Just what the internet needs, another list of cities in the United States that are overrated. Hear us out, our list is different as we provide alternative suggested destination cities.
A little known fact with articles you see listing the ‘Best Cities’ – especially with regard to travel destinations and travel publications – is more often than not the journalists writing those articles a) never actually travel or have spent any time in the city and b) the journalists have either been wined-and-dined or paid by the PR agencies or visitors bureau representing said ‘great’ cities.
We can assure you we have not been paid by any of the cities listed – either good or bad – on our list. Also, we have actually spent time in all of the cities provided yielding an honest perspective not swayed by a forthcoming check in the mail. To end our preamble on a positive note, we hope all of the cities on this list return to their former or a new revitalized sense of glory. We want these cities to flourish and provide their version of unique and interesting once again.
US Cities Most Overrated and Why
11. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is a city you want to be better than it actually is. We understand you don’t visit Vegas for its bounty of culture, celebration of the fine arts, and family-friendly atmosphere. We get it. With that said understanding what Vegas is, and where it falls into the travel paradigm, we suggest either avoiding it all together or – like we do when traveling there – stay no longer than 48 – 72 hours. It’s overpriced, too crowded, over promoted, overstated, and a bad representation of what it could be.
Suggested Las Vegas Alternative:
We fully recognize there is no other city in the continental United States that is remotely close to being similar to Las Vegas. Finding a true comparable alternative to its brand of crazy most likely doesn’t exist at-scale. If a gambling destination is your thing – we don’t judge – then we’re going out on a limb and suggest a unique, less crazy alternative – Deadwood, South Dakota. If you’re a fan of the HBO TV show ‘Deadwood‘, you will thoroughly enjoy walking through the real town once home to Al Swearengen and Wild Bill Hickok.
Where To Stay In Deadwood:
When visiting Deadwood, you can bet on staying at the Hotel Bullock Hotel if you want to step back in time. If new and contemporary with on property gambling is more your vibe then check out either the Lodge at Deadwood or Cadillac Jack’s Gaming Resort.
10. Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville was once a cool, small mountain town and destination that only a handful visited years ago. Now, since it has been over marketed and over sold, it has become too busy and its pay off no longer matches its cost. Sadly, Asheville has become a city that many call the Portland of the East. A vibrant diverse mountain town that has fallen victim – like Portland – to its own myopic ideology.
Today, Asheville is overrun with second and third home buyers from Florida and New York who clash with the locals. The locals and local government discourage and dissuade any responsible tourism growth strategy or conversation. While we love Asheville for its regional outdoor offerings, we dislike the rude locals within its city limits who could walk across the city on the rooftops of the skunky breweries saturating the market. Exactly how many less than desirable breweries does one city need?
Suggested Asheville Alternative:
If a smaller town full of southern charm is in your travel plans, then we suggest visiting Charleston, South Carolina and avoid Asheville. Charleston is less cliche, not as crowded, it offers great food, and equally as much culture and nightlife without the snarkiness from the locals.
Where To Stay In Charleston, SC:
9. Hilton Head, South Carolina
Who doesn’t like the thought of visiting a small coastal town with beach access and vibrant, but laid back local scene. We’re always up for that sort of trip. Unfortunately, Hilton Head – though popular with some – just doesn’t meet those needs. We want to like Hilton Head and have visited several times, but each time it comes up short. We like a destination from time-to-time that is slower paced, but Hilton Head is just too sleepy for us. After about 8 PM at night – after your visit to every fried fish restaurant – the town has little to offer. There’s slow, but then there’s Hilton Head a city with narcolepsy after the dinner hours.
Suggested Hilton Head Alternative:
Small coastal towns are great idea for weekend getaways or spending some time in the sand. If you’re looking for this type of destination – on the east coast of the U.S. – in lieu of Hilton Head, we suggest heading further south to St. Augustine, Florida. The Oldest City in the United States offers a small town vibe, tons of history, an emerging local culinary and art scene, and it is close to a spectacular natural beach. While downtown we suggest a visit to the Saint Augustine Distillery (they make excellent Gin and Rum) and a visit to the nearby beach at Anastasia State Park.
Where To Stay In St. Augustine:
If you want to stay downtown near all the the historic ‘oldest’ everything, then consider the adults-only Historic Sevilla House. If some beach time is on your mind, we love the beach fronted Embassy Suites in St. Augustine Beach.
8. Orlando, Florida
Oh, Orlando. Our history with you dates back to the mid-1970’s. We’ve seen you grow – irresponsibly – through the decades as you keep adding theme parks and strip mall after strip mall. You keep increasing your traffic load without expanding the primary, secondary, and tertiary roadways making it impossible for the locals to go ten miles in no less than a 40 minute drive.
You fail to offer the local residents any sense of community, culture, or place of their own outside the attractions district. We understand, if you want to take your family to some of the most popular theme parks in the world to create new memories, then visit Orlando. But, outside the foamers who keep the theme parks alive there’s really no other reason to visit Orlando.
Suggested Orlando Alternative:
We fully recognize, much like Las Vegas, there is no other city in the continental United States – or the world for that matter – that truly parallels Orlando, Florida’s collection of themed destinations. That said, if you’re looking for solid theme park destinations that offer great Guest service for a reasonable price, we suggest a visit the less crowded Kennedy Space Center. Or, head north and visit Dollywood in Tennessee, Hersheypark in Pennsylvania, or Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.
7. Wilmington, North Carolina
Wilmington is one of those cities you want to like, but once you get there it falls short. While there are a few things we do like the city and its surrounding area has to offer – such as a must-see visit to the USS Battleship North Carolina, the city’s up-and-coming Cargo District and the nearby Wrightsville Beach – downtown Wilmington just falls flat with little to see and do.
Suggested Wilmington Alternative:
If a southern city near the coast and beach is on your radar, we suggest Savannah, Georgia. With a bustling downtown and riverfront district and the historical overlay – plus the nearby Tybee Island Beaches – you get a similar but more robust vibe Wilmington can offer, but more places and things to do to keep you occupied.
Where To Stay In Savannah, Georgia:
The beauty of Savannah is its walkability. There are two hotels we suggest downtown. One, the riverfront Hyatt Regency Savannah or the Kimpton Brice Hotel. Across the river and adjacent to the convention center is the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa.
6. Miami, Florida
If your travel plans for a destination contain the following, then Miami is the place for you: hot, overpriced, crowded, too much traffic, not family-friendly, and a minimal or zero understanding of the local language. Miami is the place you visit when you’re in your twenties, money is not a high priority – even if you don’t have a lot of it. The minute you step across the city limits you will feel like an obvious outsider. Miami is the city in Florida that most Floridians try to avoid. Don’t just take our word, pick up any novel by famed author Carl Hiaasen and you will understand.
Suggested Miami Alternative:
If a sun drenched, Caribbean-like beach destination is what you’re looking for then we suggest hopping on a small plane and head towards Bimini in the Bahamas or St. Thomas in the Caribbean.
5. New York City, New York
New York City was once a beacon for international and domestic travelers. While it still gets its fair share of tourists, the city is a shell of itself these days. We love New York City for its energy, its cultural destinations such as its museums, art galleries, and Broadway shows. Now, unfortunately it is a city with half-empty storefronts, overpriced restaurants, and the spark and allure it once had has fizzled out.
Suggested New York City Alternative:
If you’re looking for a large metropolis to visit on the East Coast, full of cultural and unique offerings, and a great metro systems to traverse, we suggest the nation’s capitol, Washington, DC.
Where To Stay In Washington, D.C.:
Washington, D.C. offers a plethora of hotel choices in and around the main tourist district. Two hotels we love are the InterContinental Washington D.C. – The Wharf, an IHG Hotel or if you want to stay within walking distance of the Mall, then look into the Waldorf Astoria Washington DC.
4. Chicago, Illinois
While we love Chicago for its history, culture, and iconic architecture, sadly in recent years it has turned into a hot mess for tourists. Once the iconic beacon of the Midwest, Chicago has fallen victim to years of failed leadership that is ruining the city for locals and tourists. We don’t need to mention how unsafe the city is for all who visit and live there.
Suggested Chicago Alternative: If you’re looking for another large city in the Midwest to visit that has great food and culture, we suggest Louisville, Kentucky. Have a shot of bourbon for us when you visit Louisville, as a thanks for our suggestion.
Where To Stay In Louisville:
Downtown Louisville offers some new, fun choices for accommodations. For new and funky, consider the Moxy Louisville Downtown. If more traditional accommodations are your jam, then check out the Seelbach Hilton Louisville.
3. Portland, Oregon
No, just don’t. Don’t visit this city and avoid it at all cost. It is a hot mess and currently offers no real benefit to dawn its door.
Suggested Portland Alternative:
If the Northwest is on your travel plans, avoid Portland and head towards Seattle, Washington or hop the border and tour Vancouver, B.C.
2. Los Angeles and San Francisco (Tied)
L.A. and San Francisco are great examples of what happens to once-great cities when years of failed leadership and myopic ideology ruins their existence. Both of these cities, and their surrounding areas, have gone down the tube. We suggest if you do need to pass through these cities, use their airports, get a rental car, and flee to a better, alternate destination as quickly as possible.
Suggested L.A. and San Francisco Alternatives:
In lieu of going to L.A. we suggest visiting Palm Springs, California and along the way stopping at Joshua Tree National Park. Avoid San Francisco and head to either Carmel, CA or head east to one of the three national parks: Yosemite, Kings Canyon, or Sequoia.
Where To Stay In Palm Springs:
Accommodations vary greatly in Palm Springs, California. If you’re looking for a fun and colorful place to spend some time poolside, we suggest the unique Saguaro Palm Springs.
1. Austin, Texas
Though Austin, Texas is booming with an influx of tech and ex-Californians, we were thoroughly unimpressed during our last visit. The city markets its music scene and ‘lively’ downtown as its key attractions. Here’s the reality. First, downtown Austin is like most cities with a large suburban population, it is alive during the 9 to 5 work hours. But, once everyone flees the inner city to head home, the downtown – much like Houston, TX, Jacksonville, FL, Indianapolis, ID, etc. – it becomes a ghost town.
Regarding the oversaturated music ‘scene’ in Austin, if you’re into one city street that smells of urine during both the daylight hours and at night (think New Orleans or downtown Nashville), loud and horrid solo acts or no-name bands blaring onto 6th Street every 30 feet, then you’ll love Austin. Otherwise, the remainder of the city is one every-growing traffic jam with thousands of people going nowhere.
Suggested Austin Alternative:
If clunky, overpriced beer bars is your scene, then we suggest actually going to New Orleans or Duval Street in Key West during the summer season. At least these two cities know how to pull that scene off ‘successfully’.
Where To Stay In Key West:
When visiting Key West, we love the private island getaway resort that is situated directly across from Mallory Square, the Sunset Key Cottages. When staying on Sunset Key you feel far away from the crowds on Duval Street, but you’re actually only a short ferry boat – provided by the resort – ride away.