Underrated American cities you need to add to your bucket list
Underrated American cities you need to add to your bucket list
New York, Orlando, Las Vegas - these top American tourist destinations are rightly famous for their iconic landmarks and exciting entertainment. But there are other less celebrated U.S. cities that are still worth visiting. Go against the grain and plan a trip to a place with fewer crowds but plenty of authentic adventures and stunning sights.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Romantic Santa Fe or bohemian Taos usually get most of the attention, but New Mexico's capital offers equally enthralling sites. Explore Albuquerque's rich Spanish and Native American history in the Old Town district. For a truly unique experience, come for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. More than 500 vibrant hot air balloons will take to the skies during the largest ballooning event on Earth. Albuquerque is also a great stop along a Route 66 road trip.
History buffs might be more likely to book trips to Washington, D.C., or Boston, but Baltimore has a surprisingly rich history of its own. Though Baltimore once had a dangerous reputation, it is now not only a safe urban destination for tourists but also brimming with fun destinations, such as the National Aquarium and vibrant neighborhoods like Hampden and Federal Hill.
One of the country's least-visited state capitals, Boise, Idaho is a hidden gem in the northwest. This surprisingly hip city has a bustling downtown and the largest Basque population in the country. Visitors can experience their food and culture along the Basque Block. At the Boise River Greenbelt, you can go white-water rafting and tubing 5 miles downriver - all within the city limits.
With the counterculture charm of Burlington at a smaller size, Brattleboro, Vermont, has a lively art and food scene with many unique shops, galleries and restaurants. On top of being an urban arts oasis, this underrated small town is near Fort Dummer State Park and the Connecticut River, which offer opportunities to hike, canoe and more.
Camden is a charming coastal town in Maine similar to Kennebunkport or Bar Harbor that sits "where the mountains meet the sea," according to the town slogan. Spend time on the water by renting a windjammer, dinghy or kayak, then head to Camden Hills State Park and hike to the top of Mount Battie for a breathtaking view.
Castle Valley, Utah
Recharge and connect with nature in Castle Valley, one of the most popular destinations in Utah just 20 miles away from Moab. Castle Rock, also known as Castleton Tower, is a must-see attraction. The 400-foot sandstone tower resting on a 1,000-foot cone of rock rises high above Castle Valley. Castle Valley is within driving distance of Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, two of the country's best parks.
An outdoor haven in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Damascus, Virginia, is nicknamed "Trail Town USA." With access to the Virginia Creeper Trail, one of the country's best bike trails, as well as the Appalachian Trail, the Trans-America National Bicycle Trail and the Iron Mountain Trail, Damascus is paradise for mountain bikers, hikers, backpackers and fly fishers.
After developing a reputation as a dangerous city on the decline, Detroit has rebranded itself as "America's Comeback City" with low unemployment and a revitalized downtown. The city has new boutique hotels and unique restaurants but hasn't lost its history or personality. Check out the community art project along Heidelberg Street or stroll along the Dequindre Cut greenway.
Some people only think of the Twin Cities when it comes to Minnesota, but the mid-sized gem of Duluth also has a lot to offer. This city on the tip of Lake Superior celebrates its history with museums, historic homes and revitalized spaces. A former warehouse district, Canal Park is now the city's waterside entertainment and dining hub. Nearby Boundary Waters is a playground for canoers and kayakers, while Spirit Mountain is a popular skiing and snowboarding destination in the winter.
Skiing, biking, rafting, delicious food and good beer - you name it, Durango has it. Fill your days with adrenaline-pumping adventures such as zip lining or white-water rafting in the summer or sleigh rides and skiing in the winter. The town is also a top destination for train enthusiasts and American history buffs. A ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a must in any season.
There's much more to Nevada than the casinos of Las Vegas and Reno. For a glimpse at the rustic, Western character of the state, stop by Ely. A former copper mining town and stop along the Pony Express, Ely preserves its past. Visitors can ride the Nevada Northern Railway, mine for gems at Garnet Hill and immerse themselves in the Ely Renaissance Village. The city is also near Cave Lake State Park and Great Basin National Park.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs is known for its natural springs tucked into the mountains, outdoor adventure opportunities and an entire downtown area protected under the National Register of Historic Places. It's also home to many unique places to spend the night, including haunted hotels and safari tents within a wildlife rescue.
While Phoenix and Sedona have their charms, Flagstaff is an underrated place to discover stunning Arizona's natural beauty. It gets plenty of powder in the winter, making it an exciting destination for winter sports enthusiasts. In the warmer months, hikers can summit Mount Humphreys and Mount Elden for stunning views as well as explore Wupatki National Monument and Walnut Canyon National Monument.
Grand Isle, Louisiana
Some people prefer New Orleans for the beads and booze of Bourbon Street, but if you're visiting Louisiana for relaxation and authentic Cajun charm, look no further than Grand Isle. Louisiana's only inhabited barrier island, Grand Isle's serene protected beaches are ideal for bird-watching and fishing.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
If you're looking for a unique vacation destination for beer lovers, Grand Rapids is home to more than 80 craft breweries, earning it the title of Beer City, USA. The city has developed a food scene to match, and you can walk off your hearty meals with trips to the downtown farmers market, the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park or the shores of Lake Michigan.
Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville, South Carolina, has the small-town feel, restaurant scene and outdoor adventures of nearby Asheville, North Carolina, but without the hype and higher prices. There are more than 100 restaurants lining Main Street, and the nearly 20-mile-long GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail can be reached from four different points downtown.
While many folks from the lower 48 are familiar with Juneau and Fairbanks, Homer, Alaska, offers small-town charm with proximity to the enchanting Alaskan wilderness. The scenic 4.5-mile-long Homer Spit extends out into Kachemak Bay and is dotted with shops, hotels and restaurants. Kachemak Bay State Park and Lake Clark National Park offer great views for photographers. Homer is also known as the halibut capital of the world.
Hood River, Oregon
Hood River, Oregon, is a small adventure town perfect for a weekend getaway. It's one of the top windsurfing and kiteboarding destinations in the world as well as one of the best destinations for foodies. Its surrounding fertile orchards make it a great place for fruit picking and touring local wineries, distilleries and cideries. Visitors can also take a scenic drive through orchards and farmlands known as the "Fruit Loop."
Islamorada is actually a string of six islands in the Florida Keys with postcard-worthy beaches, luxury restaurants and some of the best sportfishing in the world. It also serves as a stunning setting for diving and swimming.
Located in Wyoming's Jackson Hole valley, the town of Jackson exudes the spirit of the American West with bars, dance halls and restaurants where you can unwind after a day of exploring. The city is surrounded by natural wonders, including Grand Teton National Park, the Snake River and Yellowstone National Park.
One of the least visited of the Hawaiian islands, Lanai isn't directly accessible from the continental United States, but the extra effort to reach this paradise is worth it. There aren't any high-rise buildings or even stoplights on the island, and the stunning beaches are never crowded. Visitors can go horseback or UTV riding through the lush forests or golf on a course with panoramic ocean views.
Known as the "Horse Capital of the World," Lexington is also famously home to the University of Kentucky. It's also the heart of the Bluegrass region, with museums, galleries and historic homes to explore. Head to the Distillery District at night to check out distilleries, breweries and some of the hippest, hottest restaurants.
Livingston, Montana, is a quintessential Western town with some of the best steakhouses in the country, a famed bar and country music venue, and fly fishing along the Yellowstone River. The town is also a gateway to the wonders of Yellowstone National Park.
Madison, Wisconsin, home to one of the country's most beautiful college campuses, has a vibrant food and dining scene, with dozens of breweries and farm-to-table restaurants that highlight Midwestern cuisine. Right on the shore of three lakes, Madison is also a great place for active people who enjoy hiking, fishing and boating.
If you consider Minneapolis part of flyover country, you're missing out on a fun, vibrant city perfect for many types of travelers. It has hip art museums like the iconic Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden as well as more than 30 breweries and iconic live music venues.
Morgantown, West Virginia
Best known as the home of West Virginia University, Morgantown isn't just your typical college town. It's a great home base to enjoy amazing outdoor adventures through nearby state parks and forests, such as rafting on the Cheat River or hiking through the Appalachian Mountains . Unwind at the end of the day at some of the state's best craft breweries or distilleries slinging moonshine.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has a reputation as an industrial Rust Belt city, but it has so much culture to offer visitors. The city bills itself as "Kidsburgh" as it's a family-friendly place to take a weekend trip. It also has many must-visit museums, including the Mattress Factory and the Andy Warhol Museum, as well as miles of riverfront trails for running and biking.
Port Townsend, Washington
Many travelers flock to Port Angeles, Washington, leaving Port Townsend an under-the-radar retreat. Just north of Seattle and near Olympic National Park, this underrated small town has quaint Victorian architecture, beautiful beaches and spots for hiking, camping and more in Fort Worden State Park.
Providence, Rhode Island
The biggest city in the country's smallest state, Providence, Rhode Island, is often overlooked compared to other New England destinations. Experience both past and present while strolling through the city, which is one of the oldest cities in the United States and is draped with gorgeous foliage come autumn. Enjoy classic seafood fare, including oysters and quahogs. The Providence Athenaeum is one of the coolest libraries in the country.
San Antonio, Texas
It's not as big and bustling as Houston, but you can get both the Tex and Mex of Tex-Mex in vibrant, diverse San Antonio, Texas. The historic Alamo is steps away from the city's iconic Riverwalk, an urban oasis with shops, restaurants and attractions. This family-friendly destination also has plenty of theme parks, museums and festive events.
Utah is an outdoor playground, and Springdale is the perfect home base for a vacation spent exploring Zion National Park. This charming town has spas, restaurants and coffee shops to fuel your outdoor adventures. From Springdale, you can also go tubing down the Virgin River and the ghost town of Grafton, a Hollywood filming location you can visit in real life.
Stinson Beach, California
If you're dreaming of serene, sandy beaches on your California vacation, skip the major metropolises and head to the tiny town of Stinson Beach. One of the best beaches in the country, Stinson Beach is a great place to stroll for miles on the sand, take a dip, have a beach barbecue or play volleyball. It's also a top surfing spot in the winter and spring.
For those unfamiliar with this northeastern Oklahoma city, Tulsa is an affordable urban destination. Its downtown has a lively restaurants and bars, the city is crisscrossed with extensive bike paths and green spaces, and art lovers can explore the Philbrook Museum of Art and Thomas Gilcrease Museum. For a day of outdoor adventure, head to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, the largest protected area of tallgrass prairie on Earth.
Westport, Connecticut, combines small-town charm with art, culture and recreational activities. It has three beaches located on the coast, a zoo with an indoor South American rainforest, historic mansions and lighthouses and a bustling Main Street shopping and dining area.
Almost the entire state of Delaware could be considered underrated, and for people who haven't been to the First State, Wilmington is a great place to start. The state's largest city is also its cultural capital, with plenty of museums, famous music venues, breweries and green spaces, such as the picturesque Brandywine Park. If you and your sweetheart love the outdoors, your next getaway should be spent at the best romantic adventure destinations in the country.
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