About Backseat Cities

What they are

An enormous stainless steel gavel strikes a stainless steel sound block in the middle of a pool on a brilliant summer day

The World's Largest Gavel, Columbus, OH, July 2018

Reading time: 1 minute

Bad configuration of Message to Display in Plugin parameters.

What are Backseat Cities?

They're places you should visit but probably haven’t.

I live in a Backseat City - Columbus, Ohio - and that's how this project (not yet published) all started.

There are almost never crowds.

Backseat Cities aren't the big, well-known destinations such as Miami or Chicago. Nor are they the smaller towns and villages like Stowe, VT or Holland, MI that travel writers lazily call charming, cozy, quaint, or hidden gems.

Backseat Cities are medium-sized places that don't generate significant tourist traffic. They could be anywhere in the world - there are plenty in central and eastern Europe, for example - but right now I'm concentrating on America.

An extremely dirty building with a long set of steps and a high dome

Garfield Memorial, Cleveland, OH. Sep 2018

Wooden desk with some papers and an old typewriter

Susan B. Anthony's office, Rochester, NY. Aug 2018

Cities like:

  • Indianapolis
  • Providence
  • Wichita
  • Des Moines
  • Pittsburgh
  • Spokane
  • Milwaukee
  • Richmond

In 2017, the Washington Post did a service series called You're Going Where?, and most of their destinations were Backseat Cities. In some cases, they chose places I've targeted for my books.

I still can't figure out why more people don't go to Rochester for vacation. Seriously.

The title of the Post series communicates an idea fundamental to a Backseat City: Huh? Tell people you're going to Boise for vacation and see how they react. (If they knew anything about Boise, of course, they'd be jealous.)

I ignored the strange looks and the questions and I went. Backseat Cities is the story of my travels.

The benefits

Why go to Cleveland instead of New York City or Boston? It's a fair question. Since I live in a Backseat City, and have visited several more, I've become an evangelist.

An alligator sunning itself on a log in green waters

An alligator on a swamp tour outside Lafayette, LA. Oct 2018

  • Backseat Cities have excellent hotels and restaurants
  • They have plenty of fascinating attractions
  • They're less expensive
  • There are almost never crowds

In other words, Backseat Cities have most of the upside of traditional tourist destinations, but almost none of the downside. I still can't figure out why more people don't go to Rochester for vacation. Seriously.

Two leg lamps illuminated, in a gift shop - that&039;s a leg wearing fishnet hose and a black pump on the foot, topped by a lampshade

Leg lamps for sale at the Christmas Story House gift shop. Sep 2018

Read more

Recent Posts

Afropean  8/6/2021

Roadrunner  7/22/2021

Red Dust  6/30/2021

Eat Pray Love  6/10/2021

Voyage au Brésil  5/16/2021

Postcard: Lake Tahoe  4/30/2021

Baedeker's United States  4/5/2021

To Shake the Sleeping Self  3/7/2021

Adrift  2/25/2021

The Sex Lives of Cannibals  2/17/2021



A smiling Francis and me, sitting outside in front of some shrubs

Some basics

A brief biographical sketch

Me on top of a sunny Mt Pilatus in Switzerland, with mountains in the background


Pardon the saccharine and the obvious, but travel is everything

A couple standing in front of a large Gothic church, on a bridge over the Seine


France deserves its own section

Francis, as a two year-old in a car seat, in sunglasses reading a French picture book


The bullshit of daily life? I'd rather read.

Stage with musicians going at it - they're Gogol Bordello, and they're crazy


Let me take you back

Little boy sitting on a big white bed, looking at a tablet


I watch a lot more television than movies

Live action from a soccer game at Crew Stadium - yellow versus blue


The only sport that matters

Ugly photo of a pig knuckle after it's been eaten - really, it looks horrible


As a travel writer, I have to talk about food

Me in an outdoor restaurant drinking from a green coconut with a long straw

Dumb stuff

You will not feel smarter after reading this

Dumpster full of garbage


Trying to live simply

Me getting out of a red Ferrari F430 with a guy clapping for me

Other Interests

I've only driven a Ferrari once

Dude wearing orange pants and orange and green shoes walking on wet grass

Get off my lawn

A few brief rants

Recent Instagram Posts

Recent Tweets