10 Small American Cities to Add to Your 2020 Travel List

Will McGough of Travel Pulse has written a timely article describing 10 U.S. cities that should be on your must-see list this year.  Maybe this year will be the year to scratch that travel itch.  Read on here:

Slide 2 of 11: Idaho's western side gets very little love. Nearly seven hours from Yellowstone on the other side of the state, Boise is extremely isolated and far from any major hubs or widely-recognized National Parks.

As a result, for a long time, Boise remained overlooked, left to itself. The past few years have seen things change. Locals talk freely about the eye test of their developing city, and the research seems to agree. In 2018, Boise was named the fastest-growing city in the country by Forbes.

The Boise Mountains, which you can see from the center of the city as a scenic backdrop, provide year-round recreation for residents and visitors; entrepreneurs are running wild; and the population has become increasingly diverse. Check out our coverage of Boise for an in-depth look at the city. 

Slide 3 of 11: The one thing you notice right away about Wichita is that the people who live here grew up here, and the last few years have seen an uptick in local pride. "Made in Wichita" has become a thing, whether it's beer, clothes or barbecue. 

Ah, yes, beer and barbecue—two other things you'll love about Wichita. It's proximity to Kansas City means you'll find a lot of slow-smoked meat with thick, tomato and/or molasses-based sauce, and you won't have trouble finding a brewery or beer bar to wash it down. The city of 300,000ish people has about a half dozen breweries and more than a handful of beer bars. 

History is also thriving in Wichita. The Chisholm Trail, which famously began in Fort Worth, ended just across the river from Wichita in a small area called Delano, which today is an extension and expansion of the city, filled with locally-owned bars and shops. Back then, in the late 1800s, the town was the end of the road for the cowboys driving the cattle, a place of decompression after months on the trail.

Read more about Wichita and it's charm here. 

Slide 4 of 11: The great thing about Flagstaff is that it bucks everything you've come to think about Arizona. Located just under 7,000 feet, the terrain features sprawling pine forests, high peaks (San Francisco Peaks) and a legitimate winter with enough snow to support a ski area (Snow Bowl). 

Once a hub for the railway, lumber and ranching industries, Flagstaff has diversified itself in modern times. It's home to Northern Arizona University and the Lowell Observatory, the former creating a vibrant downtown with a wide range of restaurants, bars and shops. 

Visitors to Flagstaff come to enjoy the surrounding wilderness. Locally, there's a lot to love in terms of trails and adventures, but traditionally, most people simply use Flagstaff as a hub for the nearby Grand Canyon. 

Slide 5 of 11: The Central Coast of California remains one of the crown jewels of the United States, with pristine coastlines, mountains and vineyards coming together to form the landscape. 

There are many small towns and cities to be found along the infamous Highway 1, but perhaps none as complete as Santa Barbara. A short drive from Santa Ynez wine country, Santa Barbara's waterfront features laid-back boat harbor bars, walking paths and a strong sailing community. A few blocks inland on State Street, collegiate bars mix with high-end sushi and wine-focused restaurants, highlighting the wide variety of offerings in town. 

Blessed with year-round sunshine, views of offshore islands (Channel Islands), multiple universities and the Santa Ynez mountains, the outdoor, ocean and wine-country vibes make Santa Barbara a unique place. 

Slide 6 of 11: This ain't your grandfather's Reno. Sure, the town has a reputation as a mini-Vegas, and you'll still find plenty of that vibe in town, including the recently revamped Row that connects three casinos.  

But, the real draw of Reno here in 2019 is what's been happening behind the scenes, beyond the casinos. Reno is becoming a city of neighborhoods (as supposed to a city with a strip!).

Downtown Reno has welcomed neighborhood-bar style eateries such as Liberty Food and Wine Exchange and the West Street Market. Midtown flashes its community feel with the health-focused Great Full Gardens, featuring local produce and ingredients and a long strip of modern shops and bars. The Riverwalk District makes use of the Truckee River, which flows through the city, with a variety of waterside walking paths, public parks and outdoor dining. Outdoor opportunities are of course abound, including nearby Lake Tahoe. 

You can learn more about Reno's rise in our recent coverage. 

Slide 7 of 11: It's hard to find a more charming Southwestern city than Santa Fe. Its Historic Plaza was built by the Spanish in 1610, and today its architecture is known as "Spanish Pueblo Revival," combining its Spanish roots with the adobe style of the Pueblos, who have inhabited the land around Santa Fe for centuries. 

Surrounded by mountains, Santa Fe is connected to the outdoors, with opportunities for hiking and skiing. Its Native American culture shines through and remains an active part of the lifestyle, captured and explained in a few museums, such as the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. 

One of the biggest draws to Santa Fe is its Southwestern cuisine—specifically, green and red chili. First-time visitors to Santa Fe should make a point to eat at The Shed, a local institution, as well as one of the several chocolatiers to try some "drinking chocolate." 

Slide 8 of 11: Shreveport was created in 1836 when Captain Henry Miller Shreve cleared a large log jam on the Red River, opening up its waters for travel and trade. Many of the buildings in downtown Shreveport are of historic nature, dating back to the mid-1800s. 

For people who have been to New Orleans, Shreveport is a wonderful extension of Louisiana travel, featuring a little bit of everything you might expect: music, food and debauchery. 

The music scene is centered around the historic venue, the Louisiana Hayride, and one would be shrewd to dig in during a visit. Casinos in town host a variety of entertainment options, but above all, Shreveport shines for its southern cooking, with a little bit of Creole, French, Native America and Cajun mixed into one. A good place to start for first-timers is Herby K's for po boys, crawfish etoufee and gumbo.

Slide 9 of 11: Many have fallen in love with North Carolina favorites such as Myrtle Beach and the Outer Banks. But few make the time to check out Wilmington, a port city considered the gateway to Cape Fear and the state's barrier islands. 

Check out the charming waterfront area known as the Riverwalk, nice for lunch and an afternoon stroll. Don't miss out on the wonderful seafood scene. Stop by Seaview Crab Company for fresh and local options, and to learn about local sustainable seafood initiatives.

Much of the history in the area surrounds the military and former confederacy. Check out the USS North Carolina Battleship that's docked there, as well as the Cape Fear Museum, the oldest museum in the state. But don't worry—this is no stuffy, uptight town. For proof, check out the Brooklyn Arts District neighborhood.  

Slide 10 of 11: For a city in eastern Washington that goes mostly un-discussed, Spokane has a lot of history and a lot of outdoors. It doesn't have access to the sea like Seattle, but otherwise, Spokane shares a lot of what people love about Emerald City. 

The Spokane River barrels through the middle of downtown, setting the tone for what matters most around here—nature. During the summer, river rafting is one of the main draws, with myriad companies offering day and overnight adventures.

Historically, Spokane carries a mix of pioneer, Native American, and modern appeal. Its Riverfront Park was the site of the 1974 World's Fair, and the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture traces the city's roots back to a trading post.

Slide 11 of 11: Most people don't have Wisconsin on the travel brain, but the state does have some hidden gems, such as Door County and its capital, Madison. Located between two lakes, Mendota and Monona, and home to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, despite being a legislative seat, takes on a youthful, active energy that's hard to miss. 

In 2014, Madison was considered a top place to live thanks to its combination of outdoor opportunities, collegiate spirit, bicycle-friendly planning and "green" design, among other things, like a rocking craft beer scene. 

Winter can be tough in Madison, so plan to stop by in summer, when there's a long list of festivals and lake life is in full swing. 


Photo credits from Flickr:  Woody Hibbard; Eneko Bidegain; Ty Nigh; John; Prayitno; Patrick Nouhailler; Michele Singer; Ron Reiring; Richard Hurd


Author: Dennis Hickey

There are no limits to success to those who never stop learning. Learning will also nourish your personal growth. I hope you enjoy this website and visit often so you keep learning and growing too!

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