15 Under-the-radar cities you need to visit

Uncovering cities you should see before the word gets out

Hotel Deals for Amarillo
La Kiva Hotel Amarillo
TX, USA
Oct 18 - Oct 18, 2017
per night from
$ 60.31
$ 33.42

Some of the best things in life fly under the radar. They don’t call them hidden gems for nothing, and these cities embody the concept of being known by few, but sincerely loved by those privy to their charms. Some of those who embrace the joys of these places might tell us to keep these secrets to ourselves, but, well, it would go against our nature to discourage exploring new places or discovering more adventures.

From suggestions by fellow explorers here at Expedia, to buzz happening around the country, we’ve put together a list of underrated places that are primed and ready to step into the limelight. Which will suit you best? We’ve narrowed in on a particular reason that’ll suit specific traveler types, but each place has appeal and allure for all.

Get in while you can! You’ll win major bragging rights for being an early adopter, and you’ll forever be able to say, “I told you so,” to those who naively asked, “Why’re you going there?”

Amarillo, Texas

Who should visit?
Families

In self-named Famarillo, parents and kids will have a blast at places like the Don Harrington Discovery Center, where the Space Theater and lots of hands-on exhibits will keep you awed for the afternoon. Thrill-seeking families will find plenty to satisfy at Wonderland Amusement Park in the northern side of town. Be sure to ride the Texas Tornado and the Hornet coasters for twists, flips, and dips you won’t soon forget. For the artists in your brood, the colorful car sculpture of Cadillac Ranch is a must-see. After an outdoorsy day hiking nearby Palo Duro Canyon State Park, don’t skip a trip to The GoldenLight Cantina for a burger that is the stuff of legend; just ask a local.

Encinitas, California

Who should visit?
The coastal-curious

This North County San Diego beach town is as picturesque as it gets. The locals are friendly, smile-and-wave types, and why wouldn’t they be? They live in paradise. We’ll be preaching to the converted once you get a glimpse of Moonlight State Beach, where surfing, swimming, and picnicking never looked so good, and sunsets are super vivid (tip: don’t forget to look for the elusive green flash). For more coastal charm, San Diego Botanic Garden introduces visitors to native and exotic plants in over 30 unique spaces. Do not miss the Overlook Natural Area for telescopic ocean views from the top. For a taste of the sea, dine at Lobster West, one of the best seafood joints around, and wash it all down at Bier Garden of Encinitas, an utterly charming area favorite.

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Who should visit?
Beer lovers

For a smaller city, the nightlife is energetic and lively, which is no small wonder when you consider the 13 craft breweries in town. Go old school at Olde Peninsula Brewpub & Restaurant, the first brewpub in town. If you like to sip your suds to a soundtrack, there are plenty of places to see live music, too. Bell’s Eccentric Café is among the best to grab a delicious beer and catch an incredible show. For those on the go, Kalamazoo Brew Bus might be more your speed. The hop-on, hop-off shuttle stops at six local breweries, giving guests the opportunity to try the best beers all over town. Of course, Kalamazoo has more than tasty hops and talented musicians; the State Theatre, Kalamazoo Nature Center, and stunning views at SkyDeck are just a sampling of experiences to be had in this Michigan gem.

Springfield, Illinois

Who should visit?
History buffs

As the capital of Illinois, Springfield embodies heartland history in many special ways. Hometown hero Abraham Lincoln is immortalized in memorials and monuments around the city, most notable at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Here, anything you can think to ask about the 16th U.S. president is waiting to be uncovered. Marvel at the Greek revival Old State Capitol, where Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech. Illinois State Museum showcases state history and art, and is the best place to learn what makes Illinois tick. The antebellum beauty of Edwards Place Historic Home brings history to the present, and for lovers of architecture, there is the 1902 Dana-Thomas House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Mystic, Connecticut

Who should visit?
Foodies

This bayside New England town is full of charm, not least of which are the palate-pleasing opportunities at every turn. You may have heard of Mystic Pizza, setting of the 1988 film, and though you’re unlikely to see Julia Roberts hanging around, you can taste your own “slice of heaven” at the original downtown shop. Annual events such as Mystic Eats, the Charity Chowder Cook Off, and the Mystic Food Truck Rally provide chances to mingle with food-loving locals while sampling the flavors of the area. For super fresh fare, get the goods at Denison Farmers Market. For the best burger in town, go to the Engine Room, meanwhile Ford’s Lobster will make your lobster roll dreams come true, and Lis Bake Shop can cure any sweet tooth in the most delightful way.

Hampton, Virginia

Via Hampton CVB

Who should visit?
Eclectic groups

Mid-Atlantic stunner Hampton welcomes visitors with manifold things to see and do for groups with varying interests. Observe nature, history, and architecture at Fort Monroe National Monument, also known as Freedom’s Fortress. Soak up all the sights and get a good overview of town from the deck of a charter from Miss Hampton II Cruises. For a truly unique experience, come during the Blackbeard Pirate Festival, when historically garbed pirates descend on the town and entertainment ensues. Quench your curiosity about the local beer scene at St. George Brewing Co. with an English bitter or Oktoberfest marzen. Shoppers in the group? Lead them to Coliseum Central, the town’s largest shopping district.

Coral Gables, Florida

Who should visit?
Luxury travelers

Home to the only swimming pool on the National Register of Historic Places, Coral Gables is rich in beautiful places to luxuriate. The Venetian Pool, constructed in 1924, is a Mediterranean-style swimming hole, open to the public to relax in style. World-class shopping on Miracle Mile will set you up for a fashionable entrance at the beautiful Biltmore, where golf, dinner, or a spa day will leave you feeling pampered. Take in the scenic calm of Montgomery Botanical Center amongst palms, cycads, and other tropical flora. At the end of the day, let Zucca restaurant wine and dine you in style.

Sandpoint, Idaho

Who should visit?
Thrill seekers

Sandpoint was made for those who like to feel their pulse race. From theme parks to wild outdoor explorations, the offerings in this town are to be avoided by the meek, but embraced by the adventurous. At Silverwood Theme Park, just 30 miles south, high intensity rides like the Panic Plunge and hanging coaster Aftershock, flip you up, down, and all around with heart-pounding intensity. The surrounding mountains ensure year-round thrills, and whether you’re skiing or mountain biking, Schweitzer Mountain Resort will set you up. If you prefer to find your excitement on the water, you can rent speed boats, jet skis, and more at Action Water Sports.

Des Moines, Iowa

Who should visit?
City dwellers

Quirky restaurants, arts and culture, and plenty of public spaces make Des Moines the perfect place for city enthusiasts who would rather raise a cocktail than a tent form. The Des Moines Art Center’s exhibits are stimulating and inspiring, and its Pappajohn Sculpture Park is amazingly photo-worthy. A sign of a good city is a bustling street market, and the Downtown Farmers Market doesn’t disappoint. For a delicious slice of the city, Fong’s Pizza delivers mash-up flavors such as pizza topping-stuffed egg rolls and crab Rangoon pies. For a jaunt in (well-manicured) nature, the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden is a delightful urban retreat.

Louisville, Kentucky

Who should visit?
Indulgers in iconic American pastimes

There are many things to love about Louisville, and its embrace of and role in some great American traditions is high on that list. Take the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, for instance, which houses artifacts and histories of the iconic bat makers. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail will take you on a journey through America’s beloved spirit at famous distillers such as Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark. For another taste of classic American ingenuity, try a Hot Brown, the famous Louisville-invented sandwich. Jack Fry’s is the place to visit for an American bistro meal served alongside live jazz in an historical setting. You’ll never run out of things to do in Louisville.

Brattleboro, Vermont

Who should visit?
Outdoor enthusiasts

Multiple beautiful drives lead in or out of town, making Brattleboro a great destination for motorists and lovers of all things scenic. From the myriad covered bridges to the attractive downtown with its lines of brick buildings, this charmingly situated city on the Connecticut River should go straight on any must-visit list, but is especially worthy for those who like their city scenery with a backdrop of nature. Nearby parks and hiking trails are the right respite for the indoor weary, and even the restaurants come with a prime view (check out Whetstone Station Restaurant & Brewery and Top of the Hill Grill for the very best).

Knoxville, Tennessee

Who should visit?
Music lovers

If you’re scratching your head and wondering if we mean Nashville, nope! Knoxville is its own brand of music city, and boasts some illustrious names with roots here. Dolly Parton, the Everly Brothers and Roy Acuff have ties to the city, and new talent is making its way here every day. Venues are sprinkled around town, and among the best are The International for every kind of touring and local show; Open Chord Music for a splendid intimate setting; and the Bijou Theatre for grand music in an historical atmosphere. Market Square in the heart of the city is a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with eclectic shops, interesting bars, and good restaurants, and often features live street music and entertainment. This is where you can really get up close and personal with the city’s most talented. Take our word for it, if you love music, Knoxville is your kind of town.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Who should visit?
Creative types

Who knew that northeastern Oklahoma holds such a super creative and dynamic oasis? Well, the people making it happen, for one. The Tulsa Artists’ Coalition and The Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts & Culture are doing amazing works to keep artists and makers inspired and armed with the tools of their various trades, and it really shows in places like the Brady Arts District. Art or inspiration can be found around town, from the extensive art deco architecture to the many live theaters, such as the Tulsa Opera. Even fashion has its moment at Runway Tulsa, an annual show for up-and-coming designers. Need a place to sit and take it all in, go to Shades of Brown Coffee and Art, which promises everything in its name, and more.

Rochester, New York

Who should visit?
Feminists of every gender

Ever notice that there is a certain lack of focus on the achievements of women, especially throughout history? If you’d like to see those days numbered, Rochester is the progressive place of your lady-lovin’ dreams. The suffragist and feminist movements have long ties here, and, happily, the town loves to celebrate the fact! The Rochester Women’s Network is testament to the fact that the feminist roots have not weakened in this space, and there are so many ways to learn, enjoy, and discover women’s history and presence. The National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, the Rochester Heritage Trail, and the Susan B. Anthony Center will get things rolling. Visit during High Falls Film Festival, which champions women in film to get an immersive experience of female accomplishments. Any time is a good time to support women-owned businesses, so show some love to stores like smart and polished Abode and playful Peppermint.

Marietta, Ohio

Via Mike Tewkesbury

Who should visit?
Those in search of small town charm with city options

The captivating Main Street is in the works of revitalization, and there is already so much to love about this small Ohio town with a big city heart. First Fridays feature local musicians, late-night shopping hours, and special dining menus. Speaking of dining, Austyn’s is the best fine dining, and is at the culture center of town. If wine if your cup of tea, spend some time at Marietta Wine Cellars, where you can mingle with locals and taste the best vintages of the area. Top off your time at Adelphia Music Hall, where you can catch a superb live show that’ll have you singing Marietta’s praises.

Which cities do you think deserve more attention?

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Hotel Deals for Amarillo
La Kiva Hotel Amarillo
TX, USA
Oct 18 - Oct 18, 2017
per night from
$ 60.31
$ 33.42

Lily Rogers

Lily is a Southern California-based writer, editor, and traveler. She aspires to never be too far away from her next adventure, whether it be exploring the deserts of SoCal or the mossy forests of her native Pacific Northwest. She also loves international travel and always looks forward to crossing another destination off her bucket list.

Latest posts by Lily Rogers (see all)