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Underrated U.S. Cities to Add to Your Travel Bucket List

Maya Capasso Mar 18, 2024

If you’re starting your U.S. travel adventure, you’ve probably considered famous tourist cities like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. But before solidifying your travel bucket list ideas, consider some lesser-known U.S. cities as your destination. Not only do they tend to be more affordable, but you’ll have unique, unforgettable travel experiences to share with your family and friends when you return home. 

Here are some underrated U.S. cities to consider while crafting your travel plans


1. Chattanooga, Tennessee

While most people vacation in Tennessee to visit Nashville—the world’s country music capital—don’t overlook the gorgeous riverside city of Chattanooga. It’s full of cultural attractions like the Hunter Museum of American Art and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Plus, it boasts one of the most impressive aquariums in the country. 

There’s plenty of shopping in the city’s walkable downtown area, and the lovely Bluff View Art District offers galleries and culinary delights at local restaurants. Carry your spacious Hatchet Backpack on the trip to fill it with all your new trinkets from downtown. 

Chattanooga is home to the famous outdoor adventure trail Rock City, which offers hikers a long suspension bridge, a rock-climbing wall, caverns inexplicably filled with gnomes, and a stunning viewpoint where you can see seven different states at Lover’s Leap. 


2. Traverse City, Michigan

This underrated destination deserves a spot on your U.S. travel bucket list. As others flock to seaside cities across the country, they don’t realize the wonders the Great Lakes can offer. Traverse City sits right on the coast of Lake Michigan, offering visitors beaches to swim, waterski, bask in the sun, and even surf. 

The lush soil in the region allows this Michigan city to grow grapes in abundance, allowing gorgeous wineries to pop up across the city. On your next trip, check out Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery or the Chateau Chantal Winery and Tasting Room for a relaxing afternoon in the countryside. 

Don’t forget to visit Front Street in the city’s lively downtown for shopping and festivals or to stroll through the picturesque city. 


3. Providence, Rhode Island

Overshadowed by the nearby Boston, Providence rarely gets credit for its vast tourism offerings. Rhode Island’s capital offers historic attractions like the awe-inspiring Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul and glorious manors like the Blithewood Mansion, Gardens, and Arboretum; the Chateau-sur-Mer; and many more. 

The city features many bustling streets for shopping or grabbing a coffee, like Hope Street and Westminster Street. This coastal city boasts delectable classic Rhode Island seafood dishes, like stuffed quahogs, clam cakes, and Rhode Island clam chowder. Instead of visiting the nearby cities of New York or Boston, consider planning a trip to Providence instead. 


4. Albuquerque, New Mexico

As the perfect bucket list stop for outdoor adventurers and foodies alike, Albuquerque, New Mexico contains a vibrant, diverse culture and wonderful attractions. With 310 days of sunshine every year, tourists can hike in the stunning High Desert or go skiing in the Sandia Mountains. Don’t forget to fill your Journey Pack with snacks and sunscreen to stay comfortable during your outing! If you prefer to take in the sights from a seated position, opt into viewing the mountains and surrounding city on the Sandia Peak Tramway. 

New Mexico is famous for its delectable fusion of Pueblo Native American, Mexican, and Spanish cuisines. You can find green chile at any restaurant, including delectable green chile cheeseburgers, deep-fried cheese-filled green chiles called chile rellenos, or huevos rancheros with blue corn tortillas topped with green or red chile. 

Plus, Albuquerque is home to the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival, held in October each year, where hundreds of hot air ballooners gather. Take a ride on a balloon for a unique way to observe the serene landscape, or sit back and watch the hundreds of balloons take off into the sky. 


5. Portland, Maine

You might associate Maine with chilly winters—but skipping Portland, Maine, is a big mistake. This coastal New England city boasts incredible beaches, lakes, and rivers for water adventures in the summer, like white-water rafting, surfing, or relaxing on the peaceful, sandy shores. 

Portland is a bustling little city with many museums, shopping areas, and kid-friendly attractions to keep the whole family entertained. Don’t forget to take your new Cool Student backpack along for the family outing to ensure you have space for your kids’ belongings—and bring plenty of snacks! 

Plus, you don’t want to pass up on Maine’s most delectable dish: lobster. Order a classic “lobstah” roll at a seaside food shack or a high-end restaurant in the city to experience culinary bliss. 

Which city will you add to your U.S. travel bucket list this year?