So, you’re looking to take a trip nearby or may even be considering traveling to a distant state. Your first thoughts on where to go probably include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Washington, D.C., and all the exciting things big cities have to offer. But, if you’re only looking at these common tourist destinations, you’re missing out on some truly hidden gems that may be lesser known but offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Smaller, underrated cities off the beaten path are absolutely worth a trip, and we’ll prove it to you. Read on for five often overlooked American cities and find out how to feel like a local.
Get Hip in Eau Claire, Wisconsin
The much-anticipated Pablo Center at the Confluence in Eau Claire officially opened its doors to the public in the fall of 2018. The center’s impressive inaugural season lineup includes dance productions, family-friendly performances, literary and film events, and musical guests spanning multiple genres staged in the 1,200+ seat theater.
A new art and performance center isn’t the only thing this Wisconsin town has going for it. A unique art trail, culture, world-class cuisine, popular breweries, live music, and miles of hiking and biking trails make Eau Claire just as hip as cities like Austin or San Francisco.
While exploring this town, be sure to check out the galleries, shops, and classes at historic Banbury Place, an old Uniroyal factory in Eau Claire that closed some 25 years ago and was successfully transformed into an artists’ and entrepreneurs’ community.
Take in the sights with the Downtown Eau Claire Sculpture Tour, a free exhibit of sculptures placed throughout town that features the work of both local and national artists. The kids especially will love the nationally recognized Chippewa Valley Museum, open year-round, with its award-winning exhibits and beautifully preserved historic structures on the grounds.
Book your stay in Eau Claire at the newly renovated Lismore Hotel, a DoubleTree hotel by Hilton. Located in the heart of downtown, this hotel and convention center is an easy walk from the Children’s Museum, Phoenix Park, the farmer’s market, countless restaurants, and breweries.
While you probably won’t find a direct flight to this hidden gem, all major airlines fly into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – just an hour and a half away from Eau Claire if you take I-94 E.
Discover Legends in Bristol, Tennessee
Welcome to the birthplace of country music and the exquisite outdoor playground that is northeastern Tennessee. In addition to being home to the famous Bristol Motor Speedway, this small community is rich with the history of Appalachian and country music lore and legend. Tour the Bristol Motor Speedway, the fourth largest sports venue in America, that’s known as the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” and has some of the steepest tracks in NASCAR.
Learn about the roots of country music at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, which explores how this genre of music began in 1927 with the historic Bristol Sessions. These sessions launched the careers of Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter family, and others. Learn more about these sessions and other historical facts about country music at this Smithsonian Institute-affiliated museum.
Straddle the Virginia-Tennessee state line that runs right through the center of Bristol for a totally Instagram-worthy photo before visiting the dozens of local breweries and restaurants in the area.
Stay at the newly reopened Bristol Hotel. Dating back to 1925, this repurposed 65-room boutique hotel honors its history by keeping the original stucco exterior, display windows, and main facade. With a rooftop bar, sweeping views of the Appalachian Mountains, and comfortable communal street-front dining, this is the perfect home base as you explore the spectacular mountains and state parks that are short drives from Bristol.
The best way to get to Bristol is to fly into the Tri-Cities Airport, which offers nonstop flights from Atlanta, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Memphis, Orlando, and Tampa Bay. From there, simply hop onto I-81 S and you’ll be there in less than 30 minutes.
Thrill Your Taste Buds in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Foodies and history buffs shouldn’t miss out on a trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is becoming known nationwide for its culinary scene. While the town still keeps its small Main Street and family farm personality, it’s become a hot spot for cultural attractions, shopping, fine dining, and nightlife.
The Huron River that weaves through Ann Arbor offers dozens of outdoor recreation opportunities like hiking and kayaking, while the Nichols Arboretum brings garden enthusiasts to the famous peony gardens. History buffs will love the area museums, including the Willow Run Bomber Plant, Yankee Air Museum, and University of Michigan Museum of Art.
And then there’s the food. As a college town with ever-hungry college students (Go Wolverines!), this town does not disappoint when it comes to local dives and chefs serving up the freshest local produce. We recommend the spicy chorizo Cuban Fritas at Frita Batidos or the melt-in-your-mouth truffle fries with rosemary aioli from the Jolly Pumpkin. No trip to Ann Arbor would be complete without stopping by the world-famous Zingerman’s Deli to try Lisa C’s Boisterous Brisket sandwich, which Oprah herself rated as an 11 on a scale of 1-5. Trust us, you’ll thank us later.
Use Room Key to book your stay at Sheraton Ann Arbor Hotel. Centrally located just minutes from shopping and dining on Main Street, the Michigan Theatre, the University of Michigan, and much more, the Sheraton Ann Arbor puts the city within your reach.
Ann Arbor is just a quick 30-minute drive away from the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. Luckily, there are 143 direct flights into and out of Detroit, so getting there should be a breeze no matter where you live.
Get Natural in Arcata, California
Home to Humbolt State University, Arcata, California, is part quirky boutique town and part nature lover’s paradise.
Across the northern stretch of Humboldt Bay from Eureka, Arcata’s beginnings go back to the Gold Rush when it was a shipping and supply center for the miners on the Trinity River. Today, Arcata offers handcrafted merchandise, a fun dining and festival scene, and an impressive collection of historic Victorian homes.
The Arcata Plaza is the true heart of this progressive city. The 1857 Jacoby’s Storehouse and the 1915 Hotel Arcata are worth exploring, as is the 1914 Minor Theatre, which some claim is the oldest theater in the U.S. built specifically for showing films.
The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary’s 307 acres has fresh and saltwater marshes, tidal sloughs, 5 miles of walking and biking paths, and an Interpretive Center. Bird watching enthusiasts can spy more than 300 bird species as the sanctuary has the largest bird population on the East Coast. Don’t miss a chance to hike or bike the 575-acre Arcata Community Forest and Redwood Park with majestic redwood trees, located within city limits.
Get a great rate at Comfort Inn Arcata-Humboldt Area in Arcata with Room Key. This hotel is conveniently located near Humboldt State University, Arcata Community Forest, Mad River Beach, and the Arcata Marsh.
Arcata sits right on the California coastline and is best reached via the California Redwood Coast – Humboldt County Airport in McKinleyville. United Airlines offers a direct flight to Arcata from the San Francisco International Airport.
Find Adventure and Creativity in Saranac Lake, New York
Located in the heart of the Adirondacks, Saranac Lake has a creative and adventurous energy that comes from the music, art, water sports, and stunning views of mountains that surround the community.
Outdoor adventurers will find no shortage of thrilling activities. The Saranac River provides a fun paddling route to nearby lakes, and those wanting a real challenge can tackle the Saranac Lake “6ers,” a series of peaks that range from moderate to difficult.
If you’re more of a downtown visitor, the distinct urban vibe of Saranac Lake and its shops, galleries, and restaurants will keep you busy. The vibrant arts scene is filled with free concerts, gallery shows, and public art. The farmers market, which is open every Saturday, complements the downtown offerings of great food, rich coffee, and interesting shops.
Room Key partners with the historic and reimagined Hotel Saranac, Curio Collection by Hilton. An iconic landmark in the Saranac Lake village, the hotel was recently renovated to maintain its historic charm and thoughtful architecture, including the Great Hall, inspired by a 14th-century Italian palace. Be sure to take advantage of the complimentary shuttle and cruiser bicycles to get around.
Saranac Lake is located in the middle of the Adirondack Park, but it’s an easy drive from surrounding major cities such as Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Burlington, Boston, and New York City. If you want to fly, the Adirondack Regional Airport is a 10-minute drive from Saranac Lake and is served by three daily trips from the Boston Logan International Airport via Cape Air.
When you’re ready to book your trip to one of these hidden gems, we can help you find hotels in the area. Research all your options in one place before choosing the perfect hotel to fit your needs. Visit roomkey.com today to make a booking decision you’ll feel good about.