There’s a lot to love when it comes to travel in the USA. There are 50 different states to explore, and several different regions. The Midwest and the Southwest, for example, are different from the East Coast. Almost anywhere you go, you’ll encounter different traditions and even culture.
One of the most-loved regions in the US is the Deep South. Although occasionally maligned in popular culture, people love what’s referred to as “Southern charm.” The South had a quite different developmental trajectory than the Northern states, resulting in different cultural traditions and different ways of thinking about life.
If you want to experience the charm of the Southern US, you’re certainly not alone. Tourism is alive and well in most of the Southern states. Unfortunately, this has led to a situation where some cities have had their reputations get ahead of them. These 10 places are among the most overrated in the whole of the South, as most locals will tell you.
Not to be left out, however, the Northern states also have their fair share of overrated cities. These 10 are best avoided by tourists. These entries were hand-picked by locals themselves, so you’ll want to take heed and steer clear.
20 South: Nashville Has Had Its Heyday
The appeal of Nashville was built on its reputation as a city for up-and-coming country music stars. Music City was a reprieve for anyone who wanted to avoid New York or LA, the other hubs of music in the US. It also offered something a little bit more rustic, and it certainly had that Southern charm.
Now, however, the city has become overrun with tourists. While the music is still front and center, the city has promoted itself as a great place to party, which means you’ll find certain kinds of tourists here. Worse, you may not be able to get a seat at any of the famous eateries.
19 North: New York Is Probably The Most Overrated US City
New York City is an enormous metropolis and one of the epicenters of US culture and economy. It’s probably the reason so many people wax poetic about the city, but it’s also the number one reason to avoid it.
Scour the net, and you’ll quickly see NYC ranks as one of the most overrated cities not just in America but in the entire world. Even native New Yorkers seem like they don’t want to be there, and many of them gladly escape the bustling metropolis whenever they can. Hot summers and miserable winters seal the deal. Skip NYC and book your flight elsewhere.
18 South: Austin’s Weirdness Is Overdone
“Keep Austin weird” is the motto of the state capital of Texas, and for a long time, it worked. Austin was weird, in a quirky and ultimately charming way. Major festivals like SXSW and the Austin City Limits have helped bolster the city’s image as maybe the most unique destination in all of the US.
While Austin still has plenty of creativity, it’s no longer “weird” so much as it is “overhyped.” The city is full of transplants and tourists all striving for a taste of that unique Austin “weirdness,” which has become more of a gimmick than anything these days. There’s nothing weird about waiting in line, other than trying to sell it as an experience.
17 North: Burlington, Vermont, Is Tiny Yet Still Overrated
Burlington might be the most populous city in the state of Vermont, but that doesn’t mean it’s large. In fact, the population sits under 50,000 people. It’s also home to a university, meaning many of the residents are, in fact, students.
Given this, it’s probably not surprising to know that there’s not much to see and do in this northern city. The draw of nature is probably the biggest attraction, as the area is dotted with mountains and forests. Lake Champlain provides some opportunities to get outside, but if you’re not an outdoorsy sort of person, Burlington isn’t for you.
16 South: This Georgian City Is Snoreville (Atlanta)
Atlanta is perhaps the most boring big city in the Southern US. This Georgian destination is a huge hub for travel, which means thousands of people travel through it every year. Despite this, Atlanta’s tourism industry has been relatively underdeveloped for decades.
What’s the problem? Essentially, there’s nothing to do in Atlanta. Once you’ve seen the big Coke bottle and CNN headquarters, you’ve maxed out a lot of the tourist attractions Atlanta has. Although tourism has made strides since the days when public transportation was advertised as an “attraction,” the fact remains. There’s nothing to do in Atlanta. Instead, check out Savannah, which has far more history.
15 North: The Windy City Is Full Of Hot Air (Chicago)
When people suggest NYC is overrated, they often offer up Chicago as a great alternative. You might suspect them of being a native Chicagoan, trying to play up their rivalry with the New Yorkers.
Rest assured, almost no one who lives in Chicago will tell you how great it is. In fact, most of the locals will tell you Chicago is just as overrated as NYC. Yes, there’s deep-dish pizza and the Willis Tower. You might even want to see the Bean down on the waterfront. But Chicago is just another big city at the heart of it, and you’ll likely be left wishing there was more to see or do.
14 South: Charlotte Is A Weak Entry From North Carolina
If you have to pick a destination in North Carolina, you might be tempted to choose Charlotte. After all, this city is the capital of the state, which should mean it has plenty of history and tourist attractions.
You’d be wrong, actually. Charlotte is a bit like Atlanta in that there’s really not a lot here. If you want, you should take a hop and a skip over to Raleigh, where major sports teams make their home. You can also visit Lowe’s Motor Speedway in nearby Concord. And if you’re hoping to see the mountains or hit the beach, you’ll need to head out of town anyway.
13 North: Boston Is No Tea Party
Boston is probably one of the most storied cities in the US. Boston Harbor figures largely in history as the start of the US Revolution, and there are many old buildings and cultural centers in Boston. It can even be fairly pretty, especially in the fall.
That said, there’s a reason Boston ranks as one of the most unfriendly cities in America. The locals have a bit of a chip on their shoulder, and they tend to be obsessed with their sports teams. We might be cranky too if our subways were always delayed, and the weather was as miserable as it often is.
12 South: Even North Carolina’s Most Popular Town Is Overdone (Asheville)
We’re picking on North Carolina a bit by including this next entry, but Asheville was once the darling of the US tourism industry. These days, however, it’s a place you’re better off avoiding, and the locals will gladly agree with you.
While some see tourism as a boon for their small town, others would really like the flocking tourists to go away. It’s not hard to see why. Since Asheville was named one of the hottest destinations, people have been flocking to it, leading to crowded parking lots, overflowing hotels, and cranky tourists snapping at cranky townspeople. If you want to relax, pick another destination.
11 North: Unless You’re The Casino Type, Stay Out Of Atlantic City
Atlantic City, New Jersey, is making a comeback. The beach/resort town is infamous, and it was once renowned as having one of the best boardwalks in the world. The city was also famous for its casinos, and Bruce Springsteen even wrote a song about it.
About a decade ago, though, things began to sour. Tourists left Atlantic City, finding it kitschy, overpriced, and overdone. When Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, the storm left massive damage, all but destroying the boardwalk. Now the city is beginning to experience a revival, but tourists remain leery, and for good reason. Atlantic City was built on kitsch and vice, and there are other beach towns in New Jersey.
10 South: Memphis Isn’t Much Better Than Nashville
When people first suggested Nashville’s time in the tourism limelight was over, the natural alternative was Memphis, Tennessee. Located just a couple of hours away from Nashville, Memphis is also renowned for its musical history.
That said, the city doesn’t have much to offer beyond a few musical attractions and some great BBQ. The problem is that Memphis has long been in the shadow of Nashville, so it hasn’t been prepared for the influx of tourists headed there after Nashville was declared “over.”
There are still good reasons to visit Memphis, but unless you’re a jazz and blues buff, you’re probably not going to enjoy it as much as you think you might.
9 North: Cleveland Wins Out As Ohio’s Most Overrated City
When it comes to the state of Ohio, it’s difficult to pick an overhyped city. Cincinnati could certainly be one, and if anyone suggests Columbus is a great holiday destination, that would probably make it at least a little overrated.
Cleveland takes the cake, however, according to locals. Maybe they’re just bitter about their sports teams, which include the NBA’s Cavaliers and the NFL’s Browns. Perhaps the biggest draw is the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, which may be the only reason to ever say “Cleveland rocks.” If you want to check out the shores of Lake Erie, there are several other cities you can visit instead.
8 South: New Orleans Is Beyond Overrated
New Orleans has a reputation, mostly built around its infamous Mardi Gras celebrations. The city’s history and French heritage blend together to create a certain European mystique, and the city has gladly run with images of the bayou, French history, and voodoo and magic.
When you arrive, however, you’ll quickly find the city is anything but magical. New Orleans is sinking, in fact, in more ways than one. While the city remains a staple on bucket lists for its Mardi Gras celebration, its festivals, and its Halloween atmosphere, the charm is off. You could pick almost any other city in Louisiana and likely have a better time.
7 North: The City Of Brotherly Love Gets Too Much Love (Philly)
Philadelphia, like Boston, tends to rest on its historical laurels. The city is one of the most important in the history of America. The Founding Fathers signed the Constitution here, and the first government was seated here as well. There are other things Philadelphia is famous for, such as Philadelphia cheesesteak and some iconic scenes in the film Rocky.
That doesn’t save the City of Brotherly love from being overhyped. Nearby Washington, DC, is a great alternative, especially if you’re looking for museums and history. If you want to stay in Pennsylvania, consider Pittsburgh as a less hyped alternative.
6 South: There’s Only One Reason To Go To Kentucky’s Largest City (Louisville)
Although it’s not the state capital, Louisville is Kentucky’s largest city. It’s also one locals will warn you about. Take a quick look through Google search results, and you’ll find pages of people telling you why going to Louisville is a terrible idea. Overrated food, boring events, and some questionable neighborhoods mean this city is probably best avoided.
There’s really only one reason you should consider going to Louisville, and that’s for the Kentucky Derby. Every May, the city hosts this world-famous horse-racing event. Of course, if horse-racing and mint juleps aren’t your thing, you’ll probably just want to stay very far away from the pomp and circumstance.
5 North: If You Must Visit Connecticut, Skip This City (Hartford)
Not many people put Connecticut on their bucket list, but those who do might choose the city of Hartford as their destination. There are a few attractions here, especially if you happen to be studying early American literature. You’ll find Mark Twain House and Museum, as well as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house, here.
Aside from that, Hartford doesn’t have much to recommend it, even if others would try to argue to the contrary. A better option might be nearby New Haven, which is the home of Yale University. If you’re going to visit an overrated city, you might want to trek further still and visit Boston.
4 South: Alabama’s Largest City Doesn’t Have Much To Offer (Birmingham)
Birmingham is Alabama’s largest city, with more than 1 million residents living there. And most of those people will tell you Birmingham isn’t a city you want to visit. While some people have been trying to play the city up as an “off the beaten path” type destination, the truth is there is almost no reason to visit this former industrial hub.
You might wonder why Birmingham is “overrated,” since it seems to be so far down people’s bucket lists anyway. Consider this entry more of a prescient warning, as more people begin to suggest this city as an “alternative” for other overplayed destinations in the USA's South.
3 North: This City Will Only Appeal To RaceCar Fans (Indianapolis)
Indianapolis is the home of the famous Indianapolis 500 car race, or the “Indy” as it’s often referred to by motorsports fans. Unless you’re a fan of car racing, however, you probably won’t find much to amuse you here.
The city is both the most populous and the capital of the state of Indiana, but like other capital cities on this list, it tends to lack much in the way of personality. While it has been generating some hype and interest on the tourism scene lately, there just isn’t enough to truly recommend it as a great US vacation destination.
2 South: Skip South Carolina’s Capital (Columbia)
Columbia, South Carolina, probably draws in most of its tourist crowd by virtue of being the state capital. While it is home to several attractions, like the South Carolina State House and Congaree National Park, the fact of the matter is this destination is just bland.
Consider the other places you can discover in the Palmetto State. Charleston is considered the epitome of Southern charm, so if you want to experience the Old South, there’s no better place to do it. Myrtle Beach is another famous tourist destination, and there are also several other beaches to visit along the coast. Skip Columbia and explore!
1 North: Detroit Is Overrated For Now
Detroit has had a rough go of things in the past decade or so. The former industrial powerhouse has seen many of its industries pack up and move elsewhere, leaving the city’s finances in utter disarray. Although the downtown area is still dotted with bright skyscrapers, the outlying areas have fallen into disrepair and even been abandoned. The city has turned off water in some places.
Detroit has always had a reputation as being a bit of a rough-and-tumble place, and that’s no different now. While some are hoping to see the city revitalize itself in the coming years, the fact of the matter is that, for now, Detroit is a destination better avoided.
References: Complex.com, Fodor’s, citydata.com, Matador Network, Thrillist