International and domestic travelers know that the United States, as one of the largest and wealthiest nations, has many great cities for tourists. The top cities of New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles as well as big towns such as Boston, DC, Miami, and San Francisco receive many visitors. Tourists also flood major cities in the US like Atlanta, Orlando, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. However, the true charm of the United States can be found in the smaller American towns. Here is a list of some intriguing often-overlooked American towns that you should add to your travel bucket list. What follows is a quick review, the mention of a particularly noteworthy local hotel, the best time to visit, and other points of interest.
Maryland’s state capital often gets overlooked in the crowded beltway corridor of the Baltimore-Washington DC Metropolitan area. Yet, Annapolis is an old town as it was Early America’s first capital. Situated on Chesapeake Bay, North America’s largest estuary, the town is a nice blend Old America and contemporary America. Your first stop should be a tour of the U.S Naval Academy. It’s practically a requirement for visitors to the city! Be sure to catch a glimpse of the noonday formation of midshipmen on weekdays while classes are in session. For many, Annapolis seems like a living historical museum as it has more 18th-century brick buildings than any other city in America. A cool place to seek out for lodging are the Historic Inns of Annapolis. These are a nice collection of boutique hotels, steeped in history. They include iconic the Maryland Inn, Governor Calvert House, and Robert Johnson House. Some other points of interests in Annapolis are the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley memorial and the National Electronics Museum. The Alex Haley memorial, located at the head of the city’s harbor, commemorates the powerful story of the point of arrival of the acclaimed author’s African ancestor, Kunta Kinte. For technology and science buffs, the National Electronic Museum, located in nearby Linthicum, MD is only $5 for adults but offers a great deal of fascinating information about the tremendous impact electronics has made in our lives. There are galleries about radars, television, radio, cell phones, fiber optics, etc. Springtime is very moderate in this mid Atlantic city. So, this is a great time to visit the area.
Arizona’s second largest city is an amalgamation of native American motifs in a desert culture, Mexican American life, and the contemporary American feeling of freedom. This dry but lively Southwestern jewel boasts ancient archaeological areas such as Murray Springs, Signal Hill, Colossal Cave Mountain Park, and Dankworth Village. Seasoned traveler, Jennifer Hancock was pleasantly surprised by the great amenities found in Tucson. There are also great historic places that show Arizona’s early European history such as old Spanish towns and recreated gunfights at the OK Corral. Another big attraction is the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, often held in early February and the largest of its kind in the world. So, February is a great time to visit the city. It is actually a collection of associated shows featuring gems, jewelry, beads, and fossils on display throughout the city. A great place to stay is the Pasqua Yaqui Tribe-owned Casino Del Sol Resort, Spa and Conference Center. This 215-room high rise is one of the largest resorts in the Southwest. What better place to relax after a trek through deserts and remote caves than to kick back in a luxurious spa?
Kansas City, Missouri / Kansas City, Kansas
You guessed this. This article features the larger and more famous the Kansas City, Missouri (KC-MO) than its across its Missouri River neighbor, Kansas City, Kansas. (KC or K-CK). KCMO is associated with the more famous things with Kansas City such as the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals. Not to be outshone is the area’s famous barbeque and lively music scene, particularly the blues and jazz. In fact, KCMO houses the American Jazz Museum, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, as well as a host of other fine museums that give this city the name of the “Paris of the Plains.” Plus, Travel & Leisure recently named KCMO “America’s #1 Getaway.” Worlds of Fun is a hugely popular Midwest amusement park with over 235 acres of fun. As a point of interest, the nationally renowned Kansas City Zoo brings many American and foreign visitors. For a place to stay and to play, head straight to the Westin Crown Center, a luxury hotel anchored in the city’s premier business, shopping, and entertainment district, the Crown Center. Hallmark Cards owns the complex and has its headquarters there. The eclectic fun doesn’t stop there. Harley-Davison provides a popular tour to one of its factories located in the city. This sports crazy city is also known as the “College Basketball Capital of America” because it has hosted more college basketball games than any other city. Summer is the most popular time, with warm temperatures, numerous events, and professional sports. The Elms Hotel is also a great place to stay in the area, particularly in the late spring.
This centrally located New York state village located in town of Otsego is known for its museums, specifically the Farmers’ Museum, Fenimore Art Museum, and last and not least, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Over 300,000 baseball fanatics from around the world come to this temple dedicated to America’s pastime. Seasoned traveler and baseball lover Bryan Baez recommended this city. This year, it is celebrating its 75th anniversary. One underappreciated jewel in the city is the annual summer festival known as the Glimmerglass Festival. This event features both well known and little-known operas in a majestic background overlooking Otsego Lake. An ideal place to stay while in Cooperstown is the historic Otesaga Resort Hotel. Built and still owned by the prominent Clark family in 1909, this 135-room landmark sits elegantly on the southern shore of Otsego Lake, the famous “Glimmerglass” in many of James Fenimore Cooper’s novels whose father founded the city. Summer is the best time to check out the life in this Northern town.
Skagway, Alaska is a small but bustling town that conjures up images of the Klondike Gold Rush and the wild, frontier past of America’s great 49th state. Skagway is Alaska’s first incorporated city, earning that distinction in 1900, and is perfectly located in Southeast Alaska’s panhandle amidst huge snowcapped mountains, skyscraper-height trees, and unspoiled glacial lakes that provide a colorful backdrop for the area’s abundant wildlife. While Skagway’s official year-round population numbers less than 1,000, during the busy summer season, almost a million tourists visit Skagway’s port – mostly aboard cruise ships. Visitors will find the region to be a nature lover’s paradise. The picturesque Chilkoot Trail, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Skagway Historic District, and White Pass are points of interests that no one should miss. Don’t miss the infamous Red Onion Saloon, which was an upscale brothel established in the wild summer of 1898 and located in the heart of the downtown historic district. A brothel museum tour is offered at the Red Onion. The city was also the setting for parts of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, and Joe Haldeman’s Guardian. Other interesting sites in Skagway are the Visitors Center a.k.a. Arctic Brotherhood Hall and the Gold Rush Cemetery, where the outlaw Soapy Smith and his arch nemesis Frank Reid were laid to rest after their fatal gunfight on Skagway’s storied docks. When visiting Skagway, enjoy historic accommodations at The White House Inn, faithfully restored after a fire in the 1990s. Or get away from it all at the Chilkoot Trail Outpost in Dyea, and rest up before tackling the historic path of intrepid gold seekers on the Chilkoot Trail. According to writer, photographer, and Skagway resident, Andrew Cremata, although summertime is the most popular season to visit Skagway, the winter holds many delights for the weather-hardened traveler, including heli-skiing, ice fishing, and watching the sky burn bright with hypnotizing northern lights.
In the shadow of its nearby neighbor Dallas, this fun and progressive college town markets itself as “Dig the Little D”. Denton, Texas is known for its active music scene, the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo Show and the Denton Jazz Festival that packs in a crowd, bursting with over 300,000 attendees! Like much of Texas, the summers are hot and humid, so spring time is the best time to visit. Downtown Denton’s East Hickory Street is undergoing an amazing transformation that is sure to beautify the area. This will greatly add to the thriving historic Downtown Square. For such a small city, the county has a commuter rail system that well services the population. At the root of Denton’s energetic pulse is a vibrant youth culture with two major universities in the city, Texas Women’s University and the University of North Texas. With over 45,000 students, Denton has a continuous need for more arts, fresh entertainment, and popular sport outlets. So, there are museums, constant live shows, art collectives, many athletic complexes for any taste. One great point of interest is the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, Texas First Ladies Historic Costume Collection, Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) Collection, all at Texas Woman’s University. Founded in 1901, TWU has only been accepting men into all its programs since 1994. A great place to stay while in Denton is the Wildwood Inn. This boutique hotel resides on 4 secluded acres in the woods like an elegant French country estate. Keto Nord Hodges, another seasoned traveler, recommended Denton to be on this list.
St. Petersburg, FL
Surprise! I had to include a city in the Tampa Bay area, the city of St. Petersburg. This city is known for its beach culture, the Dali Museum, the Florida Holocaust Museum, and the home of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. Once perceived as a sleepy retirement community, it now has a thriving arts scene on its main Central Ave. It is also the birthplace of commercial aviation when aviator Tony Jannus took the first paying passenger from St. Pete to Tampa, 100 years ago on Jan., 1st 1914. Appropriately, the Florida Aviation Historical Society meets here. Other great attractions are the St Pete campus of the University of South Florida, which sits right on water. Also, the beautiful Sunken Gardens that pays tribute for Florida’s floral namesake is a must for nature lovers. The iconic Vinoy Renaissance Hotel is a great place to stay while vacation in this warm southern beach town. So, be sure to come during the winter.
Needless, to say, if you travel to America and only visit New York City, you are missing much of what makes the United States….truly American.