It’s easy to get lost in a tourist trap. And oftentimes, I find myself feeling underwhelmed by certain vacations. Much of what I see is over-rated and comes with a “seen and be seen” attitude, which is wholly unappealing. Or breaks my budget.
Here is my list of seven cities you MUST visit in the U.S.:
Don’t believe what people may tell you about the rain in Oregon. The state might have some harsh climatic and seasonal changes, but sunny days do exist. Most of the locals have adjusted, and as a visitor to Portland you shouldn’t let a little mist dissuade you from a flurry of outdoor activities. There is an omnipresent wine and microbrew scene here to take in, as well as plentiful options to hike, camp and kayak. And when it does rain, wear a raincoat rather than using an umbrella… and continue on.
Photo Credit: dougtone
This growing Rust Belt metropolitan has been on a number of “best of” lists in recent years. With the sights of old architecture mixed with new in the skyline, an abundance of beautiful bridges and a city center that is surrounded by mountains and rivers, Pittsburgh is seemingly a “total package” for big city and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The cost of living here is cheap, so you will get a lot of bang for your buck when visiting. Also, this SW Pennsylvanian city contains one of the largest cultural districts between Chicago and New York City.
Photo Credit: Julio Gonzalez1
Keeping with the Midwest hidden secrets, Cleveland has become something of a food-lover’s paradise. With celebrity Michael Symon at the helm of three (soon-to-be four) restaurants and encouraging city chefs to embrace the locavore movement, eating out has never tasted so good. Or been so inexpensive! While Symon only put Northeast Ohio on the map, there are many chefs here creating quite a stir in the food scene. Stick around for a few days to explore the West Side Market. Then, walk it all off in one of the city’s fantastic MetroParks or go explore the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Photo Credit: Visualist Images
Sort of a music mecca for indie fans, the entertainment industry of Austin rivals Nashville. The success and popularity of SXSW has certainly put this Texas town on the map and thousands flock here for its annual festival. While the draw is certainly live music, the city encompasses a great nightlife scene in general, including the infamous Esther’s Follies comedy club, which lends a corner to the best in people watching. Stay for the street parties and some good BBQ.
Photo Credit: lesamonster
There is a distinct bustling financial district downtown like many large cities, but Chicago is also home to an amazing and diverse array of neighborhoods. Visit the city for a healthy balance of shopping, sports, sightseeing, music and pizza. Oh, the pizza. Chicago-style is like none other – sloppy, cheesy, saucy and deep dish. Being on the lake, winters here are harsh, but in summer, you could easily mistake it for an oceanside beachfront. Its residents are incredibly active and certainly take advantage of their warm weather days.
This quaint east coast city, with a smaller-than-expected downtown, serves up some of the freshest seafood you will ever have in the states. History buffs take note: Boston is where a much of this country’s founding was rooted. And the cemeteries – with a varied collection of infamous Americans and interesting tombstones – can easily take a full day of exploring. Boston Common and the city’s Public Gardens are a must-see for an outdoor day of relaxation.
Photo Credit: philippe leroyer
Hurricane Katrina might have forced the relocation of many of its residents and the demise of several historic structures – even devastated much of the city itself – but New Orleans maintains its amazing culture and life, especially in the French Quarters. From food to fun to the Fat Tuesday parade, Mardi Gras is a must-do for any traveler’s bucket list.
I am a travel junkie – especially when a six-hour road trip can take me to several of these locations. What other cities would you add to the list of “must visit” in the United States and why?
Top Photo Credit: Alex Castellá
Please rate this article