America enthusiast James Hetherington looks beyond New York and Los Angeles to discover five of the US’s most overlooked cities.
When people imagine the USA, they may envision the towering skyscrapers of New York, the luxurious homes of Hollywood or a sweep of exotic palm beaches above a pristine Floridian beach.
But there is much more to this vast nation than these better-known destinations. America offers some of the world’s most breathtaking natural scenery, a limitless array of culture and a surprisingly diverse variety of natural and man-made monuments.
Here we explore the top five most overlooked US cities, all of which emit a distinctive, vibrant charm that many oversees visitors, and indeed Americans, have yet to discover.
Greener than LA, more laid back than Manhattan, Portland’s temperate climate rewards it with a lush, vivid landscape that’s perfect for growing roses. Indeed, the city is colloquially known as Rose City and is also ranked as one of the most eco-friendly metropolises on the planet.
Portland’s beauty can be witnessed in many forms, from the architectural might of the Hawthorne Bridge above the Willamette River to the Portland Art Museum, a leading national institution with 42,000 prestigious art collections and a large Native American art centre.
> Discover more with Frommer’s Portable Portland travel guide
2. Cincinnati, Ohio
Many people are unaware that this bustling Ohio city hosts some of the best examples of Italianate architecture in the world. Over-the-Rhine, a cultural hub north of downtown, was once known as the ‘Paris of America’ and still features a number of impressive architectural sites, including the luxury Cincinnatian Hotel, the Music Hall and the Shillito Department store.
Cincinnati was also a major centre for German immigration during the late 19th century. The Over-the-Rhine district is included on the United States’ Register of Historic Places and rivals similar neighbourhoods in New York, Munich and Vienna.
> Explore Cincinnati with Rand McNally’s Greater Cincinnati street map
Extravagant properties, a sub-tropical climate and a host of flawlessly clean, golden sandy beaches make Charleston a prime yet relatively unspoiled holiday destination. The city hosts an important colonial past as well as a fast-growing tourism industry, chic hotels and award-winning restaurants and shopping venues.
AmercianStyle Magazine named Charleston one of America’s top 25 arts destinations; a statement exemplified by its high volume of museums, including the oldest in the US, Charleston Museum. The Powder Magazine, a gunpowder museum, opened in 1713, while the Exchange and Provost, a dungeon from 1767, once housed signers of the Declaration of Independence.
> Be inspired by Fodor’s Charleston In Focus travel guide
The state capital of California is often overlooked in comparison to the larger Californian cities. However, Sacramento is an important national cultural centre; the California State Railroad Museum is the largest railway museum in the US, while the Crocker Art Museum, one of the first art museums in the country, features a stunning new 129,791 sq ft addition.
The gorgeous California Delta, a large 1,000-mile waterway to the south of Sacramento, offers a taste of authentic California and is the perfect attraction for a hot summer’s day.
> Discover Sacramento with Rand McNally’s Sacramento street map
Dramatic mountainscapes could not provide a more perfect background to the thriving Utah state capital. The Family History Library, the largest genealogical information centre in the world and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a diverse and internationally renowned cultural venue, are just a couple of examples of Salt Lake City’s cultural highlights.
Many people flock to Salt Lake City to explore the awe-inspiring natural attractions that surround it. From the Big Cottonwood Canyon, a beautiful, lush wilderness, to the Great Salt Lake, a spectacular natural phenomenon with almost moon-like beauty, Salt Lake City is a superb destination from which to explore many of America’s greatest landscapes.
> Explore Salt Lake City with the Moon Spotlight travel guide
For more USA travel inspiration, browse our range of USA maps and travel guides.