Twin Towns and Sister Cities of the U.S.

Twin towns or sister cities are part of a diplomacy effort to develop relationships between cities in the United States and international countries. Sister cities hope to promote cooperation, cultural understanding, and economic benefits to each of the participating places. In the U.S., there are over 700 cities dedicated to bridging the cultural gap of their international counterparts. In fact, several U.S. cities maintain relationships with over 20 international cities. Some of these pairings are more interesting than others. For example, one international travel destination known for its tall, twinkling tower is officially committed to just one other international city. However, many cities in the U.S. claim they’re paired with the Ville Lumière. When it comes to international relations, more issues may arise, like the time a Japanese city severed ties with a city in California after over 60 years together. Thankfully, that burned bridge didn’t impact the relationships between other Japanese and American cities because there are over 200 sister city relationships between the two. Is Japan the country the U.S. pairs with the most? Find out the answer to that question and more as you read about the twin towns and sister cities of the U.S.

View Twin Towns and Sister Cities in a full screen map

The map above contains hoards of information about the almost 2,000 international sister cities of over 700 U.S. cities. Find out where in the world your city has ties by taking advantage of the search bar in the upper right-hand corner of the map.

Tons of Twins & a Surplus of Sisters

The idea of twin towns and sister cities came about near the end of World War II to foster friendship and understanding among different cultures and former foes as an act of peace and reconciliation, and to encourage trade and tourism. Now, not every city in the U.S. partakes in this cultural exchange, nor does every state. Arizona and Hawaii, for example, have more in common than eschewing Daylight Savings Time. According to Wikipedia, they also don’t have any sister cities. The same goes for Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, at least, according to where we got our data. Don’t fret though. There are still nearly 2,000 international sister cities that pair with more than 700 U.S. cities on the map. Obviously, many U.S. cities must have more than one sister city to get numbers that high.

The following seven places each have over 20 international partners, making them the U.S. cities with the most international ties:

  • Laredo, Texas
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Miami-Dade County, Florida
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Seattle, Washington
Photo by Jorge Aguilar on Unsplash

Laredo, Texas cultivates relationships with 41 international cities, most of which are located in the same country. Thirty of Laredo’s sister cities are located in Mexico, which makes sense as Laredo is right on the Mexico–U.S. border. Chicago is the second of the largest and most active sister city organizations in the U.S pairing with 28 cities. However, some of these cities are mere “friendship cities,” not sister cities. The most notable of Chicago’s pairs is Paris, France, a city we’ll touch more on later. Miami-Dade County, Los Angeles, Miami, Cleveland, and Seattle, each have multiple sister cities. Miami-Dad and Miami pair with 27 and 24 cities, respectively. The City of Angels partners with 25 cities, Cleveland maintains 22 relationships, and Seattle does the same with 21 cities around the world. It’s worth noting that while San Francisco does not have over 20 sister cities like the above, it still has an impressive number: 19. Like Chicago, San Francisco has a friendship pact with Paris.

Riveting Relationships

Photo by Alex Ovs on Unsplash

We pointed out that two of the U.S. cities with the most partnerships, Chicago and San Francisco, include Paris, France, on their list of sister cities. But tell that to France. Paris dubs its relationship with other cities as merely “friendship pacts.” Since 1956, Paris has only ever officially been partnered with Rome, which gave way to the phrase “only Paris is worthy of Rome; only Rome is worthy of Paris.” Paris keeps friendship pacts with plenty of cities but will only ever officially belong to Rome.

One year after Paris and Rome made their relationship exclusive, San Francisco developed a partnership with Osaka, Japan. But in 2018, the Mayor of Osaka severed ties with San Fran after a controversy over a statue. The statue in question commemorates the thousands of women who were raped by Japanese soldiers during World War II, and the Mayor of Osaka, Japan, was clearly not pleased.

On a lighter note, did you know there’s a city of Dublin in the U.S.? It’s located in California, and its sister city is Dublin, Ireland. Similarly, Orange, California, is sister cities with all things orange — Orange, France, and Orange, Australia. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find evidence of a city named Naranja in any Spanish-speaking country, otherwise, we’re sure Orange, CA would extend an invitation to join the group.

We’ve saved the best riveting sister city relationship for last. The city of Boring, Oregon has but one sister city: Dull, Scotland. If you ever face that question on Jeopardy, you’ll be prepared.

Most Paired Countries

More than anywhere else in the world, cities in the U.S. partner with international cities in Japan the most. Whether it’s because of a close allyship or trade, cities in the U.S. have over 200 distinct relationships with Japan. The second country cities in the U.S. have ties to the most is Mexico. U.S. cities have more than 120 sister city connections to cities in Mexico. Then comes China. Cities in the U.S. pair together with the country over 100 different times.

On the other hand, we have U.S. cities that didn’t stray too far from home when it came time to find a sister city. For example, Anaheim, California is sister cities with another city in the U.S. — Orlando, Florida. Anaheim and Orlando aren’t the only ones, there are thirteen total U.S.-U.S. pairs.

Have you ever visited one of your city’s sister cities? If so, you can make a map of where you’ve visited to easily remember your traveling memories. If you have fewer travel experiences than you’d like, you can use BatchGeo to make a map of where you want to go. Your map can motivate you to get out and see the world — consider it your own digital adventure book! If you’d rather read about the voyages of others, you can check out our map of all the international travels of U.S. presidents.