7 Unexpectedly Awesome US Cities You Should Visit

By Stephanie Yoder,

Everyone wants to visit the big, blockbuster cities like New York, San Francisco, and Washington DC. While they all have a certain cultural cache that is nearly irresistible, they all come with hefty price tags. Luckily here are some smaller US cities worth visiting that won’t bust your wallet.


Make the ultimate racing pilgrimage


Indianapolis race track
Photo by momentaptured1

Although it’s one of the fastest growing cities in the country, Indianapolis is often overlooked for Chicago. Those who make the journey will be rewarded with a really pleasant and affordable city with a lot to offer. Indianapolis is most famous as the Racing Capital of the World. It’s home to the Indy 500, and those who make the pilgrimage can check out a race or visit the Museum and Racing Hall of Fame. There’s also an innovative culinary scene, several world-class sports teams and the Kurt Vonnegut Library. Indy is also home to one of the finest free art museums in the country. A great place to stay while visiting is the Omni Severin Indianapolis.


See the old Capital of the Confederacy


Virginia State Capital
Photo by Paul Sableman 

Just two hours south of Washington DC, Richmond is the capital of Virginia. As the former Capital of the Confederacy, it is rich with war history. Visitors can check out the Confederate White House, The Museum of the Confederacy and civil war prison camps and cemeteries. To stay close to all the action, check out the Hilton Garden Inn Richmond Downtown. Richmond’s historic downtown is full of cobblestones and historic homes, as well as the Edgar Allen Poe Museum. It is also one of the only cities in the world with class III and IV white water rapids in the heart of the city along the James River.


Explore a vibrant New England art hub


Architecture in Providence, RIPhoto by Tenchiro 

Most people think of Boston when they think New England, but Providence is also an interesting visit. Home of Brown University, Providence is a city with vibrant ethnic neighborhoods, cool nightlife and historical architecture. Federal Hill is the best known neighborhood in the city, an Italian-American community comparable to Boston’s North End. It’s full of bakeries, restaurants and lively street festivals. A favorite place to stay is the Hotel Dolce Villa. Other major festivals in the city include the artsy Foo Fest, Pride Fest and Providence SoundSession.


Get more than just the chicken wings


Art-deco in Buffalo
Photo by Emil Stefanov

Buffalo, the second largest city in New York State, is perched on the Canadian border. Most people know Buffalo for its famous culinary masterpiece: Buffalo Wings (chicken wings coated in spicy hot sauce) but it’s home to beautiful art-deco architecture and several different historical districts. Don’t miss Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House Complex, and the several beautiful large parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the creator of NYC’s Central Park. For something a little different, stay at the Lofts On Pearl to really feel like a local.


An urban cyprus grove of Cajun culture


Baton Rouge
Photo by John Perry 

There is no place in the world quite like New Orleans, but nearby Baton Rouge is another vibrant Gulf city worth a second look. Founded in 1699, it’s one of the oldest cities in the United States and rich with Cajun culture. This is a great place to experience the music, theater and Cajun food that makes this part of the country so unique. Instead of a city park they have Bluebonnet Swamp, an urban cyprus grove forest. A great hotel is the DoubleTree; being well situated always saves time and money.


A Northwestern gem


Northwestern Outdoor cities
Photo by Dale Dugdale 

Seattle and Portland are both wonderful Northwestern cities, but small Bend, Oregon is an often-overlooked gem. A biker and hiker paradise, Bend sits on what’s known as a high desert, at around 3,000 feet in elevation. The area is rich with beautiful mountains, lakes and ancient lava flows. Consider sleeping at The Riverhouse for your trip. Bend is very popular with skiers, but during the warmer months visitors can check out the Bend Ale Trail. Bend has an unusually large number of independent microbreweries that you can bike to!


A historically thriving arts community


The Southwestern United States is culturally unique, and the state capital of New Mexico really captures what makes this region so special. Founded by the Spanish in the early 1600′s, this  UNESCO designated Creative City has long attracted artists like Georgia O’Keefe. Alongside the thriving arts community, Santa Fe has a robust opera and fine dining scene. There are lots of interesting museums, historical churches, theaters and houses to explore and photograph. The best hotel for this part of town is the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza. If you can, get out of town and visit the neighboring Native American pueblos.