There’s nothing wrong with going full tourist when you’re visiting a new state—you’d be blowing it if you didn’t make time for a trip to The Statue of Liberty or the Golden Gate.
But it’s also important to go off-guidebook and hit up some of the more overlooked treasures. To help you build out a robust itinerary for your next cross-country road trip, we polled friends, coworkers, and our good ol’ pal the Internet to cull together a list of the most underrated tourist destinations in all 50 states and Washington, DC. It’s entirely possible that you’ll disagree with our picks, so feel free to leave yours in the comments!
This small town near Flagstaff has the winning combo of majestic natural beauty (canyons, red rock formations, etc.) and a thriving downtown arts community filled with galleries, spas, and new age-y shops. And even if you’re not a church-goer, don’t miss the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which magnificently sits as if it were birthed from the top of a 1,000 foot rock face.
Sitting on the decidedly un-militaristic-sounding Pea Patch Island, this sprawling fort was originally used by the Union to hold captive Confederate prisoners of war, political prisoners, and federal convicts. It was built with enough barracks for up to 10,000, and even had its own 600-bed hospital. These days, you can take a ferry over and tour the grounds, and if you’re feeling particularly ambitious there’s an annual triathlon where entrants retrace the route taken by the 52 prisoners that escaped during the Civil War.
Take a break from the beach and hit up the Old Port section of this harbor city, home to a thriving arts community, amazing food, breweries, and, of course, a sh*t ton of lobster. Just a heads up, like a lot of other things in the state, it’s better in the warmer months.
The Durham Museum
Paying homage to the Western region of the US, Durham occupies the city’s former Union Station, which has been renovated to look like it did during the golden age of rail. Inside, the halls are filled with fully restored old train cars and locomotives, a massive collection of rare coins, antiques, and a bounty of modern Smithsonian-affiliated exhibits that regularly pass through.
International Peace Garden
Perched on the border between the US and Canada, this 3.5 square mile park was established back in the early ’30s as a symbol of the peaceful relationship between the two countries. It’s stocked with over 150,000 flowers, fountains, a peace chapel, and two twin 120-foot concrete towers. Plus, you can pass throughout the park freely, crossing the international boundary without going through customs.
On the shores of Lake Champlain, the 130 year-old, 3,800-acre Shelburne Farms is a well-preserved example of a so-called “ornamental farm,” a product of the gilded age. It was originally built by a Vanderbilt heiress, though it turned out to be less a working farm and more a venue for her to entertain—even once hosting President Taft. After decades of sitting nearly dormant, in the 1970s it was reborn as a non-profit dedicated to sustainability education with a quaint on-site inn and restaurant.