Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Beyond the Gorges: The Five Best Buildings in Ithaca, New York

Stowell House, Ithaca, New YorkIthaca, New York, is famous for its gorgeous gorges, which weave their way around and through the city, providing ample opportunity for its residents, visitors, and thousands of students at Ithaca College and Cornell University to enjoy some of nature’s finest work. When you emerge from these craggy corridors, you can also enjoy some of man’s finest work in the city’s architectural heritage. Read more about the top five buildings in Ithaca >


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The Depthless Southern Charm of Natchez, Mississippi

Temple B'nai Israel, Natchez, MississippiWith a population that has been almost halved since its peak of only about 24,000 in 1960, Natchez, Mississippi, could easily become a forgotten, dying backwater along the Mississippi River. But its rich history, grand setting, elegance, and hospitality help maintain its relevance as one of the South’s most charming cities, particularly for those interested in heritage tourism. At the city’s zenith, more than 500 millionaires called it home — more than any other U.S. city except New York. They left behind a treasure trove of outstanding architecture that still lures a steady stream of visitors, including me, who come to gape at more than 600 antebellum structures — the largest collection in the United States. Read more about the top five buildings in Natchez >


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The Best Architecture in Des Moines, Iowa

Terrace Hill, Des Moines, IowaPretty much smack in the center of Iowa, Des Moines boasts some enviable national rankings, making the top 10 on such diverse lists as hippest midsize cities, best cities in which to live and work, most pro-business cities, best cities for retirement, best cities for young professionals, best farmers’ market, and so on. You’d think that with all that going for it, it would be a lively, dynamic place, even more so as the state’s capital and largest city. But when I visited on a regular Tuesday, downtown was virtually devoid of people despite the new office buildings, and I walked for a dozen blocks without passing a single place where I could pick up a cup of coffee or a newspaper. Perhaps I just missed the buzzing part of town, but it seemed unlikely. Nevertheless, this was a welcome break from the overcrowded streets of my hometown of New York, and the extra breathing room gave me plenty of space to enjoy some impressive architecture. Read more about my top five buildings in Des Moines >


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Art Deco Delights in Napier, New Zealand

Dalgety's Building, Napier, New ZealandSnuggled along the coast of Hawke’s Bay on New Zealand’s North Island, the small city of Napier owes its current fame to an earthquake that destroyed it. On February 3, 1931, a massive 7.8 earthquake leveled most of the city, killing 258 people in the temblor and the ensuing fires. With its citizens eager to rebuild their city as quickly as possible, construction projects sprouted up all over town in the next few years. Art Deco happened to be the architectural style of choice at that time, and, as there were so many simultaneous projects, the city achieved a uniformity rarely seen in urban environments. Today, after Miami, it’s the best city in the world to appreciate Art Deco architecture and style. Read more about Napier’s best buildings >


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Windy Wellington’s Best Buildings

Beehive, Wellington, New ZealandFrequently cited as the world’s breeziest city, the capital of New Zealand is one of the planet’s top draws for windsurfers, sailors, and kite enthusiasts. With an average wind speed of 16.6 miles per hour, the city certainly deserves its blustery reputation. But nothing more than a gentle zephyr greeted me upon my arrival in Wellington, and motionless anemometers characterized my departure a few days later, via ferry across Cook Strait to South Island — one of the world’s most treacherous rides in inclement weather, but also one of the world’s most beautiful on a fair day. Residents swamped pocket parks to enjoy the apparently unusual stillness — a glorious respite that permitted me to easily explore the city and its best architecture without chasing my hat down the street. Read more about my five favorite buildings >