America's Best Overlooked Spots for Weekend Trips
The United States is a huge country with more beautiful, interesting, and exciting places than you could ever count -- but it tends to be the same ones you hear about again and again. Lucky for us, we’ve got friends all over the country who can tell us about some of the lesser-known spots where we can guarantee you’ll have a great time -- but without the crowds and the fuss of other splashier places. Here are 22 of our favorite places in America that not enough people talk about, but still fill up our daydreams.
Northern New Mexico
You know that there are green chiles aplenty, that Santa Fe has a turquoise empire and Albuquerque is more than just a set for Breaking Bad. But there's even more to northern New Mexico, starting with a drive out of Santa Fe to Tesuque Village Market -- a quirky lunch spot in the pueblo's foot hills -- en route to the soul-awakening scenery of the Abiquiu’s roadside Echo Amphitheater. Travel to Taos to soak in the Manby Hot Springs, view the Taj Mahal of the Southwest in the form of Taos Pueblo and tour the Earthship Community -- a collection of oddball homes made by recycling hermits. Complete the Enchanted Circle through Eagle Nest, Angel Fire, and Questa for a scenic drive with stops for swimming, rafting, and hiking.
Must do:Meow Wolf in Santa Fe is a new interactive story museum that George R.R. Martin has deemed worthy enough to invest in. The twisted fluorescent artscape feels like wandering through a life-size kaleidoscope. Go get weird. -- Sean Cooley, Cities Editor
Forget about Kennebunk, where the Bush family makes its summer home, and keep driving north, just two more hours, and you’ll encounter the bucolic, Atlantic oceanside town of Camden. With fewer tourists than Kennebunk but equal oodles of New England charm -- plus a surprisingly robust dining scene -- Camden is the savvy choice for those in the know. Among Camden’s more famous residents are authors Richard Russo and David McCullough, and let’s just say we admire their taste far more than the Bushies.
Must do: The key is to divide your time between recreation and indulgence. To earn the latter, hike up Mt. Battie, which earns you panoramic views of both Penobscot Bay and Camden Harbor (just be advised that this is no easy-peasy traipse). Lazier sorts can hitch an off-season chairlift ride at Camden Snow Bowl for similar vistas. To cool down, you can brave the ocean temps at Laite Memorial Beach or do the freshwater thing at Megunticook Lake. After that, it’s all about the food: restaurants like Long Grain, Hatchet Mountain Publick House, and the James Beard-winning Primo, just south of the town, have burnished Camden’s reputation as an event dining destination. Of course, no Maine voyage is complete without a lobster pound visit, and Camden’s entry is quintessential: Miller’s Lobster Co. lets you pick your steamed beaut by weight and then eat at a picnic table overlooking the water. -- Meaghan Agnew, Thrillist Contributor
The Mississippi Gulf Coast
When one pictures Mississippi, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t a laid-back coastline packed with artists, live music, great food, and fantastic bars. Unless, of course, you’ve spent some time on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. This part of the state south of I-10 is more New Orleans than Redneck Riviera. It’s got the longest stretch of white sand, man-made beach in the world, and a trip out to the barrier islands are like going to a deserted Caribbean paradise. The draw here is so much more than just a relaxing day on the beach.
The artist’s community of Bay St. Louis is like Sausalito in Dixie, with a main street lined with galleries where creative types gather. Or there’s Ocean Springs, a tiny southern beach enclave with a stretch of bars that boasts one of the best live music scenes in the South. And then there’s Gulfport, which is quickly becoming a hotbed of young creatives, exemplified by the beer at Chandeleur brewing and the food at Corks and Cleaver. Throw in the Stennis Space Center for us science nerds and Biloxi for some uninhibited bad decisions, and this might be one of the best all-around areas in the Southeast.
Must do: Take a tour up the Pascagoula River -- it’s the kind of magical swampland you thought only existed at the beginning of Muppet movies. -- Matt Meltzer, Travel Staff Writer
The Black Hills
South Dakota gets a bad rap as a flyover state where everybody thinks folks commune with cows and don’t know what an internet is. But it’s also one of the most underrated states period, and you need only to visit the west side of the state’s Black Hills for proof. Starting with the stunning Badlands and extending westward, the Black Hills are home to some of the most majestic scenery you can imagine, from the winding Spearfish Canyon to the mountain lakes that surround Rushmore (deal with it, you’re going), rivers, mountains, caves, and more, making it ideal for hikers and climbers and everybody in between. Those in-betweeners include the bikers who throng the otherwise placid Sturgis every year, and gamblers/HBO fans who flock to Deadwood, the living museum of family-friendly debauchery. Small towns like Spearfish and Belle Fourche give you a chance for a little culture (eat the deep-fried beef tips at the Stadium, the IPA at Crow Peak, and the burger at Lewie’s in Lead).
It’s basically a gigantic, serene cluster of small towns amid enough crazy geographical features to populate an entire planet, all scattered within an hour or two of one another. Not bad for a place most associated with having a gigantic wall of presidential heads looking over it.
Must do: Take a trip to Devils Tower, just over the border in Wyoming, which will make you kind of sympathize with Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters in all its weird, free-standing glory. -- Andy Kryza, Senior Food & Drink Editor
Chances are, your red rock travel fantasies skip over Utah entirely for the decidedly more hip Colorado and New Mexico, but the Beehive State is sneaky in its appeals and has been too long overlooked. Between the numerous national parks, the cowboy lifestyle, and the generally accessible vibe, Utah is the state where you spend less, exercise more, and smugly congratulate yourself for taking the lesser known path. And we can also personally attest to the fact that the state’s novel-length "Alcoholic Beverage Control General Provisions" guide has been a perverse boon to Utah’s cocktail scene.
Must do: Hiking is a requisite -- the question is how much and how challenging. Angels Landing in Zion National Park is one of the most Instagram-worthy treks in the state (just not for the height-adverse), while Moab gives you stunning rust-colored vistas and terrific white-water rafting. Four-legger fanatics need to plan a side trip to the Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab; stay overnight and you actually get to “check out” a canine companion for a sleepover. Park City, scenic home of the Sundance Film Festival gives you a potent shot of culture, if you’re so inclined. And while you’re not likely to head to Utah just for the boating, Bear Lake, aka “the Caribbean of the Rockies,” is a pretty great place for it. -- Meaghan Agnew, Thrillist Contributor
Sure, it’s a fun place to say out loud, but that’s probably the extent of thought you’ve given to Chattanooga. Your loss. Its current tourism tagline is “Best Town Ever,” which a) awww, and b) is actually not far off. The Southern spot is the ideal place to lose your iPhone and detach from day-to-day race of citified life.
Must do: Absolutely plan on climbing around on Lookout Mountain (a trip up on the disturbingly steep Incline Railway is worth the line), if for no other reason than to reach Sunset Rock, a onetime strategic lookout spot for confederate generals during the Civil War. But hiking is just one Jenga piece of the recreation scene: you can also rock-climb, horseback ride, hang glide, or simply rent a two-wheeler and bike all around town. Then take that sweat equity and blow it all on barbecue -- the Chattanooga BBQ scene is an intriguing mix of many different pit styles. Check out Sugar’s Ribs for the view, the goats grazing outside, and of course, the ribs. The Flying Squirrel is the place for craft cocktails, but if you’re looking to pound a few beers while catching live music, the intimate Track 29 is your ticket. No visit to the Volunteer State would be complete without a whiskey detour, and Tennessee Stillhouse, Chattanooga’s first legal distillery since Prohibition, just opened its doors last year. -- Meaghan Agnew, Thrillist Contributor
Door County, Wisconsin
First of all, the name is fantastic. But a visit to Door County isn’t just about the inevitable #closeoneDoorandanotheroneopens-hashtag. The “Cape Cod of the Midwest” is pristine and diverse and far more relaxing than its nickname namesake. Instead of cranky crowds and bridge traffic of Cape Cod, check out this far more welcoming, but equally as beautiful Wisconsin peninsula. Door Country is actually a string of 19 tiny communities bookended by Lake Michigan on one side and Green Bay on the other, which makes for an eclectic set of vacay offerings. Ephraim village provides the picturesque sunsets, Egg Harbor gives you golfing and fine dining (and another great name!), Fish Creek is for max relaxing, and Forestville lures in the outdoorsy folks.
Must do: Make room for cherry pie: county residents are charmingly and justifiably obsessed with their 2,500 acres of cherry orchards. Craving a Nantucket-like beach escape? A ferry ride to Washington Island lands you on School House Beach Park, one of the only limestone beaches in the world. -- Meaghan Agnew, Thrillist Contributor
Texas Hill Country
Austin is obviously great, but it’s also obviously saturated with hipsters. Hill County, on the other hand, is a whole other bag. Head a half-hour out of town and you’ll find yourself in the midst of true Texan quirk. Once you’ve put Route 66 in the rearview mirror, consider this area for your next epic road trip.
Must do: Stop in the historic town of Gruene for live music and imbibin’ at Gruene Hall, which is pretty much everything you want from a Texas roadhouse. Bandera is where you’ll stop for the requisite chicken fried steak (at Old Spanish Trail Restaurant), then stick around to gape at the actual horses tied to an actual hitching post (they don’t call it the “Cowboy Capital of the World” for nothing). Fredericksburg is a bizarre little haven of German culture, complete with biergarten; after that, we say you whip out the inner tube and spend hours floating down Guadalupe River. Cowboys, German beer fests, and lazy rivers, check -- now it’s on to the 15 wineries along Fredericksburg Wine Road 290. To wrap it all up, head to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area to climb an ancient pink granite peak and survey all that you’ve just visited. -- Meaghan Agnew, Thrillist Contributor
There are hundreds of idyllic lake towns in Michigan (suck it, Minnesota), but Bellaire’s in a magical sweet spot, offering the best of every kind of Michigan summer experience. You want Rockwellian main street? Bellaire’s got a strollable Downtown that hits every beat, from the one-screen moviehouse to cute little restaurants to mom & pop shops. Want great lakes? It’s a short drive to the Grand Traverse Bay, right across the water from vacation mainstay Traverse City, with secluded sandy beaches rocking some of the best sunsets you’ll ever see. Like your lakes not so great? Bellaire’s part of a chain of interconnected small lakes, all perfect for tubing and pontooning (and that have their own great little lake towns). Or do you want to just chill out on a dock in a cabin? The rental possibilities are endless. This is the pinnacle of a lazy man’s destination -- a small town that makes you feel right at home and, if you’re feeling ambitious, is just a short drive away from other places where you can plop down and be lazy. The difference? The tourists-to-townie ratio is refreshingly even.
Must do: Drinking a fantastic beer and catching a show at the rustic Short’s Brewery, one of the top destination breweries in America. Bonus points? Growlers and pontoons pair perfectly. -- Andy Kryza, Senior Food & Drink Editor
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
OK, so we don’t usually take travel advice from Barbara Walters, but she was one of the first celebs to publicly praise this prime little slice of Idaho, so she must have something left in the tank. Coeur d’Alene is another waterside oasis you’ve probably never heard of unless you grew up within 200 miles of the place. But again, that’s only been your loss -- unless you eschew pristine waters and outdoor activities aplenty.
Must do: Lake Coeur d'Alene is the lynchpin of a majestic area of northern Idaho -- a 25-mile long water body where you should plan to swim, boat, fish, kayak, and oh yeah, golf on a “floating green” in the lake, which requires a boat ride to get to the hole. After all that excitement, more floating, this time at The Cedars Floating Restaurant for smoked steelhead trout and a “Huckle-tini” made with vodka infused huckleberries. The city of Coeur D’Alene itself is both cosmopolitan and quaint and a reminder that urban life need not be debilitating; at the least, it’s well worth a shopping detour. As for where to stay, there’s only one choice: Stoneridge Lodge, home to six championship... pickleball courts. (Look it up. It’s awesome.) -- Meaghan Agnew, Thrillist Contributor
Louisville is Kentucky’s (comparatively) liberal metropolis, an island of blue in a sea of rifle-toting red. In recent years Louisville’s dining scene has undergone a roaring renaissance: if you’re a taste-bud tourist you’ll find plenty of exciting restaurants to excite your palate. For starters: sample the smoked meat of the gods in the converted basement that is Hammerheads. Chow down on giant rainbow-colored sushi rolls at Oishii Sushi. Try all the tapas at Artesano. Allow the artistry of Bistro 1860 to forever ruin you for other restaurants. Repent your sins at the Holy Grale (in a renovated church) and allow your sweet tooth to drag you back into sin at The Comfy Cow.
For those who prefer to drink their dinner, Louisville’s bars deliver incredible craft cocktails (Meta, Butchertown Grocery) plenty of great beer options (Against the Grain, Goodwood Brewing Co.), vino, and of course an absolute treasure trove of bourbon selections (Haymarket Whiskey Bar, The Silver Dollar) until 4am. That’s right: the bars in Louisville are open until 4am. Louisville is also within easy driving distance of some of the greatest bourbon distilleries on earth, for the whisky wanderer in you.
Must do: If you’re into learning something new, visit Louisville Slugger, or the newly renovated Speed Art Museum and Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. And Churchill Downs holds many more races than the notorious Kentucky Derby, so if racing season’s on bet on the ponies at least once under the Twin Spires. -- Elizabeth Myers, Thrillist contributor
Has any state suffered more from negative stereotyping? (Watch the 2003 horror movie Wrong Turn if you don’t believe us. Or don’t, because it’s terrible.) Misbegotten Hatfield-McCoy tropes aside, WV also gets passed over due to its Lilliputian size -- can a state this small really contain anything good? Quick answer: yup. Did you know, for example, that the Mountain State houses a dozen wineries? Or that the whitewater rafting ranks among the country’s best? Or that Bluestone National Scenic River has some of the best fly fishing on the Eastern Seaboard? We could go on.
Must do: Plan to stay at least one night in one of the state’s national parks, which offer plenty of log cabin accommodations at near-camping prices. We’d tell you to hit up the Forks of Cheat Winery for the name alone, but the Appalachian setting and French hybrid reds seal the deal. Water bugs will dig the white water thrills of either New or Gauley River. Those seeking a more sedate pace can hike a bit of the Appalachian Trail, then meander into Harpers Ferry -- the geographic meetingplace of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland -- for cheap beers, Civil War history (a lot of the buildings remain untouched in over a century), and a decidedly unplugged lifestyle. -- Meaghan Agnew, Thrillist Contributor
When you think of the Florida Keys, you think of Key West in all of its excesses, both natural and man-made. But farther up the island chain is the Keys’ best-kept secret. Islamorada gives you art galleries, sophisticated dining and lodging, and renowned fishing on both the ocean and gulf sides. It’s water sports by day and honky-tonk by night, with a more laid-back vibe than Key West. Plus, it’s just a 90-minute drive from Miami International.
Must do:Cheeca Lodge and Spa, the island’s most chichi hotel is a one-stop respite: golf, kayaking, fishing, and spa-ing, plus a world-class restaurant where the dinner specials might include a flash-fried whole hogfish. When it comes time to drink (at 11am), Morada Bay is the open-air beach bar of your daydreams, with tables set out on the white sands, and devious Full Moon parties every... full moon, complete with live music, dancing, and bonfires. Locals also settle in at Lorelei’s for live music and sunset tiki cocktails. And then there’s Robbie’s Marina, the archetypal honky-tonk Florida Keys watering hole. If you can tear yourself away from all that relaxing, check out the galleries clustered along a stretch of the Overseas Highway, or hop into your car to explore the equally undersung appeals of the Lower Keys (keep an eye peeled for the teeny tiny Key deer). -- Meaghan Agnew, Thrillist Contributor
Alexandria Bay and Thousand Islands, New York
Alexandria Bay is at the center of the Thousand Islands, a network of almost 2,000 real-life islands along the St. Lawrence River separating New York from Canada. The town balloons from a couple of thousand in the winters to tens of thousands in the summer -- which feels like a lot when they're all partying along a two-block downtown strip. Everything in Alex Bay revolves around the the water (including 15 insanely beautiful inland lakes) -- so there's tons of kayaking, jet-skiing, scuba diving, boating, swimming, and booze-cruising. You can even rent your own pontoon boat for the day or weekend.
Alex Bay locals take summer very seriously; and from Memorial Day until Labor Day the calendar is jammed with events from block parties and biker rallies to blues festivals and vintage boat shows. Live music pours out of all the bars Downtown and tastings are in full swing at almost a dozen wineries and distilleries. A lot of people opt to just get out on the river all day, which means massive floating party barges in favorite swimming holes like Lake of the Isles. If you time your trip right, you can even witness the town's annual pirate festival complete with staged pirate-ship invasion, parade, and thousands of people running around with swords and eyepatches for nine days straight.
Must Do: Act like the tourist you are and take a boat tour of the river. There are a bunch of different cruises to choose from, including some that take you into actual castles on some of the islands, or offer craft beer sampling and live music during sunset hours. -- Nicole Caldwell, Sex & Dating Editor
Located smack in the center of the powerful tourism triangle of Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas, Arkansas is the ultimate underrated and all-too-often-overlooked destination. But you’d be wise not to bypass The Natural State, no matter the type of activities you’re after. Outdoorsy types will gravitate toward the long slate of state and national parks here, waterways ranging from ponds and falls to rushing rivers, the stretch of the Ozarks in the northwest, and biking trails designated as among the best in the country. Those looking for more of a city feel will love spending a few days in Little Rock, where cuisine ranging from local dives to James Beard nominees abound, the Clinton presidential museum offers a taste of history amid sprawling grounds perfect for biking or picnicking, and four-star accommodations await.
Must do: For the absolutely perfect combination of outdoorsy and cultured vakay, grab a mess of friends and rent a luxury houseboat on Lake Ouachita. Sail to where the action is, then party it out. Or if you’re an art lover, pay a visit to the Crystal Bridges Museum, a Walmart-backed art haven in Bentonville that houses a serious collection of American art as well as a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home right on the grounds. -- Farah Fleurima, Thrillist contributor
East Coasters, admit it: we’re all a bunch of travel snobs. Say “summer getaway,” and we think the Cape or the Islands or the Hamptons or Newport; never, ever do we think about the Midwest. To which all Michigan natives simply smile and give a little shake of their heads. Saugatuck is the crown jewel of Michigan’s Sunset Coast, a small-town relic with many trappings of a populous beach resort but exactly zero attitude.
Must do: Wickwood Inn is your landing pad -- a bed and breakfast that places a premium on service, decor, and dining. A Saugatuck escape begins and ends at Oval Beach, which has won accolades as one of the best beaches in the world. (Yes, world.) Michiganders take their blueberries seriously, and Krupka’s is the place in town to pick your own. Never heard of a chain ferry before? It’s a Victorian-era, hand-cranked boat originally designed to transport horses, and Saugatuck’s version -- the only one left in the country -- will take you across Kalamazoo River at a thrillingly glacial pace. Then there’s the collection of honest dining establishments along the water, where you’re likely to find yourself enjoying more than one beer alongside your fried walleye sandwich. -- Meaghan Agnew, Thrillist Contributor
Colorado is not an underrated destination -- the world takes off work to ski, drink, and smoke away their free time in the beautiful state. But Nederland -- about a 25 minute drive from Boulder -- is a gem mostly reserved for locals, a former mining town that doesn't nearly have the shine of places like Aspen, Vail, or Denver. But Nederland has everything you could want (and yes, it has a dispensary, too).
For three days in March every year, the town is taken over by drinking and merriment for Frozen Dead Guy Days, in which one of its most notable events features grown men and women in outlandish costumes running around an obstacle course with a coffin. It's even more fun than it sounds. When it's not snowing, there are plenty of outdoor activities in which to partake -- fishing for Brook trout in Barker Reservoir, easy hiking at Mud Lake, and camping at Kelly Dahl or Camp Dick in the Roosevelt National Forest. For music-lovers, August means NedFest, a three-day music blowout that can only accommodate 2,000 people, and which leans heavy on the jam bands (String Cheese Incident and Leftover Salmon have close ties to the area). Pro tip: call it Ned if you don't want to sound like a tourist.
Must do: Go skiing at Eldora -- a small, 680-acre ski resort that's a 10 minute drive from quaint downtown Nederland, and won't cost you a million dollars for a lift ticket like it does at the bigger-name resorts in the area. -- Lee Breslouer, Food & Drink Staff Writer
Nags Head, North Carolina
Pass on the more crowded East Coast beaches in favor of a more secluded, relaxing corner of NC, a mythical land of drive-thru liquor stores and wild horses roaming... well, wild. On top of the 11-mile stretch of hang glide-able beach at Nags Head, nearby attractions include the tallest lighthouse in the US at Cape Hatteras (sorry, New England) and Roanoke Island where The Lost Colony settlers came over to America 30 years before the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock (sorry again, New England). You won't be lacking for great seafood options, which you can casually sample during the annual Seafood Festival or fish for yourself off of Jennette's Pier. There's several rental options for fishing charter as well, if you catch a shark, just play it cool alright?
Must do: Duck. Donuts. With four locations up and down the OBX, you'll always be within striking distance of some of our nation's finest donuts. Cakey and fried in soy-based shortening, they're made to order with a variety of toppings, though you may not need to look further than maple bacon. -- Sean Cooley, Cities Editor
Portland is so over.
OK maybe it’s not completely played out, but when it comes to cool, outdoorsy destinations with great food, inventive beers, and nearby wine country, the secret about Portland is out. But you know who’s still flying so far under the hipster radar that people don’t even know how to pronounce it? Boise. That’s right, that city you only knew for potatoes and potentially terrifying militia men is actually the Northwest’s best under-the-radar destination. First, the city is completely walkable, meaning you can hit any of its 17 museums and cultural attractions -- like the old Idaho penitentiary -- without needing to rent a car. The Boise river is the city’s centerpiece, and you can go whitewater rafting without having to leave town, or just jog or bike along the 25-mile Boise Greenbelt that runs alongside it.
Once you feel good and healthy, time to do the good unhealthy stuff, like visit one of America’s best wine regions in the Snake River Valley. Or hit up one of Boise’s 11 breweries along the Boise Ale Trail. It really is a place with all the great parts of Seattle or Portland, at a fraction the price, with smaller crowds and friendlier people.
Must do: Go ice blocking down Simplot Hill. Just trust us. -- Matt Meltzer, Travel Staff Writer
Stinson Beach, California
When people think of California beaches they rarely think of Northern California, and they almost certainly don’t think of a beach only 25 miles from San Francisco. But they should. Stinson Beach is one of Northern California's best-kept secrets and the perfect escape from the summer heat. Apart from the serene beach, the hikes (The Steep Ravine and Dipsea trails will give you gasp-worthy views), amazing restaurants (Parkside Café and Sand Dollar are classics), the location (a short distance from Muir Woods, Bolinas, and Point Reyes) Stinson also happens to have the friendliest locals that will make you wish your trip had lasted longer. Stinson Beach is a small town full of hippies, surfers, and laid-back locals with zero gas stations, one ATM machine, and a whole lot of charm that makes it a worthy stop outside of San Francisco, or even a destination in itself.
Must do: Kayak with the Harbor Seals in the Bolinas Lagoon -- just make sure you look at the tide schedule beforehand so you don’t hit water that is too shallow. When the seals aren’t busy sunbathing they will often follow behind or even swim under your kayak. While the Bolinas Lagoon is always worth a visit, it is particularly exciting every fourth of July because Stinson and Bolinas play a friendly (but also highly competitive) game of tug of war over the small channel the separates the two towns. -- Alexandra Seclow, Social Media Coordinator
Bristol, Rhode Island
Newport can have its boat shoes and whale belts. Just up the coast is a far less uppity waterside locale with an equally vibrant sailing scene, plus culture, history, and dining choices galore. Tack on a Fourth of July celebration that’s the oldest and most venerated in the country (also, um, raucous), and you’ve found yourself a pretension-free weekend getaway.
Must Do: If you’re looking to bed down like a richie, you’d do well at Point Pleasant Inn, a massive B&B with balconied suites and a 25-acre waterfront lawn on the water. Residents love their bikes, likely owing to the (flat, whew) East Bay Bike Path that takes you all the way to Providence. If you secretly crave the haughty yachty lifestyle, stop by the intimate Herreshoff Maritime Museum, which also houses the America’s Cup Hall of Fame. But why sail when you can eat? A lobster roll at local favorite Quito’s is best chased by a shot of rum at nearby distillery DeWolf Tavern. Then head out in the morning for maple bacon pancakes at Beehive Cafe, another locals’ favorite. Guilt can be assuaged with an alfresco yoga class at Blithewold Mansion, one of the area’s many architectural wonders that’s open to the public. -- Meaghan Agnew, Thrillist Contributor
Oklahomans might scoff at the idea of Tulsa being called “underrated,” but to East/Left Coasters whose idea of the Sooner State is limited to Kevin Durant and famous musicals, Tulsa is indeed one of those hidden cities that’ll blow you away and defy your expectations.
Rich in oil money and art-deco architecture, Oklahoma’s cosmopolitan second city has always been the state’s artsy kid, home to both the Philbrook and the Gilcrease -- two of country’s top museums -- and its own ballet, opera, and symphony. But now, in the midst of a massive Downtown renaissance that’s left it flush with new stadiums/arenas, condos, and revitalized neighborhoods, it’s gotten even hipper with the rebirth of the Brady Arts District and addition of Guthrie Green, a highly acclaimed urban garden and performance space.
Tulsa is home to two universities (the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts), and plenty of fun, eclectic districts like Brookside and Blue Dome and Cherry Street that are filled with creatives, young people, and all the requisite funky/upscale/hipster shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants. Also, green space: Tulsa’s riddled with parks and running/bike trails and is currently adding a 100-acre waterfront park on the Arkansas River named The Gathering Place.
And finally, we’d be remiss not to mention the city’s highly underrated craft beer scene with brewers like Prairie Artisan Ales, Dead Armadillo, and Marshall, bars such as McNellie’s Public House, and a renowned Oktoberfest that consistently finds itself on the list of world’s best.
Must do: Stay at the Campbell Hotel, one of the best boutique hotels in the country, grab a slice at Andolini’s Pizzeria, try the barrel-aged Pirate Bomb imperial stout at Prairie Artisan Ales, and spend an afternoon touring the Philbrook. Also, stop at ANY QuikTrip you come across. Yes, this born-in-Tulsa convenience store chain is a beverage destination unto itself. Trust us. -- Dave Baldwin, Thrillist contributor
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