With winter fast approaching, it’s not exactly the time of year that you want to take a road trip… But it is the time of year when you begin planning them! The U.S. is a huge country with a seemingly unlimited number of places to explore, some naturally more enticing than others. The entire country consists of cities and towns that are so diverse and unique that you’ll never have the same experience twice when traveling from one state to another. Amongst this list of memorable experiences are the places that everyone has been to — You know, the cities that seem to be first on everyone’s “bucket list of destinations”. We’re not saying that these places don’t make for an epic vacation but what we are saying, is there are plenty of places you can visit that can provide the same, if not more, of a memorable experience.
Some of these are the lesser-known secrets of the states they reside in and while the locals know them well, what you might not know is that they make for a stellar road trip. From wonderful food to outrageous experiences that you won’t find quite like anything else, we’ve got some of the coolest towns to check out. If you’re feeling the road trip itch and are down for a drive, we’ve got the location for you.
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25 The Captivating Blue Ridge Mountains In Luray, Virginia
When most people think of Virginia, they think of D.C. and the east coast near Virginia Beach or Chincoteague. What many don’t realize is that the western half of the state is much more beautiful, laid-back, and, well… Country. Luray is so much more than that, though; it’s nestled in the valley against the breathtaking backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains and simply breathtaking. Filled with the most perfect little country stores to diners that will cook you the best Southern breakfast you’ve ever had, this town is stunning in the summer and fall months. They’re even home to the Luray Caverns, a deep cave tunnel system that runs 260 feet underground and contains the most elaborate stalactites and stalagmites you’ve ever seen. Charlottesville is only a short drive away for those interested in exploring a true Southern college town and finding a bit of nightlife as well. Stop by the clock tower for a picture and then saddle on downtown for some classic country festivals and flea markets, they happen year-round.
24 Forgo Miami Because Florida Is a Big State
Florida is everyone’s first vacation destination and it’s totally understandable. It’s convenient, affordable, easy to get to, and warm year-round. It’s great for your average get-away when you need a break from work or a reprieve on a beach from your boss’s glaring, “I know you didn’t complete those TPS reports” looks. But is it really fun if you’re not a bar-hopping college kid? Not really. Miami is designed for partying and staying out until the sun comes up and there’s just so much more out there to be explored. The beaches are beautiful, but we’re talking sunsets over the mountains and experiences that will take you to a new level entirely.
23 Orcas Island, Washington, Is A Well-Kept Secret
If you think you’ve seen an ocean town on the east coast, then you haven’t seen what’s awaiting you on the west coast at Orcas Island. The Pacific is the perfect destination for those who love the island feel without the hot, hot heat of the South or traditional sleepy, New England towns (not that we don’t love that, too). Orcas Island isn’t a huge place but it is one worthy of visiting since it boasts the most Bob Ross-esque-painting mountains as well as an ocean-scape that will have your camera glued to your hand. It’s filled with unique shops, boat tours that can take you to sights often unseen, and nature parks that will blow your mind and center your zen. You can even find some rockin’ breweries and local seafood that will have you considering the west coast as a future home.
22 New York City Is So “Been There, Done That”
I can say this because I’m from New York and lived a short train ride away from all the hustle and bustle of the big city (notice I didn’t call it the “Big Apple”… Don’t do that). New York is home to some incredible things, but the city is something that everyone does at least once. Unless you’re a city person in the sense that you thrive on massive crowds, thoroughly enjoy the many choices, and don’t mind people bumping into you without so much as a glance, there are plenty of other places in the big state to explore. The city can be a great experience but it’s best to go with someone who knows the ins and outs so that you don’t waste your time… Or half of your paycheck on cab fare or taking pictures with Goofy in Times Square. Also? It’s definitely not road trip-able.
21 The Best Way To See Oregon By Car Is Via The Columbia River Highway
Oregon is another state that is positively outrageous as far as scenery goes and it’s just a fun place to be, in general. It’s very laid-back, easy-going, and you’ll never run out of things to do. Allow your road trip to guide you down the Historic Columbia River Highway and check out what this beautiful road has to offer. It’s set against the Columbia River and runs between Oregon and Washington and the beauty it offers can’t simply be described using words alone. This historic road rambles on past waterfalls, through natural tunnels, and winds around forests that look like something from a fairy tale. It cuts through mountains, leaving you with breathtaking scenes overlooking the river and the cliffs in between. If pure magic existed it would reside here, and there are plenty of tiny towns to stay in between the start and its 75-mile ending.
20 Portland, Oregon Is Great Too But There’s So Much More To See
I know, I know… I just went on and on about Oregon and am now promoting other towns over Portland. Portland is an epic city and that’s an undebatable fact. But if you are staying in Portland, you should check out the towns around it, too. Oregon has a fairly solid reputation for this peace-loving town, but there’s much more to see lying outside the city’s boundaries. While it boats things such as incredible breweries, awesome food, and an eco-friendly lifestyle like no other, it’s still a city with its city problems. Venture outside these city walls and check out the Columbia River Highway (mentioned just before) and visit the smaller surrounding towns or check out Rockaway Beach and the coastline. Getting away from the hype and the crowds are always worthy of an adventure.
19 Maine Is Full Of New England Charm, But York Is Truly Something
When we’re discussing beach getaways, York is definitely one of the top contenders. Maine is known for plenty of things such as lobster, fishing, and what would seem like a year-round winter, but that’s not the case at all. While yes, the seafood is unparalleled, York is a tiny town that’s filled with the epitome of east coast, New England living. It’s not as crowded as some of the other towns (such as Portland or Bar Harbor) yet isn’t completely remote, either. It’s just south of Portland and resides close to the New Hampshire border, which is perfect for some two-in-one state exploring. You’ll find beachy bluffs, perfect lighthouses, and plenty of quirky little shops that feature artisan products. Dover is a short drive away and is the perfect New Hampshire town to spend an afternoon walking around in; it’ll surely lift your spirits and have you appreciating small business and life away from the big lights.
18 New York Is So Much More Than The City, Try Ithaca
If you’re looking for a mountain setting a bit further west, Ithaca is the place to be. It’s rumored as one of the most beautiful towns in the country and is home to Ithaca College and Ithaca Brewery, but there’s so much more to explore in this upstate town. It’s a hub for artists and is truly a unique college town experience unlike others, which can often become party-central. For the nature lovers, Ithaca is full of trails and hikes of varying intensities that will have you relating to Ralph Waldo Emerson before you know it. There are plenty of history ventures to be had here as well and the entire town is quite old, you can even find a cobblestone main street that will give you serious small-town feels.
17 L.A. Is Definitely Overdone
With a state as big as California, it’s almost surprising that so many continue to flock to Los Angeles. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but with so much ground to cover, this popular city has its limits as far as what to do and explore. Aside from celebrity-studded beaches and driving past homes that cost ten times the average yearly salary, L.A. begins to get old after awhile. It’s worth flying in LAX, but you should make sure that you have a secondary destination so that your one trip isn’t spend getting lost amidst The Hills backdrops.
16 Sedona, Arizona Is As Beautiful As It Sounds
Arizona has become more of a popular destination spot in recent years and we’re not talking about Pheonix. Sedona is a desert town set against the most beautiful orange-tinted canyons and rock formations and has plenty to do for the wild adventurer. You can jump on a jeep tour while you here and explore said rock formations, complete with tours of the canyons. It’s fairly warm year-round during the day, so this is a great alternative to traditionally hot destinations. The Collective Sedona is your place for all things shopping, set against a picturesque background, completely with artistically creative gifts for you to purchase. If exploring by land isn’t your thing, check out the nearby Grand Canyon via helicopter or even hot air balloon, if you’re really down for an experience.
15 Mackinac Island Is A Little-Known Michigan Getaway
Here’s the thing — You can’t exactly reach Mackinac Island via a car. In fact, cars are actually banned on this island and have been since 1898. That’s not a problem at all, though, because this island is small enough to explore by foot and trust me, you’ll want to. It’s set on Lake Huron and not completely remote as it’s still within close proximity to the mainland so you won’t feel entirely cut-off. This beach town is something you wouldn’t think exists in Michigan but it contains everything you need for the perfect getaway, including water sports, horseback riding, and even the historic Fort Mackinac. With its horse-drawn carriage island tours and classic waterside shops, this is the ideal romantic weekend getaway. You won’t even need to worry about driving!
14 Portland Is Everything To Millenials But Maine Offers So Much More
There’s no way we could diss Portland as it is a town that we love, complete with New England charm as well as a little hipster flair. It’s a popular spot for the millennial generation with its renown breweries, small-business shops, and excellent, avant-garde food scene. Not to mention, it’s absolutely gorgeous at the right time of year — But so are plenty of other Maine towns. It’s the perfect fishing town, but so is Bar Harbor. It features plenty of variety as far as things to do, but so does Brunswick, especially if you visit in the summer. So as you can tell, there are plenty of things to do all over Maine, not just in its biggest city.
13 Twentynine Palms Is A Unique Town Away From The Cali Norm
This is a town that’s not for those who enjoy a “normal” vacation. The town of Twentynine Palms is definitely as weird as it sounds and features attractions that are just as interesting, to say the least. If you’re looking to spice up your vacation and don’t mind spending some time in the desert, this town boasts plenty of unique attributes, such as tiny shops with funky things, a great observatory which recently had a “Death Valley After Dark” presentation set for December 2018, and some of the strangest museums you’ll likely have ever visited. This quirky town is situated in the Mojave Desert and near Joshua Tree State Park if you’re a fan of nature. Be sure to check out the Oasis while you scoping out the city.
12 Buena Vista, Colorado Is An Artist’s Dream
Set right at the base of a mountain, Buena Vista is where you should consider if you’re planning on visiting the central U.S. It’s filled with plenty of picture-worthy stops but also houses some of the most unique small shops around, filled with local artist work and creations. If art isn’t necessarily your thing, you should take note that Colorado is a very active state with plenty of action sports to back that up. You’ll have your choice of ziplining, white river rafting, hiking, and even traditional camping. There’s no shortage of outdoor fun here there’s plenty of national park space to prove it.
11 Boston Is Fun But Can Become Routine Fairly Quick
Similar to New York City, Boston has relatively city-like things. Everyone will tour the traditional routes, stop at a few pubs, and read up on the history of the area, but what happens after that? While there’s seemingly no shortage of places to explore in a big city, Boston is one that everyone chooses for a weekend destination. It’s great the first few times but after that, it’s worth it to try exploring some places outside of the car park. Not to mention, Boston natives aren’t exactly the kindest to strangers and while we don’t speak for everyone, it can be nice to see what lies just outside these city limits.
10 The South Comes Alive In Augusta, Georgia
Savannah is gorgeous and captivating with its Spanish moss and true Southern charm, not to mention slightly spooky when the sun goes down. However, Augusta is worthy of praise as well and while it’s a bit more city-like, it’s just as charming. This area is rich with history and you’ll feel as though you stepped back in time with plenty of museums, including plenty of historical locations such as the home of President Woodrow Wilson. The center of town is home to plenty of farmer’s markets during the day and at night you’ll have a solid choice of clubs and bars, ripe with unique entertainment. It’s a short distance to Savannah as well if you wanted to make it a double road trip.
9 Baton Rouge, Louisiana Is A Jazzy Alternative To New Orleans
Similar to Augusta, Baton Rouge is also set on the water and is much calmer than the wild streets of New Orleans. It’s home of the LSU stadium for college sports fans but also boasts plenty of history as well as a food tour. Downtown is quaint and minimal but set on the water and features some great hotel accommodations. You’ll have to do a bit of walking and some driving to see all of its top attractions but it’ll be worth it, considering it’s also home t the Mall of Louisiana as well as a zoo. Fit in a plantation tour and learn the history of the deep South before hitting downtown and finding a restaurant bustling with Bayou cooking.
8 Las Vegas Is Everyone’s Bag At One Point Or Another
No one can be faulted for being so attracted to the allure that is Las Vegas. This is probably the biggest thing to ever hit a desert setting and visitors are immediately enraptured by the lights, entertainment, and lifestyle of those who live the casino life. It’s great for gambling and sightseeing all the popular spots but this city is minor when compared to the rest of the country that’s just waiting for you. It’s a wide road and Las Vegas is a tiny, neon dot on the map, waiting for you to empty your pockets and wait on the two-day line that wraps around the Pawn Stars storefront.
7 Everything Is Seemingly Unlimited In Duluth, Minnesota
Hear us out on this one, because Minnesota doesn’t see snow year-round and there are some months in between that are simply beautiful for a visit. Duluth is set on Lake Superior and provides a maritime experience like no other, complete with maritime museums and the history of its port. However, there are also some other draws to this town, including one of the best breweries in the country as well as Skyline Parkway which is a scenic route you must travel at least once. You’ll find various waterfront festivals here as well as great pub food (who would have thought?) and an endless supply of little nooks to check out any time of year. Not to mention, when the sun sets over the lake, it’s absolutely stunning.
6 Small Towns Can Be A Good Thing And Livingston, Montana Is One Of Them
Of course, Montana is known for cattle ranching and farming but Livingston is one town that sits away from the country-cowboy life and offers a bit more for this underrated state. Downtown, you’ll find a street that looks like it’s been frozen in time and even has its own saloon, but you’ll also find modern bars and clubs, as well as a classic theater and some great restaurants. The nightlife is in full swing here and you can walk down the street any time after dark and find something fun to do. This is the perfect mountain town as it sits against a picturesque backdrop reminding you that you’re still in the country. There’s plenty of Native American history here too if you enjoy learning about other cultures and a bit about this country’s ancestors.
5 Dallas Is Great For Football But Way Overdone
Just like Houston, Dallas is a city that many people flock to because they don’t know much about what exists just outside of it. Dallas is home to one of the flashiest football teams in the NFL but what else is there for non-football fans? We’re not saying that it’s boring by any means, but Texas is a state filled with so much more than the cheers we watch on television. You’ll find some of the best BBQ and food in general outside of this city, in addition to plenty of other fun surprises in this Gulf Coast state.
4 Oregon Is Breathtaking And Sisters Is The Epitome Of What Oregon Has To Offer
Sisters is a tiny little town in Oregon that’s set just on the edge of the Deschutes National Forest. Oregon is known for its beauty both in woodlands and on the Pacific, but Sisters offers a unique small-town feel to all of that. It’s a great destination for skiing as well as the nature-lover, complete with waterfalls that will take your breath away. This small-town charm provides you with log-cabin specialty shops for all your tourist needs as well as friendly locals who know just where to grab a bite and some great coffee. Spas are also a unique facet to this town for when you need to indulge… You are in the mountains, after all!
3 Everyone Goes To San Fransisco
Just like Los Angeles, San Fransisco seems to be the one travel destination that’s on everyone’s list of places to seek out in California. While it does have some pretty great sushi and the Golden Gate Bridge — good luck finding it in the fog — it’s definitely a “been there, done that” sort of city. Alcatraz is a popular tourist destination for those learning about history and trolleys are alluring, but there are plenty of small towns that have them as well. Aside from the chance of an earthquake and crazy winding streets, check out some other notable places on the Gold Coast.
2 Fayetteville, West Virginia Is A Dream For Outdoor Sports Enthusiasts
West Virginia often receives a bad rap due to popular movies and legend surrounding this incredibly mountainous state. While it’s definitely remote and somewhat isolated, that doesn’t mean it won’t make for a great road trip… We know what you’re thinking, the movie Wrong Turn had to get its inspiration from somewhere. While mountain men may reside in these hills, chances are they’re not coming anywhere near Fayetteville. Rather, it’s home to a stunning forest setting with its main feature being river rafting down the gorge. If you’re a thrill-seeker, you can also try canopy zip lining, climbing tours, and hiking the famous Blue Ridge Mountains down one of many, many trailheads. Check out New River bridge (unless you’re afraid of heights) or take the sights in from below on a jet ski. There’s even an activity Southerners like to call “Orb the Gorge” where you get sent rolling down the gorge in a giant inflatable orb. Yes… You read that right.
1 Asheville Doesn’t Appreciate Your Touristy Ways
The south has their own definition of “outsiders” depending on where you go, and Asheville is one of those cities that are not exactly welcoming to tourist. In recent years, the state of kindness has been on the decline according to accounts of those who have visited, despite being a popular tourist attraction. While Asheville is known for being simply stunning, we can think of plenty of other great towns and cities that will still give you the perfect view, without the hostility.
References: tripadvisor.com, atlasobscura.com