Don’t know which cities to visit this year? Don’t worry we’ve got your back. There are tons of travel options in the U.S, but not every city is worth visiting. In fact, some of the country’s top-rated cities are WAY overhyped. That’s right, places that have been on your bucket list for years might actually be super disappointing. Don’t worry though. Not all hope is lost. The country is actually scattered with pretty incredible places that are low-key cool. You may have never thought to visit New Jersey, but spots like Princeton actually have a lot to offer. And, while you may have dreamt of partying in Vegas, you may realize pretty quickly that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Some of America’s top destinations used to be cool. But, after years of tourism, these places have gone astray. Many of them were overdeveloped, became too touristy, and are now pretty dismal places for a vacation. It’s not all bad though, because as tourists flocked to these well-worn destinations, other cities had time to flourish. Now, you can find super unique, cool, and interesting places to explore while you’re on vacation. The trick is being able to find them. So, we’re here to tell you which U.S cities are worth your time, and which ones are completely overhyped. Which one will you visit this year?
20 Cool: Salem, Massachusetts
Salem is an awesome city that many people overlook. If you love smaller-scale towns that have a lot of history, this is the place. Oh, and if you’re a big fan of Halloween, you MUST come to Salem, especially in October. During this month, the entire city turns into a real, modern-day ‘Halloween Town.’ There are festive parades and markets where performers will dress in scary costumes and chase you through the streets. Warm up with some apple cider, giant caramel apples, and tons of other sweet goodies. Take a haunted ghost tour around the town, see a reenactment of the Salem Witch Trials, or wander the historic cemeteries. You can even see the house where the movie, Hocus Pocus was filmed.
19 Cool: Portland, Maine
Portland, Maine is often overshadowed or confused with its more popular sister city in Oregon. However, this Portland is just as cool (if not cooler.) Sure, it’s a pretty small city, but it’s a college town with a lot of charm and a little bit of grit. Many parts of the city are historic, with cobblestone streets and intriguing architecture. There is seafood EVERYWHERE, and a path that visitors can walk along the waterfront. Since it’s a college town, there is lots of youth culture to be had. Expect plenty of breweries serving up craft beer, lots of boutique shops, and of course, artisan coffee. A lot of it. It gets really cold in Portland during the winter, but the cozy bars, restaurants, and music venues make great retreats from the weather.
18 Cool: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is a famous city for history. But, it’s often overlooked for more hip cities around the country. After Philly earned an awful reputation for crime and grime, it is now making a comeback. Sure, you can still check out all of the historical sites like the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin’s grave. But, now this city is full of great eateries, craft breweries, cideries, and tons of music venues. The city is dotted with notable art galleries, and the sides of buildings are covered in murals. The music scene is growing, with new venues popping up all of the time. Float in a sensory deprivation tank, eat award-winning Italian food at a secret restaurant or wander the mosaic gardens on South Street. This city is constantly evolving and there is always something new to experience.
17 Cool: San Antonio, Texas
When people visit Texas, they usually come to Austin. But, San Antonio is just an hour south and is quite interesting within itself. The city is gigantic, even bigger than Austin, and it’s pretty spread out. Head to the downtown to see the stunning riverwalk, a drastically blue waterway that runs through the city. You can see The Alamo and the other historic Spanish missions along the route. Tex Mex is everywhere, so you can have as many tacos and margaritas as you can fit. There’s an authentic, Mexican market with cultural handicrafts and gifts for sale. And, the Pearl District is a newly renovated area with a hipster vibe. Take your time exploring this city and all of its parks, coffee shops, craft breweries, and natural beauty.
16 Cool: New Castle, Delaware
This city really isn’t very popular, even by Delaware standards. Most people in this state head to Rehoboth Beach, but those who like history can visit New Castle instead. The city is small, but it’s teeming with historic buildings, cobblestone streets, and hidden gems. There are antiquated bookshops, and themed restaurants like Jessop’s, where the staff dress up in colonial garb. Visitors can walk along the waterfront, or just enjoy the views from the park bench. Pop into the historic cemetery, do some shopping at one of the boutiques or tour one of the colonial-era churches.
15 Cool: Breckenridge, Colorado
While most Colorado visitors head to Denver, some make it all the way over to Breckenridge. This small city is about an hour and a half from Denver, nestled in the Rockies. It’s a town primarily based around skiing and snowboarding, but it has taken on a life of its own. Check out Breckenridge Brewery, do a tasting at the distillery, or spend an evening drinking an Old Fashion at Apr. You can mingle with real mountain men or snowboarders from around the country while drinking a beer at an outdoor bonfire. Go dog sledding, snowshoeing, or hit the slopes when there’s fresh powder. If you want to take it easy, choose one of the hotels with an outdoor hot tub. You can look out at the snow capped mountains while staying warm.
14 Cool: Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia
This small city is known for its history and as a stop-off for those hiking the Appalachian Trail. It’s a small, historic gem in West Virginia, and there are plenty of shops and restaurants to keep you busy. Check out the historic candy shop, with confectionaries dating back to the 1800s. Stop into Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park or John Brown’s Fort. You can take a short hike up to Jefferson Rock for fantastic views. Tour the John Brown Wax Museum, White Hall Tavern, and the Restoration Museum. You could also sit on a park bench and watch the rugged hikers come off the trail for some ice cream and a taste of civilization.
13 Cool: New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven is the home of Yale University. While this city is famous for its scholars and college students, not that many travelers visit. The city is small, but between the history and youth culture, it is pretty cool. Start your day off at Coffee Peddler for a single-origin pour over. Then wander the museums and historic buildings associated with Yale. There are multiple art museums, and exhibits for you to see. The downtown area is full of boutiques and restaurants so you can get some shopping in. Enjoy some pizza at BAR before the back room opens up with a DJ set. Then, for a late night cocktail, check out The Owl, a sophisticated cigar bar with top-notch drinks. Soak up all of the sophistication as you wander through bookshops, the college campus, and the historic homes that line the blocks.
12 Cool: Newport, Rhode Island
Located on the Atlantic coast, Newport is a scenic city with lots of New England charm. Explore the cliff walk trail that will take you along the rugged coastline. While waves are crashing on one side, you can look at lavish mansions on the other. These gigantic properties exude luxury and are so impressive that just looking at them is worthwhile. Take some time to visit the famous properties like The Breakers, and then stop off for some seafood in town. Visit the state parks, the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and the Museum of Newport History. There are lighthouses to be seen, shopping to be done, and New England Clam Chowder to be eaten.
11 Cool: Princeton, New Jersey
This small city has an intellectual atmosphere, especially given the presence of Princeton University. Wander the small town and visit the campus, where the historic buildings will make you feel like you stepped back in time. There’s a large coffee shop culture, so grab a book and order a steamy cup of Joe. Find Albert Einstein’s house, located just outside the main part of town, to see where the genius spent some of his days. Visit the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton Battlefield State Park, and the Princeton Battle Monument. Come in the evening for a glass of wine and dinner at one of the well-loved restaurants, or see some live music at a pub. It’s a great way to spend the day in a historic city with a sophisticated vibe.
10 Over-Hyped: New York City, New York
The Big Apple is kind of a like a big mess. People hype New York up to be the best place in the world. But in reality, it’s crowded, dirty, and expensive. Like...crazy expensive. Brooklyn isn’t bad, but Manhattan can be absolutely horrible, especially for people who crave personal space. A plate of spaghetti and meatballs can run you up to $20, and it’s unlikely you’ll find a cocktail for less than $15. Car horns, loud talkers, and people screaming at each other can be heard everywhere. And, as business suit-wearing professionals push you out of the way, you might feel lonelier than ever. Expect a lot of walking, the occasional swindler trying to trick you out of money, and suspicious homeless people lurking in every corner. Let's not forget about the litter and the rats. There will be lots of that too.
9 Over-Hyped: Las Vegas, Nevada
Everyone should visit Vegas at least once, but after that, you might want to stay away. Vegas is kind of gross, especially if you’re visiting as a woman. It’s an oversexed, grimy, and downright dirty kind of place. Taxi drivers may try to come back to your hotel with you, and waitresses may ask “who’s girl” you are. People are drinking at the slot machines until 8 am, and there will be more drunks, and cigarette smoke than you can handle. Things are either overpriced or such low quality that the lofty price tags seem like a joke. Everything is tacky, and the lowest of Americans seem to flock to the casinos, wobbling around looking for free booze, and harassing the cocktail waitresses.
8 Over-Hyped: Boston, Massachusetts
As a city, Boston is just OK. It has a lot of history, but when it comes to youth culture or uniqueness, it’s kind of lacking. Like, a lot. Sure, you can take the historical tours or do some shopping on the main strip, but this city doesn’t have a whole lot of its own culture. If you’re a history buff, you’re better off visiting other cities like Philadelphia, to get your fix. After drinking in the pubs and eating your fair share of chowder, you might be looking for the next bus out of this city. Sports fans might like it, but if you’re not seeing a game, you might want to steer clear of these raging fans.
7 Over-Hyped: New Orleans, Louisiana
Wandering down Bourbon street is a dream for many. And, attending Mardi Gras is a big bucket list item. But, is New Orleans really worth the hype? Not really. Once you get there, you’ll notice that a lot of the decor and culture seems to be put on for a show. Drinking is one of the biggest past times, so you’ll encounter lots of drunks on the streets. Actually, it’s legal to drink alcohol outdoors, so you won’t be able to avoid the drunkards. There are homeless people and panhandlers all over the place. And, the main drag is full of seedy strip clubs and other dark places you wouldn’t want to end up at by mistake. New Orleans is one, big, sloppy party that is best avoided.
6 Over-Hyped: Orlando, Florida
Other than Disney, Orlando doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. In fact, downtown Orlando can be pretty darn boring. You have to be a true Disney fan to get yourself to like what Orlando has got going on. Otherwise, you may want to skip this city. It doesn’t seem to have any particular charm to it, and all of the restaurants and bars seem to be overpriced and overhyped. Orlando is a serious tourist city, and that’s pretty much all you’ll see. It’s Americana at its finest, with fast food restaurants, and tons of stores to help separate you from your money with things you don’t need.
5 Over-Hyped: Portland, Oregon
For a while, Portland was having a moment. It was the original hipster city with craft beer, an incredible music scene, and tons of cafes. However, many other U.S cities have surpassed Portland’s ‘cool factor,’ offering a way better atmosphere. Portland is old news, and the city itself really isn’t that beautiful. There’s a lot of industrial buildings that make you constantly question whether or not you’re in a safe neighborhood. Street kids are everywhere, pretending to be poor and panhandling just because they don’t want to get real jobs. Now, it just seems like everyone is trying too hard. Plus, the weather isn’t even that great. You’re better off visiting Austin if you want some authentic, hipster culture.
4 Over-Hyped: Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is a rough city. It’s easy to wander into neighborhoods that you clearly don’t want to be in. A lot of the downtown is like a concrete jungle, with no distinctive atmosphere. There are a few gems like the World of Coke, and the Botanical Gardens, but this city doesn’t seem to have many of them. When it comes to youth culture and innovation, Atlanta seems to be way behind. There really isn’t much to do or see there, so you’d be better off visiting the nearby city of Savannah. Atlanta is not beautiful, the weather can be hot and sticky, and you probably won’t come across anything you haven’t seen before.
3 Over-Hyped: Miami, Florida
People love Miami, but this city is seriously over-hyped. Sure, the weather can be fantastic, and there are beaches, but the culture is just party, party, party. If you want to fully experience Miami, you’ll need to have a serious budget. The clubs charge a giant entrance fee, and the cocktails can run you upwards of $30. It just seems like people are showboating, acting fake, and judging each other on their looks. There’s some history and Cuban culture in Miami, which are some of its more redeemable qualities. However, unless you just want to drink and party in overly priced clubs, this city is better skipped.
2 Over-Hyped: Denver, Colorado
Denver has gotten a lot of attention over the past few years. People love this outdoorsy city, with all of its craft beer and dispensaries. But, if you visit Denver, you’ll quickly figure out that this city isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s super spread out, making it nearly impossible to get anywhere without a car or paying for a ride share. The actual downtown area is full of homeless people, drifters, and corporate businesses. It’s surrounded by beautiful mountains, but you have to leave the city to get to any outdoor areas worth visiting. And, all there really is to do is eat and drink craft beer. Which, might sound good for a day or two, but eventually it hurts the waistline and the budget.
1 Over-Hyped: Atlantic City, New Jersey
Apparently, Atlantic City is making a comeback, but honestly, this city isn’t worth visiting. Half of it is vacant, as the casino industry took a huge nosedive. The other half of Atlantic City is dangerous, rundown, and simply scary. Sure, there’s the beach, but expect to pay just to sit on it. The clubs in Atlantic City are extremely pricey, and most people are just visiting to party. The clubs and the dining options are second-rate, and frankly, it’s surprising that people are still willing to visit. The boardwalk is historic, which makes it seem slightly charming, but if you visit AC, you’ll probably leave pretty disappointed.