4 Underrated U.S. Cities You Need to See This Summer


Time to travel is one of my greatest privileges and I'm always excited to explore a new destination. I'm keen to see the whole wide world, but more often than not I opt to stay local(ish) and set off on an adventure around our own beautiful country. America has many world-class destinations, for sure — New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Vegas — but I've always had an expectation-exceeding time in smaller cities that are frequently overlooked when people are planning their vacations.

This summer, skip the major metro areas and pop into a city with a more down-to-earth and affordable appeal. Here are a few suggestions to get your wheels turning, each with a dynamic draw all their own. (See also: How to Avoid These 12 Summer Travel Mistakes)

Detroit, Michigan

When I visited Detroit on my birthday last spring to catch a Tigers game, I expected to see an economically challenged city (as it is often portrayed), but what I experienced was an epicenter ripe with activity and promise. Millennials took advantage of the pleasant weather to exercise outside; business people moved in and out of shiny new restaurants; and construction crews worked diligently on projects, including commercial refurbs and new condo developments.

I found so many things to love about Detroit — like the Tigers' stunning Comerica Park, one of the best burgers I've ever eaten at the casually upscale Town house restaurant, and the quality selection of vinyl record stores (where I picked up a few Motown albums, of course) — but what really piqued my interest was the undercover real estate opportunities in the area. Has anybody told the Millennials that they could have their avocado toast (and eat it, too) from the inside their newly constructed or renovated homes at seriously affordable prices? And with the median home value in Detroit being $138,700 with a forecast appreciation of 3.2%, you might want to consider relocating altogether. (See also: The 5 Best Mid-Sized Cities for Millennials)

Columbus, Ohio

Recently I was invited by Experience Columbus to visit its fine capital city so I could meet local entrepreneurs, dine in the city's diverse restaurants, and participate in activities that featured hands-on, take-home projects that anyone can enjoy. I had never been before, and I enjoyed all parts of the trip, but it was the latter focus that deserves attention here. I just love little craft projects!

The activities in which I participated included: metal stamping keychains and necklaces in a jewelry-making class at The Smithery, designing my own scented candle at The Candle Lab (my signature scent is ginger ale, cilantro, and grapefruit, if you're interested in recreating it), and felting an alpaca- and sheep-fleece scarf after an afternoon excursion to a farm to meet the animals. All these activities are included on the Made in Cbus trail created by Experience Columbus.

If you're dedicated to shopping local, it's also worth noting that Columbus's entrepreneur and maker community is extremely tight-knit. Like, thick as thieves. There's an uncommon amount of cross-branding and -marketing along with a palpable feeling of support for each other's work. It's the kind of thing that'll make you feel proud to spend your money there.

Memphis, Tennessee

I was drawn to Memphis, Tennessee for two reasons: The flight was cheaper than the one to Nashville, and Memphis is the native home of my musical fave Justin Timberlake. Don't judge.

I enjoyed plenty of music while I was in town, along with delicious food and a minor league baseball game courtesy of the Memphis Redbirds. I also discovered, to my surprise, a working community dedicated to helping each other while improving the environment. I spent my birthday volunteering on a farm that grows and harvests food specifically to feed those in need. If you'd like to get your hands dirty in Memphis, browse the available opportunities on VolunteerMatch.org.

Asbury Park, New Jersey

I bought a home in Asbury Park four years ago because I saw the property-value growth potential, but it was also a nice place to kick back and relax when my life in Manhattan got too hectic. Two years ago, I gave up life in the big city to live in this quirky little city by the sea full-time. I'm glad I did.

Asbury Park has a long and legendary history — from its heyday in the early 1900s up to the Great Depression to its association with Bruce Springsteen to its full-steam-ahead comeback that's been mounting for the past five years following the economic decline.

Today, the city, which spans just 1.6 squares miles of the Jersey Shore, is home to an assortment of can't-go-wrong restaurants, a destination-worthy music and art scene, hotels the press can't stop talking about, retail shops with interesting and often handmade merch, a thriving night life and LGBT scene, and, of course, the sand and surf.

Best of all, this "Brooklyn by the beach," as it's been dubbed by locals is just a short car or train ride (less than two hours) from NYC, Philly, Atlantic City, the Poconos, and more. Come for a visit. You'll be impressed, I promise.

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