Usually you can rely on hipster millennials to tell you what's gonna be cool before it's cool. Like, drinking uncomfortably hoppy beer, or eating Spam, or which neighborhood will be the next hip neighborhood. But for whatever reason, you rarely hear talk of the next up-and-coming travel destination (except, like, Mexico City. "I was going to Mexico City waaay before everyone else was going to Mexico City.”)
Channeling my inner cool kid, I went searching for under-the-radar cities across the US that are poised to become the new Nashvilles and Portlands -- polling travel experts around the country and looking at data trends like increased hotel construction and tourism infrastructure. And, you know, cities with the cool, calm, collected demeanor of someone who knows something you don’t yet. Here are eight cities you should go visit before they get too popular.
Turns out H-Town is good for something other than business conventions and sprawl: The city just finished a full restoration of Emancipation Park and turned the area around the convention center, dubbed Avenida Houston, into the largest new shopping and dining destination in the country -- and the food scene here is nothing to sneer at. Houston's built three new sports stadiums in the past decade, expanded its already-renowned museum district, and in anticipation of all the hype, put $150 million in upgrades at Hobby Airport.
But even if you aren't moving there, it’s one of the most underrated cities to spend a weekend, a clear alternative if you want to escape the elbow-to-elbow bachelorette parties of Nashville while still catching great live music in a much-more-than-adequate entertainment district. The new Chattanooga Choo Choo complex has a 500-seat music venue, guitar museum, and a comedy club joining the already-popular Track 29 venue on Station St, making for a walkable civic center full of restaurants, bars, and public event spaces. Plus, Chattanooga will open three new hotels this year and host the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in September.
What was a US Naval bombing range until just a few years ago has since become the most pristine US destination in the Caribbean. So much so that the W Hotel set up shop there; which then, of course, led to an influx of boutique hotels all around it. The W then casually added a two-level infinity pool with an underwater sound system -- which may be worth the trip alone. But it’s also home to Mosquito Bay, one of the few bioluminescent bays where visitors can kayak through the glowing water at night. Vieques hasn't quite had time to develop into a Caribbean mega-destination just yet, but thanks to its proximity to the US -- and the fact that we can get there without a passport -- its time is drawing near.