Cities With the Best Air Quality
Air quality might not be top of mind when you head out for a hike or open the windows to catch a summer breeze, but it can have a major impact on your life. Poor air quality can lead to increased rates of asthma, heart disease and lung cancer. To raise awareness of air quality across the United States, the American Lung Association releases an annual State of the Air Report. The association ranks metropolitan areas within three categories: short term particle pollution, year round particle pollution and ozone pollution. Read on to see if you’re breathing some of the cleanest air in America, and discover our recommendations for ways to enjoy that air.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Sioux Falls, the largest city in South Dakota, takes it’s name from a series of waterfalls on the Big Sioux River. Native Americans populated the area for at least 1,500 years before Europeans arrived. Visitors can tour the 123 acre Falls Park to see the falls and some of the city’s first industry buildings. These include the seven story Queen Bee Mill, which closed in 1883 after only two years of being open. Falls Overlook Cafe stands on the east bank of the river. There is no shortage of family activities in the city museums, ballet troupes, an opera, galleries, theaters and a symphony provide a cultural boon. The city also boasts one of the largest river park systems in America. Frommer’s named Richmond a top worldwide destination for 2014, claiming that “Richmond is coming into its own as a choice regional destination with a growing slate of breweries, farm to table restaurants and even white water rapids activities cutting right through downtown.” The city is the only urban setting with white water rapids of the James River snaking through downtown. A white water trip is an adventurous way to see Richmond while enjoying wildlife such as deer, bald eagles, ospreys and herons. For only five cents, you can get a Coke and an earful of Coca Cola’s bottling origins. You can also check out a collection of Coke artifacts, tour Beidenharn’s home and the stroll about the European gardens behind the home. For those tourists who hear the call of the wild, stop by the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge. “This majestic 4,500 acre expanse of lake, swamp, bottomland hardwoods, mixed pine and hardwood uplands,” is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including small alligators, turtles, coyotes and fowl, according to the Monroe Westmonroe website. You can rent a canoe to paddle along the 1,600 acre lake, and peruse the Aquarium Room and arboretum there.’s capital city, is the perfect confluence of all American southern culture and globalization. It’s been a locus for the resettlement of refugees since the 1980’s, housing rich Iraqi, Vietnamese and Sudanese communities. Visitors can tour the Sunken Gardens, which features an annually redesigned floral display of over 30,000 plants. Check out the Acadian Village, a 32 acre replica of an 1800’s Cajun town that even has a bayou running through it. According to the Acadian Village website, 7 of its 11 buildings are authentic homes donated by families whose ancestors once lived in them. Yhe Louisiana Orphan Train Museum in nearby Opelousas commemorates the Orphan Train riders, who arrived from the New York Foundling hospital between 1873 and 1929. In 2013, Lafayette was named the best small town for food in America by the Rand McNally/USA Today Best of the Road Rally. It’s the world capital of Cajun and Creole fare, where home cooked dining meets French, Spanish, American, Native American and African influences. For two food filled itineraries, click on the related link below.
Related: Best Food Town
La Crosse, Wisconsin
Last year, La Crosse made NerdWallet’s list of the top small cities to start a business. Like most of America, the article observes,
La Crosse recently saw a sharp decline in manufacturing. The city has made up for its losses, however, in “highly skilled, knowledge intensive industries, such as health care.” It also had the highest percentages of businesses with paid employees of all the cities analyzed. Great American novelist and humorist Mark Twain once said, “Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see [Hartford] is the chief.” It’s not hard to imagine a youthful Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn tooling down a Midwest river here in fact, Twain called Hartford his home between 1874 and 1891 and wrote “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in a 19 room Victorian Gothic house. The home is now a historic site open for tours. After visiting the Mark Twain home, head to Elizabeth Park to take in the carefully manicured gardens with 800 varieties of roses. Tourists love to peruse Old Port, a pedestrian friendly area with bustling with boutiques, restaurants and bars. According to Business Insider, the European style district features cobblestone streets and centuries old brick buildings. Portland is a fantastic foodie destination. It’s home to several renowned restaurants, including Central Provisions, which was a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Restaurant Award in 2015, and Fore Street, owned by Sam Hayward, 2011 winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef. The name means “Children of the Sun,” in Salishan, according to the City of Spokane website. Although Spokane is the second largest city in Washington, it features a host of beautiful outdoor attractions. At Manito Park, tourists can stroll through curated gardens, including the Nishinomiya Tsutakawa Memorial Japanese Garden, French Renaissance style Duncan Garden, Lilac Garden and Rose Hill Garden. Although the first European settlement was established there in 1834, the city’s population experienced little growth until the discovery of gold in 1860 attracted settlers. One of the city’s most popular attractions is pretty unusual the Museum of Clean features exhibits on all things that have to do with cleanliness: vacuums, toilets, washers, brooms and more. The museum has no guards, making it a favorite among children. According to their website, the museum’s mission is to, “expand the scope of clean into areas like clean homes, clean minds, clean language, clean community, and a clean world.”
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Southwest Louisiana is a melting pot of Native American, Cajun, Creole, German and French cultures. You can tour the Charpentier Historic District, where the buildings’ assortment of turrets, towers, gables, shingling, leaded glass and gingerbread accents reflects the diversity of the carpenter architects who built them. Download the Lake Charles Historic Tour app for a guided experience. The city’s Mardi Gras Museum hosts the largest display of Mardi Gras costumes in the south. Situated on the Eastern bank of the Connecticut River near a confluence with the Westfield River, Chicopee River and Mill River, Springfield is awash with vital outdoor beauty and activities. Visit Forest Park for hiking trails, water parks, tennis courts, picnic areas and ponds teeming with duck, geese and other birds. Or, head to the Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club to kick off a paddleboat or dragon boating journey along the Connecticut River.