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Celebrities Share the Best of America

Bright spots: See America through the eyes of your favorite celebrities.

Stephen Colbert: James Island, South Carolina

“I grew up on James Island, which is, at least when I was there, dirt roads and 
alligators and oak trees and Spanish moss. And then my family moved to Charleston when I was 12 to have more of the cultured, old, old antebellum South. Now I don’t even go down there; it’s too touristy. I just want to be near the water. That’s it. So it’s me and the water; the water’s in my blood, I’d say.

“Pluff mud is what’s at the bottom of a marsh or in a harbor in a tidal area. It is silt and decomposing animals and fish poop, and it’s an incredibly fine, claylike, slippery, quicksand-y kind of material, and it’s dark, dark, dark gray, almost black. You can smell it at low tide—and it, more than anything, says home to me. I grew up right near a creek and spent my whole childhood on the water, fishing and crabbing and shrimping … Home for me is being in the water, like floating in a creek.”

Stephen Colbert hosts The Colbert Report on Comedy Central.

Morgan Freeman: Charleston, MS

“Twenty-five years after I had left Mississippi for good, I started reconsidering my general feelings about the state. [During visits] I would sit on the porch of [my parents’] little house in the Mississippi Delta and gaze out across the fields onto the lush green landscape, listening to the birds and frogs, basking in the heat and humidity, and I felt at peace. Far from the smog and the frenetic pace, far from high prices and the even higher personal demands of living in the compression of a large city, I came to realize that I harbored a true love of place. Mississippi.

“The people I encountered on the streets were sincere, courteous, and helpful. In a very short time, they came to accept me as a friend instead of a celebrity. I realized early on that I was proud of my Mississippi roots and that there were plenty of reasons for that pride.

“Many of my friends would ask, ‘Why do you want to live in Mississippi?’ Even many Mississippians asked it. ‘You can live anywhere in the world you want. Why Mississippi?’ My response: ‘Because I can live anywhere I want.’”

From Proud to Call Mississippi
Home (PRIDE Publishing)

Morgan Freeman is an Academy Award-winning actor.

Nora Ephron: New York, NY

“I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.” (From Heartburn, published by Vintage).

Nora Ephron was an Academy Award-nominated writer. She passed away in June 2012.

Erica Hill: San Francisco, CA

“While I didn’t exactly leave my heart in San Francisco, it certainly left a mark on me. There is a magic in this gorgeous City by the Bay that somehow makes the sun shine brighter, the air feel more crisp, and the days more ripe with opportunity… I miss living in San Francisco every day, but I am so thankful for the years I was able to call this city home.”

Erica Hill co-hosts CBS This Morning.

Hulk Hogan: San Antonio, TX

“For anyone who hasn’t been, the River Walk is not to be missed. It’s a public park along the banks of the San Antonio River, but it also has a ton of restaurants, hotels, shops, etc. I love that you can have all these attractions and still be on the water, which is one of my favorite places to be. I have traveled the world and been to towns both big and small, but nothing beats the River Walk.”

Hulk Hogan is a professional wrestler and television star.

Kyle MacLachlan: Walla Walla, WA

“Walla Walla suddenly leaped to the front of my consciousness when I started making wine there with Eric Dunham of Dunham Cellars. Eric is a third generation Walla Wallian who had turned his hand to wine-making in the mid-90’s with great success. Walla Walla means ‘many waters’ in the local native language, which is ironic because the surrounding countryside is extremely dry, making it perfect for growing wine grapes.”

Kyle MacLachlan has starred in Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City, and others

Boyz II Men: Philadelphia, PA

“Philly is a really vibrant combination of old and new, and it has produced this rich artistic tradition. We wrote ‘Motown Philly’ as a tribute to our city and its music legacy. Both as musicians and as natives, we couldn’t be prouder to have come out of Philly’s music scene, and we’ll always call Philadelphia our home.”

Boyz II Men are four-time Grammy award winners and are currently on their 20th anniversary concert tour.

Andrew Zimmern: Clarksdale, MS

“Clarksdale is the birthplace of the blues, the town where Robert Johnson famously ‘went down to the Crossroads’ and got down on his knees; it is the most interesting town I have visited in recent memory. Filled with original juke-joints, Clarksdale itself represents the last days of a true American art form, one that is reinventing itself each and every day as it struggles to survive.

“Visit Red’s on Sunflower Avenue and MLK Drive, listen to Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes, the king of Bentonia style blues, the last of his kind from a dying breed, have a few beers, get Red to invite you out to the curb to help yourself to some of his famous BBQ that he cooks himself every night on an ancient barrel smoker parked outside the front door, and you will experience a part of American history that may not be around for much longer.”

Andrew Zimmern hosts Bizarre Foods on Travel Channel. See more of his favorite Clarksdale spots on Trippy.

Julie Chen: Bayside, Queens, NY

“It is where I was born and raised. It was so culturally diverse—I had Greek neighbors, Italian neighbors, Jewish neighbors, Korean neighbors and Irish neighbors—all in my small cul-de-sac neighborhood. It’s where I first learned about the similarities and differences between other cultures and mine.”

Julie Chen co-hosts The Talk on CBS.

Phil Keoghan: Pagosa Springs, CO

“Dozens of bike riders turned up to ride with us over the top of Wolf Creek Pass. When we reached the summit, we were surprised to find the parking lot filled with locals who welcomed me onto a mock Amazing Race mat and then presented a generous check for The National MS Society, the charity I was riding for. I must go back. After visiting over 100 countries in my life, Pagosa Springs felt like home. And everywhere you look, it’s like a postcard.”

Phil Keoghan hosts The Amazing Race on CBS.

Aisha Tyler: San Francisco, CA

“Though it is technically a city, you can walk from one end to the other in just a couple of hours. The culture is kind, the people friendly, and life is about informality, incredible art, wonderful culture and most of all, great food. To me, San Francisco is a charming small town dressed up in big city clothing.”

Aisha Tyler co-hosts The Talk on CBS.

Landau Eugene Murphy: Logan, WV

“It’s tiny—less than 3,000 people tucked away in the Appalachian coalfields—so it’s kind of lost in time. Most people here work in the coal mining industry, and they’re very proud of what they do and how they help provide the power that keeps the lights on across America. Everyone keeps asking me now that I’ve won America’s Got Talent and have this hit album when I’m moving to L.A. or New York, but I’m not going anywhere. West Virginia and its people are the best.”

Landau Eugene Murphy is the current winner of America’s Got Talent. His album, That’s Life, debuted at #1 on the jazz charts.

Sheryl Underwood: Atwater, CA

“It was where I had my first car and my first job and my first great kiss, on a hay ride. I was rally commissioner in high school and I remember giving my first great speech in baccalaureate. Everything that I wanted to be in life, I could be in Atwater.”

Sheryl Underwood co-hosts The Talk on CBS.

Jennifer Williams: South Orange, NJ

“I love to venture into South Orange Village, where the street is lined with wonderful mom and pop shops and where I am always greeted with a smile. It’s such a nice change from the daily grind. There are great performances at the Performing Arts Center as well as a strong art community.”

Jennifer Williams stars in VH1’s Basketball Wives and is the founder of Lucid Cosmetics.

Melissa Gorga: Weehawken, NJ

“I love sitting on the waterfront and enjoying a meal with my family—it is so calm and peaceful and yet you are still so close to the hustle and bustle of the city. The town has amazing views as well as great restaurants and shopping.”

Melissa Gorga stars in The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Her new single, On Display, was recently released on iTunes.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest