The Most Underrated Tourist Attractions in Each State

Colorful displays inside The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati. (Photo via Mobilus In Mobili / Flickr)
Scott Hartbeck
by Scott Hartbeck
Last updated: 6:00 AM ET, Sun May 8, 2022

The Unsung Attractions of America

Each and every state has an attraction that first comes to mind when one hears its name, with some of these sights like the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Alamo becoming completely synonymous with the state they reside in. But that doesn't mean they're the only attraction worth visiting in their home state. Overlooked, underappreciated yet still awesome, underrated attractions are located all over the USA, and oftentimes, they can provide just as big of a thrill as those A-list attractions on your bucket list. Ranging from random rock formations and lesser-known national parks to unique museums and everything in between, the following list is full of underrated attractions and hidden gems all over the USA, and you're sure to find one to tack on to your summer 2022 trip.

Alabama's Underrated Tourist Attraction

After you shoot to the US Space & Rocket Center in Hunstville, make your way to the Wetumpka Meteor Crater in Wetumpka to see what happens when objects from the heavens come hurtling back to earth. For being the state's only confirmed impact crater, this sight is relatively unheralded and you'll leave with a new appreciation for asteroids-and the earth's crust. And when it comes to Mardi Gras, if the only place that comes to your mind is New Orleans, then visit Mobile's Carnival Museum to learn all about Alabama's often overlooked role in helping to give birth to America's Mardi Gras traditions.

Alaska's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Famous natural sights are a dime-a-dozen up here, but a few still manage to slip through the cracks. A case in point is the Gates of the Arctic National Park & nearby Kobuk Valley National Park, whose dramatic mountain-framed rivers, wildlife and sand dunes deserve to be much more hyped than they are. And if you catch yourself in Ketchikan, then, why not make your way to Totem Bight State Historical Park to get a true insight into Native culture & history via 14 hand-carved totem poles that far too many travelers miss.

Arizona's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Located in the northeast section of the state, Canyon de Chelly's underrated status is a testament to just how stunning of a state Arizona is. If it's located anywhere else, it's an A-list attraction, but in AZ it-somewhat understandably-gets a little overshadowed by that grander canyon up north. See it in person to take in sweeping vistas and the spindly Spider Rock, which has become the symbol of this national monument. Elsewhere, Tombstone owns a Hollywood name and was made famous by a film, but the town of Jerome might just have it beat when it comes to Old West atmosphere.

Arkansas's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Hot Springs is full of sensational things to do, but after you've traced the town's history, taken the waters of Bathhouse Row and had your thrills at Magic Springs theme park, it's time to get elevated at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. This often-overlooked observation tower is located atop Hot Springs Mountain and offers sweeping views of the surrounding Ouachita Mountains and the countryside further afield.

California's Underrated Tourist Attraction

The big theme parks of Southern California need no introduction, but when was the last time you got a chance to see uniquely grown and expertly fused together "Circus Trees" on the side of your park rides? Head to Gilroy Gardens in Gilroy to do just that at one of the state's most underrated family attractions. In addition, after you've seen the big national parks like Yosemite and Death Valley, head up north to the Shasta Cascade to see the unique geological features of the lesser-known Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Colorado's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Purple mountain majesty and snow-capped peaks are many people's only vision of Colorado, but did you know the nation's tallest sand dunes are hanging out here, too? Head to Great Sand Dunes National Park to sink your feet into the grains, do some sand-sledding and maybe even get your feet wet at the seasonal wonder that is Medano Creek. And when it comes to scenic drives, this state has an embarrassment of riches, but for every San Juan Skyway, there's a hidden gem like the short-but-sweet Skyline Drive near Cañon City to cruise on, too.

Connecticut's Underrated Tourist Attraction

A mystery to many from outside the state, Gillette Castle State Park's namesake structure is a fanciful, stone fortress-like building that was the brainchild of former stage actor William Gillette. Explore the nooks and crannies of this unique residence before admiring the views of the Connecticut River from the park grounds.

Delaware's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Visitors flock to the sands, boardwalk and bandstand in Rehoboth Beach each summer, but far too few people make it to the nearby Indian River Life-Saving Station Museum. Here, you can learn all about the history of the area and the unpredictable waters that surround it in addition to hearing tales about the heroic people who headed into the water to save lives.

Florida's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Florida is full of underrated attractions and lesser-known locales, but you have to know where to look. As far as attractions go, it doesn't get any more Sunshine State than a visit to Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge-the only place in the nation where you are legally allowed to swim with manatees. After you've met these gentle creatures, resist the temptation to spend time in the big cities and instead make your way up Highway 98 to Cedar Key, an artsy small town that personifies "Old Florida".

Georgia's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Macon is home to one of the nation's most unheralded prehistoric American Indian sites: Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. Here, you can learn all about the 12,000 years of continuous human habitation that shaped the site's history. Elsewhere, Providence Canyon-the second unheralded canyon on the list-provides a thrill to all who visit its eponymous state park in southwest Georgia. The result of farming practices that, well, didn't exactly go so well, the space fascinates and is also home to the rare Plumleaf Azalea, which only blooms in summer.

Hawai'i's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Those who make it to the island of Kauai are already on the right track to having an off-the-beaten-track Hawaiian experience, but once there, too many travelers focus exclusively on the Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon. Head to the town of Hanapepe for an eclectic atmosphere and historic swinging bridge before stopping by the nearby Hanapepe Lookout to fully appreciate the beauty of the area. Another overlooked thing to do on the Garden Isle is to embrace its history of Western heritage at Kipu Ranch.

Idaho's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Who wouldn't want to pose for a picture that makes them look like they are propping up a giant boulder with just their finger? That's just one of the reasons to visit Balanced Rock Park, the other is that like all geological features formed by the elements, it is only here as long as Mother Nature says it is. In Boise, don't skip the Basque Block, a stretch of town that is full of businesses that pay tribute to the region's rich Basque heritage.

Illinois' Underrated Tourist Attraction

With a world-class metropolis like Chicago anchoring the northern section of the state, it's no surprise that Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois gets overlooked as much as it does. Head here for seemingly endless outdoor recreation opportunities, beautiful rolling hills and the geological wonder that is the Garden of the Gods and you won't look at the Land of Lincoln the same ever again.

Indiana's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Waterfalls? In Indiana? Oh yes. Head to Cataract Falls State Park to see a true hidden side of the Hoosier State: an impressive cascade spread over two drops that will whisk you away for the day. While you are there, make sure not to miss the nearby covered bridge that only adds to the allure of the area.

Iowa's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Before you make a beeline for buzzworthy Des Moines, cool college town Ames or even the real Field of Dreams, head to Clear Lake for a pleasant surprise and a lesson in rock-n-roll history. This town is home to a gorgeous, spring-fed lake perfect for watersports and all manner of lake-based relaxation, while on dry land the Surf Ballroom is a rock icon. The Surf played an oversized role in nurturing music in the area but is most famous for being the last place Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and "The Big Bopper" JP Richardson played before their tragic plane crash, an incident nicknamed "The Day the Music Died" and immortalized in the song "American Pie" by Don Mclean.

Kansas's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Sure, there are plenty of sunflowers in Kansas in the summer and Dodge City simply has to be seen, but did you know that Kansas is home to its own "badlands"? Make for Castle Rock in western Kansas to be amazed at the odd rock formations and windswept hoodoos. Just make sure to leave room in your itinerary to stop by Lindsborg, a cute small town known for hosting a smorgasbord of special events that celebrate its Swedish heritage.

Kentucky's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Before you head underground at Mammoth Cave National Park or sip some of the best spirits of your life on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, take in the state's seriously underrated natural wonder: the Red River Gorge. Located inside Daniel Boone National Forest, the Red River Gorge region is home to cliffs, waterfalls, natural bridges and scores of places for rock climbers to test their skills. And for those that are into geography quirks, a road trip to the so-called "Kentucky Bend"-a small section of Western Kentucky completely cut off from the rest of the state due to a curve in the Mississippi River-will offer a thrill and the chance to see something many people don't even know exists.

Louisiana's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Visitors to Louisiana tend to bounce between the big cities of New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette, but a trip to the oft-bypassed Barataria Preserve will give you a fascinating insight into the natural side of the state. Explore the marshes and swamps here via a network of wooden walkways for the ultimate experience. And when you're in New Orleans and looking for something unique to do, have a stroll on the Mississippi River levee walking trail in the Holy Cross neighborhood to admire the Doullut Steamboat Houses, two residences designed to resemble steamboats.

Maine's Underrated Tourist Attraction

This small island of Monhegan lies ten miles off the coast and can only be reached by boat. Spend a few days here walking, relaxing and taking in the sea breezes and you'll return to the mainland with a new appreciation for the unheralded corners of Maine. Then, to further find hidden gems, make your way to Aroostook County, which is full of some of the most unspoiled natural sights in the state and rich with Acadian cultural heritage.

Maryland's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Inspiring views of the Chesapeake Bay, a historic lighthouse and a long list of outdoor recreation opportunities await at Elk Neck State Park, one of the state's all too often skipped attractions. And whether you're a bookworm or not, an afternoon spent at the architectural wonder that is the George Peabody Library in Baltimore is destined to be a highlight of any stay in Charm City.

Massachusetts's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Boston. Cape Cod. The Berkshires. Martha's Vineyard. The names read like a "who's-who" of iconic American destinations, but how about bad art and Bash Bish? Boston's one-of-a-kind Museum of Bad Art is famed for its "so awful it's awesome" collection of works, a group of pieces which are sure to bring a smile to your face and perhaps even linger with you long after your visit. And if you're like lots of people and didn't know Mass' had a massive waterfall, then head to Bash Bish Falls State Park to see an 80-foot cascade that will make you swoon.
There's nothing in the nation like a road trip down Highway 61 chasing the sounds of the Delta Blues, but after you've wrapped it up, make for the Windsor Ruins to see something overlooked by most travelers. All that's left of this "castle" that once boasted views over the Mississippi River is a set of columns, which look especially haunting at sunset. Next, head over to Hattiesburg to take in a town full of appeal but still managing to fly under the radar.

Missouri's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Outside of the Lake of the Ozarks, the Show-Me State doesn't have many water-based recreation spots that have made national headlines, but those in the know are well aware that the state is home to a floater's paradise called the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Home to calm, clear waters and gorgeous scenery, a day spent out on one of the rivers in the system during summer will be the highlight of your season.

Montana's Underrated Tourist Attraction

One second you're driving through Big Sky Country, admiring the views, the next you're standing in a garden surrounded by statues of Buddha at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas-a serene space that was built to foster international peace. Another true hidden gem in Montana is Pompeys Piller, a rock that bears hundreds of petroglyphs, pictographs and etchings by Native Americans and one by William Clark (of Lewis & Clark fame), which is the only remaining physical evidence of their historic expedition.

Nebraska's Underrated Tourist Attraction

We sure love our "henge" attractions here in the USA, don't we? Well, nowhere does a Carhenge like Alliance, Nebraska. Stop by to see a strikingly accurate recreation of the famous site in England made out of (checks notes) spray-painted junkers. Then, for an attraction that really slides under the radar, make for Lincoln and the National Museum of Roller Skating to learn all about this sport and how it has quietly had a huge impact on American popular culture.

Nevada's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Located five hours north of Las Vegas, Great Basin National Park is known for being home to Nevada's last remaining glacier, meandering streams, alpine lakes and beautiful bristlecone pine trees. But it's also almost completely unknown compared to other national parks out West. Visit to be blown away by the distinct lack of crowds and the mindblowing displays of stars above at night. But if you're still angling for the buzz of casinos and neon, then head to Laughlin, a sneaky-cool casino town right on the Colorado River in the southern part of the state.

New Hampshire's Underrated Tourist Attraction

The fact is that unless you're a lobbyist, your New Hampshire travel plans will probably take you to the White Mountains or down to the coast-and away from Concord. Those who commit to the capital will be pleasantly surprised by its Main Street full of small-town charm and its diverse range of arts and dining venues. And for something really off the beaten path in the state, make your way to the small town of Newbury to see the "Chicken Farmer, I Love You Rock", an oddball declaration of love on a huge boulder outside of town.

New Jersey's Underrated Tourist Attraction

You could make a case that New Jersey is one of the most underrated states in the nation as the beauty of its interior is hardly known outside of the region. Case in point is the underrated northwest corner of the state- a region that includes handsome High Point State Park and the Garden State's section of the Delaware Water Gap National Park.

New Mexico's Underrated Tourist Attraction

The star of Trestle Recreation Area near the town of Cloudcroft, the underrated Cloud-Climbing Trestle Trail offers up a short but sweet hike into hills full of pine and firs that ends with a spectacular view of the historic Mexican Canyon Trestle Bridge. Along the way, you'll also be able to enjoy distant views of White Sands National Park. And if small towns that feel like secrets are what you're after in the Land of Enchantment, then make your way a few hours north to the classic Western town of Las Vegas, home to an eclectic range of shops and the storied Plaza Hotel.

New York's Underrated Tourist Attraction

While in the Big Apple, make a stop at the Museum of Food & Drink to explore the crossroads of different cultures and their culinary traditions. This special museum may not be on most of the "Must-Do" lists, but it will leave you fascinated by food and fired up to explore the eateries of New York City. Outside of Gotham, the capital Albany is home to the sensational New York State Museum, which tells the fascinating full story of the Empire State.

North Carolina's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Most conversations regarding scenic drives in the Blue Ridge Mountains will most likely mention Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway, but the gorgeous Cherohala Skyway still manages to ride under the radar-especially to travelers from other regions of the nation. This 40-plus mile road offers head-turning views of the mountains at seemingly every turn and is the perfect jumping-off point for hikes to dreamy waterfalls.

North Dakota's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Head up north-way up north-to the spot where Highway 3 morphs into Manitoba Highway 10 and you'll find the lovely International Peace Garden celebrating the friendship between the USA and Canada. Stroll through the flowers & memorials while contemplating the world's longest undefended border and why hardly anyone else knows about this special place. Then, get back in the car and make for Highway 21 near Regent to see a series of roadside metal sculptures called The Enchanted Highway, which is still far less famous with tourists than it should be.

Ohio's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Cincinnati's skyline is known for being one of the prettiest in the country, but its collection of signs is also swoon-worthy. Specifically, the dazzling displays inside the American Sign Museum, which is home to the nation's largest public museum dedicated to signage. Don't skip it on your trip to The Queen City. Elsewhere in the Buckeye State, although it's a national park and known throughout the region, far too many visitors from out of state pass through without making a stop at Cuyahoga Valley NP, a wonderland of gorgeous forests, waterfalls and hiking trails.

Oklahoma's Underrated Tourist Attraction

After you're down admiring all the Art Deco architecture in downtown Tulsa, take a quick trip to the "Center of the Universe". Blink and you'll miss this quirky sight-overlooked by thousands on a daily basis-that is essentially a spot on the street north of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame where anything you say will echo back to you at a higher volume than you voiced it. In the southwest section of the state, the Wichita Mountains get missed by far too many travelers, so make sure you don't skip their bewitching beauty on your next OK road trip.

Oregon's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Despite recently scoring a spot on the "Seven Wonders of Oregon" list, the Wallowa Mountains remain a mystery to many. Make your way to the northeast corner of the state to scale majestic mountain peaks (or just take the tram to the top), frolic in forests and embrace charming towns like Enterprise and Joseph.

Pennsylvania's Underrated Tourist Attraction

You've got to see all the big historical Philly attractions, but just make sure to save room for some of the less-hyped sights, too. Paramount on the list is Magic Gardens-home to a collection of sensational mosaics by local artist Isiah Zagar-and the city's bounty of botanical gardens that offer an alternative to pounding the pavement. Places like Longwood Gardens, Bartram's Garden and Shofuso Japanese Garden all offer tranquility and blooms yet remain much lesser known outside of the city. Elsewhere in the Keystone State, pretty much all of Erie can be counted as a hidden gem as this lakeside town consistently surprises visitors with its waterside vibes, especially in summer at pretty Presque Isle State Park.

Rhode Island's Underrated Tourist Attraction

With its prime coastal location, rich history, handsome home and sensational food & drink options, it's no wonder why Newport is always a favorite among travelers to Rhody. Sadly most of them pass right through town without noticing the Newport Tower, a historic remnant of a windmill or-as some people believe-a relic from the Vikings, Portuguese explorers, or Knights Templar.

South Carolina's Underrated Tourist Attraction

On the outskirts of Walhalla-in the far northwest corner of the state-you'll find the most interesting Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel, but you won't find too many other tourists taking it in with you. This tunnel was created in an effort to shorten the rail route from the Ohio Valley to Charleston, but the costs spiraled and the mission was abandoned. Now, it's part of a city park that is also home to a set of impressive waterfalls. Another hidden gem is God's Acre Healing Springs site in the central part of the state that is home to waters that are said to have healed Native Americans and British soldiers at various times in history.

South Dakota's Underrated Tourist Attraction

The Badlands, Black Hills and Mount Rushmore draw the crowds, but do they have a 60-foot sculpture of a bull's head? Nah, didn't think so. Head to the unheralded Porter Sculpture Park to see over 50 works of art made from disused agricultural equipment and scrap metal. Elsewhere in the state, if you're looking for a place where you can lose the crowds but still see something special, head below ground at Wind Cave National Park to gaze at one of the world's most complex cave systems and feel the unique breezes that gave the cave its name.

Tennessee's Underrated Tourist Attraction

You can't blame people for heading straight to the Smoky Mountains once they cross the state line, but those who head up north to the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area will be richly rewarded. Here, the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries are protected and provide an endless supply of recreational opportunities and views of bluffs & gorges.

Texas's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Did you know that the world's largest spring-fed swimming pool sits in the High Desert of West Texas? And it's even got fish! Stop by Balmorhea State Park to swim in water that stays 72-76 degrees 12 months a year and to learn all about the special ecosystem of the area. In the Panhandle, you'll find the remarkable Palo Duro Canyon, a place that in any other country would be a household name, but here has to settle for being the "second largest canyon in the country". Stop by to take in the views with your own eyes and remark on how many people are missing out on this remarkable place.

Utah's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Utah is home to an embarrassment of riches in the national parks department and is thus visited by travelers from all over the world, but not enough of them know about what they call "the world's longest art gallery" at Nine Mile Canyon. Cruise along the recently paved road into the heart of the Book Cliffs and admire ancient petroglyphs and pictographs that will leave you astounded.

Vermont's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Lake Champlain and Burlington may pull in the crowds-especially in summer-but those that make the journey to lesser-known Lake Willoughby near Westmore will leave just as impressed. Dramatically surrounded by mountains, the scenery is stunning at every turn, the outdoor activities are full of adventure and they've even got their own legendary lake monster. What's not to love?

Virginia's Underrated Tourist Attraction

During its heydey, the thought of Virginia's Natural Bridge appearing on a list like this would have seemed absurd as it was well known around the country as a symbol of the state. Back then, it was frequently visited by famous statesmen, but today sits solidly on the B-list, but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy a visit. No, this wonder of geology still brings a grin to the face while telling a rich story about American History. Another attraction that deserves a little more love in the Old Dominion is the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, which is on a mission to make sure more people know the true story of how and where Country music got its big break.

Washington's Underrated Tourist Attraction

For good reason, the San Juan Islands have been showered with accolades over the last few years, but on your way out there, pause in Port Townsend for a postcard-perfect coastal pitstop. This small town rich with seafaring history sits at the top of Puget Sound and is home to gorgeous Victorian architecture, a chill artistic vibe and a plethora of outdoor recreation opportunities.

West Virginia's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Owning a name inspired by the special dark shade of its water-a characteristic picked up from tree needles in the water-Blackwater Falls gets missed by too many visitors to the Mountain State. Visit its eponymous state park to see the 60-foot cascade and get back to nature on its 20 miles of hiking trails.

Wisconsin's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Door County is Dreamy. Madison will make you want to move there. The Apostle Islands are heavenly. Visit them all but then go to Marathon County to see the spot marking the "Center of the Northwest Hemisphere". What's that you ask? Well, it's the precise spot where the 90th Meridian of Longitude meets the 45th Parallel of Latitude, which means it is exactly halfway between the North Pole and the Equator, while at the same time being one-quarter of the way around the planet from Greenwich, England. If that's not cool enough for you, anyone that goes is entitled to a commemorative token from the local visitor's center in Wausau that proves they're a member of the "45x90 Club".

Wyoming's Underrated Tourist Attraction

Head to the town of Thermopolis to take in the local hot springs but then after you've soaked up enough of the steamy water make a pitstop to see some dinos at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. Here, you can learn all about Wyoming's oldest residents in between posing for selfies with their skeletons.

These sights definitely deserve more love.

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Scott Hartbeck

Scott Hartbeck

Born in the USA but now based in England, Scott has been writing about travel for over 10 years. He specializes in Europe, rail...

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