• Laura Stiles

My Top 5 Cities in America

There are definitely some downsides to military lifestyle, but getting to see new places is not one of them. Sure moving every 3 years sucks and you have to say goodbye to friends that you wish you could live your whole life with, but the perks of the move can be exciting and fun. One thing I have always maintained as a military spouse is "I can live anywhere for 3 years." This has been my mantra as we unpack...pack...repack...unpack...and pack again. Being a wedding photographer and a military spouse it's hard to get established and yet, I have the greatest opportunity in the world to be a destination wedding photographer! I've travelled from state to state, been exposed to all sorts of climates and cultures and I want to share my absolute favorite places in America. Bonus for you, you get to see some "grade-A" photos from back in my college days haha

1. STARKVILLE MISSISSIPPI: Home of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, the only escalator in Oktibbeha County, the Carnegie Hall of College Baseball, and the best Phi Mu chapter in the World.

Starkville is one of those towns that gets in your blood. It's exactly what you would picture: a quaint, quiet southern town with boutiques and shops, incredible restaurants, and that BOOMS when there's a sporting weekend. When I was choosing colleges, I ended up going to MSU on a whim. My dad went to Ole Miss and suggested I look at Mississippi State if I was going to pursue vet school (my proffered major at the time). One spring break spent at my Mama Kay's house went headed up there for a tour and I was hooked. I often get asked if, after a giant pile of student loan debt, I regret my decision. The answer is an emphatic NO. That was the best city in the world to go to college in and I would do it 100x over. It can be bustling, causing you to push yourself out of your comfort zones to meet friends and make something of yourself. It can be calm, requiring introspection and creativity for fun. It's really where I learned who I was and what I wanted in life and I never looked back. It seems weird to credit all of that to a town, but like I said....it gets in your blood.

2. WILLIAMSBURG VIRGINIA: "The World's Largest Living History Museum," one of the oldest English-speaking cities in the US, and a serious time-warp full of fun.

When we moved to Quantico Virginia, everyone was interested in visiting the nation's capitol but I only had one thing on my mind: Williamsburg. Being that I was a history teacher and all out Revolutionary history nerd (yes, I have seen and love Hamilton lol) I really wanted to go here. It really is all they say it is. You are legitimately transported BACK. IN. TIME. Everything there at the "old town" was made in the traditional colonial method (even buildings, furniture, etc.) All of the people that are there are volunteers and have dedicated countless hours to recreating everything in its authenticity. It truly is remarkable. I recommend going at Christmas time, even though it's freaking cold, because they decorate it so pretty and the march happens at dark. This was really most important to me so I could get some cool photos lol. My favorite tours were the apothecary, the House of Burgesses, and the coffee house.

3. BRECKENRIDGE COLORADO: Slopes, Shops, Snow....what else do you need?!

I seriously love this town. Yes, it's touristy, so don't @ me. But it also is touristy in all the best ways. The hundreds of stores give people who don't hit the slopes something to do and there is at least one store for everyone there. When Marlie was born, Tyler and I would fly my mom out to watch her while we snowboarded Keystone (we never went on Breck's slopes because the military discount was just a short drive across the mountain!) We'd give her the car keys so she could head over to Breck for some shopping! You are also able to ride the gondola up the mountain for free, which I really liked to do in the summer time, as the views are breathtaking! Also close is the outlet mall and a nice little town called Frisco where you can snow tube...also a blast if you don't ski or snowboard.

4. AUSTIN TEXAS: My hometown, home of incredible tacos, the greatest music scene, and right in the middle of the Texas Hill Country!

I was truly blessed to grow up in the suburbs of Austin. It has so much to offer everyone of all ages that it is a city I believe is the most well rounded. For example, you can go to a concert of the most intense metal rage music and then the twangy-est, down home country artists all in the same day/place. We are known for our love of tacos and produce some of the best taco creations on the planet. Discada, Granny's, El Primo, and of course Torchy's are all places you HAVE to eat at if you love a good taco. I think the best thing about Austin is how close it is to the hill country, which offers so many outdoor activity options. Water activities? You're just a hop, skip and a jump from places like Guadalupe River State Park in Spring Branch, or you can go to the "hottest coolest time in Texas" Schlitterbahn! Hiking? Head over to Enchanted Rock! History? You're just two hours from touring the missions in San Antonio! I have loved getting the opportunity to not only be a photographer in Austin, but now a San Antonio photographer thanks to this last military move! (love Austin so much we got our engagement photos done in the Capitol lol)

5. SEDONA ARIZONA: Red rock heaven and the location for some of the best hiking trails in the United States!

I am not by nature a hiking type person. It's not that I don't enjoy it, it's just that I am a taddddd bit out of shape so I am generally slower on the trails haha. That didn't stop me from taking one of the most epic trips of my life and going to Sedona with one of our best couple friends, Kimi and Paul, on year. We jam packed that weekend full of hikes, a trip to Flagstaff, a trip to the Grand Canyon, and playing around with long exposures on my camera. If you're looking for a town to get away from hustle and bustle to slow down and enjoy the outdoors...this. is. it.


©2020 by Laura Stiles

Wedding Photographer San Antonio