We’ve already been to New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles and Miami. Where to next? Let me introduce you to the most underrated cities across the U.S. These top spots are pioneers in everything from urban development and job creation to culture and cuisine. Head there quickly before everyone else finds out.
Providence, Rhode Island
Once gritty and impoverished, Providence, just south of Boston, is now a creative hub for arts and culture. Take bustling Westminster Street, full of design shops, craft stores and galleries, as well as the nationally-recognized food scene.
San Antonio, TX
Were it not for the sheer size of Texas (which lays claim to not one but three top-tier cities including Dallas, Houston, and Austin), San Antonio might have landed itself a top spot on first-time visitors’ to-do lists. The notion isn’t so far-fetched when you consider the city’s trifecta of history, culture, and food. For stellar barbecue, shops, and people-watching, The Pearl District is a pedestrian-friendly pocket home to the River Walk, a waterway lined with old-world taverns and riverfront restaurants that’s become known as “The American Venice.”
When in Georgia, skip Atlanta (oooh, bold statement). “A community of creative entrepreneurs are giving Georgia college town Athens (University of Georgia) a big jolt of energy,” writes Molly Elizalde. “There’s a growing number of chefs, musicians, and artists who had lived and worked in cities from San Francisco to Madrid. Through the years, they have created a new sense of sophistication in this town of just over 100,000 people, without altering its appealingly slow pace.
It is no secret that the automation revolution has dominated the country’s rust belt. Cities like Detroit and Cleveland relied on heavy industry plants for jobs and those cities have never recovered from the loss. Some cities in the rust belt have tried to adapt. One city, in particular, that has been successful in changing their culture is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Pittsburgh was once totally reliant on the steel industry. Instead of constantly mourning over these lost jobs, city officials have focused on the tourism industry. This is cool for the people that live there and also, for anyone that visits. Pittsburgh is very close to home, and I love this city.
Detroit is a story of revival: An industrial powerhouse in the 1950s, it took a downturn in the ’70s but has reinvented itself in the past ten years as a hipster hot spot replete with industry; remarkably beautiful, affordable real estate; and and cutting-edge culture. In fact, Detroit’s theaters make up the second-largest theater district in the U.S. after New York.
Chicago is like Jay Z before his public friendship with Kanye West in that everyone knew how dope he was, but respected his privacy and low-key attitude. Major hip-hop artists would constantly be getting into Twitter fights, like the way we do over when arguing over New York versus Los Angeles.
Chicago is the same. In the comments of city-oriented lists, loyal Midwesterners always throw in a kind reminde: “What about Chicago?” And, it’s true. We often forget about Chicago because it’s not full of drama. But the city that spawned Kanye West also gave us electrified Chicago blues, deep dish pizza (New York Pizza is better…..Sorry Chicago), sports teams that put Los Angeles’ athletic insouciance to shame, and the breeding ground for President Obama. Many people compare Chicago to New York, because it has those big city metropolitan vibes, but the differences in core principles are vast.
Minneapolis has quietly but confidently stepped up its style game with design-forward hotels and pioneering global restaurants. In the North Loop, a logging warehouse has been transformed into the Hewing Hotel, which takes “lodge-luxe” to a new level with its original pine timber beams, vibrant local art and photography, and rooftop Social Club. From here, it’s only a six-minute walk to The Bachelor Farmer, a cozy-chic Scandinavian restaurant that’s earned accolades for its Nordic-influenced toasts and the city’s first-ever rooftop garden. For great made-in-Minneapolis souvenirs, swing by The Foundry Home Goods shop for handcrafted wares like wool blankets and porcelain dish sets.
This all-American seaport has been likened to a more affordable D.C. Sure, some industrial areas are still rough around the edges (We’ve all seen The Wire) but you’ll hardly notice what with all that’s going on in regards to culture and food. Its past life as an immigration portal means Baltimore has built a community that prizes diversity and creativity, best seen at prized institutions like the Baltimore Museum of Art, and others. Not to mention the micro-breweries, farm-to-table restaurants, and trendy cocktail dens that have taken hold of the dining scene in just the last few years.
Taking a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway tops our road trip bucket list, but it’s worth extending your journey with a detour to Asheville. There’s a lot to love about this North Carolina gem. The culinary scene–an intoxicating mix of serious Southern recipes and playful global influences—is one of the best in the south.
Albuquerque also has incredible ethnic diversity, Also It’s more than just meth labs and old people. Fetishizing Walter from Breaking Bad’s life is a Twitter trend, but the beautiful burnt umber backdrop of Albuquerque was once home to super religious Spanish explorers in the mid-1500s. The Old Town city center still boasts the San Felipe De Neri Church and a kind of organic culture around the gorgeous Rio Grande River. Although Albuquerque is considered a great place to retire, any artistic up-and-coming professional can utilize the 280 day average of sunny days complete with dry heat and incredibly low income and property taxes to create a colony of potential in their own cheaply priced adobe.
Know someone headed to Colorado? They’re probably bound for Denver—CO’s urban playground of art, culture, and food—or any one of its premiere ski towns (Aspen, Vail). But just north of the capital is a nature-lover’s paradise. Boulder’s location at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains means world-class hiking and skiing are literally at your doorstep.