The Best-Kept Secret in Every State
Whether you love beach towns, adventure trails, or urban exploration, one of these wildly overlooked cities and towns across America is sure to be right up your alley.
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Finding an undiscovered spot in one of the most popular island destinations on the planet isn’t an easy task. While the vast majority of travelers head to Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island, a hidden gem called Lanai sits pretty and unspoiled, just a 25-minute flight from Honolulu. Enjoy much of what Hawaii has become famous for—crystal clear waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling, rugged trails ideal for hiking and horseback riding—but without the throngs of tourists. It’s the perfect spot for couples romance or a spell of solitude in paradise.
Who it’s for: Honeymooners.
Idaho: Coeur d’Alene
The beauty of North Idaho is grossly underrated, and its Coeur d’Alene lakeside community is one of the best-kept secrets in all of the Pacific Northwest. This exotically named mountain enclave, dubbed CDA by locals, has something for everyone: stunning landscapes, a lively food scene, and year-round activities like skiing, fly-fishing, golf, and parasailing. Pass through Coeur d’Alene on a cruise or on foot, but be ready to splurge; this isn’t a budget getaway.
Who it’s for: Elite travelers
Believe it or not, there’s life outside Chicago. If you’re road tripping through Illinois, blow right through the Windy City and head south to Alton instead. This quirky community has developed a reputation for the macabre. Its haunted tours, Museum of Torture Devices, and homage to a mythical man-eating bird-dragon are just some of the things that make this town so delightfully weird. Alton is also home to the tallest man who ever lived and the site of the Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858. On a more down-to-earth note, you can enjoy comfort food at comfortable prices in this casual community. Lovers of all things strange will also want to check out the most bizarre roadside attraction in every state.
Who it’s for: Novelty tourists
The Indy 500 is an excellent reason to come to Indiana, but there’s a lot going on outside of Indianapolis. Muncie, an incorporated city 50 miles northeast of Indianapolis, is a cultural hub that boasts museums and music halls, plus a mouthwatering farm-to-table food scene. It’s also a college town; Ball State University is here. There are also plenty of golf courses and local shops for passing the time, and the climate is perfect year-round.
Who it’s for: Culture-savvy Midwesterners
When winter is coming, this city on the Mississippi River can become so desolate that it famously inspired former resident George R.R. Martin to hole himself up and pen the Game of Thrones series. But in spring and summer, the waterfront community of Dubuque truly blossoms, and it’s not to be missed. Botanical gardens, aquariums, and riverboat rides abound, and the city even offers cave exploration and a slew of kid-friendly museums. Head to Cable Car Square for shops, galleries, and restaurants, and tour an organic farm where cloistered nuns make caramels by hand. Be sure to check out the world records set in every state that will blow your mind.
Who it’s for: Fun-loving families
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The “Grassroots Art Capital of the United States” is home to many bizarre exhibitions, not the least of which is the Garden of Eden, called “one of the eight wonders of art.” The gallery is packed with cryptic concrete sculptures and has a macabre backstory. Tempted to take a peek at its founder, S.P. Dinsmoor? You’re in luck: his mummified remains happen to be buried in a mausoleum on the property. While you’re in town, don’t miss The World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum. Lucas is an affordable road trip pit stop or a bona fide curiosity of a destination all on its own.
Who it’s for: Folk art fans
Kentucky: Cave City
Are you a sucker for stalagmites? Then venture off the beaten path to a small spot in Kentucky called Cave City, and get ready to get subterranean. The city’s claim to fame is Mammoth Cave National Park, where you can explore 390 miles of preserved natural caves in the warmer months—and enjoy on-site dining. Then visit the city’s amusement parks, where you can go zip lining and mountain climbing, and rent a canoe on the Green River. Cave City is about 85 miles south of Louisville, so it’s perfect for a day trip or weekend getaway.
Who it’s for: Spelunkers
Louisiana: Avery Island
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With so much to do, see, and taste in New Orleans, there’s little reason to venture off to any other part of Louisiana, right? Wrong. In fact, the Big Easy’s rich culture spills over into plenty of other, less-discovered cities—and one of them is Avery Island, where TABASCO® sauce got its start and is still made today. Tour its famous factory, then use some of the famous hot sauce to season your crawfish and Jambalaya—this is Cajun country, after all. In your downtime, take an airboat ride and go birding in the beautiful jungle gardens—just know that this little town is all about the food. These are the best spring break getaways in every state.
Who it’s for: Hot sauce lovers
Maine is home to arguably the prettiest coastal towns in the country, and people know it—that’s probably why it’s dubbed “The Vacation State.” When you tire of the crowds in Maine hotpots like Bar Harbor and Camden, it might be time to take in the small-town vibes of Belfast in the mid-coast. Like more bustling parts of coastal Maine, Belfast is teeming with some of the freshest seafood around, plus it’s home to marine museums, street festivals, and an Art Deco movie theater.
Who it’s for: Lobster lovers and crowd haters
As small towns go, it doesn’t get much cooler than Berlin—the other Berlin, that is. The meticulously preserved downtown area is a National Register Historic District, packed with Victorian and early 20th-century architecture—plus family-owned eateries and the famous Globe Theater. The town’s array of tree species is impressive; you can find magnolias, sycamores, tulip poplars, and gingkos among them. Explore the town on a walking tour or on bicycle—on warm days, the beach is within riding distance. Don’t miss the most bike-friendly city in every state.
Who it’s for: Tree huggers