America is a young country by world standards and it does not have the history or long-established culture of its own, but because it was primarily Europeans that settled this nation, there are a number of traditions which suggest these European beginnings.
Any visitor to Europe learns to appreciate and anticipate its great squares, large gathering places which offer much of what Europe is all about — history, architecture, a relaxed lifestyle, etc. America doesn’t have great squares like Europe, places like the Piazza San Marco, Grand Place, Marienplatz, etc, but there are a few which deserve mention. As with Europe, these squares attract the tourist and resident alike because they offer a variety of activities, food and drink, and just a place to socialize. So here are the great squares of America.
1. Times Square, New York, NY
Times Square, at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, represents the heart of New York City. Its glitz and glamour make it a Mecca for visitors. Besides being surrounded by many of the city’s most famous attractions, it also abuts the Theater District. On December 31st, it becomes the location of the most famous New Year celebration in the world.
2. Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco, CA
Ghirardelli Square sits just above the waterfront in downtown San Francisco. As such, it is at the cultural center of town, since the city’s legacy is intimately associated with its bay and the ocean beyond. This square offers shopping, restaurants, and great views of Alcatraz Island and the entire bay. It is also right next to the origin of the most famous of the city’s Cable Cars. Come at night for spectacular lighting, crowds, and excitement.
3. Jackson Square, New Orleans, LA
Jackson Square, a beautiful park in front of the distinctive St Louis Cathedral is an ideal place for relaxing or taking pictures. An equestrian statue General Andrew Jackson is the square’s focal point. The area is beautifully landscaped and is often the scene of spontaneous. The nearby, colonnaded French Market has several shops and restaurants, some with live music.
4. Temple Square, Salt Lake City, UT
Temple Square in Salt Lake City is a huge area which is owned and managed by the Mormon Church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and includes many buildings sacred to members of this religion. The Church provides guides who will escort visitors throughout the complex. The Tabernacle (where the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs) is one of the noteworthy stops on the tour. The tour guide usually demonstrates the excellent acoustics of the auditorium by having someone whisper or drop a pin at the front while the group listens at the back. The Seagull Monument also tells an interesting tale, and the Temple itself, although closed to the public has an impressive exterior. Be prepared to endure the obligatory recruitment talk, but the attraction is worthwhile, nevertheless.
5. Mallory Square, Key West, FL
Duval Street is the main street in the tourist area. On the corner, near the waterfront is Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a “must” on every tourist itinerary, for drinks and people-watching. Another mandatory experience for all visitors is watching the sunset from Mallory Square, just across the street from Sloppy Joe’s. There are numerous shops in the vicinity of the square for browsing, so it is busy at all times of the day or night.
6. Old Town Plaza, Santa Fe, NM
The city’s pride in southwestern culture is evident in its architecture. The Old Town is remarkably well preserved and is ideal for walking. Many artists have been attracted to the area so there is an abundance of art galleries and craft shops. The Palace of the Governors, on one side of the main square, is now a museum, and native Americans display their wares on blankets along the front of the building.
7. Forsythe Park, Savannah, GA
The downtown area of the city is laid out in an unusual way — homes and neighborhoods were centered around a series of 24 squares which are now landscaped and preserved as city parks. Twenty-two of the original squares designed by General James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, still remain and they provide a charming walking tour of the downtown area. Forsythe Park is simply one excellent representative of the 22.
8. Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY
Rockefeller Center, located in midtown Manhattan, is the home of NBC (the National Broadcasting Company) and is noted for its ice-skating rink and the exhibitions which frequently take place nearby. More recently, it has become extremely popular in the mornings during the Today Show, since the hosts spend part of their morning broadcast outside. Free concerts also occur during some of the broadcasts. In addition, tours of NBC Studios are offered throughout the day. It is also a gathering place, great for people-watching.
9. Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA
The Pioneer Square Historic District is an area of restored homes and businesses, rebuilt following Seattle’s great fire of 1889. There are numerous shops and restaurants. The square itself is recognized by a totem pole, which suggests the native indian past of the area.
10. Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, MA
This large square houses Faneuil Hall, one of the Massachusetts Bay colonist’s first meeting places, now a major shopping area with a huge variety of shops, and Quincy Market, a hodge-podge of take-out food stands which offers just about any conceivable type of food and beverage. The area is extremely popular during all times of the day or evening and is great for people-watching.