Many of the best cities in the United States are easily overlooked and possibly underrated compared to their nearby major state capitals. Here, you will be able to narrow down out of these 10 U.S. cities to hopefully find a place that will excite you and promise to provide an adventure that you will remember for a lifetime. These cities range from large to small, but none of them will disappoint. Conveniently, Dates in the States has created the map to be in a circle in case you decide to visit them all on one trip as they have! The following information is written personally by Crystal from Dates in the States.
I may be in favor of this city because it’s where I’m currently living. I was actually born in Rochester and after 25 years, I have found my way back. It’s been a blessing and certainly an adventure rediscovering a city I never really had a chance to learn until now. Rochester resides in the Western part of upstate New York within driving distance of all the Finger Lakes and New York Wine Country.
The city of Rochester has so many bars and restaurants that are very popular, it would take a lot of writing to cover many of the best ones. If you visit, you MUST stop by The Spirit Room for a drink. The Spirit Room can give you a nice view of how eclectic and diverse Rochester really is by featuring not only Rochester traditions, but also New Orleans and Nashville style traits.
Heard of Kodak? Rochester is the birthplace for this infamous camera and Film Company. Visit the headquarters and watch a comedy show at the Kodak Theater. Genesee Beer is also made from the Genesee River that runs through the middle of the city. You can visit the original brewery for a tall, cold glass of beer while sitting alongside the same river it’s made from.
If you prefer not to spend your time in the 3rd most populated city in NY, you can easily visit Lake Ontario or Letchworth State Park. Lake Ontario is the smallest of the 5 great lakes, but certainly not a letdown. Visiting from Rochester, there are many lake towns nearby that are worth visiting such as Charlotte, Webster, and Sodus. If you like to camp and hike, Letchworth State Park is only about an hour drive from Rochester. The park is about 17 miles long and you can drive through the majority of the park to see many of its large waterfalls and the beautiful gorge or you may hike to get a real sense of its natural beauty. It’s the perfect day trip for anyone.
Pennsylvania’s Dutch Country is located in central PA and is one of the oldest inland towns in the U.S. The city is relatively small, but it’s a great day trip and has many surrounding attractions close by. Lancaster is a very diverse area with its rolling hills, farmlands, and Amish heritage. Don’t be surprised if you see a horse and buggy on the main roads. Be sure to visit markets and farm stores for some famous Dutch pies, handmade quilts, and fresh produce for your journeys.
Attractions nearby include Hershey and Hershey’s Chocolate Factory. If you love chocolate, this is the place for you – the whole city smells of chocolate. Harrisburg, car lover paradise Carlisle, and historic Gettysburg are also a short drive from Lancaster.
Knoxville is a beautiful and unique city that lies just outside of the Nashville and the Great Smokey Mountains. It, too, is the 3rd largest city in its state. Burned down a long time ago, the city built itself up above its old remains and many of its old buildings. As you stroll along the streets, in some areas you can look down from the sidewalk and see tiny apartments and lights on down below. Those are the buildings that the city was built up above and still exist. Yes, those apartments are still livable and it fascinates me that people are living underground.
Aside from the unique history of the city, Knoxville has a wide array of live music and outdoor adventures. The most popular stop is The Square right in the heart of downtown. The Square is an area full of shops, bars, and restaurants where you can spend your day walking around. Nearby is the world famous Sunsphere & World’s Fair Park, a popular tourist spot within the city and a large place for festivals. Outside of the city is Norris Dam, the largest Dam on the Tennessee River where you can find hiking trails, water excursions, and more.
Beaufort, a town typically overlooked due to its well-known neighboring cities, Hilton Head and Savannah. This beautiful historic town, which is the second oldest city in the state, has been a popular movie set for films such as Forrest Gump, The Great Santini, and the Jungle Book. Spanish moss, haunted graveyards, and sidewalks made from seashells fill the city – many features dating back to the Civil War Era. A guided tour is definitely a must to learn about little quirks and history this city has to offer. Its large neighboring cities are also worth a visit while you are in the area. Both Hilton Head and Savannah are beautiful, but none as unique as Beaufort.
Cape Coral/Fort Myers, FL:
When people visit Florida, they’re thinking Disney, beaches, or Nascar. When I visit Florida, I’m thinking adventures, hiking, or alligators. Cape Coral isn’t your typical vacation destination when visiting Florida, but it should be. When you first look at Cape Coral, you may see it only as a cheaper spot to stay and visit Sanibel Island, but that shouldn’t be the case. Cape Coral features a wide variety of activities for the museum lovers, art gallery addicts, and nature preserve geeks like me!
My favorite nature preserve in all of the U.S. is the Four Mile Island. Located near the Veterans Memorial Bridge resides a hidden walking/hiking area and in fact, Florida is filled with many places such as this. You won’t know they exist unless you actually look, and that is how they are meant to be. Spanish moss and mangroves encase this so called “island” making it the perfect area to find alligators, birds, and other wildlife. You won’t find many tourists crowding these spots making the time here very enjoyable.
As mentioned, Cape Coral is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Sanibel Island. Of course it’s a must visit while nearby. Once you go across the bridge into Sanibel Island, it’s like your stepping foot into a whole new world. You instantly feel relaxed and crave anything key lime (a trademark in Southern Florida).
In the high deserts lies New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque. The city is filled with Native American heritage and handiwork, Adobe buildings, and Pueblo artifacts. The city is actually beautiful and offers a unique getaway. For fans of Breaking Bad, you can visit the film sites and take a bike/bus tour to learn about what happened behind the scenes. A few state parks and national monuments also reside in the heart of the city allowing some hikes and nature walks in the desert.
Petroglyph National Monument is an interesting park in the city featuring old prehistoric art on the mountains and rocks. Feel free to climb on the rocks to get a better look at some of the art up above the trails. From high above you may be able to see some jackrabbits and other wildlife nestled in the bushes.
Other things to do within Albuquerque is the Sandia Peak Tramway which offers an aerial 360 view of the mountainous deserts and the city. Botanical gardens, biological parks, and historic churches such as the San Felipe de Neri make for a fun day trip as well.
Palm Desert, CA:
When you hear of Palm Desert you may be thinking that it’s only a desert when in reality it’s actually a bustling city with many things to do in the surrounding area. Palm Desert is California’s Coachella Valley, home of the famous yearly music festival. It is also a home to many different wildlife, nature preserves, and near the entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. Designer shops line El Paseo drive and one of the best zoos, The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens also reside here.
A short drive to Coachella Valley Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park is the biggest reason why Palm Desert is on this list. Hummer Tours and Buggy Tours are a fun way to see these places and learn a few secrets, but self-guided tours are also encouraged. Coachella Valley Preserve is filled with giant palms creating a green desert oasis. The preserve system was once designed years ago to protect a threatened reptile, the fringe-toad lizard, and now it is a refuge for many other species of animals and plants as well which you can find within those hidden palms that they use for safety. This oasis is still existing today because of the standing water due to the San Andreas Fault line.
Joshua Tree National Park is a renowned desert park with its geologic wonders and Joshua Trees. Joshua Trees are unique and beautiful trees that you can admire for a very long time. In fact, some of these trees are more than 500 years old. Joshua trees grow about 3 inches every year for the first 10 years and then an inch and a half every year after that. They may take 60 years to fully mature and they can live for more than 500 years and some reach about 40 feet high! So the taller the trees are, the older they might be. Another unique plant that exists within the park is the Creosote Bush. This bush grows in the hottest of deserts. Here’s a secret, if you blow hot air on the leaves, they smell like rain.
Florence is a very small city off the coast of Oregon. The coast is the most beautiful drive in the United States to take and this city is a popular rest stop with many things to see and do. This historic place has incredible sand dunes jetting off the river just behind the famous Siuslaw Bridge. Oregon has many famous bridges if you are into architecture and history. Nearby, you can find many sea lion caves and can take sand dune buggy tours down to see them. The 19th century Heceta Head Lighthouse also resides nearby Florence, a very iconic lighthouse on the coast of Oregon.
Rapid City, SD:
Rapid City, aka “City of Presidents” is home to Mt. Rushmore, the massive sculpture of four U.S. presidents. This city also lies beside the Black Hills National Forest, an area of over 1.25 million acres of forested hills and mountains. This city is the second most populous city in South Dakota and a very heavy tourist attraction. If seeing the sculpture of presidents doesn’t interest you, the Badlands National Park resides nearby.
Badlands National Park is known for its dramatic landscapes layered with rock formations, steep canyons, and towering spires. The Badlands Loop Road, Highway 240, is a beautiful drive that will give you the perfect view of the park itself without having to get out of your car. Driving down the loop road you can find bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs. To stretch your legs, you can stop at many of the different overlooks and even walk out onto the rock formations for a better view. Many fossils have been uncovered at this park, take a walk down Fossil Trail for many different displays of what’s been found in the park.
As you leave Rapid City area, be sure to stop by Wall Drug for a unique shopping experience. A drug store, gift shop, and restaurant all within 76,000 sq feet!
The best is always saved for last. Minneapolis is the neighboring city of St. Paul, the two of them create what is known as the “Twin Cities” which are both divided by the Mississippi River. These cities are known mostly for the beautiful parks and lakes that surround them. Minneapolis in my opinion is the more beautiful of the two with its downtown, midtown, and uptown neighborhoods. Each neighborhood having a different vibe and plenty of things to do.
Downtown is of course the most hopping area of the city. Take a walk through the historic Guthrie Theatre – on the top level you can have a beautiful view of the Stone Arch Bridge and Mississippi River. Or take a walk across the Stone Arch Bridge for an incredible view of the city. Vikings Stadium and Twins Stadium is located downtown as well as the many iconic music venues. Some of the oldest and best ones include First Avenue, Dakota Jazz Club, and Fine Line Music Café. Nicolette Mall is a popular street full of shops and restaurants. No cars are allowed down this street except buses and taxis. You can park on one of the side streets and spend a day walking down the beautiful street that is also decorated for the seasons/holidays.
Midtown is full of small local parks, nice views of the Minneapolis skyline, and unique ethnic markets. Powderhorn Park is in the heart of midtown and is a nice place to take a walk around the pond. If it’s the correct time of year, its home of the May Day festival. Located nearby is the Midtown Global Market, the second largest leasable sized building compared to the Mall of America in the city. Inside the building you can find plenty of international food stands and craft vendors.
Uptown is a hip neighborhood in Minneapolis which has many rooftop restaurants, record shops, and clothing boutiques so you can park, walk, and shop your day away! Down the street is also the beautiful Calhoun Lake. Spend some time lounging on the north beach or take a walk around the entire lake.
About the Author –
Crystal owns and manages her blog, Dates in the States!
Dates in the States is a travel & dating blog created by Crystal in 2016. Many of her posts are from her experiences she shares with her boyfriend, Shane, while they travel around the United States. Their vision is to share these experiences with their readers and inspire them to travel, too.