A land of impeccable diversity, the USA has everything you need to plan a quintessential offbeat vacation in 2021. Distinctive terrains ranging from unique rock formations to glaciers, and gorges to lakes, it is a paradise of vivid natural wonders. Moreover, the multi-cultural motley of the country, along with native cultures and tribes, is exemplary for experiential travel through the states.
Here’s a list of 20 destinations that offer unique experiences for the offbeat wanderers.
1. Savannah, Georgia
Famed for its southern charm and timeless vibe, Savannah is one of the most gorgeous historic towns in the US. The horse-drawn carriages, the antebellum architecture, cobblestoned streets of Savannah have been painstakingly preserved and take you right back to the 1800s. Characterized by the live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, lush parks, and fine architecture, Savannah is as contemporary as it is ancient. The vibrant art culture and the boho feel of the town make it a perfect place to spend a weekend exploring the food, culture, art, and the classic streets soaked in the olden charm.
Key Experience: A walk through the ancient town squares, museums, and art galleries while hogging on the mouth-watering food of Savannah.
Best time to visit Savannah: Savannah is hot and humid almost throughout the year, owing to its subtropical weather. Spring and Fall experience cooler temperatures. Plan a trip during fall, when the holidays are around, to see the city in all its grandeur.
2. The Wave, Arizona
A sublime location that you have seen on your windows default wallpaper, was unknown to many until 2007. One of the most remarkable wonders of nature, The Wave in Arizona is a marvellous wave-like swirl of gigantic rocks. The Wave is part of the Coyote Buttes North (part of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness) and is located on the Utah/Arizona border.
As noteworthy as the visit is, getting into The Wave is not easy. First, you need to obtain a permit through the online portal. Only 20 permits are issued every day, based on a lottery system. The next part is the 10 km hike. It is intense and requires you to navigate an unmarked trail over slick rocks and through the sand dunes.
The Wave is not for everyone but if you’re looking for a rugged adventure in the remotest places, this is your place to be.
Key Experience: The intense hike through the mind-boggling rock formations.
Best time to visit The Wave: The best time to visit The Wave is Spring or Fall when the temperatures are favourable for hiking and being outdoors. There is a better chance of getting a permit in winters, look for warm pockets to plan a trip in winter.
3. Charleston, South Carolina
The crown jewel of the South, Charleston, has the best of the old and new. This striking town encapsulates the essence of the centuries-old structures, the tropical breeze of the dreamy beaches, and a gastronomic experience for food lovers.
Founded in 1670, the old town of Charleston is a historic port city with cobbled districts, architectural finesse, and the magnificent sea. The most remarkable attractions are the French Quarter, the Antebellum building of the Battery District, the pastel houses of the rainbow row, the well-known pineapple fountain, as well as Waterfront Park and Fort Sumter.
Key experience: Carriage tour around the town, Prehistoric architecture and Magnolia plantations.
Best time to visit Charleston: The coastal town of Charleston has breezy yet hot weather throughout the year. January is the coldest month, with average highs of 57℉. Spring is the best time to plan a trip, to enjoy the beaches and touring around the town.
4. Nashville, Tennessee
For country music fans, singers and songwriters, Nashville is an exemplary location. As Bob Dylan rightly sings about the feel of this musical city, “I was living in a dream, I was living for the scene, I was floating high above, Cause I have been through mire and confusion, I am free, As far as I can see, Is Nashville skyline”, Nashville is everything and more. The birthplace of hillbilly music, Nashville is a must-visit for ardent music lovers. Visit the museums dedicated to Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson and explore the contemporary art scene.
Key Experience: There’s music, there’s food and there’s energy in this city like no other.
Best time to visit Nashville: The best time to visit Nashville is from April through October when the pleasant weather brings the music city to life. You can also plan your trip around the holiday season (December) to see the city adorned with lights and music swirling in the air.
5. San Antonio, Texas
When you think of Texas, there’s not a lot that comes to mind in terms of history and culture but nestled in south-central Texas, San Antonio exudes a colonial charm. Every block features preserved Romanesque Revival Architecture revamped for modern use. The Riverwalk and the Alamo are the greatest highlights of the city. The Alamo, a site of the battle between Texans and Mexicans, is now a fascinating museum. San Antonio is home to the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the state of Texas, San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. One of the must-visit places at the National Park is the Spanish Governor’s Palace and Casa Navarro State Historic Site. Right in the city centre, the Riverwalk is an incredibly calming pedestrian walkway. The main street is lined with cafes and bars including the chain of classic Hardrock Cafe, Pat O’Brien’s and more. Head north to see where the locals live and play, especially the Pearl, a former brewery turned mixed-use development.
Key experience: The visit to the Alamo and bar hopping at the Riverwalk, street murals throughout the town.
Best to time visit San Antonio: The hilly country experiences mild winters and hot summers. Spring and Fall are the best time to visit San Antonio.
6. Portland, Oregon
Portland holds the reputation of being the top culinary destination in the country. The small coastal town is a hipster haven. With plenty of scrumptious restaurants and gorgeous sights, you can easily spend a few days in Portland and still find something new every time you visit. Portland is great for budget travellers because of its pocket-friendly fast-casual joints, a flourishing food-cart scene.
The best coffee, top-craft breweries, food carts, and the off-beat hipster vibe of Portland charm their way from your belly and all the way to your heart.
The bay areas are quiet and cosy, yet with an energy that flows through the entire city.
Key Experience: Delectable seafood (especially Lobsters), world-class breweries, authentic cafes and vibrant restaurants.
Best time to visit Portland: The best time to visit this outdoorsy city is from June to August. With regular warm temperatures, you can experience the city at its best. Plus, summer is when the city’s roses are in full bloom. You can also plan a winter trip, during the low season to avoid crowds and for better availability.
7. Arches National Park, Utah
Utah’s national park trail is one of the most wondrous creations. Located north of Moab, Arches National Park is bordered by the magnificent Colorado River. With over 2000 sandstone arches and balanced rocks, Arches is one of the most photogenic parks of all. The red hues of the sandstone structures stretching for miles and miles are a sight to behold.
Some of the must-visit points in the park are Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, Park Avenue, Double Arch, and Balanced Rock.
Key experiences: The ocean of infinite sandstone arches and unique rock formations of the park.
Best time to visit the Arches National Park: Arches National Park is open throughout the year but the extreme temperatures in summer and winters, make it difficult to plan a trip. If you want to avoid crowds, hike or camp, shoulder season is the best time to plan a trip. The ideal time is between October-November and March- April.
8. Big Sur, California
California has a lot more to offer than just Los Angeles and San Francisco. The authentic attraction of this Golden State lies in the natural vistas of this coastal paradise. Big Sur is an excellent example of California’s natural marvels. The iconic Highway 1 is lined with the stretch of California coast from San Simeon to Carmel. This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the USA.
Big Sur is horse-shoed between the Santa Lucia Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean. The land is famous for its exquisite coastline and soaring redwoods along with an eclectic vibe in its cafes, restaurants, and boutiques.
Key Experience: Coastal cliff, emerald waters, misty forests and the California sunshine.
Best time to visit Big Sur: Big Sur’s peak season runs long with more than 300 days of sunshine. You can plan a trip from April to October. Although the ideal months are September to November, every season in Big Sur brings out a different wonder for its visitors.
9. Glacier National Park, Montana
Dense forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountain terrain, pristine lakes, and with over 700 miles of hiking trails, Glacier National Park offers the wilderness experience at its best. The towering peaks with glacier carving and the awe-inspiring natural vistas are a delight for your adventurous soul.
Indulge in hiking, mountain biking, camping, wildlife watching, and drive through the most dramatic roads. The ‘Going to the Sun Road’ is the crown jewel of the US. Climb up to Logan Pass (2026 meters) for phenomenal views and an ethereal experience.
Key Experience: Driving through the ‘Going to the Sun Road’ and hiking/ biking across forest trails.
Best time to visit the Glacier National Park: While the warmest temperatures near the lake are during July and September, these are also the crowdest months. Plan a trip during late June or early September to avoid crowds and the risk of wildfires.
10. Charlottesville, Virginia
One of the lesser-known gems of America is the small town of Charlottesville. Nestled amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville is surrounded by countryside and world-class wineries. Thomas Jefferson’s plantation house, Monticello, is located very close to the city centre. Charlottesville is a boho city of fine wine, indie boutiques, instagrammable accommodations, tasty eateries, and outdoor activities. Sip coffee in the morning and wine in the evening, while being awed by the majestic mountain range. Charlottesville is 25 minutes away from Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park. Vineyard, winery New Zealand, typical Marlborough landscape with vineyards and roads, hills and mountains.
Key Experience: Taste the fine wines with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Best time to visit Charlottesville: The best time to visit Charlottesville is from May to July. Plan a trip to the city around the wine-tasting seasons; spring is the season for wine festivals and summery Virginia weather.
11. Denali National Park, Alaska
Home to the highest peak (Denali Peak) in North America, Denali National Park in Alaska has vast expanses of forests, heaps of wildlife, extensive masses of glaciers and pure wilderness.
Spread across 6 million acres of land, Denali National Park is dissected by one 92 mile gravel road. One of the wildest and untouched national parks of America, Denali National Park is for those looking for rugged and raw experience in the wild.
Watch the exotic wildlife in action, including grizzly bears, caribou, moose and wolves. Hike on the off-track trails, camp under the stars and explore the diverse landscape of this vast region.
Key Experience: Bewitching wilderness stretching for miles through forests, mountains, barren terrains and alpine meadows.
Best time to visit the Denali National Park: Denali National Park is open throughout the year but the best season is marked from mid-June to late August.
12. New Orleans, Louisiana
Also known as ‘the Big Easy’, the vibrant city of New Orleans is famed for its 24/7 party culture, delicious cuisines and music, especially Jazz. Set on the banks of the Mississippi River, New Orleans is a city with colonial architecture. A fusion of French, Spanish, First American and West African culture, New Orleans is a city with rich history and influence. There’s a saying that goes, “You can live in any city in America, but New Orleans is the only city that lives in you.” and it is rightly so. This city is full of celebration, parties, great food and warm culture, making it a perfect place for an off-beat vacation.
From the historic French Quarter to the revamped Warehouse District to the beautiful Garden District, there are several secret spots to enjoy a fantastic meal or cocktail.
Key Experience: Exquisite party culture, buffets of food and rich colonial architecture.
Best time to visit New Orleans: New Orleans is blessed with great weather. Only the summer months are hot and humid but except that the weather is pleasant.
13. Boise, Idaho
Located in the heart of the Treasure Valley in South-West Idaho, Boise is one of the off-the-beaten-path destinations in the U.S. Although Boise as a city is known to all, it is not a vacation list location for many. That’s what makes the beautiful town of Boise the perfect off-beat destination for a trip. A hip city with countless possibilities in the outdoors, Boise is a blend of relaxed activities and rugged adventures. Be it mountain biking, hiking in the foothills, tubing in the waters of the Boise River, fishing or wildlife watching. From relishing a glass of chilled beer to city markets, concerts, and fairs, Boise has it all. Moreover, it is also a great jumping-off spot for nearby day trips. You can visit Bruneau Dunes State Park, Kirkham Hot Springs and more.
Key Experience: A pristine paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Best time to visit Boise: The best time to visit Boise is from June to October. These are the most active months for outdoor activities, events and concerts.
14. Albuquerque, New Mexico
One of the most underrated destinations in South-West America, Albuquerque is famous for its pop culture, art and the unique desert terrain of the region. Famed after the Breaking Bad series, Albuquerque boasts a unique charm for niche travellers.
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre offers an immersive experience in the region’s rich heritage. The on-site café serves the traditional cuisines of the city. Visit one of the city’s oldest barrios; check out the art galleries, catch a play or a concert at the National Hispanic Cultural Centre.
Key Experience: Pop-culture, street art and hiking trails
Best time to visit Albuquerque: The best time to visit Albuquerque is from September to November. Fall is the ideal season to plan a trip to enjoy the parties around the festive season and mild warm temperatures make the heat of the desert town bearable.
15. Prudence Island, Rhode island
Among the lesser-known places in Rhode Island, Prudence Island is perfect for a quiet beach holiday. An untouched paradise, Prudence is where you can marvel at the stunning azure seas, watch wildlife and birds, and take long strolls along the beach.
It was entirely wooded until the Revolutionary War, and some of the art houses are functional to date. Despite being the third-largest island in Rhode Island, the island now has fewer than 100 residents. With just a few homes and convenience stores, this place has a homely vacation vibe.
It is a nature lover’s dream, with the densest population of the white-tailed deer herd and wading birds such as great blue herons. It’s an ideal spot for beachcombing, relaxing and hikes.
Key Experience: A dreamy island with panoramic views and an abundance of nature.
Best time to visit Prudence Island: The ideal time to plan a trip to Prudence Island is Spring and Summer. You can also consider early Fall for a beach vacation and enjoy the slightly chilly weather.
16. Cape San Blas, Florida
Located in northwest Florida, Cape San Blas is a sleepy little peninsula, incomparable for an offbeat beach vacay. Find miles of uncrowded, pristine, white-sand beaches in this Gulf County, perfect laid-back walks and solitude.
Indulge in water sports like kayaking, boating and explore the notable Cape San Blas lighthouse. Try fresh and homemade Florida seafood on the mainland. Explore the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park or take a day trip to St. George Island, or do some shelling, there’s a lot to explore in this hidden slice of paradise.
Cape San Blas and the surrounding areas are still recovering from damage from Hurricane Michael in 2018, but don’t let that stop you from planning a trip.
Key Experience: Long walks on white sands and magnificent sunsets.
Best time to visit Cape San Blas: May is the perfect time to plan a vacation to Cape San Blas. The weather is pleasant and the town is not too crowded. By June the temperatures rise. September is also a great time to plan the trip.
17. Deer Isle, Maine
Deer Isle is a quaint island located in the Downeast Maine (Hancock County, Penobscot Bay) of the New England region. The settlement drew its name from the abundance of deer in the area. Lobstering and granite quarrying offer unique experiences to visitors. The Stonington Opera House, The Island Heritage Trust, and the Deer Isle-Stonington Historical Society provide a great cultural experience. Local businesses, food joints, and cafes with their cozy charm allow travelers to mingle with the locals.
Deer Isle has twelve diverse nature conservancies which offer an opportunity to nature and outdoor activity enthusiasts. The area is a mixture of spruce-covered islands, fields of wildflowers, granite formations, and pristine oceans, making the visit to Deer Isle an enriching experience.
Key Experience: Walking around the sandbars and activities like hiking, fishing and kayaking excursions.
Best time to visit the Deer Isle: Most businesses run only during the peak season of July and August (Summer). The shoulder months of May, early June and September offer a quieter getaway and pleasant weather.
18. Grand Rapids, Michigan
Known as the beer city of USA, the cheery City of Grand Rapids is a haven for art connoisseurs, beer gourmets and off-beat explorers. With over 25 craft breweries, the city is a haven for beer lovers and a perfect place to take a beer tour.
With countless snug art galleries, boutiques and museums, Grand Rapids is a city of art. Grand Rapids hosts the international art competition, Art Prize which draws art enthusiasts from all over the world.
Nestled in the centre, Grand Rapids is a passage to other amazing beach towns in Michigan, including Holland, Grand Haven, and Muskegon.
Key Experience: Art galleries and museums and finest craft breweries
Best time to visit Grand Rapids: The best time to visit Grand Rapids is between June through August and September through mid-November. The summer heat and balmy temperatures in fall are perfect for enjoying the city’s outdoorsy vibe. The winters are chilly and spring warmth is slow to arrive, but late spring is great for cheaper deals and brisk weather.
19. Medicine Park, Oklahoma
Founded in 1908, Medicine Park is the state’s first resort town. An ideal destination for a rejuvenating weekend and relaxing vacation, Medicine Park is a place for retreats and spas. Away from the buzz of the city, Medicine Park is a relaxing holiday destination.
The creek near this spot is believed to have healing properties, which is why this part of Oklahoma was selected for the health retreat. The timeless structures of the town give you a peek into the time bygone.
There are beautiful vacation rentals and homes to make your getaway perfect. Staying at Medicine Park is a great way to experience the southern charm of Oklahoma. It is a perfect base to explore Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Turner Falls waterfall park, and driving through the winding roads of the mountains.
Key experience: Vintage cobblestone resort town.
Best time to visit Medicine Park: Unlike most places in Oklahoma, Medicine Park enjoys pleasant weather almost all year long. July is the hottest month here, with temperatures as high as 96.4 ℉. The most pleasant months of the year for Medicine Park are October, April and May.
20. Molokai, Hawaii
The fifth-largest island in Hawaii, Molokai is still a lesser-known Hawaiian island with fewer tourists and minimum commercialisation. Molokai has retained the true Hawaiian spirit and offers a rare glimpse into what Hawaii was like before the flooding of tourism.
With dirt roads, untouched expanses, and countryside, Molokai is a quiet tropical town to experience authentic Hawaiian culture and interact with the natives of the land.
Go on a Hawaiian cultural tour to dive deeper into the ancient lifestyle. Visit the Kalaupapa, an isolated peninsula, which was once a virtual prison for those afflicted with Hansen’s disease (Leprosy).
Unlike other islands of Hawaii, Molokai is not for luxury beach vacations but is a secluded island with a homely warmth and immersive culture.
Key Experience: Live the Aloha spirit with natives amidst heavenly views.
Best time to visit Molokai: Molokai experiences great temperatures throughout the year. You can plan a trip any time of the year. If you don’t like the heat, avoid the warmest months (July, August, September) to get the best out of your trip.