Sometimes you just want to get away… really get away. Away from the crowds, away from the tourists, into the unknown. Or, at the very least, into the lesser known. Here are some unique U.S. vacation destinations that may be off your radar, but shouldn’t be.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Arkansas may not be the first place you think about when planning a vacation, but hear us out. Eureka is just one of the many delightful small towns that dot the state, and it might be the best for a weekend getaway. Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, Eureka has charm to spare, with a historic downtown where you’ll want to wander through the locally-owned boutique shops and linger over a slice of the best damn pie you’ve ever had. Take a healing dip in the town’s hot springs, visit the nearby wildlife refuge, and go spelunking in the area’s underground caves.
San Luis Obispo, California
According to their Chamber of Commerce, San Luis Obispo is “The happiest city in America,” and who are we to argue? With touristy Santa Barbara to the south and even more touristy Big Sur to the north, San Luis Obispo hits the sweet spot for small town California life. If the great outdoors is your jam, hit one of the gorgeous beaches for a swim, climb the dormant volcanic hills of the Seven Sisters, or take a mountain bike for a ride. Dine at one of downtown’s many world-class restaurants, then cap off your night sipping wine on a patio as the sun sinks into the Pacific Ocean. Did we mention San Luis Obispo is home to a thriving wine and brewery scene?
Trade in your Tony Lama cowboy boots for lederhosen and head deep into the heart of Texas for a little taste of… Germany? Yes, Germany. Fredericksburg, Texas, was founded by German immigrants in the early 1800s. Now it’s an exciting town packed with old-world German architecture, authentic German food, beer, and wine. Stroll through the pavilions and gardens of the Marktplatz (Market Square) and take in a show at one of the many music venues — Fredericksburg has one of Texas’s most thriving music scenes this side of Austin. Plan your visit for the springtime and catch the surrounding lavender fields in full, riotous bloom.
Seattle and Portland may be the popular, tourist-filled emerald jewels of the Pacific Northwest, but Bend, Oregon, a high desert town east of Eugene, is a real gem. Blessed with a year-round mild climate, Bend is a summer playground for hiking, mountain biking, climbing, caving, and more. If winter sports are more your thing, you can ski down the slopes of the Mount Bachelor volcano or slow down and enjoy the heart-stopping scenery while cross country skiing or even snow-shoeing. In any season, visit the High Desert Museum or discover Lava River Cave, an enormous lava tube at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Prefer the great indoors? Bend has craft breweries to spare.
Many folks who visit New England choose one of the larger cities as their base of operations — Boston, in particular. Nestled in northern Connecticut and convenient to just about anywhere you’d like to visit, Simsbury is the place to slow down, recharge, and take in the beautiful scenery. The world’s largest sycamore trees spread their wide branches throughout this quaint, quintessentially New England town. There are challenging hiking trails, covered bridges, and a Performing Arts Center that’s the summer home to the Hartford Symphony. When autumn comes, all those sycamore trees put on a spectacular show, one of the very best in New England.
Anna Maria Island, Florida
Did you ever wish you could visit a vacation paradise with wide, soft sand beaches and warm, crystal-clear water, but without unending throngs of tourists crowding the beach or leaving the continental U.S.? Wish granted. Anna Maria Island is a barrier island hugging the gulf coast of Florida, nearby but a world away from Tampa. Life there is slower paced than Sarasota or Clearwater Beach. Wander down Historic Bridge Street with its small shops, boutiques, gift shops, and art galleries. Stop for a bite of fresh seafood at one of the many local restaurants or visit a bistro for a cup or coffee and slice of pie. When you’re ready to get up close and personal with nature, climb into a kayak and explore the island’s mangrove forests. Note: Thankfully, Anna Maria Island sustained only minor damage during Hurricane Ian.
If you’re planning an off-the-beaten-path vacation, learn about why you should use a travel agent to get the most out of the experience.
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