Big U.S. Cities like Boston, Las Vegas, Miami and San Francisco maintain a strong presence on the tourist route, boasting an endless supply of world-class attractions. But what about the rest of the USA? The third-biggest country on our planet is incredibly diverse, after all. Without further ado, here are our top 10 underrated cities to add to your travel itinerary.
Beaufort, South Carolina
This pretty city sits on a bend of the Beaufort River in the heart of South Carolina’s Port Royal Island. If you want Southern charm then you’ll find bags of it here. The streets of the historic downtown district are lined with grandiose examples of 19th-century neoclassical mansions. Movie buffs will delight in visiting sites from Forrest Gump. And just a 25-minute drive are the beaches, lagoons and marshland of Hunting Island.
Who’d have thought that the city that gave us Walmart would be an ideal destination for a cultural getaway. For history enthusiasts there’s museums celebrating American art, Native American heritage, the city’s world-famous retailer and everything in between. The Downtown Trail takes you through the vibrant city center and the Razorback Greenway runs all the way to downtown Fayettevillle.
Next time you're in New England, drive straight through Kennebunk and continue along the coastline to Camden. Affectionately known as the Jewel of the Coast, it’s a culture vulture’s dream. There are festivals galore such as the US Toboggan Championships and Camden Harbor Arts and Crafts Show. As a port town in Maine there’s also plenty of places to dive face-first into a plate of Maine lobster.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
It’s difficult to call any Florida beach underrated, but in Fort Walton Beach you have the luxury of stunning natural beauty combined with reduced tourism (for now). What makes it so special? The glorious white sands of Okaloosa Island and the enticing emerald green water that laps at its shores. If windsurfing is your thing then you are in for a treat. If not, then lazying about in the sunshine is reward enough for coming here.
Imagine the best of Hawaii without the crowds. Is this even possible? Fortunately yes when you travel to Hilo, on the east coast of the Big Island. Here you’ll be chatting to local storeowners while shopping for fresh produce, poking around quirky shops and dining at the waterfront market. Snorkeling is superb here in a protected lagoon and both Kaumana Caves and the Waiakea Forest Reserve serve up some adventure.
Bypass Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to spend a night at Knoxville. Set on the Tennessee River, this is the personification of an easy-going college town. College football, museums, nightlife, you’ve got a little bit of everything to keep you busy. Market Square and the Old City are the restaurant and nightlife hotspots. And Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness has 50 miles (80 kilometers) of trails that meander along the riverfront.
As the hipsters flock to Portland, the smart travelers and wine lovers pick the capital city of Oregon. Within easy reach of the city are some 700 wineries, all nestled in the picturesque Willamette Valley countryside. To keep Portland on its toes, there’s also a burgeoning craft beer culture. Art fanatics should add the Hallie Ford Museum of Art to their to-do list. Otherwise, go walking and picnicking in Minto-Brown Island Park.
Not so much a city but a sleepy town squeezed between the mountains in the southern section of Zion National Park. You won’t have to go far to admire the park’s fascinating rock formations, formed by orange, pink and white sandstone. More affordable than Colorado as a hiking destination, the town center has all the amenities you’ll need for a memorable vacation. Be sure to catch a concert at O.C. Tanner Amphitheater.
Taos, New Mexico
A long way from almost anywhere, Taos is both an authentic art colony and adventure sports center framed by the Rocky Mountains. The adobe houses of Taos Pueblo have stood for over a millennia and the town’s art galleries showcase the talents of the Pueblo people. There’s four ski resorts within an hour’s drive and myriad opportunities to go ballooning and zip-lining. The Cumbres and Toltec train is well worth a daytrip.
Twin Falls, Idaho
Who needs Niagara when you have a taller waterfall in southern Idaho. Shoshone Falls is the highlight of a visit to Twin Falls, but there’s abundant other things to see and do. The Snake River Canyon Rim Trails is 10 miles (16 kilometers) of walking and biking routes in the city and along the river. Get active by kayaking on the river or relax with a picnic at the river parks. Perrine Bridge is a favorite spot for base jumpers.