For every city that tourists flock to in America, like New York City and Chicago, there are equally diverse and interesting cities, like Portland, Maine, and Little Rock, Arkansas, that get largely overlooked as vacation destinations. If what you’re seeking in a city is art, culture, music, and palpable history, then these cities deserve a chance to show you just what you’ve been missing all along. From internationally renowned cuisine to shopping districts brimming with life and culture (and copious amounts of refined alcohol, of course), these are the American cities you had absolutely no clue were amazing vacation destinations in their own right. Happy travels.
Providence, Rhode Island
Where to fly: T.F. Green Airport
As it turns out, Providence is more than just a place to find great seafood—it’s also a hub for international art, music, and culture. Tourists and locals alike will benefit from taking a walk down the picturesque and historic Benefit street, with its sprawling colonial architecture and authentic northeastern shops and cuisine. For a detour from the historic, take in the punk scene that draws music lovers from every corner of the country at places like Scurvy Dog and The Parlour.
What to do: Eat at Oberlin, a restaurant with internationally-renowned seafood and Rhode Island charm a-plenty.
Where to stay: The Dean Hotel will bring warmth and sophistication to your stay in Providence.
Where to fly: Tampa International Airport
More often than not, most tourists disregard Florida cities and head right to the sunny coastlines—but this culture haven and palm tree paradise should not be overlooked. Tampa boasts all kinds of fun for the family, like amusement parks, beaches, museums, and local shops and restaurants. To make the most of your stay, don’t miss a visit to Busch Gardens, a large amusement park with some of the country’s biggest and fastest roller coasters. For even more local adventure, pay a visit to one of the many state parks like Al Lopez Park and Hillsborough River State Park that provide just the right amount of scenery for an unforgettable vacation in Tampa.
What to do: Make the trek to Ybor City to experience Tampa’s Latin flavor: cigar stores, clubs, and authentic bars.
Where to stay: For amazing Floridian architecture, book a room at Le Meridian Tampa.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Where to fly: Charlotte Douglas International Airport
In recent years, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, has become a hub of delectable cuisine, folk and blues music, and international art. Though Charlotte isn’t exactly known for barbecue, Midwood Smokehouse is singlehandedly making a case for putting this city on the map, with an assortment of amazing sauces and meat cooked over a computer-controlled smoker. For a taste of Charlotte’s music scene, plan a night out at Evening Muse where acts like Shovels and Rope and Avett Brothers found their humble beginnings.
What to do: Whether or not you’re a fan of NASCAR, you’ll find the NASCAR Hall of Fame incredibly interesting, with exhibitions giving a hands-on representation of what it’s like to drive some of the fastest cars in the world.
Where to stay: For some of the best views of the city (from a rooftop pool, at that), stay at Omni Charlotte Hotel.
San Jose, California
Where to fly: Mineta San Jose International Airport
Set in the heart of sterile, tech-focused Silicon Valley, San Jose has become an unlikely mecca of international culture and cuisine. From Moroccan to Greek, the international cuisine in San Jose is not to be missed. For authentic Morrocan food (or just really great cuisine in general), try Menara Morrocan Restaurant. To experience the more whimsical side of the city, pay a visit to the Winchester Mystery House trick hallways, hidden staircases, and all things witchy and, well, mysterious.
What to do: Visit one of the many vineyards, like Ridge Vineyards, that make this city a desired destination for winos everywhere.
Where to stay: Enjoy the views of the city from the rooftop bar at Hotel Valencia Santana Row.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Where to fly: Salt Lake International Airport
While it may be home to the Mormon Church, Salt Lake City has much more to offer outside of the religious realm. From skiing to world-class dining (and drinking), this city has something for everyone—especially those with an affinity for outdoor fun. Utah’s capital is often considered a gateway to the state’s five national parks: Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, and Bryce Canyon—and visitors to the city would remiss if they didn’t take in the stunning scenery at these parks.
What to do: Immerse yourself in one of the elements that make Salt Lake City one of the more memorable excursions in America—the snow. Go skiing at the Canyons or hop on an inner tube and sail down the snowy hills at Wasatch Mountain State Park.
Where to stay: After a grueling day on the slopes, sit back and relax in the on-site spa in The Grand America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.
Where to fly: Baltimore-Washington International Airport
This east coast city often gets overlooked in favor of bigger cities in the area like Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, but the many historical and cultural attractions in Baltimore provide the perfect vacation for every history-minded traveler. Don’t miss a chance to visit Baltimore’s most famous attraction, the National Aquarium, which gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how the dolphins are trained on site. For art aficionados, the Walters Gallery, which has art spanning over 55 centuries, will be enough to keep you busy for at least a full day.
What to do: For the best view of Baltimore’s harbor and eclectic shops and dining, take a walk along historic Federal Hill.
Where to stay: The Lord Baltimore Hotel provides a winning combination of elegance and history in their rooms and main areas, located in the heart of the city.
Where to fly: Pittsburgh International Airport
Whether you’re a football fan or an art admirer, this city boasts some of the best museums and sports-related fun in the entire country. Pay a visit to the Mattress Factory or Andy Warhol Museum for a taste of the whimsical art that makes Pittsburgh a haven for intellectuals and artists. The s of the city is also a great place to find a nightcap—or adventure—of any kinds.
What to do: Become a part of the local scene by attending a Pittsburgh Steelers game at Heinz Field in the North Shore neighborhood of the city.
Where to stay: Book your room at Pittsburgh’s only historic boutique hotel, The Priory Hotel, within walking distance of Pittsburgh’s famous Strip District.
Charleston, West Virginia
Where to fly: Yeager Airport
Perhaps one of the more underrated cities on the list, Charleston, West Virginia, deserves more recognition that it receives. This capital city nestled in the Appalachians keeps the history of its land a part of the present, with vintage bookstores, record stores, and home cooking fit for any traveler looking to understand what makes Charleston so great—and they won’t have to look far.
What to do: The Elk City Historic District is currently undergoing a renaissance of art and creativity, so just a stroll through the district full of shops and galleries should inspire any tourist.
Where to stay: For the best views of the waterfront, stay at the Four Points by Sheraton Charleston.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Where to fly: Albuquerque International Sunport
Nestled in the mountains, about an hour north of Albuquerque, the city of Santa Fe is teeming with art and imagination. The New Mexico State Capitol building boasts a variety of history and art, with over 600 paintings housed in the building. Build your palette with a walk through the downtown area with food fixtures like Joseph’s, the Plaza Cafe, and Izanami.
What to do: Open from October 6 through May 26, El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe seeks to bring the best of the southwest to the city—whether that includes apparel, pottery, or antiques.
Where to stay: For a truly rustic southwestern escape (with chic amenities like an upscale restaurant and bar), stay at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi.
Where to fly: Memphis International Airport
Officially named the “Home of the Blues,” Memphis boasts streets full of lights and loud music spilling out on to the sidewalks. The best place to feel the pulse of the city is in the Beale Street Entertainment District, which is packed with music venues, restaurants, shops, and other local musts.
What to do: A visit to Memphis would be remiss without a trek through Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley.
Where to stay: Stay at the legendary Peabody Memphis hotel, most famous for its resident flock of ducks.
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Where to fly: Spokane International Airport
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is the perfect destination for those travelers looking to slow down the pace of their everyday lives. Take an easy-going bike ride along the spectacularly beautiful North Idaho Centennial Trail, or go for an evening dinner cruise on the lake. And if you’re a golfer, don’t miss playing a round at the Couer d’Alene Resort Golf Course: there, you’ll find the world’s only floating-in-water green.
What to do: During the summer, this lakeside city becomes a haven for festivals, so be sure not to miss the wide array of offerings (including a microbrew festival).
Where to stay: A trip to Coeur d’Alene would be incomplete without a stay at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, a 338-room hotel with several restaurants, a spa, and a fully equipped marina.
Where to fly: Louisville International Airport
While the rest of Kentucky may be known as positively southern, this vivacious and proudly weird town feels more modern than most of its southern neighbors. Though you may not know it, Louisville has an impressive theatre scene—where talented A-listers, like Jennifer Lawrence, cut their teeth at a young age—so be sure to catch a show while you’re visiting, perhaps at historic Whitney Hall.
What to do: No trip to Louisville is complete without consuming more than a reasonable amount of the state’s unofficial drink, bourbon. Experience the best bourbon that the city has to offer at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience for tours and drinking a-plenty.
Where to stay: Stay at the Brown Hotel to experience life right in the heart of Louisville.
Where to fly: Eppley Airfield
The home of Warren Buffet, besides being innovative and entrepreneurial, boasts some of the country’s most diverse cuisine, art, and music. With local musicians like Conor Oberst and Jenny Lewis laying claim to this area, it’s clear to see why this plains city is worth a visit—all one has to do is look around at the progress that has been made to better the city. A prime example of this total remodel is the Blackstone District, where a once-desolate area is now filled with incredibly unique eateries, breweries, and other Omaha gems.
What to do: Pay a visit to the Durham Museum, decked out in 13-foot-tall chandeliers, soda fountain, and vintage trains—all providing a glimpse into Omaha’s interesting past.
Where to stay: The Hotel Deco XV, first constructed in 1930, is another (gorgeous) testament to Omaha’s past and worthy of a weekend getaway.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Where to fly: Clinton National Airport
Become a friend of the Clintons with a jaunt to this urban mecca in the south. Whether you’d like to make this visit more of an ode to the Clintons (there are more than a few buildings with the name on it), or would rather steer clear of the political and explore what makes Little Rock so historically diverse and imaginative, there’s something here for nearly every traveler.
What to do: Take a walk along the River Market District for a unique shopping and dining experience (complete with the Ottenheimer Market Hall— a food area with old-fashioned stalls).
Where to stay: For a truly presidential stay, book your room at local favorite Capital Hotel, a centuries-old establishment with a popular bar and restaurant on-site.
Buffalo, New York
Where to fly: Buffalo Niagara International Airport
Though many may groan when they think of spending more than a few hours in Buffalo, it turns out that this bustling city deserves its fair share of praises (and eager tourists). With a late-night culture on par with those of Las Vegas and Miami, it’s essential to spend at least one night out on the town (try Essex Street Pub). Overcome your hangover with a quest into the city’s infamous comfort food territory—and discover just how amazing the wings are at Duff’s.
What to do: Discover more of what makes this city so great at the Buffalo Riverworks brewery—and drink while you take in the renovated industrial architecture.
Where to stay: Book your room at the swanky Curtiss Hotel—complete with a rooftop lounge (as if you needed another reason to drink).
Greenville, South Carolina
Where to fly: Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport
Resting in the Appalachian foothills in the deep south, lies the hidden gem of Greenville, South Carolina. Whether you’re digging into a hearty plate of barbeque (try Henry’s Smokehouse), or venturing through the area’s often unforgiving hills, southern hospitality has never looked (or tasted) this good.
What to do: Due to its grueling and relentless bike paths, Greenville has become a home to cyclists like George Hincapie, who revel in the city’s diverse cycling culture. For a taste of this cycling craze, pay a visit to Pedal Chic, one of the only cycling stores in the country that caters to women.
Where to stay: Be advised: one night at the Swamp Rabbit Inn, with its eclectic furniture and homey front porch, and you’ll never want to leave.
Where to fly: Portland International Jetport
This lobster lover’s paradise is more than just a mecca for seafood aficionados. The city plays conducts a flawless balancing act between honoring history and creating it. While many new restaurants, art galleries, and shops (all of which seem to pop up on a weekly basis) are forging a bright future for Portland, local staples like Longfellow Books and Silly’s (that’s a restaurant) have been around for years to demonstrate homegrown loyalty.
What to do: Take a trip back to the most ancient of all alcoholic art forms and pay a visit to Maine Mead Works—one of the only places in the country making mead in its purest, original, Viking-adored form.
Where to stay: Located in the former Portland Press Herald Building, the Press Hotel is Maine’s first lifestyle boutique hotel, complete with a fitness center, Akari spa, art gallery, and not one but two top-tier restaurants.
Where to fly: John Glenn Columbus International Airport
Don’t disregard this Ohio town just yet—thanks to its largely young population, this town has become more vibrant and creative than ever. For mind-boggling science experiments, the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) doesn’t disappoint, with hands-on demonstrations and fun for all ages. If you’d rather shop til you drop, Columbus has you covered with every shop imaginable on its High Street.
What to do: For those of you hooked on phonics, the 32-room Book Loft in Columbus’ Germantown will quench any literature-related thirst that you may feel.
Where to stay: Cited as the nation’s third most fashionable city, Columbus doesn’t disappoint with the decidedly chic Le Meridian, The Joseph.
Where to fly: Boise Airport
As it turns out, Idaho is so much more than meets the eye—and this is apparent in the art and culture hub of Boise, located in a particularly beautiful part of the state. Enjoy the work of local artists at the Freak Alley Gallery, which hosts a collection of pro-grade murals. Grab a bite at Goldy’s, a local favorite in the community where locals and tourists alike have spirited conversations over their eggs Benedict and waffles.
What to do: At Jack’s Urban Meeting Place, or JUMP, learn more a range of topics, including yoga, robotics, sewing (and much, much more) under the same roof. In this workspace, designed by J.R. Simplot, a longtime Boise icon (and the first person to sell frozen, pre-cut fries to McDonald’s), visitors can finally pursue their dreams (or just forgotten hobbies).
Where to stay: Inn at 500 Capitol combines the best elements of Boise—a rustic western ambiance with works of art from local artists.
Where to fly: Tulsa International Airport
The trek to Tulsa is totally worth it—whether you’re looking for a peaceful getaway or an inspiring quest, this city doesn’t disappoint. Stroll through the up-and-coming neighborhood of Brookside for excellent wine bars, cafes, and local shops. If you’re a music fan, you can even pay tribute to folk legend Woody Guthrie, who grew up just outside of Tulsa, in Okemah, Oklahoma, at the Woody Guthrie Center.
What to do: The Philbrook Museum of Art‘s exterior is just as beautiful as the works of art laid out in its interior. Tourists can spend an entire afternoon exploring the natural splendor of the grounds, while at night they can reflect upon the day’s adventures while sipping on a glass of wine in Tulsa’s popular Blue Dome District.
Where to stay: For a prime example of luxe art deco, book your room at The Mayo Hotel for stylish rooms and a rooftop bar—all at a very affordable price.
Where to fly: Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport
Serving as one part of the twin cities, Minneapolis brings a Midwestern charm to a gritty, artistically authentic thriving hub. There is a certain charm to the sweeping waterfront and collection of international restaurants and music venues, like First Avenue & 7th St Entry, that host remembrances to the city’s most famous resident: Prince.
What to do: If you don’t pay a visit to the Mall of America, then did you really even set foot in Minneapolis?
Where to stay: A stay at the Hotel Ivy in downtown Minneapolis will bring a flair of the dramatic and elegance to your travels. Guests can enjoy the spa and on-site Italian fare.
Kansas City, Missouri
Where to fly: Kansas City International Airport
Kansas City is rumored to have more fountains than Rome, but rather than count them all yourself, indulge in one of the many reasons why this Midwestern town is the perfect weekend getaway. For one, the city boasts some of the best barbecue in the state, a la Kansas City Barbecue. After you’ve munched away on the barbecue, dig into the live music at the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District.
What to do: Art lovers will revel in the extensive art collection housed by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, serving to represent the Midwestern creative flair.
Where to stay: For room service and grandeur that you’ve only witnessed in movies, book your room at the InterContinental Kansas City.
Where to fly: George Bush Intercontinental Airport
Similar to many other cities on the list, Houston offers a range of indoor and outdoor activities to accommodate a number of different interests. For outdoor enthusiasts, it’s the Buffalo Bayou, a 52-mile waterway that starts in Katy, Texas, and winds its way through the Houston area, and features numerous hiking and biking trails. If you’d rather escape the heat of the city, plan to explore the Art Car Museum, featuring an array of artistically designed cars.
What to do: Finally find out where the term “Houston, we have a problem” comes from at Space Center Houston, as well as how the city played a crucial role in NASA’s astronaut program.
Where to stay: For a hotel experience completely unique to the area, stay at local favorite Hotel Zaza—a dynamic boutique space hosting a number of different themes for each guest to experience (like an astronaut room).
Asheville, North Carolina
Where to fly: Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport
In this city that calls itself the “Land of the Sky,” there are mountains of inspiration and creativity (literally) that have successfully made this city an artist haven and intellectually stimulating experience. Visit the Biltmore Estate, the former home of George Washington Vanderbilt (and one of Asheville’s most recognizable landmarks), for a peek into the city’s opulent and layered past. To experience the artistic vision of the city, head to the River Arts District to peruse the art made by more than 200 local artists.
What to do: At one point, Asheville had more breweries per capita than any other city in America—so a trip to one of the city’s best breweries, The Funkatorium, will provide just a taste of the area’s affection for craft beer.
Where to stay: For mountain views and an impressive golf course, book your stay at The Omni Grove Park Inn, just far enough away from the downtown area to relax and unwind after a long day of sightseeing.
Where to fly: Dane County Regional Airport, or General Mitchell International Airport
Madison, a liberal college town wedged in the middle of a politically complicated state, is a perfect vacation destination if you’re looking for quaint shopping districts, an active nightlife, and massive amounts of Wisconsin culture. To make your way around the entire city in just a day, experience why Madison is one of the most bike-friendly cities in America by taking a ride through the bike trails that wind throughout the city.
What to do: For a taste of what makes this state the cheesiest, be sure to check out The Old Fashioned, a hip restaurant in Madison that dedicates a large portion of the menu to all things cheesy. (We recommend trying the cheese curds for a taste of local culture.)
Where to stay: After your long day of consuming cheese and Wisconsin culture, check in to your room at the AC Hotel for spectacular views of the city, a rooftop bar, and an excellent on-site restaurant.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Where to fly: Sioux Falls Regional Airport
As a whole, tourists tend to consider South Dakota a fly-over state—meaning that the grand allure of one of its biggest and most culturally-diverse cities, Sioux Falls, is never even witnessed by the traveler. So, instead of skipping over this state altogether, give Sioux Falls a chance to win you over with its majestic falls and rock formations (for which the city was named after) and fascinating museums and historical monuments like the Butterfly House & Marine Cove and the Sioux Falls SculptureWalk.
What to do: Located within Falls Park, the falls and rock structures that outline this city’s gorgeous features are not to be missed. In this park, encompassing 123 acres, scout the path that will take you all the way around the city for a remarkable walking (or biking) tour of Sioux Falls.
Where to stay: If you’re craving a cozy bed and breakfast spot, then the Victorian Bed and Breakfast in downtown Sioux Falls will fulfill your every need within walking distance of major city attractions.
Santa Rosa, California
Where to fly: Oakland International Airport
Though widely considered to only offer one tourist attraction—vineyards—this urban center in the heart of wine country boasts more than just an access of grapes. Just one weekend in Santa Rosa, California will show tourists how the city has recrafted its image to include art galleries, farm-to-table restaurants, and new hip Americana and Bluegrass music scene under the glow of coffeehouse lights.
What to do: To revel in Santa Rosa’s new crafted image, just take a stroll through the South of A Street district (or SOFA) for an abundance of coffee shops, small music venues, shops, restaurants, and galleries galore.
Where to stay: Staying at the Astro Motel in Santa Rosa is akin to stepping through a time machine and spiraling through time to land in the 1960s. Colorful accents and mod decorations will make you feel out of place but right at home in this local favorite.
Where to fly: Denver International Airport
While, yes, this town nestled into the Rocky Mountains is, at first, sleepy and quaint, it turns out that Boulder has an energy just beneath the surface—just waiting for tourists to unwrap its many treasures. Similar to Asheville, Boulder’s breweries are world-famous, meaning that you should definitely dedicate a night to exploring its different hot spots with a personalized Boulder Brew Tour. For more delectable Boulder grub, check out the Oak at Fourteenth for fantastic food in a cozy environment—complete with a crackling oak-fired oven.
What to do: Take a break from your indoor activities and explore what makes this area so desirable—by going for a hike in Chautauqua Park, just inside the city limits.
Where to stay: To experience luxury right in the heart of the city, be sure to reserve a room at The St. Julien Hotel, which offers guests swanky rooms and modern amenities.
St. Petersburg, Florida
Where to fly: St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport
Again, St. Petersburg is yet another Floridian city that suffers from the tourist trap of its surrounding beaches. For a town so diverse and culturally-relevant, tourists mainly steer clear of its city limits to opt for more sun-soaked vacations on its nearby beaches. Artists and art-admirers will adore this city, as much of it contains inspiring art museums and colonies, like the 600 Block, where artists, designers, and chef comingle to create a truly unique neighborhood of bars, shops, and galleries.
What to do: The Salvador Dalí Museum is a testament to this city’s emphasis on the arts and cultural heritage of its people. This space houses the largest collection of Dalí’s work outside of Europe.
Where to stay: Hotel Indigo in downtown St. Petersburg is a renovated 1920s home with colorful rooms and artistic accents that evoke the major themes of the city—relaxation and explosions of artistry.
Where to fly: Richmond International Airport
Set against the James River, this urban enclave and up-and-coming cultural hotspot provides a magical setting to your weekend getaway. For an authentic taste of Virginia’s southern cuisine, be sure to dine out at Supper, a cozy establishment outfitted with antler chandeliers and a tendency to deliver some of the best southern cooking in the state. For a trek into the more urban side of Richmond, head over to Blue Bones Vintage, for clothing, merchandise, and an atmosphere that demonstrates just how far the city has come in the past few years.
What to do: Despite events at Charlottesville, Richmond has remained a culturally-diverse and accepting are, and this is made evident through the work at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. The brick building was first constructed as the only armory for the African American militia unit in 1895 and now takes the time to chronicle major African American milestones throughout the years.
Where to stay: Located in the downtown arts district, the Quirk Hotel delivers a truly dynamic experience for its guests with sophisticated rooms and a rooftop bar with views of the city.