The US is one of my favorite countries to visit, but some of the best destinations also happen to be the busiest.
While New York City and the Grand Canyon have their own magic, the good news is several hidden vacation spots in the US have just as much charm and wonder, without all the crowds.
Here are the ones you should most definitely add to your bucket list!
My Top 25 Hidden Vacation Spots in the US
While most people already have Denver or Aspen on their travel bucket lists, do yourself a favor and add the small LaPlata Mountains town of Mancos. This historic destination will make you feel like you’ve landed back in the Old West and is brimming with community spirit and hospitality.
It’s considered the gateway to Mesa Verde National Park, so it’s a great destination if you’re looking for somewhere to base yourself as you explore the wilderness, per Colorado.com. However, there are also things to do in town, from sampling goods at the farmers’ market to strolling through the historic streets and art galleries.
Straddling the shore of Mobile Bay in Baldwin County, Alabama, Fairhope is everything you imagine when you picture a small Southern town. There’s beautiful scenery to absorb and overall tranquil energy, making this one of the great vacation spots in the US.
First and foremost, Fairhope is considered a resort community for rest and rejuvenation, but there are plenty of activities and sights to keep you busy.
The town is known for its quaint shops where you can purchase local arts, crafts, and furniture, and there’s also the Fairhope Museum of History to check out.
Despite being a small town, there are also several eateries to enjoy in Fairhope, from McSharry’s Irish Pub to Gambino’s Italian Grill, and of course, you can spend a lazy afternoon sipping beer with friends at the Fairhope Brewing Company,
Famous for its association with the Alamogordo Bombing Range, where the 1945 Trinity Test that trialed the first atomic bomb was held, Alamogordo is one of the most unique vacation ideas. It’s located in Otero County and makes for a great vacation spot due its prime location just 15 minutes from White Sands National Park.
The New Mexico park is an unmissable US destination, and Alamogordo is the closest town to base yourself in to explore the park. It’s the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, spreading over 275 square miles of desert, and is renowned for its other-worldly scenes.
Surrounded by peaks of white sand, the park features walking trails, lakes, driving routes, and a visitor center, and is also a fantastic destination for camping.
Suggested Reading: The Most Famous American Landmarks Everyone Should Visit
Oregon is known for its stunning coastal views, and one of the best places to experience this (without the crowds!) is Florence.
Florence boasts a population of sea lions and is also a great spot to view seabirds and whales on their migration. For those who love the outdoors, it’s home to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and the Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park.
The town is dotted with charming bed and breakfasts, inns, and waterfront restaurants to make your stay feel all the more special.
Spanning across the Arkansas-Oklahoma border, the Ouachita Mountains are a forested mountain range that unusually runs east to west. Thought to have been formed 300 million years ago, they’re a living piece of history and provide sublime views of fog-covered rolling hills and rocky terrain.
There are camping and glamping opportunities in the Ouachitas, but you can also stay in Hot Springs and Mena (Polk County). And you’ll find vacation cabin rentals available if you’d prefer a rugged mountain experience that offers a few more creature comforts than camping!
This is the perfect destination if you’re looking for fun vacation spots, as there are plenty of things to do. You can spend your days in the mountains walking and hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and boating.
Mendocino is far from the most famous destination in California, but it’s one of the most underrated. The coastal area boasts spectacular views of the ocean and historic architecture that almost channels a New England town, so is actually a pretty unique Californian destination to add to your bucket list.
If you feel the most at home in the great outdoors, you can’t get better than Mendocino, as the top activities in the area all center around the beautiful natural environment.
There are endless walking trails and natural reserves in the area, but you can also soak up some local history at Point Arena Lighthouse, or be the ultimate tourist and visit the remarkable Drive-Thru Tree Park. You’ll also find a selection of wineries, trendy cafes, and inns to stay in.
Nestled in the North Dakota Badlands, Medora is a beautiful historic town that also happens to be the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Graced by the Missouri River, the park is home to majestic wildlife, including elk and bison, rugged panoramas, and a cabin where Theodore Roosevelt himself once lived.
While you’ll probably be spending most of your time in this national treasure of a park, there’s still much more to keep you busy in Medora. Many of the local attractions are related to the town’s rich cowboy heritage, perhaps none more than the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.
There’s also a heritage center, a golf course, and if you’d like a more interactive cowboy experience, the Medora Riding Stables.
Going to the state of New York doesn’t have to end in a trip to the Big Apple. The state is brimming with hidden gems to visit, including the Finger Lakes Region. The area comprises of 11 long, skinny lakes and one Great Lake.
People visit Finger Lakes from all over the country to absorb the pristine views of weathered hills and gushing waterfalls. It’s an open-air playground with endless experiences to be had for people from all walks of life.
In terms of outdoor recreation, you can try everything from walking and hiking biking, fishing, and golfing, to skiing and snow sports in the winter.
There are also museums, casinos, amusement parks, and water parks to explore, making the area a good choice for groups and families traveling together.
The Apostle Islands may be slightly more trouble to get to than other travel destinations in the US, but it’s worth it for the unique geology and historic buildings, not to mention the phenomenal coastal views. There are 21 islands in total, and you’ll find them off the Bayfield Peninsula in Lake Superior.
Shuttles and water taxis run between the islands and the mainland, but you can also take your own boat or kayak out to the islands, or go with an outfitter. You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodation, as the islands are equipped with cabins and hotels, and most of them have camping facilities.
Most experts agree that kayaking is the best way to tour the islands, and will allow you to get up close to the sea caves and rocky edges. But if that’s not your thing, you can take a cruise out to the islands to see the best sights.
While beautiful, Oahu is one of the busiest travel destinations in Hawaii. If you’d like to enjoy experiencing some Hawaiian magic but don’t want to contend with crowds, head to the Ka’ū District on the island of Hawai’i. Remote and filled with untouched beauty, the district is where you’ll find a decent portion of the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
Many of the local attractions relate to the volcanoes, including the Steam Vents and the Sulphur Banks. But mostly, this is just a place of total serenity, where the land remains unspoiled by humans. If you like beaches and stunning national parks with dramatic volcanoes and craters, this is the place to visit.
There’s more to Massachusetts than just Boston. And while it may be more famous than other destinations on this list, Stockbridge is still a town that gets overlooked far more often than it should.
The area is home to attractions like the Norman Rockwell Museum, the home and studio of artist Daniel Chester French, and Naumkeag Museum, so you could call it a history buff’s playground. If you do prefer the outdoors, you’ll also find the tranquil Berkshire Botanical Garden and nearby Monument Mountain Reservation Hiking Area.
12. Eureka, Montana
Montana is a state that everyone should visit at least once in their life. Abundant in wildlife and picturesque rural scenery, it’s a piece of America where many areas look the same as they did hundreds of years ago.
Here, you’ll get some of the best experiences that Montana has to offer, from weekend rodeos to quiet beaches. Interestingly, Eureka is also a must-visit if you’re a fan of Christmas, as it’s considered the Christmas Tree Capitol of the world.
There are walking trails, charming eateries, and a Main Street that looks like it was taken out of a Disney movie. Eureka also happens to be within close distance to Glacier National Park if you’d like to visit on a day trip, and great fishing opportunities are waiting in the Kootenai River (via Tobacco River Ranch).
Maysville is definitely worth visiting, if not for its charming buildings, then for its prime location on the banks of the Ohio River. Cincinnati, Ohio, and Lexington are all just an hour away.
One of the biggest attractions in Maysville is the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, but you should also check out the Washington Opera House and the Old Pogue Distillery. If you’re a fan of architecture, the Saint Patrick Church has stained-glass windows and majestic statues that are simply stunning.
Also, be sure to head to the historic Lucas Cinemas to catch a flick and then pop into one of the local eats for some delicious American fare.
Situated to the south of the mainland of Rhode Island, Block Island remains a hidden gem for the time being, but that’s quickly changing.
Travelers are catching on to the phenomenal ocean views and white-sand beaches, and the island is attracting more and more tourists. Enjoy the serenity while you can!
The natural sights tend to be the biggest drawing card for Block Island, as some of the beaches and nature trails are so beautiful that they’ll transport you to another world, but it’s also a great vacation spot thanks to the town’s shopping and dining outlets.
Take your pick of outdoor activities to enjoy, from horseback riding to surfing, and then immerse yourself in the rich culture of the island through a selection of art galleries and theaters.
A storybook New England village that’s as sweet as it sounds, Sugar Hill boasts fabulous views over the White Mountain National Forest. The perfect location for a quiet getaway, it’s home to old-world farms, stables, shops, and cafes that will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
Sugar Hill is definitely a good location for those who enjoy country life, but it also boasts a selection of museums, including the Sugar Hill Historical Museum and the Besaw Iron Furnace Interpretive Center. There are also some cool gastropubs to visit, like the Littleton Freehouse Taproom & Eatery.
16. Peru, Vermont
No, not that Peru. Previously known as “Bromley,” Peru received a name change to attract people to buy land in the hope that they would associate it with the prosperity of South America.
However, if you don’t happen to be visiting in winter, there are also other activities to enjoy. Nearby, there’s the Mad Tom Orchard, the Pastime Pinball video arcade, North Meadow Farm, and Taylor Farm, which offer up fun for the whole family.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to leave US soil to experience authentic Spanish culture. Florida’s St. Augustine is the country’s oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in the continental US. It’s renowned for its colonial Spanish architecture and is one of the most unique vacations in the US.
If you are in town for the striking architecture, make sure to check out the marble Bridge of Lions that crosses the Intra-costal Waterway between Anastasia Island and downtown.
For those traveling with kids (or kids at heart), there’s the original Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum, which has 19 galleries and 300 exhibitions of weird and wacky displays. When you’re on a grown-ups-only vacation, head to the St. Augustine Distillery to sample vodka, rum, bourbon, and gin.
Founded in 1893, Arizona’s Goldfield Ghost Town is a window into the past. Today, it’s a relic of a wild past.
A walk down Main Street will make you feel like you’ve been whisked 100 years back in time. After you’ve explored the shops and buildings, head to the Mammoth Gold Mine to pan for gold, watch an Old West gunfight, and ride the only narrow gauge train in Arizona.
Camping facilities are available in Goldfield (and dogs are welcome!). If camping isn’t your thing, there are several hotels in nearby Apache Junction.
19. Ogden, Utah
If you’re looking for a winter destination that mostly flies under the radar, Ogden offers a gateway to a selection of ski resorts but isn’t nearly as well-known as other ski destinations in the US. Lying to the north of Salt Lake City, Ogden is a short distance from Powder Mountain, Snowbasin, and Nordic Valley.
While Ogden is a wonderful winter location, there’s lots to do right through the year. Check out the George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park, where you can witness life-size models of prehistoric creatures. To change up the pace, visit the serene Ogden Botanical Garden or stroll up the Waterfall Canyon Trail.
If you’re interested in learning about the city’s cowboy history, head to the Ogden Union Station on historic 25th Street, which chronicles the local history of cowboys, cars, and trains. The rest of 25th Street is the heart of shopping and dining in Ogden.
Situated on the south coast of Alaska, Kodiak Island is affectionately nicknamed “The Emerald Isle.” It attracts nature enthusiasts from all over the world thanks to its untouched natural landscape.
There are several communities on the island, the largest being the city of Kodiak. Along with people, you might encounter some brown bears during your visit, as the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge is home to 3,500 of them. Along with wildlife watching, you can enjoy fishing, camping, kayaking, and hiking.
You can fly into Kodiak from Anchorage, or you can take the ferry there via the Alaska Marine Highway.
The gateway to the San Juan Islands, Bellingham is a bustling destination less than 25 miles from the Canadian border. If you’re a hiking fan, there are plenty of opportunities to hit the trail, including Sumas and Lookout Mountains—and the area is also great for mountain biking.
Formerly the capital of the Virginia Colony, Williamsburg was a key player in the American Revolution and pays homage to its rich history with a thriving Colonial Williamsburg district. Walk amongst actors in period costumes and experience a taste of life in the 17th century.
Williamsburg is a history-lover’s dream, offering attractions like the Governor’s Palace and the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center. Immerse yourself in an array of art galleries and open-air museums and witness American history played out in front of your eyes.
With a name like this, is it any surprise that Mystic should be on your travel bucket list? The Connecticut seaside town is a charming hub of community festivals and markets, all while offering the quintessential East Coast sea views.
Foodies will love dining at the historic pubs and restaurants in the downtown area, while those who are looking for a more fast-paced getaway can explore the Mystic Aquarium, the Mystic Museum of Art, and the Mystic Seaport Museum.
If you love the outdoors, head to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, a natural history museum with both indoor and outdoor exhibits, plus its population of native wildlife to view.
Seaside Heights might have received worldwide attention after hosting MTV’s “Jersey Shore” cast, but Asbury Park is the underrated jewel of New Jersey’s central coast.
With a renovated beachfront boardwalk that serves as a dining, shopping, and entertainment hub, Asbury Park is a premium destination where you’ll find live music venues, arcades, and of course, a sandy shoreline.
Nestled on Minnesota’s Lake Superior, Duluth is a Midwestern gem that many travelers still don’t know about. It’s home to a thriving food scene where you can enjoy all the local favorites, from cheese curds to chicken pot pie, as well as a variety of local breweries tucked away in the city’s charming suburbs.
Duluth’s claim to fame is boasting the world’s biggest inland harbor, but it also has much more to offer. Be sure to check out the Great Lakes Aquarium, the famous Aerial Lift Bridge, and of course, the Glensheen Mansion Museum.