Best-Kept Secret Travel Destinations in Every State from Best-Kept Secret Travel Destinations in Every State
Best-Kept Secret Travel Destinations in Every State
Best-Kept Secret Travel Destinations in Every State
Look the other way for once and plan a trip to a place where you can truly enjoy yourself because crowds won’t be a problem and you’ll get to experience authentic adventures.
Adventurers are all about finding and following the path less traveled, so it’s only fitting that you're always looking for the best destinations that most people don’t know about.
Alabama - Dauphin Island
This is the Sunset Capital of Alabama. The barrier island is located 3 miles south of the mouth of Mobile bay in the Gulf of Mexico. It can be reached by a three-mile-long high-rise bridge. It’s ideal for families looking for a relaxing vacation. The kids will love the Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and its visual displays and interactive exhibits. Deep sea fishing is also popular.
Alaska - Kodiak Island
Kodiak waters include fin, minke, sei, humpback and gray whales, according to Discover Kodiak. Whale migration to northern waters begins in April starting with the gray whale. In June you can expect to see the others as well. Fins and humpbacks are common June through November. Many charter boats and marine wildlife tour are available. You can also spot whales from many cliff sides or beaches including Miller Point at Fort Abercrombie State Park.
Arizona – Oatman
This ghost town is a must-stop if you’re on a trip along the iconic Route 66. This authentic old western town has burros roaming the streets and gunfights staged on weekends, according to Desert USA. The burros are tame and can be hand fed. The town is a nice fit for a romantic trip as well. You’ll feel like you’re back in the 1900’ in the old west.
Arkansas - Whitaker Point
Locals know it very well. The trail crosses over streams eventually leading to a crag overlooking Whitaker Creek and the Upper Buffalo Wilderness. It’s a 3-mile roundtrip that takes about an hour – or two because of the stunning views you’ll be stopping along the way to see. “For the rock climbers out there, it has many great, solid walls, much like at horseshoe,” according to a review on AllTrails.
The town has original roots as a military garrison and then a gritty lumber town. Notable attractions include the Skunk Train, which chugs into the redwood forests inland to the town of Willits, according to Visit California. Whale watching boats and fishing charters depart from rustic Noyo Harbor. Make sure you visit Glass Beach. The name comes from the smooth colorful glass pieces on the pebbly beach. The site was once a trash dump so broken bottles from garbage cans of local residents are now little treasures to be found, according to California Beaches. It is illegal to remove any glass from there.
Colorado - Country Boy Mine
Venture into a real gold mine. It was one of the largest and most famous gold mines in Breckenridge. Many tours will take you about 1,000 feet into a mountain. You will see original workings of the infamous County Boy Mine and feel, hear and smell what it was like to be a Colorado miner over a century ago.
Connecticut - Cathedral Pines Preserve
New England’s largest stand of old-growth white pine and hemlock trees was devastated by three tornadoes in 1989, but the existing trail at Cathedral Pines, a 42-acre parcel of woodlands, crosses the remaining intact portion, according to The Nature Conservancy, which owns the land.
Delaware – Lewes
Locals claim this is “the first town in the first state.” With a perfect location, which includes the Cape Henlopen State Park, there are miles of gorgeous beaches, nature trails and bird sanctuaries. Outdoor fans are going to love the Junction and Breakwater Trail, a 6-mile long rail trail that connect Lewes and the romantic Rehoboth Beach.
Florida - Bok Tower Gardens
If you are in Florida but Disney isn’t an option for you, the Bok Tower Gardens are a superb alternative. It’s open 365 days a year and even though there are no live versions of animated characters, the kids will love seeing the stunning scenery and architecture. Bird watching, geocaching and trail hiking will make their day. Also, the long-awaited Children’s Garden is now open.
Georgia - Providence Canyon
This is Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon.” Massive gullies as deep as 150 feet were caused simply by poor farming practices during the 1800s, making what is today some of the prettiest photographs within the state, according to GA State Parks. The rare Plumleaf Azalea grows only in this region and blooms during July and August. The canyon soil’s pink, orange, red and purple hues will take your breath away. Visitors can enjoy views of the canyons from the rim trail.
Hawaii – Molokini
Molokini Crater alone is a reason why you should visit Hawaii in the winter. It offers a diving and snorkeling experience like no other. More than 200 species of fish reside there. Winter is the time to go because this is when the water is the clearest — more than any other place on any of the islands — and not as choppy. You will probably hear the spooky sound of the whales “singing” if you go very early in the morning.
Idaho - Lake Coeur d’Alene
The Coeur d'Alene area is surrounded by dozens of lakes left behind by the glaciers of the ice age. There are more than 55 lakes within easy driving distance, but none of them are more scenic and full of activities than Lake Coeur d'Alene itself. Witness the majestic sunsets and moonrises; see the glowing lights of downtown reflecting across its waters at night; hike the pine-forested hills near the 25-mile long lake; go kayaking, golfing or skydiving. Join a public cruise to soak all the stunning views of the town and visit theme and water parks with the kids.
Illinois - Garden of the Gods Wilderness
Garden Of The Gods Wilderness in Shawnee's Wilderness area is located in Saline, Pope, and Hardin Counties. The wilderness features stunning scenic views and very unusual rock formations. Trails for hiking and equestrian use will take you by homestead, fruit trees, cemeteries and abandoned roads, according to the Forest Service. The wilderness is adjacent to the Garden of the Gods Observation Site.
Indiana - Cave River Valley
This is a gorgeous little waterfall and hidden gem located near Mitchell. The combination of caves, creeks, and steep rocky valleys make for an adventurous trip. This is a truly special place that has a certain wild feel to it. Spring is the best time to visit.
Iowa - Amana Colonies
The Amana Colonies of Eastern Iowa are seven German villages with historical structures, shopping and dining establishments. The colonies dates to the mid-19th century, when German Pietists first broke soil in this isolated Iowa location, and for many years, no outside influences interfered with their communal lifestyle. You will find good German food there.
Kansas - Clinton State Park
The 1,500-acre park has an extensive hiking and biking trail system. The adjacent 9,200-acre wildlife area is an attractive destination for outdoors fans. There are 383 camping sites – 140 sites with water and electricity and 169 primitive sites, according to Kansas Tourism. You will also find an archery range, 11 hole disc golf course, swim beach, mountain bike skills course, 3 acre trout pond, 1 acre children’s fishing pond, and four playgrounds.
Kentucky – Pikeville
If you are into American history, visiting Pikeville will be a fun experience. This is where the story of the most heated and possibly most famous family feud in the country lives on. Beyond that, of course, there is plenty to do and see. Go on a rive tour, soar through the trees and over mountain sides, and take a scenic horse trail overlooking the historic town of Pikeville.
Louisiana - Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge
The 53,000 acres are home to cypress swamps, bottomland hardwood forest, moist soils, agriculture, and upland pine/hardwoods. The diversity of ecosystems provides habitat for many species. There is no visitor center, but many points of access are available to the public. Popular activities are boating, fishing and taking part of interpretive programs.
Maine - Swan's Island
Located near the famous Bar Harbor, the remote island has a population of about 350 people but more than 1,000 comes over the summer. The 7,000 acres have a highly irregular shoreline whichi is ideal for visiting boaters. There is a quarry for swimming as well as places to visit on foot or bicycle. Visit the three little villages on the island. Hikers and campers will have a blast.
Maryland - The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
It’s celebrating 30 years! $30 Thursdays start on June 7. The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad round trip excursion is an adventure that will take you through mountain top scenery and rich transportation history. You’ll travel over an iron truss bridge, around Helmstetter’s Horseshoe Curve and through the 914-foot Brush Tunnel under Piney Mountain.
Massachusetts – Cape Ann
Not Cape Cod; don’t make that mistake. Cape Ann, located just about 30 miles away from Boston, should get more visitors. It offers all the charm and loveliness you'd find in more popular New England towns, minus the crowds. It’s ideal for family vacations, romantic getaways, ocean adventures, and fresh seafood. Go sailing, fishing, kayaking, and whale watching, which is a popular summer activity.
Michigan – Bellaire
The county courthouse downtown is listed as a historic landmark with two large parks located within the village limits, according to Pure Michigan. Craven Park has several ball fields and a large campground; Richardi Park has a pavilion and tennis courts with a swimming area and picnic tables. The Wildflower Walk is a popular event in May and June.
Minnesota - Brainerd Lakes
The Brainerd Lakes Area should be the year-round Minnesota destination for adventure as well as relaxation. Golfing, fishing, boating, biking, bird watching, kayaking – all of these are just some of the activities visitors love. This outdoors paradise is conveniently located just about two hours from the much popular Twin Cities. There are over 500 lakes and rivers to enjoy and explore many parks and forests.
Mississippi - Tunica
You don’t have to move to Las Vegas if you like living the Southern life. Tunica has several casinos, making it a typical gaming city. They don’t just offer slot machines and poker tables. They also schedule a lot of concerts and fun events like horse shows, sporting, stage bars and festivals. Tunica is popular for its golf courses, as well as blues clubs.
Missouri – Hermann
This charming village in the Missouri River Valley is perfect for people who love to go on walks surrounded by inspirational scenery. Golfing, zip lining and the Katy Trail, the nation’s longest rails-to-trails project, are among the most popular activities. Bikers love Hermann, too, especially for training, because of the elevation. Wineries and other venues in and around the town often feature live music on the weekends, according to Visit Hermann.
Montana – Polebridge
The biggest attraction of Polebridge is its access to the stunning Glacier National Park. Staying in the small unincorporated community is a relaxing experience. The cabins, trailers and small ranches up and down the North Fork Road are a nice break from the chaos in cities. See the historic Polebridge Mercantile, which is a combination store, post office, gas station and a few rental cabins, according to Visit Montana.
Nebraska - Toadstool Geological Park
This is a place for outdoor activities. There are six campgrounds, a 3-mile hiking trail to Hudson-Meng Education & Research Center and a 1-mile interpretive loop trail. The scenery is breathtaking. The "moonscape" of the Badlands is an unusual setting for a picnic but worth every effort. Visit so you can see geography that started forming 45 million years ago and unspoiled nature.
Nevada - Valley of Fire State Park
The Valley of Fire State Park is a must-see spot for any outdoor enthusiast visiting Vegas and there’s arguably no better way to take it all in than from 150 feet up on the side of Lone Rock, while you’re rappelling down. Those with experience and equipment can do it alone after notifying park officials, but guide services are also available.
New Hampshire - Jericho Mountain State Park
This is one of the newest additions to the state park system, according to NH State Parks. Jericho Mountain State Park provides opportunities for miles of trail riding for ATV (The park is also home to the ever popular Jericho ATV Festival), UTV, trail bike, and snowmobile enthusiasts alike. There are plenty of scenic outlooks to enjoy along the way. Swimming, fishing, canoeing and picnicking at Jericho Lake are favorite activities.
New Jersey – Cape May
This beautiful small town is just a couple of hours way from chaotic New York City. Cape May is very popular in the summer it has something to offer year-round. Go on romantic walks along large stretches of pristine sand, and see gorgeous Victorian buildings to see why the city is designated as a National Historic Landmark. The Willow Creek Winery alone is worth the trip. Cape May is also on the list of most romantic city in every state.
New Mexico - Bandelier National Monument
The 1.2-mile Main Loop Trail will lead you through amazing archeological sites on the floor of the Frijoles Canyon. Here you will see small ladders, petroglyphs, and many Ancestral Pueblo dwellings dating back to 10,000 years. This short trail, a portion of which is fully accessible, starts from the visitor center. An informative 14-minute high definition film, exhibits, and a bookstore are also available at the visitor center. The climb into Alcove House consists of 4 wooden ladders and many stone stairs.
New York - Alexandria Bay
It’s often referred to as the hearth of the 1,000 islands. Go on a boat tour for a close-up view of the islands and to see the iconic Boldt Castle and Millionaire’s Row. Go on a dinner cruise on a Mississippi-style paddle wheel boat. This is where you can see exotic animals and underwater species at two unique permanent exhibits, according to Visit 1000 Islands.
North Carolina - Topsail Island
Anywhere you turn in the old-school coastal town you may see several bird species, dolphins or sea turtles and other marine animals, according to Topsail Beach. The small-town feel of the island lure visitors who want a laid-back weekend getaway. Explore the maritime forests and enjoy stunning natural landscapes.
North Dakota - Sheyenne National Grassland
Sheyenne National Grassland has 70,180 acres of public land. It is the only National Grassland in the tallgrass prairie region of the U.S., according to the Forest Service. Greater prairie chickens as well as several other sensitive species such as the Dakota skipper and Regal Fritillary have found home there. Visitors like to go for hiking, camping, horseback riding, photography, and backpacking.
Ohio - Geneva on the Lake
Go in the summer for arcades, amusement rides, restaurants, nightclubs, and live music. Located on the shores of Lake Erie, this is the state’s first summer resort. People like to go camping or stay in charming and cozy cottages. The lakefront getaway will steal your heart with its gorgeous sunsets, too.
Oklahoma - Tulsa
Tulsa is a friendly and easy going city. You can’t ignore the concert venues, the minor league ball park, nearby lakes, and the city’s closeness to the Ozarks (just about 3 hours). Plus, Tulsa has one of the best and safest drinking water in America. It comes from three lakes in northeastern Oklahoma.
Oregon - Lost Lake
This is among the very best places to go camping in the state. The campground is located right between the gorgeous Lost Lake and Mount Hood. The valley view is magnificent. You can also see Mt. Hood, its majestic glaciers and Lost Lake. The old growth boardwalk is another attraction. The topography is rugged and mountainous. Swimming, waterfall finding and stargazing are popular activities.
Pennsylvania - Columcille Megalith Park
The main attraction is several standing stones, which may remind you of the much more popular Stonehenge, the historic landmark in England. The operators of the park claim that the stones hold some sort of healing power, according to Atlas Obscura. The main park trail, which is about a mile long and is accessible year-round, is mostly used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding.
Rhode Island - Beavertail State Park
The park has absolutely breathtaking views along the New England coastline. Beavertail also provides some of the best saltwater fishing in the area, along with offering hiking trails, and a naturalist program, according to Rhode Island State Parks. The park is a premiere site for marine education. Participate in aquarium scavenger hunt or special programs relating to crabs, fish, whales or intertidal zones.
South Carolina - Edisto Island
Edisto Beach is known as one of the best fishing destinations in the U.S. The options are endless - surf fishing, river fishing, pier fishing, and deep sea fishing are anglers’ favorites. Edisto Island is also for people who prefer to relax on secluded beaches as opposed to crowded shores. Experience its beauty by canoeing; and make sure you stay at a treehouse. The experience is absolutely magical.
South Dakota – Black Hills
longest cave systems. If you choose to go on a bike ride, consider the Mickelson Trail. It follows the abandoned Burlington Northern line that took trains from Edgemont, South Dakota up north to the Black Hills and gold mines of the Deadwood area. At approximately 110 miles, you’ll see a lot of different country ranging from unique granite rock formations to hay bale-dotted farmland. A few highlights are riding through blasted hard-rock tunnels and over 100 converted railroad bridges.
Tennessee - Radnor Lake
The park is unique due to the abundance of wildlife viewing opportunities, environmental education programs, hiking opportunities and its location in an urban area, according to Tennessee State Parks. You can only visit during the day. More than six miles of trail are strictly used for hiking, photography and wildlife observation. You can see owls, herons and water fowl, among many different kinds of wildflowers and other plants.
Texas – Fredericksburg
Fredericksburg was recognized by Travel Channel as one of “10 Great Small Towns for Family Vacations.” Visit in time for the “Back to the Basics of Love” on Feb. 9. There is going to be a Valentine’s Ball and “Give Me More Kisses” dance. Have lunch at the legendary Opa’s Smoked Meats and experience the history, architecture, and beauty of the Hill Country on a narrated tour. New this fall is the Iron Goat Distillery, which will offer premium small-batch spirits.
Utah - Springdale
When people go to Utah they usually head straight to any of its five gorgeous national parks. (The soaring canyon walls of Zion are Springdale's postcard background.) Hiking, running, biking are favorite options for the adventure lovers. But people who like to relax also have plenty to do. The music and art scene is thriving. The food is good, too. There are nearly three dozen restaurants in the small town, according to Visit Utah.
Vermont - The Northeast Kingdom
Regularly called the best-kept secret in the northeast by those in-the-know, the Northeast Kingdom (or NEK) is set between the Green Mountains and the Connecticut River in northern Vermont, making for perfect scenery and plenty of adventures. See the area by kayak, bike or on foot—the NEK has 40,000 acres of water for paddling, hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails and 75,000 acres of public forest park lands just waiting to be explored.
Virginia – Chincoteague
You won’t find any high rises, board walks or traffic jams. Chincoteague Island, Virginia’s only resort Island which is just 7 miles long, is a serene, yet fun filled, tourist destination. It is home to the famous Chincoteague Wild Ponies. They are free to roam across Assateague Island's National Shoreline. Other things visitors enjoy are beach-combing, boating, fishing, kayaking, clamming, crabbing, swimming, hiking and bird watching.
Washington – Port Angeles
The town is conveniently located close to numerous outdoor attractions where you can go on an adventurous day trip. Some of the many exciting destinations, all within a day's travel, include the Olympic National Park, Olympic Discovery Trail, Hurricane Ridge, Pillar Point, Salt Creek, Hoh Rain Forest, and Rialto Beach. Drive there for an easy trip and to explore some of the more remote options to the north.
West Virginia – Fayetteville
People who are searching for a place with a small town atmosphere but with big vacation thrills will find a match in Fayetteville. It’s very close to the New River Gorge National River, which is a true paradise for outdoor adventurers. Go hiking along the rim of the New River Gorge, try mountain biking and see why it’s so popular, and do some antiquing. You can also go on a whitewater rafting, fishing and hunting trips.
Wisconsin - Door County
Picking just one city is too difficult. The area boasts picturesque coastal towns, fish boils, cherry and apple orchards and jaw-dropping scenic beauty. With the waters of Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other, the Door Peninsula has more than 300 miles of shoreline, according to Travel Wisconsin. See the towering limestone bluffs, rugged rock formations and pristine beaches. The area also has one of the highest concentrations of lighthouses and more state parks – a total of five – than any other county in the nation.
Wyoming - Bighorn Canyon
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is a lesser known treasure waiting to be discovered. It boasts breath-taking scenery, countless varieties of wildlife, and abundant recreational opportunities, such as boating, fishing, ice fishing, camping, and hiking. Bighorn Canyon offers visitors what few other National Park areas can, that of solitude, serenity, and beauty. In the midst of a chaotic world, this is truly a unique quality.