Updated Nov 29, 2022
Updated Nov 29, 2022
At House Method, we often focus on just the home and reviewing home services that can save you time and money, such as the best home warranty companies. But, taking a step back to look at the broader picture, the US has dozens upon dozens of well-known cities, but it also has a few treasures hiding in plain sight. So, what are the most underrated towns in America? Some are obscure mountain towns and beach getaways, others are full of history and culture, have booming economies, and offer a delectable food scene. Here are 50 of the most underrated towns in America by state.
Nearest big city: Birmingham, AL
Appropriately nicknamed “The Rocket City,” Huntsville is most widely known for the US Space and Rocket Center. Its rich space history has influenced nearly every aspect of Huntsville including its burgeoning craft beer scene. Some of the more popular breweries like Straight to Ale, Rocket Republic Brewing, and Salty Nut Brewery all have ties to the space and defense industries.
But Huntsville is more than just spaceships and beer. Positioned in the lower region of the Appalachian Mountains, this city is home to Monte Sano State Park. With 20 miles of trails and 14 miles of biking paths, this park is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. And don’t forget about the Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment building. Previously a cotton gin, this 171,000-square-foot building has been turned into the largest privately owned arts facility in the country. With a focus on visual arts, this historic factory has been redeveloped into 148 working studios, six galleries, a theater, and various performance venues.
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Nearest big city: Anchorage, AK
Nestled at the base of Denali (also known as Mt. McKinley), Talkeetna is a hot spot for mountain climbing expeditions. Most visitors take scenic flights to Kahiltna Glacier Base Camp, located at an elevation of 7,200 feet, where they get to see North America’s tallest mountain up close. If you’re not climbing mountains in Talkeetna, chances are you’re probably fishing in one of the many rivers that flow through this southcentral Alaska town. This region draws anglers in from all over who look forward to catching rainbow trout and salmon.
If you visit in December, be sure to check out Winterfest, Talkeetna’s famous celebration of winter. This celebration takes place during the entire month of December and features a motorized Parade of Lights, a lighted tree in the Village Park, and special events hosted by local businesses and the Talkeetna Public Library.
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Nearest big city: Sierra Vista, AZ
Nestled in the Mule Mountains of southeast Arizona, Bisbee is the picturesque county seat of historic Cochise County. Known for its eclectic, artistic feel, this city offers just as much to the art guru, music lover, and shopping aficionado as it does to the history buff. Annual events like the Bisbee 1000, Bisbee Pride Festival, and the Historic Home Tour draw crowds from around the region and across the globe. Ongoing Bisbee highlights include the monthly Bisbee After 5 Artwalk and a weekly farmer’s market featuring regional goods.
In its beginnings, Bisbee proved to be one of the richest mineral sites in the world, producing nearly three million ounces of gold and more than eight billion pounds of copper. Today, the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum and the Bisbee Restoration Museum chronicle the city’s copper-mining past. For a deeper dive into the city’s history, visit the Queen Mine, which offers a fascinating, up-close experience of the underground world of the miners who carved their community and living out of the bedrock. While you’re at the Queen Mine, make your way over to the Lavender Pit—this former open pit copper mine is a historical tourist attraction that explains some of Bisbee’s mining past.
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Nearest big city: Little Rock, AR
Nestled near the calm waters of the Ouachita River in the Timberlands region of South Arkansas, El Dorado has evolved from a humble oil town into an area rich in southern charm and history. If you travel downtown, you’ll stumble across Oil Heritage Park, which pays homage to the city’s boomtown history.
With the recent debut of its Murphy Arts District, El Dorado has provided its people with a creative outlet to explore music, dance, theater, and art in immersive ways that hold true to the culture of the city. Its festivals have also earned it a reputation as an entertainment capital for South Arkansas. Popular events include Showdown at Sunset, an annual historical re-enactment of the infamous Parnell-Tucker gunfight, and Mayhaw Festival which features live music, car shows, and Newton House Museum tours.
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Photo by Harold Litwiler
Nearest big city: Santa Barbara, CA
Located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Santa Maria Valley has a little something for everybody. With 34 tasting rooms and a growing selection of breweries, there’s no shortage of places where you can go enjoy a glass and take in the views of rolling hills and picturesque vineyards. One of the best ways to taste your way through Santa Maria is on the step-on, step-off Wine Trolley. The trolley stops through town and at popular wineries along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail such as Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard & Winery and the Presqu’ile Winery.
For the foodies, Santa Maria Valley boasts 28 restaurants—six of which serve authentic Santa Maria–style barbecue. And for the outdoor folks, Los Flores Ranch Park, a 1,778-acre, open-space area, offers 15 miles of hiking trails, horseback riding, mountain biking, animal feeding, and wildlife viewing.
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Nearest big city: Denver, Colorado
Located along the Eagle River, and just minutes from the world-class resorts of Vail and Beaver Creek, Eagle is the perfect destination for the outdoor enthusiast. This hidden Colorado gem features a variety of hiking trails, mountain biking, hunting, and trail running. Fishing is also extremely popular in Eagle and is considered a year-round sport. While fishing at Brush Creek, Sylvan Lake, or Nolan Lake, you’ll get to enjoy vast meadows and mountain peaks as your backdrop. Additionally, Eagle has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country—just 2.1%.
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Nearest big city: Bridgeport, CT
The transformation of this small farming town to a suburban residential community of approximately 18,000 has been carefully controlled by zoning and preservation of the town’s older colonial landmarks. Some of the most popular historical attractions in and near Wilton include the Weir Farm National Historic Site, architect Philip Johnson’s famous Glass House (located in New Canaan, CT), and Richard T. Foster’s rotating Round House. In fact, architecture and history lovers will find Wilton particularly appealing—this small town boasts more than eight homes and neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Weir Farm National Historic Site hosts the home and studio of impressionist J. Alden Weir and is a national legacy to American Impressionism, the creative spirit, and historic preservation. Set amidst more than 60 acres of woods, fields, and waterways, it’s easy to see why Weir described his home as the “Great Good Place.” The Glass House, built by architect Philip Johnson between 1949 and 1995, is considered a National Trust Historic Site. The pastoral, 49-acre landscape comprises 14 structures and features a permanent collection of 20th century paintings and sculptures.
Photo by Jerrye & Roy Klotz, M.D.
Nearest big city: Wilmington, DE
Located on only 2.8-square-miles near the Brandywine River, Greenville still packs a powerful punch, with lush landscapes, winding back roads, and a beautiful countryside. Greenville is also a boutique shopping destination inside sales-tax-free Delaware, with several shopping centers that offer high-end fashion, accessories, shoes, and gifts. If you want to do a bit more traveling in the area, there a few popular attractions nearby like Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library and Brandywine Creek State Park.
Founded by American holticulturist Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur features a preeminent collection of American antiques that reflects early America and the du Pont family’s life at this glorious estate. If you want to take in the natural beauty of Delaware without traveling too far from Greenville, explore Brandywine Creek State Park. This 933-acre preserve became a state park in 1965 and features a tulip poplar forest and freshwater marsh.
Nearest big city: Miami, FL
Quintessential charm is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Coral Springs. Composed of sprawling suburbs, amazing schools, and restaurants on nearly every corner, this town is the perfect place to raise a family or simply unwind. Take in the natural beauty of the Everglades or enjoy a riveting performance at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts—a space dedicated to the modern fusion of music, dance, and comedy, with events including dynamic shows, concerts, and festivals.
Perhaps one of the best features of Coral Springs that makes it so underrated is its proximity to Florida’s beaches. Drive 20 minutes east and you’ll find yourself at Deerfield Beach or travel 30 minutes northeast and you’ll end up in the quiet town of Delray Beach.
Photo by New Georgia Encyclopedia
Nearest big city: Atlanta, GA
Peachtree City is where Southern hospitality and charm meet resort-style living, active lifestyles, and relaxation. The developers who built Peachtree in the 1950s incorporated golf cart paths throughout the city. Today, a 90-mile network of golf cart paths connects everything from shopping and dining to hotels, schools, and recreational areas. The city is appropriately named the Golf Cart City of Atlanta. Peachtree is also famous for being a major filming site for movies and television. It’s home to Pinewood Atlanta Studios, which produces most of the Marvel Comic movies, and Raleigh Studios (used by AMC for The Walking Dead). If living the slow life isn’t for you, Peachtree City is located just 26 miles south of Atlanta.
Nearest big city: Kahului, HI
Paia, Maui, reflects its heritage as a unique Hawaiian plantation village that originated in the latter half of the 19th century. In recent decades, Paia has become a laid back town that encourages windsurfing among tourists and residents. Perhaps some of Paia’s greatest attractions are its beaches.
Baldwin Beach Park is one of Maui’s most beautiful white sand beaches where shoreline fishing is common. Just past Baldwin Beach is Paia Bay (called Baby Beach by many locals). It’s usually not too crowded, except when the waves are perfect for surfing. Further down the Hana Highway is Hookipa Beach Park, also known as the windsurfing capital of the world. During the winter months, when winds and big waves are common, windsurfers and kite surfers come out in full force. In fact, several professional competitions are held each year at Hookipa, attracting competitors from all over the world.
Nearest big city: Boise, ID
Known as “Idaho’s Hometown in the Mountains,” Hailey is one of four towns which comprise the Sun Valley region. It’s situated in the heart of the Wood River Valley and surrounded by the majestic Central Idaho Rockies. Each year, Hailey hosts acclaimed events that draw in thousands of visitors such as The Trailing of the Sheep Festival (one of the top animal festivals in the world) and the Northern Rockies Music Festival.
The City of Hailey has also made a strong commitment to sustainability. It completed a three-year Community Climate Challenge with support from the EPA’s Climate Showcase Communities Program and regularly encourages sustainability projects like the 5B Bikeshare, construction recycling program, renewable energy rebates, LED streetlight retrofits, and building deconstruction and material salvage.
Another fun fact: The Blaine County Historical Museum in Hailey holds one of the country’s largest collections of political campaign buttons and memorabilia, reportedly only second in size to the collection at the Smithsonian.
Nearest big city: Chicago, IL
Aurora has consistently ranked near the top of nationwide surveys for its effective governance and extraordinary schools. One of its most well-known schools is the Illinois Math & Science Academy (IMSA). In 2018, IMSA was the first-ever American destination for the International Student Science Fair, and a recent study by Niche, a neighborhood ranking platform, rated IMSA the overall best public high school in all of America.
If excellent schools weren’t enough to make Aurora stand out, Downtown Aurora features a variety of museums including the SciTech Hands-On Museum, which offers over 200 interactive STEM and STEAM exhibits, and the Aurora Regional Fire Museum, a popular attraction that features firefighting equipment dating back to Aurora’s first firefighting corps in the mid-1800s. For those who love parks, we recommend Phillips Park which comprises a golf course, pro shop, zoo, sporting fields, and family recreation areas.
Nearest big city: Indianapolis, IN
Just north of Indianapolis, this suburb is best known for its arts and performing arts scene. On Main Street in downtown Carmel, you’ll find the Carmel Arts and Design District that features a row of restaurants, bars, shops, and galleries. This street hosts a number of popular festivals, like the Carmel International Arts Festival which is hosted each September. Just down the street is the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts, an internationally-renowned, 1,600-seat concert hall with a distinctly European design. Beyond the music and art, Carmel has a thriving local food scene and miles upon miles of walking and biking trails, one of which is the Monon Trail—a trail that connects the Carmel Arts and Design District to the Palladium.
Nearest big city: Des Moines, IA
Established in 1847 by Dutch settlers, Pella is often called “America’s Dutch Treasure.” One of the most significant events in Pella is the Tulip Time Festival—This event draws over 150,000 guests to the community over the course of a three-day celebration. Throughout the festival, you’ll find Pella residents proudly wearing their traditional Dutch costumes and wooden shoes for their annual celebration of heritage.
Pella boasts the largest working grain windmill in the US, the Vermeer Mill; the Pella Opera House (fully restored from the 1900s), and Lake Red Rock (Iowa’s largest lake). It also has an extremely low unemployment rate—just 3.5%.
Photo by HornColumbia via Wikimedia Commons
Nearest big city: Salina, KS
History buffs, this town is for you. Formerly known as the wild and open frontier town where famous marshal Wild Bill Hickok reigned, Abilene now has five world-class museums located within a four-square block area that explain more of the area’s history. One of Abilene’s most famous attractions is the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad which takes you through a 10-mile excursion across the Smoky River Hill Valley. What’s more: Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, spent his childhood in Abilene, Kansas, and is buried on the site of his Presidential Library and Museum.
Nearest big city: Hopkinsville, KY
Tucked among the rolling green hills of Kentucky’s Cave Country, Bowling Green is home to the National Corvette Museum, which features mint classics, one-of-a-kind prototypes, and racetrack champions; the Lost River Cave, which is the only underground boat tour in Kentucky; and the Kentucky Museum, which has rich collections and education exhibits on state history, including one on the Civil War.
You can experience a small sample of Kentucky’s distilling heritage at Corsair Distillery in downtown Bowling Green. This independent micro distillery specializes in handcrafted spirits and whiskey and features its award-winning Wry Moon Whiskey, Gin-Head Style Gin, and Triple Smoke Single Malt Whiskey. And for all you cake lovers out there, Bowling Green is the birthplace of Duncan Hines, the king of cake mix and the man who greatly influenced restaurant dining standards.
Nearest big city: Baton Rouge, LA
Shreveport is often overlooked because it shares a state with New Orleans, but it’s definitely one of the most underrated towns in America. In Shreveport-Bossier, you can get incredible gumbo and po’ boys, zip-line through a swamp (over live alligators), and listen to the outstanding live jazz music that Louisiana is known for. Shreveport provides small boutique hotels like The Remington Suite Hotel & Spa and casino resorts like Horseshoe Casino and Hotel Bossier City. There are some really incredible Airbnb properties as well like the Mahaffey Farmhouse—a farmhouse on a working, family-owned farm.
Before leaving Shreveport, don’t forget to check out Artspace. Located in downtown Shreveport, Artspace is a multi-disciplinary arts center with four floors that span 21,000 square feet. This space is dedicated to the creation and presentation of all art forms in a manner that is accessible to multi-generational audiences and features different art exhibitions, poetry reading, and music concerts.
Photo by Justin Russell Photography
Nearest big city: Bar Harbor, ME
Often referred to as the Queen City of Maine, this offbeat alternative to Portland is a hub for good food and even better beer. The town is also full of talented musicians and is home to a growing art scene. Situated on the west bank of the mighty Penobscot River, Bangor was previously known for its lumber. In fact, a towering statue of the folkloric lumberjack, Paul Bunyan, hints at Bangor’s former status as a timber hub.
It doesn’t end there: Maine is known for its unrivaled beauty and scenic views (think: Acadia National Park), and Bangor is no exception. The Bangor City Forest is one of the largest recreation areas in Bangor, featuring 10 miles of hiking, cycling, and cross-country skiing trails. Spend a quiet afternoon picnicking or traveling along the Orono Bog Boardwalk. This boardwalk is a premier destination in the Bangor/Orono area for those wishing to experience the beauty and fascinating plants and animals of a Maine bog. The one-mile boardwalk loop trail begins at the forested wetland edge in the Bangor City Forest and crosses the Orono town line into the portion of the Orono Bog owned by the University of Maine.
Nearest big city: Baltimore, MD
Ellicott City is bordered by the Patapsco River and features beautiful hiking trails, rolling hills, and a historic downtown. Founded in 1772, Old Ellicott City is reminiscent of an old European village (many buildings are made of locally quarried granite and stone staircases line most businesses). Ellicott City is home to the Baltimore & Ohio Ellicott City Station—the oldest surviving railroad station in the US and the original terminus of the first 13 miles of commercial railroad in the country.
Though its historic down is most significant, Ellicott City is also home to Patapsco Valley State Park which extends along 32 miles of the Patapsco River, and Centennial Park, a 337-acre park that features a 54-acre, man-made lake and a variety of wildlife like white-tailed deer, beavers, herons, and turtles. Run, walk, or bike on the 2.6-mile paved pathway that encircles the lake or the 7.3-mile interconnecting paved pathway that links out to surrounding neighborhoods.
Photo by Eric Kilby
Nearest big city: Boston
Marshfield is located slightly north of Plymouth and Cape Cod and has a gorgeous, walkable coastline. This coastal community is named for the many salt marshes which border the brackish borders of the town. Marshfield has a rich history that dates back to the pre-Revolutionary War era; in fact, many families that have summer homes in Marshfield have had the property for many generations. This town is also known as the home of Daniel Webster, American orator and politician. When visiting Marshfield, you can learn more about Webster’s life at the Daniel Webster Estate and Heritage Center or the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary.
Nearest big city: Traverse City, MI
Manistee was a Michigan lumber boomtown in the 1880s, with more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the US. Today, the city’s Victorian roots are still palpable, especially on downtown River Street, where quaint boutiques and shops fill the space. The region is so historic that the town created the Manistee Historic Sites Tours, a series of eight themed tours featuring 100 sites across the county with historic significance (15 of these sites are on the National Register of Historic Places and 20 are Michigan State Historic Sites).
Manistee also offers attractions for the nature lovers. It has 25 miles of sugar-sand beaches, four rivers for paddling or fishing (Big Manistee, Little Manistee, Pine River, and Betsie River), and a diverse trail scene. The North Country Trail offers 80 miles of hiking for a true wilderness hiking experience.
Nearest big city: Woodbury, MN
Considered the historic birthplace of Minnesota, Stillwater is one of Minnesota’s oldest towns (and one that’s rich in lumber industry history). At the height of the log boom, Stillwater’s lumber mills turned out thousands of rail cars of white and Norway pines. With all the elements of a lumber town—river connections to the northern Minnesota and Wisconsin pine lands, still waters for assembling rafts, and water power—Stillwater flourished.
Today, Stillwater’s rich and vibrant history is evident everywhere you look. Explore the St. Croix River by taking a walk over the St. Croix Crossing Bridge or walk Stillwater’s streets with self-guided tours or podcast videos. Mixed with modern amenities, restored historic mansions, and over 100 owner-operated shops and restaurants, Stillwater is the ideal Midwest getaway.
Photo by Thomas Gregory via Wikimedia Commons
Nearest big city: Jackson, MS
Formerly known as the Cotton Capital of the World, Greenwood is a progressive community that’s home to just 16,000 residents. This picturesque town is located between two rivers and is home to the Viking Range Corporation, an appliance company that manufactures kitchen appliances for residential and commercial use. The city’s stock of both old and new commercial buildings provides reasonable and attractive options for retail stores, office locations, and corporate headquarters.
Though the town is quaint, it has a phenomenal culinary scene with more than 30 locally owned restaurants, a world-class boutique hotel, tree-lined boulevards, and a number of great retail stores, making Greenwood and its surrounding area the destination of choice for large corporations, small businesses, and young families.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Saint George Hotel in Weston, MO
Nearest big city: Kansas City, MO
Weston became a significant mid-nineteenth century Missouri River port community, the second largest port on the river, second only to St. Louis. Filled with antebellum homes and other historic sites, museums, tobacco barns, and orchards, Weston attracts visitors from all over the country. Some popular attractions include the Coal House Saloon, located at The Old River Landing, Green Dirt Farm Creamery, and Jowler Creek Vineyard & Winery. Whether you choose a charming bed and breakfast or the renovated 1846 Saint George Hotel, you will love the variety, charm, and hospitality of Weston-style accommodations.
Nearest big city: Billings, MT
It’s no secret that Montana is one of the most beautiful states in the country, and Big Sky asserts this claim. Northwest of Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky is known for the ski and downhill mountain-bike trails of Big Sky Resort with more than 5,800 acres of skiable terrain spread across four mountains, 4,350 vertical feet, and 85 kilometers of award-winning Nordic trails.
To the northeast, the Gallatin River cuts through Gallatin Canyon and hiking trails thread throughout the landscape into neighboring national forests. Come here in the summer or winter: there are plenty of activities to do in both seasons, from fly fishing, whitewater rafting, and hunting in the summer to dog sledding, snowmobiling, and ice skating in the winter. What’s even more appealing: Big Sky has an impressive unemployment rate of 2.9%—the US average is 5.2%.
View of the Missouri river from a walking trail in the Fontenelle Forest Nature Center
Nearest big city: Omaha, NE
Bellevue is rapidly growing due to an expanding economy in the civilian sector. The Kennedy Freeway, a limited-access highway, has stimulated a new building boom with commercial, industrial, and residential construction. This town is also the site of Fontenelle Forest, 1,400 acres of privately owned land with 19 miles of hiking trails and views of the Missouri River. The forest include the famous site of Fontenelle’s Post—a fur trading post built in 1822 by Joshua Pilcher, then president of the Missouri Fur Company based in St. Louis.
Photo by VisitCarsonValley.org
Nearest big city: Carson City, NV
If you love towns that embrace history and are surrounded with breathtaking views, Gardnerville, Nevada, is the perfect place to visit. Established in 1879, Gardnerville is a source of year-round activities and entertainment. With idyllic mountains, spectacular valley views, a moderate climate, and traffic-free roads, this town offers fun and engaging recreational activities to keep you endlessly entertained. Be sure to check out the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center or Lampe Park, a 32-acre park with plenty of spots to picnic and trails to walk along Willow Creek.
Nearest big city: Newington, NH
Settled in 1623, Portsmouth claims to be the nation’s third-oldest city. It sits near the Piscataqua River and is a major metropolitan hub (it’s the halfway point on Amtrak’s Boston-to-Portland run). Few other places on the East Coast have the geographic location, historic past, and cultural strength to make them comparable to Portsmouth—one of the most underrated towns in America. Just a mere 15-minute drive to New Hampshire’s most popular surfing beaches, Portsmouth is the ideal place for those who love a mix of adventure, art, and really good food.
Nearest big city: Newark, NJ
Morristown is the county seat of Morris County, New Jersey. It’s been called the military capital of the American Revolution because of its strategic role in the Revolutionary War. Known for Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown is also home to important Revolutionary War sites like Fort Nonsense and the New Jersey Brigade Area. At Ford Mansion lies the Washington’s Headquarters Museum that preserves the 18th-century home occupied by Washington and his aides during the Revolutionary War. Some other attractions include the Traction Line Recreational Trail and the Loantaka Brook Reservation. The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is close by as well.
Nearest big city: Alto, NM
There are always things to do in Ruidoso, from hiking and horseback riding, to frequenting museums and going to concerts, exploring the dining and shopping scene, or visiting casinos. Set in the Sierra Blanca mountain range, Ruidoso is home to the richest quarter horse race in the world—the All American Futurity. The Ruidoso area also claims two of New Mexico’s finest casinos: the Inn of the Mountain Gods and Billy the Kid Casino.
Southwest of Ruidoso is the Lincoln National Forest that contains various trails and waterfalls and northeast of the village lies the Lincoln Historic Site. If you don’t get your outdoor fix from Lincoln National Forest, make your way over to Ski Apache, the perfect ski resort for beginning and advanced skiers and snowboarders. There are dozens of trails for skiers and snowboards of all levels.
Nearest big city: Buffalo, NY
Located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, Rochester is considered to be the cultural capital of upstate New York. Affordable and accessible, this city offers an abundance of art galleries, museums, and cultural institutions that have helped the city gain recognition on a national level for its commitment to the arts. The National Center for Art Research recently named Rochester the 17th most arts-vibrant city in the country, on the same list as major metropolitans like Manhattan, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
With the city’s growth and revitalization, the food and drink scene is also booming. New restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and coffee roasters are making a name for themselves on the local, regional, and national level. Local favorites include Restaurant Good Luck, Radio Social, The Revelry, Bitter Honey, and Bar Bantam. Rochester is also home to Genesee Brewery, the oldest brewery in New York State, as well as many craft breweries including Rohrbach Brewing, Swiftwater Brewing, ROC Brewing, Three Heads Brewing, CB Craft Brewers, and more.
There is no shortage of festivals and events to experience in Rochester. With more than 140 festivals held annually, Rochester could easily be known as the “Festival City” as the city’s given moniker of the “Flower City.” Signature events include the annual Rochester Lilac Festival, home to the largest display of lilacs in North America, the Rochester International Jazz Festival, one of the top jazz festivals in the country, and the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival, the third largest fringe festival in the country. One of the most unique features in the area can be found in the heart of downtown Rochester—the High Falls waterfall is a 96-foot waterfall in the Genesee River located in the center of downtown.
Nearest big city: Charlotte, NC
Situated in the North Carolina piedmont between the famous Atlantic beaches and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Winston-Salem dates back to 1753 when the first German-speaking Moravian settlers in North Carolina arrived. In 1766 they founded the town of Salem with the vision of creating a self-sufficient community, which made it a haven for entrepreneurs. That entrepreneurial spirit still lives on today (Winston-Salem is known as the city of arts and innovation after all): The city is home to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Texas Pete, and Hanes Brands as well as Wake Forest University and its School of Medicine, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. The city also boasts Winston-Salem State University, which was founded by Simon Green Atkins, an educator and activist who fought to provide equal education to African American communities.
When visiting the city, you can tour the beautifully preserved Moravian settlement known as Old Salem, enjoy world-famous baked goods from Winkler Bakery, and stroll the campus of Salem College, the oldest women’s college in the country, which is still in operation today. Winston-Salem is also full of art museums and world-class restaurants, and is just a short drive from Charlotte and Raleigh.
Nearest big city: Dickinson, ND
Medora sits on the western edge of North Dakota with the Backlands as its backdrop. Surrounded by the breathtaking scenery of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora offers scenic views from all over town. A brief walk around town will unveil historic sites like Chateau de Mores, the summer home of the town’s founder, and Chimney Park Picnic Area, the former site of Medora’s 19th-century meat-packing plant. Believe it or not, Medora’s population was just 112 as of the last US census, but that’s one thing we love so much about this ultra tiny town: it packs so much beauty into such a small area.
The Burning Hills Amphitheater, a 2,900-seat theater, overlooks the Little Missouri River Valley and puts on a western-style musical tribute to Theodore Roosevelt and the time he spent in the area. Before you leave, stop by the Medora Fudge and Ice Cream Depot to satisfy your sweet tooth or venture over to Pitchfork Steak Fondue where chefs will cook steaks on top of the scenic Tjaden Terrace bluff.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Nearest big city: Columbus, OH
Dublin, the quirky yet adorably charming town north of Columbus, Ohio, is home to a few oddities including a field of giant corn cobs, recreational axe throwing, and heavily influenced Irish cultural experiences such as the Celtic Cocktail Trail and a three-day long Irish festival. The city also hosts the Memorial Tournament, a stop on the PGA Tour.
In Dublin, visitors can enjoy a variety of dining experiences at Jeni’s Ice Cream (with offbeat flavors like sweet potato, marshmallow, and riesling poached pear), the Cap City Fine Diner and Bar, and the AC Hotel Columbus, Dublin’s brand new brunch at VASO rooftop restaurant and bar.
Nearest big city: Oklahoma City, OK
Yukon was founded in 1891 as a farming community and is now known for its lively annual Oklahoma Czech Festival. As one of Oklahoma’s largest ethnic festivals, the Oklahoma Czech Festival goes all-out with music, a parade, costumed dances, crafts, and plenty of Czech delicacies. Yukon’s Czech Hall, a national and state historic site, is also devoted to preserving Czech customs, heritage, and culture. For a deeper dive into the city’s past, visit The Yukon Historical Museum. Located in a 1910 school building, this museum tells Yukon’s history and delves further into the town’s heritage in the Czech history room.
Nearest big city: Portland, OR
Astoria is a port city situated near the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean. It holds the distinction of being the first permanent United States settlement on the Pacific coast and for having the first US post office west of the Rocky Mountains. Points of interest include the Columbia River Maritime Museum, the Astoria Riverfront Trolley, and the Astoria Column. The Astoria Column is the highest point in Astoria and has a 164-step spiral staircase that ascends to an observation deck which offers panoramic views.
Nearest big city: Harrisburg, PA
Also known as Pennsylvania Dutch County, Lancaster is home to many Amish communities where life moves at a slower pace and centers around time-honored traditions and values. You’ll find the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside dotted with one-room schoolhouses and covered wooden bridges, modern farm machinery being pulled by mule teams, brightly colored handmade quilts gently blowing in the breeze, and small furniture stores selling handcrafted Amish-made furniture. We recommend going to Long’s Park or the Rock Ford Plantation, the preserved 18th century home of Edward Hand who served as Adjutant General to George Washington during the American Revolution.
Amid the relaxing atmosphere and peaceful scenery, you’ll also discover a unique blend of attractions and entertainment, food, shopping, and lodging that help make Lancaster County one of America’s favorite vacation destinations for all ages. More than eight million people visit Lancaster County each year (per the 2016 “Power of Lancaster County Tourism” report). The town’s proximity to many of the mid-Atlantic region centers make this a convenient weekend getaway.
Nearest big city: Providence, RI
The town of Bristol is situated on a 10.1-square-mile peninsula, with Narragansett Bay to the west and Mount Hope Bay to the east. Bristol exudes Americana and is ideal for those seeking a refined respite from big city living. Visit the Herreshoff Marine Museum & America’s Cup Hall of Fame—this attraction is on every sailing enthusiast’s bucket list. It’s a shrine to yacht racing and is located on the site where eight consecutive America’s Cup defenders were built. The museum houses dozens of sailing yachts, some that you can climb aboard.
Nearest big city: Charleston, SC
Beaufort is the second oldest city in South Carolina. Think: Spanish moss-lined streets, 18th-century antebellum homes, and a meticulously restored historic downtown district. Regarding antebellum homes, we suggest staying in one of the many preserved and renovated bed & breakfasts like the Anchorage 1770 (this B&B has a rooftop bar that faces the inner coastal waters), the Beaufort Inn, or the Cuthbert House Inn.
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Home to the Reconstruction Era National Monument, which was proclaimed by President Obama in 2017, Beaufort is also home to The Penn Center, where Martin Luther King, Jr. drafted his “I Have a Dream” speech. From planning a short trip to Hunting Island to riding the Spanish Moss Trail, an eight-mile bike ride which runs through Beaufort and neighboring Port Royal, there is no shortage of things to do in Beaufort. Conveniently situated in the heart of the South Carolina’s Lowcountry, Beaufort is perfect for short day trips and excursions. And for all the foodies out there, Beaufort offers a variety of great restaurants: Old Bull Tavern, Saltus River Grill, and Bonito Boathouse are just a few local favorites.
Nearest big city: Brookings, SD
Downtown Sioux Falls is vibrant and thriving, thanks in part to the Rail Yard Redevelopment Plan that began to take shape in 2011. Perhaps one of the city’s greatest attractions is Falls Park—just a short walk from downtown. Another reason why Sioux Falls is one of the most underrated towns in America is because of its impressive food scene. Instead of serving typical Midwestern food, there are multiple restaurants that will ignite your tastebuds: try pistachio or chocolate mint macarons from CH Patisseri or tuna tataki at Sushi Masa Japanese Restaurant.
We also recommend visiting The Arc of Dreams. This massive stainless-steel sculpture is expected to be complete in October 2018 and will span across the Big Sioux River downtown nearly the length of a football field. At the center of the Arc of Dreams is an 18-foot gap (70 feet above the river) that represents the leap of faith dreamers take to see their dreams come true.
Nearest big city: Nashville, TN
Founded in 1799 and named after Benjamin Franklin, this town has a unique blend of history and new growth. In 2009, The National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded Franklin the prestigious title of Distinctive Destination for offering an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, and a strong commitment to historic preservation. In the same year, the American Planning Association named the downtown Franklin area a “Top Ten Great Neighborhood” for Downtown Franklin’s outstanding historic character, architecture, and meaningful protection measures the city adopted to ensure Franklin’s unique sense of place is not compromised by future growth and development.
We recommend visiting The Pond for great food and drink selections or The Park at Harlinsdale Farm—a 200-acre park that has been called the most significant historic farm associated with the modern Tennessee Walking Horse industry.
Nearest big city: Fort Worth, TX
Known as the Dinosaur Capital of Texas, Glen Rose is definitely for those who want a slow and steady life. Visit the locals who sell fresh produce from their gardens or take walks in the adjacent neighborhoods where you can find huge pecan stands lining the road. The bed & breakfasts all exude southern charm, with some of the homes dating back to the turn of last century. And make sure you visit Loco Coyote: a true Texas BBQ secret. For the outdoor folks, be sure to visit Big Rocks Park—located on the Paluxy River, this park has plenty of rocks for children to climb and shady areas for families to relax and enjoy the sunshine. Just down the road from Glen Rose is Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, a wildlife sanctuary (the fifth biggest of its kind in the world) that saves endangered species.
Nearest big city: Salt Lake City, UT
Skiers know about Park City because of its two world-class ski resorts (Park City Mountain and Deer Valley Resort) but outside of the 16 weeks of winter, Park City is every bit the world class city that draws people to Beverly Hills and Aspen—it’s just significantly under the radar and has yet to become a household name outside of the winter season.
Most people don’t realize that Park City is located just 30 miles from the Salt Lake City International Airport—there is no mountain destination in North America that is more accessible. Additionally, the town is the most recent location in the States to host an Olympic Games (Winter, 2002).
Unlike other towns in Utah, Park City was founded by prospectors looking for silver in its mountains. Its Main Street has been the location of saloons, diners, and stores since its founding in 1870 and currently hosts 47 buildings on the National Historic Register that date to the town’s founding. Park City has an anti-chain-store ordinance protecting its historic Main Street district from hosting restaurants and retailers that are part of national chains, maintaining a unique and local-focused experience for visitors.
Nearest big city: Burlington, VT
Established in 1763, Shelburne is nestled on the shores of beautiful Lake Champlain in Chittenden County, the most populated county in Vermont. It’s home to many popular tourist attractions and special events which draw thousands of visitors each year. The most popular local attractions are the Shelburne Farms, Shelburne Museum, and the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory. Shelburne also has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, at just 2.2%.
Nearest big city: Fredericksburg, VA
Located about an hour southwest of Washington, DC, sits the small town of Culpeper. Locally known as a foodie town with an amazing historic downtown district, Culpeper is home to a handful of notable chefs like Frank Maragos, Joclyn Yarnall, Lucio Tonizzo, and Garth Hansen. Culpeper is also home to the first moonshine distillery in America: Belmont Farms Distillery.
In Culpeper, you’ll find the Library of Congress Packard Theatre Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation which offers extremely unique jobs and hosts festivals and conferences throughout the year. The Library’s newly completed Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center provides underground storage for this entire collection on 90 miles of shelving. The Packard Campus was created through a unique partnership between the Packard Humanities Institute, the United States Congress, the Library of Congress, and the Architect of the Capitol.
Nearest big city: Seattle, Washington
Located on Fidalgo Island, Anacortes is conveniently situated halfway between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. The city comprises 15.4 square miles (the island is just over 41 square miles—almost half of which is public park and recreational land). Anacortes boasts 12 miles of shoreline and 67 miles of public trails, some of which are located in one of the last old-growth forested areas on the coast.
The city also provides easy access to the Cascade Mountains, San Juan Islands, and Vancouver Island. And don’t forget about the whale watching: Anacortes serves as home port to one of the world’s largest whale watching fleets. Each sailing typically lasts a half-day, during which riders are treated to a wonderful introduction to the beauty of the San Juan Islands.
Nearest big city: Morgantown, WV
Berkeley Springs is an historic spa- and art-filled town nestled in the West Virginia mountains only 90 minutes from the Washington/Baltimore metro area. First noted as Medicine Springs in 1747 on a map drawn by Thomas Jefferson’s father, the waters have drawn visitors over the centuries seeking health and relief from the stress of everyday life.
Aside from warm mineral springs, this town offers world class dining, blocks of distinctive shops, full-service spas (facilities that offer a wide range of health and beauty treatments), and more than 100 lodging choices. And though the town has endured cycles of notoriety, fashion, war, and modern progress, it’s still known as the birthplace of the country’s first spa.
Nearest big city: Madison, WI
Beloit is an eclectic city bursting with art, culture, and flavor. This town sits on the midway point of the Rock River Trail, which is a 320-mile course spanning Wisconsin and Illinois. For other outdoor ideas, you can take a quiet kayaking trip on Turtle Creek and view one of the nation’s oldest five-arch stone bridges. Wisconsin’s oldest private college, Beloit College, is home to historic buildings and 20 effigy mounds built between AD 400 and 1200.
Another Beloit highlight is the Beckman Mill County Park. Tour the 50-acre park and relax at the picnic shelter, stroll through a vintage garden, or shop at the gift corner. This park also features a saw mill display, a creamery, a blacksmith shop, a pond with a fishing pier, and the Beckman Mill—a grist mill originally built in 1868 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Nearest big city: Casper, WY
Located in the heart of Wyoming’s storied Bear Lodge Mountains of the Black Hills is the quaint western town of Hulett. This town welcomes you to the grassy prairies and pine-covered rimrock bluffs of this legendary land located in northeast Wyoming. Part of the original Old West, this area is rich with history and defined by the beauty and tradition of the American West. It’s also home to America’s First National Monument, Devils Tower.
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