Looking for an epic holiday away from the crowds? There are so many incredible hidden gems in the US, from secret mountain villages and white sand beaches to mystic ice caves. All of them deserve a spot on your USA bucket list. In this article, you’ll discover some of the best hidden vacation spots in the US from the east to the west.
Take a virtual journey through the most incredible offbeat hiking trails on the West Coast, the unique landscapes in the Midwest, and the unexplored islands on the East Coast. You’ll also get lots of useful insider tips to help you plan these getaways.
In this guide, you’ll find a variety of secret vacations including weeklong family trips, honeymoon getaways, and long weekend destinations. These secluded vacation spots in USA also offer all kinds of activities such as stargazing, food tasting, and dolphin-watching!
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🇺🇸 Underrated Vacation Spots USA: An Overview
Here are some highlights of the best unknown vacation spots in USA. These are just a few of the places in this guide, but they stand out for various reasons.
- 👨👨👦 One of the best hidden vacation gems for families: Broken Bow, Oklahoma
- 🏝 One of the most underrated places to visit in USA for beaches: Jekyll Island, Georgia
- 🌌 One of the best USA hidden gems for stargazing: Big Bend National Park, Texas
- ⛲️ One of the best hidden places to travel in US for European vibes: Solvang, California
- 🧘🏻♀️ One of the least crowded vacation spots in USA for meditation: Sedona, Arizona
- 💦 One of the best quiet vacation spots for waterfalls: Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
- 🗿 One of the best hidden gems in the United States for history: Frederick, Maryland
💎 The Best Hidden Vacation Spots in the US
🏝 Best Secret Vacation Spots in the US: West
From hidden waterfalls in Oregon to the secret islands of California, the West Coast is filled with stunning secret getaways. In this section, you’ll find the most unique travel destinations in USA for volcanoes, stargazing, yoga, and European vibes.
37. Stanley, Idaho
Explored by Megan of Megan & Aram
🚗 How to get there: 2.5 hours by car from Boise, ID
☀️ Best time to visit: Autumn for max solitude and fall foliage
🏡 A tiny town with lots to offer: The beautiful town of Stanley in Idaho doesn’t get as much recognition as it should and remains one of the most underrated places to visit in the US. Spend a minimum of 2 days in this town and you’ll see that it has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a relaxing and rustic vacation or an active and adventurous one.
🌿 Explore nature: Stanley is the ideal base for exploring some of Idaho’s best natural spots. Sawtooth National Forest, Sawtooth Lake, and Stanley Lake are nearby and you can experience some of Idaho’s best hiking in this nationally designated area. One of the most famous trails in the area is the Iron Creek Trail, which takes hikers to Sawtooth Lake.
💦 Take a warm dip: Stanley also makes the perfect base for soaking in some of the famous hot springs in Idaho, such as Boat Box Hot Springs and Sunbeam Hot Springs. For further relaxation, enjoy a relaxing vacation at the Mountain Village Resort, a place known for its delicious, Idaho-inspired meals and cozy accommodation.
🔥 Insider Tip: There are also a couple of notable museums in Stanley, such as the Stanley Museum, which discusses the history of the town.
36. San Luis Obispo, California
Explored by Daria of The Discovery Nut
🚗 How to get there: 1.5 hours by car from Santa Barbara and 2.5 hours by car from Big Sur
☀️ Best time to visit: April to November for warm weather
😃 The Happiest City in America: Located along the Central Coast of California, San Luis Obispo bears the nickname of “The Happiest City in America.” While this town offers great outdoor opportunities and rich culture, it is often overshadowed by the glamorous Santa Barbara located south of it and the touristy Big Sur that sits just north of it.
⛲️ A quiet cultural escape: Unlike other places around the Golden State that might feel overcrowded during the peak season, San Luis Obispo offers a more quiet atmosphere and authentic flair. Begin your trip by exploring the quaint downtown area and cultural landmarks such as Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, Bubblegum Alley, and Fremont Theater.
🌋 Climb a volcano: If you enjoy physical activities, spare about half a day for climbing one of the Seven Sisters, the dormant volcanic hills that surround San Luis Obispo. One of the most popular peaks is Bishop Peak, a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) moderate round-trip hike.
🔥 Insider Tip: There are tons of great day trips to take from San Luis Obispo, such as the town of Paso Robles (famous for its vineyards and green rolling hills) and Montaña de Oro, a postcard-perfect destination with gorgeous beaches and blooming flowers in the spring.
35. Sedona, Arizona — The Best Secret Destination in the US for Yoga & Meditation 🧘🏽
Explored by Valentina of Valentina’s Destinations
🚗 How to get there: 2 hours by car from Phoenix, AZ
☀️ Best time to visit: March to May for ideal hiking weather
🏜 A scenic getaway: Though Sedona is a small city, there’s no shortage of attractions and entertainment here, making it one of the best hidden vacation spots US. It’s also a wonderful place for active travelers who love the great outdoors. In fact, Sedona is famous for its gorgeous red rock landscapes, canyons, scenic vistas, and unique wildlife.
🌌 Hike & stargaze: In Sedona, you can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and jeep touring. The most legendary hikes here include Devil’s Bridge, Cathedral Rock, and Bell Rock. Sedona is also one of the few International Dark Sky Communities in the world. The best way to take advantage of this is to join the popular Nighttime UFO & Stargazing Tour (⭐️ 4.4/5).
🧘🏽 Relax & meditate: Since Sedona is considered a vortex site (a place of unique energy flow), it’s a legendary place for enlightenment and spirituality. There are plenty of opportunities to do yoga, meditation, and healing practices here. Stay at the Enchantment Resort (⭐️ 4.8/5) — the best spa in America — or at one of Sedona’s many famous resorts.
🔥 Insider Tip: Be sure to taste the local food and wine, which consist of Tex-Mex inspired dishes and prickly pear desserts that’ll have you drooling. Some of the best places to eat at are Elote Cafe and Che Ah Chi.
34. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Explored by Marcie of Hawaii Travel with Kids
🚗 How to get there: 45 mins by car from Hilo, HI and 2.5 hours by car from Kailua-Kona, HI
☀️ Best time to visit: In the spring for great weather and fewer crowds
🌋 The best place to see lava: While Oahu and Maui tend to be top choices for vacations to Hawaii, the Big Island is a less-touristy option with amazing hidden gems, such as the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This underrated UNESCO World Heritage Site is the best place to see lava in Hawaii. It’s also the home of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes.
🌿 Find the best trails for you: Your first stop should be the visitor center, where you can find out which special ranger programs are happening during your trip and which areas of the park are your best bet for seeing the lava flow. You can also get tips on which hiking trails might be a good fit for your family.
🚙 Take a scenic drive: One of the most popular things to do at the park is driving the Crater Rim. This driving route has tons of scenic lookouts, photo opportunities, attractions, and hiking trails. If you have time, you’ll want to spend a few minutes exploring the Thurston Lava Tube along the route. This is where lava passed through the mountain, creating a tunnel.
🔥 Insider Tip: You can visit this park as a Big Island day trip, but many people choose to spend the night so they have enough time to truly explore. While there are tons of cozy lodges inside and just outside the park, camping is also a popular option for outdoorsy people.
33. Solvang, California — The Best USA Hidden Gem Travel Destination for European Vibes ⛲️
Explored by Trijit of BudgetTravelBuff
🚗 How to get there: 40 mins by car from Santa Barbara & 2 hours by car from Los Angeles
☀️ Best time to visit: April and May for great weather, few tourists, and best hotel rates
⛲️ Experience Europe in California: If you want to get a European vibe in the US, look no further than Solvang, a tiny quaint city in Santa Barbara county. It is also known as the ‘Danish Capital of America’ where you can see gorgeous Danish-style architecture, beautiful wineries, and a number of Danish-inspired bakeries and restaurants.
🏠 Admire the architecture: Downtown Solvang is home to lots of unique architecture with a European ambiance, such as the Little Mermaid Fountain, the Round Tower, and the giant wooden windmills. There are also plenty of small restaurants and cute bakeries downtown. Be sure to try the Danish waffle and Florentine cookies from Mortenson’s Danish Bakery!
🎠 Enjoy some family fun: Another cool place to see in Solvang is Hans Christian Anderson Park, a must-visit if you’re visiting with kids. There, you’ll find a little playground, a climbing wall, and a music-making system that creates chimes just like in fairytales.
🔥 Insider Tip: A trip to Solvang would also be incomplete without visiting its remarkable wineries. Rusack Vineyards and Buttonwood Farm Winery are two of the best ones and you can taste some award-winning wines there.
32. Kanab, Utah
Explored by Andrea of BeaUTAHful World
🚗 How to get there: 3 hours by car from Las Vegas, NV
☀️ Best time to visit: April, May, September & October for the most comfortable weather
🏜 A scenic outdoor hub: For adventure lovers, the city of Kanab in Utah is definitely one of the best hidden paradises in the USA. Because it’s located just about as south as you can get in Utah, traveling to Kanab may feel like you’re headed to the middle of nowhere. However, the minute you arrive, you’ll find yourself at the center of an incredible outdoor hub.
📸 Hike to the best viewpoint: One of the best things to do in Kanab is to hike to The Wave (Coyote Buttes North), an incredibly breathtaking sandstone rock formation. Note that in order to access this gorgeous attraction, you’ll need to obtain an elusive permit through a lottery at the Bureau of Land Management Office in Kanab.
🥘 Enjoy food & culture: Kanab is one of the few places in Southern Utah with an actual foodie scene. This is probably a relief if all you’ve eaten while touring the rest of Southern Utah is Subway. Kanab is also known as “Little Hollywood” because many Western movies were filmed in this town, which may pique your interest if you’re into entertainment.
🔥 Insider Tip: Kanab is not far from Zion National Park and other popular spots, so if you’re on a road trip through the southwest, this city is the perfect place to set up your base camp. There are also several other beautiful hikes to do in Kanab, such as Coyote Buttes South, White Pocket, and the Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch.
31. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska
Explored by Agnes of The Van Escape
🚗 How to get there: 2 hours by car from Valdez, AK & 3.5 hours by car from Anchorage, AK
☀️ Best time to visit: May for mountaineering; July to September for glaciers
🌲 The largest national park: Wrangell–St. Elias National Park in Alaska is definitely one of the best hidden vacation spots in the US. At 13.2 million acres, it is the largest National Park in the country, but thanks to its remote location, it’s also one of the least crowded ones.
🗻 Explore the glaciers: This park has the nation’s largest glacial system, with glaciers covering 35% of the parklands. One of the most famous ones is Nabasena, the world’s longest valley glacier, stretching over 53 miles (85 km). You can visit the glaciers and even take a flightseeing tour to see them from above! The views are simply breathtaking.
🌿 Hit the trails: The are numerous hiking trails of varying levels of difficulty in this park. Some of the best ones are the Root Glacier & Stairway Icefall Trail and the Bonanza Mine Trail. At the center of the park, you’ll also find the Kennecott Mines, an abandoned boomtown that used to house one of the world’s richest copper reserves in the 20th century.
🔥 Insider Tip: The tourist season for Wrangell–St. Elias National Park is usually from June to mid-September. Spend at least 2-3 days here to enjoy this hidden gem to the fullest; the best places to stay overnight are in the charming town of McCarthy.
30. White Sands National Park, New Mexico — One of the Most Unique Travel Destinations USA
Explored by Kay of Enchanting Texas
🚗 How to get there: 1.5 hours by car from El Paso and 3.5 hours by car from Albuquerque
☀️ Best time to visit: March to May and September & October for the best weather
🗻 Gorgeous white sands: The stunning White Sands National Park in southeastern New Mexico is definitely one of the most underrated national parks in the country. Because not many people know about its unique natural wonders, you’ll pretty much never find it crowded — making it one of the most under the radar vacation spots in the US.
❄️ Explore the sand dunes: This national park is home to the largest gypsum deposits in the world, manifested by the sea of gypsum sand dunes spread all over the park, stretching as far as the eye can see. Because gypsum sand has a startling white color, these sand dunes look like an absolutely surreal and spectacular winter wonderland.
🏄🏻♀️ Play & learn: You can hike, sandboard, and slide down the sand dunes — it is great fun! You can also rent sand sleds at the Visitor Center. In addition, this national park is home to several interpretative nature trails, where you can learn all about the formation of the dunes and how the nearby flora and fauna have adapted to the environment.
🔥 Insider Tip: To make your experience here even more complete, be sure to drive the Dunes Drive to see more of the park. While White Sands doesn’t offer hotel accommodations or RV camping, you can find plenty of places to stay in the nearby town of Alamogordo.
29. North Bend, Washington
Explored by Agnes of The Van Escape
🚗 How to get there: 40 mins by car from Seattle, WA
☀️ Best time to visit: June to September for the best weather
🌳 A place for ultimate relaxation: North Bend is one of the most beautiful off the beaten path USA vacations. In fact, the Snoqualmie Valley area in North Bend offers many scenic views, rivers, and most of all — a wide variety of uncrowded hiking trails. This small town’s charm and serenity truly make it an amazing place for ultimate relaxation.
🌿 Enjoy a hike: While you should spend at least a weekend in North Bend, there are enough attractions and activities here to keep you busy for a whole week. One of the most scenic hiking trails here is the John Wayne Pioneer Trail winding through the valley. You can also do a more challenging hike up to Mount Si, a trail that takes you up 3,100 ft (944 m).
🍺 Grab a beer in town: While you can find some of the best and most varied hikes in the state in North Bend, there are also plenty of things to do inside the city as well. The local Train Museum offers rides on their refurbished dining cars, which is a fantastic experience. It’s also worth stopping at the Snoqualmie Falls Brewery for some beer or cider.
🔥 Insider Tip: There are plenty of awesome Twin Peaks locations to visit in this area if you’re a fan of the show. One of them is the Salish Lodge & Spa (⭐️ 9.0), which sits on top of the stunning Snoqualmie Falls. This lodge is also one of the best places to stay in the area!
28. Lone Pine, California
Explored by Dhara of Roadtripping California
🚗 How to get there: 3.5 hours by car from Los Angeles, CA
☀️ When to visit: March, April, May and October for warm (but not scorching hot) weather
🏞 A picturesque town: The little town of Lone Pine is one of the best secluded vacation spots in the US. Located at the southern end of the Eastern Sierra region, it offers tons of spectacular scenery and adventurous activities. You can visit at any time of year, although higher elevations may be covered in snow in the winter.
⛰ Explore the mountains: One of the top reasons to explore Lone Pine is to climb Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States. You can do it as a backpacking adventure or as a day hike depending on your skills. There are also many other epic hikes in the area; some of them being high altitude hikes in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
🏜 Admire the sand dunes: Lone Pine is situated at the entrance of the Death Valley, so it’s the perfect base from which to visit this desert national park and take in its many attractions, from sand dunes to salt flats and badlands to canyons. Also nearby is the photogenic Alabama Hills National Scenic Area, where you can see several dozen natural arches.
🔥 Insider Tip: To fully experience the sights and adventures around Lone Pine, plan to spend at least 3 days here — ideally even longer. Many visitors enjoy camping or arriving in an RV so that they can enjoy the wilderness in the early and late hours of the day.
27. La Conner, Washington
Explored by Nicole of Go Far Grow Close
🚗 How to get there: 1 hour by car from Seattle & 1.5 hours by car from Vancouver Airport
☀️ Best time to visit: March and April for daffodils and tulips
🐠 A charming fishing town: La Conner is a fishing town on the Skagit River in northwestern Washington. As one of the best hidden travel gems in the US, this town is filled with quaint hotels and arts and crafts stores. It also offers gorgeous views of the surrounding nature.
🧿 Visit quirky shops: One of the best things to do in La Conner is to go “antiquing”. There are dozens of antique shops both in the town center and a short drive into the countryside, and you can find some beautiful, funky, and crazy pieces of old-time furniture and memorabilia.
🌷 Wander the tulip fields: Every year, normally in April, Skagit Valley hosts the tulip festival. It is an absolutely beautiful event to see. The fields surrounding La Conner and beyond are filled with thousands of tulips in almost every color that you can possibly imagine. For a small entrance fee, you can walk the fields and purchase very inexpensive tulips.
🔥 Insider Tip: Don’t miss the scenic 21-mile (33 km) Chaukanut Drive either to or from La Conner. You’d be driving along the Pacific Ocean with absolutely gorgeous views of mountains, trees, and water. There are also some great seafood restaurants along this drive such as the Chuckanut Manor Restaurant and the Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive.
26. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Explored by Allison of California Crossroads
🚗 How to get there: 2 hours by car from San Francisco, CA
☀️ Best time to visit: August to October for the warmest weather
🌊 A fairytale seaside town: Carmel-by-the-Sea, often simply known as “Carmel”, is a quiet seaside town that looks straight out of a fairytale. As one of the most underrated places to visit in California, it is beloved by Bay Area locals but not as well known outside of the state.
🍷 Beach, walk & drink: Carmel is full of delicious restaurants, beautiful art galleries, and a gorgeous State Beach. Other great things to do in the area include walking down the Carmel Meadows Trail, visiting the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum, and enjoying local wines at some of the nearby wine bars.
🐳 Hike & meet sea creatures: Carmel is also very close to many incredible tourist attractions and hikes, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, 17-Mile Drive, Garrapata State Park, and Point Lobos State Park, which offers clear water beaches, sea lions, and tons of birds to watch.
🔥 Insider Tip: If deciding how long to stay, a weekend in Carmel is usually a good bet. Alternately, you could stop in Carmel for the night as you journey further down the Pacific Coast Highway or through nearby Big Sur as part of a larger California road trip.
25. Breckenridge + Frisco + Dillon, Colorado
Explored by Meg of Fox in the Forest
🚗 How to get there: 1.5 hours by car from Denver, CO
☀️ Best time to visit: Winter for skiing, fall for colorful foliage, and summer for wildflowers
🏞 Picturesque mountain towns: Nestled in the mighty Tenmile Range with a beautiful reservoir, the enchanting tri-town area of Breckenridge, Frisco, and Dillon make some of the most unique United States vacations. After a short drive into the mountains from Denver, you’ll find yourself in a magical world of soaring peaks and stunning scenery.
🚵🏼♀️ Hike and bike: Start with one of the best hikes in Breckenridge and surrounding areas, or go for a SUP in the Dillon Reservoir. Road bikers will be spoiled for trails. Bike over the famous Vail Pass, Hoosier Pass, or around the reservoir for a fun-filled day of cycling. Or, try your luck at hiking to the top of Quandary Peak, one of Colorado’s famous 14,000-foot peaks.
🏡 Explore the cute towns: After a long day of adventure, be sure to check out the downtown Frisco area. A far cry from most touristy mountain towns, this little slice of Main Street has everything from cute shops, delicious eats, and even a waterfront. Frisco and Dillon are excellent places to base yourself to explore even more of Colorado’s mountain beauty.
🔥 Insider Tip: Most people opt to spend a weekend in the Breckenridge region. Winters and summer can get crowded with local tourists, so for the best experience, visit during the week and avoid holiday weekends. You can easily be entertained with 4 to 5 full days in the area.
24. Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Explored by Allison of She Dreams of Alpine
🚗 How to get there: 4 hours by car from Salt Lake City & 5 hours by car from Las Vegas
☀️ Best time to visit: In September for fewer people and beautiful weather
⛰ A secluded outdoor adventure: Tucked away in the corner of eastern Nevada near the Utah border, Great Basin National Park offers acres of incredible landscapes to explore. Given that many people have never even heard of it, it’s one of the best unknown vacation spots in the United States in a ruggedly gorgeous setting.
🏜 Explore the caves: One of the highlights of Great Basin is the Lehman Caves, which were formed by water running through limestone. In order to visit the caves, you must make a reservation (for a small fee) to take a ranger-guided tour. It’s totally worth it to see the cool caverns full of stalactites and stalagmites.
🌿 Hit the trails: There are many great hikes in Great Basin, where you can trek across a variety of terrain. The trails include an easy hike to some alpine lakes as well as an adventure through ancient bristlecone pine trees to the foot of a glacier. You can even attempt the challenging hike to the summit of Wheeler Peak, the second-highest peak in Nevada.
🔥 Insider Tip: Plan to stay at one of the five developed campgrounds in the park, most of which are first-come/first serve. While visiting Great Basin in winter can be a wonderful experience, be aware that only one of the campgrounds is open year-round. You can find more accommodation options in the nearby town of Baker, Nevada.
23. Channel Islands National Park, California
Explored by Michelle of The Wandering Queen
🚗 How to get there: Take a ferry from Ventura, which is 1.5 hours by car from Los Angeles
☀️ Best time to visit: June to September for water activities
🏝 Stunning hidden islands: Channel Islands National Park is one of the most underrated travel destinations in the US. While it’s located pretty close to Los Angeles, it’s still the second least visited national park in California. In fact, you can explore these fantastic islands with almost no crowds all year long.
🐠 Snorkel & kayak: One of the most popular islands to explore is Santa Cruz Island. There are many activities to do there, including sea kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking. You can also hire a kayaking guide on the island to take you on an exciting sea cave tour. The best tour company for that is Santa Barbara Adventure Co, which also lets you rent snorkeling gear.
🏕 Hike & camp: If you enjoy hiking, some of the most popular trails are Potato Harbor and Smugglers Cove. Just make sure you have plenty of time to get back to the ferry! Alternatively, you can camp on the islands, but be sure to bring lightweight backpacking gear since you have to haul them onto the ferry and hike around a mile (1.6 km) to get to your campsite.
🔥 Insider Tip: Channel Islands National Park remains a well-kept secret because getting there can be a bit difficult. First, you have to drive to the village of Ventura. From there, take a ferry ride to the islands with Island Packers Cruises. There are no hotels on any of the islands, so you need to make sure you get back to the ferry on time and can stay overnight in Ventura.
22. Big Sky, Montana
Explored by Allison of Eternal Arrival
🚗 How to get there: 1 hour by car from Yellowstone National Park, WY and 3 hours by car from Billings, MT | ☀️ Best time to visit: Winter for skiing and summer for hiking
🏞 A scenic mountain village: Big Sky is a little-known mountain village and resort in Montana and definitely one of the best remote vacations in the US. Away from the crowds of Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky offers some truly incredible sceneries and plenty of outdoor adventures.
🌿 Explore the outdoors: Most people who visit Yellowstone opt to stay in Jackson, WY, which is beautiful but expensive. Big Sky is Montana’s answer to Jackson: great for hiking in the summer, incredible for skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and has easy access to both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
❄️ Whatever the season: Big Sky is worthy of a visit no matter the time of year. In the winter, you can hike to frozen waterfalls, enjoy the après ski scene, ski and snowboard down the pistes, or enjoy cozy cabin life. In the summer, you can hike alongside the beautiful Gallatin River or take a day trip to Yellowstone National Park, which is hard to access in the winter.
🔥 Insider Tip: If you’re visiting Big Sky in the winter and plan to ski or snowboard, stay for at least 5 days. If you’re visiting in the summer and plan to tour other nearby national parks like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier, make Big Sky your base for at least 3 days.
21. Whitefish, Montana
Explored by Jessica of Unearth The Voyage
🚗 How to get there: 30 minutes by car from Glacier National Park, MT
☀️ Best time to visit: September and early October for the most comfortable weather
🏞 A hidden scenic town: Although the popular Glacier National Park gets thousands of visitors every year, most people don’t know that just a short drive away lies one of the best unknown places to travel in the US. Whitefish is a charming town in Montana nestled in the mountains, and you can easily spend a whole week there without getting bored.
🥘 Enjoy the food scene: The Whitefish Farmers Market takes place every Tuesday from 5 pm to 7:30 pm. There, you’ll find live music, food trucks, drinks, and of course, lots of local produce and homemade goodies. Whitefish also has a ton of different delicious restaurants to choose from as well as local breweries to sip brews while admiring mountain views.
🚵🏼♀️ Explore outdoors: The Whitefish Mountain Resort is perfect for skiing in the winter and lots of fun activities in the summer, including mountain biking, zip-lining, and hiking. Make sure to take a ride up the gondola and grab a tasty drink while admiring the view from the top!
🔥 Insider Tip: If you love water activities, don’t miss kayaking and SUPing on Whitefish Lake or whitewater rafting on the Middle Fork Flathead River — one of the best rivers for whitewater rafting in the entire Northwestern US.
20. Silver Falls State Park, Oregon — One of the Best Hidden Paradises in USA for Waterfalls 💦
Explored by Matt of Wheatless Wanderlust
🚗 How to get there: 1 hour and 15 minutes by car from Portland, OR
☀️ Best time to visit: June to September for the best weather
🏞 Escape from city life: Oregon is known for its spectacular waterfalls, and there’s no better place to see them than at Silver Falls State Park, which makes for a perfect day trip from Portland. Just an hour south of Oregon’s biggest city, you’ll find an oasis of cascading waterfalls and lush greenery that is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
🌿 Explore the best trail: To see all ten waterfalls in the park, set out on the 7.8-mile (12.5 km) loop that is fittingly named Trail of Ten Falls. It’s a moderate hike, gaining 800 feet (243 m) of elevation with plenty of options for trimming the length. This hike is the crown jewel of Silver Falls State Park and the reason to make the journey from Portland.
💦 Get lost in waterfalls: To tackle the Trail of Ten Falls, start at the South Falls and make your way along the forested trail that follows Silver Creek. Wind your way through the forest and take a quick detour to Double Falls, which at 178 ft (54 m), is the tallest waterfall in the park. Once you make it to North Falls, loop back along the Rim Trail to finish the loop.
🔥 Insider Tip: If you want to make it an overnight adventure, the campground at Silver Falls State Park is in a gorgeous forested setting with spacious sites, nice bathrooms, and options for tent and RV camping. Your other option would be Salem, the capital of Oregon, which has a nice downtown area that will put you 30 minutes away from the park.
19. Redding, California
Explored by Chris of California Travel Media
🚗 How to get there: 3.5 hours by car from San Francisco, CA
☀️ When to visit: March, April, May & October for warm (but not unbearably hot) weather
🌳 A hidden town steeped in nature: Redding is one of the most unique places to travel in the US. This city in Northern California is home to two volcanos, six waterfalls, the largest man-made lake in the state, and some caverns. Unless you’re from California, you may have never even heard of Redding, making it one of the best hidden vacation spots in the US.
🌋 Explore the volcanoes: Redding is at the northern end of California’s large Central Valley, just south of Shasta Lake. It can be a great base for seeing the nearby Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lassen has a number of volcanos, including the majestic Mount Lassen. You can take a number of hikes there, including a trek along Kings Creek to a waterfall.
💦 Chase the waterfalls: There’s an easy one-day driving loop from Redding that will take you to five waterfalls, including McArthur-Burney Falls, which was called “the Eighth Wonder of the World” by Theodore Roosevelt. While it’s not the tallest of California’s waterfalls, it might just be the most beautiful one.
🔥 Insider Tip: An easy half-day trip from Redding will get you a tour of the beautiful Lake Shasta Caverns, which includes a boat trip on Shasta Lake. There are also plenty of other things to do in Redding, and the area definitely deserves at least a 3-day visit.
⛰ Best Hidden Vacation Spots in the US: Midwest
From the mystic ice caves in Wisconsin to the hidden islands of Michigan, here are the best hidden travel destinations in the US in the Midwest. Discover some of the best little known vacation spots in the US for hiking, watersports, skiing, and everything in between.
18. Apostle Islands Ice Caves, Wisconsin — One of the Best US Hidden Getaways in the Winter ❄️
Explored by Lindsey of Have Clothes, Will Travel
🚗 How to get there: 5 hours by car from Green Bay and 6 hours by car from Milwaukee
☀️ Best time to visit: From late January to late February to see the caves
🏞 Astonishing caves: The Apostle Islands Ice Caves in Bayfield are astonishing formations situated along Lake Superior. Formed by waves frozen on sandstone cliffs, these caves are typically only accessible from late January to late February, as Lake Superior needs to be frozen solid for visitors to safely walk to them. This is why they’re rarely visited, even by locals!
🌤 Check conditions before visiting: Keep in mind, though, that the lake doesn’t always freeze enough for the caves to be accessible. Unfortunately, strong winds can sometimes wreak havoc on the ice formations and make them disappear overnight. Be sure to check the conditions of the ice caves before planning your visit!
❄️ Enjoy winter activities: Bayfield also has many other outdoor activities in addition to the ice caves, such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing. Downtown Bayfield is home to tons of charming restaurants and shops, as well as some of the coolest Airbnbs in Wisconsin — you can find everything from gorgeous treehouses to yurts!
🔥 Insider Tip: To reach the caves, you’ll need to hike for at least 2 miles (3.2 km) roundtrip on the ice of Lake Superior. Be sure to dress warmly and to wear comfortable winter boots. It’s also important to dress in layers, as you’ll get warm from hiking to the caves and will likely want to shed a layer or two (even in the middle of a Wisconsin winter).
17. Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota
Explored by Lotte of Gezond Weekmenu
🚗 How to get there: 30 minutes by car from Rapid City, SD
☀️ Best time to visit: June to September for the best weather
🗿 History, parks & monuments: The Black Hills National Forest on the border of South Dakota and Wyoming is one of those underrated tourist destinations you probably haven’t heard of. However, there are no less than six stunning national parks, monuments, memorials, and historic sites in the Black Hills, all within a short drive of each other.
🚵🏼♀️ Explore the outdoors: One of the best places to see in Black Hills National Forest is Sheridan Lake, where you can enjoy lots of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and snowshoeing during winter. There are also plenty of things to do in and around the water, such as fishing, waterskiing, and boating.
🇺🇸 See the Founding Fathers: Though not off-the-beaten-path, Mount Rushmore is another must-visit during any trip to the Black Hills. Admire the carefully chiseled faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln and walk along the Avenue of Flags.
🔥 Insider Tips: Don’t miss the scenic drive on Needles Highway to witness some of the most spectacular sceneries in the Black Hills. Another very interesting site is the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, where you can learn about the Cold War, the development of nuclear weapons, and the people that worked and lived at the site.
16. Mackinac Island, Michigan
Explored by Paulina of Paulina On The Road
🚗 How to get there: 30 mins by ferry from St. Ignace, MI and Mackinaw City, MI, both of which are approximately 4.5 hours by car from Detroit and 3.5 hours by car from Lansing
☀️ Best time to visit: June to September for the best weather
🏝 One of the best islands in the US: Situated in Lake Huron, Mackinac Island is one of the most beautiful secret places in America. In fact, this destination makes for the perfect Midwest weekend getaway as it’s been honored as one of the “Best Islands in the US” in the 2018 Condé Nast Travel Readers’ Choice Awards.
🏞 Admire the views: Explore the island’s beautiful state park and its various limestone Arch Rock formations. You can also hike up to Fort Holmes, the highest point on Mackinac, and witness the incredible view of the island from above and the Great Lakes beyond.
💦 Explore from the water: Enjoy a phenomenal view of the limestone Sugar Loaf Rock from Point Lookout. This rock is surrounded by a beautiful scenery of green forests and blue waters. Other unmissable things to do on Mackinac Island include a myriad of boat tours, from kayaks to sailboats. You can also enjoy fishing on the Straits of Mackinac.
🔥 Insider Tip: Do not take bikes to the island as they’re prohibited and there’s also no direct way to get there by road. However, you can reach Mackinac Island by ferry and find enough things to do to fill 3-4 epic days of vacation.
15. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Explored by Nikki of She Saves She Travels
🚗 How to get there: 1 hour by car from Rapid City, SD
☀️ Best time to visit: April to June for wildflowers; September & October for great weather
🏜 Breathtaking scenery: Badlands National Park in South Dakota is one of the best hidden gem vacation spots in the US and a very underrated and unique destination in the Midwest. With jaw-dropping scenery and full of incredible adventures, this park is most often visited as part of a larger trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota, including seeing Mount Rushmore.
🚙 Hike & drive: The park’s jagged cliffs and unique rock formations are begging to be explored. Driving the Badlands Loop Road will allow you to see some highlights of the park, but to dive deeper into the scenery, hiking is a must. From simple boardwalk trails accessible to everyone to more challenging terrains, there’s a trail for every skill level inside this park.
🌿 Wander further: You can visit Badlands National Park as a full-day stop as part of a week-long national park trip that also includes Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. All of these spectacular parks make some of the most interesting vacations in the US.
🔥 Insider Tip: To fully experience Badlands National Park, two days is recommended. Combine your trip with a visit to Custer State Park in the Black Hills, Sylvan Lake, and Mount Rushmore to make a week-long trip, and stay in a lakeside cabin or in town in Rapid City.
🏜 Best Secret Attractions in the US: South
From the vineyards of Texas to the islands of Florida, here are the best secret holiday destinations in the US — in the South. In this section, you’ll discover lesser known travel destinations in the US for foodies, wildlife enthusiasts, art lovers, and more.
14. Texas Hill Country, Texas — One of the Best Unknown Places to Visit in USA for Wine 🍷
Explored by Kate of Lone Star Travel Guide
🚗 How to get there: 1 hour by car from both Austin, TX and San Antonio, TX
☀️ Best time to visit: Late March to mid-April for blossoms and best weather
🌸 An enchanting secret spot: Tucked in the center of Texas lies a place that gleams with sparkling rivers, beautiful waterfalls, hundreds of vineyards, and even a turquoise lake or two. This magical place — the Texas Hill Country — is one of the best hidden gems in the USA. While the cities that lie on its edges — Austin and San Antonio — see plenty of visitors, relatively few manage to hop in the car and discover the winding back roads.
🏡 Discover the best towns: Some of the best towns to visit in the Texas Hill Country include Fredericksburg (known for its German heritage and wineries), Wimberley (known for its artistic vibes and swimming holes), Burnet (known for its incredible fields of Texas bluebonnets each spring), Lockhart (known for its barbecue), and Spicewood (known for its waterfalls, swimming holes, and location on Lake Travis).
🌿 Explore the outdoors: Don’t miss Canyon Lake for swimming and boating, Guadalupe River State Park for tubing, Lost Maples State Natural Area for fall foliage, and Enchanted Rock for enjoying one of the best hikes in Texas. However, all of that barely scratches the surface: with hundreds of hidden corners to uncover, the Texas Hill Country is a place worth getting lost in.
🔥 Insider Tip: While the Texas Hill Country can be a year-round destination, the best time to visit is from late March to mid-April, when the legendary wildflowers are blooming and the intense summer heat is yet to set in.
13. Broken Bow, Oklahoma — One of the Best Hidden Gems to Visit in the US for Families 👨👨👦
Explored by Derek and Mike of Robe Trotting
🚗 How to get there: 3 hours by car from both Dallas, TX and Tulsa, OK
☀️ Best time to visit: May, June, and August through October for the best weather
🌳 Live the forest life: The charming small town of Broken Bow in Oklahoma is definitely one of the best hidden vacation spots in the USA. Nestled in the wilderness, it offers immense natural beauty thanks to its location by Broken Bow Lake. The best way to explore the area is by booking a cabin or Airbnb in Broken Bow to be surrounded by the forest and wildlife.
🏕 Hike & camp: Broken Bow has become a popular getaway for those looking to escape the city. It has also recently emerged as a glamping and camping hotspot, though outside of Oklahoma, not many people know of its existence. You can explore a wide range of outdoor activities in Broken Bow such as kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and fly fishing in the lakes.
👨👨👦 Enjoy family fun: If visiting with kids, check out the Wildlife Museum or BigFoot Speedway (a Go-Kart racing track). There’s also a geology center — the Beaver’s Bend Mining Company, where children can learn about the rocks, minerals, and mining history of the area.
🔥 Insider Tip: There’s even more fun for adults in Broken Bow: the area is home to several wineries and breweries for those looking for an offbeat wine trail or beer tasting destination. One of the local favorites is Girls Gone Wine on Route 259.
12. Big Bend National Park, Texas — One of the Best Secret Places in the US for Stargazing 🌌
Explored by Michelle of That Texas Couple
🚗 How to get there: 5 hours by car from El Paso, TX
☀️ Best time to visit: In the spring or fall to escape the summer heat
🏜 A remote gem: Big Bend National Park in Southwest Texas is definitely one of the best rare vacation spots in the US. Despite being well-known, it’s still one of the least visited national parks in the country due to its remote location. Don’t let that deter you though, as the park is home to the stunning Chisos Mountains, the Chihuahuan Desert, and the Rio Grande River.
🦅 Birdwatch & stargaze: Exploring Big Bend National Park is truly a treat as it is home to so many fabulous national wonders, including more bird species than any other U.S. national park. Visitors to Big Bend can hike the 800,000 acres of desert and mountain terrain or kayak in the river. Big Bend is also a certified Dark Sky Park, making it great for stargazing!
🏡 Explore the small towns: Once you make the drive into Big Bend, you can find lodging in several of the small towns surrounding the park or choose to camp inside the park. Plan to spend 3-5 nights in this area, which will give you an ample amount of time to explore not only the park itself but also its surroundings, including the Texas ghost town of Terlingua.
🔥 Insider Tip: The climate in this area can be harsh. The summer heat can be extremely hot, and the winter can get extremely cold, especially at night. Be sure to pack appropriately and always have an ample supply of water available before you set out to explore!
11. Jekyll Island, Georgia — One of the Best Hidden Gems in USA for Beaches 🏖
Explored by Disha of Disha Discovers
🚗 How to get there: 1.5 hours by car from Savannah, GA and 1 hour 15 minutes by car from Jacksonville, FL | ☀️ Best time to visit: In the fall for the most pleasant weather
🏝 A tranquil island: Jekyll Island is one of the most unique vacations East Coast that truly has it all. It was purchased in 1886 by a group of wealthy families as their private escape, and then again by the State of Georgia in 1947. This island offers the perfect combination of serenity and adventure. Visitors will feel like they have the island to themselves and leave feeling relaxed.
🏖 Relax at the beach: Jekyll Island is home to 10 miles of white sand beaches, and they’re great for shelling, especially St. Andrews Beach and Driftwood Beach. These beaches are also undeveloped, providing a much more tranquil experience than Miami Beach or Myrtle Beach.
🐢 Meet turtles: If you love animals, visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the state’s only sea turtle education and rehabilitation facility. Dolphin and horseback riding tours are available on the island, too. You can also enjoy the thrilling rides of the Summer Waves Water Park.
🔥 Insider Tip: Dining options on the island are absolutely fantastic. Visitors can find fresh seafood and Southern-style food in many great restaurants, such as Zachry’s Riverhouse and The Wharf.
10. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Explored by Christina of Live A Wilder Life
🚗 How to get there: 2 hours by car from Washington, DC
☀️ Best time to visit: June to September for the best weather
🌿 A dream getaway: For anyone looking to reconnect with nature, Shenandoah National Park is a dream getaway. With over 500 miles of hiking trails and the Blue Ridge Mountains as your backdrop, Shenandoah is one of the best East Coast national parks. While it attracts a fair amount of visitors every year, its sheer size makes it an easy place to get away from people.
💦 Chase the waterfalls: Hike the 6-mile (9.6 km) loop to see Dark Hollow Falls and Rose River Falls. Since Dark Hollow Falls is closer, it’s a popular waterfall hike that gets a good amount of foot traffic. If you want to drop some of the crowds, be sure to continue on to Rose River Falls. Don’t forget to bring a bathing suit to wade in the small pools beneath the falls!
🏔 Hit the trails: Hike the epic 9.2-mile (14.8 km) Old Rag Mountain Trail. Be prepared to scramble, climb, and crawl through boulders. The hard work will be well worth it for the 360° view at the top of Shenandoah Valley. If this strenuous hike is a bit much, the leisurely 1-mile walk to Blackrock Summit is an excellent alternative with just as beautiful views of the valley.
🔥 Insider Tip: A 3-hour drive along the historic Skyline Drive is a must-do. With scenic overlooks, you could spend an entire day stopping for photos and short hikes along the way. The best time to do this drive is in the fall, when the trees are awash in vivid autumn hues.
9. Amelia Island, Florida — One of the Best Hidden Gem Vacation Spots on East Coast 🌟
Explored by Nichola of Family Hotel Expert
🚗 How to get there: 2 hours by car from Orlando, FL
☀️ Best time to visit: In the spring and fall for pleasant weather and fewer tourists
🏝 A scenic retreat: Despite being so close to the fun tourist mecca of Orlando, Amelia Island in Florida is a world apart. This beautiful island was named after Princess Amelia and is one of the best kept secret vacation spots in the US for relaxation and outdoor pursuits.
🌿 Explore outdoors: There are plenty of outdoor pursuits to enjoy on Amelia Island, from golf to kayaking. This island is also filled with beaches — a good 13 miles (20.9 km) of sandy stretches to walk on and enjoy! In addition, there are 1,400 acres of parkland in the Fort Clinch State Park ideal for long walks or a cycle through.
🗼 Enjoy history & culture: Florida is blessed with balmy sunshine in the colder months but if it does take a turn, then head to the state’s oldest lighthouse here on the island, built in 1838. While there are lots of great restaurants on Amelia Island, you can also visit the weekly farmers market in the historic downtown area to pick up local food and cook up a storm.
🔥 Insider Tip: Some of the best family resorts in Florida can be found on Amelia Island, like the Omni Amelia Island Resort (⭐️ 8.2). Staying in one of these hotels will allow you to truly relax and take in the beautiful surroundings of this appealing place.
8. Chattanooga, Tennessee — One of the Cheapest Underrated Places to Travel in USA 💰
Explored by Alanna of Periodic Adventures
🚗 How to get there: 2 hours by car from both Nashville, TN and Atlanta, GA
☀️ Best time to visit: From September to November for great weather and stunning foliage
💰 An affordable getaway: The city of Chattanooga in Tennessee is one of the best hidden vacation spots in the USA for outdoor-lovers, foodies, beer enthusiasts, and history buffs. It’s best enjoyed as a weekend getaway and it’s also a very budget-friendly destination. In fact, there are many fun and inexpensive things to do in Chattanooga.
🥘 Eat & drink: Taste-test a beer flight from incredible local craft breweries, such as Chattanooga Brewing Co, Oddstory Brewing Co, and Wanderlinger Brewing Co. There’s also no shortage of yummy food around town. In the Bluff View Art District, you’ll find a cute coffee shop, a bakery, and even a pasta shop where you can try locally handmade pasta.
🗿 Explore history: Nature-lovers and history buffs alike will enjoy Lookout Mountain Battlefield and the Chattanooga National Military Park, two important areas of the Civil War. Chattanooga was known as the “Gateway to the Deep South” so it’s no doubt that you can feel the history that took place here.
🔥 Insider Tip: Don’t miss all the incredible outdoor activities to do in this city. Since the Tennessee River runs through Chattanooga, there are plenty of water activities to explore as well as hiking, hang gliding, zip-lining, and more on Lookout Mountain!
7. Eastern Shore, Virginia
Explored by Megan of Virginia Travel Tips
🚗 How to get there: 40 minutes by car from Virginia Beach, VA
☀️ Best time to visit: May to September for the best weather
🏞 A diverse shore: Rich with unique landscapes, the Eastern Shore of Virginia is definitely one of the most underrated vacation spots in the USA. This 70-mile stretch of land is home to merely 45,000 people and has a very different ecosystem compared to the rest of Virginia.
🐴 Catch ponies & rockets: Chincoteague is one of the best towns to visit on the Eastern Shore. Once there, take a boat cruise through the salt marshes to check out the wild ponies and birds that call the area home. Alternatively, you can even catch a rocket launch at Wallops Flight Facility, a NASA launchpad and flight center located on the island next door!
🌳 Enjoy beaches & parks: Gorgeous Cape Charles is another town on the Eastern Shore worthy of visiting as it’s home to iconic beaches, parks, and delicious seafood. Spend a minimum of 2 days on the Eastern Shore and stay in either Cape Charles or Chincoteague (or Onancock). You’ll find many seaside cottages in all these locations.
🔥 Insider Tip: No trip to the Eastern Shore would be complete without a stop at the Assateague Lighthouse — one of the most famous lighthouses in Virginia.
6. Bald Head Island, North Carolina
Explored by Ally of Ally Travels
🚗 How to get there: 3 hours and 15 minutes by car from Raleigh, NC
☀️ Best time to visit: Summer for the beach and fall for the best hotel deals
🏖 A perfect beach vacation: A short ferry ride across North Carolina’s Cape Fear, Bald Head Island is the perfect destination for a family beach vacation. This island is made up of 12,000 acres, 10,000 of which are home to nature preserves, local shops, charming neighborhoods, and untouched beaches. It is truly one of the best hidden destinations in the US.
⛳ Explore lighthouses & entertainment: Popular spots to explore on the island include its many beaches, spa facilities, and tennis courts. You’ll also find a championship golf course as well as Old Baldy, a historic lighthouse. Built in 1817, it is the state’s oldest standing lighthouse. Be prepared to climb a lot of steps to reach the top.
🥘 Indulge in local cuisine: To taste some exquisite local food, book a table at one of the marina’s many outdoor restaurants for a magical summer night out under the stars. Delphina Coastal Cuisine is the best restaurant to indulge in fresh seafood while enjoying the splashing of the Atlantic nearby.
🔥 Insider Tip: There are no cars allowed on the island. Instead, there are golf carts and plenty of bikes available. Stay in the main part of town if you don’t want to rent a full-time golf cart.
5. Morgantown, West Virginia
Explored by Stella of Around the World in 24 Hours
🚗 How to get there: 1.5 hours by car or 3 hours by bus from Pittsburgh, PA
☀️ Best time to visit: Fall for fun events and live performances
🎨 An artsy college town: West Virginia isn’t the first state people think of when imagining a dream vacation, but that’s exactly why it’s one of the best hidden gems in America. Morgantown is an artsy college town in West Virginia with an up-and-coming food scene and a gorgeous setting on the Monongahela River. It’s perfect for a long weekend getaway.
🍂 Admire fall foliage: Enjoy beautiful autumn leaves while taking a walk around West Virginia University’s 91-acre Core Arboretum. If you have a car, drive out to Cheat Lake, a stunning man-made lake that also displays stunning fall foliage. If the weather is pleasant, it’s a perfect spot for swimming, fishing, or even tubing.
🥘 Taste local food: Morgantown is an excellent destination for foodies. The Morgantown Farmers Market is open on Saturdays, and it’s a great spot to try local produce. Craft beer fans will love Mountain State Brewing Co, which offers West Virginia themed beers like Almost Heaven Amber Ale. For more upscale dining, try craft cocktails and tapas at Tin 202.
🔥 Insider Tip: Fall is the best time to visit Morgantown. West Virginia University is there, and its school year is in full swing at this time, so there will be fun events in town for local college students and travelers alike, like live performances at the historic Metropolitan Theatre.
4. Matlacha & Pine Island, Florida — The Best Hidden Places to Visit in the US for Artsy Vibes 🎨
Explored by Lori of Travlinmad
🚗 How to get there: 1 hour by car from Fort Myers, FL
☀️ Best time to visit: April and May for the best beach weather and to avoid hurricanes
🏝 Quiet barrier islands: The coast of Southwest Florida is full of salty barrier islands that still retain the rugged landscape and local vibe of Old Florida. Artsy Pine and Matlacha islands are two such places where you can hike, paddle the Calusa Blueway, grab a fish taco lunch, and even be back in nearby Fort Myers for dinner. That’s assuming you ever want to leave.
🎨 Take in the artsy vibes: Colorful Matlacha is the first island you’ll see as you drive in from the mainland. With just one road in and out, it’s a magnet for kayakers, outdoor enthusiasts, anglers, and art lovers who love strolling fun galleries filled with local arts and crafts.
⛵️ Explore from the waters: Keep driving and the road leads you to Pine Island, a remote place that’s surprisingly accessible to some of the best fishing, boating, and shelling in the world. Sanibel Island, North Captiva, and Boca Grande are all short boat rides away. Bokeelia at the northern tip of Pine Island is a fun stop for happy hour and photo ops.
🔥 Insider Tip: If you’re looking to spend the night, Tarpon Lodge offers the best waterfront hotels on Pine Island. Enjoy dinner on the veranda and take in a fiery sunset right from your table. Just across the street, pick up the Calusa Heritage Trail and hike through some of Pine Island’s most natural settings.
🏙 Off the Beaten Path Vacations USA: Northeast
From the stunning forests of Pennsylvania to the farms in the New York countryside, here are the most unique vacation ideas in the US in the Northeast. Here, you’ll discover some of the best secret places in USA for history buffs, waterfall chasers, and antique lovers.
3. Hudson Valley, New York
Explored by James of Travel Collecting
🚗 How to get there: 2-2.5 hours by car from New York City, NY
☀️ Best time to visit: In the summer for the best weather and in the fall for fewer tourists
🌳 From farms to parks: Hudson Valley in New York is often overshadowed by the glittering city to its south and other more famous national parks, but it is truly one of the best hidden gems on East Coast. The area is filled with farms, woods, and parks that are easy to visit.
🍎 Pick fresh fruits: Many of the farms in the area are open for U-pick fruit, and depending on the season, you can pick (and eat) your fill of fresh peaches, apples, and pears. Some farms, like Westwind Orchard in Accord and Stone Ridge Orchards, even serve fresh woodfire pizza and home-brewed cider in fields next to the apple trees!
🧿 Tour the mansions & antique stores: Hudson Valley was also the summer playground of wealthy New Yorkers in the Gilded Age, and several huge historic mansions there offer house tours and open the trails on their grounds to the public. Hudson also has dozens of antique stores in town, and there are plenty of other bargains scattered around the valley.
🔥 Insider Tip: Some of the best places to hike in the Hudson Valley are Black Creek Preserve Trail, Minnewaska State Park (park at the upper parking lot for easy access to the picturesque lake), and Mohonk Preserve.
2. Frederick, Maryland — One of the Most Unique Vacations USA for History Buffs 🗿
Explored by Constance of A Well-Read Wanderer
🚗 How to get there: 40 minutes by car from Baltimore, MD and 1 hour by car from Washington, DC | ☀️ Best time to visit: May, June, and September for the best weather
🏡 A vibrant secret town: Frederick is a lovely little secret town in Maryland that has something to offer every traveler. The historic downtown is a destination in itself, lined with adorable novelty shops, antique stores, and delicious, locally-owned restaurants. It is truly one of the most underrated US vacation spots.
🗿 Immerse in history: Frederick is part of the Civil War trail, so there are lots of historical sites to see in town, including the Monocacy National Battlefield. During the Civil War, Frederick served as a hospital site for many of the major battles, so be sure to visit the unique National Museum of Civil War Medicine right downtown.
🍺 Grab a drink: There are lots of bars and breweries in Frederick. Don’t miss Cellar Door, Bushwallers (keep an eye out for karaoke night!), and Olde Towne Tavern. Beer lovers will also want to check out Milkhouse Brewery. Wine lovers can follow the Frederick Wine Trail, which will take them across beautiful landscapes while visiting several wineries in the area.
🔥 Insider Tip: Check out live music at the Frederick Coffee Co, then grab a treat across the street at Frederick Fudge & Ice Cream Co. After you’ve filled up on shopping and eating, take a walk along the beautiful Carroll Creek, gazing at the gorgeous lily pads, following it all the way to Baker Park, where you’ll find live music performances on summer evenings.
1. Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania
Explored by Maria of Maptrekking
🚗 How to get there: 2 hours by car from Pittsburgh, PA
☀️ Best time to visit: May to September for the best weather
🌳 Escape the crowds: Slow traveling in the Allegheny National Forest is a great way to escape the crowds for some relaxation. This stunning forest is filled with waterfalls, lakes, reservoirs, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks. Most visitors are locals, even in the summer. Plus, because the forest is massive, you’ll very easily get many places entirely to yourself.
💦 Chase waterfalls: On the eastern side of Allegheny National Forest, you’ll find Hector Falls and Bent Run Waterfall, which are especially nice after heavy rain or frozen in the winter. You can also hike the beautiful Morrison Trail and visit Kinzua Bridge State Park.
🌲 Get lost in the forests: On the western side, stop by the stunning Tionesta Dam and the small town of Tionesta, which offers camping and kayaking. Don’t miss the Hearts Content Recreation Area either; it’s a fascinating ‘old-growth forest’ home to 400-year-old timber!
🔥 Insider Tip: Stay at least a week to fully enjoy Allegheny National Forest. While camping is the best way to immerse yourself in nature, you can also stay in cabins or cottages. The nearby city of Warren (the headquarters of the forest) also offers a few hotels and supermarkets.
✈️ Planning Your Trip to Hidden Gems in the US
- ✈️ Find the best flights around the US with Skyscanner
- 💸 Get reliable travel insurance from World Nomads
- 🚖 Book your private transfer from the airport to your hotel with Expedia
- 🏨 Find the best accommodations on Booking.com or Expedia
- 🧔🏻 Get the best tour guides via Get Your Guide, Tiqets, or Viator
- 🚗 To rent a car for road trips, get the best deals on Rentalcars.com
- 🎒 Pack a bathing suit cover-up, a water-proof phone case, and durable hiking boots
- 📚 Read Lonely Planet USA and Backpacker Hidden Gems USA for more inspiration
- 📸 Bring the best photography gear (including these must-have Sony lenses!)
🌸 Secluded Vacation Spots in USA: A Recap
There you go — now you have a whole list of unique vacations in the United States to draw inspiration from! I hope these US hidden gems have given you tons of ideas about where your next dream vacation could be. If you’re curious about more destinations in this diverse country, don’t forget that there are also tons of warm winter vacation spots and clear water beaches to escape to!