Spring Travel Plans? Here Are Our Top 10 Underrated U.S. Travel Spots

Feb 26, 2019, 08:31 AM by Nuvision Credit Union 

With warmer weather on the horizon, many people across the U.S. are itching to get out of town and take a much-needed break. There are the usual tourist destinations everyone aims for year after year, but let’s face it those places can be crowded to the brim (not to mention pricey). From chic cosmopolitan hubs to rustic outdoorsy vistas and much more, check out our top 12 hidden gems!

West Coast

1. Paso Robles, California

With the 2017 wildfires still affecting the Napa and Sonoma region, many wine connoisseurs are flocking to this idyllic Central California city for a slice of unparalleled luxury. Paso Robles delivers a charming small town feel packed to the brim with a wide selection of wineries, artisanal shops, and farm-to-table restaurants creating delicious dishes to please every palate. It’s no wonder Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio picked this spot as the first stop on their honeymoon back in 1954!

Where to Stay: For a cozy, pastoral experience, head over to The Carlton hotel located in nearby Atascadero! This historic 52-room pet-friendly establishment is decked out in vintage American glamour embellished with warm wood furnishings and wrought-iron from top to bottom.

Where to Eat: To match the sprawling vineyards that dot the town, visit downtown Paso Robles’ Ristorante Il Cortile for a taste of the Italian countryside. Sip on some local wine and enjoy a sumptuous feast of fresh pastas or the famed in-house mozzarella selections that’ll delight the taste buds!

What to Do: Go on a wine tasting tour all over Paso Robles and sample many of the town’s family-owned vineyards such as the famed Eberle Winery. You can also take a trek to the Paso Robles Pioneer Museum for a bit of local history, catch a concert at the Vina Robles Amphitheatre, or unwind your muscles at the River Oaks Hot Spring Spa after a long day.

2. Salem, Oregon

Portland may be getting the spotlight as a hipster foodie paradise (thanks Portlandia), but don’t miss out on what Oregon’s capital city has to offer! Combining the vast evergreen wilderness with the kitschy cool urban vibes makes Salem a great destination for the whole family. You and your family can take a rugged hike in the woods, stroll along the city’s wildflower-dotted sidewalks, or check out the dynamic art scene like a local.

Where to Stay: Located in neighboring Silverton, the Oregon Garden Resort delivers rustic aesthetics paired with modern amenities that’ll suit even the youngest guest! This scenic spa resort overlooks the beloved 80-acre Oregon Garden where visitors can peruse the space’s 20 themed gardens that host a wide variety of local and exotic plants.

Where to Eat: Salem’s Bo & Vine Burger Bar features inventive twists on the classic American treat using local ingredients straight from the Willamette Valley. Sink your teeth into the Willamette Burger (made with fresh beef, bacon crumbles, goat cheese, arugula, and homemade sweet chili sauce) or the delectable vegan Sweet Bean burger (crafted with a sweet potato/black bean patty, grilled peppers/onions, and hummus).

What to Do: The Silver Falls State Park allows visitors an up close view of the famous South Falls while being immersed in a lush forest landscape that’s suitable for hikers. Design buffs can also make a pilgrimage to The Gordon House designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and even rent out the house for an overnight stay. 

Mountain Region

3. Missoula, Montana

Who says college towns can’t be a destination? The vivacious city of Missoula is a diamond in the rugged Rocky Mountain region and is home to the flagship location of the University of Montana. Since Missoula hosts some of the state’s best and brightest minds, the entire area offers an impeccable selection of activities ranging from outdoor excursions to engaging events that can go head-to-head with the big city players.

Where to Stay: Take a trip back to the Victorian era at the Gibson Mansion Bed & Breakfast! The mansion houses four spacious guest rooms complete with a scrumptious seasonal breakfast serving everything from their famous scones to a fancy smoked Gouda egg roulade and much more.

Where to Eat: Taking in the fresh mountain air is sure to work up anyone’s appetite and what better way to cap things off than with a cold pint? Downtown Missoula’s Conflux Brewing Company is a family-friendly brewpub serving some of the city’s most inventive craft beers paired with hearty meals. Sip on a Fire Fight Irish Red with a Duck Scotch Egg or munch on some Brisket Mac and Cheese with a fiery Chili Nelson Poblano Ale.

What to Do: Missoula was the college stomping ground for Colin Meloy (lead singer of indie rock band The Decemberists), so do what the locals do and catch a show over at The Wilma Theatre! The historic venue hosts local musicians as well as big names that’ll surely get anyone on their feet. If you’re into trekking the wilderness however, take a hike on part of the famed Lewis and Clark Trail and channel your inner explorer.

4. Ogden, Utah

Thirty-five minutes north of Salt Lake City lies the city of Ogden, which is also known as the exact location where the Transcontinental Railroad converged back in the 1800s. Coining itself as “Rugged and rustic, yet cool and urban,” Ogden delivers year-round excitement especially during the colder season where skiers and snowboarders flock to this mountain town. When it’s sunny, expect visitors and locals to take advantage of the warm weather in numerous ways ranging from picnics to outdoor festivals and everything in between!

Where to Stay: Channel the roaring 1920s when you stay at The Bigelow Hotel & Residences located on the historic 25th Street area. Featuring opulent Art Deco embellishments, Utah’s second oldest hotel is situated within walking distance to all the city’s best hangout spots!

Where to Eat: Befitting of Ogden’s quirky character, the Pig & A Jelly Jar Restaurant serves funky takes on Southern cuisine that delights locals and tourists from morning till night. Those in the know queue up to the restaurant early for their delectable breakfast offerings such as the Kitchen Sink scramble, chicken & waffles, and the ham hash.

What to Do: Hit the slopes over at Nordic Valley Resort, channel your inner lumberjack at Social Axe Throwing, or do a self-guided tour around the Eccles Avenue Historic District! This neighborhood in particular was once home to the most millionaires per capita with mansions dotting the tree-lined sidewalks.

Midwest

5. Indianapolis, Indiana

Dubbed as “the most underrated food city in the U.S.” according to Conde Nast Traveler, the Hoosier State capital has so much to offer. Whether you dine on the state’s famous fried pork tenderloin sandwich or try something new, enjoy Indy’s famed eats while you catch an Indianapolis Pacers game at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Those in the need for speed can rev up your engines at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum or take a stroll on the Cultural Trail and absorb the sights.

Where to Stay: The Le Meridien Indianapolis gives travelers a dose of the city’s metalworking background combined with modernist accents that soothe the senses. Located right off the Cultural Trail, this posh establishment also has a basement barrel room where patrons can try the hotel’s aged bourbon or unwind at breakfast with a fresh éclair.

Where to Eat: Milktooth honors the Midwest’s agricultural background and transforms farm ingredients to scrumptious dishes that made this brunch institution one of the top 10 best new restaurants in America. Diners can dig into a fluffy cranberry clafoutis Dutch baby pancake with a side of the restaurant’s famous sorghum-glazed bacon for a hefty meal packed with flavor.

What to Do: If you’re ready to pump up the jam, swing by the Rhythm! Discovery Center and get hands-on with a variety of drums from all over the world. For a dose of art and nature all at once, head on over to Newfields and explore the Indianapolis Museum of Art as well as the area’s sprawling gardens.

6. St. Louis, Missouri

Many regard St. Louis as “The Gateway to the West,” but it’s often overlooked as a travel destination. However, the Show Me State’s biggest city has recently went under a major renovation with a wide range of entertainment options for all ages. The Gateway Arch is a beloved institution that allows visitors to go to the top via tram, but for those who want a more laidback experience, take a steamboat cruise down the Mississippi River or watch the St. Louis Cardinals play in Busch Stadium!

Where to Stay: If regal opulence is what you’re seeking in the Gateway City, the St. Louis Union Station Hotel is a legendary American institution. Situated right inside the defunct train station, this AAA Four Diamond hotel is part of the Historic Hotels of America and is famous for the decked out 65-foot ceilings and archways.

Where to Eat: Barbecue enthusiasts will feel right at home over at Bogart’s Smokehouse, which serves up classic St. Louis-style meats drenched in a tangy, smoky tomato-based sauce. Share a classic platter with your friends and pile high on the spare ribs, beef brisket, and all the sides you crave like their famous deviled egg potato salad!

What to Do: Kids and the kids at heart will have a blast exploring the 600,000 square-foot City Museum. This eclectic, interactive establishment allows anyone to climb, slide, and play amongst architectural marvels made of reclaimed materials. Additionally, you and your family can take a walk on the wild side and visit Grant’s Farm, which houses a variety of animals including the famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses.

South

7. Bentonville, Arkansas

Discover a slice of old-fashioned Americana right in the Ozark Mountains when you visit this charming town. Known as the birthplace of Walmart, Bentonville is a cycler’s paradise with a wide range of terrain to carve on two wheels, but you can also trek the local hills for a riveting experience! It’s also one of the culinary epicenters for the High South food movement, so come prepared with an empty stomach.

Where to Stay: Want to spend a night at the museum? Get your modern art fix over at the 21C Museum Hotel in downtown Bentonville and immerse yourself with inventive works created by local and national artists! The mid-century furnishings plus the hotel’s trademark green penguin statues make this destination an exciting treat for the eyes.

Where to Eat: Country cuisine gets a touch of French execution over at Tusk & Trotter American Brasserie with Chef Rob Nelson being in the forefront of the High South food movement. Homely local ingredients such as peameal, Arkansas black apples, and Duroc pork get reinvented into fresh flatbreads, salads, and hearty entrees that pair well with any of the house-infused cocktails.

What to Do: Tear up the turf on the Slaughter Pen Trail on a mountain bike, see awe-inspiring works at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, or see where Walmart started off at the Walmart Museum! The retail giant used to start off as humble dime store catered to local families in the area and many of the store’s original wares are still preserved to this day.

8. Tampa Bay, Florida

Miami and Orlando get all the hype when it comes to Florida cities, but don’t miss out on this little slice of paradise! Tampa Bay’s family-friendly vibe plus nearly 365 days of sunshine make it one coastal destination packed with adventure. The former pirate hideaway delivers pristine beaches, exciting nightlife, and theme parks that’ll delight the imagination. Of course, you and your family can catch a Tampa Bay Rays game in Tropicana Field too!

Where to Stay: Soak up the sun and the surf with your family at the Sailport Waterfront Suites located on Rocky Point Island! This expansive all-suite hotel brings stunning bay views and laidback tropical vibes that’ll soothe even the most stressed nerves. Each suite also comes with full kitchens as well as separate bedrooms so you and the kids can have some privacy.

Where to Eat: When in Tampa, do as the locals do and order up a bunch of seafood! Big Ray’s Fish Camp serves some of the freshest catch straight from the water complete with a view of the ocean. Dine on Floridian specialties such as conch fritters, grouper sandwiches, and peel ‘em shrimp by the half pound as you watch the sun set.

What to Do: Get the adrenaline pumping at the Busch Gardens Amusement Park, visit the manatees at the Teco Manatee Viewing Center, or take a zipline tour over the waters and wilderness! For a more grounded experience, perfect your hole-in-one at TPC Tampa Bay, which is where the PGA TOUR Champions golf game is held every year.

East Coast

9. Warwick, Rhode Island

Brown University, Family Guy, and giant clams come to mind for those unfamiliar with the smallest state in America. While Providence gets all the fanfare just a few miles south lies the city of Warwick. Typical of most New England towns, Warwick is heavily influenced by its colonial days and has a variety of historical landmarks from the American Revolution. It’s now a cozy getaway for anyone who desires a slower pace of life complete with homey restaurants and shops.

Where to Stay: The NYLO Providence Warwick Hotel takes influence from the state’s textile-making days and overlooks the Pawtuxet River. Showing off exposed brick, concrete floors, and high-vaulted ceilings, each loft-style room in the hotel has a window view of the river so anyone can enjoy the natural sights from morning till night.

Where to Eat: For a no-frills way to enjoy Rhode Island’s oceanic bounty, go to Iggy’s Doughboys & Chowder House for a New England-style summer feast! This local institution serves up the classics such as clam chowder, stuffed Quahog clams, lobster rolls, and cod sandwiches paired alongside with a view of the Narragansett Bay.

What to Do: Bring a blanket and a picnic basket over to the Goddard Memorial State Park and spend the day relaxing under the trees or strolling along the lawn. If you desire something a little more rambunctious, head over to the historic Federal Hill District in Providence to see the state’s own Little Italy. 

10. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

This small town was once the epicenter for one of the most pivotal battles in the Civil War and to this day, Gettysburg still has its historical charm. You don’t need to be an American history buff to enjoy this idyllic place though — there’s more to it than the town’s illustrious past. Stroll down the cobblestone streets, ride horses through the grassy plains, or get all fancy and enjoy a night out in any of the local restaurants!

Where to Stay: The Gettysburg Hotel is known to be one of the oldest hotels in America with the establishment opening its doors in 1797. Located within walking distance of downtown Gettysburg as well as the storied battlefields, the hotel is gilded in luxurious details that made this place President Dwight Eisenhower’s national operation center.

Where to Eat: Dine just like an American colonial when you step inside the Dobbins House Tavern. This small restaurant is situated right inside Gettysburg’s oldest house which was formally owned by a local reverend back in the 1700s. With the wait staff dressed in 19th century garbs, guests can dine on items such as roast duck with a cider sauce and the seafood Isabella, which was supposedly created by the reverend’s wife.

What to Do: When in Gettysburg, it’s an absolute must to go to the Gettysburg National Military Park and see the sprawling landscape where the infamous battle between the North and South took place. You can also make a pilgrimage to the David Wills House in downtown to see where President Abraham Lincoln made the finishing touches on the Gettysburg Address. In addition, the town is one of the most bike-friendly places in the country so feel free to cycle around on a self-guided tour!

 

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