From the rugged east coast’s dramatic landscapes to the charming historical towns and vibrant cities of the west and everything in between, the U.S. offers an incredible variety of spectacular landscapes and adorable small cities and towns with historical landmarks and cultural heritage to explore.
If you want to see the coolest rising cities — or those that have been quietly fantastic for a while — before influencers arrive, book your next holiday to one of these overlooked United States destinations:
You will not receive bragging rights at this point, but you will become the person who claims to have visited them before they were cool. So grab your hat and join us as we visit the ten most underrated U.S. cities.
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Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is located 70 miles north of the City of Brotherly Love and is home to 75,000 people and the nation’s largest free music festival. Musikfest, which is celebrating its 35th year this year, will feature over 450 concerts by musicians like Dierks Bentley, Daughtry, Kesha, and Jason Mraz over the course of ten days in August.
However, music is not the only draw here: history lovers may visit the National Museum of Industrial History, which opened in 2016 and stroll the elevated Hoover-Mason Trestle. The solarium-like 1741 on the Terrace, Fegley’s Brew Works, and Apollo Grill are among the town’s favorite dining establishments.
Charlottesville, Virginia, was formerly home to Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. While this historic community of 47,000 people is located approximately 100 miles southwest of our nation’s capital, it feels far from the noise and bustle. The approximately 300-year-old Boar’s Head Resort is an excellent home base for exploring the countryside of Virginia. Have a picnic at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards or take a hot air balloon ride over one of the most underrated U.S. cities.
A visit to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s old home, would be incomplete without a tour. Attend events such as the CURED Central Virginia Bacon Festival in July and the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest in August this summer. If the hustling and bustling is your style, the cities included in the 15 top summer vacation places in the United States will not disappoint.
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Despite Jefferson County’s bankruptcy filing for $4 billion in 2011, enthusiastic developers have poured money into Birmingham. What is the objective? Recapture some of the old Southern enchantment. Railroad Park, a 19-acre green space in the heart of downtown (shown), aided in the revitalization’s inception (at the cost of $25 million). Regions Field, an 8,500-seat minor league baseball park, opened in the spring of 2013, followed by a $7 million makeover of the Lyric Theatre, which dates back to the early 1900s.
And let us not forget the Pepper Place Complex, which consists of seven buildings totaling 227,000 square feet and was formerly home to the Dr. Pepper Syrup and Bottling Company. Today, it houses a design center, a theatre, restaurants, stores, galleries, and the state’s largest farmers market.
You do not have to travel to Nashville to immerse yourself in Tennessee’s music scene. If you’re not interested in rubbing elbows with cookie-cutter influencers, head to Knoxville, a bustling college town.
Here, live music performances at unpretentious locations are a weekly occurrence. Prepare for a night out by filling up on local cuisine in the Market Square neighborhood, dominated by Southern classics (think fried chicken, mac n’ cheese, and collard greens). Once the performance concludes, continue the evening at one — or a few — of the city’s many pubs.
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St. Petersburg, Florida
Overshadowed by neighboring Tampa, Saint Pete is a true Gulf of Mexico hidden treasure. Floridians in the know flock here for peaceful beaches with incredibly soft sand and the opportunity to observe wild dolphins in their natural habitat as the sun sets over the horizon.
Fresh seafood, a laid-back ambiance, and the Guinness World Record for the most consecutive days of sunshine ever recorded contribute to making this one of the best beach holidays possible and one of the most underrated U.S. cities. Apart from its sandy beaches, the city boasts an excellent craft beer scene.
The capital city of Alaska has the atmosphere of a tiny village. It was founded in 1880 due to the gold rush and now has a population of just over 32,000, a fraction of Anchorage’s approximately 300,000 citizens. It is visually spectacular, with its downtown perched between Mount Juneau, Mount Roberts, and the ocean, overlooking Gastineau Channel in the Inside Passage. This magnificent terrain also makes it an outdoor adventurer’s paradise, with various recreational opportunities ranging from trekking and world-class fishing to some of the world’s best whale viewing.
Wildlife is abundant. Juneau’s rivers are likely to be teeming with humpback whales and the rare orca throughout the warmer months of the year. Harbor porpoises, Dall’s porpoises, harbor seals, Steller sea lions, and sea otters call this area home. Several black bears feed on salmon as they spawn on land, while bald eagles perch practically anywhere, from tree branches to light poles.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
With its casinos lining the shoreline, Atlantic City is the ideal location for a home vacation because it’s close to the Jersey Shore beaches. The steel pier, which opened in 1898 and continues to attract roller coaster enthusiasts and those seeking a trip on the giant carousel, is located in the heart of Atlantic City. With so much to do, it’s easy to see why Atlantic City is frequently referred to as “America’s Playground.”
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Prepare for a bourbon-fueled journey in surprisingly eclectic Louisville, which may be the most interesting city in Kentucky. Naturally, embarking on the Urban Bourbon Trail and sampling the city’s most renowned dish is a necessity. However, your gastronomic adventure does not have to end there; you can also dine at various farm-to-table restaurants and sip locally brewed ales at a diverse collection of craft breweries.
Explore the outdoors at an outstanding arboretum or onboard the “Belle of Louisville,” the country’s oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat (it’s nearly a century old!). And, of course, there’s the Kentucky Derby, which is a fixture on many bucket lists. Louisville is definitely one of the most underrated U.S. cities.
Have you ever visited San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge? Are you looking for a locally-sourced experience that can compete? After then, take a look at the gleaming golden Sacramento Tower Bridge. From the gleaming bridge, you can see the California state capitol, located at the end of Capitol Mall Boulevard.
A few yards off the famed street, the Old Sacramento Historic District transports you to a slower pace of life in 1849 California. Thousands of people came to California to the prospect following the revelation that gold had been discovered in the state.
Drive two and a half hours south of Anchorage, Alaska, and you’ll come to Seward. Despite its great location, Seward, Alaska, is easily ignored – directly between spectacular, snow-capped mountains and temperate rainforest.
Seward, with a population of only 2,600 full-time residents, is peaceful and welcoming in spirit and offers an abundance of outdoor activities. Kayak, fish, observe animals, or zip-line through the treetops. Seward is an excellent starting point for exploring all that Alaska offers.