In an era where you can find plenty of free travel advice, cheap flights, and great value hotels, taking a break to explore one of America’s great cities is easier than ever. But instead of the classics – San Francisco or New York, for example – why not head off to one of the more unappreciated destinations in this expansive country? Many metropolises in the United States have been undergoing rapid gentrification and a bit of a cultural renaissance in the past decade, so tourism is rising in many unappreciated destinations. Here are 10 of the best cities to visit in USA that probably aren’t on your radar – but should be.
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence has spent past few years scrubbing and improving their downtown district, making it a wonderful place to spend a few days visit. In summer, be sure to time your visit for the amazing Waterfire event, where the downtown riverway is set in a blaze of fire. Otherwise don’t miss some of the creative and culinary highlights of Providence, such as the Athenaeum (an amazing old library), the shops and cafes of College Hill, the foodie scene on Federal Hill, or the inspiring Rhode Island School of Design Museum.
Tip: Stay at the Hampton Inn Downtown. Not only do you get the usual Hampton features (free Wifi, free breakfast, etc.) but the building was once a church and then a bank. So interesting!
Pittsburgh has a tarnished image of being rough and tumble, but a lot of money goes into the city to support its burgeoning arts and culture scene. There are the many Carnegie Museums (natural istory and art), but there’s also an Andy Warhol Museum and the quirky Mattress Factory (contemporary art). Pittsburgh also has some unique artehicture to be explored – not just skyscrapers but churches and interesting building conversions, like warehouses into restaurants. And inner Pittsburgh has four huge parks to allow you to enjoy some fresh air as well. Be sure to get some elevation too and get a great view of the skyline.
Also: Don’t miss Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvanian partner-in-crime, Philadelphia. It’s the the top 20 of the most popular and best cities to visit in USA.
I arrived to Baltimore ready to sing a Hairspray song, but found myself humbled into silence by the beautiful architecture and amazing choice of museums and attractions. Children will love the acquarium, but my fave was definitely the American Visionary Art Museum, which takes quirky to a new level. Baltimore is also one of the best places on the east coast to grab a crab cake (everyone has an opinion on what’s the best). Don’t miss the Midtown area for more monuments and arty attractions.
Consider: Get out and explore Maryland! Columbia, Annapolis, and Ellicott city aren’t too far away. And of course, its easy to combine Baltimore with a trip to Washington, D.C.
Salt Lake City, Utah
I’ve bumped into travelers planning trips to SLC or just returning from the city, and everyone seems to be in love. Perhaps it’s the relaxed liquor laws that now make libations a bit easier to find, or perhaps just the heaps of culture that you’ll find in the city. A lot of the culture relates to the city being home to the Mormon church, but don’t forget the great outdoors, which the city was of course named after.
Consider: Five hours away is Boise, Idaho – worth the drive to go and sample our recommendations for the best restaurants in Boise!
Did you know many of America’s major cities experienced their largest growth between 1880 and 1920, when famous entrepreneurs like Rockefeller and Ford started massive industries and working in cities became more popular for the influx of immigrants. Some cities have done a better job than others of preserving some of the architecture and history that came with those immigrants a hundred years ago.
As some like to say, there’s more than the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. It was one of the first cities to embrace sustainability, it has a very popular orchestra, arts center, and art museum. Don’t miss the Old Arcade, the Hope Memorial bridge or any of the many famous churches with provide some cultural and architectural flair. Cleveland is also a great place to take the family for a sporting game, as well as check some of the fun along the Lake Erie coastline.
Consider: You may also want to head a couple of hours south to Columbus, Ohio, the state capital. It has some great restaurants and I just love the German Village area (don’t miss the bookstore!)
Rapid City, South Dakota
Most travelers who do find themselves in Rapid City are en route to other popular destinations like Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Black Hills National Forest, and the Badlands. But why not stick around awhile? There are plenty of regional jets that can get you into and out of the city, and while here you won’t go hungry as it’s a culinary hub for the state – comfort food, anyone? There’s a brewery downtown as well as the Wine Cellar Restaurant, both in historic buildings downtown.
Art Alley is a big highlight, an outdoor art gallery, which you can do either before or after exploring the shops and cafes in the area. Don’t miss the quirky strong>Chapel in the Hills or maybe go mountain biking while you’re here.
Tip: no matter which of the daytrip options you choose, you’ll no doubt see plenty of signs for Wall Drug in Wall, SD. Kitsch and touristy, it is well worth pulling over for.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids has always been a popular transit hub, with both its history in fur trading and later on, furniture making. JW Marriott made Grand Rapids its first midwest location, and why not, with all the art and culture. Don’t miss the expansive Frederik Meijer Gardens and Scuplture Park, which can take an entire day to explore. The city also has several theatre venues, festivals during the summer, and makes a great base for exploring some of the Michigan countryside.
Consider: Grand Rapids is great to combine with a trip to Saugatuck, one of the USA’s classic beachtowns.
With one of America’s newest airports, Indianapolis (“Indy”) makes a great first impression. The city has always had some world renowned features – many very good art museums, not to mention the world’s largest children’s museum. Downtown Indy has refreshed itself up with the new canal walk, and there are plenty of parks, gardens (Crown Hill Cemetery being a good one), and historic homes to visit.
Tip: If you’re going to come to one of the famous speedway events (Indy 500, Brickyard 400), be sure to plan your trip and book hotels well in advance (call our travel concierge for help on this one.)
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City is a unique place – they have more fountains than anywhere in the world but Rome, and many abandoned buildings are now refurished as great cafes and restaurants – including AMC’s flagship theatre with the most advanced technology in the country. There’s museums, sports, jazz bars, and tons of shopping. You could also spend your days on a hunt for the best BBQ in KC – lots of choices and opinions there! Kansas City is split between Kansas and Missouri, hence the confusing name.
Consider: It’s about a 3 hour drive away, but one of my favorite midwestern cities, Omaha, Nebraska is worth the drive for the foodie scene, shopping, and art.
Milwaukee calls itself the City of Festivals, including a massive music party each summer called Summerfest. It’s very unique art museum has gained worldwide recognition for the architecture and the exhibitions, but if its more your style you can try touring one of the many breweries in the city – and the state’s only distillery is also open for tours. Sports and music are also popular, but be sure to just wander around – Milwaukee has many neighborhoods that give it a unique city vibe.
Consider: Exploring more of the Lake Michigan shore – there are plenty of interesting towns and villages in either direction.
What city do you think is one of America’s most unappreciated?