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Nicholas DeRenzo
Jan 2021

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris come from different generations and backgrounds, but one of the qualities that unifies them is an abundance of pride in their hometowns—the President-elect was raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware; while the Vice President-elect grew up in Oakland, California. The incoming heads of state both hail from cities that have often been overlooked, ignored, or, at worst, even mocked, but this treatment has yielded unexpected results: All three locations share the fighting spirit of towns with something to prove, and they’re becoming 21st-century capitals of creativity. Here, a quick guide to the cities that shaped our new president and vice president.

Steamtown National Historic Site Railroad Museum / Credit: Alamy

Scranton, Pennsylvania

When former President Barack Obama announced his running mate in 2008, he called Joe Biden a “scrappy kid from Scranton who beat the odds.” The president-elect’s family may have left the coal-mining town when he was 10, but Biden has always worn his Northeastern Pennsylvania roots proudly. This fall, the city even installed a “Joe Biden Way” sign on the corner of Fisk Street and North Washington Avenue to mark his childhood home.

Historically, Scranton’s tourist offerings have leaned into the city’s industrial roots, at places like the Lackawanna Coal Mine and the Steamtown National Historic Site railroad museum, and the Neoclassical 1908 train station has been converted into a Radisson hotel. But in recent years, Scranton has also become a pilgrimage site for fans of The Office, who visit businesses namechecked on the show, such as Cooper’s Seafood House and Poor Richard’s Pub.

Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel / Courtesy of Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel Scranton

Always known as a place for innovation—its 1886 trolley system led to the nickname “Electric City”—Scranton is now coming into its own as a creative, postindustrial hub, with a slew of new indie businesses: the ramen shop Peculiar Slurp, where you can order honey mustard karaage with pickled mustard seeds, bourbon barrel-aged sherry vinegar and thyme; the trendy brunch spot Henry’s on Clay, which serves bacon, egg and cheese empanadas; and Noteology, a perfume shop where you can make your own custom fragrance. Since 2015, the city has also hosted the Scranton Fringe performing arts festival, and for 2021, the organizers planned a virtual theater festival inside the popular video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Wilmington, Delaware

On January 20, Joe Biden will become the first U.S. president from the First State—his family moved to Wilmington, Delaware in 1953, and he’s been a very proud resident ever since. As a senator, he famously commuted 90 minutes each way to D.C., and the city’s Amtrak station now bears his name in tribute.

Since the 1802 opening of their gunpowder mill, the du Pont family has loomed large in Delaware’s biggest city, filling the area with Gilded Age museums, gardens, mansions and libraries. In 1913, Pierre S. du Pont opened the Hotel du Pont, which still stands as the city’s most opulent stay. This September, the hotel debuted its new restaurant, Le Cavalier at the Green Room, in which acclaimed chef Tyler Akin pairs French brasserie classics with Middle Eastern and North African influences. It’s just one of many new restaurants pushing the state’s dining scene forward, alongside Bardea, the city’s first to be nominated for best new restaurant at the James Beard Awards; Torbert Street Social, a cocktail bar housed in historic stables; and Deco, a new food hall.

Courtesy of The Sold Firm

The revitalized riverfront has also introduced new hotels, a seasonal beer garden and an environmental education center to this city on the rise. Don’t miss cool new spots like The Sold Firm, a Black-owned modern and contemporary art gallery founded in 2019 by Nataki Oliver. And if you want to honor the man who’s putting Wilmington back on the map, head to the gift shop at the Delaware History Museum to pick up a Joe Biden candle. The scent is inspired by one of his favorite drinks: orange Gatorade!

Bay Bridge view from Treasure Island / Credit: Visit Oakland

Oakland, California

Born in Oakland to Indian and Jamaican immigrant parents, Kamala Harris spent her formative years in the East Bay, attending Hindu temple with her mother and singing in the children’s choir at the 23rd Avenue Church of God. Long a magnet for creatives priced out of San Francisco, “The Town”—as Oakland is known locally—has spent the past decade being referred to by a ubiquitous cliché: It’s “the Brooklyn of” the Bay Area. It’s an apt reference, as the city has welcomed tech startups, galleries and a deep roster of acclaimed restaurants and bars that draw crowds across the Bay Bridge.

Blk Girls Green House / Credit: Samantha Tyler

As a nod to Harris’s groundbreaking position as the first Black woman to be elected vice-president, visitors can string together an entire itinerary of Black women-owned businesses to patronize: Brown Sugar Kitchen, which is run by Top Chef contestant and podcaster Tanya Holland; Freebird of California, Amber Washington’s custom-made leather goods shop; Blk Girls Green House, an open-air plant nursery and home goods store; Betti Ono, a cutting-edge gallery and community hub; and McMullen, a luxury womenswear boutique dedicated to African and African-American designers.

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