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Don’t Miss These 12 Underrated Summer Travel Ideas

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As the warm summer approaches, many travelers eagerly anticipate exploring popular vacation hotspots. Plenty of underrated summer travel ideas exist worldwide for those wishing to avoid tourist-laden crowds and discover hidden gems.

But, dotted across the United States, these lesser-known destinations boast everything from picturesque nature spots to rich cultural experiences. Steeped in fascinating history, with outdoor adventures and showcasing unique local flavors, these underrated destinations will inspire wanderlust and offer unforgettable experiences.

Offering a refreshing take on the typical summer vacation, these underrated travel gems are waiting to be uncovered by adventurous souls who don’t want to stray too far from home.

Hidden Art Destinations

1. Visit New York City’s Lesser-Known Museums

Front of Studio Museum, Harlem, New York
Here Now / Shutterstock

New York City is a treasure trove for great food, theatre, music, and art enthusiasts. Still, multiple hidden gems are waiting to be discovered beyond the iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA.

For instance, the Studio Museum in Harlem showcases contemporary African American art with thought-provoking exhibitions. At the same time, the New Museum in the Bowery neighborhood focuses on cutting-edge modern art you won’t find anywhere else.

In the heart of Brooklyn, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) consistently presents works reflecting diverse cultural perspectives.

Heading to the Bronx, the Bronx Museum of the Arts features a rich collection of contemporary works from diverse backgrounds, and in Queens, the SculptureCenter displays experimental and innovative sculptures by emerging and established artists.

See Related: Check Out Our New York Pass Review

2. Learn about Santa Fe’s Native American Art

Native American vendors at historic Palace of The Governors, Santa Fe
rawaccess / Shutterstock

Santa Fe, New Mexico, is known for its lively art scene, mainly focusing on Native American art. The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture offers an impressive collection of Native American artifacts, artwork, and informative exhibits on this fascinating culture’s history and contemporary life.

For collectors, the city’s many art galleries offer unique opportunities to acquire beautiful pieces. The Canyon Road Arts District, a winding road with over 100 galleries, is a haven for art lovers seeking Native American creations in New Mexico. Everything from carved kachinas and intricate pottery to modern paintings and sculptures can be found in this picturesque setting.

At the annual Santa Fe Indian Market, the largest Native American art event in the world, over 1,000 artists and craftspeople from more than 200 tribal affiliations exhibit their works. Visitors can interact with the artists and gain a deeper understanding of the rich cultural heritage that these works represent.

These hidden art destinations offer unique experiences to quench any art enthusiast’s thirst for discovery, enriching our appreciation for the art world’s diverse cultural background and history. And be sure to check out Santa Fe’s food scene, which draws from Spanish, Mexican, and Native American flavors.

See Related: Incredible Places to Travel Without a Passport

Nature Escapes

3. Go on a Tour of Oregon’s Waterfalls

Multnomah Falls, Oregon, one of the most underrated summer travel ideas
Gary / Adobe Stock

In Oregon‘s vast, verdant landscapes, visitors can admire the majestic splendor of numerous waterfalls cascading gracefully down craggy cliffs. One can truly feel humbled by Mother Nature while standing at the foot of these natural wonders.

A hidden gem within this charming Pacific Northwest state is Silver Falls State Park, where one can embark on the “Trail of Ten Falls” – a spectacular hike enveloping a series of no less than ten awe-inspiring waterfalls.

It’s also a place for adventure, with treetop courses available for the kids and adults to enjoy the finer things in life, such as this exclusive tour of the area with wine tasting!

4. Explore Georgia’s Mountains

Sunset in Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia
Marcus Jones / Adobe Stock

In the heart of Georgia‘s mountain range, immerse yourself in the tranquility of Amicalola Falls State Park, home to the tallest waterfall in the state and an undeniable haven for nature enthusiasts.

Embark on an unforgettable journey to the Appalachian Mountains of Georgia, where breathtaking vistas and lush forests beckon intrepid explorers. Hikers can traverse the picturesque Appalachian Trail, taking in the rugged beauty of peaks such as Brasstown Bald and Blood Mountain.

5. Spend a Weekend Hiking Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach

Walkway to Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach
Sydelle / Adobe Stock

Cannon Beach, Oregon’s rugged coastline, holds a stunning treasure for visitors to discover: the monumental Haystack Rock. This impressive geological formation, towering at 235 feet above sea level, serves as a sentinel to the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.

As the tide recedes, a thriving marine garden teeming with life is revealed at the base of the iconic landmark. The picturesque surroundings of Haystack Rock encapsulate the raw magnificence of the natural world, well worth a visit for those seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

See Related: Best Islands in the U.S. to Visit

Beach Retreats

6. Visit Garden of the Gods, Hawaii

Keahiakawelo (Garden Of The Gods) in Lanai, Hawaii
norinori303 / Adobe Stock

Away from the crowded beaches of Waikiki, the Garden of the Gods is a truly hidden gem in Hawaii, and I mean that in every sense of expression.

This geological wonder, known as Lanaihale, boasts a landscape of striking rock formations accompanied by scenic ocean views. This off-the-beaten-path destination offers visitors a chance to explore a different side of Hawaii, with its surreal, Mars-like terrain and captivating vistas that will change you.

See Related: Best Snorkeling Spots in Hawaii

7. Kayak the Apostle Islands, Wisconsin

Apostle Islands Lighthouse on Devils Island
lpaulson_90 / Adobe Stock

Nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin is an underrated treasure with sandy beaches and verdant landscapes. Comprising 21 picturesque islands and mainland parks, this haven offers recreational activities such as kayaking, sailing, and fishing. The pristine beaches are a great escape from the summer crowds, providing seclusion and serenity in the lap of nature.

See Related: Best Cabin Rentals on Lake Superior

8. Take in the Charm of Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Colorful Chatham Lighthouse on the shores of Cape Cod
Exploring and Living / Shutterstock

Cape Cod is an idyllic peninsula on Massachusetts‘ easternmost coast, dotted with quaint villages, historic lighthouses, and miles of sandy shores. Whether you prefer biking along the Cape Cod Rail Trail, indulging in a delightful seafood feast, or even going whale watching, this serene location allows for plenty of unforgettable experiences.

Its numerous dreamy beaches offer a coastal retreat for those seeking respite from the bustling crowds of more popular beach destinations.

See Related: Best Beaches in the U.S. to Visit

Adventurous Activities

9. Go Fishing in Finger Lakes, New York

Taughannock Falls Sunset In Full Fall Colors
PaulMassiePhoto / Adobe Stock

With its 11 glacial lakes, the Finger Lakes region offers a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, and other water activities. The area is known for its otherwordly scenery, world-class wineries and craft breweries, and picturesque waterfalls that Disney might have drawn himself.

Visitors seeking a serene summer experience or looking to master the great outdoors can spend their days fishing by the tranquil lakes, or, for the more adventurous, they can try their hand at kayaking to explore the lakes from a different perspective.

10. Explore the Sawtooth Range, Idaho

A snow-capped mountain along the Sawtooth Scenic Byway in Idaho
tristanbnz/ Adobe Stock

For those who prefer land-based activities, the charming towns of Boise or Stanley in Idaho offer challenging hiking trails surrounded by the untamed beauty of the Sawtooth Range.

The pristine alpine lakes and craggy peaks of the nearby Sawtooth National Recreation Area make it a perfect destination for hikers seeking solitude and amazing panoramas.

Popular trails include those around Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Lake, and Alpine Lake. As you traverse these trails, on foot or in the saddle, immerse yourself in the serene surroundings and maybe attempt birdwatching in this nature-rich region. Or sign yourself up for a tour of the area’s hot springs!

Do not miss the opportunity to create lasting memories in these captivating locales that offer the perfect blend of adventure, recreation, and relaxation. And don’t you dare forget your camera!

Food and Culture

11. Tour Boston’s Historic Neighborhoods

All Saints Way House, North End, Boston
eskystudio / Adobe Stock

Boston, a city rich in history and culture, offers a unique and incredible food scene that will surely please travelers. The city’s historic neighborhoods, such as Beacon Hill and the North End, provide opportunities for cultural immersion and gastronomic delights.

In Beacon Hill, travelers will find rows of charming red-brick buildings and elegant townhouses that feel like they belong in the south of England. Walking leisurely along quaint, narrow streets lined with antique shops and boutiques, they can savor the flavors of the diverse cuisine available. The blend of old and new establishments reflects the city’s rich historical roots and its growing, innovative dining scene.

The North End, Boston’s oldest neighborhood, is steeped in Italian tradition. Cobblestone streets lead visitors to authentic Italian eateries where they can indulge in homemade pasta, fresh seafood, and mouth-watering cannoli.

Exploring the numerous bakeries, wine shops, and specialty food stores, travelers are transported to a little slice of Italy in the city’s heart. Truly, touring these underrated travel destinations encapsulates the essence of Boston’s famous food and culture, which enamors so many.

See Related: Where to Stay in Boston: Best Areas & Neighborhoods

12. Go on a food crawl on Minneapolis’s Lake Street

Aerial View of Minneapolis Skyline
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Minnesota is highly regarded as a top winter destination, but the blazing summers and bounty of outdoor escapes also make the northern state a superb summer destination. To make the most of this, the state’s largest city, Minneapolis, features a massive cross-section of all that makes Minnesota great.

Being something of a cultural melting pot, Minneapolis is one of the food capitals of the Midwest. It has a lot of roots in its Scottish, Irish, Italian, German, Scandinavian, and French heritage, reflected in its more established restaurants.

But thanks to influxes of Hmong, Mexican, Somali, and Ethiopian immigrants over the years, the Minneapolis food scene is nothing short of sensational.

If you’re looking to widen your palate and explore the culinary world in a fun, eclectic city, there are few better places than Minneapolis – and few better places in Minneapolis than Lake Street.

This stretch seems unassuming, but Lake Street is crammed with top local eateries established by first-generation immigrants serving awesome and authentic eats. Find everything from fantastic pho to sizzling street tacos, and let your tastebuds do the touring.

Street Tacos from Lake Street, Minneapolis
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

You might also consider a Minneapolis pub crawl or touring some of the Twin Cities’ top watering holes.


What are some unique vacation ideas for summer?

For a distinctive summer vacation, consider exploring lesser-known destinations that offer a mix of relaxation and adventure. One option is Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where you can enjoy beautiful beaches and outdoor activities. Alternatively, consider visiting Santa Catalina Island in California, known for its laid-back atmosphere and fun nightlife.

What off-season summer destinations are available in the USA?

Off-season summer destinations in the United States provide the opportunity for quieter getaways while still enjoying pleasant weather. Hilton Head, South Carolina, is a hidden gem that boasts a variety of daytime activities and nighttime opportunities. Coronado Beach in California is another option with stunning views and relatively fewer crowds.

What are some lesser-known vacation spots in the US for summer?

The United States is home to a diverse array of lesser-known vacation spots that offer unique experiences for travelers. Ashland, Oregon an excellent vacation spot known for its scenic beauty and thriving arts scene. Other options include Marfa, Texas, for its contemporary art installations and desert landscapes, and Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, for its pristine wilderness and opportunities for reconnecting with nature.

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