If you’ve vacationed in the United States, chances are you’ve probably made the usual stops in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. The three cities are the States’ main tourist draw and with good reason: they’re gleaming, fast-paced metropolises with no shortage of options for even the pickiest of travelers. However, sometimes there’s much more fun to be had in exploring lesser known destinations and finding hidden gems in the most unlikely of places. Added benefits of visiting such cities include cheaper lodging, less throngs of tourists to battle your way through and the chance to discover things you haven’t already seen a million times on Instagram. Sometimes all you want is to explore a city completely off the beaten path and stumble upon a museum, a coffee shop or a street that you haven’t read about over and over in a guide book.
For the seekers of the unfamiliar, we’ve come up with a list of the ten most underrated cities in United States. The places below are often given a bad rap or just not talked about at all and we’re not quite sure why. They offer some of the best scenery, cultural sights, food and architecture on the continent, yet constantly get passed up by tourists planning their next trip. If you’re hunting for a destination out of the ordinary, look no further – we’ve done all of the work for you.
10. Leavenworth, Washington
If you’re a beer lover, you’ll fall in love with the tiny town of Leavenworth, Washington. Modeled after a Bavarian village and featuring distinctly German architecture, the town features endless pubs, wine tasting tours and a nutcracker museum. It is home to an annual Bavarian Christmas celebration and one of the largest Oktoberfests outside of Munich. If you get bored with all of that, Leavenworth is surrounded by the Alpine Lakes where you can ski, hike or swim depending on the time of year. Many of its hotels are nestled into the mountain side and feature breathtaking views of the Pacific North West. We’re surprised more people haven’t heard of it.
9. Detroit, Michigan
Formerly known as the Motor City, which was an incredibly prosperous place to live in the 70s when GM dominated Detroit’s jobs and economy, it’s hard to think of this city nowadays as a destination to travel to. Detroit’s economy is only now recovering from its devastating blow several decades ago and its streets are lined with abandoned homes and factories, faded from their former glory. However, this place is paradise for anybody who loves to explore urban decay . It’s also a great place for sports lovers, boasts an incredible yearly Jazz Festival, is home to the Motown museum and has an incredible Greektown. Check out the Heidelberg Project, a small neighborhood filled with tons of street art meant to represent Detroit’s rebirth.
8. Newport, Rhode Island
Rhode Island doesn’t seem to come to many people’s minds when hunting for their next vacation spot but the city of Newport doesn’t disappoint on any fronts. The Kennedy family once spent their summers vacationing there for its decadent mansions, legendary seafood and prime location for sailing. If you’re an architecture buff, you can take a tour of its endless heritage homes and see what it’s like to live as a very rich East Coaster. There’s also several awesome museums to explore, such as the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
7. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is a gorgeous Southern city filled with colonial mansions, willow-tree covered public squares, jazz bars nestled into brick buildings, ghost stories, cathedrals and a vibrant art scene. It’s known for its awe-inspiring beauty and its Southern hospitality, a place where you can eat homestyle grits and then spend an afternoon lazily people watching. So go have a picnic in the park, check out some local museums, visit a heritage home or two and finish your night in a speakeasy drinking absinthe.
6. Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs isn’t just a place where Coachella is held. It’s old glamour California, with amazing desert sunsets, lavish pool parties, boutique hotels and old school piano bars. If partying isn’t really your thing, consider taking a hike in nearby Joshua Tree Park, golfing on one of Palm Springs endless courses or thrifting in one of its numerous vintage boutiques. The weather is super hot and dry year round and the city is home to a really cool film festival held every year. Pack your bags, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you.
5. Sedona, Arizona
Recently voted the most beautiful place on Earth by USA Today, Sedona is a town of only 11,000 residents that sees over one million visitors every summer. It has become known as a spiritual destination, as the red-colored rocks and turquoise skies form what many devotees have fondly coined “energy vortexes”. If you love to hike and are into self-discovery, spending some time watching the sunset from one of Sedona’s many cliffs might just be considered paradise to you. It’s a favorite of many a yoga guru and was also once the backdrop to several Hollywood Western movies.
4. Taos, New Mexico
Taos’ gorgeous rugged beauty coupled with the melting pot of cultures that exist within it have long drawn numerous photographers and artists to it, creating a distinctly creative community. Its Spanish and Native American population’s effect is evident, leaving the city feeling like an entirely different country completely despite being in the U.S. There are plenty of museums, galleries and festivals to keep you entertained and if that isn’t your thing, you can explore the surrounding Cristo mountains and Rio Grande river.
3. Tunica, Mississippi
Who needs Vegas when you’ve got Tunica? The Mississippi city has been named the gambling capital of the South, with its nine casinos and party atmosphere. It’s not all just games though; the city is home to several high quality blues bars as well as four star golf courses, stunning hotels and many parks. If you’re into the Vegas experience but want to try something distinctly more Southern, look no further than Tunica.
2. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the South’s historic architectural marvel. It’s a place where the streets are still made of cobblestone and ancient townhouses in Easter egg shades stand lazily under palm trees. As if that weren’t enough, it’s right on the ocean so plenty of sandy beaches abound. Charleston is a prime destination for anybody interested in neocolonial architecture, incredible Southern food and amazing shopping. It was recently voted the top city in the U.S. in a poll ran by Condé Nast Traveler.
1. Portland, Oregon
Portland is one of the world’s great towns for inexpensive meals, high quality beer, gorgeous parks, weird neighborhoods and cheap living. It’s filled with art, food trucks, farmer’s markets, unique shops and all of the bike lanes you could possibly want. It’s no small wonder that its headline is “Keep Portland Weird”, as there truly is no city like it in the United States. So grab a bike, take a hike in the mountains, spend an afternoon exploring one of its neighborhoods or just while away your evening at one of Portland’s thirty microbreweries. You won’t regret it.
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