Born in the USA: our favorite destinations in Springsteen songs
The freedom of the open road. Escaping ‘a town full of losers’. Taking a chance somewhere new with the love of your life or your best buddy by your side. Springsteen’s songs are packed with characters with complex struggles. The lyrics reflect themes of redemption, and tell stories about a place and a time. To mark The Boss’ 70th birthday on September 23, we’ve pulled together a list of US travel destinations from his songs, along with why you might want to visit them.
It’s midnight in Manhattan: New York City
The characters of ‘New York City Serenade’ have plenty to do in Manhattan. Make like Billy and Diamond Jackie with a ‘boogaloo down Broadway’ to explore this magnificent city. There’s incredible architecture in every direction, world-class museums (head to the Met for antiquities, the Guggenheim for abstract and contemporary exhibitions, and MoMA for the modern-art scene), icons such as Times Square and the Statue of Liberty, theater-galore, and fantastic live music (try jazz in Harlem). On a budget? Then check out the free things you can do in the city.
I went out for a ride and I never went back: Baltimore
The opening lines to ‘Hungry Heart’ would have you believe that it’s not worth hanging around in Baltimore, but don't fall for it. There's a vibrant waterfront that plays host to one of the best aquariums in the US, which includes a rooftop rainforest and a re-creation of an Indo-Pacific reef. The American Visionary Art Museum hosts a collection from 'self-taught' artists and is a world-class zone of creativity. Check out the food scene too, where you can find anything from fantastic sushi burritos to biscuits and gravy. Plenty to keep those hungry hearts in town.
Southern California, down San Diego way
The protagonist in ‘Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)’ is hoping to liberate Rosalita from her overbearing parents and run away to ‘a pretty little place in Southern California down San Diego way’. And it really is an incredibly beautiful part of the world. In Southern California you’ll find vast desert landscapes, glorious beaches and spectacular alpine areas. San Diego is a laid-back place with a world-famous zoo, and a massive cultural hub at Balboa Park, packed with museums and art galleries.
On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert
Don’t get caught ‘chasing some mirage’ in the Utah desert like the character in ‘The Promised Land’. Instead set your sights on Moab, the state’s adventure capital, loved by hikers, bikers, rafters and off-road drivers. Beginner mountain-bikers should try the flat 9-mile Intrepid Trail. Meantime, Westwater Canyon offers some serious white-water rafting with Class III and IV rapids; and hikers will enjoy Fisher Towers Trail, which is particularly beautiful at sunset.
Meet me tonight in Atlantic City
The largest city on the Jersey Shore doesn’t have a lot of the Prohibition-era glamour seen in TV series Boardwalk Empire, but there are still many good reasons to visit. You could try your luck in the casinos, or keep to a tighter budget at the amusement arcades on the Steel Pier. There are plenty of spots along the beach or simply stroll the atmospheric boardwalk. So ‘fix your hair up pretty and meet me tonight in Atlantic City’.
Trouble in the heartland: Badlands National Park
Bruce’s 'Badlands' lyrics may be more focused on the struggle to get by than the stunning Badlands National Park in South Dakota, but all the same, consider driving the 40-mile Badlands Loop Rd to see its key sights. Look out for incredible cliffs, bighorn sheep and prairie dogs as you go, then park up to take on one of the impressive hiking trails.
Streets of Philadelphia
The charming city of Philadelphia is packed with street art, superb places to eat (be sure to join the locals for a meal at Reading Terminal Market) and several historic sites. Independence Historical National Park is the spot where the foundations of US government were built, and McGillan’s Olde Ale House is a historic tavern that survived the Prohibition era. Explore Philadelphia Museum of Art, which holds a massive collection of art and architecture from around the world.
Gonna meet down at the Cadillac Ranch
The song ‘Cadillac Ranch’ is dedicated to cars and how we’ll all end up in a junkyard eventually. Cadillac Ranch itself is a massive sculpture off I-40 in a field near Amarillo, Texas, made up of 10 Cadillacs (some literally saved from being junked). They’re all half-buried standing on their ends hood first. The site has evolved over the years as visitors have added scribbles and colors to the cars. Take some spray paint and add your mark when you visit.
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Asbury Park experienced a revival in the 2000s with hip restaurants downtown and new property developments beachside, giving it more to its name than simply the Springsteen legacy. But while you’re there, be sure to stop by rock venue Stone Pony where Bruce and other musicians started their careers.
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