So you’re planning your next summer getaway, but you don’t want to go to the same run-of-the-mill destination. You want to explore some road less traveled – or in any case, one that isn’t only frequented by retirees and families of six in minivans. You want excitement, but you also don’t want a typical spring break experience or hordes of tourists clogging every site with huge lines.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are six of the most underrated cities in the U.S. They have your name written all over them to conquer. With more than enough to offer for a summer road trip adventure, any one you choose is bound to be Instagram worthy.
York Beach, Maine
You want the Northeast coast charm, but you can’t foot the bill for a week in the Hamptons – yet. Don’t worry, just head to York Beach, Maine. You can feed your inner child at the old-fashioned candy stores on the boardwalk, sun bathe to your heart’s content and even get a little cultural by checking out the Nubble Light.
Eat as much seafood and clam chowder as you can stomach, then walk it off by doing some shopping. Catch the amazing sunset with some wine on the beach, and remember to keep your eyes peeled for some local fun. It will be a vacation to remember.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston has just about anything and everything you could ask for in a summer destination. Full of rich history, you can check out the city via horse-drawn carriage, shop in the vintage and artisan markets and experience that type of hospitality only the South can provide.
Charleston has a charm that gets under your skin and never leaves, weaving a spell with its Spanish moss-covered trees. Plus, there’s no shortage of nightlife, either – which is always good – so bring your dancing shoes.
OK, so it isn’t a secret that Chicago is one of the most well-known cities in the U.S. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t often overshadowed by NYC and LA – or even wrongly compared. Chicago is by and large its own entity. Boasting a cultural art scene that would rival anywhere in the world, a skyline that makes even grown men cry – probably – and a lake that gives the city an oceanfront vibe, there seriously isn’t any other place like it in the U.S.
Not to mention, the people are actually nice and there’s deep-dish pizza – holy deliciousness. There’s a reason they say Sweet Home Chicago – even if the winters are terribly painful.
Door County, Wisconsin
Another jewel of the Midwest is for those adventurers looking for a quieter, more small-town vibe with great views. Door County, Wisconsin, is seriously a gem in the land of cheese. Located on the peninsula of Lake Michigan, you’ll feel like you’ve made it all the way to the East Coast, but with the bonus of that Midwestern friendliness.
Feast on locally grown and made artisan foods like cherries and cheese curds, and check out local festivals like an old-fashioned fish boil with locally brewed beer. Go sailing and visit local galleries, orchards and farms. There is way more to do here than you can possibly imagine – and it’s in Wisconsin, of all places. Who knew?
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Stretching for miles along the eastern seaboard, Virginia Beach is a great destination to work on your surfing skills or paddle boarding. It has a laid-back vibe perfect for a beach vacation, with amazing restaurants and nightlife along the famed boardwalk. Be academic for a day and visit Jamestown and the many historical museums located in the area, or take a break from the beach and the sun for some thrills at Busch Gardens. This destination has something for everyone.
Pick up the historic Route 66 and check out the quirky city of Sedona. It’s known as a place to seek spiritual refuge or enlightenment, so it isn’t a cookie-cutter tourist destination – which makes it all the more fascinating. The city only has about 10,000 inhabitants, but the desert air has something. It’s something that tourists seek out and try to wrap themselves in as the sun dances off the desert rocks.
What that is, no one is really sure, but the vibe hums some kind of metaphysical presence unlike anywhere else in the U.S. If you’re an artist or a writer, this city is exactly the type of destination you’ve been dying to explore, and you won’t be disappointed. Some would say, you might not even leave.
There is so much out there in your own backyard to discover. These six destinations are only a small handful of the underexplored gems of the United States. It’s highly recommended to check out more than one this summer if you can. After all, time waits for no one, and the U.S. is so much more than NYC and LA. It’s just there, ready and waiting for you to uncover its hidden treasures.
Image via Celina Timmerman