Feeling overwhelmed by popular US destinations during your summer travels?
As a seasoned travel expert with decades of exploring under-the-radar locales, I bring a wealth of first-hand knowledge and insight, ensuring you discover those hidden gems that transform a simple getaway into an unforgettable journey.
Ready to discover underrated summer travel ideas for each state in the United States?
Keep reading to unlock serene landscapes and charming towns that offer a unique blend of adventure, art, and tranquility, equipping you with all the information you need for a perfectly uncharted summer escape.
Consider linking a few of these destinations together to make an epic cross-country road trip!
Let's dive into exploring the best places and the best time to visit these underrated places!
Best Underrated Summer Travel Ideas by State
Explore these unique and underrated summer travel ideas in each state as you plan your summer vacation. From tranquil nature escapes to charming towns and cultural adventures, get ready for a memorable summer getaway like no other.
Little River Canyon National Preserve – Located in the northeastern part of the state, near the town of Fort Payne, this preserve is situated in the rugged terrain of the southern Appalachian Mountains.
This preserve is a hidden treasure that boasts stunning waterfalls and tranquil hiking trails, making it a serene escape for nature lovers.
Best in June for mild weather and blooming flora.
Wrangell -St. Elias National Park & Preserve – Located in southeastern Alaska, near the border with Canada. It's the largest national park in the United States and offers a remote and pristine wilderness experience.
Getting there can be tricky and needs a bit of planning. Once at the park, you will be met with breathtaking glaciers and abundant wildlife.
Ideal in July when the days are the longest.
Bisbee offers a cooler and more eclectic alternative to the typical hot spots in Arizona. Explore art galleries, stroll along historic streets, and delve into the town's unique character.
While visiting, consider heading to Chiricahua National Monument, a hidden gem with stunning rock formations and hiking trails that deserve more recognition.
Visit in August for unique local events.
Hot Springs National Park – Nestled in the heart of Arkansas, this park is known for its ancient thermal springs and offers a hidden gem for relaxation. Unwind in soothing hot baths and explore the historic bathhouses along Bathhouse Row.
While at Bathhouse Row, stop at the Superior Bathhouse Brewery & Distillery for a craft beer made using the thermal spring water from the park.
June is ideal for fewer crowds.
Mendocino – Situated along the stunning northern California coast, Mendocino invites visitors to explore its dramatic landscapes, from coastal bluffs to ancient redwood forests.
Activities include hiking along coastal trails, admiring the picturesque Mendocino Headlands, touring art galleries, savoring farm-to-table cuisine, and staying in cozy inns overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
It is best visited in July for coastal fog and blooming gardens.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve – Located in southern Colorado, this national park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.
Hike and sled down the massive sand dunes, explore the diverse ecosystems, go stargazing in one of the nation's darkest skies, and even soak in nearby hot springs.
August offers warm days and cool nights.
Mystic – A charming historical seaport, Mystic beckons with its maritime heritage and serene ambiance.
Explore the Mystic Seaport Museum, home to historic ships and exhibits, indulge in fresh seafood, stroll along the scenic riverfront, and even visit the Mystic Aquarium for a unique underwater adventure.
Visit in June for pleasant weather.
Lewes – This charming beach town offers a blend of history and relaxation. Check out historic sites like the Lewes Historical Society, relax on beautiful beaches, enjoy fresh seafood at local eateries, and take scenic ferry rides to nearby islands.
July is ideal for beach activities.
Apalachicola – Nestled in the panhandle of Florida along the Gulf Coast, this tranquil coastal town is famous for its delectable oysters. The area offers a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of Florida's popular beaches with its historic charm and scenic waterfront.
Best in June for local seafood festivals.
Cumberland Island – Known for its pristine beaches and the enchanting sight of wild horses roaming freely, Cumberland Island offers a tranquil coastal escape without the crowds often found at more famous seaside destinations.
Take the ferry to the island for a day trip or spend the weekend camping. We took a day trip to the island while staying in Savannah!
Ideal in August for turtle nesting season.
Molokai – A less-visited island gem, Molokai offers an authentic Hawaiian experience with its rich culture and traditions and stunning landscapes that remain unspoiled by tourism.
Visit Pāpōhaku Beach, one of Hawaiʻi’s largest white-sand beaches. Consider checking out the historic Kapuāiwa Coconut Grove and snorkeling in Hawaiʻi’s longest continuous fringing reef.
July is perfect for sunny beach days.
Sawtooth National Recreation Area – With its majestic mountains, crystal-clear lakes, and an extensive network of hiking trails, this area is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts seeking pristine natural beauty.
We had a great time hiking the Fourth of July Trail – the 10-mile drive to the trailhead is well worth it.
Best in July for wildflower blooms.
Galena – The town is famous for its picturesque, mile-long Main Street, which is lined with beautifully preserved 19th-century buildings, historic sites, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants.
Galena is a remarkable example of a well-preserved historic downtown. The town is a major draw for visitors who come to admire its charming architecture and explore its unique shops and dining establishments.
Visit in August for local art and music festivals.
Brown County State Park – Nestled in the rolling hills of southern Indiana, this park offers picturesque landscapes with its wooded hills and scenic valleys, making it a tranquil yet often overlooked gem among Midwestern destinations.
Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking and mountain biking on scenic trails, horseback riding, and admiring the stunning vistas.
June is perfect for outdoor activities.
Pella – Situated in the heart of Iowa, Pella is celebrated for its rich Dutch heritage and colorful tulip festivals. Pella provides a unique and charming Midwestern experience steeped in cultural tradition.
Be sure to enjoy authentic Dutch bakeries and take a windmill tour.
July offers delightful weather for exploring.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve – Located in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas, this preserve showcases the beauty of America's heartland with its expansive, rolling prairies. Visit for a unique glimpse into the rich ecosystem of the tallgrass prairie.
Be sure to take the bus tour for spectator prairie views and bison viewing.
Best visited in June for blooming wildflowers.
Land Between the Lakes – Straddling Kentucky and Tennessee, offers a peaceful retreat with its abundant wildlife and a plethora of water activities on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.
Be sure to check out Elk & Bison Prairie and the Homeplace 1850s working farm.
July is ideal for boating and fishing.
Natchitoches – As the oldest town in Louisiana, Natchitoches is a captivating blend of rich history and Southern charm. The town features well-preserved historic districts and a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
While there, explore the charming historic district, cruise along the scenic Cane River, visit historic plantations, and savor traditional Creole cuisine.
August is great for exploring historic sites.
Boothbay Harbor – A picturesque coastal town offering a quieter and more intimate setting compared to Bar Harbor. Boothbay Harbor enchants visitors with its stunning scenery, charming marinas, and quaint New England character.
Best in June for the beginning of lobster season.
Assateague Island National Seashore – Known for its wild horses roaming freely and its unspoiled beaches, this national seashore offers a unique and tranquil beach experience unlike any other.
Plan to spend a day or two exploring the seashore.
July is ideal for beachcombing and wildlife viewing.
Newburyport – This charming coastal town boasts a rich maritime history and scenic waterfront, offering a quieter and more quaint alternative to the busier Cape Cod.
Enjoy boutique shopping, explore the historic architecture, stroll along the picturesque boardwalk, and indulge in fresh seafood at local eateries.
Best in August for waterfront festivals.
Keweenaw Peninsula – Located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, this area offers breathtaking lake views and historic mining towns. This peninsula is a hidden gem for those seeking both natural beauty and a glimpse into Michigan's rich mining history.
Some great state parks in the area turn a visit into a perfect weekend summer trip.
Visit in July for pleasant weather and fewer tourists.
Voyageurs National Park – This water-based park is less visited than Boundary Waters but equally stunning. Consider renting a houseboat for a truly unforgettable experience!
The park offers boat tours that are highly enjoyable.
June is ideal for wildlife watching and fishing.
Natchez – Brimming with Southern charm and lined with historic antebellum homes. Natchez is a captivating yet often overlooked location along the Mississippi River.
While in Natchez, consider driving north along the Natchez Trace to the Nashville, TN, area. There are many unique experiences to explore along the route – waterfalls, old structures, and scenic views.
Visit in August for unique cultural events.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park – Located in the Lake of the Ozarks region, this unique park offers intriguing castle ruins, natural bridges, and scenic trails.
Best in July for hiking and exploring.
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area – Known for its majestic canyons, visitors can enjoy spectacular hiking, boating in the vast canyon, wildlife viewing, and fishing.
It is ideal in August for boating and hiking.
Niobrara National Scenic River – This picturesque river offers a perfect landscape for canoeing adventures and bird-watching, providing a tranquil escape into nature's beauty.
June offers lush scenery and mild weather.
Great Basin National Park – In this remote park, visitors can marvel at ancient bristlecone pines, explore limestone caves, hike in serene alpine landscapes, and enjoy some of the clearest star-gazing opportunities in the nation.
Visit in July for the best stargazing conditions.
29. New Hampshire
Monadnock Region – Known for its idyllic New England landscapes and charming small towns, the Monadnock Region is a picturesque area that encapsulates the serene beauty of rural New Hampshire.
August is best for outdoor festivals and fairs. Other summer activities include hiking up the famed Mount Monadnock, scenic biking, kayaking along peaceful rivers, and golfing.
30. New Jersey
Cape May – This historic beach town is adorned with Victorian architecture, offering a quieter and more charming alternative to the Jersey Shore.
It's an ideal spot for those seeking a blend of seaside relaxation and architectural beauty.
It is best visited in June for pleasant weather and fewer crowds.
31. New Mexico
Taos – Celebrated for its distinctive Pueblo architecture and vibrant art scene. Check out Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to an ancient adobe settlement.
July is ideal for cultural festivals.
32. New York
Finger Lakes Region – Renowned for its scenic beauty and superb wineries, this region offers a serene and picturesque escape into nature and viticulture.
Watkins Glen State Park is a must-stop destination for waterfall lovers!
August is perfect for wine tasting and lake activities.
33. North Carolina
Beaufort – A coastal gem with a rich pirate history, Beaufort offers a quieter and more historic experience compared to the busier coastal towns.
June is best for sailing and exploring the historic district.
34. North Dakota
Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Known for its stunning badlands scenery, this national park offers a peaceful and unspoiled natural experience.
Head to the northern unit for an even quieter experience than the south unit. Or better yet – travel across North Dakota and visit a ton of places!
Visit in July for hiking and wildlife viewing.
Hocking Hills State Park – Known for its breathtaking waterfalls and hiking trails, it is a peaceful retreat that has gained popularity in recent years. The park is located in the Wayne National Forest, about an hour south of Columbus.
There are plenty of other parks in Ohio if you want to extend your trip!
It is ideal in August for outdoor adventures.
Broken Bow – A serene lake area perfect for fishing and boating, less known than more popular spots. Surrounded by the lush Kiamichi Mountains and the clear waters of Broken Bow Lake, it's an idyllic escape just a few hours from Dallas.
Best in June for water activities.
Wallowa Lake – A tranquil haven nestled in the Eastern Oregon Alps. Wallowa Lake is known for its stunning alpine scenery and diverse outdoor activities.
It's a peaceful alternative to Oregon's busier coastal destinations, offering a chance to connect with nature in a less crowded setting.
Visit in July for hiking and fishing.
Laurel Highlands – combines scenic rolling hills and rich history. This picturesque area in Southwest PA, an hour from Pittsburgh, offers a quiet retreat with its verdant landscapes and notable historical landmarks.
If you are a National Park Service fan, there are a few sites to visit in the area, making it a great place for a summer vacation!
August is best for outdoor exploration and local festivals.
39. Rhode Island
Block Island – A serene gem off the Rhode Island coast, Block Island offers a laid-back atmosphere and stunning natural beauty.
It's a quieter, more relaxed alternative to the bustling Newport, with picturesque beaches and charming landscapes. Block Island is a popular destination for water sports.
July is best for beach activities and biking.
40. South Carolina
Beaufort – Nestled along the coast, this city is a treasure trove of Southern charm and historical depth, often overlooked due to the fame of Charleston and Savannah.
Its quiet streets and rich heritage make it a captivating destination for exploring historical sites. Be sure to have some pizza at Piace Pizza!
Visit in August for cultural events and riverfront views.
41. South Dakota
Custer State Park – A haven for wildlife and scenic drives, this park offers a tranquil alternative to the more crowded Mount Rushmore.
Its expansive landscapes and natural beauty provide a serene backdrop for exploration and relaxation.
It's best in June for mild weather and active wildlife.
Land Between the Lakes – This peaceful nature getaway, nestled between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, is often overshadowed by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
It's a serene spot for those seeking tranquility amidst beautiful landscapes.
July is ideal for water activities and exploring nature trails.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park – Offering a stunning canyon landscape, this state park is a hidden gem often missed by visitors to Texas.
Its dramatic vistas and rich colors provide a unique and breathtaking outdoor experience in the Texas Panhandle.
Visit in August for dramatic sunsets and cooler evenings.
Capitol Reef National Park – Situated in south-central Utah, this park is a hidden treasure with unique rock formations.
The captivating landscapes offer a peaceful exploration of Utah's natural beauty
It's best in June for comfortable hiking weather.
Mad River Valley – In the heart of the Green Mountains, this picturesque valley is dotted with charming small towns.
July is ideal for hiking and biking along scenic trails, kayaking on the tranquil Mad River, and local farmers' markets.
Chincoteague Island – Located off the coast of Virginia, this island is celebrated for its wild ponies and serene beaches.
It's a perfect spot for nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful beach experience.
Visit in August for the annual pony swim.
San Juan Islands – Nestled in the northern reaches of Washington State, the San Juan Islands offer a peaceful retreat with stunning landscapes.
These islands are a haven for wildlife and natural beauty.
Best in July for whale watching and kayaking.
48. West Virginia
New River Gorge – Known for its impressive bridge and outdoor activities, it is a hidden Appalachian gem. As a new National Park Site, the popularity of this destination has grown.
August is ideal for rafting, rock climbing, and other outdoor adventures.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – Located along the shores of Lake Superior, this area boasts breathtaking lake scenery and unique sea caves. Take a boat or kayak tour to get an up-close view from the crystal-clear waters.
Best visited in June for kayaking and bird watching.
Wind River Range – This rugged mountain range offers spectacular scenery and extensive hiking trails, presenting a less crowded but equally majestic alternative to the well-known Yellowstone.
It is ideal in July for wildflowers and hiking.
Each destination in this list presents a unique, underrated experience in its respective state. These places are perfect if you enjoy exploring off-the-beaten-path locations.
The best months to visit these places are suggested based on typical weather patterns and local events, which can enhance the travel experience.
Underrated Summer Travel Ideas – Bonus Destinations
Beyond the well-trodden path lie numerous alternative destinations where the summer months can be enjoyed away from the crowds.
Or if a scenic drive is more your pace, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers breathtaking views of the Appalachian Highlands, complete with hiking trails and picnic spots.
Adventure seekers might prefer hiking in the rugged terrains of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a treasure waiting to be discovered, with its enchanting forests and shimmering Great Lakes shores.
For those seeking serenity, the Adirondacks in New York provide a peaceful respite.
Door County, Wisconsin, is the epitome of quaintness, with its charming coastal towns and lighthouses. This area has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, so expect it to be busy.
Each of these alternatives promises a distinct flavor of adventure, culture, and relaxation, paving the way for an unforgettable summer foray.
FAQs: Underrated Summer Travel Ideas
What makes a travel destination “underrated”?
An “underrated” travel destination is one that is often overlooked by the average traveler but offers experiences and value that rival or sometimes exceed better-known destinations.
These places typically feature fewer crowds, unspoiled settings, and a unique local culture, providing a more authentic and relaxing travel experience.
How can I find affordable accommodations in these underrated areas?
Finding affordable accommodations in underrated destinations can often be easier than in tourist hotspots.
Consider booking your stay through local vacation rental websites, looking for family-run guesthouses, or staying slightly off the beaten path.
Planning your visit outside of peak tourist season can also lead to significant savings and a quieter experience.
Are these underrated destinations suitable for solo travelers?
Absolutely, underrated destinations can be ideal for solo travelers who seek adventures off the mainstream tourist trails.
These locations often lead to more meaningful interactions with locals and deeper connections with the place. Always prioritize safety by researching the destination ahead of time and being aware of any specific travel advisories.
What kind of activities can I expect in these less-visited locations?
In less-visited locations, you can often enjoy a wide range of activities that might not be found elsewhere.
Final Thoughts: Underrated Summer Travel Ideas
In the end, our meticulously selected recommendations for underrated summer travel ideas aim to inspire your next escapade amidst uncrowded beaches, lush national parks, and charming towns rich in culture.
Depending on the destination, you can encounter unique festivals and outdoor recreation like hiking or snorkeling in untouched environments, as well as opportunities to engage in local crafts and cooking lessons.
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