5 reasons why bigger isn’t better in America

Waterfront of Portland Oregon United States

So you’ve decided… you are going to travel to America. But where to go?

Sure, cities like New York, San Fran, Las Vegas and Washington DC deserve the super-sized praise that gets dolloped on them from all over, but have you considered stopping by a few of the lesser-visited cities in the United States?

Why? Because often it’s the places that go relatively unnoticed that offer up the most unique experiences.

Here are 5 of my favourite cities that aren’t the usual suspects…

5. Portland

Who could not fall in love with a city that’s known as ‘Beervana’ (there’s more breweries per capita than any other city in the world) and boasts the unofficial slogan: Keep Portland Weird.

Even if beer isn’t your poison, the rocking music scene, hip coffee houses, superb food, temperate parks and hiking trails, green initiatives and cast of kooky characters may just be. There’s even an extinct volcano within the city limits!

4. Louisville

Home to (a lot of) bourbon, the Derby Races and more Victorian buildings than you can poke a stick at, Louisville is a right southern gem. Move from the stately architecture of Old Louisville into the burgeoning indie-scene of Bardstown Rd, and mix it up in all the neighbourhoods in-between.

If you’re in the city on the first or last Friday of the month, grab some mates and join locals for a Trolley Hop – it’s a brilliant (and free) way to check out the city’s galleries, restaurants and shops.

3. Honolulu

Great weather? Check. Delicious hole-in-the-wall-eateries at every turn? Check. A kicking modern art museum? Check. Gorgeous beaches, swaying palm trees, fruit cocktails a-go-go? Check, check and check!

Plus you can easily walk between the beach, city centre and endless great bars. And there are eight stunning main islands (and many other small ones) at its doorstep. What more could you want?

2. Charlotte

This is a great place to enjoy some old fashioned southern fun in North Carolina. The 17th biggest city in the U.S.A., Charlotte is famous for being the country’s 2nd largest financial centre to New York, but you will quickly discover its underlying hip urban culture.

Step away from the banking sector to explore the interesting, artistic and eclectic scene, and make sure you leave time for the food. From the best fried chicken, pickles and cornbread to French bakeries, this city is gut-busting good fun!

1. Anchorage

Drop dead gorgeous. Well, the location is – how could it not be given it’s nestled between water and mountains? And the people are the most interesting you’re likely to meet – friendly, warm and with that pleasing touch of odd. And if you come here, it’s not for the big city vibes, but for the outdoors – and what outdoors you’ll get.

Just don’t go near the moose. Seriously, keep well away!

About the author

Jacqueline Donaldson - Melbourne-based former nomad, Jacqueline has been writing and travelling for more years than she cares to admit. With over 45 countries under her belt and a weird penchant for never fully unpacking, she works as an editor and copywriter for Intrepid – the one company she knows of that accepts (if not encourages) her quirks and wanderlust.

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Portland is great! Good list of some often overlooked destinations.


As someone who grew up near Charlotte, I can NOT believe this person puts Charlotte on this list. The other cities are amazing but Charlotte? Instead, go to Asheville NC or Charleston SC. WAY, WAY better cities to discover within a few hours drive of Charlotte.


what would you say was the best way to ‘get around’ the states to these places? I’m flying into LA in September with stopovers to friends in Las Vegas, Dover, Wisconsin & Chicago. I’m working on the most economical and time friendly travel options. Any suggestions?

Hi Trudi,
Sounds like you’ve got an exciting USA adventure on the horizon. Our small group adventures are a great way to get around in a limited time – you get to see the highlights as well as off-the-regular-tourist route gems and we take out the hassle by looking after all your transport and accommodation. You can find out more about our trips here: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/united-states

Plus on our website you can find great Urban Adventures day tours – a perfect option if you’re only in town for a short time.

Happy adventures,
Sue, Intrepid Express Editor

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