Hidden Travel Gems: 15 Low-Key Cities Every Needs to Visit

People always want to travel to the big cities that boast their awesome attractions, but what about the smaller, more low-key cities that people often forget about when planning their trips?

There’s a lot to love about middle-sized cities, and they have a lot to offer!

1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Image Credit: NASA/Jay Levine – Wiki Commons.

What sounds more remarkable than the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta?

This event is held over nine days in the first week of October and is the world’s biggest balloon festival. Over 500 hot air balloons are on site, and you can have a chance to have a ride. Travelers have agreed that Albuquerque is a city that deserves more recognition as a travel destination, mostly due to its vibrant art scene and stunning mountainous views!

2. Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Art lovers will thrive in the Minneapolis art scene, spending time in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the Walker Art Center. The latter’s permanent collection has over 13,000 contemporary artworks and was established in the 1800s. Minneapolis comes alive in the summer with countless festivals and events happening as the city finally thaws out after its winters.

3. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison Wisconsin capitol building
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Madison is famous for its vast craft beverage selection and exciting events like Craft Beer Week, Isthmus Beer & Cheese Festival, and Great Taste of the Midwest. Visitors love exploring the Olbrich Botanical Gardens and Henry Vilas Zoo, as well as the delicious food they can indulge in in Madison.

4. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee Art Museum
Image Credit: Uriel Carmen, Own Work – CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

If you love beer gardens, good beer, and beer tours, Milwaukee is the perfect city for you to visit. The city is full of kind people who will encourage you to head to one of the many free concerts happening throughout the city or, even better, visit during Summerfest, the largest music festival in the world. On top of that, visitors can enjoy spending time next to Lake Michigan, touring the Milwaukee Art Museum, or sharing a brew with welcoming people at one of the many free festivals in the city.

5. Burlington, Vermont

Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vermont
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Burlington offers incredible views each fall as visitors flock to do some “leaf-pepping” as the trees broadcast their stunning colors. The friendly atmosphere and excellent shopping opportunities make the city feel like a charming small town. It has awesome museums and a thriving art scene as well!

6. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh
Image Credit: CC0/Wiki Commons.

Many travelers agree that Pittsburgh is highly underrated for no good reason. The city boasts the Heinz Museum, the Andy Warhol Museum, and the Mattress Factory. The City of Asylum is the world’s largest residency program for writers living in exile from their own countries and hosts regular festivals to honor those who live there. People say Pittsburgh is often a hidden gem compared to its sibling city, Philadelphia.

7. Memphis, Tennessee

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Memphis is the birthplace of the blues and rock ‘n roll, as well as a lot of other genres of music. While walking downtown, you can’t go too far without hearing live music pouring out of the bars and restaurants. Memphis is right on the beautiful Mississippi River and offers a beautiful landscape as well.

8. Detroit, Michigan

Image Credit: Sara Hattie – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

The world’s automobile capital is also well-known for its 1960s Motown music. While Detroit used to get a bad rap, it is really becoming a great location to visit in the Midwest. The diverse ethnic backgrounds of the people who live in Detroit means you are in for a diverse cuisine, art, and music experience. Catch a game while you’re in town as Detroit has a number of major league teams to cheer for!

9. Richmond, Virginia

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Richmond boasts an amazing good scene that is only getting better, which is one reason Richmond should be on the list of underrated cities. The music and art produced in Richmond are just as good as the food, and you can see for yourself at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Commonwealth University of Contemporary Arts Museum.

10. Kansas City, Missouri

Downtown Kansas City looking over Union Station from the Liberty Memorial
Image Credit: Dean Hochman – CC By 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Kansas City, Missouri, also boasts incredible museums and some really great, award-winning BBQs. A lot of people think Kansas City is an underrated Midwest city with its great jazz clubs, boutique hotels, breweries, and amazing restaurants. While St. Louis often gets tourists, Kansas City is proving to be a great Missouri city to visit!

11. Portland, Maine

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Portland, Maine, is a strong center of growth and economy and boasts a vintage Northeast American feel. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, and the beer is world-class. The city is also walkable, so you don’t need transport to get places.

12. Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Image Credit: Daderot/Wiki Commons.

Portsmouth has that charming small-town feel and is packed with history. Spend time in the Strawberry Banke Museum or at the U.S.S. Albacore Museum, walking the gorgeous waterfront and visiting their Instagram-worthy lighthouses.

13. Newport, Rhode Island

Cliff Walk - Newport, Rhode Island, USA
Image Credit: Giorgio Galeotti, Own Work – CC BY 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Newport, Rhode Island, is a haven for sailors and is suited to travelers searching for a small seaside atmosphere. Newport has luxurious mansions, charming shops, and stores to browse, along with its scenic coastline. You can also attend the Newport Jazz Festival or Newport Folk Festival if you plan your trip around these yearly festivals.

14. Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham Museum of Art
Image Credit: Sean Pathasema – CC BY 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Although known for its steel and iron industry, Birmingham offers much more than just manufacturing. Learn more about the history of the area through its museums, indulge in a delicious meal or two at its restaurants, and spend time admiring the natural beauty of this underrated southern city.

15. St. Louis, Missouri

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The quirky City Museum, the Broadway Oyster Bar, and the Fox Theatre make St. Louis a fantastic travel destination. Enjoy free entrance to the Saint Louis Zoo, and take your pick of excellent restaurants along Delmar Loop or float along on a riverboat tour while you’re there.

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