In October, Conde Naste Traveler released their 2014 list of the 10 Most Underrated American Cities and showed readers just what they may be missing by overlooking them. After checking out the list, we did our own research on these cities and fell even more in love. In this two part blog series, we’ll show you our own reasons for putting these cities on our travel itinerary and what you can do if you travel to any of them.
#1 – Portland, Maine
Maine’s largest city and the birthplace of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Portland is organized by neighborhoods, each with its own flair.
Restaurants: Vignola Cinque Terre uses ingredients from local artisans, fishmongers – even their own farm – to craft an elegant menu of fine farm-to-table fare. For dining with a serene view, check out Eve’s at the Garden, which overlooks a beautiful courtyard garden.
Attractions: Step back in time to pre-Civil War days by visiting Victoria Mansion, where you’ll find elaborate décor including stained glass, lavish furniture, and intricate woodworks. Explore the Casco Bay Islands by taking a ride on the Casco Bay Lines, a year-round ferry system that transports visitors to the islands with scenic or music cruises.
#2 – Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore may get a bad rap, but there must be some reason it’s called “Charm City.” We think it’s the abundant history paired with arts, entertainment, and contemporary restaurants all in one place.
Restaurants: At Charleston, executive chef Cindy Wolf puts a French twist on southern cooking to create dishes that pair excellently with an extensive wine list featuring more than 800 wines. Meanwhile, beer connoisseurs can enjoy house-made Belgian ales at Brewer’s Art, which also serves such sophisticated bar fare as baked mac-n-cheese and confit chicken wings.
Attractions: Visit the National Aquarium in the Inner Harbor to see more than 17,000 creatures including dolphins, sharks, Atlantic puffins, and blue poison dart frogs. History buffs will want to stop by the Maryland Historical Society, where they can view portraits of heroes from the War of 1812 and the original manuscript of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
#3 – Athens, Georgia
There’s more to this college town than the University of Georgia. It’s also home to unique shops and progressive restaurants and was once dubbed the “#1 college music scene in America” by the Rolling Stone.
Restaurants: Foodies will love The Grit – whether they eat meat or not – because the vegetarian restaurant features such flavor packed dishes as seitan steak with veggies, falafel platters, and creative burgers made with bean patties. If visitors want meat on their menu, they can head over to East West Bistro, which features hormone free meats and an award winning wine menu.
Attractions: Gardening buffs will love Founders Memorial Garden, a living memorial to the 12 founders of the country’s first garden club, which was founded in Athens. In it, you’ll find courtyards, an arboretum, and a perennial garden. To view other kinds of beauty, visit the Georgia Museum of Art. This official state museum of art houses paintings, works on paper, and sculptures, among other works.
#4 – St. Petersburg, Florida
Lovingly called “The Burg” by its locals (who are called “burgers”), St. Petersburg holds the record for most consecutive days of sunshine, which is good since it is also home to one of America’s Top 20 beaches.
Restaurants: Check out Bodega for rustic, Spanish sandwiches with influences from all over the world including Key West, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and even Jamaica. If it’s American bar fare you want, visit Engine No. 9, a sports bar that’s said to have some of the best burgers in the Tampa Bay Area.
Attractions: See glass like never before at the Chihuly Collection inside the Morean Art Center, which features bright colors and crazy formations made from glass. You’ll see even more colors at Sunken Gardens, a botanical garden featuring more than 50,000 tropical plants and flowers, including some of the region’s oldest.
#5 – Birmingham, Alabama
When the civil rights movement was going on in America, Birmingham was right in the heart of it. The city proudly bears its scars with a Civil Rights District that hosts the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Baptist Church. The infamous church was home to numerous civil rights mass meetings, rallies, and the tragic bombing that took place in September 1963.
Restaurants: Unique toppings abound at Trattoria Centrale, which serves Italian dishes for breakfast and lunch, including pizzas topped with sweet potato, pancetta, and even farm egg. Meanwhile, BBQ cravings are filled at Saw’s Soul Kitchen, a soul food and barbecue hybrid where items are cooked to order.
Attractions: Said to be one of Birmingham’s best kept secrets, the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum boasts one of the largest collections of motorcycles and cars in the United States. If you enjoy animals, visit the Birmingham zoo, which features an alligator swamp, interactive aviary, Africa exhibit, and a train.
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