Last Updated on August 26, 2020
While everyone should visit San Francisco, and Washington DC at least once, there’s something to be said about visiting a city that’s not perennially on every “top ten most visited” list in the United States. As you make travel plans, consider an up and coming US travel destination to round out your adventures.
From the rugged coast of Maine to the sandy beaches of Southern California and from the misty Pacific Northwest to sunny Florida, the United States is full of exciting destinations. While Los Angeles, Chicago, Orlando, and Las Vegas can count on being at the top of every “most visited” list each year (and with good reason), some travelers want a different experience.
Enter this year’s list of up and coming US travel destinations.
In partnership with a team of experienced travel bloggers, we’ve identified the most exciting places to visit from coast-to-coast that don’t yet welcome 40 million (or more) visitors a year. Will you be visiting one of these up and coming US travel destinations in 2019?
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Recommended by Keryn Means from Walking On Travels
Keryn is a freelance writer and digital content creator living outside of Washington, DC. Most days you can find her dragging the three men in her life across the globe or writing on her award-winning travel website Walking On Travels, a site that gives hope to today’s active parent who doesn’t see kids as a roadblock to travel, but an excuse to get out the door and explore. See why Keryn believes Portland, Maine, is an up and coming US travel destination to visit in 2019.
When you are looking for a coastal escape with a diverse range of accommodations, great shopping opportunities, endless day trips, outdoor adventures, and where lobster is king, Portland, ME is the place to be. Summers are most popular, as the temperatures are cooler than much of the east coast. But you can still jump in the ocean (yes, southern Maine has sandy beaches!), lounge around the hotel pool, and enjoy other water activities around the city. If you are looking for those iconic Maine rocky beaches, you can pop over to Two Heads Lighthouse.
Autumn also brings an influx of leaf peepers looking for those fall colors. This is the time of year that more couples pop into town, and local New England families who can come up for the weekend. No matter what time of year you visit, chances are you are looking for lobster, which you can pretty much eat anywhere in the city. If you want the true experience, hop on a Lucky Catch lobster boat first to learn how they catch lobster and why this crustacean is so important to the coastal Maine way of life. Portland’s beer culture has had an upsurge in recent years, making this a microbrew lovers dream. Whoopie pies are the local dessert favorite, but if you find anything blueberry (especially at The Holy Donut and Mount Desert Ice Cream) make sure you savor the state fruit.
Pro Tip: Recently named Restaurant City of the Year by Bon Apétit, here’s what to eat in Portland, Maine.
For more advice about visiting the up and coming US travel destination of Portland, Maine:
- Portland Lighthouses – A Picture Perfect Experience in Maine
- Everyday Postcard – Lobster Roll in Bar Harbor
- Find hotels and other places to stay in Portland, Maine
- All About Maine Pinterest Board
Recommended by Heather from Trimm Travels
Heather Trimm is the creator of Trimm Travels, a travel, food and photography blog where she’s discovering as much of God’s creation as possible and encouraging others to get out there and do the same. A former critical care RN who also loves acting, animals, music, and the Spanish language, she seeks to provide tips and recommendations to make trip planning much easier for her readers. See why Heather recommends Philly as an up and coming US travel destination!
When I visited Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I was honestly thinking an American historical tour was all I was going to get. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There is SO much more to Philadelphia and I found out exactly why the City of Brotherly Love is so fascinating and why you should definitely visit this up and coming US travel destination in 2019! The best time to visit Philadelphia is in the spring. We were there in late April and the climate was perfectly mild. There were beautiful spring flowers (including tulips!) everywhere and I was pleasantly surprised at how tolerable the crowds were.
When visiting Philly, the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are obviously must-sees. However, don’t miss out on the Magic Gardens, Eastern State Penitentiary, Elfreth’s Alley and the Chinese Friendship Gate. These all provide the perfect mix of something for everyone including history, art, culture and even something for the lovers of all things haunted.
Don’t count Philadelphia out as a foodie haven. I couldn’t believe all the yummy places there are to eat! Try Geno’s for a classic Philly cheesesteak and Federal Donuts for a fantastic fried chicken and donut experience. Also, Reading Terminal Market provides lots of options such as Beiler’s Doughnuts, Sang Kee, and DiNic’s!
Pro Tip: Find more advice and inspiration for a trip to Philadelphia on this Pennsylvania Pinterest Board.
Recommended by Darla from Fun Fitness Family
Darla and her travel obsessed family of four love exploring. Whether its in their hometown suburb of Columbia, Maryland, or an international extravaganza, they track down adventure wherever they go. These are the reasons why Darla thinks Baltimore, is an up and coming US travel destination.
Baltimore offers something for everyone including family-friendly attractions, sporting events, art galleries, touring Broadway shows, waterfront concerts, and a booming party scene! New restaurants and bars are constantly popping up, which keeps things interesting for locals and repeat visitors.
First-time visitors should explore the Inner Harbor. The area offers great views of the Chesapeake Bay. The Inner Harbor waterfront is home to the Maryland Science Center, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, National Aquarium, Philips Seafood, Hard Rock Café, Top of the World Observation Deck, four military vessels open to the public, and two waterfront shopping galleries. Power Plant Live! dining and entertainment complex is also within walking distance. Other top choices in other areas of the city are The Walters Art Gallery and the Maryland Zoo.
Baltimore is famous for its crab cakes! Philips Seafood has won numerous awards for theirs. It pairs well with their award-winning bloody Mary! Fells Point, Federal Hill, and Canton are fun spots for bar hopping. For drinks, Fells Point’s cobblestone waterfront promenade is home to Max’s Taphouse with over 100 rotating beers on tap and The Horse You Came In On Saloon established in 1775 and rumored to be haunted.
Pro Tip: Find more advice and inspiration for a trip to Baltimore on this Maryland Pinterest Board.
Pro Tip: If you plan on visiting any of these up and coming US travel destinations in an RV, be sure to check out the best RV road trips in the US.
Recommended by Savannah from Savvy Dispatches
Based in Richmond, Virginia, Savannah is a budget-loving traveler who just returned to the USA after two years living abroad in New Zealand and Australia. Here’s why she recommends the college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, as an up and coming US travel destination.
Recommended by Margie from DQ Family Travels
Margie started her blog to share her family’s travels around the US. Her family of four has been exploring the country for the last few years and has a goal to visit all 50 states before the kids graduate high school. They have currently visited 32 out of 50! See why Margie feels that Greenville, South Carolina, is an up and coming US travel destination.
Greenville has quietly become an up and coming US travel destination. This small city in South Carolina has a big personality! The downtown area of Greenville is spectacular. Lined with local shops, breweries, and restaurants, Greenville’s main street has something for everyone.
You can’t go wrong choosing a restaurant in Greenville. Many cafe’s serve their version of Southern cuisine with different twists. I recommend eating at Tupelo Honey, Soby’s, and Smoke on the Water if you are looking for some authentic Southern food. Craft beer and cocktails are also trending in Greenville. For some great places to grab a drink try: Trappe Door, Pour Taproom, and Southern Culture Kitchen and Bar.
It is no surprise why the city gets its name. Outdoors is where you want to be in Greenville. One of the highlights of Greenville is their gorgeous park located in downtown called Falls Park on the Reedy. Falls Park boasts a beautiful rocky waterfall surrounded by a green area and a walkable suspended bridge for a scenic overlook. In addition, there is the Swamp Rabbit Trail which is a biking and pedestrian path linking up Greenville and two other towns spanning a total of 21 miles.
If you have kids, the Museum of the Upstate is an interactive and educational children’s museum that has won numerous awards. The city often has free concerts, markets, and festivals for year round public enjoyment. Greenville is a great city to visit anytime of the year due to its mild winter climate and abundance of outdoor activities. Greenville continues to make the list of America’s best small towns and best places to visit in the country. Sadly, it is no longer a secret. I highly recommend a visit to this fantastic Southern town before more people find out!
Pro Tip: Find more advice and inspiration for a trip to Greenville on this South Carolina Pinterest Board.
Recommended by Kate Storm from Our Escape Clause
Kate and her husband travel the world and document their adventures on their blog, Our Escape Clause. After more than two years on the road, she is well-accustomed to living out of a backpack. See why she believes Savannah, Georgia, is one of the up and coming US travel destinations you won’t want to miss in 2019.
Often overlooked in favor of the ever-popular (and admittedly delightful) New Orleans, Savannah is a fantastic getaway choice for someone looking for an up and coming US travel destination. Long a favorite of southerners, Savannah’s popularity is beginning to catch on nationwide. Its unique city layout boasts 22 historic squares, a large, walkable historic center (a rarity in the south), architectural beauty, and a divine food scene. Both addictive and unforgettable, there are so many things to see and do in Savannah. I know I’m always looking for an excuse to go back!
While you’re in Savannah, be sure to tour an antebellum mansion or two. I recommend starting with the Mercer-Williams House, the site of the gruesome murder behind the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil book that was made into a movie. You’ll also want to visit the hauntingly beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery, stroll through Forsyth Park, explore gorgeous Jones Street, and eat your heart out.
Savannah’s low country cuisine is one of the highlights of any visit. Whether you’re looking for a casual, gut-busting, family style lunch at Mrs. Wilkes, an epic multi-course meal at the illustrious Elizabeth on 37th or Olde Pink House, or simply a scoop of ice cream from Leopold’s, there’s no doubt that eating your way through the city is at least half the fun of being in Savannah!
For more advice about visiting the up and coming US travel destination of Savannah, Georgia:
- Here are six things to do and see on a Savannah day trip
- Find more advice and inspiration for a trip to Savannah on this Georgia Pinterest Board
Recommended by Cindy Ladage of Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl
Cindy Ladage, the travel blogger behind Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl, took a break from the harsh Midwestern winter to explore Jacksonville and share why it’s an up and coming US travel destination. Located in northeastern Florida where the St. John’s River meets the Atlantic Ocean, Jacksonville has the beautiful beaches and championship golf courses that you’d expect plus gardens, zoos, museums, and more.
What activity did you enjoy most in Jacksonville? As Simple as it may sound, I enjoyed walking along the beach the most. Every day we took time to walk along the water, especially at morning and in the evening. We would walk along the water, then explore the shops and boardwalk. Living in central Illinois, while there is a tranquil beauty in the water, the ocean just draws me in.
The family scenes along the beach, the hotels, especially the historic Casa Marina Hotel where we stayed were also a great backdrop to the water. At the top of the hotel is a bar/restaurant where there is a balcony. We would sit there each day, as well, to enjoy the panoramic view of the beach and ocean. I loved watching the boats out in the ocean and would wonder where they were going and who was on them. The ocean offers time for contemplation and just settling of the brain!
What time of year is best to visit Jacksonville? Because my husband is a farmer, the spring and fall are usually impossible, so February tends to be our big travel month. While it was a little chilly to get in the water, I liked visiting at this time because it is low season and the area wasn’t as crowded. In Illinois when the temperature is below freezing, the high 60’s are mighty fine! Seeing flowers and feeling the sun are reasons for us to head south this time of year along with the beauty and history of the Jacksonville Beach area.
What is your #1 tip for first-time visitors to Jacksonville? My #1 tip is to get out and see the sites. There is a very cool Beach Museum that shows the history of the area. I love the stories of how the people traveled to the area first by river, then by train to arrive at the beach and the Casa Marina hotel and the area. There is great art like the surfer statues and fun dining opportunities like Zeta’s. The beach and pier though are I have to say the main attractions. Walk, watch and enjoy!
Recommended by Talek Nantes from Travels with Talek
Talek Nantes is an author, digital content creator, and travel enthusiast who enjoys sharing her travel experiences with others. On her site, Talek shares information on unique destinations, and provides actionable travel tips and advice to help travelers make the most of their time away from home. Talek and her husband split their time between New York City and Miami, and here’s why she recommends her southern home as an up and coming US travel destination.
For a long time, Miami had a reputation as a big senior citizens center and a cultural wasteland. No longer! Miami has rebranded and re-emerged as the Magic City. Now Miami is SOBE chic, a major financial center and a bubbling caldron of international fusion-cuisine creativity. Miami’s most significant claim to fame, however, is its recent positioning as a cultural focal point.
The area by the port, where the cruise ships dock has been renamed the “Arts and Entertainment District.” Wonderful museums have sprung up on the waterfront. The Perez Art Museum displays modern and contemporary art in a structure that appears to float on the water. The Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science specializes in technology, and wildlife and contains the city’s planetarium. Right across the road is the Adrienne Arsht Center for performing Arts featuring opera, ballet and symphony in a world-class venue.
The Sea Isle Marina connects these centers to each other and to the post of Miami, one of the busiest in the world. The objective here was to elevate Miami’s profile as an arts center and to entice cruise passengers to spend more time in Miami either before or after a cruise. I’d say they succeeded.
For more advice about visiting the up and coming US travel destination of Miami:
- If you have three travel days, here is an itinerary for a magnificent long weekend in Miami
- Find hotels and other places to stay in Miami, Florida
- If you plan to drive from Miami to Key West, check out these 25 awesome stops along the way
- Explore Florida’s Nature Coast via this Everyday Postcard
- Check out this Florida Pinterest Board.
Recommended by Montoya from The Spring Break Family
Montoya’s Houston-based family appreciates that they only have 18 summers to “Spring Break” with the kids by traveling the world together. The primary focus of her family’s site is to empower average working families like theirs to make time to travel with their kids. See why Montoya feels San Antonio, Texas, is an up and coming US travel destination.
San Antonio is one of the most intriguing and picturesque cities in Texas. There is so much to do, see, and eat! Stroll down the one of a kind Riverwalk, take a boat tour of the small river, “Remember the Alamo!” at the historic landmark, and more. While you’re in the area, be sure to check out Market Street for traditional Mexican wares and the colonial missions that are remnants of the Spanish origins of the city. If you’re in the mood for thrills, San Antonio is also home to two amusement parks: Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld Aquatica.
No visit to San Antonio would be complete without experiencing all the deliciousness Tex-Mex the city has to offer. Somewhat Mexican and definitely Texan, Tex-Mex food is the staple cuisine in San Antonio. Check out one of the city’s favorite restaurants, the Iron Cactus, located directly on the Riverwalk (and grab a Texas-sized margarita while you’re there). If you’re in the mood for more traditional Mexican fare, the Original Mexican Restaurant, also located on the San Antonio River Walk, can’t be missed! Be sure to try their sopapillas!
The best part of it all? Everything in San Antonio is extremely affordable making it an incredible bang for your travel buck.
A word of caution: Beware the Texas summer. The crowds are high and so are the temperatures! Summers in Texas can be brutal. For ideal weather, aim for fall or winter. If you decide to brave the city’s heat, no worries! Just pack plenty of water and sunscreen.
For more advice about visiting the up and coming US travel destination of San Antonio:
- Did you know that the Alamo is one of just five missions in San Antonio? Explore all five via the San Antonio Mission Trail.
- Find hotels and other places to stay in San Antonio, Texas
- Check out this Texas Pinterest Board.
Recommended by Amanda Bowers from VeraVise Outdoor Living
Amanda’s website inspires life outdoors, both at home and on the road. VeraVise Outdoor Living focuses on outdoor family travel, outdoor adventures, and helping you create an outdoor country feel in your home. Here’s why Amanda recommends Knoxville as an up and coming US travel destination.
Knoxville, Tennessee, is located in the Appalachian mountains in northeast Tennessee and is only thirty minutes from Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Perhaps best known as the home of the Tennessee Volunteers and Neyland Stadium, Knoxville is so much more than a college town.
For a great family weekend, we recommend staying Downtown at the Tennessean Hotel which gives easy access to all the weekend activities. Start your Saturday with breakfast in Market Square at Myrtle’s Chicken & Beer. Then, take a leisurely stroll around the Farmer’s Market for some great local wares and crafts. We picked up some local honey and homemade salsa on our last visit. It’s always worth the trip! After finishing up at the Farmer’s Market, make time to visit the historic Old Knoxville section of town to glimpse into the (somewhat risque) history of downtown Knoxville. While in this area, we like perusing the General Mast store followed by a stop in at The Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain for amazing ice cream sundaes and homemade sodas. Finally, you can’t visit Knoxville without taking time to stroll the World’s Fair Park. The 1982 World’s Fair was held in Knoxville and the city park dedicated to that memory is a great place to visit for an afternoon picnic or some great photos of the iconic Knoxville Sunsphere. It’s completely free to take an elevator to the top of the Sunsphere where you can enjoy great views of the city and images commemorating the historic event.
If you’d like more ideas about visiting Knoxville with your family, read our 10 Fun Things to Do in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Pro Tip: Find more advice and inspiration for a trip to Knoxville on this Tennessee Pinterest Board.
Recommended by Emily Hines from Em’s on the Road
Emily shares her unexpected adventures around the United States at Em’s on the Road. From the neighboring state of Indiana, here’s why she believes Louisville, Kentucky, is an up and coming US travel destination you won’t want to miss.
Historic architecture, delicious local food, and booming bourbon and craft beer industries make Louisville, Kentucky an up and coming US travel destination to visit in 2019. Old Louisville is home to the largest contiguous collection of Victorian mansions in the United States and Historic Old Louisville walking tours are the perfect way to explore the neighborhood and get a glimpse at all of the beautiful details.
Related Article: Louisville Waterfront Park is one of the best riverwalks in the US.
Louisvillians take good food seriously and there are dozens of independent restaurants to choose from when you visit. For BBQ check out Feast BBQ’s monstrous plate of tater tots with smoked pulled pork. If you’re looking for house-made pasta and Italian classics with Southern flare, head to bar Vetti in Old Town. For really good hot chicken and bourbon slushies, Royal’s Hot Chicken in NuLu is the place to be.
Louisville is a drinking town but there’s more than mint juleps. Home to 18 breweries and plenty of beer bars, Louisville has some great craft beer. Located at Louisville Slugger Field, visit Against the Grain for some tasty hop forward beers, great barbecue, and baseball. If you’re looking for more worldly beers, head to the Holy Grale for one of the finest selections of European beers in the USA and plenty of craft beer from the states. If bourbon is more your thing, take a tour at the newest bourbon distillery, Rabbit Hole, and discover their process for deliciously smooth bourbon, rye, gin, more. Don’t forget to visit their rooftop bar for a cocktail overlooking the city.
Pro Tip: Find more advice and inspiration for a trip to Louisville on this Kentucky Pinterest Board.
Recommended by Erin Klema from The Epicurean Traveler
The Epicurean Traveler is culinary travel and lifestyle blog sharing what to eat, drink, and explore in the Midwest and beyond. Erin is a Michigander who loves to travel near and far to taste the local food and beverage. See why she recommends Ann Arbor as an up and coming US travel destination.
If you haven’t visited Ann Arbor yet, you might only know of this Southeastern Michigan city as home to the University of Michigan. Yet with its thriving local arts scene, diverse dining options, and walkable downtown of boutique shops and public murals, there is so much more to Ann Arbor than being a college town.
However, that certainly plays into the city’s charm, and there is no better place to experience the college-town atmosphere than at Graduate Ann Arbor. The boutique hotel’s campus-inspired digs are right in the heart of downtown, where you’ll be steps away from shops, restaurants, and the university.
On campus, visitors can walk the iconic Diag, visit the Law Quad with its gothic architecture and Hogwarts-like library, and peruse the University of Michigan Museum of Art, which is free and open to the public Tuesday through Sunday.
Sports fans can also see the Michigan Wolverines compete in 27 varsity sports. Seating more than 110,000 fans, Michigan Stadium — rightfully known as “The Big House” — is the largest stadium in the United States. Even if you’re not a football fan, game day is an exciting experience full of fanfare, especially when the Michigan Marching Band plays “The Victors.”
Beyond campus, downtown is full of street art, boutique shops, diverse ethnic eateries, cozy coffee shops, independent bookstores, craft breweries, and music venues. You can see a foreign film at the State Theatre, listen to a folk singer at The Ark, or sip a rhubarb mead at Bløm Meadworks on a night out in Ann Arbor.
With more than 300 restaurants, foodie travelers will find plenty to fill a trip itinerary. Some standouts include the new Parisian bistro-inspired The Standard Bistro & Larder from James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Young, Frita Batidos for Cuban burgers and tropical shakes, Miss Kim for Korean cuisine featuring local and seasonal produce, and the renowned Zingerman’s Deli for mouthwatering sandwiches, deli sides, cheese, and baked goods.
Whether arriving via major highways, Amtrak’s Wolverine Line, or flying into Detroit Metro (DTW) airport, Ann Arbor is easily accessible for visitors, too. Located about 45 miles west of Detroit, Ann Arbor sits along the I-94 corridor — making it an ideal Midwestern road trip destination from Chicago, as well.
Pro Tip: Find more advice and inspiration for a trip to Ann Arbor on this Michigan Pinterest Board.
Recommended by Stephanie Taleghani from Consistently Curious
Consistently Curious is a family travel blog focused on unique travel sights and destinations. When Stephanie and her family aren’t traveling, they are tourists in their hometown of Cincinnati which is why Stephanie recommends it as an up and coming US travel destination.
Located on the banks of the Ohio River, the Queen City rises. After much restoration and revitalization, the city is alive, offering guests endless opportunities to explore this great metropolis. Cincinnati is a city where everyone is a little German, Jerry Springer was once the mayor, and pigs fly.
The rebirth of Cincinnati’s OTR (Over-The-Rhine) district has left the city’s oldest and most historic neighborhood full of trendy restaurants, hip bars, and boutique hotels. A booming foodie scene beckons visitors to come to have a taste. Fried chicken at The Eagle, gourmet hotdogs at The Senate and decadent waffles at Taste of Belgium are a few local favorites. If you are noshing your way through Cincy, you can’t forget to sample the famous Cincinnati-style chili at Skyline Chili or enjoy a Black Raspberry Chip ice cream from Graeter’s.
The 21C Hotel is one of the best hotels in the city and houses a fun rooftop bar. For an elegant evening on the town make reservations at Sotto and then sip on champagne at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Bar at Palm Court afterward.
Cincinnati is home to a plethora of attractions for visitors young and old. Swing into Cincinnati’s crown jewel of architecture and history, Union Terminal. This train station turned museum center will quite literally take your breath away. Take in all the neon glory as you step back in time and admire classic signs of the past at the American Sign Museum. Then visit one of the oldest art institutions in the United States, the Cincinnati Art Museum.
Looking for a little more adventure? Cincinnati is home to Kings Island, the largest amusement park and water park in the Midwest! Don’t forget to take visit our hippo celebrity, Fiona, at the Cincinnati Zoo.
The renewal of Cincinnati has the city in an exciting time of growth and development. If there ever was a time to visit this up and coming US travel destination, it is now.
To prepare for a visit to Cincinnati, here is more advice and inspiration:
- Use the Cincinnati Bell Connector, Cincinnati’s Streetcar, to navigate the heart of the city
- Find hotels and other places to stay in Cincinnati, Ohio
- Gaze upon 20+ of Cincinnati’s more than 100 murals via this self-guided walking tour
- Don’t miss more ideas for a visit to the Buckeye State on this Ohio Pinterest board.
Recommended by Tonya Prater of Travel Inspired Living
Ohio native and the author of Secret Cleveland: a Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure, Tonya Prater knows Columbus well. Here are her recommendations for what to do and see when you visit Columbus, Ohio.
What activity do you enjoy most in Columbus? This is a toss-up. I spent the afternoon snooping through a few of the many thrift stores in Columbus and walked away with several boxes of items to decorate my home, but if you asked me any other day, I’d say the public art and architecture. The Topiary Park, the murals in the Short North, and the world’s largest gavel are the type of attractions that draw me to Columbus. The attractions are free and accessible to all who explore the city.
What time of year is best to visit Columbus? You can visit and enjoy Columbus any time of the year and enjoy your visit. The warmer months are a perfect time to take an architectural walking tour of Columbus or enjoy one of the outdoor parks. Winter is the perfect time to step indoors and shop, explore the food scene at the North Market, or take in a hockey game. Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium kicks off in November followed by the Ohio Statehouse Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting in early December. The Columbus Arts Festival draws thousands downtown and along the banks of the Scioto River during June and the Highball in October touts itself as the most elaborate costume party in the nation and bridges the high-fashion of the city’s runway industry with the culture of the Short North. From the museums to the unique neighborhood’s to the many festivals, there is always something to do in Columbus.
What is your #1 tip for first-time visitors to Columbus? Before visiting Columbus, spend some time at the Experience Columbus website. The CVB has done a fabulous job of sharing sample itineraries and sharing ideas of things to do based on interest. Families may enjoy a trip to the zoo, COSI, and playing in the Scioto Mile Fountain on a hot summer day. Couples can stroll through the Topiary Park, enjoy a food tour, and pamper themselves at Hotel Leveque. Shopping at the Polaris Fashion Place or Easton Town Center followed by a show at The Funny Bone or Shadowbox Live make a fun-filled girls getaway. There really is so much to see and do in Columbus that you’ll want to visit over and over again.
Recommended by Sue Reddel & Diana Laskaris from Food Travelist
Sue and Diana travel the world to find the best and most unique food in every destination. We hope to bring the world just a bit closer together by sharing a meal and learning about different cultures through food and drink. Here’s why they think Madison is an up and coming US travel destination.
You may know Madison as home to the University of Wisconsin Badgers. What you might not know about Madison is that this is one of the nicest and beautiful places you’ll ever go. People will welcome you warmly with a smile. They are genuinely glad you’re here.
Located on an isthmus between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, there are hundreds of miles of biking and hiking trails that let you see all the wonder of this area with its soft rolling hills and provide the perfect work out for all the great food you’re going to eat. No visit to Madison would be complete without trying cheese curds and an Old Fashioned at the iconic Old Fashioned restaurant after a walking tour of the stunning capital building and stroll around the capital square.
Madison also gets casually classy with fine dining that may surprise you. This is a place where farm-to-table is taken very seriously with most purveyors only minutes away. Restaurants like L’Etoile, Harvest, Graze and more have been listed on many top foodie lists. One of the largest markets in the U.S. the Dane County Farmers Market in the Square in the summer and fall brings folks from near and far. The more serious food lovers can discover pizza farms where you’ll enjoy a fresh made pizza while lounging on the grass listening to live music.
Diversity thrives unexpectedly in this Midwestern college town sometimes known as the “Berkeley of the Midwest”. Fine arts, symphonies, and the opera sit down the street from rap, hip-hop and folk music. The Cheese Curd Festival, the Zoo Lights at the Henry Vilas Zoo, the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest, free concerts on the Monona Terrace are just a few. No matter what time of year there’s an event or attraction calling you to Madison, an up and coming US travel destination in the Midwest.
Pro Tip: Find more advice and inspiration for a trip to Madison on this Wisconsin Pinterest Board.
Recommended by Roxanna Keys, the Gypsy with a Day Job
Roxanna works a high-demand corporate job, but loves to travel. After challenging herself to find ways to make that happen, she started Gypsy With a Day Job to make it easier for real people with real jobs to get out and see the world. Here’s why she recommends St. Louis as an up and coming US travel destination.
St. Louis, Missouri has big city amenities with a small town feeling. Once the fifth largest city in the US, the infrastructure was built to be a metropolis. But with only 350,000 residents, getting in and out of the city is painless, and downtown traffic is easy to navigate (except on Cardinals game days). It also has all of the cultural options of cities with millions, including theater, orchestra, museums and galleries.
More importantly, the Gateway City is a fabulous budget destination, with more free things to do than any major American city, outside of the nation’s capital. There are so many no cost options, that visitors could easily spend days in St. Louis exploring only free attractions. Animal adventures, botanical gardens, art museums, games, transportation, and even presidential history, can all be enjoyed for free.
Related Article: 5 Tips to Help Kids of All Ages Appreciate Art Museums
One of the newest National Parks literally cannot be missed, as the Gateway Arch defines St. Louis’s skyline, but Gateway Arch National Park is a great place for first time visitors to start their visit. The park features a number of activities, including the trip to the top of the arch, tours of the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott case was fought, and a Junior Ranger Program. Other can’t miss sites include the National Blues Museum, City Museum, Forest Park, the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, Busch Stadium, and the Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site. There are some fun Historic Route 66 attractions too.
When it is time to eat, St. Louis specialty foods include local-style barbecue, available at Pappy’s Smokehouse, St. Louis-style pizza, available at Imos, and toasted ravioli, anywhere in “The Hill,” St. Louis’s Italian-American neighborhood. Gourmet choices are available downtown, and the ethnic neighborhoods are filled with choices. For dessert try Ooey Gooey Butter Cake or Ted Dewes Frozen Cusard. Wash your dinner down with a 7 Up, invented in St. Louis, or one of the city’s famous beers.
To prepare for a visit to the up and coming US travel destination of St. Louis:
- With many free attractions, there are so many things to do in St. Louis! One of the best things to do in St. Louis is the City Museum, an experience like no other!
- The charming and historical nearby town of St. Charles, is a fantastic weekend getaway from St. Louis.
- Find hotels and other places to stay in St. Louis
- Find more ideas for a visit to the Show-Me State on this Missouri Pinterest board.
Recommended by Sara Broers from Travel with Sara
Sara is a travel enthusiast that resides in Iowa and will travel where the plane, train, ship or car will go. Here’s why she recommends Wichita, Kansas, as an up and coming US travel destination.
Wichita, Kansas, is home to art, culture, history and one of the fastest growing foodie scenes in the Midwest. The Arkansas River is surrounded with art featuring the Wichita Art Museum, Botanica: Wichita Gardens, Old Cowtown Museum, Mid America All-Indian Center, and the Exploration Place. Stay all day, as the Keeper of the Plains is a “must see” experience at sunset when visiting the museum district. Experience this just once and I promise you, that you will find yourself wanting to return. Visitors can easily spend one full day exploring museums in Wichita and not be bored.
Pro Tip: When exploring Wichita’s museum district, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it with a view of the river front.
Farm to table dining experiences await as do brew pubs that offer fantastic brews out of the Midwest. My must stop while in Wichita is the Donut Whole. These donuts are the bomb! They are made daily from scratch and are located in a fun, eclectic location in Wichita.
For the animal lover, I’d highly recommend a visit to Tanganyika Wildlife Park. Visitors have an opportunity to get up close and interact closely with the animals. Have you ever wanted to stand next to a sloth, feed a giraffe, or swim with penguins? You can do this and more at this family-owned wildlife park in Wichita. Tanganyika Wildlife Park is different from a typical zoo, as it’s in a smaller setting and visitors feel like family when visiting.
I’d recommend visiting during shoulder season to avoid the summer crowds. Spring and Fall are ideal times to explore Wichita as it’s not too hot and the busy summer tourist season is not in full swing. The other highlight of visiting during shoulder season is that your lodging costs are typically lower, which make it an ideal time for the budget traveler to visit this up and coming US travel destination in America’s Midwest.
To prepare for a visit to the up and coming US travel destination of Wichita:
- Check out this related article: See the USA – Visit Kansas, the Sunflower State
- Find hotels and other places to stay in Wichita, Kansas
- Find more ideas for a visit to the Sunflower State on this Kansas Pinterest Board.
Recommended by LeAnna Brown, the Well Traveled Nebraskan
Through her travel blog, LeAnna shows Nebraskans that there actually ARE travel adventures to be had and memories to be made right here in the Cornhusker State. Here’s why this well traveled Nebraskan recommends Omaha as an up and coming US travel destination.
Nebraska has long been a state ignored by tourists. However, with Omaha boasting titles such as “Top 10 Travel Destinations of 2018” or “Up and Coming Tech Hotspot” or one of the “Best Cities for Millennials” it is not only getting recognized as a great place to live, but also to visit! And it’s easy to see why. Many foodies are flocking to Omaha with it’s diverse and ever- evolving palette. Sure, we still have great steaks, but the food scene has become SO much more than that! Omaha is a music lover’s delight. Concerts are happening almost daily with amazing indie groups all the way to huge names. And if you are looking for trendy neighborhoods, in the last decade, so many have popped up, each with their own eclectic flavor and things to do, making each one unique and a real gem to the ever changing and growing Omaha. So, move over big cities, Omaha is coming for you!
To prepare for a visit to the up and coming US travel destination of Omaha:
- Check out this related article: See the USA – Visit Nebraska, But It’s Not for Everyone
- Find hotels and other places to stay in Omaha, Nebraska
- Find more ideas for a visit to the Cornhusker State on this Nebraska Pinterest Board.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Recommended by Erin Klema, the Michigan foodie behind The Epicurean Traveler
Located an hour south of Denver at an elevation almost 1,000 feet above the Mile High City, Colorado Springs is located at the base of Pike’s Peak. Home to the US Air Force Academy and US Olympic Committee, this up and coming US travel destination has plenty to offer visitors from adventure-seekers to everyday wanderers. Erin Klema from The Epicurean Traveler blog has plenty of travel tips and tasty advice for your trip to Colorado Springs.
What activity did you enjoy most in Colorado Springs? Most Colorado Springs vacationers probably plan to ride the cog railway to Pike’s Peak, see the red rock formations at Garden of the Gods, and tour the U.S. Olympic Training Center. While those three experiences should be on a Colorado Springs trip itinerary, I’d also add the Ivywild School. Previously an elementary school, the property has been converted into a community marketplace with tasty options for eating and drinking. At the Principal’s Office, I sipped a deliciously potent blackberry smash on the patio. Over at Bristol Brewery, I enjoyed their Beehive Honey Wheat. For travelers who appreciate destinations for the local food and drink just as much as the sights and attractions, the Ivywild School would be my top recommendation in Colorado Springs.
Related Article: 5 of the Best Summer Destinations in the United States
What time of year is best to visit Colorado Springs? Colorado is truly a four-season travel destination, and visitors will find activities year-round in Colorado Springs. However, I think Colorado’s Front Range is best experienced in the warmer months from late spring through early fall. When I visited in September, the temperatures in the 70s were very comfortable for walking around Garden of the Gods, touring the U.S. Olympic Training Center, and dining alfresco at the Wild Goose Meeting House.
What is your #1 tip for first-time visitors to Colorado Springs? What I love most about Colorado Springs is how accessible the variety of activities are for all ages. Visits to two of the biggest attractions — Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak — can be customized to the activity level that fits your comfort level. For example, outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers can spend a whole day exploring, hiking, or biking through the large red sandstone formations at Garden of the Gods. Meanwhile, families with small children or visitors less athletically inclined may prefer a scenic drive with stops for photo opportunities or short strolls through this gem of a free park. Another can’t-miss attraction when visiting Colorado Springs is Pikes Peak. Convenient for travelers of all ages and activity levels, there are a variety of ways to reach the top of America’s Mountain. Visitors can climb, drive, or — my favorite option for its stunning views and background information provided throughout the relaxing ride — take The Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the summit for a view of the Rocky Mountains that inspired “America the Beautiful.” Since there is such a wide variety of activities at varying elevation levels, my No. 1 tip for first-time visitors to Colorado Springs is to pack and wear layers. As I mentioned, it had been in the 70s when I visited in September, but there was snow atop Pikes Peak. You’ll want your clothing options to be as diverse as your Colorado Springs itinerary.
Recommended by Corinne Vail from Roving Vails
Corinne met and married her husband overseas, so the duo knew they’d live a life full of travel. The couple has lived all over the world, raised their daughters as travelers, and are now nearing retirement. Here’s why Corinne recommends Albuquerque as an up and coming US travel destination.
Albuquerque has long been one of my favorite cities in the US. It is the perfect place to go for weather, hot and dry in summer and cool in winter. Even though the city doesn’t see too much snow in winter, just up the gondola is the Crest, which has snow all season long. So you can get up in the sun, go skiing all day in the snow, and come down the mountain at night. It’s perfect!
Another thing I love about this western city is its food. Different from any other food in the US, its uniqueness stems from the many varieties of chiles, which include the traditional red as well as green. Most restaurants will give you a choice on the color of chiles, but if it’s too hard to choose, you can always order “Christmas” so you have both.
Pro Tip: You can’t travel to the home of the world’s largest hot air balloon event without taking to the skies yourself.
There is plenty to do in this up and coming US travel destination, from desert museums to the traditional Old Town filled with adobe buildings and boutiques. The University of New Mexico is there as well and you can always attend a show or a lecture. There’s truly something for everyone.
Located on the intersection of two major interstates I-25 and I-40, Albuquerque is easy to get to, and while you are there enjoy a little southwestern flavor.
For more advice about visiting the up and coming US travel destination of Albuquerque:
- Find hotels and other places to stay in Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Know what to expect when you spend the day at the Albuquerque BioPark
- Learn the fascinating story behind the Zia Sun Symbol in the New Mexico State Flag
- Find more ideas and inspiration for a visit to Albuquerque on this New Mexico Pinterest Board
Recommended by Donna Hull from My Itchy Travel Feet
About 100 miles south of Phoenix and 60 miles north of the Mexican border, Tucson, Arizona is located in the Sonoran Desert and surrounded by mountains. Due to its higher elevation, Tucson is cooler and wetter than Phoenix making it one of the more perennially pleasant desert locations. The majestic saguaro cactus, an iconic symbol of the American Southwest, is found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert and is plentiful in and around Tucson. With the University of Arizona, this town of about one million people still maintains a bit of a college town feel, despite its size. Here’s why Donna Hull, the Baby Boomer traveler behind My Itchy Travel Feet, recommends Tucson as an up and coming US travel destination.
What activity do you enjoy most in Tucson? Visitors to Tucson enjoy so many options for outdoor fun that it’s hard to know where to begin. I suggest starting your day as many other Tucsonans do by hiking the main trail in Sabino Canyon Recreation Area of the Coronado National Forest. Located close to the city, Sabino Canyon introduces visitors to a rugged terrain wrapped in a lush desert landscape. Other hiking options include trails in Saguaro National Park East or Saguaro National Park West, two very different experiences in the same national park. Or try out one of the trails in Catalina State Park. Tucson is a hiker’s paradise!
Pro Tip: Support your National Parks by purchasing a Passport to Your National Parks at eParks.com.
What time of year is best to visit Tucson? Although snowbirds flock to Tucson in the winter, I recommend visiting in fall or spring. You won’t encounter as many crowded restaurants or attractions plus the weather is fantastic. On good wildflower years, a visit in March or early April will reward you with a Sonoran Desert painted in purple, yellow, blue and red. But if you’re a bargain hunter, brave the hot temperatures for a summer visit to enjoy discounted rates at Tucson luxury resorts.
What is your #1 tip for first-time visitors to Tucson? Did you know that UNESCO designated Tucson as a World City of Gastronomy? No matter which activities you choose, complete the Old Pueblo experience by sampling as many restaurants as possible. Enjoy breakfast in the garden at Tohono Chul Garden Bistro, stop for a lunch at Tucson Tamale Company, then finish the day at Café Poca Cosa for a fine day of dining in Tucson.
Related Article: The Best Places to See Wildflowers in Arizona
Park City, Utah
Recommended by Susannah O’Brien from O’Briens Abroad
With nearly one foot of perfect powder falling every five days during ski season, it’s no wonder Utah’s slogan is “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” Travelers flying into Salt Lake International Airport can be skiing in one of four ski resorts within an hour of landing. Susannah O’Brien from O’Briens Abroad loves visiting Park City with her husband and son and has these tips to share about this up and coming US travel destination.
What activity did you enjoy most in Park City? We love visiting the Park City mountain resort. There are plenty of activities for our five-year-old son to enjoy, and my husband and I love skiing there during the winter and mountain biking during the summer! The mountain resort also features restaurants and shops, so it’s also perfect when you need to take a break from activities and want to people watch.
Related Article: 9 Ways to Relive the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City
What time of year is best to visit Park City? My favorite time of year in Park City is Autumn. The weather is the perfect temperature, the mountain resort activities are still open for my son, there are less crowds, and the changing colors make the mountain look like it’s on fire!
What is your #1 tip for first-time visitors to Park City? Most people come to Park City to ski or stay at the Mountain Resort, so my #1 tip would be to get out of the resort! Yes, it’s also my favorite part of the city, but there is more to do there. There’s a quaint downtown area near the Mountain Resort with cute shops and restaurants- spend as much time there as in the expensive Park City Mountain Resort to get a local feel!
Looking for more to do, see, and experience in Park City? Check out these related articles:
- 9 Things to do in Salt Lake City
- 9 Reasons to Visit Utah
- And more inspiration for your trip to Utah.
Recommended by Jaime Mazur from Jaime Says
Based in Chicago, Jaime is a travel and wine blogger who focuses on destinations suited for people with anxiety disorders. Here’s why she recommends Sandpoint, Idaho, as an up and coming US travel destination.
While Coeur D’Alene is a well known destination in northern Idaho, it is Sandpoint, Idaho that is the hidden gem of the state. Located approximately 80 miles from Spokane, Washington, locals refer to Sandpoint as “the new Lake Tahoe.” With similar hiking, boating, arts and culture as Lake Tahoe, Sandpoint offers comparable recreation at a fraction of the cost. You won’t find the casinos and mega-hotels of Lake Tahoe, but you will find the biggest lake in Idaho. Lake Pend Oreille is also the fifth deepest lake in the United States, so deep in fact that the U.S. Military conducts submarine tests in its depths.
If you visit Sandpoint in the winter, you’ll get the chance to enjoy the ski slopes of Schweitzer Mountain. With two enormous bowls, there is no shortage of slopes available for all levels of downhill skiing. In the summer, Schweitzer Mountain is great for biking and hiking, while Lake Pend Oreille thrives with recreational boaters and kayakers.
For the best views of Sandpoint and Lake Pend Oreille, consider staying at one of the properties on top of Schweitzer Mountain. I personally recommend the White Pine Lodge at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. In town, Talus Rock Retreat can’t be beat.
There is no shortage of food or watering holes in Sandpoint. For quick bites with incredible views, try Sky House on the summit at Schweitzer Mountain. In the heart of Sandpoint, Fat Pig, Beet and Basil, and Secret Thai were popular for dinner. After dinner, you could either head to McDuff’s for live music and cold drinks, to Idaho Pour Authority for hundreds of different beers, or to Panhandle Cone and Coffee for some unique homemade ice creams.
Pro Tip: Find more advice and inspiration for a trip to Sandpoint on this Idaho Pinterest Board.
Recommended by Abi Johnson from Happy Go Abi
Abi Johnson is a California girl, avid adventurer, and storyteller who blogs about travel around the world and literary-inspired travel at Happy Go Abi. This is why she recommends visiting San Luis Obispo, an up and coming US travel destination, in 2019.
San Luis Obispo (SLO) is the perfect place to vacation in 2019 if you love nature and exploring cute downtown shops and restaurants. Its small-town charm makes it the perfect base to explore what California’s central coast has to offer!
There are many fun things to do in SLO, but some of the must-dos are going to Sunset Drive-in to watch a double feature and visiting Bubblegum Alley to add your own gum to the walls. Hiking is also a popular activity, with the Montaña de Oro area and Bishop Peak being particularly beautiful. During your time in SLO, you should also at least stop by the Madonna Inn even if you aren’t staying there. The overwhelmingly pink lobby makes it a local icon, and each room is uniquely decorated so it’s a fascinating place to stay!
If you want to venture outside the city limits, you should check out Hearst Castle where a newspaper tycoon built a fabulous estate including a myriad of elaborate rooms and an indoor and outdoor pool. The elephant seals in San Simeon are also a treat to see between October and March, and of course you should visit nearby beaches like Morro Bay, Pismo, and Avila.
When you get hungry, stop by the cult-favorite Firestone Grill (heavenly tri-tip and fries to die for!), Splash Café (for clam chowder or fish tacos), and Sally Loo’s Wholesome Café (a local favorite, particularly for breakfast). And of course, you can’t miss SloDoCo—the local donut company that sells nearly any type of donut you can imagine.
With so much to see and do in San Luis Obispo, it’s no wonder that this is an up and coming US travel destination for 2019! You’re sure to enjoy your time here no matter what you choose to do and see.
Pro Tip: Find more advice and inspiration for a trip to San Luis Obispo on this California Pinterest Board.
Recommended by Hannah Latimer-Snell from Bold Destinations
Hannah is a native Oregonian traveling the world. Her travel blog, Bold Destinations, helps travelers cultivate balanced mental health while abroad. Here’s why she encourages travelers to visit Portland, an up and coming US travel destination.
Sitting along the Willamette and Columbia rivers, Portland is the largest city in Oregon. From almost every viewpoint, visitors can see beautiful Mt. Hood in the backdrop. The best time to visit is from June through September. This time of year the sun is shining, the days are warm, but not too warm, and there is a plethora of things to do outside.
Pro Tip: If you like hiking these are three of the best hiking spots in Portland, Oregon: Mt. Tabour (located on the southeast side on Salmon St.), Forest Park (located on the northwest side of Portland), and Washington Park (located in southwest part of the city)
Food is life in Portland. There are so many wonderful places to eat at that you may find yourself eating something new every hour. My favorites include:
- Tin Shed Garden Cafe. Located in northeast Portland, this is a great spot for family breakfast. They even have a menu for dogs if you want to bring your furry friends along!
- Cubo. This small Cuban restaurant located on Hawthorne is a great lunch spot.
- Bollywood Theater. An amazing Indian street food restaurant, this place never disappoints.
- Revelry. Located in southeast Portland, Revelry is a Korean BBQ restaurant. Be sure to try their Spicy Fried Chicken with Peanut Brittle and their Seaweed Noodle.
- Andina. In the Pearl District, Andina is a popular restaurant featuring Peruvian cuisine. Try the scallop dish and the yucca!
If you drink alcohol, Portland has a great cider, beer and whiskey scene. These are my recommendations for craft beer, cider, cocktails, and more:
- Portland Cider House. Sample up to six different ciders via a flight at this Hawthorne Street bar.
- Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House. Located in northwest Portland, Deschutes is a popular Portland attraction.
- Bartini. If martinis are your thing, this northwest Portland bar has an entire menu filled with different martinis.
There are so many more wonderful places to visit, eat, and drink in Portland, Oregon, that you’ll quickly see why it’s an up and coming US travel destination!
For more advice about visiting the up and coming US travel destination of Portland, Oregon:
- One of the best ways to explore the Pacific Northwest is by RV. Get close to the region’s natural beauty while traveling in comfort with RV Rental Portland.
- Find more advice and inspiration for a trip to Portland on this Oregon Pinterest Board.
Recommended by Stacy from Tangled Up in Food
Located on the western side of Maui just north of Wailea, Kihei is a tropical up and coming US travel destination. Kihei has all of the swimming, surfing, snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, and diving activities that you’d expect from America’s 50th state plus the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Sanctuary Visitor Center. Stacy from Tangled Up in Food has this advice for visiting Kihei.
What activity do you enjoy most in Kihei? I love that Kihei has a more laid-back feel than other coastal areas of central and northwestern Maui. It’s a great place to just relax and hang out at the beach. Kihei’s central location also makes it perfectly positioned for a day trip driving the famous Road to Hana, snorkeling in Honolua Bay, or the shopping and nightlife in Lahaina.
What time of year is best to visit Kihei? I love to visit in the late fall since the weather is perfect–not too hot or too rainy. Plus, since it’s not peak tourist season, crowds are smaller and accommodation prices are a bit more affordable.
What is your #1 tip for first-time visitors to Kihei? Pretend to be a local! While Maui has plenty of great activities to take in, spend at least part of your vacation just enjoying the island. Rent some snorkeling equipment and spend a lazy day at the beach. Check out the tropical fruit available at a farmer’s market. Listen to Hawaiian music on the local radio station. Pick up some poke (raw marinated fish, a Hawaiian specialty) at a grocery store and enjoy an oceanside picnic.
Here are some other things to consider before visiting Hawaii:
- From when to go to what to take, here’s what you need to know before you go to Hawaii.
- The condos at the Whaler all have private kitchens in case you want to cook any of your meals.
- Are you taking the kids? Here are some toddler activities in Kauai.
- If you plan to kayak in Hawaii, be sure to check out this inflatable kayak guide.
Have You Visited Any of These US Destinations?
How many of these cities have you explored? What did you enjoy most about your visit? Is one of these US destinations part of your 2019 travel plans? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.