In our minds, summer signifies the arrival of several things: Rosé on rooftops, summer Fridays, weddings, flings, and travel. Whether it's the smell of adventure seeping into the smoldering-hot air or the flexibility that pre-weekend half-days allow, but summer is prime time for travel; from weekend getaways to week-long road trip adventures, you'll find us taking more days off work during these months than we do the rest of the year.
And while we love to visit tourist-filled favorites like Miami, Charleston, New Orleans, and L.A., there is a certain thrill in finding destinations yet unexplored (or rather, less so explored)—especially since there are tons of cities and towns in the U.S. that don't get as much love as they deserve in the #travelgram department.
With summer almost halfway over, here are the nine U.S. cities you should make time to visit. We are aware we've only just scratched the surface of underrated cities in America, so check out our picks below to get started and then proceed to make a map of your own—and don't forget to check out our European list too!
When I used to live in Boston a decade ago, Cambridge was where you went for underage house parties, parent-chaperoned tours of Harvard's campus, and Halloween costume-shopping at The Garment District. Nowadays it's a mecca of good food and great cocktails. Start your culinary tour at PAGU, O-Ya alum Tracy Chang's first solo restaurant venture, where Spanish and Japanese cuisine are woven seamlessly together in an explosion of succulent flavors. Tip: Grab a seat at the bar area encircling the kitchen, so you get an up-close glance at how Chang whips up her famous ramen, squid ink oyster bao, and smoked purple yam ice cream. Let everything settle at the arcade bar next door, Roxy's A4cade, while playing retro games and sipping on surprisingly delicious craft cocktails.
For a pre-dinner treat, stop by the Waypoint for some famous East Coast oysters and absinthe cocktails before making your way to Little Donkey, the newest tapas creation from the power duo Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette (of Toro and Coppa fame). If you have room, make your way down to Automatic for a nightcap. Being that this is the latest industry-insider's spot, opened by the old-school legend Dave Cagle, you can expect to get a new list of places to go to from one of the many returning patrons come the next day.
When you're ready to crash, head the to the hippest boutique sleeper in Cambridge, Freepoint Hotel, where you'll find the most Instagrammable bathrooms (stocked with Living Proof products!), a curated selection of podcasts, immaculately designed common space interiors, an open air courtyard with a fire pit, and excellent food and cocktails courtesy of award-winning chef Matthew Gaudet (you haven't had breakfast until you've had his blueberry waffle in a skillet).
Beacon, New York
While Beacon is known for being a popular day trip for NYC residents, the artsy town located on the banks of the Hudson River is just as pleasing for a long weekend getaway. First, immerse yourself in the local art scene by starting your day at Dia: Beacon, the site of a former Nabisco box printing factory, that showcases only the best in contemporary art, including mixed media installations and fluorescent light artworks. It's Instagram gold! Next have one of the drivers at the train station take you to the nearby Storm King Art Center, where you can walk amongst oversize sculptures, nestled in the surrounding fields, hills, lawns, and woods.
Take a break from all the highbrow peeping with a lunch at Poppy's, where you'll find excellent hamburgers and veggie burgers from chef Paul Yeaple of Chopped celebrity. Choose whether you want to follow your lunch with ice cream from the always crowded Beacon Creamery or a beer tasting at 2 Way Brewing Company, before embarking on vintage-scouring adventures at stores like Vintage: Beacon and American Gypsy Vintage.
If you're not looking to rent an Airbnb, The Roundhouse would be one of your few options in the area—not to say this former factory-turned-boutique hotel isn't great! It is. Overlooking a scenic waterfall and boasting beautiful wood-detailed rooms, you will have a hard time leaving your bed. Well, until dinner time that is, when you won't be able to resist the on-site restaurant with a "whole farm cuisine" ethos (it strives to use everything that farmers produce in an effort to ensure that nothing goes to waste), local ingredients, and sustainable and humane practices when it comes to meats and seafood.
Las Vegas (Downtown), Nevada
Skip The Strip and get to know a different side of Sin City by laying roots in the Downtown area of Nevada's infamously sinful city. In fact, the two parts of Las Vegas are so different, we strongly believe that Downtown Vegas should be considered its own city. Stake a claim at Oasis at Gold Spike, one of the newest boutique hotels in the area (and a nice relief from the oversized old-school casino hotels that dominate the area). It makes a great home base with its quirky rooms, brightly painted walls, outdoor pool, bike rentals, and, wait for it, a penthouse suite featured in MTV's The Real World (fine, maybe it's a tiny bit like The Strip mega-hotels—who cares?!). If you are a fan of cool and scenic rooftop bars and would like to actually hit the slots, you can alternately crash at the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino.
Begin your morning with a “Big-Poppa Tart” doughnut from Donut Bar. If the rectangular shape confuses you at first, just remember that there is an entire Pop-Tart waiting to be devoured on the inside. Head to the Neon Museum next, where you will walk amongst history... studying the iconic Las Vegas signs that have been preserved over the years and analyzed for trends and transformations. Discuss all your weird findings over drinks at the Velveteen Rabbit, an amazing woman-run bar known for its killer craft cocktails, or better yet, take a cocktail class. Stroll through the city and wear off your buzz while enjoying some of the many vibrant murals hidden all over the neighborhood.
If all this didn't work an appetite up for you (what are you dead?!), head over to Fremont Street for the ultimate urban thrill: SlotZilla zip line, where you will fly over the city's popular promenade, filled with bright lights, shops, and street performers. Get some casual fare at the nearby Park on Fremont (grab a seat on the outdoor patio and don't attempt to test the seesaw if you've indulged in a few too many beers from the 100-plus list) or have a more upscale dinner at the newishly revamped Therapy. End your night with dancing on the rooftop of Commonwealth or by visiting the Laundry Room, a retro-esque speakeasy so secretive it does not allow photos. Or, do all of the above as both of these establishments are housed in the same building.
Park City, Utah
One of the most popular destinations in the winter or during a little film festival you might have heard of before, Park City shouldn't be underestimated in the summer. In fact, it might be one of the rare cities in America that manages to combine an abundance of outdoor activities with a sophisticated food and nightlife scene worthy of the biggest cosmopolitan cities in the country. Stay at the Montage Deer Valley, if only to take advantage of the alpine-inspired spa that boasts wellness treatments that include a couple's massage that starts off with a mountain herbal soak in adjoining copper tubs. There's also breathtaking views (see above), and a burger and bourbon combo so good you will want to have it every day—and who's stopping you, really? Or, splurge and live your best Park City Life at the new Stein Eriksen Residences, which feature 15 chic mountain homes and 39 contemporary condominiums equipped with all amenities imaginable.
Begin your day at Riverhorse Provisions, a quaint "noshery" and gourmet market. While you'll be tempted to sit down and order all of their fresh farm egg options, settle for just one and pick up one of their signature baskets to enjoy alfresco later on. While the options are endless for what you can do outdoors—golfing at the Canyons Golf Course, paddleboarding on the lake, horseback riding through the aspen groves past historic silver mines, zip lining, and bike riding on the Park City Mountain—if pressed for time, we suggest you hit the Provo river, one of the most awe-inspiring river settings in the country, for a guided blue-ribbon fly fishing excursion. Also, make sure to catch the gondola ride that zooms 8,000 feet up a mountain and has the best view of the surrounding area.
Speaking of views, after a day of outdoor adventure, catch the sunset over bites on the rustic outdoor deck of the gastropub Red Tail Grill. It's like summer's equivalent of apres-ski. Make your way down to the historic Main Street to get the lay of the land, catch an outdoor concert (of which there are many in good weather), browse the farmer's market, or check out the local gallery scene (on the last Friday of the month, more than a dozen galleries open their doors for visitors to enjoy art over refreshments). Wander through the picturesque streets before getting dinner at Firewood, arguably the culinary masterpiece of the city, that serves local and seasonal food cooked in a wood fire stove before a whiskey nightcap at the High West Distillery & Saloon, the first legally licensed distillery in Utah since the end of the Prohibition.
Fort Myers and Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida
With its hundreds of miles of coastline, to say nothing of the lush wonders that can be enjoyed in its marshy interior waterways, Florida is a nature lover's paradise. There are seemingly endless places to explore, with the only limitation really being knowing where to start. While many people will just head straight to the greatest hits of Florida: the Everglades, Miami, the Keys, and Orlando, we'd like to suggest straying a bit off the beaten path and traveling to the southwestern coastal area of the state, where you'll find white sand beaches strewn with pearlescent pink and purple seashells and sand dollars, crystal-clear and ultra-calm waters, and some of the most spectacular sunsets we've ever seen.
First, fly into Fort Myers, a mid-size city worth checking out for its hopping local brewery scene (no pun intended) and annual spring training games; a perfect Saturday can be spent sipping a flight of beers at the Fort Myers Brewing Company, chowing down on local eats from the food trucks stationed outside, and playing a game of cornhole in the parking lot, followed by cheering—or jeering—the Red Sox at Jet Blue Park, which even has its own version of Fenway's famed Green Monster. But then: Head out to the beach. Enjoy the drive to the barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva, which lie right off the coast of Florida, attached by low-slung bridges hovering over aqua seas. There's plenty of options when it comes to where to stay, though we like the Sundial Beach Resort and Spa on Sanibel, both for its incredibly comfortable amenities (including a small deli and marketplace, should you need more sunblock or a delicious iced coffee) and proximity to the beach, but also for offering bike rentals. Because, pro tip: Biking is a great way to explore this area. The landscape is super-flat, and there are clearly marked bike paths everywhere. Heaven! Oh, and Sundial also has pickleball courts. Pickleball is like a cross between tennis and ping pong and is just really, really fun.
Another great way to explore is by hitting the water. Adventure Sea Kayaking is a wildlife tour and eco-adventure company on Captiva which offers everything from paddleboard lessons to moonlight kayaking tours. I'd recommend the Buck Key Mangrove Trail Kayak Tour, because there's plenty of wildlife to be seen (manatees! dolphins! tree crabs?!), and because there's this moment when you paddle out of the mangroves and it looks like the whole Gulf of Mexico is spread before you, and it's so awe-inspiring and sublime that it takes your breath away. And in case you want a bigger boat, consider heading out with Captiva Cruises to go everywhere from the gorgeous and isolated Cayo Costa beach (pictured above) to Cabbage Key, which boasts an "old Florida" restaurant that claims to be the inspiration for Jimmy Buffett's song "Cheeseburger in Paradise." (We have our doubts, but it is a damned good cheeseburger.) And once you're back in Captiva, make sure to get a slice of cake at the super-kitschy Bubble Room, and take a to-go beer from the Mucky Duck down to the beach to watch the sun set. Don't be surprised when everyone bursts into spontaneous applause. It's just the kind of place where the ordinary seems extraordinary, and enchantment is part of the evening's entertainment.—Kristin Iversen
Now, I know what you're going to say: Marfa is the most travel blogger-featured destination. It is touristy; it is not under the radar. Let me explain myself: (1) It still doesn't compare to the popularity levels of Austin, Texas, and (2) when most people hear of Marfa, they often assume that there is nothing more to it than the above "Prada Marfa" installation by Elmgreen and Dragset. Which is just not right, because, despite how cool that installation, the whole vibe of this desert city operates on a cosmic frequency, and we can't get enough of it. While we won't give too much away about this West Texas beauty (after all, we have a full-fledged guide to it coming up next week!), here's a quick list of things to do.
Visit The Chinati Foundation, an incredible contemporary art museum, featuring the works of some of the most exciting artists; stay at El Cosmico, an expansive campground featuring Sioux-style tepees, vintage trailers, tents, and a Mongolian yurt as accommodations; eat the best burrito you will ever have at Marfa Burrito; and wash it down with some hard-to-find coffee from Do Your Things, conveniently located by Marfa Book Company, which is a must for any book-lover.
Did we pique your interest and dispel any notions you might have had about Marfa? Good, come back next week for more.
Unless you're attending Treefort Music Fest or are a college football fan, chances are you haven't looked too much into Boise—and that's a shame. Situated against a picturesque background of mountaintops, lakes, and woodlands is a town that's best of both worlds: a city vibe with outdoor potential. Get to know the local way of life by eating your way through the City of Trees. While the line at Bleubird, and the hype surrounding it, may seem like reason enough to skip it (plus, how good can a sandwich shop really be?), you would be wrong to—it's worth it; the casual fare establishment offers a legend-status Reuben.
If you're tempted to see what the famous Idaho potatoes are all about, make sure you're doing it by pairing them with their BFF: burgers. While Bittercreek Alehouse offers a solid classic burger-and-fries combo (and a view of a really cool worm farm where the restaurant composts everything; maybe save that for after the meal), Boise Fry Company boasts a local and grass-fed bison variety with fries, ranging from russet to purple and Okinawa, prepared regular, curly, or shoestring and served with seasonal sauces ranging from banana and raspberry ketchup to maple marshmallow dip. If fame is what you're after, Big Jud's has a two-pounder, as well as amazing regular-sized burgers, made famous by Man v. Food. Do not fear: Unless you decided to participate in Big Jud's challenge, chances are you'll be able to walk off your meal while taking a stroll through the stunning Botanical Garden or through a 19th-century prison, Old Idaho Penitentiary.
Don't be an Idaho potato and explore only the town though. This city practically begs you to get outside and take in as much nature as possible. Hike the trails in the Boise Foothills, raft and kayak on the Boise River, rock climb, jump into one of the many nearby natural hot springs, and fish. If you're not the adventurous type, take a leisurely bike ride along the scenic Boise River Greenbelt.
Skaneateles, New York
Another great from the great state of New York, this city is home to one of the cleanest, most clear water lakes in America. (Be warned: It's cold!) Nestled in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Skaneateles is everything you want from a lake town: quaint coffee shops, boutiques, a solid candy store, bike lanes, sailing culture—what high school preppy dreams are made of. It's a short drive to the Finger Lakes wine country, too! Plus, its proximity to Syracuse means you're not totally removed from all things Wegmans.
Obviously, start with wine tasting. Our pick would have to be Heron Hill Winery. In addition to having one of the most scenic wineries, the selection of wines (some of them award-winning!) is top-notch. If you have a hard time leaving—"When will I ever have a wine as good as Eclipse ever again?"—signing up for the Heron Hill's wine club should make the separation easier. Find yourself hungry after all the tasting? Good, you're in the right place. Return to town and begin curbing your hunger at Valentine's Pizza & Deli for buzz-shattering coffee and delicious sandwiches before getting some of the best ever chicken fingers and no-frills fish at Doug's Fish Fry, a staple in Skaneateles and Syracuse. Of course, don't forget to polish it all off with a cone from Skaneateles Skoops. Since you will likely find yourself too full for dinner, opt for a liquid diet option at Blue Water Grill. While the food is solid, the drinking ambiance is why you go. Plus, you won't get a better lake view than this.
The next day work it all off by going on a hike to take in the stunning woodland and lake vistas. Or, alternatively, rent a boat at the Skaneateles Marina and spend the day on the breathtakingly still and blue waters. Actually, forget hiking. Rent. A. Boat. And. Go. Boating.
Montclair, New Jersey
As anyone who grew up in New Jersey's Montclair will tell you, there's no place like home. Considered as almost an extension of Brooklyn, New York, even dubbed by some as "Park Slope West," Montclair is full of city vibes, just in a more low-key setting. A frequent host of film festivals and concerts, it's home to a stellar lineup of restaurants, many manicured gardens, and an impressive art museum. Begin your day with a breakfast at Raymond's, a local go-to for solid french toast and hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. Next, take in all the botanical beauty Montclair has to offer by hitting up the Van Vleck House & Gardens, a former private estate whose perfectly made-up gardens are open to the public and which often hosts events like yoga, or Presby Memorial Iris Garden, the site of many multicolored irises come spring.
Make sure to take in all the art that Montclair Art Museum has to offer next. (Bonus points if you make it there on Thursday night when admission is waived). Not only does it boast art that could just as likely be found in the museums of NYC, but it has an exciting rotation of moving exhibitions that stop by here. If you have it in you, take advantage of the local fashion boutiques (Culture Couture and Dot Reeder are our picks) or head for some pre-dinner drinks and apps at the farm-to-table gem Pig and Prince. In an addition to serving some A-plus snacks, like duck fat grilled cheese and sriracha brussels sprouts, and crafted cocktails, they have a super Instagrammable interior, thanks to being housed in a former railway station and all.
For dinner, try out one of Montclair's newer dining establishments Diesel & Duke. While it's less scenic than Pig and Prince, this casual burger joint will surprise your taste buds with off-kilter options like a sriracha, peanut butter, and bacon burger paired with poutine; trust us, this flavor combination makes all the sense once you take just one bite. Next, visit The Wellmont Theater to catch a show (Deadmau5 and Lauryn Hill have previously performed there, and Ziggy Marley and Playboi Carti are scheduled to appear in the next month) or the Clairidge Cinema, an old-school movie theater that showcases the best indie darlings (currently The Beguiled, Beatriz at Dinner, and The Big Sick) and classics like Psycho, The Sound of Music, and Gone With the Wind.