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10 State Capitals With Hidden Treasures

Explore lesser-known attractions in culture-rich cities across the country.

U.S. News & World Report

10 State Capitals With Hidden Treasures

A woman taking photos while exploring.
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(Getty Images)

Cross these under-the-radar attractions off your bucket list.

With unique cultural charms and illustrious pasts, state capitals have long lured curious visitors. While history buffs love exploring impressive monuments, storied landmarks and striking government buildings, art fanatics can spend hours touring first-rate museums and admiring groundbreaking architecture. If you've already visited popular attractions in America's iconic state capitals, skip the tourist-heavy spots and make your way to these underrated gems, from a lesser-known city park to an underground tunnel decked with colorful street art. Keep reading to discover underappreciated spots across America worth checking out on your next trip.
Next:Atlanta
Georgia Tech Landmark, Varsity Restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia.
Credit

(Getty Images)

Atlanta

One of the South's most vibrant cities, Atlanta is home to a flourishing food scene and a wealth of cultural attractions. For an off-the-beaten-path experience, grab a hot dog and crispy fries at The Varsity, a local favorite, before strolling along Chamblee's Antique Row District, which houses an extensive antiques collection. And if you appreciate eclectic street art, the Krog Street Tunnel is a must-visit spot. With huge murals and underground festival flyers, the tunnel's concrete walls display a chaotic kaleidoscope of images. As for accommodations, consider retreating to a boutique hotel like the Hotel Indigo Atlanta Downtown, where you can get feel for the character and flair of the neighborhood.
Next:

Cross these under-the-radar attractions off your bucket list.

With unique cultural charms and illustrious pasts, state capitals have long lured curious visitors. While history buffs love exploring impressive monuments, storied landmarks and striking government buildings, art fanatics can spend hours touring first-rate museums and admiring groundbreaking architecture. If you've already visited popular attractions in America's iconic state capitals, skip the tourist-heavy spots and make your way to these underrated gems, from a lesser-known city park to an underground tunnel decked with colorful street art. Keep reading to discover underappreciated spots across America worth checking out on your next trip.

Atlanta

One of the South's most vibrant cities, Atlanta is home to a flourishing food scene and a wealth of cultural attractions. For an off-the-beaten-path experience, grab a hot dog and crispy fries at The Varsity, a local favorite, before strolling along Chamblee's Antique Row District, which houses an extensive antiques collection. And if you appreciate eclectic street art, the Krog Street Tunnel is a must-visit spot. With huge murals and underground festival flyers, the tunnel's concrete walls display a chaotic kaleidoscope of images. As for accommodations, consider retreating to a boutique hotel like the Hotel Indigo Atlanta Downtown, where you can get feel for the character and flair of the neighborhood.

Salem, Oregon

Located in the agricultural center of Oregon, Salem offers diverse culinary offerings and picturesque scenery. Often overlooked by tourists, the Oregon Symphony Association brings world-class music to the region, while the Pentacle Theatre offers innovative community theater. If you're more of an outdoor enthusiast, experience rolling green hills, waterfalls, old-growth forests and wetlands on a memorable hiking expedition or bike ride. The area is also surrounded by lakes and streams, creating ideal fishing conditions for the experienced or novice angler. The Century House, a bed-and-breakfast built in 1912, sits within walking distance to the Oregon State Capitol, six museums, three city parks and numerous art galleries.

Boston

The Black Heritage Trail is often overshadowed by the city's more famous tourist attractions like the Freedom Trail. But along this fascinating trail, you can admire churches, homes, schools and the Underground Railroad of Boston's African-American community. After you've built up an appetite, sample Boston's legendary clam chowder and other crowd-pleasing dishes with a foodie tour led by a local operator such as Bites of Boston Food Tours. Perhaps the best way to experience Beantown's unheralded attractions is with an Old Town Trolley tour. As for lodging, retreat to the InterContinental Boston, which features stunning waterfront views, or head to Hotel Commonwealth, which caters to sports fans with impressive Red Sox memorabilia.

Oklahoma City

If you're a nature-seeker yearning for a unique vacation experience, the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory at the Myriad Botanical Gardens is a beautiful oasis that contains waterfalls and 750 varieties of plant species. Watch horses gallop at one of the numerous horse shows that are held each year. You may even see a real-life cowboy or two. Explore the city at your own pace with a downtown walking tour that hits can't-miss sights like the American Banjo Museum. For a comfortable and convenient place to stay, consider the Ambassador Hotel, which sits within blocks of the popular Downtown Oklahoma City and Bricktown tourist areas.

St. Paul, Minnesota

This capital city has a unique Mississippi River valley setting, distinctive neighborhoods and a vibrant downtown featuring lovely parks. Begin your day with a hearty breakfast from The Buttered Tin. On weekends, visit the St. Paul Farmer's Market, where all goods are required to be made or grown locally. And if you're planning a summer visit, Padelford Riverboats glide along the mighty Mississippi, where you can spot eagles and falcons. Back on dry land, Wabasha Street Caves offers a two-hour Gangster Tour to explore the locations of infamous hideouts and gun battles associated with '30s gangsters. The InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront Hotel offers easy access to the best of the Twin Cities.

Phoenix

One of the most populous cities in the U.S., Phoenix indulges visitors with warm weather, year-round sunshine and an abundance of outdoor activities. Baseball fans flock to Arizona each March to cheer on their favorite teams during spring training. For a unique sports-focused vacation experience, head to the storied Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, which has introduced a "Baseball Butler" to help provide insider guidance, including a stadium guide. Plus, the resort offers customized itineraries which allow guests to personalize their trip based on their interests (think: excursionist, historian, culturist and foodie categories). What's more, you can enjoy gourmet meals, explore desert scenery and check out underrated attractions, including Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.

Annapolis, Maryland

Urban Adventures, which was launched by the venerable adventure travel tour operator Intrepid Travel, offers 458 unique day tours in 126 cities, including Annapolis. You can dig into delicious cuisine – a must in Maryland's capital – with the Original Annapolis Seafood Crawl, an urban adventure offered by Intrepid. Along the way, hear intriguing naval tales of the Chesapeake Bay. Afterward, visit Eastport, a small less-frequented area in Annapolis that has shaped American history, to take in unique sights, panoramic water views and al fresco dining accompanied by live music.

Denver

Experience a behind-the-scenes look at the Mile High City with the Taming the RiNo Tour, which highlights the transformation of Denver's lower downtown warehouse district (LoDo) to a trendsetting neighborhood. After the tour, walk into River North (or RiNo to locals) to enjoy a memorable meal with up-close views of RiNo's street art and architecture, where artists turn buildings walls into their canvas. If you're traveling with little ones in tow, then make your way to Lakeside Amusement Park, where trains, a merry-go-round, a drop tower and bumper cars are sure to keep everyone entertained. When you're ready to turn in, unwind at the historic Oxford Hotel.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Rising 7,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe brims with dramatic landscapes, art, culture, history and outdoor attractions. As the country's oldest state capital, Santa Fe offers an abundance of historical attractions. The oldest continuously used public building in the U.S., the Palace of the Governors now serves as the state's history museum, housing a continually changing array of exhibits. After getting a history lesson, embrace New Mexico's unique and underrated wine scene, which has a history dating back to 1629. Take a private tour through some of the region's best wineries. And for memorable accommodations, check into Hotel Santa Fe, the area's only Native American-managed hotel and spa.

Boise, Idaho

Food is a serious business in Boise, with restaurants serving locally sourced menu items and craft breweries sharing the flavors of Idaho. The Big City Coffee & Cafe is a true Boise gem that specializes in old-fashioned treats with a twist. Lovers of the outdoors will find a cornucopia of activities throughout this region. After you've gotten your coffee fix, explore the 25-mile Boise River Greenbelt, one of Boise's most cherished parks, filled with towering trees and lush landscapes. Another must-do: the Idaho Birding Trail, which features 2,000 miles of trails and diverse of bird-watching spots. When you're ready to turn in, Boise Guest House offers boutique accommodations with an art-focused atmosphere.
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