Family vacations might include trips to big cities like Los Angeles, New York and Miami (to name a few). Although not as popular, smaller cities throughout the United States are just as remarkable, magical and memorable. Below are five underrated cities in the United States worth discovering and exploring.
1. Albuquerque, New Mexico
The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico is home to the world’s largest hot air balloon festival where hundreds of balloons float in the sky each October. Adventurous travelers can mountain bike through the Sandia Mountains, hike among dormant volcanoes, or go horseback riding along the river. Individuals seeking more calming activities can stroll through the cultural center of the city and explore the shops, galleries and restaurants of authentic Old Town.
Before leaving the city, visitors are encouraged to check out the Unser Racing Museum and discover the history of racing through guided tours, racing simulators and historic memorabilia. Other popular activities in Albuquerque include visits to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center or any of the other 18 museums throughout the city. The “Land of Enchantment” is ready to welcome all visitors from different parts of the globe.
Photo courtesy | Kayla Sawyer
2. Boise, Idaho
Home to more than the famous Idaho Potatoes, Boise is reputed for combining small town charm with big city glamour. Visitors can discover the city’s history by touring the Basque Museum and Cultural Center or driving down Warm Springs Avenue, where the buildings date back to the 1800s. Another notable site worth experiencing is the Idaho Penitentiary, which housed some of the most desperate criminals in American history.
Visitors can be entertained in the evening at comedy shows held at Liquid and live music showcases hosted at the Knitting Factory Concert House. Whether tourists want to escape into nature at the beautiful Idaho Botanical Garden or travel back in time at the Egyptian Theater, they will not be left disappointed in Boise, Idaho.
Photo courtesy | Gary O.Grimm
3. Buffalo, New York
Oftentimes overshadowed by the popularity of New York City, the city of Buffalo located on the shores of Lake Erie has its own charm worth experiencing. One of the most frequented places in Buffalo is Larkin Square, where Food Truck Tuesdays are packed with guests enjoying tasty delights from different food trucks. Canalside offers scenic waterfront views and plenty of free activities open to visitors of all ages.
Guests can also explore cultural gems in Buffalo like the Shea’s Performing Arts Center, the Albright Knox Art Gallery, the works of architect Frank Lloyd Wright or any of the other 50 art galleries in the city. Travelers can also admire the beauty of nature at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, a Victorian style garden design by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Whether you are in town for Dyngus Day celebration featuring polka music and lots of Polish food or passing through on the way to New York City, Buffalo is filled with excitement and entertainment.
Photo courtesy | Tim Gerland
4. Charlotte, North Carolina
The family-friendly city of Charlotte, North Carolina offers activities for people interested in the arts, dining, shopping, sports, or nature. With six theaters under its management, the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte is a popular venue for plays, musicals and concerts. The Taste of Charlotte food festival in June gives visitors an opportunity to experience the local cuisine and enjoy an array of activities accompanied by live music.
Sports fans can tour the BB&T Ballpark, the Hendrick Motorsports Complex, and the Bank of America Stadium. Visitors can also delve into our country’s history at Carolinas Aviation Museum or the President James K. Polk Historic Site. After a day full of exploration, visitors must stop by the highly recommended Amelie’s French Bakery, slowly taking over the charming city through its macaroons and salted caramel brownies.
Photo courtesy | James Willamor
5. Grand Rapids, Michigan
Some of the most frequented sites are related to Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States, because Grand Rapids was his hometown. One of the main attractions is the Presidential Museum, featuring a collection of approximately 20,000 artifacts from the life and career of Ford and housing a model of the former president’s Oval Office. Other popular museums in the historic city include the Children’s Museum with hands-on exhibits, the Public Museum offering a refresher on the history of Michigan, and the Art Museum displaying prints, paintings, and photographs from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Additional must see sites are the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, an indoor and outdoor park that can be visited all year round, and the John Ball Zoo, known for its 300-foot, 4-story Zipline. As one of the first cities to install public art with install public art with “La Grande Vitesse” by Alexander Calder, Grand Rapids offers an abundance of history to its visitors.
Photo courtesy | Jack Amick