The 6 Best Off-The-Radar Destinations in the U.S. That Need to Be on Your Bucket List
From tiny towns in Arizona to California, these tourist-free spots are worth a visit.
Hitting Miami's beaches is a blast and the Grand Canyon will forever take our breath away, but sometimes, venturing somewhere unexpected—like an off-the-radar destination that's less saturated with tourists (and tourist traps!) but still rich in culture—is precisely what the soul needs.
The thing is, it can be tricky to find a place within the U.S. that's worth visiting that others aren't already shouting about at the top of their lungs (or posting about on Instagram). Lucky for you, we're showcasing some hidden gems worthy of your travel bucket list that are truly still hidden.
From tiny towns in Arizona to California, there's at least one destination on this list that will check all the right vacation boxes for you. Keep reading for the best off-the-radar destinations across the country you should visit, and next, don't miss the 10 Best National Parks You Need to Add to Your Bucket List.
Port Townsend, Washington
Seattle is easily the most visited city in Washington, but venture just two hours north and you'll find yourself in a quaint village-by-the-sea known for its Victorian architecture, world-class culinary scene, maritime legacy, and picture-perfect beaches.
"This town is a perfect weekend getaway that is full of bohemian art, crafts, beer and food, and bumper stickers that read 'we're all here because we're not all there,'" says Woody Sears, co-founder of the Autio travel app.
While you're there, check out Olympic National Park, take a wildlife cruise, or partake in an evening pub crawl. Sears also recommends taking a hike through forests and the pre-WWII bunkers inside of Fort Worden Historical State Park.
From Jerome to Bisbee to Carefree, Arizona is brimming with tiny historical towns where you can easily spend an entire weekend. If you're looking for a magical getaway that even locals aren't familiar with, then try Tubac. Located about 45 minutes south of Tucson, this 270-year-old town was an OG stop on the Camino Real and ripe with history, classic adobe architecture, museums, and monuments.
Tubac is also a thriving haven for artists and otherwise creative-minded folks, brimming with art galleries, storefronts, and eclectic restaurants. While you're there, definitely check out the Clay Rabbit House, Feminine Mystique Art Gallery, and Elvira's. For an edifying day trip that'll leave you awestruck, drive four miles to Tumacácori National Historical Park.
New River Gorge, West Virginia
Outdoor-focused locales still remain at the top of travelers' lists, a trend that took off during the summer of 2020 when people sought safer getaways. While big-ticket national parks like Glacier, Yosemite, and Acadia will never go out of style, sometimes contending with crowds can put a real damper on your getaway. Cue lesser-known parks like New River Gorge in West Virginia, which is the United States' youngest National Park.
"Americans are realizing the natural gems in their own backyards and are more frequently using the parks to pick a region they are going to visit," says Sarah Casewit, senior travel curator with Origin. "With this newest national park in West Virginia, people are seeing and realizing how much untouched beauty and charm there is to offer."
New River Gorge's leading star is its mature and rugged whitewater river which winds through lush, majestic canyons. The park itself boasts over 70,000 acres of sweeping vistas and outdoor adventure.
People flock to California for good reason. The state's charming ocean towns, idyllic weather, and impressive culinary scene ensure that every second and dollar of your vacay is well spent. For a less-frequented Cali destination, consider venturing to Cambria.
"This little seaside town is full of open space, walking and biking trails, and wild beaches," says Sears. He adds, "[It also has] a desirable downtown with plenty of dining options."
Located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this picturesque town is home to unspoiled coasts and preserves, picture-perfect inns, and charming eateries. Hunt for moonstones at the beach, stop by Stepladder Creamery for fresh cheese, try the famous Olallieberry pie at Linn's, and partake in forest bathing—or simply stroll or pedal—at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.
If you're craving a trip that helps slow your roll, quaint Shipshewana in Northern Indiana will help you do that in more ways than one. This small Amish town promises visions of seemingly endless green fields speckled with red barns, mouthwatering Amish cooking, and sturdy handcrafted goods you can take back home.
Wind along the back country roads between Shipshewana and Middlebury and stop at Amish-run establishments, like Heritage Ridge Creamery where you can watch fresh cheese being made, or Rise'n Roll Bakery which is famous for its donuts. (So famous, in fact, that it's one of the few Amish eateries that's been franchised within the state.) You can also spend a good chunk of time downtown Shipshewana. Check out the Blue Gate Restaurant and Theater, the massive Auction & Flea Market, and take some time enjoying the Barn Quilt & Mural Trail.
Portland gets its fair share of accolades, but Sears says that lesser-frequented Bend is worthy of your travel bucket list, too. Roughly three hours southeast of Portland and nestled along the Deschutes River, it's surrounded 360 degrees by raw natural beauty. You've got access to the Cascade Mountains, Oregon Badlands Wilderness, Deschutes National Forest, and Newberry National Volcanic Monument with its astounding Lava River Cave.
Bend is also home to relaxing spas, world-class museums, art exhibits, breweries, and an array of food options. Sears says you must float or SUP down the Deschutes River through downtown and then grab a slice at 10 Barrel Brewing, "where the pies and beers rival the best in the country."