A lot of factors come into play when deciding where to go on your next vacation or long-weekend getaway. With ecotourism on the rise, more and more travelers are looking for ways to travel responsibly.
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The cities below have consistently been ranked as some of America’s “greenest”, “coolest”, “most unique” and “well-loved” cities for their own reasons, whether being known for their great outdoors, rich history, delicious food scene or arts and culture.
Perfect destination for: the traveler who loves culture just as much as the outdoors
Consider visiting Seattle, WA on your next US getaway. From coffee shops to thrift stores, Seattle has a plethora of amenities for the young, active and eco-conscious traveler. The city has over 40 breweries (that’s 7.1 microbreweries per 100,000 residents!). And while Seattle is urban enough to keep you busy, it is close enough to the mountains to get your fill of nature and adventure.
Top Attractions in Seattle:
Seattle Space Needle: The Seattle Space Needle stands 605 feet tall and was built in 1962 for Seattle’s World Fair. This observation tower is not only an iconic symbol of the city but is also a recognizable landmark across the world.
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum: This museum is located in the heart of Seattle and showcases the work of world-famous artist, Dale Chihuly. Chihuly is an American glass sculptor and entrepreneur. This exhibition features a stunning garden and glasshouse. The glass museum often features special events such as Yoga Under Glass, Dance in the Glasshouse and Garden workshops.
Pike Place Market: No visit to Seattle is complete without a visit to Pike Place Market. This well-known public market overlooks the Elliott Bay waterfront and has been open since 1907. Each year over 10 million people pay a visit to Pike Place Market. While many tourists know of Pike Place Market due to its very close proximity to the Original Starbucks, Pike Place is home to an abundance of fantastic restaurants, shops, and bars.
Pike Place Market is Seattle’s original farmer’s market and is the center of locally sourced specialty foods. Pike Place also has a Crafts Market which was founded over 40 years ago and now features the work of over 225 local and regional craftspeople. A trip to Pike Place Market is a great opportunity to buy from locals and support Seattle’s vibrant community.
Si Mountain: Nature lovers should consider climbing Mt. Si during their time in Seattle, located a short 45-minute drive from the city. It is Washington’s most climbed peak that welcomes over 100,000 hikers each year.
This hike is considered to be challenging but there is good news for those with little hiking experience – there is a good turnaround point about a mile into the hike, that cuts down the hike to just 2 miles with just 1600 ft of elevation gain. For those looking to reach the summit, it is an 8-mile hike that takes about 4-5 hours to complete. Seattle residents and tourists alike love this mountain and climbing it is even considered a rite of passage for new transplants to the city. Mt. Si offers sweeping views of the Snoqualmie Valley and is a great introduction to hiking the Cascade mountains.
READ MORE: Sunday City Guide: What to do in Seattle
Perfect destination for: the health fanatic
Boulder has consistently ranked as one of the happiest, healthiest and coolest cities in the United States. Known as “the city nestled between the mountains and reality”, Bolder is surrounded by the beautiful flatiron mountains.
While Boulder may be known for its laid-back atmosphere with an emerging vibrant foodie scene, it is probably best known for being incredibly healthy and fitness-oriented. The fact that the town is also environmentally and socially conscious makes it a great getaway destination for the responsible traveler.
Top Attractions in Boulder
The Flatirons: Exploring the Flatirons is a must during your trip to Boulder! The Flatirons are five slanted, reddish-brown rock formations found in the western foothills of the city. They are Boulder’s most iconic landmark and offer a stunning backdrop to the charming town.
There are plenty of trails that will take you up and around the Flatirons, depending on your energy level and experience. The two-mile Flatiron Loop Trail offers an easy-to-moderate hike and winds through the forest beneath the Flatirons. For those up for more of a challenge, there is a three-mile Royal Arch Trail which ends at a beautiful rock arch formation providing hikers with breathtaking views of Boulder and the surrounding areas.
Pearl Street Mall: This beloved Boulder attraction is a four-block outdoor pedestrian mall in the heart of town. While Pearl Street is every shopaholic’s dream with numerous vintage shops, active lifestyle retailers, and trendy boutiques, it is so much more than just a place to shop.
Pearl Street was named as one of the ten best foodie streets in the country and is a must-see destination for music lovers. Pearl Street Mall features free live music performances during the summer and is home to the historic Boulder Theater.
Avery Brewing Company: If you like beer then you will love Colorado! The state is home to four of the top 50 brewing companies in the United States. That’s why a beverage stop at Avery Brewing Company is a must during your time in Boulder.
Founded in 1993, Avery Brewing Company is a family-owned microbrewery that is dedicated to producing eccentric ales and lagers. The brewery features a ground-floor tap room, a lively space with over 30 beers on tap and an upstairs restaurant with an ever-changing menu.
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San Diego, California
Perfect destination for: the traveler looking for the perfect paradise escape (regardless the time of year)
Located on the Pacific Coast, San Diego is California’s third largest city and the perfect getaway for those who love the outdoors and urban culture. This popular tourist destination boasts incredible year-round weather (think 75 degrees and sunny), a laid-back surfer-town vibe with countless gorgeous beaches, and great eats across the city’s trendiest neighborhoods.
The fact that the city prides itself on its numerous parks and green spaces and a zen culture with a peaceful way of life make San Diego a great place for the eco-conscious traveler’s next vacation.
Top Attractions in San Diego
Balboa Park: Balboa Park is a 1200 acre escape in the center of San Diego and the largest urban escape in North America. This must-see destination is home to 17 museums, lovely trails and gardens and several theaters and performing arts centers. The park is rich in history and features Spanish Renaissance-inspired architecture. Admission to the park is free and the park is open 365 days a year.
La Jolla Cove: Commonly referred to as San Diego’s Jewel by the Sea, La Jolla Cove is a small, picturesque cove and beach surrounded by majestic cliffs, making it one of the most photographed beaches in Southern California.
Here you’ll find restaurants offering not only high-quality cuisine but also stunning views of the Pacific. Visitors can enjoy plenty of water activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving and stand up paddleboarding. So make sure if you are planning to visit here any time soon go through the inflatable sup reviews as you do not want to miss out on the golden opportunity of striking this off of your bucket list.
Sunset Cliffs: What better way to end a day in paradise than by watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. While San Diego offers numerous breath-taking locations to catch the sunset, Ocean Beach’s Sunset Cliffs have been consistently ranked as a top spot for both tourists and residents alike.
Here you will find stunning cliff formations and caves along with expansive, unobstructed views of the ocean. Sunset Cliffs Park also features hiking trails and secret beaches, making it a peaceful location to appreciate and be present in the moment.
READ MORE: Sunday City Guide: What to do in San Diego
St. Petersburg, Florida
Perfect destination for: the beach-loving millennial
St. Petersburg, also known as St. Pete’s or The Sunshine City, is the perfect weekend getaway for the eco-conscious traveler. St. Petersburg was the first city in Florida to be designated “a Green City” by the Florida Green Building Coalition. The city also has Florida’s first LEED Gold certified home and the state’s first solar condo project.
The city has a unique vibrancy to it and features some of the most pristine beaches and parks in the country. It is also one of America’s most “pedestrian and bicycle friendly” cities. With an average of 361 days of sunshine each year, you’ll have the opportunity to take advantage of the many activities the city has to offer.
St. Pete’s dedication to being a green city, its perfect weather and welcoming community makes it a great destination to add to your list of US cities to visit.
Top Attractions in St Pete’s
Salvador Dali Museum: Located on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront, this museum is home to the largest collection of Salvador Dali works outside of Europe. The museum features eight of Dali’s 18 masterpieces, and the museum itself could be considered a fabulous work of art. The stunning structure which occupies nearly 70,000 square feet of space, was built to represent Dali’s unique blend of classical and fantastical styles.
Fort DeSoto Park: Fort DeSoto is consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in Florida but also one of the best in the country. Located south-southwest of St. Pete’s, Fort DeSoto is much more than just a beach. It is a coastal habitat that covers over 1100 acres of land and five islands on Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Fort DeSoto features 3 miles of white, sandy beach, two fishing piers, a historic fort and plenty of shorebirds among other wildlife. It is a great destination for swimming, sunbathing and even camping.
Sunken Gardens: Located in the historic Old Northeast neighborhood of St. Pete’s, the Sunken Gardens is a beautiful and tranquil botanical paradise, hidden among the hustle and bustle of the busy city. The garden is St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum and home to over 50,000 tropical plants and flowers.
Buffalo, New York
Perfect destination for: the laid-back traveler who loves events, festivals and food trucks.
When you think of America’s coolest cities, Buffalo, New York might not cross your mind. But Buffalo might just be America’s most underrated city to visit on your next US getaway. Buffalo used to be an American powerhouse in the 19th century, but the city’s economy suffered greatly during the Great Depression.
Today, residents of Buffalo are focusing on rejuvenating the city, by developing vacant lots and revitalizing neighborhoods that were formerly in disrepair. Buffalo’s Green Gold Development Corporation is working to transform Buffalo from a declining Rust Belt city into an international hub for businesses whose services and products focus on solving environmental issues.
The city has also restored its architecture, revitalized its waterfront and is becoming well known for its craft breweries, farm-to-table restaurants and hosting countless festivals each year, making it a great destination to consider for your next getaway.
Top Attractions in Buffalo
Canalside Buffalo: This historic district is located at the heart of Buffalo’s waterfront, the Erie Canal Harbor. Canalside attracts over 750,000 visitors annually and offers countless activities year-round, including a 35,000 square foot ice rink in winter and concerts, festivals and water activities in the warmer months. Canalside also features numerous dining establishments and places to grab a beverage.
Experience an event or festival: Buffalo is known for hosting a variety of festivals and events, year-round! Favorites include Taste of Buffalo: the largest 2-day food festival in the country, Garden Walk Buffalo: America’s biggest garden tour, Porchfest: a grassroots music festival that turns porches into stages for local bands and National Buffalo Wing Festival: a weekend festival with entertainment and a 5k run that also gives back to charity!
Eat your way through Buffalo: Be sure to check out Larkin Square for “Food Truck Tuesday”, one of the largest food truck gatherings in the Northeast. Open from April through October from 5 pm – 8 pm, this weekly attraction is a popular event each season. Featuring over 30 food trucks each week along with live music and wine, beer and other beverages, this is a great place to celebrate music, fun and delicious bites with family and friends.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Perfect destination for: the art-loving traveler
Santa Fe is America’s oldest capital city and what this small city lacks in size, it makes up for in history, architecture, culture and fantastic food! In 2013, Conde Nast Traveler recognized Santa Fe as the best small city in America. And just last year, Outdoor Magazine named Santa Fe as one of the 25 best towns in America.
Nicknamed “The City Different”, Santa Fe is the perfect mix of Old Spain, Native America and the old Wild West making it a unique destination to add to your list of US cities to visit.
Top Attractions in Santa Fe
Canyon Road: This magical half-mile walk is every art lover’s dream and not to be missed during your time in Santa Fe. Offering more than 100 art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques, Santa Fe has the third largest art market in the country, behind New York City and Los Angeles. Canyon Road showcases a diverse array of various forms of art – including paintings in oil, watercolor, photography, woodcuts, and sculptures. Whether your style of preference is traditional, abstract, modern or native American, you will be sure to find artwork that fits your personal taste.
Santa Fe Farmer’s Market: This year-round market, located in the heart of the Santa Fe Railyard, is a popular tourist destination that is worth a visit! The Saturday market open from 8 am – 1 pm all year, is the most popular. The market is also open on Tuesdays and Wednesday evenings throughout the summer and fall. Featuring local vendors, the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market is one of the oldest and largest in the country and also features a cafe, gift shop, breakfast/lunch concession and live music. This market which promotes eating local is a great spot to visit for the responsible traveler.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi: Often referred to as Saint Francis Cathedral, this Roman Catholic cathedral is an architectural wonder located in the center of downtown Santa Fe. Built in the early 1700s, the style of the church is the complete opposite of the clay adobe structures that are commonly found throughout the city. The beautiful church is open to the public with free admission and offers tours as well.
Perfect destination for: the foodie traveler
Oregon isn’t the only state with a city called Portland that’s worth checking out. Maine’s largest city, Portland, is a hot tourist destination and a place worth considering for your next US getaway.
This charming seaside city is known for its beaches, lighthouses and an expanding culinary scene, and is a great destination for the traveler looking for a laid-back yet funky getaway!
Top Attractions in Portland
Old Port: Be sure to check out the Old Port district of Portland during your getaway. This popular neighborhood is known for its cobblestone streets, fishing piers and historic brick buildings. Old Port is home to numerous trendy boutiques, galleries, restaurants and bars, and many of the city’s best hotels are also located in close proximity.
Maine Foodie Tour: Make sure you eat your way through Portland by signing up for a foodie walking tour! This year-round tour will allow you to explore the city while sampling culinary creations that feature local ingredients and are inspired by Maine-based dishes.
READ NEXT: Sustainable City Guide: Things to do in Portland Oregon
Explore Casco Bay by Kayak: Explore Casco Bay in an eco-friendly way – by booking a tour with Portland Paddle. This company has a focus on making it easy and affordable for visitors to experience Casco Bay. Portland Paddle offers a variety of sea kayak and paddleboard tours of the area, including a sunset kayak tour, half day kayak tour and moonlight tour to name a few. Private guided kayak trips and custom group trips are also available with advanced booking. This activity is the perfect opportunity to explore the islands offshore and learn about the area’s various wildlife, without leaving a carbon footprint.
READ NEXT: 6 Best Day Trips from Portland, Oregon
New Orleans, Louisiana
Perfect destination for: the music-loving traveler
New Orleans is one of the most popular travel destinations in the United States and is known for its incredible live music, tasty southern cuisine, and lively nightlife. The city is rich in history and is known as the birthplace of jazz, with live music dating back centuries.
Warm weather year-round, countless restaurants featuring delicious Creole and Cajun-inspired dishes and plenty of unique neighborhoods with endless affordable accommodation options make New Orleans the perfect getaway spot for your next vacation.
Top Attractions in New Orleans
Frenchmen Street: If you are looking for an authentic NOLA experience that’s off the beaten path from the touristy Bourbon Street, then Frenchmen Street is the place for you. Listening to some live music performances is a must during your time in New Orleans and the four-block stretch on Frenchmen Street is well-known for its variety of live music every day of the week.
This neighborhood is a crowded and vibrant gem with Blue Nile, Apple Barrel and The Spotted Cat topping the list of the best places to listen to live jazz.
Jackson Square: This historic park featuring a bronze equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson is located in the charming French Quarter and is New Orleans’ most famous landmark. The area surrounding the square has so much culture and history and is filled with numerous unique boutiques, galleries and restaurants to check out.
READ MORE: Sunday City Guide: What to do in New Orleans
Newport, Rhode Island
Perfect destination for: the traveling couple looking for a romantic weekend getaway
Just a few short hours away from major cities like New York and Boston, Newport, Rhode Island is New England’s premier seaside getaway destination. Although well-known for being a summer getaway for America’s wealthy, this vibrant yet historic town has sights and attractions to offer year-round.
Home to some of New England’s most scenic beaches, numerous cultural attractions and a renowned culinary scene, Newport is the perfect destination for a romantic getaway or a relaxing escape from the big city.
Top Attractions in Newport
Newport Cliff Walk: Named one of Newport’s top attractions, this is the perfect activity for the romantics-at-heart who enjoy long walks on the beach. This 3 and a half mile walk offers incredible views of the New England shoreline while passing the properties of some of the city’s most luxurious mansions. Most of this national recreation trail is relatively easy but visitors need to be careful as some parts of the trail are close to the cliffs that have up to 70-foot drops.
Wine Tasting at Newport Vineyard: This stunning vineyard is located on 75 acres of farmland and is dedicated to producing fine wines from on-site grapes while preserving agricultural land from development. The recently renovated facility features a brand-new tasting room and offers daily tours and tastings.
Bowen’s Wharf: This premier shopping and dining attraction is open-year round and is a beautiful place to visit during your time in Newport. A stroll through this historic district will transport you back in time to Newport’s days as New England’s thriving seaport. Bowen’s Wharf features numerous galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Visit the Mooring Seafood Kitchen and Bar for an upscale dining experience and some of Newport’s best oysters!
Have you visited any of these cities? What other American cities top your list for unique destinations for your next US getaway?
About the Author:
Diana Rosario is originally from Canada but has been living in NYC for the past 5 years. She is passionate about non-profit and event planning, animal rescue, travel and yoga. Diana has traveled to over 30 countries and completed her 200-Hr Yoga Teacher Training in Costa Rica. These days she spends most of her time exploring the US.