Hidden Gems: 15 Overlooked US Cities Worth Exploring

While most travelers flock to New Orleans, New York City, or Los Angeles in search of excitement, there's an entirely different world waiting to be discovered. It's time to cast aside the familiar and embark on a journey that leads to the hidden treasures of this diverse nation.

Prepare to tantalize your taste buds with exotic flavors, immerse yourself in rich culture and history, and satisfy your craving for adventure.

1. Portland, ME

Portland Maine
Image Credit: Darryl Brooks/Shutterstock.

Sitting along a stunning coast, Portland, Maine, often flies under the radar, but it's a treasure trove worth discovering. With its charming cobblestone streets, vibrant arts scene, and delectable seafood, this city offers a relaxed coastal vibe. Whether you're exploring the historic Old Port or savoring a lobster roll, Portland offers an authentically unique and underrated urban escape.

2. Madison, WI

Wisconsin State Capitol Madison WI
Image Credit: Warren LeMay from Covington, KY, United States – Wisconsin State Capitol, Capitol Square, Madison, WI, CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Ah, Madison, Wisconsin – the underappreciated heart of the Midwest. This college town boasts more than just cheese and Badgers. The city has lovely lakes, bike-friendly paths, and a thriving farm-to-table food scene. Many people love Madison's progressive spirit and cultural richness. Madison is warm and fun, from Capitol Square to the conservatory, making the city truly unforgettable.

3. Burlington, VT

Church Street Marketplace Burlington, VT
Image Credit: Michelle Maria, CC BY 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Burlington, Vermont, is where quaint meets cool in the most underrated way. Tucked between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains, this town oozes New England charm. The Church Street Marketplace is vibrant and the perfect walkable scene, but there are also plenty of outdoor adventures to enjoy. Burlington's relaxed pace and creative energy are unmatched. Embrace the indie spirit!

4. Richmond, VA

Richmond, VA Ardent Craft Ales Brewery
Image Credit: Ardent Craft Ales Brewery.

Richmond, Virginia, has been described by many travel aficionados as a cross between history and hipness. It's overflowing with American heritage, but there's so much more to see than just monuments. You can experience a flourishing craft beer scene, dynamic street art, and a revitalized riverfront on top of the southern hospitality and eclectic festivals. Despite being often overshadowed, Richmond, VA, is a favorite cultural destination for many.

5. Kansas City, MO

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts Kansas City, MO
Image Credit: Hayden Gascoigne – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Beyond the BBQ (though it's legendary), Kansas City is brimming with activities for the whole family. Jazz enthusiasts revel in its musical legacy, art lovers explore the galleries, and there are museums, amusement centers, science centers, farms, and more awaiting the children. Distinct neighborhoods, like the trendy Crossroads Arts District, also contribute to the city's allure. Kansas City is unassuming, but it promises a unique urban experience.

6. Portsmouth, NH 

Portsmouth, NH
Image Credit: N.V. Deremer – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is a coastal delight that you may have never heard of but will definitely want to check out. It is nestled along the Piscataqua River, offering a historic elegance that intrigues visitors. 

The town has quaint brick streets that lead to numerous boutiques and galleries, but fresh and delicious seafood steals the show. No matter if you're strolling through Prescott Park or enjoying harbor views, Portsmouth's maritime spirit is top-tier, and ice skating is the icing on the cake!

7. Pittsburgh, PA

The Andy Warhol Museum Pittsburgh PA
Image Credit: Becca923 from San Francisco, USA – Andy Warhol Museum. Pittsburgh, PA, CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Pittsburgh somewhat straddles the fence in terms of being a popular yet also underrated city that defies expectations. It was once an industrial hub but is now a vibrant metropolis where innovation thrives. 

Various travelers from an online forum commented on how much they love to view the skyline framed by three rivers, check out the burgeoning tech scene, and experience the great people you come across in the city. From the Andy Warhol Museum to quirky neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, experiencing the diversity of Pittsburgh is just half the fun.

8. Albuquerque, NM 

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Albuquerque NM
Image Credit: John Fowler from Placitas, NM, USA – ABQ Balloon Fiesta, CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Though Sante Fe is its more well-known cousin, Albuquerque, New Mexico, is like a desert jewel waiting to be explored. Mainly popular as the site for Breaking Bad, it offers the perfect blend of culture and nature. It has the historic Old Town's adobe charm, panoramic views of Sandia Peak Tramway, and countless nightclubs and bars to drop by.

People especially love the International Balloon Fiesta, which showcases the city's diversity and how there's something for everyone.

9. Newport, RI

The Breakers Newport RI
Image Credit: UpstateNYer – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Newport, Rhode Island, has been characterized by its coastal beauty, delectable lobster rolls, and historical significance, but there are so many more activities to keep you coming back. Taking a tour through the Gilded Age mansions is excellent for history buffs, hiking The Cliff Walk is a one-of-a-kind experience, and sailing along the waterfront is always a blast. From cultural festivals to serene beaches, Newport is a truly captivating destination.

10. Louisville, KY

Angel's Envy Distillery Louisville Kentucky
Image Credit: Angel's Envy Distillery.

Known for the Kentucky Derby, Louisville is situated along the Ohio River and is a lovely city for your next road trip. First on the list, adventure enthusiasts will appreciate the Mega Cavern, which features an underground world with zip lines, obstacle courses, and tram tours in a massive converted limestone cave. 

Next, visitors love the Urban Bourbon Trail, the thriving arts scene in the NuLu district, and the various museums sprinkled throughout the city. The food is also surprisingly good. There's always something to do in this vibrant and upbeat area.

11. Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati Museum Center Cincinnati, OH
Image Credit: M – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Cincinnati, Ohio, is one of the most underrated gems that people are likely sleeping on when it comes to having a good time. Beyond its sports teams, the city boasts a unique arts and culture scene also. From the Over-the-Rhine district's historic sites to the Cincinnati Art Museum's diverse collection, creativity flourishes there.

You'll find tons of parks, museums, riverfront attractions, and foodie spots that make Cincinnati the perfect place to visit when you want an urban getaway with great people and a hospitable atmosphere.

12. Cleveland, OH

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Cleveland, OH
Image Credit: MusikAnimal – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

If you want to experience a city that has more to offer than what meets the eye, head to Cleveland, Ohio. Some people couldn't believe they were recommending it as one of their favorite stomping grounds for a weekend escape. There's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the various sports arenas, and downtown Cleveland, which offers an experience like no other.

Then, you can venture to neighborhoods like Tremont and Ohio City, which are buzzing with markets, nightclubs, parks, festivals, and more.

13. Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee Art Museum Milwaukee, WI
Image Credit: Dasparag – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

A lot of people have heard of Milwaukee, but not that many think of it as a destination where there's a ton to do and see. While the beer and brats alone are phenomenal, consider the boutiques and galleries that give it an artsy vibe that you may not have known about.

The Historic Third Ward, the Riverwalk, and Summerfest are diverse selections that celebrate art, music, and culture. Milwaukee's blend of historic roots and modern flair makes it an underrated Midwestern treasure.

14. Omaha, NE 

Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Omaha, NE
Image Credit: Collinulness – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Often categorized as having prairie surroundings and a calm scene to unwind, you can also find your fair share of adventure in Omaha, Nebraska. You can go hiking, skydiving, ziplining, kayaking, rock climbing, and so much more. The Old Market district's brick streets host tons of galleries and shops, while the Henry Doorly Zoo is a favorite amongst children and adults alike. There's also the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, delicious local cuisine, and a delightful music scene to explore.

15. Flagstaff, AZ

Lowell Observatory Flagstaff, AZ
Image Credit: Lowell Observatory.

Within close proximity to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Arizona, has a natural beauty that shines. With Ponderosa pines and San Francisco Peaks as a backdrop, Flagstaff gives you all the outdoor adventures your heart can handle. One of the best activities, however, is stargazing at the Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was discovered.

Don't forget to check out the many shops and diners along Route 66, the city's national monuments and museums, and the vibrant downtown district!

Source: (Reddit).