The Most Underrated Vacation Spot in Your State Gallery
The Most Underrated Vacation Spot in Your State
Travel can get quite expensive and quite tiresome, particularly when you’re visiting a top destination that everyone else is rushing to get to. That’s why so many globetrotters are drawn to destinations that are on the road less traveled. You’ll often find that the road less travelled isn’t necessarily so due to a lack of its value. The food at less popular spots is just as delicious yet less expensive, the beaches are even more tranquil without the crowds, and it’s easier to get a better deal on your hotel room.
Across 50 states, America is full of gorgeous natural landscapes, interesting historical sites, wacky museums, and plenty of art, culture, and of course, world-class food. In a country so large, there can only be so many top destinations — which is why it’s not hard to find an amazing getaway in a place that isn’t so well-known. If you’re looking for an undiscovered place not far from home for your next trip, consider a trip to the most underrated vacation spot in your state.
Alabama: Little River Canyon National Preserve
Located at the top of Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama, Little River Canyon National Preserve was created to protect Little River, a body of water said to be the longest mountaintop river in America. The river flows down the middle of the mountain ridge and has three big waterfalls, including DeSoto Falls and Grace’s High Falls, a seasonal waterfall that is Alabama’s highest at 133 feet.
Located on the harbor between the Sisters mountain range and the Gulf of Alaska, Sitka is one of Alaska’s hidden gems, as well as one of the most beautiful towns in America. This remote town is a gorgeous destination for any outdoor adventurer who loves to hike, boat, kayak, or even climb — and we can’t forget about the various fishing opportunities as well.
A diverse city with a strong artistic scene and fantastic Southwestern cuisine, Tucson is a must for anyone visiting Arizona. The Sonoran Dog, a unique hot dog wrapped in bacon and griddled until crispy and stuffed into a split-top bun, is one of the best hot dogs in the country and can be found at El Güero Canelo. You’ll also find the best doughnuts in Arizona at Young Donuts in Tucson, which also has a lively nightlife. Tucson is pretty big on wine, so you’ll have to try some at its many wineries or one of its great bars such as Kon Tiki Restaurant Lounge, also the best in the state.
The town of Bentonville is an interesting mix of that Southern, small town feel and modern globalization thanks to its location in the Mid-South and the noticeable presence of the Walmart headquarters. An impressive art museum and film festival encourage a strong creative scene and the local food scene is filled with hot spots of culinary sophistication. Bentonville also has over 50 miles of trails and 22 parks for all your hiking and biking needs.
California: Santa Catalina Island
Commonly referred to as simply Catalina Island, this group of islands is 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, technically a part of Los Angeles County. Both snorkeling and scuba diving are popular endeavors on Catalina Island, and Sea Trek is a diving experience where even beginner swimmers can wear high-tech diving helmets for an underwater guided walking tour. If that’s too daunting, there are plenty of glass-bottom boat and semi-submarine rides as well. If you’re interested in a tour of the wildlife and history on land, there’s also a zip line eco tour available.
Colorado: Estes Park
Right at the eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is a town rather than a park in the traditional sense — park, in the local dialect, can refer to an upland valley or meadow. While tourism is heaviest from July through September, the area is beautiful and you can always hide from other tourists at The Wheel Bar. Estes Park is also a quieter wintertime destination for enjoying the Colorado Rockies due to its world-class snowshoeing and cross-country skiing opportunities. The area is also great for camping, and visitors also enjoy hiking, horseback riding, mountain climbing, biking, fishing, birding, and rafting.
Mystic is just a village of a little over 4,000 people, but it’s a wonderful tourist spot in Connecticut due to its scenic marinas, shopping, and aquarium. Mystic Seaport’s The Museum of America and the Sea is the country’s largest maritime museum, perfect for maritime history geeks, and the Olde Mistick Village is an outdoor shopping experience complete with stores, food, and entertainment for the entire family.
Delaware: Bethany Beach
Just a little under 1,200 people reside in the coastal Delaware town of Bethany Beach, but over 15,000 come to visit them every summer. The area is known for its peacefulness, and for the Bethany Beach boardwalk, a nice, well-kept change from more popular seaside destinations such as Atlantic City. Both golfing and swimming are popular endeavors here, but the town also has cute little cafés and stores for you to peruse. Don’t miss Chief Little Owl, the 24-foot totem pole welcoming you to town, or the town museum, which chronicles the town’s history from its birth as a religious retreat.
Florida: St. Augustine
A cobblestoned town with over 400 years of history, St. Augustine is easily the prettiest town in the state, and one of the state’s best destinations that aren’t Disney. Check out the oldest masonry fort, pop in and out of the many stores down St. George Street, or stop into one of the restaurants to grab a bite. You’ll quickly fall in love with the city’s ambiance.
Georgia: Cumberland Island
One of the Sea Islands off the coast of the southeastern United States, Cumberland Island is a small isle that can be reached by ferry from St. Marys, Georgia. Here you’ll find salt marshes and oak trees, as well as 17 miles of beach. Famous for the wild horses that call the island home, it’s also the habitat of white-tailed deer, armadillos, raccoons, squirrels, alligators, and wild boars.
Hana is one of those gorgeous spots in Hawaii that haven’t yet been overrun by tourists, making it a relatively peaceful destination. Located on the southeastern end of Maui, it’s a scenic yet adventurous paradise. Take a hike along the cliffs of Wai’anapanapa State Park or visit its amazing black sand beaches, or make a visit to the quiet Hamoa Beach. If you’re looking for a more luxurious vacation, Travassa Hana is one of the best all-inclusive resorts in the world.
Idaho: Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
Located on Idaho’s border with Oregon, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is much more pleasant than its name would suggest. The Snake River runs through the recreation area, creating an amazing canyon and the deepest river gorge on the continent. Perfect for a scenic hike or drive, you’ll find great opportunities for whitewater rafting or jet boating here as well.
This Illinois town was named after the mineral that was mined in the area, but is now a beautiful getaway for those looking to step back in time. Galena’s historic district is even on the National Register of Historic Places. Take a scenic drive through the town’s rolling hills, as well as a stroll down the charming Main Street, which overlooks the Galena River. The town is also home to Aldrich Guest House, one of the best B&Bs in the country.
The town’s beauty and art are the primary bases for tourism in Nashville, Indiana. Nashville has all of three traffic lights and a population of 803, with most of its residents working as artists. Beyond the Brown County State Park, Nashville has wonderful bed and breakfasts, cottages, restaurants, art galleries, shops, music venues, and antiques dealers.
Iowa: Iowa City
Iowa City has a strong literary culture, having been named a UNESCO City of Literature — the only one in North America — and is home to the University of Iowa’s famous Writer’s Workshop which boasts graduates such as Flannery O’Connor, T.C. Boyle, John Irving, and Reza Aslan. Visit in the summer to take part in the city’s Summer of the Arts program, featuring open-air movie viewings, free concerts, an arts festival, and a jazz festival, or take on the Iowa City Book Festival held every year.
The beautifully kept homes of Abilene are the true treasures of this town. It is the hometown of President Eisenhower, and you can visit his house at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum. Another must-see attraction in this Kansas town is the A.B. Seelye House, a beautiful mansion and museum built in 1905 for A.B. Seelye, a patent medicine tycoon.
Kentucky: Bowling Green
Bowling Green provides some of Kentucky’s best Southern flavor and fun with a strong culinary scene and tons of history. Nearly 100 acres of land are reserved for parks and recreation here, and lovers of the great outdoors have plenty to do here, including golfing, hiking, and all kinds of outdoor exploration. The gorgeous campus of Western Kentucky University resides here, and its student population has given rise to a strong social scene that includes bars, restaurants, and events such as the Bowling Green International Festival which features food, music, dance, and more from around the world.
Louisiana: Avery Island
You may recognize the name Avery Island, although from an unlikely source — a bottle of Tabasco sauce. The island (which is actually a salt dome) is home to the famous condiment, and you’ll still find a factory there, although that’s not the only reason to visit. Located three miles inland from Louisiana’s Vermilion Bay, it’s also home to a bird sanctuary and numerous exotic plants, thanks to the Avery family it was named after (and whom you have to thank for the Tabasco).
This coastal town in Maine has plenty of local shops and restaurants to keep visitors busy, but there are also the Camden Hills to explore. Hit the water and go sailing, or go mountain biking in the hills for an exciting Camden experience. The picturesque Curtis Island Lighthouse marks the entrance to the town’s harbor.
Maryland: Chesapeake City
Chesapeake City is a charming small town in Maryland with a population of just over 700, located on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. A beautiful waterfront lined by trees makes this one of the most scenic spots in the mid-Atlantic region, particularly during the fall. You’ll find quite a few buildings and homes dating back to the nineteenth century, many of which have since been converted into restaurants, local history museums, and some of the best bed and breakfasts in America.
The island of Nantucket is just 3.5 miles wide by 14 miles long, but its beauty and idyllic vibe have long attracted upper-class Americans and celebrities as well as the average Joe. Nantucket is extremely green-conscious, so all visitors must follow the island’s well-established recycling system. This Massachusetts town’s beauty is largely thanks to the Nantucket Conservation Foundation, which preserves 36 percent of the island, as well as local wildlife. The marine life of Nantucket can be seen at the local aquarium — and eaten at fantastic seafood restaurants such as the Nantucket Lobster Trap. Nantucket is also an extremely safe destination, and families have been known to allow their children to wander on their own.
Despite being Michigan’s largest and most famous city, Detroit doesn’t have the greatest reputation after decades of suffering from both its economic and population taking a hit. Despite its current reputation, however, America’s Comeback City really is coming back with a vengeance as a world destination, even making it to our list of this year’s top must-see destinations. Detroit has seen a revival thanks both to new additions and attractions as well as to renovations in its many historic buildings and sites. Birthplace of Motown and home to a strong automobile culture, the city’s abandoned buildings have been turned into art galleries, distilleries, and more thanks to growing scene of artists and young upstarts. Recent additions to the city include a hockey and basketball arena, and multiple parks and hotels are set to open over the next couple of years.
Minnesota: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
One of the most visited wildernesses in the country, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is made up of over a million acres of forests, lakes, streams, and rivers. Part of northeastern Minnesota’s Superior National Forest, it’s a very popular place to go hiking, fishing, and of course, canoeing.
Sophisticated and scenic, Oxford is a Southern gem full of antebellum architecture and a thriving arts scene. In addition to multiple world-class performing arts venues, you’ll find some of the state’s best food and drink here, as well as plenty of wonderful locally owned shops.
A must-see destination in the American heartland, Branson is a great getaway for the whole family. Summertime is a great time to visit Silver Dollar City, an amusement park with an 1880s theme, while in winter, Branson becomes one of the country’s best cities for Christmas lights. There are also quite a few impressive dinner shows you can attend in Branson, including one with a Dolly Parton theme and the Showboat Branson Belle dinner cruise, as well as museums such as the World’s Largest Toy Museum and the Hollywood Wax Museum.
A college town, Bozeman has plenty of food, nightlife, and outdoor activity. The gorgeous Gallatin River offers itself up for some serious watersports, and the many museums and art galleries make up a cultural scene that’s quite prolific. Check out the Sweet Pea Festival, held every summer and featuring food, art, music, theater, and more.
Nebraska: Toadstool Geologic Park
Far up in northwestern Nebraska, Toadstool Geologic Park is named for the interesting toadstool-like rock formations that characterize its landscape. Often referred to as the “badlands of Nebraska,” it’s open 24 hours a day and has a mile-long loop trail for you to walk through and enjoy the scenery and the area’s fossils, which lie along the trail.
While Las Vegas may be exciting, Reno is a bit less infested with tourists and a bit more diverse in its offerings. In addition to the many casinos that populate the city, Reno’s outdoor landscape gives visitors the chance to bike on its scenic roads and mountain trails, ski at its resorts, and kayak at its kayak park — as well as roam with its wild horses. Burning Man is held every year not far from here, making Reno a popular place to stay during the festival as well.
New Hampshire: Exeter
Located in southeastern New Hampshire, Exeter is one of New England’s most charming towns. Its historic downtown has beautiful buildings with art galleries, restaurants, shops, and more. Situated where the Exeter River feeds the Squamscott River, Exeter has a scenic waterfront and is a great spot for outdoor activities such as boating, biking, and hiking.
New Jersey: Point Pleasant Beach
Often confused with the neighboring town of Point Pleasant, Point Pleasant Beach is a popular spot on the Jersey Shore. Summer is the best time to hit the beach in New Jersey, and the summer months see fireworks as well as Big Joe’s Jersey Talent Show, a weekly event in which both residents and visitors can take part. Jenkinson’s Boardwalk offers food, games, mini-golf, arcades, and an amusement park, and the end of the summer sees the Festival of the Sea, which features seafood and shopping.
New Mexico: Taos
Two hours from Santa Fe, you can discover the lesser-known destination of Taos, a fantastic destination in New Mexico that’s great for an affordable family summer vacation and home to over 20 nationally registered historic sites. You can go any time of year, however; Taos is great for skiing and art, and the Taos Ski Valley is a must for anyone wanting to try out the Southwestern slopes. You can also make a trip to visit the Taos Pueblo, a Native American community just north of town that’s open to visitors as long as you’re respectful. The Rio Grande also means plenty of available river adventures, and the Enchanted Circle is a self-guided driving tour taken by many visitors through the scenic surroundings of Taos.
New York: Thousand Islands
Technically lying on the border between the U.S. and Canada, the Thousand Islands are a destination easily reached from northern New York. Approximately 1,700 islands, of which only a few are large enough to hold people, make up this scenic retreat. Perfect for boating and other outdoor activities, the main attraction lies on Heart Island, home to the incomplete Boldt Castle, with its interesting backstory — a millionaire set out to build the extravagant structure for his wife, who tragically passed away mid-construction, leaving him to suddenly end the project and leave the castle as is.
North Carolina: Blowing Rock
The tiny town of Blowing Rock, located on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the western part of the state, is as safe and quaint as it gets. As you walk down the main street, bubbles will literally float around you, coming out of the Martin House’s bubble machine. Getting there isn’t as secure, however; a rocky and slightly nerve-wracking drive up the mountains is required in order to reach this idyllic town, but it’s more than worth the drive. A hiking trail about a mile off of Main Street, the Glen Burney Trail, offers a bit of a challenge for hikers, but one can cautiously enjoy the multitude of beautiful cascades and greenery. Climbers, fly-fishers, and cave explorers also have quite a bit to do here, and those who reach Fairy Hill will have the opportunity to dig into the streambed for real mountain crystals. The town’s Westglow Spa can bring a bit of luxury to your Blowing Rock experience, and shopping abounds as well. You also shouldn’t leave without purchasing a specialty candle from the local High Country Candles or a sweet treat from Kilwin’s Fudge Shop.
North Dakota: Medora
Just around 130 people live in Medora, a tiny North Dakota town with a big reputation in its home state. It’s home to Little Missouri National Grassland, the largest grassland in the country, and the Medora Musical, a popular Wild West-themed musical that runs each summer in an open-air amphitheater. You’ll also find North Dakota’s most luxurious Airbnb cottage in Medora.
Cleveland is often overlooked when it comes to American tourist destinations, which is surprising when you consider all that it has to offer in terms of culture and recreation. A three-day weekend here would be jam-packed, as there are so many museums, parks, gardens, theaters, and galleries, that the city has the densest concentration of cultural attractions in the country. An absolute must for all visitors to Cleveland is a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Take a trip to the local farmers market at West Side Market or visit the house from A Christmas Story, which is open year round and looks exactly how it was portrayed in the movie. In addition to the city life, Cleveland also has quite a few outdoor activities, having historically been referred to as the “Forest City”; you’ll find plenty of places to go hiking, biking, and even skiing in the winter. Lake Erie is also a great place to enjoy walks on the beach, swimming, fishing, boating, and other water sports.
Because of its largely young population thanks to the presence of Oklahoma State Univeristy, Stillwater is a city that hosts many festivals and events celebrating the performing arts, cars, food, and more. Stillwater’s musical heritage is particularly impressive, as it’s the home of the red dirt genre, a mix of rock, folk, blues and country, and so named due to the color of Oklahoman soil. Check out Eskimo Joe’s, a locally famous restaurant containing four bars and tons of college students, where artists like The All-American Rejects and Garth Brooks got their start and both where both Presidents Bush have publicly praised the cheese fries.
There’s a lot going on in Ashland, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Oregon Cabaret Theater. Come in April for the Ashland Independent Film Festival or the first Friday of any month for the First Friday Artwalk, where local art galleries and wineries come together to provide you with some of Oregon’s best local culture. Southern Oregon University is also in Ashland, thus giving rise to a number of restaurants and bars catering to the college set, and making this under-the-radar city possibly the coolest in the state.
The “Sweetest Place on Earth” should be at the top of the bucket list for every lover of American chocolate. The hometown of Milton S. Hershey, then named Derry Church before it was renamed after him, it was here that the chocolatier built a chocolate plant for his growing business. Today, visitors from all over the world come to Hershey’s Chocolate World for a free tour of how the confectionaries are made in addition to other chocolate-related exhibits. Hershey Park is also a major draw, an amusement park full of rides, shows, and shops of everything Hershey chocolate. For non-sweets related plans, there is also a zoo and an auto museum, as well as the Indian Echo Caverns for visitors to explore.
Rhode Island: Block Island
Located off the coast of Rhode Island, Block Island is a destination known for being the perfect place for a getaway full of beaches, fishing, sailing, hiking, and biking. Tourists that do come here usually do so in the summer, but it’s a great beach town to visit in the fall as well. Accessible only by boat or small plane, nearly half of the island is conservation land, meaning this spot is sure to stay beautiful for years to come.
South Carolina: Greenville
Although probably not as cool as Charleston, Greenville, South Carolina, is full of culture with events like Euphoria Greenville (a three-day culinary festival), Artisphere (a three-day art festival), and Fall for Greenville (a three-day street festival for both food and music). Other cultural events here include SC Comicon, the Upstate Shakespeare Festival, New South Comedy Festival, and the Indie Craft Parade, and Greenville is also home to plenty of independent boutiques and coffee shops, such as Methodical Coffee. Greenville was also featured in a book about the best art towns in the country, and has multiple theater groups and music venues throughout town as well as a thriving social dance scene where you can practice contra dancing, the Lindy Hop, or the Carolina Shag.
South Dakota: Sioux Falls
The great outdoors of the Midwest can be experienced in full at Sioux Falls, and a visit to Falls Park will provide plenty of places from which to witness the natural beauty of South Dakota. A five-story observation tower in the park will allow you to see the eponymous waterfalls, as well as historic buildings in the city. Museums display the history and culture of the area, as well as its wildlife. Sertoma Park has outdoor fun for the whole family, with a main part fit for kids with five huge jungle gyms and many picnic tables. Golfers will find a great number of courses here, particularly for a relatively small city. A recent increase in immigration has also led to diverse ethnic cuisine.
Old factories and warehouses have been converted into apartment complexes in Knoxville, ushering in a generation of young people who are bringing Knoxville back to life. Once the setting of the 1982 World’s Fair, Knoxville is home to the University of Tennessee and is only about 30 minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A variety of restaurants and fascinating shops and boutiques line the downtown Market Square — home to one of the country’s best farmers markets — and visitors can head to the Old City for a varied nightlife with something for everyone.
Texas: Hill Country
Taking up about 14,000 square miles of the south-central part of the state, Texas Hill Country is known for its scenic beauty as well as its unexpectedly impressive wine. While the top destinations of Austin and San Antonio do fall within the region, the true Hill Country spots you want to explore are the more open country areas full of vineyards, parks, and gorgeous creeks, lakes, and rivers where you can go swimming, kayaking, or fishing. German as well as Spanish influence have left their mark on the region, particularly in terms of the food and architecture, which has resulted in a regional culture markedly different from the Southwestern one in much of the rest of the state.
Utah: Lake Powell
Lying on the Colorado River, the reservoir of Lake Powell is mostly in Utah but some of it stretches into Arizona. You can spend an entire weekend marveling at this man-made lake surrounded by Mars-like terrain. In fact, Lake Powell is so extraterrestrial-esque that it’s been the shooting location for 45 films and television shows, including Gravity, Doctor Who, and Planet of the Apes. Part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Powell is a great place for water sports and hiking, and visitors can also visit the nearby Rainbow Bridge, the world’s highest natural bridge.
Located along Lake Champlain, Burlington is an unassuming hub of Vermont with a laid-back culture and impressive food scene. Go downtown to witness some interesting shops and eateries or check out one of the many cultural institutions, such as Flynn Theater or the Bern Gallery, a grassroots art gallery featuring glassblowing and local art and jewelry. There are many festivals hosted in Burlington every year, including (but not limited to) the Vermont Brewers Festival in July, the Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival, and First Night, a New Year’s Eve celebration that features fireworks, performances, and parades.
The charming small town of Roanoke is a great getaway for a beautiful Southern weekend. Roanoke’s City Market is the largest continuously running open-air market on the East Coast with great finds year-round. The Appalachian Trail runs through here, perfect for hiking, and visitors can also go camping, boating, and fishing. Roanoke also has plenty of clubs, restaurants, shops, and theaters. Located in the Roanoke Valley, the town of Roanoke is nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Plateau, making it a prime spot for scenic drives and fall foliage.
Seattle is an amazing West Coast destination, but Spokane is a worthy Washington spot too, thanks to its artistic and young vibe. Renowned events include the Get Lit! Programs Festival, a weeklong literary outreach event, and the Spokane Gay/Lesbian Film Festival. The music scene is quite active here as well, with tons of venues, clubs, and bars featuring local and touring artists. Spokane is also known for both its local craft beer and craft coffee scene.
West Virginia: Fayetteville
Known as the “Gateway to the New River Gorge,” Fayetteville is a small town with fantastic scenery and great opportunities for outdoor activities you may not have otherwise thought of doing. While you can do some horseback riding, you may be more intrigued by the llama treks that are popular here. The waters, rivers, mountains, and landscapes of Fayetteville draw many visitors for scenic hiking, drives, and different river expeditions, most notably rafting. Make sure to check out the Appalachian arts and crafts available in local shops, as well as the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market.
Wisconsin: Door County
The peninsula of Door County lies right between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, and while it’s a favorite of many Midwestern travelers, it often flies under the radar as a destination option throughout the rest of the country. There are more than 80 cultural attractions here, including museums, theaters, and art galleries, many of which have courses for tourists to take. Door County also has more than 300 miles of shoreline, over a dozen conservation areas, and five state parks, making it a great destination for nature lovers, and its 10 lighthouses draw quite a few people interested in maritime history.
Acquaint yourself with the old Western town of Dubois with a leisurely horseback ride, a calming hike, adrenaline-boosting mountain biking, contemplative fly fishing, or even invigorating snowshoeing during the winter. You won’t be disappointed with the town’s incredible views of the Absaroka and Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains. Before you go rushing out for a road trip, however, you'll want to know the best food and drink in every state.
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