Swap this for that: The most underrated cities to visit in the USA

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There’s no denying the popular coastal cities in the USA are well worth the visit, but what about those cities you don’t hear so much about? What about venturing beyond popular Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York to uncover “the rest” of the United States? Some of my best adventures in the USA have been outside the big cities in smaller (and often lesser known) cities that completely surprised me having heard very little about them coming from outside the USA, so if you too are looking for a more authentic experience outside the hustle and bustle, here are some cities to swap for!

Charleston, USA

Charleston, South Carolina 

I can’t even begin to describe how much I love the Carolinas, especially the crowning jewel – Charleston in South Carolina. A few years ago I had never heard about Charleston, but when I saw a few friends travel to South Carolina specifically to visit this charming little city, I realised I was falling behind. While the capital city of South Carolina (Columbia) might be an obvious starting point, you really should make a beeline for this stunning and full of southern charm town.


Santa Barbara Four Seasons

Santa Barbara, California 

Many travellers come to California and see only Los Angeles. If they’re lucky, they’ll also swing a visit to San Francisco in the North and perhaps a short stay in San Diego down south. But what else is there to see? Plenty! If you’re renting a car (nearly a necessity in the USA), be sure to make the drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco an adventure in itself. Just North of Los Angeles is the gorgeous city of Santa Barbara, which feels as if you have stepped back in time to Hollywood’s golden era.


ChrisLitherland BourbonSt, New Orleans

via Chris Litherland Wikicommons

New Orleans, Louisiana

Nowhere does it like they do in Louisiana. The French influence is striking and has stood the test of time, but it is the combination of gritty bars and clubs with passionate locals who love their town (and LOVE jazz) that make this city so unique. Be sure to stay a few days to really get a feel for the place… and fit in as many beignets as your pants will allow.


Austin, Texas

via Forbes

Austin, Texas

Though not really overlooked, the city of Austin (the state capital) really must go mentioned as Texas is a whole different experience in itself and really shouldn’t go missed as a whole. Austin prides itself as the “live music capital of the world” and rightly so, this city is an absolute mecca for musicians looking to break into the industry (and those who already have). This is also a very green city giving it a unique feel unlike any other in the country… it just has a certain allure that cannot be explained until experienced.


Sedona Arizona

Sedona, Arizona 

Three words: Arizona road trip. This was by far my favourite experience in the USA thus far, jumping in a rental car in the South of the state (Phoenix) and driving as far North as possible, crossing over into Utah. Just a couple hours outside of Phoenix was the ultimate trip highlight: Sedona. This gorgeous small city is filled with red rock, stellar sunsets, great cuisine with plenty of restaurants and sooooo many great hikes. Sadly we only had a couple of days here but I would have gladly spent a week in Sedona!


San Antonio

via Tripadvisor

San Antonio, Texas

Another great highlight in Texas and a COMPLETE(ly) different experience can be found in San Antonio, a south central city in Texas with a strong colonial history and today full of vibrancy. The river running through the middle of the city is an absolute highlight and offers a different experience both day and night.



St. Augustine, Florida

Just a stones throw from Jacksonville and a mere 1.5 hour drive from Orlando, St Augustine is often overlooked but should not go ignored. With stunning Spanish architecture to convince almost anyone they are no longer even in the US, this is a great little getaway city for a good ol’ dose of European influence with a great vibe. Be sure to take a wander down St. George street promenade to meander through the little boutiques and quaint cafes.


Minneapolis via truelane

Instagram: truelane

Minneapolis, Minnesota

I can’t quite think of a city that appeals to me more than Minneapolis. Although it resembles a mini New York, it comes without the tourists and with much more of a small town feel. Check out the instagram linked above for an array of great coffee shops and boutiques to pass your time in, if there’s anyone who has convinced me I need to make my way to Minnesota its Chelsea!


Svannah, Georgia via Instagram

Instagram: @whimseykel

Savannah, Georgia

Although Atlanta is the capital of Georgia (and should also be visited), the small town southern charm is to be found in the city of Savannah, located on the coastline of Georgia right before you hit South Carolina (separated by the Savannah River). Full of history every which way you turn, you can’t not enjoy a visit here to walk through the cobblestone alleyways and lush green parks.


Palm Springs

Palm Springs, California

If you’re looking for a little getaway from the hustle and bustle of New York, another great road trip to make is a short 1.5 hour drive inland to Palm Springs; a desert oasis. Although it attracts somewhat of an older clientele nowadays, that only adds to the allure of getting away, kicking back, and spending a few days poolside in the hot lush atmosphere that California is so well known for.


Do you have any to add? Where are your all time favourite cities in the USA!?

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    January 14, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I’m from Minnesota and even though I live right outside of New York City, I tell everyone what a great place the Twin Cities are and how underrated they are. I’m hoping to visit Santa Barbara and Palm Springs this spring 🙂

    Claire Wang
    January 14, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    I would also highly recommend Boston, my hometown! Or home city. It is full of historical sites (as it’s one of the oldest cities in America), stunning architecture, trendy cafes, and everything in between.

    January 14, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    I would LOVE more in-depth posts for Charleston and Savannah… my friend and I are heading there to Charleston for a long weekend in April with a day trip planned to Savannah!

    January 14, 2016 at 10:28 am

    OMG my hearts makes a jump!! You put Minneapolis on the list! That’s were I used to live in the United States. Love it! Also great for all the shopaholics to go to the Mall of America! Or to visit St. Paul to check out the Summit Avenue with all the ancient buildings! I’ve also been to both cities in texas that you mentioned and I really enjoyed San Antonio since it resembles Europe!

    Kind regards,
    Sarah from a passport can get you everywhere

    January 14, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Ugh I loved New Orleans so much I had to move there after college… Ain’t nowhere like it!

    I’d highly recommend visiting my hometown, Saint Petersburg, Florida! Never realized how amazing it is until I started traveling….

    Gabi @ Books & Trips
    January 14, 2016 at 6:54 am

    I’ve only been to Austin and I loved it! A great small town feel, very green, very artsy, full of cafes & restaurants and places to see bands playing live. Plus, it’s home to the largest urban bat colony in the world! It’s certainly worth a trip!

    January 14, 2016 at 5:43 am

    I have one to add! Branson, Missouri. I live in the Midwest, and most everyone I know goes regularly to Branson on vacation. There are a whole lot of shows, plus Silver Dollar City is a big attraction. SDC hosts festivals throughout the year, my favorite being World-Fest. It’s the largest international festival in the US.

    Stephanie Therese
    January 14, 2016 at 5:40 am

    These are great cities! I’m a Michigan native, and so I have a few cities in Michigan to add to this list and recommend to you! Firstly I would add Traverse City, MI and the surrounding areas, including Leland, Fishtown, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes – the northern parts of Michigan are absolutely beautiful! I’d also add Grand Rapids, MI, which is an exciting, hopping city – I’ve known a lot of people around my age (college aged) who have lived there and totally loved it! Lastly I would also add Holland and Grand Haven, which are right near each other on the west side of the state – both have a lot of adorable charm to them!

    January 14, 2016 at 4:29 am

    Nice list! I think you meant to refer to Los Angeles in the paragraph about Palm Springs, rather than New York City. It’s definitely not 1.5 hours from NYC!!

    January 14, 2016 at 2:33 am

    Wow! so much to see in that country! I have only been to Los Angeles, Chicago and San Diego but Austin is defenitly on top of my list to visit!

    January 14, 2016 at 2:21 am

    I’ve heard so many good things about Charleston and can’t wait to visit. I love Austin, Santa Barbara and New Orleans, such cute and amazing places!

    January 14, 2016 at 2:00 am

    Anna, I totally agree about Philly! I work in Philly, and it’s the perfect mix of old and new!

    January 14, 2016 at 1:58 am

    Cities are not the all. MUST see, memorable forever smaller aNiagara Falls, NY; Keystone, SD; Pacific Palisades, CA; Jackson Hole, WY; Lava Floes, Oahu; Rocky Mts., CO.

    January 14, 2016 at 12:34 am

    I love Philly, it is a lot smaller then New York, but gives you that feel of a big city in a smaller size, not many tourists, absolutely beautiful place!

    January 13, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    Awesome list! A few of these places ghave been on my Bucket list for quite a while – with new ones added right now 😉

    However, I think you could include another East-Coast place like Annapolis, MD!(?)

    January 13, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    YAAAY! Being from the South and having taken many road trips across the country, I wouldn’t consider these cities too far off the beaten track. Still, they are all fantastic places to visit! You are right that Charleston, S.C., is truly a gem! It makes for a perfect romantic getaway.

    January 13, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    It’s not an Arizona road trip if you don’t include Tucson! Sedona is gorgeous, no doubt about it, but Tucson’s culture, cuisine and history make it well worth a visit.

    Laura Mills
    January 13, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Nashville is my favourite!!! Tennessee is a great state to visit! Also Carmel-by-the-Sea in CA.

    Susan Harris
    January 13, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    I think you made a typo in the Palm Springs section. New York is a little farther away than that!
    I enjoy your blog very much! Thanks for keeping it up!

    January 13, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Yay! It’s great to see Minneapolis on this list! I’ll be in Orlando next week and St. Augustine will need to be added to our itinerary now. Love your blog, thanks for all you do! 🙂

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