With overcrowded national parks, long lines at amusement parks, and sold out city attractions awaiting you in America’s most popular destinations, it’s time to consider a vacation to an underrated destination in the U.S. These 15 places include both cities and national parks, and offer the promise of a less crowded, lower stress trip.
Places in the U.S. That See Less Than Two Million Annual Visitors
Methodology: Annual visitation statistics were provided by tourism boards. Other factors taken into consideration include the total economic impact of state on the travel industry (provided by the U.S. Travel Association).
Editors’ Note: Hotel choices were selected based on high value ratings on TripAdvisor.
#1: Alaska National Parks
The great outdoors, natural wonders, and uncrowded national parks make Alaska one of the most attractive underrated places in the U.S. to visit.
Annual Visitors: The state sees just over 2 million visitors annually and vast national parks like Wrangell-St. Elias, Katmai, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark, and Gates of the Arctic have modest visitor numbers in the tens of thousands.
Where to stay: Ultima Thule Lodge in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Check Prices for Ultima Thule Lodge in Alaska
#2: Boise, Idaho
Idaho’s capital is an up-and-coming urban destination with breweries, quirky museums, and outdoor attractions like the Boise River Greenbelt and Bogus Basin Mountain Resort.
Annual Visitors: 1 million
Where to stay: The Grove Hotel in downtown
Check Prices for The Grove Hotel in Boise, ID
#3: Santa Fe, New Mexico
This artistic capital city is home to museums (the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum being one of the most notable) as well as galleries and artisan shops. Plus, you can easily access outdoor parks like Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks and Bandelier.
Annual Visitors: 2 million
Where to stay: Hotel St. Francis in downtown
Check Prices for Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe
#4: Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Fresh air, gorgeous state parks, and outdoor activities like skiing and rock climbing make this underrated U.S. city worth visiting if you’re looking for authentic experiences with nature.
Annual Visitors: 1.7 million
Where to stay: Hilton Garden Inn Sioux Falls Downtown
Check Prices for Hilton Garden Inn Sioux Falls Downtown in Sioux Falls, SD
#5: Augusta, Georgia
More than just a golfer’s dream destination, Augusta is also home to a Riverwalk along the Savannah River as well as a canal and some smaller museums.
Annual Visitors: 1.5 million
Where to stay: The Partridge Inn Augusta, Curio Collection by Hilton in the historic area
Check Prices for The Partridge Inn Augusta, Curio Collection by Hilton in Augusta, GA
#6: Bowling Green, Kentucky
Go cave spelunking, ride a wooden roller coaster, take an underground boat tour, and see vintage Corvettes. You’ll find minimal crowds throughout most of the year at the national park and at most attractions in ‘Vette City.
Annual Visitors: Under one million people visit Bowling Green each year, and only 533,000 visit Mammoth Cave National Park annually.
Where to stay: The Kentucky Grand Hotel and Spa in downtown
Check Prices for The Kentucky Grand Hotel & Spa in Bowling Green, KY
#7: Whitefish, Montana
This resort town is located at the base of Glacier National Park in the northwest part of the state. Here you’ll find Whitefish Mountain Resort for skiing, Whitefish Lake for water activities, and a downtown area lined with shops and restaurants.
Annual Visitors: 661,000
Where to stay: The Firebrand Hotel in downtown
Check Prices for The Firebrand Hotel in Whitefish, MT
#8: The Big Island, Hawaii
Despite its name, the Big Island has a more laid-back, small-town local vibe than Hawaii’s other islands—and is among the chain’s less visited destinations. Head to Kona for beaches, Kohala for sea turtles, or Hilo for rainforest hikes and waterfalls.
Annual Visitors: 1.6 million.
Where to stay: Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on the Kohala Coast
Check Prices for Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Waikoloa, HI
#9: Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands is just as magnificent—but is less visited—than its neighbor Arches National Park. Here you’ll find amazing whitewater rafting in the Cataract Canyon, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, and the famous Mesa Arch.
Annual Visitors: 776,000
Where to stay: Hyatt Place Moab is about a 30-minute drive to the park.
Check Prices for Hyatt Place Moab in Moab, UT
#10: Tupelo, Mississippi
Award-winning BBQ, a Bison tour, and Elvis’ birthplace are just a few reasons to visit this underrated Southern city.
Annual Visitors: 260,000
Where to stay: Red Roof Inn Tupelo
Check Prices for Red Roof Inn Tupelo in Tupelo, MS
#11: Golden, Colorado
If you’re longing for that perfectly Western mix of old-time pioneer town and the great outdoors, then Golden is the underrated U.S. destination for you. This former Gold Rush town is located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and is home to the Coors Brewery.
Annual Visitors: 1.1 million
Where to stay: The Dove Inn at the base of the Front Range
Check Prices for The Dove Inn in Golden, CO
#12: Beaufort, South Carolina
Beaufort offers Southern charm without the crowds on one of the state’s Sea Islands. Visit for the antebellum architecture, low country boils, and charming downtown.
Annual Visitors: 220,000
Where to stay: Beaufort Inn in the historic downtown
Check Prices for Beaufort Inn in Beaufort, NC
#13: Marfa, Texas
This funky town set in the West Texas desert attracts visitors for its (rumored) extraterrestrial light show, art galleries, and remoteness.
Annual Visitors: Estimated at 100,000
Where to stay: Hotel Saint George
Check Prices for Hotel Saint George in Marfa, TX
#14: Salem, Massachusetts
Famous for the witch trials in 1692, Salem is also a New England coastal getaway. With a new boutique hotel and a world-class museum in the neighboring town, Salem is an underrated weekend destination.
Annual Visitors: 1 million
Where to stay: The Hotel Salem in downtown
Check Prices for The Hotel Salem in Salem, MA
#15: Mesa, Arizona
The City of Mesa covers an area that spans almost 20 exits beyond Phoenix city limits. While Mesa sees fewer visitors than Phoenix and Scottsdale, it offers equally beautiful hiking trails in the Sonora Desert, canyon lakes, and even trendy agritourism attractions.
Annual Visitors: 1.1 million
Where to stay: Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch in the Tonto National Forest
Check Prices for Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch in Mesa, AZ
More from SmarterTravel:
- The 12 Best All-Inclusive Reports in the United States for 2019
- The 15 Most Scenic Amtrak Routes in North America
- The 10 Best Lake Town in North America
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.