Visit These American Gems Before the Word Gets Out
Visit These American Gems Before the Word Gets Out
The United States is a vast country full of vast possibilities when it comes to travel. Many of the country's top destinations are extremely overrated, however, and you'll find that some of the nation's true gems are actually located off the beaten path. In the age of social media and increasing domestic tourism numbers, however, it's only a matter of time before many lesser known spots are crawling with tourists.
From small islands best seen from the water to artistic communities and quaint villages, there are many American destinations that are surprisingly under-the-radar yet worthy of your attention. With fewer crowds, they seem quite untouched and a perfect slice of authentic Americana. Take a vacation that doesn't require a passport, and visit these American gems before the word gets out.
Ashland is a beautiful little mountain town located in southwest Oregon that has quite a bit going on. There's a big artistic community here with many festivals and venues for celebrating music, art, and theater, most notably the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Oregon Cabaret Theater. Local art galleries and wineries come together on the first Friday of every month to put on the First Friday Artwalk, a fantastic example of local Oregon culture.
Avery Island, Louisiana
Avery Island is a spot full of romance and Tabasco sauce. Located 3 miles inland from Louisiana's Vermilion Bay, the island is actually a salt dome, and it's known for being home to the famous condiment, with an entire factory located here. The Tabasco sauce, bird sanctuary, and many exotic plants on the island are all courtesy of the Avery family, after whom the island was named.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
The most underrated destination in the state, western North Carolina's Blowing Rock is a quaint village located on the crest of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Hit its main street and the charming shops that line it, containing goods such as fudge, spices, specialty candles, jewelry, and more. Go hiking on Glen Burney Trail just a mile away, and get a fantastic view of the surrounding forests from the Blowing Rock after which the village is named.
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Bowling Green has a strong culinary scene and a lot of history, giving visitors a chance to experience some of Kentucky's best Southern flavor and fun. Outdoor adventurers will enjoy it here as well, as the city has almost 100 acres of land specifically reserved for parks and recreation.
One of the most underrated cities in America, Camden is a coastal town that's also quite possibly one of the most beautiful spots in all of New England. Located at the foot of Maine's Camden Hills, perfect for hiking and biking, it's also home to many local restaurants and shops worth exploring. Try sailing or paddle boarding on the water, and check out the town's historic buildings and structures, most notably the picturesque Curtis Island Lighthouse which marks the entrance to the town's harbor.
Cumberland Island, Georgia
You need to take a ferry, which departs just twice a day from St. Marys, to get to the beaches of Cumberland Island, but it's definitely worth the trek. One of the Sea Islands located off the coast of the southeastern U.S., it's home to 17 miles of beaches, as well as beautiful oak trees and salt marshes. Cumberland Island is known for the wild horses that roam its terrain, but it's also home to white-tailed deer, wild boars, armadillos, alligators, raccoons, and squirrels.
The drive to Hana is one of the most scenic drives you'll ever take, and Hana itself is beautiful too. A relatively peaceful destination compared to the rest of tourist-filled Maui, Hana is a paradise for adventurers. The cliffs of Wai'anapanapa State Park are perfect for hiking, and Hana is also home to beautiful black beaches, as well as the quiet Hamoa Beach.
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
Jim Thorpe is the kind of charming town you'll have a hard time believing is actually located in the United States; indeed, the scenery and architecture here has earned it the nickname of "Switzerland of America." Located in the Lehigh Gorge in eastern Pennsylvania, it's also known as the "Gateway to the Poconos," offering visitors a great base for adventures in the Poconos Mountains, as well as the chance for a quiet getaway with live entertainment and downtown strolls through this romantic, Victorian town.
San Juan Islands, Washington
The San Juan Islands are the kind of vacation spot you probably haven't even thought of, but they're growing in popularity fast. Located off the coast of Washington state, the islands are sparsely populated, although you'll find more people around in the summer. The ocean and mountain scenery here is absolutely breathtaking. Orcas Island, the largest of the bunch, is home to Mount Constitution as well as a stone tower from which you can get particularly stunning views. Boating, kayaking, and whale watching are all popular endeavors here.
One of the best cities for outdoor enthusiasts, Spokane is a great West Coast spot with a young, artistic vibe known for its local craft beer and craft coffee scene. Among the many festivals and events here is the popular Get Lit! Programs Festival, a weeklong literary outreach event, and the Spokane Gay/Lesbian Film Festival. Spokane also has a pretty active music scene, and the town's many bars, clubs, and other venues feature both local and touring artists.
Taos, New Mexico
Taos is the perfect off-the-beaten-path destination for beating the crowds of cities like Santa Fe just two hours away. Home to over 20 nationally registered historic sites, this New Mexican city is the kind of place you can go any time of year. It's known for art and skiing, and the Taos Ski Valley is a must for anyone who wants to hit the Southwestern slopes. Take on the Rio Grande in a river adventure or make a trip to visit the Taos Pueblo, a Native American community that lives just north of Taos and is open to (respectful) visitors.
Wimberley is a beautiful Texas Hill Country destination with a population of just around 3,000, yet it offers much to do. Gorgeous cypress trees and wildflowers characterize the town, which is also known for its artistic vibe and whimsical architecture. There are two swimming holes here as well: Blue Hole, a stunning natural pool surrounded by cypress trees, and Jacob's Well, a popular spring and swimming hole that leads to an underwater cave system and is one of the most dangerous scuba dives in the world.