1. Providence, Rhode Island
Once gritty and impoverished, this city just south of Boston is now a creative hub for arts and culture. Take bustling Westminster Street, full of design shops, craft stores and galleries, as well as the nationally-recognized food scene. (Did you know top culinary school Johnson & Wales University is located right downtown?)
2. St. Louis, Missouri
Think of St. Louis as several attractive neighborhoods, each with their own distinct personality. We love Soulard, the French-influenced neighborhood where you’ll find bistros, farmers’ markets and photogenic streets. But there’s also Central West End, known for its quaint sidewalk cafés, and Cherokee Street, home to the hottest restaurants in town.
3. Portland, Maine
Portland is possibly the most exciting food city in the country…and we’re talking more than just lobster rolls (although it has that, too). One of the pioneers of the eat-local movement, Portland boasts everything from inventive Asian fusion at places like Miyake and The Honey Paw to creative takes on Italian. (Don’t miss the epic Sicilian-style pizza at Slab.)
4. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
What’s not to love about a city that’s incredibly cheap (a three-bedroom house in the hip neighborhood of Bay View will cost you about $200k) and prides itself on beer and cheese? Milwaukee is increasingly becoming sophisticated and cosmopolitan, but it holds on to its old-school German roots. (Read: So. Much. Beer.)
5. Burlington, Vermont
You’ll find no shortage of granola, Birkenstocks and Bernie Sanders bumper stickers in this hippie locale, but there’s also way more sophistication than you might expect. For example, you can hike along the Robert Frost Trail, marked with excerpts of his poems, or enjoy a locally sourced meal at foodie hot spot Hen of the Wood. Oh, and it’s the home of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
6. San Antonio, Texas
It seems like Austin gets all the spotlight these days, but San Antonio deserves some attention, too. Despite being the country’s seventh-largest city, it’s got a peaceful, slow-paced vibe. Take a stroll along the canals of the San Antonio River, then hit up Market Square, an enormous open-air Mexican market serving some of the best huevos rancheros on this side of the border.
7. Baltimore, Maryland
You might never guess that this mid-Atlantic city is home to one of the country’s most up-and-coming art scenes. Head to the funky neighborhood of Station North for stellar urban street art, or visit the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM), which is completely dedicated to the work of self-taught artists.
8. Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is a story of revival: An industrial powerhouse in the 1950s, it took a downturn in the ’70s but has reinvented itself in the past ten years as a hipster hot spot replete with industry (take watch company Shinola); remarkably beautiful, affordable real estate; and and cutting-edge culture. In fact, Detroit’s theaters make up the second-largest theater district in the U.S. after New York.
9. Albuquerque, New Mexico
New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment, and a visit to Albuquerque will show you why. Often overshadowed by Santa Fe, this desert city boasts a unique arts-and-crafts scene, farm-to-table Southwestern cuisine and an annual balloon festival, when colorful hot-air balloons take flight across the horizon.
10. Louisville, Kentucky
Love your liquor? Well, Louisville just might be the cocktail bar capital of the country. Head to Main Street (you might mistake the row of cast-iron buildings for New York’s Soho) and you’ll find tons of bars serving up creative concoctions, like the “El Guapo” at Proof on Main, made with beet-infused tequila, and the blackberry julep at 8Up.
11. Minneapolis, Minnesota
From the North Loop—where old industrial warehouses have been converted into bustling restaurants, lofts and shopping spaces—to the verdant urban parks and sprawling bike trails, Minneapolis is a hip and happenin’ plains city. The winters may be grueling, but it’s all worth it for the chance to hit the beach or sail on Lake Calhoun come summer.
12. Park City, Utah
Home to famed Deer Valley ski resort, Park City is a year-round destination for outdoorsy types. The downtown village is a quaint stretch of shops and après-ski bars and prides itself on excellent restaurants. Don’t miss a five-course meal paired with house-made whiskeys at The Nelson Cottage, a spin-off of the ever popular High West Distillery and Saloon.
13. Boulder, Colorado
They say Boulder is 25 square miles surrounded by reality…what’s not to like about that? This easygoing college town is a total mecca for hiking stoner types—and we say that with affection. When ski season ends, there’s always mountain biking on Flagstaff Mountain or rafting down Boulder River.
14. Asheville, North Carolina
A huge craft-beer scene and farm-fresh restaurants, like the newly opened Buxton, make Asheville an exciting food city, but we also love it for its proximity to the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. During the summer, take a half-day trip to hike through nearby Pisgah National Forest, and in fall, head to Navitat Canopy Adventures to zip-line above the changing leaves.