Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.

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Delightful Domes That Grace City Skylines

Salta Cathedral, Salta, ArgentinaDomes. They’re one of the world’s most versatile architectural elements. Whether they’re topping iconic buildings like the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, and the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, or they’re the buildings themselves, ranging from Eskimo igloos to Central Asian yurts to the geodesic dome in Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, domes add that final splash of panache to our built environments. Found throughout the world, they seem to be appreciated by just about everyone as the perfect way to top off a building in a graceful, elegant style. Read more about the world’s top five domes >



The Best Ways to Spend Some Time in Bismarck, North Dakota

Keelboat Park, Bismarck, North DakotaOf all the people I know who have gone to Bismarck (a number that is, quite truthfully, very tiny), none intended to have a wild, rollicking, what-happens-there-stays-there time. The capital of North Dakota is calm and quiet, and the residents seem to like it that way. So, if you’re seeking the flash of, say, Minneapolis, you won’t find it here, even though the city has been growing by double-digit percentages every decade since 1880. But if you live a frenetic lifestyle and want a shift of gears, and if you remain observant, you’ll find some lovely gems. Read more about the top five things to see and do in Bismarck >


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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Beauty and History in Montgomery’s Best Buildings

State Capitol, Montgomery, AlabamaNamed for Richard Montgomery, an Irish-born soldier who became a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, Alabama’s second-largest city has earned numerous national accolades, including being cited as an All-America City by the National Civic League and the Best Historic City by USA Today in 2014. It was the first U.S. city to install city-wide electric streetcars, the setting for parts of the Academy Award–nominated movie Selma, and the birthplace of Nat King Cole, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Hank Williams, Sr. Walking around this historically rich city, I could feel its legacy oozing from its built environment, whether it was the Baptist church where Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor, or the executive residence of Jefferson Davis at the start of the Civil War. These are my top five buildings in Montgomery. Read more >

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Five Buildings of Distinction in Pierre, South Dakota

Karcher-Sahr House, Pierre, South DakotaHalfway between lovely Sioux Falls in the eastern part of South Dakota and the gorgeous Black Hills in the west, Pierre seemed a good resting spot for a couple of days as I traversed the state. And when I first arrived here, I knew immediately that “resting” would be the operative word in this very small city of 14,000 of the friendliest people you’re ever likely to meet. But the city’s size — it’s the second-smallest capital in the United States (after tiny and charming Montpelier, Vermont) — also offers a good opportunity to really get to know and admire some of its outstanding architecture. These are my top five buildings in Pierre. Read more >