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.
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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.
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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1. Tesuque Valley Market138 Tesuque Village Rd, Santa Fe
2. Long Grain31 Elm St, Camden
3. Hatchet Mountain Publick House42 Hatchet Mountain Rd, Hope
4. Primo2 S Main St, Rockland
5. Miller's Lobster Company Inc, Restaurant92 Eagle Quarry Rd, Spruce Head
6. Chandeleur Brewing Company2711 14th Ave, Gulfport
7. Corks and Cleaver1308 27th Ave, Gulfport
8. Stadium Sports Grill744 N Main St, Spearfish
9. Crow Peak Brewing Co125 W Highway 14, Spearfish
10. Lewie's711 S Main St, Lead
11. Sugar's Ribs2450 15th Ave, Chattanooga
12. The Flying Squirrel Bar55 Johnson St, Chattanooga
13. Track 291400 Market St, Chattanooga
14. Tennessee Stillhouse1439 Market Street, Chattanooga
15. Old Spanish Trail305 Main St, Bandera
16. Short's Brewing Company121 N Bridge St, Bellaire
17. The Cedars Floating Restaurant1514 S Marina Dr, Coeur d'Alene
18. Hammerheads921 Swan St, Louisville
19. Oishii Sushi2810 Taylorsville Rd, Louisville
20. Artesano Vino Tapas Y Mas1321 Herr Ln, Louisville
21. Bistro 18601765 Mellwood Ave, Louisville
22. Holy Grale1034 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
23. Meta425 W Chestnut St, Louisville
24. Butchertown Grocery1076 E Washington St, Louisville
25. Against The Grain Brewery401 E Main St, Louisville
26. Goodwood Brewing636 E Main St, Louisville
27. Haymarket Whiskey Bar331 E Market St, Louisville
28. The Silver Dollar1761 Frankfort Ave, Louisville
29. Forks Of Cheat Winery2811 Stewartstown Rd, Morgantown
30. Morada Bay Beach Cafe81600 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada
31. Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar81924 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada
32. Robbie's of Islamorada77522 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada
33. Parkside Cafe43 Arenal Ave, Stinson Beach
34. Sand Dollar Restaurant And Bar3458 Shoreline Hwy 1, Stinson Beach
35. Quito's Seafood Restaurant411 Thames St, Bristol
36. DeWolf Tavern259 Thames St, Bristol
37. Beehive Cafe10 Franklin St, Bristol
38. Dead Armadillo Brewery1004 E 4th St, Tulsa
39. Marshall Brewing Company618 S Wheeling Ave, Tulsa
40. McNellie's409 E 1st St, Tulsa
41. Andolini's Pizzeria1552 E 15th St, Tulsa
42. Prairie Artisan Ales1803 S 49th West Ave, Tulsa
This quirky lunch spot in the pueblo's foothills boasts an eclectic menu encompassing New Mexican cuisine, while also tripling as a bakery and general store. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner options include South-of-the-Border comfort foods like blue corn pancakes, smoked beef brisket, and piñon-encrusted salmon. "TVM" also supplies margaritas, sangria, and a signature Bloody Mary.
Located along West Penobscot, this this unassuming Thai eatery shines in a sea of lobster and fried seafood. Daily, house-made noodles are incorporated into authentic dishes such as pad seaw (sweet soy sauce stir fry) and ramen with kimchi soup and pork belly. For an appetizer, the pan-fried garlic chive rice cakes with sauteed bean sprouts is a must try.
Hatchet Mountain Publick House, a Hope mainstay, doubles as both an antique vendor/buyer and casual/fine dining restaurant. So if you're curious how much your grandfather's coin collection is worth, but also hankering for an great meal, Hatchet Mountain has you covered. Menu items include favorites like duck breast poppers, fish and chips, and an admirable cocktail selection.
This elegant, James Beard award-winning Italian eatery in Rockland boasts a memorable farm-to-table menu. Under the leadership of Chef Melissa Kelly, Primo elevates simple, grown-on-site ingredients into a truly unique experience, with highlights being the pork shoulder ragu ravioli, grass-fed New York strip loin, and for dessert, the fennel-scented panna cotta.
This family-owned spot in the fishing village of Spruce Head is arguably the town's most popular lobster pound. Miller’s Lobster Co. lets you pick your steamed beaut by weight and then eat at a picnic table overlooking the water. If lobster isn't your thing, Miller's also supplies, guests can enjoy crabmeat rolls, shrimp rolls, and hot dogs (for the seafood un-inclined).
Part of Gulfport's downtown resurgence, this microbrewery is named after the Chandeleur Islands off the coast of Mississippi, and serves up some of the tastiest handcrafted ales on the Gulf Coast. Located just blocks away from the beach, the brewery offers brewery tours and tastings that'll perfectly preface your surf jaunts and general weekend wanderings around town.
A boutique wine bar and bistro, Gulfport's Cork and Cleaver is a European-inspired boite offering up farm fresh small plates and an extension selection of small batch vino. The menu is classic French cooking with a side of Southern Hospitality-- think duck confit beignets, crab au gratin, and crawfish boudin. Cork and Cleaver's outdoor patio is a great spot for lounging, of course with a glass of wine in hand.
The Spearfish outpost of this small, South Dakota chain has been active since 1993, serving the neighborhood with memorable sports bar standards: delicious, greasy eats, beer, and a casual, down-to-earth vibe. Among highlights like the beef tip quesadilla, macho nacho, and steak sandwich, are gluttonous desserts. We recommend the Oreo cookie fried ice cream.
In ski lodge style digs lives Crow Peak Brewing Co, a circa 2007 brewery known for its relaxed atmosopher and affordable brews. In addition to a small, curated list of rotating craft beers with intriguing names -- like the popular Pile O'Dirt Porter, 11th Hour IPA, and Wicca -- this brewery also offers sample flights and standard, pair-able bar bites.
Serving up roadhouse-style burgers, brews, and some of the best onion rings in the Northern Midwest, Lewie's is a down-home saloon and eatery that's a must-visit when in South Dakota's Black Hills. A short drive from Thrillist approved Crow Peak Brewery in Spearfish, hit up both for a delicious day trip.
This counter service spot in Missionary Ridge serves up great mountaintop views, and of course, some seriously tasty smoked spareribs. These moist yet crunchy sweetmeats pair perfectly with Sugar's Ribs solid selection of domestic and craft brews on tap. Dine in and groove to the jukebox or watch goats grazing on the lawn (you'll feel like you're out in the country even though you're only a stone's throw from downtown).
This modern, industrial chic bar and cafe on bustling W. Main is a go- to for its large list of craft cocktails, small plates, and friendly, congenial vibes. Stop in for happy hour (deals on booze are offered pretty much every day of week) or brunch; Flying Squirrel's menu of Southern-fried favorites like chicken and waffles and ham eggs benedict pair perfectly with Mimosas.
This spacious performance venue hosts local and nationally renowned live bands, performers, and artists that run the gamut from country, to indie rock, to folk, electronic music and everything in between. There are shows most nights a week, so you can easily stop in and check out a band you've been meaning to hear or discover a new favorite.
Around the time this microdistillery first got started making whiskey, there were laws prohibiting its production in the southeastern Tennessee midsize town. Tennessee Stillhouse literally got laws rewritten so it could become the first legal distillery in Chattanooga in over a century. Today, the handsome, vintage space houses a bottling line, a tasting bar, a patio for events, and plenty of legal whiskey to enjoy.
Located on the historic Main Street in the true Texan cowboy town of Bandera, this casual eatery is a no holds barred Southern charmer of a spot. Get all of your requisite down-home dishes like country fried steak and eat 'em in the restaurant's on-site "John Wayne" room for a true Hill Country experience.
Short’s was started by 22-year-old Joe Short, who wanted to make creative beers on his own terms while simultaneously sporting a killer mustache. Lucky for him (and the rest of us) Mr. Short got his way and has since given us some of the state’s most beloved creatively flavored brews, like Bloody Beer, Soft Parade, Strawberry Short’s Cake… you get the idea. Short’s has a tight-knit community behind it, combined with a "power of smallness" mentality and a passion for the great outdoors. It's proven to be a delicious combination.
The town of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, has a gem of a restaurant in Cedar's, a steak-and-seafood house that floats right on the waters of the Spokane River. Drawing inspiration from the waters in view, Cedar's serves a menu of seafood classics updated with modern twists, like a salmon cooked on a cedar plank, married with traditional steak cuts for a night of culinary opulence. To complement their upscale cuisine they've developed a comprehensive cocktail list that likewise updates old-school cocktails for the new era. Their huckleberry martini and signature Cedar's Floating Margarita use top-shelf ingredients married with local flavors to make something, like the restaurant itself, entirely unique to the area.
This uber-casual Paristown restaurant set inside a residence is classic American comfort food delivered in a relaxed and friendly neighborhood venue. Think Southern barbeque meets American burger joint and you've grasped Hammerheads, where racks of ribs sit right next to sliders and crab cakes. Seating is first come, first served at this corner eatery, but there's room enough for the whole crowd. Don't go to this Louisville spot if you're looking for a cocktail night, though—they only serve beer and wine.
Located on the edge of the Highlands, Oishii is the go-to destination for Louisville sushi. The entrees -- which include options like yellow tail nigiri and classic roll options -- are reasonably priced and pair well with the restaurant's extensive domestic and Japanese beer, sake, and wine options. The space is casual and spacious, with seating available at the chef's sushi bar where you can watch your meal prepared in real-time.
This no-reservations hot spot offers a tapas-style menu of inventive spanish and globally inspired eats. The shareable items here are sized for least two, though the tender cuts of rib-eye, strip, and flank, will have you wishing for your own pound of meat. For a glass of wine or one of four kinds of sangria, head to the diner-like bar, where, thankfully, the "generous" attitude is shared.
This Crescent Hill eatery/drinkery features eclectic décor, French-American fusion cuisine, and an array of delicious and unique cocktails, not to mention a full bar. On any given evening, pick from a selection of 50 different wines, a delicious dinner menu, and a great patio to use during the warmer months.
This converted century-old church now works full-service as an artisanal pub specializing in beer and food pairings. The space is equal parts ingenious adaptation and gorgeous design and the menu is always changing, as are the beers. Be sure not to miss the choir loft and the beer garden, and if the Scotch quail eggs are on the menu, order them immediately.
Meta is a wonderful world of contrasts -- a marble-barred, copper-penny-floored temple of swank drinking lodged next to a strip club. But it’s not just bravado and balls that make Meta the best damn cocktail bar in a city that was doing craft cocktails long before they were trendy. The signatures are all grounded in tradition, but with a nice kick in the knickers. Take, for example, The High Pant, which augments some Old Fitzgerald with fernet and ginger to transform the Old Fashioned into something completely new. And hey, with cocktails this good, that strip club next door just keeps getting less lurid by the sip.
This industrial-chic and proudly Kentuckian spot backed by the unlikely pairing of a local Louisville lawyer and My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan serves American fare with down-home charm. Come in for stylish takes on American classics, like the country pate and bourbon-spiked fries, or the oysters with bourbon mignonette. When you're finished eating, head to the secret late-night bar and performance venue upstairs, Lola, where acts hand-picked by Mr. Hallahan himself keep the party going into the wee hours of the night.
Damn good beer and damn good barbeque are the hallmarks of downtown Louisville staple Against the Grain, located right at the famous Louisville Slugger field. Since opening their doors, the creative brewing team at Against the Grain have created over 100 unique beers that are so good they've evolved from local brewery to national beer distributor. With a full range of beer types, from light session ales to hop-full IPAs and smoky stouts, Against the Grain has a beer for every drinker. And if you don't drink, then chow down on their house-smoked barbeque, with favorites like brisket and pulled pork sitting alongside vegetarian options, like a signature chickpea sloppy joe, more adventuresome than just another salad.
Goodwood Brewing Company lives up to its name by making beer "touched by wood" via the traditional barrel method of infusing whiskey. The resulting microbrews are complex, deep, and thoroughly tasty. Come by their brick and mortar and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
Haymarket Whiskey Bar has more than 100 bourbons and almost 200 whiskeys, as well as live music four-plus nights a week. If the extensive liquor selection isn't enticing enough, visit for the décor alone: '80s memorabilia, Star Wars posters, old pinball machines, and a gorgeous green glass bar.
If it’s too loud... you’re at the right place. The Silver Dollar (located in a renovated firehouse) is known for loud honky-tonk and whiskey by the drink, and the Christmas lights décor extends to the back patio. Johnny Cash, Four Roses neat, and warm breeze -- nothing but a perfect year-round combination.
In addition to offering a generous wine tasting, Forks Of Cheat slings unique bottles, inspired by both Appalachia and France. A friendly staff guides guests through the free tasting, which highlights a numbers of red, along with a few rye and moonshine bottles. There's also a patio overflowing with fauna -- the perfect place to sip and relax.
The open air beach bar of your daydreams, Morada Bay boasts tables set out on the white sands, and devious Full Moon parties every… full moon, complete with live music, dancing, and bonfires. Menu items at this Florida Keys favorite is a blend of Caribbean and American cuisine, featuring staples like chicken salads, hamburgers, and, of course a variety of seafood dishes.
This seaside (literally) restaurant and cabana bar is a local favorite for its seasonal seafood dishes, regular live music, and generous pours. For the true Florida Keys experience, settle in with a sunset tiki cocktail and enjoy "Lorelei's World Famous Fish Sandwich," the fresh catch of the day, blackened or grilled, on a roll with lettuce, tomato, and onion. While you watch the sun set over the bay, take in some tonky honk tunes.
A visit to the Florida Keys wouldn't be complete without making a pit stop at Robbie's Marina, a true tropical honky tonk watering hole if there ever was one. This fish shack on A1A serves up fresh catches on the daily, plus super strong island daiquiris, tiki cocktails, and margaritas. Get a table out on the patio and soak up the island breeze.
Stinson Beach's seaside snack bar and restaurant, the Parkside Cafe is a great local restaurant serving up reliable, classic American fare and killer views of Bolinas Bay. Just 25 miles north of San Francisco, this hidden gem of a spot is worth the day trip: explore the cute, hippie town and then stop in at Parkside for a cozy dinner and sit by their fireplace.
Take a day trip up the coast and make a pit stop at this charming beachside oyster bar and seafood shack. Open since 1921, the Sand Dollar is a quaint and cozy pint-sized resto serving up fresh fish fare (they've got everything from fish tacos to grilled King Salmon and fried clams, shrimp cocktail, and oysters on the half sheel) and amazing views of Bolinas Bay. Stop in for a casual lunch or a upscale yet casual dinner (their craft cocktails are to die for).
Beginning life as a seafood market, Quito's has always been devoted to selling the freshest fish they can get their hands on—which is pretty easy, considering the market-turned-restaurant sits right on the waters of the Bristol Harbor. The family-friendly sit-down eatery is a big tourist draw with its breathtaking views and generous portions of seaside comfort food. You can have your fish any way you want it at Quito's (baked, fried, pan-seared, stuffed, between two buns, etc), or pickier eaters can choose from a well-honed menu of land-based sandwiches and sides. Take advantage of the location with breezy dockside seating and wash down those crustaceans with a selection from Quito's full bar of cocktails and beer.
An upscale, right-on-the-water venue serving steak and seafood with a twist, DeWolf Tavern has transcended its warehouse past to become a genuine dining destination. With three distinct seating areas, you can dine and drink casually on the waterfront patio, inside at the tavern on the first floor, or move upstairs for a more formal experience in the fire-lit dining room. Southern and Indian carbs anchor the menu (popovers, naan), which updates classic seaside dishes with fresh, local ingredients. A large wine list is available, as well as cocktails and beer, for the best possible pairing with your seaside meal.
Bristol, RI's Beehive Cafe has expanded from a small, local cafe/bakery to a full-on restaurant serving dinner and drinks on the weekend. The Hive's pastry past influences its present, from the cozy reading room nooks of the dining area to the heavily bread-based menu (think sandwiches and pizzas). The breads are baked in-house and have enough flavor and texture of their own to create bases for some absolutely delicious sandwiches, though, like the signature Italian featuring locally cured meats and cheeses. Their bar is stocked with a mix of local beers and wines as well, so you get the full taste of Bristol, RI when you visit.
This local Tulsa craft brewery is making waves across the United States with its line-up of unique ales and lagers. Stop in and visit the taproom to sample 'em all: we especially like the Nine Band IPA, a Pacific Northwest style brew featuring nine different kinds of hops. Dead Armadillo's on-site store allows you to bring your favorite beer home, plus maybe a t-shirt or commemorative pint glass, too.
This established Tulsa brewery operates out of a massive space in the city's Downtown district. Producing full bodied ales and lagers, the folks at Marshall Brewing know a thing or two abut hops. Stop by the grounds to refill your growler, take a tour of the grounds (usually occurring one Saturday a month), and be sure to check out Marshall's Facebook for up to date coverage of community events scheduled at the brewery.
Located in downtown Tulsa, this massive Irish style pub and sports bar carries over 300 brews on tap, in addition to a solid line-up of bar food standbys (cheeseburgers, loaded fries, and because this is technically the Midwest, cheese curds). The vibe is congenial and friendly during the daytime, and gets rowdier as happy hour drinkers begin to pour in later.
Tulsa might not be a pizza capital, but Andolini's Pizzeria sure challenges that reality. Pies here are prepared from scratch New York-style (the space even has an exposed brick design to drive home the point!), with housemade sausage and mozzarella, and local ingredients. Try a Fat Tony, topped with Italian sausage and ricotta, and pair with one of many craft beers, cocktails, or beer cocktails.
Part of Tulsa's excellent yet underrated craft beer scene, Prairie Artisan Ales is housed in a white, metal warehouse that's as cool as it sounds, and serves up 20 taps of its own brews, as well as other selections from local brewers. The space has a modern, earthy vibe, and also offers food options that include ribs and rotisserie chicken.