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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.

Beautiful Fall view of Oneal Bridge over the Tennessee River at Florence AlabamaWayne James/Shutterstock

Alabama: Florence

The Shoals of Alabama in the northwest part of the state have a rich history and a vibrant modern-day culture. Each of the region’s “quad cities” boasts its own claim to fame: the musical town Sheffield is home to FAME Studios, where Etta James and Aretha Franklin recorded tracks, while Tuscumbia is Helen Keller’s birthplace, and Muscle Shoals gets a shout-out in the unofficial state anthem, “Sweet Home Alabama.” But it’s the least-known of the four, Florence, that’s arguably the most exciting. It’s considered one of America’s newest and most important foodie towns, and it’s home to a visitor-friendly lion habitat, where you’ll find the University of North Alabama’s live, on-campus mascots, Leo III and Una.

Who it’s for: Foodies and families

Sitka, Alaska / USA - April 22, 2013: A Fisherman Aboard a Boat in Sitka Near DocksMarc Cappelletti/Shutterstock

Alaska: Sitka

By now, you’ve probably read about the wonders of Alaska’s scenic capital, Juneau. But nearby Sitka is considered Alaska’s true hidden gem—and that’s saying a lot in a place famous for its raw natural beauty. In what other U.S. state can you hike through a rainforest peppered with totem poles and watch the sunset behind a dormant volcano? Sitka has a colorful history, too: it became the first capital city when the United States bought Alaska from Russia in 1867. Sitka’s Russian roots are still prominent in the city’s myriad historical parks and museums.

Who it’s for: History and nature buffs

CAREFREE, AZ, USA - FEB 22, 2016: Entrance to the Spanish Village, a period looking shopping area in Carefree, Arizona, with local cactus and other vegetation.Paul McKinnon/Shutterstock

Arizona: Carefree

Want to take a walk on Easy Street? You finally can—just make a left on Ho Hum Drive. The whimsically named Carefree is a planned community created in the 1950s by a pair of American entrepreneurs, who marketed it as “a place for gracious living in a desert forest of rare beauty.” Today, the small city just north of Phoenix lives up to its name—and its founders’ vision for a quirky, upscale utopia. Head to Carefree for fine dining, golf, tennis, art museums, spa facilities, and shopping. And don’t miss the world’s largest sundial (it points to the North Star!) or the world’s tallest kachina doll, a traditional Native American craft.

Who it’s for: Free spirits with fat wallets

EUREKA SPRINGS, ARKANSAS—MAY 2017: Façade of the Crescent Cottage Inn. Built in 1881, this is the home of the first governor, the oldest and most historic in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.RaksyBH/Shutterstock

Arkansas: Eureka Springs

This Victorian resort village was once known as “The Magic City,” and it’s easy to see why. Around the turn of the 20th century, it was believed that Eureka Springs had healing waters, and a reputation for sorcery has stuck with it to this day. This bed-and-breakfast town is now famous for its healing spas, magic shows, and popular outdoor theater. It’s also known for its LGBTQ-friendly community and thrice-yearly gay pride celebrations. Don’t miss the most charming bed and breakfasts in every state.

Who it’s for: The LGBTQ community and the spiritually inclined

San Luis Obispo, California - May 03 :Adults enjoying an adult beverage at a beach front bar, May 03 2015 San Luis Obispo, California.Wollertz/Shutterstock

California: San Luis Obispo

There are so many high-profile places to visit in the Golden State—Hollywood, the Bay Area, Napa—that it can be hard to identify an off-the-radar spot. But smack-dab in between San Francisco and Los Angeles is a quiet county called San Luis Obispo. Billed as “the happiest place in America,” it encompasses some of California’s prime selling points: wine country, outdoor adventure, pristine coastlines, farm-to-table dining, and a perfect climate. But because it’s relatively far-flung, it feels more serene and less like a scene.

Who it’s for: The low-key

Collegiate Peaks Colorado Cloud hovers over the Collegiate Peaks near the town of Salida, Colo., in the state's southwestern mountains onDavid Zalubowski/Shutterstock

Colorado: Salida

While ski bunnies and film buffs flock to towns like Breckenridge, Vail, and Telluride, take a detour to the relatively undiscovered Salida, a resort town on the Arkansas River. It’s a stone’s throw from another popular town, Aspen, and offers much of the same year-round recreation without all the tourists and fanfare. When you’re not snowboarding, kayaking, mountain biking, or taking a hot-springs plunge, head indoors. Salida’s burgeoning art and restaurant scene and prominent historic district are what truly sets this town apart.

Who it’s for: Outdoorsy creatives

Mystic, Connecticut - July 11, 2015: Gerda III fishing boat moored at a pier at Mystic Seaport MuseumLEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES/Shutterstock

Connecticut: Mystic

Much of Connecticut is residential, but the maritime village of Mystic stands apart. Mystic Seaport is essentially a 19-acre museum, and it hearkens back to the area’s 19th century seafaring roots. An adjacent museum and aquarium are among the area’s major attractions, and the cobblestoned Olde Mistick Village is a throwback to a much simpler time. Fresh seafood is abundant in this coastal town, and a haunted tour is the perfect spooky way to end your trip. You’ll also want to check out the 22 most haunted places in America.

Who it’s for: Mermaids and pirates

Horseshoe crabs spawning in the end of spring - beginning of summer on Slaughter Beach in Delaware BayBoris Z./Shutterstock

Delaware: Slaughter Beach

It may be the second smallest state, but Delaware is a giant when it comes to beach towns. Rehoboth Beach is by far its most coveted summer spot, with Dewey and Bethany coming in as close seconds. But if crowds make you crabby, plant your umbrella in the sand at Slaughter Beach instead. This ominously named but perfectly lovely beach has been designated a sanctuary for the swarms of horseshoe crabs that wash up on its shores each year. When you’ve had enough sun and surf, fill up on fresh seafood, then take a trip to nearby Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Discover 12 more East Coast getaways locals want to keep secret.

Who it’s for: Hidden-beach lovers

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA - JANUARY 5, 2015: Shops and inns line St. George. Once the main street, it is still considered the heart of the city.Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Florida: St. Augustine

In contrast to state-of-the-art Orlando and other, more commercial parts of Florida, historic St. Augustine, situated between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach, is a quaint city. And when we say historic, we mean it—St. Augustine is the oldest city in America. And though it’s a coastal community, the best parts are inland, where you’ll find cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and horse-drawn carriage tours of the area’s many storied landmarks. This casual and culturally rich little city is family-friendly and famous for its ideal weather. Find out 15 other towns that are great for history buffs.

Who it’s for: Explorers at heart

Trees silhouetted against the sun along a tidal river at sapelo island, GeorgiaDavid Brew/Shutterstock

Georgia: Sapelo Island

One of a series of islands off Georgia’s coast, tiny Sapelo Island is lesser known than counterparts like Jekyll and St. Simon’s Islands, and that’s a good thing if you’re looking for a truly secluded getaway. Sapelo Island has barely any commercial hotels or restaurants, and it’s accessible only by ferry. Once there, you can kayak, hike, bike, and explore to your heart’s content, then head into the historic Hog Hammock community to meet the friendly native Gullah-Geechees, descendants of West African slaves. Find out the other American islands you’ll want to add to your bucket list.

Who it’s for: People who want their privacy

Sunrise over Menele Bay on the island of Lanai, HawaiiLeigh Anne Meeks/Shutterstock

Hawaii: Lanai

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.

Coeur d' Alene, Idaho - August 12: Aerial view of The Coeur d' Alene resort and Marina. August 12 2016, Coeur d' Alene, Idaho.Wollertz/Shutterstock

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

Site of historic debate between Senator Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln in 1858 over slavery, in Alton, Il. Where the final debate was held on October 15, 1858Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

Illinois: Alton

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

STUDENTS Ball State students tear down the goal post after Ball State's 24-20 upset win over 25th ranked Toledo, in Muncie, IndianaJOHN HARRELL/Shutterstock

Indiana: Muncie

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

August 5, 2015, Dubuque, Iowa: The Spirit of Dubuque riverboat takes passengers on a tour of the Mississippi River near Dubuque Iowa.Gerald Marella/Shutterstock

Iowa: Dubuque

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

A shot of the Garden of Eden in Lucas Kansas USA of the mausoleum on 8-7--2016. With green grass, Cement steps, a US Flag and an Eagle. Thats bright and colorful.Robert D Brozek/Shutterstock

Kansas: Lucas

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

The Frozen Niagara portion of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.Brian Kenney/Shutterstock

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

Snowy Egrets at Avery IslandBonnie Taylor Barry/Shutterstock

Louisiana: Avery Island

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

Coastal town of Belfast, MaineNatalia Bratslavsky/Shutterstock

Maine: Belfast

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

Maryland Daily Life, Berlin, USAJacqueline Larma/Shutterstock

Maryland: Berlin

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

Marble Head Lighthouse OHPanmar/Shutterstock

Massachusetts: Marblehead

Boston undoubtedly has its many attractions, but sometimes you just want a sleepy seaside town with all the typical New England charm. Enter: Marblehead. Take a stroll in Old Town to experiences its quaint historic district, enjoy a scenic drive down Marblehead Neck, visit a Puritan graveyard, and dine at any of the area’s abundant seafood shacks. Ah, beach life.

Who it’s for: Laid-back beach lovers

Hamburger fast food with ham on wooden board. Group of hamburger. Human hand holding cheeseburger. Semi-finished products.Poznyakov/Shutterstock

Michigan: Caseville

Two and a half hours away from Detroit on the other side of the state is the cheerful beach town of Caseville, situated on Pigeon River. Caseville is famous for its Cheeseburger Festival, but it also offers sweet pastimes like mini golf, go-karts, and water slides. The Thumb Octagon Barn Agricultural Museum is another big attraction, which offers tours from May through September. There are plenty of shops and dining, too—it’s not just a kids’ town. Here are 15 other American food festivals that are worth a pit stop.

Who it’s for: Summer fun-seekers

A landscape scene of autumn foliage. Orange,red,yellow,green colors. Wooden fence in front of big lake, trees and sky in background. Big pasture in front of lake. Gretchen Gunda Enger/Shutterstock

Minnesota: Excelsior

Excelsior has been called one of the best small towns in the country, and many local Minnesotans would agree. This historic spot on Lake Minnetonka is oozing charm, with bistros, boutiques, and specialty shops galore. Hop a cable car to a local ice cream shop or picnic in The Commons, a protected park ground where live concerts take place in the summer months. And the locals are some of the friendliest people you can find, living up to the reputation of “Minnesota nice.” These are the 21 nicest small towns to visit in America.

Who it’s for: Connoisseurs of the quaint

Natchez, Mississippi, USABildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock

Mississippi: Natchez

History meets hipster in this Antebellum mansion town, the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River. Visitors to Natchez are invited to imbibe on locally made spirits, peep historic homes on a seasonal Pilgrimage tour, enjoy regional fare in a carriage house, and attend local festivals like the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race. Old is constantly mingling with new in this haven for southern hospitality 100 miles southwest of Jackson. Of course, bed and breakfasts abound, so don’t miss out on the full experience.

Who it’s for: Southern belles (and their beaus!)

Vineyard in the spring Kinetix Photography/Shutterstock

Missouri: Augusta

Wine country in Missouri? This may not be your first choice for Merlot and Cabernet tastings, but Missouri’s Augusta viticulture area has actually been designated the “First United States Wine District.” It’s the perfect place for a wine-filled weekend and just 35 miles outside of St. Louis. If you can tear yourself away from the award-winning vineyards, ride a bike along the scenic Katy Trail to see the town’s quaint restaurants, shops, and bakeries.

Who it’s for: Wine lovers

A picture of a meadow in the Rocky Mountains covered in Bear Grass, with part of the Flathead valley in view.serge shirshov/Shutterstock

Montana: Flathead Valley

No matter your travel style, we can all agree that pleasant weather is a universal “yes” factor. The perpetually mild climate of this northwest Montana gem of a county allows for year-round recreation—and who doesn’t love that? Flathead Valley isn’t just a destination for outdoor adventurists, though; it’s also a vibrant artists’ community where you can find theater and fine dining aplenty. Don’t leave without taking advantage of the valley’s close proximity to Glacier National Park, “The Crown of the Continent,” for a day hike or a weekend of camping.

Who it’s for: Nature enthusiasts

Two bison on a prairie in the SandhillsGeorge Burba/Shutterstock

Nebraska: Valentine

Valentine‘s motto is “Small town, big adventure,” and this little community delivers big time! Hike one of the Heart City’s two wildlife refuges, which are home to bison, elk, prairie dogs, and 260 bird species, collectively. Go canoeing or inner-tubing in the federally protected Niobrara National Scenic River, then set up camp in Smith Falls State Park, where you’ll find Nebraska’s highest waterfall. See ranch life up close at Arthur Bowring Ranch State Historical Park, and go biking or horseback riding along the scenic Cowboy Trail.

Who it’s for: Your inner cowgirl or cowboy

Virginia City, Nevada - Sep 17, 2017: The downtown overhang main street in the morningPurplexsu/Shutterstock

Nevada: Virginia City

If you’re like most visitors to Nevada, you never leave the Vegas strip. But when you grow tired of casinos and showgirls, step into Virginia City and all of its Wild West mining-town glory. Explore the Chollar Mine, hop aboard the historic V&T railroad, or take a trolley or walking tour around the city. Depending on the time of year, catch a rodeo, participate in a saloon crawl, or attend a camel and ostrich race. Yes, you read that right.

Who it’s for: Bonnies and Clydes

Cows enjoying a beautiful end of summer day with the early fall colors in Sugar Hill New Hampshire with Canon Mountain in the background.Diana Nault/Shutterstock

New Hampshire: Sugar Hill

Welcome to New Hampshire’s newest town! The quaint Sugar Hill, with its population of less than 600, was incorporated as recently as 1962, but it doesn’t feel modern—in all the best ways, of course. This is a town that touts a handmade cheese shop and a pancake house among its top eateries, and moose and turkeys among its wildlife. The White Mountains serve as a backdrop for Sugar Hill, and yes, they’re a perfect place to ski and snowboard. In the fall, come for the world-class leaf peeping, and in the summer, attend a charming festival honoring the local wildflower, Lupine.

Who it’s for: The quaint of heart

Scenery of a Colorful Tree Branch - October 12, 2017. Colorful Tree Branch taken while walking in a Montclair, New Jersey park on October 12, 2017.Marge Sudol/Shutterstock

New Jersey: Montclair

If the popular Jersey Shore and its myriad beaches are already on your radar, give the city-meets-suburb of Montclair a spin. Considered an outgrowth of New York City, it has much of the culture and Bohemian charm of the Big Apple at a much more realistic price point. The area is renowned for its cultural diversity—many accomplished artists, writers, and musicians call it home—and its highly walkable downtown area, packed with top-notch restaurants, shops, cafes, and the popular Wellmont Theater. Check out the best free tourist attraction in every state.

Who it’s for: The cosmopolitan on a budget

Buildings in Taos, which is the last stop before entering Taos Pueblo, New MexicoSopotnicki/Shutterstock

New Mexico: Taos

Santa Fe has a well-earned reputation as an enchanting and artistically diverse community. Its lesser known cousin, Taos, deserves its share of accolades too. It hosts a seemingly endless number of festivals, including the Pueblo Pow Wow, an outdoor arts festival, and a storytelling festival. Taos is a Mecca for artists, writers, and musicians, and creativity permeates this Southwestern community. Get into the creative spirit with a pottery class, or visit one of the town’s many museums. For an authentic experience, opt to stay in one of the area’s many charming and rustic bed and breakfasts.

Who it’s for: Artists, of course

A view of the Hudson River from Newburgh, New York, Orange County. Mount Beacon is the backdrop for the river, where ducks are swimming and a red paddle of a river boat is visible on the left.Liz Van Steenburgh/Shutterstock

New York: Beacon

When New Yorkers are looking to escape the city, they often head north to the Hudson Valley for some fresh air. Laid-back Beacon offers that and so much more. The spectacular modern art museum Dia:Beacon is the town’s biggest draw, and it’s even in walking distance from public transportation. Craft beers and artisanal cuisine make up much of Beacon’s food scene, and its (relatively) lively Main Street is home to artisan shops and vintage stores. Of course, kayaking on the Hudson River is encouraged, and hiking trails are abundant.

Who it’s for: Hipsters and hikers

Colorful alley garden in Asheville North CarolinaChristopher Tipton/Shutterstock

North Carolina: Asheville

If Asheville isn’t the best-kept secret in North Carolina, then it’s certainly one of the best-kept secrets in the United States.  Tucked between the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, this Bohemian community gives more high-profile places like Portland, Oregon and Brooklyn a run for their money. Dubbed “the Land of the Sky,” this highly walkable city appeals to creatives of all kinds, entrepreneurs, and the LGBTQ community. It also has a storied history (it influenced the novel You Can’t Go Home Again), an organic food scene, and a reputation for some of the most delicious beer in the country.

Who it’s for: The cool crowd

Ramloese, Denmark - June 19, 2016: Historic Danish windmill on the Danish Windmill Day 2016.Oliver Foerstner/Shutterstock

North Dakota: Kenmare

A certain 1990s movie put Fargo on the map (uh, that movie would be Fargo), but are there other places you should see on a visit to North Dakota? You betcha! In particular, a charming small town called Kenmare is a sweet destination for anyone with kids in tow. It boasts a toy museum, an old theater, a Danish windmill, a cafe on a farm, and a recreation of a pioneer town. There’s even a local wildlife refuge. This is the U.S. state everyone forgets when listing the 50 states (hint: it’s not this one).

Who it’s for: Young families

Put-in-Bay, Ohio, USA - July 3, 2017: Austrian Beer Garden on South Bass Island.Luke.Travel/Shutterstock

Ohio: Put-In-Bay

Cleveland rocks, and so does Cincinnati, but the Buckeye State is home to a few other cool cities, too. One of them is the island of Put-in-Bay, accessible by ferry, private boat, or airplane. Known as a party island, this happy community on Lake Erie has a vibrant restaurant and bar scene. Golf is this island’s biggest activity, but there’s also plenty of kayaking, boat tours, museums, and bustling downtown with a Victorian flair. Put-in-Bay is also home to the fourth tallest national monument in the United States, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, which commemorates the most significant naval battle of the War of 1812.

Who it’s for: Good-time Charlies

Elephant in Sanctuaryevantravels/Shutterstock

Oklahoma: Hugo

In 1937, the circus rolled into town—and it never left. Hugo, aka “Circus Town, USA,” has been home to 20 different circus troops, and currently hosts three. This theme carries over, from the circus sculptures that adorn its public library to a section of Mount Olivet cemetery devoted to performers who’ve passed, complete with flamboyant headstones. Even the town’s water tower has a big top theme. Visit Endangered Ark Foundation, an elephant sanctuary, then head over to Hugo’s circus-themed dinner for some hometown grub.

Who it’s for: It’s fun for the whole family!

Bend, Oregon - 6/12/2009: group of people white water rafting in a rubber raft on the Deschutes River at Big Eddy rapid - a class 4 rapid.Bob Pool/Shutterstock

Oregon: Bend

Once upon a time, the culturally diverse and proudly “weird” Portland was Oregon’s best-kept secret. Today, it’s probably Bend, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive away. Craft beer breweries abound along the Bend Ale Trail, and its sophisticated food scene is bound to impress. Spend your day on a volcano tour, stand up paddleboarding, or hike the 500-foot Pilot Butte to get a panoramic view of the city. Then unwind by taking in local art and strolling historic downtown Bend. Beer lovers must try the best craft beer from every state.

Who it’s for: Just about anyone

NEW HOPE, PA -19 AUG 2017- The New Hope and Ivyland rail road is a heritage train line for visitors going on touristic excursions in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.EQRoy/Shutterstock

Pennsylvania: Bucks County

If you’re looking for a healthy dose of character in the Keystone State, look no further than Bucks County, nestled within Philadelphia’s countryside. Main street is teeming with unique shops, and once a year, an antique car show rolls into town. Take a ride on the county’s historic New Hope & Ivyland railroad, take in a show at the Bucks County playhouse, and enjoy affordable, all-American fare. Can you guess each U.S. state from its nickname?

Who it’s for: Fans of Americana

Providence, Rhode Island, USA skyline at Waterplace Park.Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Rhode Island: Pawtuxet Village

The culturally rich city of Providence and unspoiled beaches of Block Island usually get all the glory where Rhode Island is concerned. But Pawtuxet Village has that quaint New England feel and is the perfect coastal community. This walkable, picturesque town has worked hard to establish itself as a foodie destination, and it’s rich in history, too—it was a stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War.

Who it’s for: Coastal foodies

Looking over the sand dunes at Pawley's Island just south of Myrtle Beach, SC.Ben Whalen/Shutterstock

South Carolina: Pawleys Island

You’ve probably heard of Charleston and Myrtle Beach, but tucked right in between the two is a sleepy beach town called Pawleys Island, one of the oldest resort towns in the United States. Its white sand beaches don’t see the crowds of its more famous neighbor, but the white sand and crystal clear waters are all the same. Get some golfing in, then spend your evening dining at any of the town’s cozy seafood restaurants. The weather is hot in the summer and mild in the winter, making it a wonderful year-round destination. Read to plan your next vacation? Start with these 12 best beaches in America.

Who it’s for: Beach bums

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA, CIRCA SEPTEMBER 2015. Tourists enter the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, one of the most popular attractions in South Dakota and in the United States.robert cicchetti/Shutterstock

South Dakota: Rapid City

The Black Hills of South Dakota is home to some of the most exciting adventures the state has to offer, including a trip to the famous Mount Rushmore. Rapid City, often a home base for adventure tourists, is a gem hiding in plain sight. Museums and arts centers offer an education on the very things that make the Black Hills so significant, and a 200-acre park called Bear Country USA is home to mountain lions, reindeer, wolves, and, yes, black bears. Presidential statues will greet you along your walk in downtown Rapid City.

Who it’s for: History and animal lovers

Canons over look Chattanooga and the Tennessee River / Valley on a winter evening in Point Park national Military ParkDanae Abreu/Shutterstock

Tennessee: Chattanooga

Pardon me, please: Have you heard of Chattanooga? The fourth largest city in Tennessee is a locomotive town immortalized in the Glen Miller song “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” Today, you can take a ride on the town’s storied railroad system and visit its railroad museum. Hike the mountainous terrain of Rock City, then dine at a local gastropub. The foliage is New England-worthy during fall, when RiverRocks, Chattanooga’s month-long adventure festival, rolls into town. These are the most scenic train rides in the United States.

Who it’s for: Locomotive enthusiasts

In Jefferson, Texas, I was walking down this alley way and noticed how pretty it was.Potts Photography/Shutterstock

Texas: Jefferson

This historic city isn’t exactly what you think of when you think of Texas—but it would fit right in in Lousiana. In fact, this community on the banks of Big Cypress Bayou is reminiscent of New Orleans in a lot of ways, from its ghost tours and Antebellum architecture to its trolley system and its Cajun and Creole cuisine. If it’s raining, stop in the Gone with the Wind Museum—after all, tomorrow is another day!

Who it’s for: Anyone who loves NOLA

Snow Canyon State Park -Ivins -Utah. This scenic desert red rock park near St. George, has numerous hiking trails, canyons, and spectacular vistas. Arlene Treiber Waller/Shutterstock

Utah: Snow Canyon State Park

Utah is renowned for its stunning National Parks, most famously Zion and Bryce, yet just 50 miles from Zion is the lesser-known Snow Canyon State Park. Despite its name, this oasis rarely sees anything but mild weather, and with epic cliffs made of red Navajo sandstone and ancient lava flows, this wonder at the edge of the Mojave desert will take your breath away. Camping is allowed year-round, and it’s a haven for cyclists, hikers, and rock climbers. Spot coyote, foxes, and roadrunners along the way. If you’re not camping, dine and crash in nearby St. George. Find out about 10 more off-the-beaten-path National Parks that are practically secret.

Who it’s for: Adventurists and photographers

Cursed General Store, Putney, USA - 06 Feb 2017AP/REX/Shutterstock

Vermont: Putney

Yes, you can find fresh maple syrup in this little New England village, but you can also find orchards, wineries, adorable eateries, and a yarn-spinning cooperative. Go berry picking, take a dip in a local swimming hole, visit the general store, and buy artisan crafts in Downtown Putney, a district on the National Register of Historic Places. At night, catch a show at the local theater. It doesn’t get more small town-y than this. Discover the best natural swimming pools in the United States.

Who it’s for: City slickers looking to escape the grind

Norfolk - distant skyline. Norfolk, Virginia, USA.Henryk Sadura/Shutterstock

Virginia: Norfolk

Looking for a city experience that’s not too pricey or chaotic? Welcome to Norfolk. This seaside city is packed with local art (prepare to see mermaid sculptures everywhere), seafood-heavy cuisine, craft beer, and year-round festivals. It’s home to the world’s largest Navy station, which you can tour, of course. But the city is known most for its kind and friendly locals and the fact that it’s pretty immaculate for a city of its stature. Here are 11 of the best small-town festivals in America.

Who it’s for: Budget-conscious travelers

Oktoberfest. LeavenworthWellyWelly/Shutterstock

Washington: Leavenworth

This faux-Bavarian village is the perfect two-and-a-half-hour road trip from Seattle—and it really delivers on the German theme. Enjoy schnitzel and beer, and in the fall, let loose at the annual Oktoberfest celebration. During the summer, try hiking, fishing, and birding—and drop into the town’s fabled Christmas store, which is proudly open year-round. While you’re there, take an old-timey photo in traditional saloon gear. Find out more U.S. small towns that will have you feeling like you hopped the Atlantic.

Who it’s for: Germanophiles

FEBRUARY 2005 - Exterior of Greenbrier County Court House in Lewisburg, WV on Scenic Highway Route 60Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

West Virginia: Lewisburg

This “wild and wonderful” state is often overlooked as a travel destination, but Lewisburg will change your mind. Voted America’s coolest small town and one of the best small arts towns in America by two major publications, it’s packed with everything you love in a small town: mom and pop shops, eateries, and small businesses. It’s home to one of four Carnegie Halls and an 1862 Confederate cemetery. Go on a walking tour, experience Civil War reenactments, or catch live music in downtown Lewisburg at night to round out your visit.

Who it’s for: Civil War historians and small-town fans

Fall Colors on Rural Farmlands in the Kickapoo Valley of WisconsinWildnerdpix/Shutterstock

Wisconsin: Kickapoo Valley

If you’re a fan of wildflowers and wild-mushroom foraging, then off-the-beaten-path Kickapoo Valley is for you. Mosses, ferns, and hemlocks also pepper the shores of 125-mile Kickapoo River, the longest tributary of the Wisconsin River, which invites you to canoe, drive, or bike its length. Go fishing, hunting, or horseback riding in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, also a lively birding location. This area’s claim to fame is Kickapoo Blue Cheese, manufactured by supermarket favorite Organic Valley, which got its start in the area.

Who it’s for: Foragers

Dancing Shadows II / Shadows from the clouds passing over the east shoreline and a hidden cove of Lake Desmit in Buffalo Wyoming.Robert F Apple/Shutterstock

Wyoming: Buffalo

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are no-brainers, but in the foothills of the Bighorn mountains lies a historic little town called Buffalo that’s well worth a visit. It’s full of Old West charms, including the 131-year-old Occidental Hotel once, which once hosted Butch Cassidy. Today, it’s a prime location for outdoor adventure, and many historic trails are available to traverse, including Clear Creek Centennial Trail and Bozeman Trail, which led to the gold country of Montana in the 19th century. Most of the area is private land, so guided tours are recommended. Travel back in time with a stay at one of the most historic hotels across the country.

Who it’s for: Wild West enthusiasts