Correction appended, 8:45 p.m.
We asked dozens of prominent Americans to share a favorite thing about the U.S. for the Fourth of July.
From small-town diners to big-city trains, their picks will ensure you’ll always have something to do—whatever state you’re in.
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Metacomet is the park in my hometown where every T-ball, baseball, tennis and soccer game was played when I was growing up. It reminds me of all the ease and fun that life can be when we focus on the simple things: community and family.
Aduba, a native of Medfield, Mass., stars in Orange Is the New Black
Jeni Britton Bauer
The North Market in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the oldest markets in the Midwest, and there is so much history there and so much support for food businesses. Opening a stand there gives entrepreneurs and chefs a captive audience to test their ideas and build a fan base. Plus, it’s the place in Columbus to eat.
Britton Bauer is the founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Besides great sporting events, Indianapolis now has a world- class Children’s Museum, one of the top zoos in the country and a vibrant downtown that features a lot of interesting neighborhoods. You can walk, run or bike almost anywhere. I’m proud to call it home.
Bird is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame
Sun Cedar at Penn House, a nonprofit organization in Lawrence, Kans., that employs and aids at-risk individuals (homeless persons, recovering addicts and those with past felony convictions) as they reintegrate into the mainstream workforce. I love supporting those who are striving to support themselves.
Bell, an actor, stars in the upcoming film Bad Moms
There are two scenic trails that run between the beach towns of Lewes and Rehoboth, both in Delaware. The best way to earn your 60 Minute IPA calories is by biking between them, taking the Junction & Breakwater bike path to Rehoboth and the waterfront Gordons Pond Trail in Cape Henlopen State Park, on the way back to Lewes.
Calagione is the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery
Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville is home cooking that’s unpretentious and delicious. They serve a type of “meat and three” with a cafeteria-style service that is going to become more popular in the next couple of years. I crave eating here and absolutely love the community feel of the space.
Chang is a chef and founder of Momofuku
I grew up in a tiny town called Niskayuna, N.Y. It’s a great place, but I wasn’t exposed to a lot of different people or opportunities. No one told me I could start a company because we didn’t know anyone who did. I wish every child in this country, regardless of their economic situation, had the chance to be exposed to the world, to great mentors and to keep dreaming about what’s possible.
Chesky is the co-founder and CEO of Airbnb
When I go to festivals, I see the happiest people: they’re about something simple, like Buffalo wings or gumbo, and locals want to share what their region produces. My favorite is the Asparagus Festival in Stockton, Calif. Deep-fried asparagus is the healthiest food I eat in competition—and it was the first contest I ever won.
Chestnut, a California native, set the record at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest (as of press time)
A few years ago, a friend took me to King’s Burgers, an old-time spot in Northridge, Calif., with $5 pastrami sandwiches. It’s run by a Korean family, and—as I was told—the son had become a high-end L.A. sushi chef and then returned to help his mother run the business. He had opened a counter in the shop, where we ate world-class sushi surrounded by families in flip-flops having burgers and Coke. In America, creativity can pop up like a blade of grass through the sidewalk.
Cho, an actor, stars in the upcoming film Star Trek Beyond
Dr. Francis Collins
My favorite thing is to meet with student researchers, to hear what projects they are working on, and to see the spark in their eyes as they talk about the work they are doing. The U.S. is still the country that provides the greatest opportunity for a young person to make a difference.
Collins is the director of the National Institutes of Health
I’ve lived in Oklahoma City my entire life, and watched it become a unique combination of an old, hardworking Midwest cow town and young, art-minded party city. The Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma is in what used to be the abandoned warehouse district. It’s a trip: young musicians on their cell phones, carrying computers and synthesizers over streets that at one time were filled with trucks and farm equipment.
Coyne is the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Flaming Lips
Elena Delle Donne
There’s almost nothing in the cultural world that’s harder to get right than a Broadway musical, but when someone does, there’s nothing more invigorating or satisfying. In an increasingly digital age, it’s so refreshing to see real live people telling a story onstage. No filtered photos, no holograms, no VR—real human beings sharing a moment together. It never gets old.
Eichner, an NYC native, hosts Billy on the Street
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
West Virginia to me is the smell of just-caught trout, coated in cornmeal, frying in Crisco in a black skillet at breakfast time at Smoke Hole on the South Branch of the Potomac, in the region where my family has lived since the 18th century. That’s about as close to Heaven as you can get on God’s green earth.
Gates is an author and professor
The thing I love most about West Virginia is the resiliency of its people. They celebrate the state by embracing its Appalachian culture, feeding its spirit through culinary specialities like the pepperoni roll and preserving the beauty of its hills and valleys.
Gee is the president of West Virginia University
Correction: The original version of this story misstated where Gordon Gee is president. It is West Virginia University.
Some 40 years ago, I stood before a lifelike bronze statue of a charioteer at a museum in Delphi that brought me to tears. I realized then that part of our mission was to create spaces and places that expressed feelings. In its show of Greek bronzes, the Getty Museum in L.A. reminded me of that simple thought.
Gehry, a Santa Monica, Calif., resident, is an acclaimed architect
Charlamagne Tha God
The historic vibe of downtown Charleston, S.C., is the perfect backdrop for amazing restaurants like Poogan’s Porch, Hyman’s Seafood, Fleet Landing and High Cotton—and a brownie sundae from Kaminsky’s. And make sure you tip the kids selling the flowers made out of sweetgrass.
South Carolina native Lenard McKelvey, a.k.a. Charlamagne Tha God, co-hosts The Breakfast Club radio show
At the Whitney Museum’s new building in New York City, the portrait show “Human Interest” brings together over 200 works that not only showcase the breadth and innovation of American art but also celebrate the diversity and beauty of the people these works depict.
Golden is director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem
Renée Elise Goldsberry
Like most of Indianapolis’s best restaurants, Recess is located in an unassuming minimall storefront, but in an age where “fresh” and “local” are buzzwords, the menu (which changes each day) offers food that is actually fresh and actually local.
Green, an Indianapolis native, is a writer whose YA novels include The Fault in Our Stars
The Mütter Museum of medical history in Philadelphia is the place to go if you’re fascinated by the mysteries of the human body. Exhibits include the preserved corpse of the woman known as the Soap Lady, a wax model of a 10-inch horny protuberance that grew out of the forehead of a Parisian woman, a dried megasize colon and slides of slices of Albert Einstein’s brain.
Gross is the host of public radio’s Fresh Air
Every week, I have a crab omelet at Gertrude’s in the Baltimore Museum of Art with my mother. You can enjoy the magnificence of the BMA’s art outdoors and drown yourself in the beauty of the gardens.
Hayden, the CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, has been nominated to be the next Librarian of Congress
Juan Felipe Herrera
Las Cruces, N.M., small, farm-grown jalapeños and my sister Sara’s roasted and hand-peeled long green chiles! It is part country perfume and part ecstasy. What makes this come together are the brother-sister conversations while we’re chopping the jalapeño into piñata-colored pico de gallo and peeling the long-tall green one at the kitchen sink. Outside the kitchen, the mural sky with the Organ Mountains reminds you that the earth provides many gifts—joy on a plate, the palette, planet and la familia.
Herrera is the U.S. poet laureate
When I was growing up, just going to high school was enough. Now, it isn’t just the rich kids going to college, and there are more opportunities to continue your education. Our next generation is going to be even smarter than we are—they’ll take care of us.
Huffman, a teacher at Charles Pinckney Elementary School in Mount Pleasant, S.C., was named the 2015 National History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
One of my favorite July 4 memories is from Memphis, which is such an American city with so much culture and history. We had a few of days off while on tour and did the whole thing: barbecue, a Memphis Redbirds minor-league baseball game, great music and fireworks on the Mississippi River.
Jonas is a singer and actor whose most recent album is Last Year Was Complicated
The Wednesday noon special at Cy’s Cafe in Dwight, Neb., population 204 at the last census. Roast pork, kraut, dumplings, applesauce and a drink, prepared and served by the Nemec sisters: Janet, who does the cooking, and Sharon, who works for the Catholic parish but comes to help during the noon hour. This is to be followed by a two-hour deep and altogether dreamless nap.
Kooser was the U.S. poet laureate from 2004 to 2006
Governor Jerome Lucero
You can go anywhere on our roadways. They’re very democratic and a masterpiece of mass cooperation and organization, like veins that run through the country. Even though they need work, the basic infrastructure is there. And many of them, like the Pacific Coast Highway and Route 66, inspired some great songs.
Marsalis is the managing and artistic director for Jazz at Lincoln Center
My career has taken me around the world, but there is no place where I’m happier than at home—be it in Central Ohio or South Florida. Columbus is where I’m from, and where I met my wife Barbara. And Palm Beach County is where we raised all five of our children and have lived for parts of six decades. The common thread is small-town charm and friendliness.
Nicklaus is a Hall of Fame golfer, course designer and philanthropist
My mama and daddy instilled in me the belief that this country is the greatest place on earth and that our freedoms were hard earned on the backs of our forefathers. I’ve never taken that for granted and I know that it’s because of their sacrifices that I get to live out my dreams. All of us should see freedom as a gift; my goal is to treasure that gift every single day.
Parton is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame
T. Boone Pickens
I’m on the road—a lot—giving speeches, preaching the need for an energy plan for America and looking for soft-serve ice cream. Everywhere I go, I ask the driver, “Is there a Dairy Queen around?” I’m a sucker for a Blizzard. A Blizzard with Butterfingers or Heath bar.
Pickens is an investor and the chairman of BP Capital
Our universities are admired and respected everywhere in the world, if not in our own legislatures. We have created a splendid experience for our young people in this very American achievement, and should do everything possible to see that it is shared much more broadly.
Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist
The center of my universe is Fifth Avenue and Central Park. It is where I live, 10 minutes from where I work and within walking distance of three of the greatest museums in the world, plus Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. It is a true crossroads of the world, and for a boy who lived above a country store in North Carolina, wild-eyed and curious, it is larger than any dream he had.
Rose is a talk- show host and journalist
There are two kinds of music: good and bad. Much of the good can be found in the American songbook, created by George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin and others. This music holds my attention like nothing else. Songs like “Long Ago and Far Away” and “Dancing in the Dark” are emotional gold.
Schwartz is the host of public radio’s The Jonathan Schwartz Show
It’s kind of a tie for me: I love the Arbuckle Mountains, near where I live, because it’s one of the oldest mountain ranges in the U.S. But the Wichita Mountains have buffalo and elk in a really cool setting—a mountain range on the plains.
Shelton, an Oklahoma native, is a coach on The Voice. His latest album is If I’m Honest
The Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana has this particular beauty. It’s so unusually American because no one ever thinks of it. I have a friend, the saxophonist and artist Dickie Landry, who lives on his family’s 80-acre pecan orchard near there, in a little town called Cecilia. He’s the guy who introduced me to zydeco music when I was making Graceland. So I’ve been friends with him and a bunch of other people down there for a long time. I just like hanging there.
Simon is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His new album is Stranger to Stranger.
The Siuslaw National Forest, where the trees meet the sea. The poetic mind of nature rules in this majestic and pristine coastal forest. A visit here is always humbling, inspiring and a reminder of why we absolutely must protect our national parks and forests.
Spalding is a singer and bassist; her latest album is Emily’s D+Evolution
New Orleans Rock ‘N’ Bowl is a family-friendly honky-tonk. On Thursdays, walk past the Catholic saint’s altar and Carnival decor to join a dance floor of Creole cowboys who zydeco two-step and waltz en français … or you can bowl to the music!
Spitzer, a New Orleans resident, is the host of public radio’s American Routes
Each homecoming from a long trip reaffirms that I live in the right place: Edmonds, Wash. I love to stroll along the bluff over Puget Sound—ringed by snowcapped peaks—and watch the seagulls escort the ferries in and out, while parents chase their children on the beach as if the green line of kelp defines a timeless playground.
Steves is a travel author and TV host
Driving through the ponderosa pine forest along the Mogollon Rim in Arizona, from Payson to our cabin in Show Low, there is a turnout view area on the road to Woods Canyon Lake, where my husband Brad scattered his parents’ ashes. It’s a breathtakingly inspiring vista that bonds you with the majesty of nature.
Takei is an actor and author
Nothing can compare to an evening of exquisite Bach, Beethoven or Berlioz under the stars on a tender summer night at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, in the company of like-minded music lovers with their picnics laid out on the grass. It belongs to another time and is a rare respite from the mayhem of modern life: you will leave the place ennobled and changed for the good. And the kids’ll have fun.
Taylor, a Boston native, is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Some small towns still have a general store where you can buy practically anything. Sag Harbor, N.Y., is among them. Even though the floors at Sag Harbor Variety Store will likely squeak and you might require 15 minutes to find what you want among the endless shelves of knickknacks, what’s always there, whether or not it’s Independence Day, is an American flag you can buy.
Tyson, a New York City native, is director of the Hayden Planetarium
The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, is my favorite place to visit in the U.S. Now more than ever, it’s relevant beyond belief. There’s a bittersweet joy underneath the sadness, given how far we’ve come since Dr. King died but how much further we have to go.
Veeck is part owner of five minor-league baseball teams across the U.S.
My favorite thing to notice is that the ravages of greed have not entirely destroyed nature’s ability to surprise us with its beauty. Some of the beauty is quite ravaged too: like the Grand Canyon or some of the tree-stripped hills that manage to cover themselves each spring in radiant bright grass.
Walker is a Pulitzer Prize–winning author
Spending time outside engaging with nature is restorative and awe-inspiring. It is when I do some of my best thinking and when I feel most at peace and most alive. Everyone should have a chance to experience the beauty and comfort of nature—especially children.
Waters is the owner of Chez Panisse restaurant and founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project