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, 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, 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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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!
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, 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.