry gates, although the busiest for tourists is the Jaffa Gate next to which is the Tower of David Museum, providing the history of Jerusalem within the Old City Walls. Each quarter has its own unique atmosphere and observations, sites and smells, and experiences.
In the Jewish Quarter, for instance, the narrow alleyways are lined by the homes of Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish families and Yeshivas (schools for Torah study). Walking around, you can observe the residents of the Jewish quarter go about their daily lives. There are teenage students in the Yeshivas who are often here from around the world, children playing outside schools between lessons, men rushing around between places of worship – and of course, many people praying at the Western Wall. The houses of the Old City – and the Jewish quarter, in particular – are hotly contested real estate, and for good reason. They command spectacular prices on the rare occasion that they trade hands.
The Jewish Quarter’s narrow alleyways open up as you reach the Western Wall Plaza and the wall itself. At times of Jewish festivals, the wall can be crowded, and observing the tourists brushing alongside daily prayers here is an interesting site. Anybody can go up to the wall, although men and women have separate areas. Men should cover their heads (there are paper kippahs available), and women should wear modest clothing. It is customary to place a small prayer on a piece of paper within a crack on the wall. Amazingly, the vast Western Wall represents just a tiny percentage of this elevation of the Temple, and the Western Wall Tunnels, accessed via the plaza, allow visitors to see even more of the wall underground. Also interestingly, within the Muslim Quarter is whats known as the Little Western Wall where the wall is once again exposed and visible. This is argued to be holier than the iconic section of the wall because it is closer to the ‘Holy of Holies’ – the holiest part of the Temple.
The Muslim Quarter is a huge contrast to the Jewish Quarter. Its streets are busier and more crowded, with vendors – especially within the famous Shuk – selling all varieties of products. In contrast to the other quarters where shops are generally selling religious or tourist-appealing products, here the Shuk is literally an ancient shopping mall in the 21st century where one can practice their bartering skills and buy almost anything imaginable. As in the Jewish Quarter, and the rest of the Old City, tourists wandering the streets of the Muslim Quarter find it hard to imagine how the locals go about their everyday business so normally in what is such an intense place. Kids play in the street, and men sit out in cafes smoking nargila (hookah or shisha).
The Dome of the Rock sits above the Western Wall Plaza, and while non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the building itself, tourists are able to tour the compound and nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Moving into the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, there is yet another change. Home to about 40 holy sites to Christians, in the streets here you will see priests and pilgrims from around the world. This quarter was constructed around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is said to have been crucified and buried. Within this hot patch of real estate, even the Church is divided, with different parts controlled by different Christian sects, meaning that there are often disputes over maintenance and some parts are in poor condition.
The Armenian Quarter is one of the four sections within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The other Quarters are the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Quarters. The Armenians have the smallest section in the Old City and take up 14% of the total area of the Old City. The Quarter is home to approximately 2,000 people many of whom are connected to the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Armenians have their own distinct language and culture and are ethnically neither Arab nor Jewish.
The Armenians originated from Turkey, the Caucasus Mountains and Iran. Soon after Jesus’ death the Armenians were converted to Christianity and ever since then have been making pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Armenian monks arrived in Jerusalem in the 4th century AD. Jerusalem’s Armenian community is considered the oldest living Armenian Diaspora community in the world.
Armenians have had a strong presence in the city since at least the fourth century, when Armenia became Christian. Their quarter is said to be the oldest living Armenia diaspora community. Thousands of displaced survivors of the Armenian Genocide relocated to this part of Jerusalem in the 20th century.
Armenians displaced from the former Ottoman Empire because of the genocide brought with them a special type of Turkish-style ceramic, which has since become synonymous with Jerusalem and Armenians. It’s now used for all the street signs in the Old City and is also sold in many stores. Explore the walled Old City of Jerusalem, and you’ll soon spot beautifully crafted ceramic street signs spread through the area.
The Armenian compound is enclosed by an inner wall within the Armenian Quarter and includes St. James, a convent, school, churches and residences. Along the walk from the Jaffa Gate past the Zion Gate and to the Jewish Quarter are many small shops displaying the beautiful hand-painted Armenian pottery which is made locally. Armenian ceramics can be seen adorning many parts of the Old City including the Dome of the Rock and neighborhood street signs.
It’s painful and stressful to feel like you’re living a lie. Like you’re hiding how you really feel, saying what you think other people want to hear, and doing things you don’t actually want to do—just because you think you’re supposed to.
But sometimes we don’t recognize we’re doing this. We just know we feel off, or something feels wrong, and we’re not sure how to change it.
It makes sense that a lot of us struggle with being true to ourselves.
From a young age, we’re taught to be good, fall in line, and avoid making any waves—to lower our voices, do as we’re told, and quit our crying (or they’ll give us something to cry about).
And most of us don’t get the opportunity to foster or follow our curiosity. Instead, we learn all the same things as our peers, at the exact same time; and we live a life consumed by the mastery of these things, our bodies restless from long hours of seated study and our minds overwhelmed with memorized facts that leave very little room for free thinking.
To make things even worse, we learn to compare our accomplishments and progress—often, at things we don’t even really care about—to those of everyone around us. So we learn it’s more important to appear successful in relation to others than to feel excited or fulfilled within ourselves.
This was my experience both growing up and in my twenties. A people-pleaser who was always looking to prove that I mattered, I was like a chameleon, and I constantly felt paralyzed about which choices to make because all I knew was that they needed to be impressive.
I never knew what I really thought or felt because I was too busy suffocating my mind with fears and numbing my emotions to develop even a modicum of self-awareness.
This meant I had no idea what I needed. I only knew I didn’t feel seen or heard. I felt like no one really knew me. But how could they when I didn’t even know myself?
I know I’ve made a lot of progress with this over the years, and I have a mile-long list of unconventional choices to back that up, as well as a number of authentic, fulfilling relationships. But I’ve recently recognized some areas where I’ve shape-shifted in an attempt to please others, and in some cases, without even realizing it.
I don’t want to be the kind of person who panders to popular opinion or lets other people dictate my choices. I don’t want to waste even one minute trying to be good enough for others instead of doing what feels good to me.
I want to make my own rules, live on my own terms, and be bold, wild, and free.
This means peeling away the layers of fear and conditioning and being true to what I believe is right. But it’s hard to do this, because sometimes those layers are pretty heavy, or so transparent we don’t even realize they’re there.
With this in mind, I decided to create this reminder of what it looks and feels like to be true to myself so I can refer back to it if ever I think I’ve lost my way.
If you also value authenticity and freedom over conformity and approval, perhaps this will be useful to you too.
You know you’re being true to yourself if….
1. You’re honest with yourself about what you think, feel, want, and need.
You understand that you have to be honest with yourself before you can be honest with anyone else. This means you make space in your life to connect with yourself, perhaps through meditation, journaling, or time in nature.
This also means you face the harsh realities you may be tempted to avoid. You’re self-aware when faced with hard choices—like whether or not to leave a relationship that doesn’t feel right—so you can get to the root of your fear.
You might not always do this right away, or easily, but you’re willing to ask yourself the tough questions most of us spend our lives avoiding: Why am I doing this? What am I getting from this? And what would serve me better?
2. You freely share your thoughts and feelings.
Even if you’re afraid of judgment or tempted to lie just to keep the peace, you push yourself to speak up when you have something that needs to be said.
And you refuse to stuff your feelings down just to make other people feel comfortable. You’re willing to risk feeling vulnerable and embarrassed because you know that your feelings are valid, and that sharing them is the key to healing what’s hurting or fixing what isn’t working.
3. You honor your needs and say no to requests that conflict with them.
You know what you need to feel physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced, and you prioritize those things, even if this means saying no to other people.
Sure, you might sometimes make sacrifices, but you understand it’s not selfish to honor your needs and make them a priority.
You also know your needs don’t have to look like anyone else’s. It’s irrelevant to you if someone else can function on four hours of sleep, work around the clock, or pack their schedule with social engagements. You do what’s right for you and take care good care of yourself because you recognize you’re the only one who can.
4. Some people like you, some people don’t, and you’re okay with that.
Though you may wish, at times, you could please everyone—because it feels a lot safer to receive validation than disapproval—you understand that being disliked by some is a natural byproduct of being genuine.
This doesn’t mean you justify being rude and disrespectful because hey, you’re just being yourself! It just means you know you’re not for everyone; you’d rather be disliked for who you are than liked for who you’re not; and you understand the only way to find “your tribe” is to weed out the ones who belong in someone else’s.
5. You surround yourself with people who respect and support you just as you are.
You understand that the people around you affect you, so you surround yourself with people who respect and support you, which motivates you to continue being true to yourself.
You may have people in your life who don’t do these things, but if you do, you understand their issues with you are just that—their issues. And you set boundaries with them so that they don’t get in your head and convince you there’s something wrong with you or your choices.
6. You focus more on your own values than what society deems acceptable.
You’ve read the script for a socially acceptable life—climb the corporate ladder, have a lavish wedding, buy a big house, and make some babies—but you’ve seriously questioned whether this is right for you. Maybe it is, but if you go this route, it’s because this plan aligns with your own values, not because it’s what you’re supposed to do.
You know your values are your compass in life, and that they change over time. So you check in with yourself regularly to be sure you’re living a life that doesn’t just look good on paper but also feels good in your heart.
7. You listen to your intuition and trust that you know what’s best for yourself.
You not only hear the voice inside that says, “Nope, not right for you,” you trust it. Because you’ve spent a lot of time learning to distinguish between the voice of truth and fear, you recognize the difference between holding yourself back and waiting for what feels right.
You might not always make this distinction immediately, and you might sometimes be swayed by well-meaning people who want to protect you from the risks of thinking outside the box. But eventually, you tune out the noise and hone in on the only voice that truly knows what’s best for you.
8. You do what feels right for you, even if that means risking approval from the people around you.
Not only do you trust that you know what’s best for you, you do it. Even if it’s not a popular choice. Even if people question your judgment, vision, or sanity. You recognize that no one else is living your life, and no one else has to live with the consequences of your choices, so you make them for you and let the chips fall where they may when it comes to public perception.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have everything you want in life. It just means you hear the beat of your own drum, even if it’s silent like a dog whistle to everyone else, and you march to it—maybe slowly or awkwardly, but with your freak flag raised nice and high.
9. You allow yourself to change your mind if you recognize you made a choice that wasn’t right for you.
You may feel embarrassed to admit you’re changing directions, but you do it anyway because you’d rather risk being judged than accept a reality that just plain feels wrong for you.
Whether it’s a move that you realize you made for the wrong reasons, a job that isn’t what you expected, or a commitment you know you can’t honor in good conscience, you find the courage to say, “This isn’t right, so I’m going to make another change.”
10. You allow yourself to evolve and let go of what you’ve outgrown.
This is probably the hardest one of all because it’s not just about being true to yourself; it’s also about letting go. It’s about recognizing when something has run its course and being brave enough to end the chapter, even if you don’t know yet what’s coming next. Even if the void feels dark and scary.
But you, you recognize that the void can also feel light and thrilling. That empty space isn’t always a bad thing because it’s the breeding ground for new possibilities—for fulfillment, excitement, passion, and joy. And you’re more interested in seeing who else you can be and what else you can do than languishing forever in a comfortable life that now feels like someone else’s.
As with all things in life, we each exist on a spectrum. Every last one of us lives in the grey area, so odds are you do some of these things, some of the time, and probably never perfectly. And you may go through periods when you do few or none of these things, without even realizing you’ve slipped.
That’s how it’s been for me. I’ve gone through phases when I’ve felt completely in alignment and other times when I’ve gotten lost. I’ve had times when I’ve felt so overwhelmed by conflicting wants, needs, and beliefs—my own and other people’s—that I’ve shut down and lost touch with myself.
It happens to all of us. And that’s okay. The important thing is that we keep coming home to ourselves and we eventually ask ourselves the hard questions that decide the kind of lives we lead: What am I hiding? What am I lying about? And what truth would set me free?
When it comes to relationships, people can call you “crazy” and “needy” all they want. I can only guess some people don’t know how crazy it feels when every cell in your body feels like the only way to breathe is to stop this person you desire from abandoning you right now.
You may not realize it as the emotions hijack your mind and body, but unconsciously, you only have one job in that moment—to stop history from repeating itself by keeping this person close. And so, you do and say everything you can to try and control the situation: the incessant texting, questioning, crying, overthinking, over-pleasing, phone checking, and the list goes on.
Of course, in most cases, this person cannot leave you because they were never with you in the first place, either physically or emotionally. Either way, as soon as you get even the slightest hint of rejection and abandonment, you experience what I call “The Emotional Takeover.”
Now, not for one second am I defending the unhealthy behaviors that you have in place in that instant, but I do understand them.
Because it used to be me. I used to feel so insecure when I felt there was even the slightest threat to my relationship, and I would become preoccupied with ‘fixing’ the situation in any way I could. It was draining, upsetting, and hugely unsettling.
I know you are not crazy because who you are in those times is not you. You must know that, while it is you that has not yet learned how to break free from that toxic pattern, how to walk away from people who are no good for you, or the art of self-soothing, it is not you.
Sadly, you might not realize that, because it is likely you don’t know who the real you is. You’ve lost yourself to the fear of abandonment.
If you relate to this, it is highly possible that, like me, you fall into the attachment style that is “anxious attachment.”
We tend to experience anxious attachment when we had inconsistent love as a child. It is likely your relationship with your caregivers was unpredictable. As an adult, you struggle with feeling secure in relationships and may find that you experience a ‘need’ to be wanted and intense emotions of anxiety and jealousy when you sense this is being taken away from you.
In a bid to keep people from leaving you, even the wrong ones, your internal blueprint is designed to put others first, to take on their feelings as your own, to prioritize what they want and need, to ‘fix’ them, to mother them, and to do what needs to be done in order to never be abandoned.
I can honestly tell you the science of adult attachment styles has transformed my life. Not only does everything now make more sense to me, but I now understand that my perception of love was totally warped.
For the anxiously attached, it’s hard to know what love is. Chances are, you haven’t had much experience of stability in love, especially from those you desired it most.
It’s probably fair to say you’ve felt intense feelings you believed to be true love. You may have even felt this with one person and become fixated on them, or you may have felt this many times in your life, with different people. Yet there is always a question mark over it because deep down, you know that the love hurts and/or is not reciprocated.
That is often what makes this attachment style so hard: the excruciating moments when you know you are being treated poorly, the times you consider you are in the wrong relationship, and the lack the belief you could ever leave.
What makes it even tougher is how skilled you are at pushing that truth back down and fully convincing yourself that this person does love you back, and if you just work harder, it will eventually turn it to the right relationship.
Often, the anxiously attached are attracted to the avoidants (hot and cold, suddenly not interested, giving you crumbs), and this makes for an incredibly difficult time. It’s not a match made in heaven because you have very different intimacy needs, and much to your dismay, you cannot change the way they feel about you or love.
Trust me, I know how much that hurts to hear, but it’s best you hear it before you meet the next one, or the same one comes back around (again).
I have come across many others with the same attachment style as me, all with a very distorted view of what love is, and I can’t help but notice just how much we love love.
We love it so much, we think that without it, we are not worthy. Without it, we cannot be happy.
That is why you settle for people who don’t meet your needs or chase the person that doesn’t see you or never allow yourself time to just be on your own.
As impossible as it sometimes feels, I can tell you with absolute certainty that you can break free of this pattern.
I’m not saying I’m perfect, and that I don’t feel the feels or drop the ball from time to time, but I now know how to manage the intense emotions, how to recognize the unavailable guy before I’m in too deep, and how to live life as securely as possible (note: secure attachment is considered the healthy style).
You are no different than me; you too can tap into the mind-set of the secure attachment style so you can be happy on your own, invite in sustainable love, or where possible, save your relationship.
Below, you will find the top seven tips that have helped me to become happy in myself and more secure in my relationships:
1. Try to resist overthinking.
If you’re insecure in love, one pattern we have in common is overthinking. Thinking about the potential of the person you ‘love’, overthinking why it ended, overthinking why they haven’t texted, overthinking why they canceled on you, overthinking their latest Instagram post, overthinking how you can get them back, overthinking what they really feel… overthinking.
Your brain feels threatened, and you are trying to think of every single reason this could be happening and of every single solution to solve it. But it’s an impossible job because there is nothing to figure out right now. Remind yourself that the stories you are making up are adding to your stress, and as much as you can, be in reality rather than wasting your precious time searching for closure or answers that do not exist.
2. Beware of chemistry.
You know when you’re with someone and you have that rush of love and excitement even though you hardly know them or they are treating you poorly? That feeling is not love.
That feeling is what you perceive to be love, but it is not love. It’s the rush of an activated attachment system, the feeling of familiarity. Feel like you’ve met this person before? You have, in many of your other relationships from childhood through to now.
It’s your job to re-wire your pathways to see that this feeling is not love. That ‘chemistry’ you feel must instead become your warning sign that this may be the kind of person you need to consider backing away from.
3. Give up on the love you desire most.
This is usually the love of a parent. No matter how many of these people you attract, they will never be the love you desire the most. I know that’s sad, but I can’t sugar-coat it for you (us). I’m not saying miracles don’t happen, but I just think you have so much potential in this life, and seeking that love and approval is holding you back.
We all know how parents and caregivers ‘should’ love, but it is simply true that not everyone is able to or knows how to. Rather than try and fix the past or change your past experience with love, your time is better spent figuring out a more realistic and secure view on love. You cannot change your past, but you can influence your future.
4. Pick yourself.
If you ever felt in any way that one or both of your parents did not pick you, you may find you have a mission to get picked now.
Ever feel like you are second best to the person you desire? You are attracted to that. On a subconscious level, you have found a person where you can continue your fight to be picked.
Deep down, way beyond any conscious level, you believe that if you can get this person to pick you then it undoes the very abandonment that got you here in the first place.
As a child, I wanted to be picked over drugs. As an adult, I found people who were ‘too busy’ with work, sports, and/or drinking. I spent my time trying to make them pick me because I thought I needed that to prove my worth.
Learning to pick myself and quit seeking that external validation meant I am able to live my life confidently and not settle with anyone that has a highly different values system to me.
5. Master the art of emotional intelligence.
Here’s the thing, those with anxious attachments styles do possess a very unique skill in noticing when there is a slight shift or indication that there is a threat to the relationship. As soon as that is noticed, you get triggered, the old familiar feelings take over your whole being, and your only mission is to do what you can to save this relationship.
You must come to understand that the emotion you feel is simply a stored memory from your past. This is your bodily response to abandonment.
Take time to notice where you feel it in your body, and what happens to you physically, and name the emotions that you feel in those times. These symptoms should become your greatest warning sign that your anxious attachment system is activated, and it’s time to soothe yourself, the same way you would a child who is feeling overwhelmed because their mother has popped to the kitchen for five minutes.
6. Own your needs.
It’s time to get real about your own needs because I have news for you, your needs count too.
Life isn’t enjoyable for anyone that goes through it without their own needs being met.
So, get to work and write out what needs you have in your relationships.
Not only will this exercise highlight to your subconscious mind that you actually have needs, it will make it more likely that you admit it to yourself when they aren’t being met—so when you do find yourself back in the unhealthy pattern, it will be harder to lie to yourself about what this person brings to the table and how real this relationship really is.
It will become less likely that you will stay in the situation when you are working on this kind of conscious level and understanding.
7. Create something bigger for yourself.
I call this “Following Your Fire.” Whether you know it or not, you have a purpose, you have desires, and you have unique gifts to bring to this world.
When it comes to experiencing a real level of contentment and being able to walk away from crumbs, finding what lights me up as an individual has been the greatest move I have ever made.
I created a life that I care about. I nurtured the right relationships, I found the activities that I truly enjoy on a soul level, and I followed my deepest dreams that I had otherwise buried. While a healthy love is something I desire, I know for sure that my life is way more than that. That makes it so much easier to walk away from what does not serve me.
When you begin to practice the tips above, you likely won’t see progress straight away, but every now and then you will have monumental moments where you’ll see your growth and give yourself a high five.
When you get to know your attachment style and build a life that you adore, your confidence and self-worth will grow, and you’ll find yourself at a point where you won’t sacrifice your happiness for a person that doesn’t see your value.
You’ll decide that being single is nowhere near as bad as the anxiety that comes from the unhealthy relationships you’re used to. The fear of spending your life with someone who cannot meet your needs will become scarier than being single.
We may always be anxiously attached, but we can learn to live a secure life. So what are you waiting for?
It may seem counterintuitive, but absorbing information through old-fashioned books gives your brain a break.
Imagine being the founder of not one but two companies dedicated to books and not finding the time to read any. That’s the situation that Hugh McGuire, founder of LibriVox and Pressbooks, found himself in a few years ago. Like many of us, he was battling an onslaught of digital information, and his beloved paperbacks were collecting dust. After a while, though, he realized he sorely missed the quiet time he used to spend with a book in hand. He also realized that he was tired all the time, and struggling to focus in every area of life.
Writing for Harvard Business Review, he explained:
“I was distracted when at work, distracted when with family and friends, constantly tired, irritable, and always swimming against a wash of ambient stress induced by my constant itch for digital information. My stress had an electronic feel to it, as if it was made up of the very bits and bytes on my screens.”
He found that a slower form of information, books, was the antidote to his information overload. So he made them part of his routine again. According to McGuire, “Reading books again has given me more time to reflect, to think, and has increased both my focus and the creative mental space to solve work problems.”
As any entrepreneur will tell you, problem-solving is critical for launching or running a business. But so is giving our busy brains a rest, and books help with that too. According to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, focused reading uses about 42 calories per hour, whereas absorbing new information (e.g., scanning Twitter or the news headlines) burns around 65 calories per hour.
Research has found that reading novels improves our brain functions on a variety of levels, including the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and flex your imagination. It also boosts our innovative thinking skills. Take it from Elon Musk, arguably one of the most innovative minds of our time. He’s said that growing up, he spent more than 10 hours a day pouring through science fiction novels. In today’s rapidly changing world, innovation is necessary for any business to stay competitive.
Reading is the best, not to mention the easiest, way to shore up our creative thinking and give our brains a break from digital overload — which, according to a 2019 Workplace Productivity Report, more than half of the workforce experiences. With that in mind, here are some strategies for making quality reading time a part of your daily routine.
1. Stash your devices
It seems simple, but detaching from our phones and tablets is often easier said than done. New information — like the ping of a new DM or refreshing our Twitter feed — triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brains.
On top of that, our devices are designed to be addictive: Just ask a slew of former Silicon Valley big wigs, like Google’s former in-house ethicist, Tristan Harris, who have become whistleblowers for the addictive and unhealthy nature of our phones. Even the guy who literally wrote the book on getting people addicted — Nir Eyal, author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” — has done a 180°. More recently, he wrote a book with the opposite sentiment of his former title: “Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.” It’s a guide to freeing people from the pull of their devices.
Say what you will about Eyal’s flip-flopping, his book includes smart tips for maintaining your attention: like don’t hang out on Slack, limit meetings to just one laptop, and keep your phone on silent. I like to go one step further by putting my phone completely out of sight — in a drawer or even another room — when I need uninterrupted focus time.
It’s impossible to concentrate and fully immerse yourself in a book when you’re constantly checking your messages. So stick with the old adage: out of sight, out of mind.
2. If you don’t have hours, read in short intervals
As CEO of my online form company, I don’t have uninterrupted hours each day to dedicate to reading. But as Wharton professor Adam Grant writes, “Leaders who don’t have time to read are leaders who don’t make time to learn.”
If the most successful entrepreneurs manage to find the time, I can, too. Sometimes, that means being a little thrifty: like reading in short bursts throughout the day — on the way to work or waiting in line at the coffee shop. Or, instead of zoning out with Netflix before bed, try squeezing in a few chapters.
What’s more, research has found that we retain more information when we learn in short, spaced-out intervals, rather than trying to cram it all in at once.
If you’re struggling to concentrate or just having an off-day, the Pomodoro Technique can be highly effective. It entails setting a timer for 25 minutes, committing to concentrating during that time period, then giving yourself five minutes to do anything — grab a snack, take a quick stroll or something else non-work-related. Once you’ve completed four “pomodoros,” you can give yourself a longer break.
Even if you only do one or two pomodoros, you’ll be surprised at how the time flies.
3. Choose your material thoughtfully
It’s no surprise that if you choose something you genuinely enjoy, you’ll be more likely to follow through with it. Plus, fully immersing yourself in one captivating book will give you so much more than speeding through a dozen books while your mind wanders elsewhere. Only when we’re fully absorbed can we reach that priceless state of flow: the “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”
Colleagues often tell me that it’s too difficult or time-consuming to find great books. True enough, there are thousands of titles to choose from. That’s why I recommend delegating the legwork. See who your favorite authors or experts are reading. You can puruse Adam Grant’s favorite leadership books or author Steven Pinker’s ten titles he’d take to a desert island. I also like using What Should I Read Next, a website that uses a huge database to offer recommendations based on books you’ve already enjoyed.
Simply put: For productive, intelligent leaders, reading books is literally the oldest trick in the book. It gives your brain a chance to recharge and absorb new information, and there’s no hacking your way out that.
Being a leader requires confidence, decisiveness, and quick thinking–none of which are served by overthinking every decision or scenario or worrying about every move you make. There’s a time to think, a time to act, a time to reflect, and a time to move forward.
Overthinking causes us to spend too much time thinking, getting stuck in a loop of inaction, and turns positive reflection into debilitating worry. Not only does it not move us forward, it moves us backward and downward.
For three decades I’ve been coaching employees and entrepreneurs with tendencies to overthink things, and I can share 11 mental tricks to dash the dissecting and stop the overscrutinizing.
1. Reopen the door only when new information knocks.
Overthinking goes into overdrive when we keep revisiting decisions we make, refusing to close the door on a call that was made. Believe that you’ve done your due diligence, and only revisit something you’ve decided when you’re presented with new information.
2. Know that overthinking and problem solving aren’t the same thing.
Constantly ruminating and going over scenarios and possibilities often disguises itself as problem solving. It feels like you’re doing something good and useful. But you’re not, you’re just spinning in a circle. Recognize when you’re overthinking something, don’t act like it’s problem solving, and press fast-forward.
3. Remember the 90-10 rule.
This is a formula, a ratio, for how you should calculate how you value yourself. Which is to say it should be based on 90 percent self-worth, 10 percent assigned worth. 90 percent should come from your self-acceptance and self-appreciation, just 10 percent from that occasional sliver of external validation we all need.
Overthinkers distort the formula, even reversing it by acting like 90 percent of their worth comes from what others think or say. So they worry, which takes the form of–you guessed it–overthinking.
4. Assume good intent.
Overthinkers read too much into things. Why? They’re assuming something bad lies underneath, something like a bad perception, someone wishing them ill, or an unfavorable outcome. When you catch yourself doing this, switch your assumption to what you’re reading into was well-intended, or at least neutral. The vast majority of the time, it really is, so why not act like it?
5. Embrace informed ignorance.
News flash: You can’t read the future, you can’t read minds, and you can’t know everything. So don’t try. Thinking harder doesn’t activate the crystal ball.
6. Embrace uncertainty.
When we don’t know something, we tend to fill in the blanks, often with garbage assumptions. Why? Many of us would rather be unhappy than uncertain. Garbage assumptions can take many forms, all infusing themselves into the inner monologue of the overthinker.
A Buddhist chaplain once taught me how to handle uncertainty. I remember his teachings as an acronym: OAR. Observe uncertainty, don’t overreact to it. Acknowledge the presence of uncertainty and accept that impermanence is inevitable. Realize that uncertainty brings benefits, like unleashing creativity and resilience.
7. Replace “what if” with “we’ll see.”
Overthinkers keep asking themselves “what if,” which is an impossible question to answer. If you catch yourself asking “what if,” quickly switch it to “we’ll see,” which is a way of moving past analysis paralysis to acceptance.
8. Get outside and play.
By this I mean stop spending so much time in your head. Get outside it and switch gears to connect with what’s going on around you so you can take joy in it. It can be dark and foreboding inside that head of yours, no?
9. Do the math.
Overthinking also comes from overworrying about the worse-case scenario, which of course no one wants to experience. But ask yourself, “What is the probability the undesirable outcome will actually occur?” Odds are, not very high.
10. Stop framing the unremarkable as catastrophic.
Related to the above, this means stop taking small details and turning them into questionable conclusions. Stop making a mountain out of a molehill. Unlike at the mall, this kind of escalator lifts nobody up.
11. Evaluate the true impact of being wrong.
We often feel the need to overthink because we simply fear being wrong. It might make sense to overthink things if you’re planning to jump your motorbike over the Grand Canyon or to go swimming with a great white shark. As for overthinking the decision you made in that meeting yesterday? Not so much.
Ask yourself in such moments what the realistic cost of being wrong is. When you can lower the stakes, you raise your ability to get mentally unstuck.
So don’t overthink it. Take the inspiration here and run with it. Without looking back.
Back to school is seriously cool in these scholarly destinations. With food, nightlife, and art scenes that are anything but elementary, these 13 spots are the best college towns in the U.S. to visit this fall.
- Eugene, Oregon
Nike gives Eugene serious athletic cache—just look at the fashion-statement uniforms the Oregon Ducks unveil every season or the state-of-the-art sporting facilities on campus. It’s also where frat-bro favorite Animal House was filmed and home to New Max’s Tavern, the inspiration for Homer’s famed hangout Moe’s Tavern on The Simpsons. Willamette Street is lined with art galleries like White Lotus, which showcases Asian works, and Sattva Gallery, where local artists display handcrafted ceramics and jewelry. Bonus: Portland is only a two-hour drive away.
2. Athens, Georgia
Athens is an incubator for artists and rock musicians—R.E.M and the B-52’s got their start here—and it oozes southern charm with its historic Georgian mansions in the Five Points neighborhood. Two music venues are the heart of the nightlife scene: 40 Watts Club, the legendary spot for big-name acts; and Georgia Theatre, which reopened in 2011 after a fire (the Grammy Award-winning and local group Zach Brown Band donated $250,000 to bring it back to life). Fun fact: Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia doubles as a pet cemetery; every English bulldog mascot since 1956 is entombed in wall mausoleum near Gate 9.
3. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis may not have the distinct curb appeal of LA, NYC, or Boston, but the major city does have a pretty sick Frank Gehry-designed landmark that earns them major bragging rights. The Weisman Art Museum, a monolithic stainless steel page out of the famed architect’s book, sits on a bluff over the Mississippi, sprawling out on the U of M campus. Follow the college crowd and at some point or another, you’ll wind up in Dinkytown (yes, that’s its actual name) – a tiny neighborhood overflowing with restaurants (look past the chains for eclectic indies like the Kitty Cat Klub), bars, specialty stores and theaters.
4. Santa Cruz, California
Massive swells, redwood-filled forests, an abundant haze of “medical” marijuana—it’s easy to see the appeal of Santa Cruz. Along with miles of misty beaches and endless bike trails that run through the nearby mountains, the city has killer microbrew and coffee scenes. Two standouts: the organic suds at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, in the Swift Street Courtyard, and single-origin promoter Verve Coffee Roasters, which has locations scattered around town.
5. Madison, Wisconsin
Madison’s historic downtown is perfectly situated on an isthmus flanked by the Mendota and Monona lakes, with the 1,200-acre Arboretum and various biking trails nearby. But make no mistake, Madtown is a tailgaters paradise (game day favorite: fried cheese curds). Ask a Wisconsin grad about his alma matter and he’ll tell you the following: the Kollege Klubon Saturdays, Dotty’s for the Melting Pot burger, and the Terrace at Memorial Union for snapshot-worthy water views.
6. Bozeman, Montana
Who would have guessed that one of America’s coolest college towns is the middle of cow-country Montana? Bozeman, home to Montana State University, has been drawing more and more visitors north. In summer, there’s world-class fishing at the nearby Madison and Yellowstone rivers; come winter, snow junkies flock to Bridger and Big Sky resorts. The town itself has a laid-back college vibe, with bistros, galleries and watering holes like Molly Brown bar, a note-perfect dive in the “bar-muda triangle.”
7. Ithaca, NY
Ithaca may weed out a few (hundred) prospective students each year with the promise of a brutal winter and somewhat middle-of-nowhere locale (it’s 4+ hours from NYC), but the picturesque city is a hell of a lot more than blizzard country. First and foremost, Ithaca topples the scenic scale with rolling hillsides, more than 150 cascading waterfalls (hence all the “Ithaca is GORGES!” merch) and winding trails. Extremely walkable, and home to a generous handful of breweries and wineries, the town also maintains a young crowd, with a population that’s more than 50 percent college kiddos thanks to Ithaca College and a place you probably haven’t heard of–Cornell.
8. Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Chapel Hill might have the strongest foodie cred of any college town in the country. Here, sports bar nachos and divey burger joints take a back seat to James Beard-nominated chefs like Andrea Reusing, whose Asian-inflected Lantern sources from local farms; and the Pig, a nose-to-tail Carolina-style barbecue joint that’s perennially packed. Beyond food, there are plenty more diversions, from the Carolina Basketball Museum to the North Carolina Botanical Garden.
9. Charlottesville, Virginia
Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819 and his legacy lives on, from the grand 18th-century buildings to the secret societies like Seven and Z. In addition to a surprisingly cool art scene ⎯ check out art collective C’ville Arts⎯ lively restaurants (we love the rustic-chic C and O ) and the open-air pavilion on the Downtown Mall, one of the country’s emerging wine regions is right outside of town, shadowed by the Blue Ridge Mountains.
10. Burlington, Vermont
Burlington’s granola roots run deep. This is the place Ben and Jerry bestowed their psychedelic flavors on the world, and where a generation of LSD-charged roadies discovered Phish. These days an organic food movement and highly acclaimed craft beer scene have taken hold in and around UVM. See it firsthand at the City Market, where local purveyors hawk everything from freshly brewed kombucha to high-point ciders to pasture-raised pork.
11. Oxford, Mississippi
Home to William Faulkner’s 19th-century estate Rowan Oak, the storied paperback palace Square Books, and chef John Currence’s destination Cajun spot City Grocery, Oxford is the quintessential Southern small town. The magnolia-lined streets have added luxury boutiques and new-wave restaurants in recent years, but original treasures remain ⎯ Neilson’s, for instance, is the oldest department store in the South. The hotel of choice: the Z, a classic B&B run by two twenty-something Ole Miss-alum sisters. Don’t miss their breakfast cheddar biscuits.
12. Williamsburg, Virginia
Cheesy historical reenactments have long defined Williamsburg, but a growing arts district is giving the town of William & Mary College a polished new edge. Don’t miss the Sculpture Gallery, a public art initiative that features 21 pieces from East Coast artists, including terra cotta works by Barbara Kobylinska, and Century Art Gallery, a showcase for contemporary paintings inside a 1920 Sears Roebuck house. And if you do happen to enjoy colonial history, visit the Jamestown Settlement, eat at one of the many 18th-century-style taverns, or take a tour of the Berkeley Plantation.
13. Ann Arbor, Michigan
Football season in Ann Arbor is no joke—just ask the University of Michigan team, who basically acquire star status every September. For non-collegiates and non-sportifs, life is still pretty swell with post-grad job prospects at big name companies like Google AdWords and Toyota making the town a comfy locale for former co-eds. Plus, pair all that with a bustling downtown–say hello to a multitude of late-night bites and plenty of beer at local faves like Ashley’s—and residential charm courtesy of tree-lined streets and Ann Arbor just about has it all.