10 Underrated US Cities
Featured destinations: USA
Published 22 June 2016
Everyone knows LA and New York, but what about the USA’s lesser-known cities? Filled with history to rival Washington, vitality to match New York and beaches to give LA a run for its money, America’s underrated metropolises are definitely worth a visit, and here’s why:
1. Newport, Rhode Island
The lovely seaside city of Newport is Rhode Island’s top attraction, with visitors coming from far and wide to relax on the beautiful beaches and conquer historic lighthouses. Newport’s famous historic mansions, all incredibly well preserved, span 250 years of history and are crammed with exquisite artworks and opulent decor. The Breakers, a Vanderbilt mega-mansion with 70 rooms, is a magnificent example, filled with grand ceilings and bordered by formal gardens. Newport offers ample eating opportunities too – try one of the waterfront seafood restaurants or take high tea in an elegant tearoom.
2. Baltimore, Maryland
The waterfront city of Baltimore, with its much-photographed harbour, is crammed full of world-class museums, historic ships, hip hotels and fashionable shops. Art lovers should pop in to the American Visionary Art Museum and the Walters Art Museum, while history buffs can swot up at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum and star-shaped Fort McHenry. The latter was used to successfully defend Baltimore Harbor from British invasion in 1814 and inspired the composition of the American national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. How’s that for a claim to fame?
3. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
OK, so this one’s a town rather than a city, but it’s chock-full of history and should be top of the list for Civil War enthusiasts. After all, the site of its eponymous 1863 battle is now preserved as a fascinating Civil War battleground at Gettysburg National Military Park. If you’re visiting in summer, look out for the annual battle re-enactments, usually held on the weekend closest to the battle’s 1st-3rd July anniversary. Gettysburg’s other claim to fame is that it was location for Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, widely regarded as one of the greatest speeches ever made.
4. Vicksburg, Mississippi
The vibrant city of Vicksburg is a blend of southern heritage and modern progress set right on the Mississippi River. Top activities here include chowing down on tasty southern soul food while gazing out over the water and visiting the National Military Park, the preserved site of the 1863 Battle of Vicksburg. Speaking of food, Anchuca – once an antebellum mansion and now a B&B – is well worth a visit for its rightfully popular café, which serves tasty Creole specialities.
5. Charleston, South Carolina
Imagine the smooth southern charm – golden sunlight seeping into the windows of the antebellum mansions, the light fragrance of honeysuckle in the air, the sound of clinking glasses as diners make the most of the long summer evenings. This is Charleston, South Carolina’s most popular tourist spot. So what are you waiting for? Jump in a horse-drawn carriage among the charming churches and sun-dappled, wooden-shuttered houses and browse the vintage boutiques by day, then bar hop along King Street, Charleston’s favourite thoroughfare, by night.
6. Corpus Christi, Texas
Charming Corpus Christi is sometimes known as the Texas Riviera due to its stunning Gulf Coast beaches, warm waters and soft sands. Beachgoers can wander along the seafront and take a look at the miradors (small gazebos dotted along the bay), each adorned with a plaque describing an important event in the city’s history. Visitors come to gorge on fresh seafood and take boat trips to Padre Island, the world’s longest barrier island, home to an assortment of birds and sea turtles. Back on the mainland there are more historical treasures to discover such as the USS Lexington, a World War II naval aircraft carrier, and a smattering of historic houses.
7. Albuquerque, New Mexico
The dusty desert city of Albuquerque is a laid-back place, where shorts and T-shirts are the acceptable dress – the sun does shine here 310 days a year after all. When not taste-testing at the numerous taquerías (taco shops), Albuquerque is a good place to learn about the history of the Native American Pueblo people at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, run by the Pueblos themselves. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike the magnificent Sandia Mountains, and, if you visit in October, look upwards as hundreds of colourful hot-air balloons take to the skies in the annual Balloon Fiesta. And if all that’s not enough, TV buffs will be drawn to this orange city for the world-famous show that was set here: Breaking Bad. Unlike most programmes where they use a double town, the AMC smash was actually filmed on location here.
8. Santa Barbara, California
There’s a refreshingly laid-back atmosphere in affluent Santa Barbara, tucked neatly between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains. Terracotta roofs and white stucco walls provide a picture-postcard backdrop for the local cafés that serve fresh seafood and juicy burgers, giving the place a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Come for the blue skies, warm sunshine and the fresh Pacific air, best enjoyed with a glass of California’s finest wine.
9. El Paso, Texas
Our second Texan entry – unsurprising as Texas has more cities than any other US state – is sunny El Paso, on the banks of the Rio Grande. A border town unsurprisingly Mexican in feel, El Paso is a great place to get outdoors, with the scenic delights of the Franklin Mountains set within the city limits, forming one of the USA’s largest urban parks. Here, McKelligon Canyon is home to a spectacular amphitheatre as well as numerous hiking trails. At the end of the day, relax by the river and sip on a chilled margarita while tucking in to a spicy dish of enchiladas in this pleasant city.
10. Richmond, Virginia
Virginia’s state capital, home to the imposing white façade of the classical-style capitol, Richmond is laced with cobbled streets, bringing 400 years of history to life. Strolling down Monument Avenue, a street lined with statues, churches, old mansions and Civil War residences, is the best way to start investigating. Adventure-seekers can brave the raging torrents on the vast James River, which offers boat trips, kayaking and canoeing, as well as thrilling white water rafting on Class IV rapids.
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