Whether you like beaches, antiques, art, wildlife, gorgeous natural vistas, museums, gardens, or any other fun thing off the beaten path, here are 30 sights to add to your bucket list.
When you take your kids on vacation, they’ll probably want to go to a popular theme park.
But theme parks have gotten more expensive these days and the more you spend, the more you expect, which could set you up for disappointment.
In a study by tourism site HawaiianIslands.com, some of most overrated tourist spots are theme parks.
Volcano Bay Water Park at Universal Studios in Orlando ended up the most overrated attraction in the U.S., according to the HawaiianIslands research of more than 17,000 Tripadvisor reviews. Some 39 reviews out of every 1,000 expressed disappointment by their experience and labeled the park “overrated.”
Volcano Bay Water Park at Universal Studios topped the list of ‘overrated’ attractions.
You may go to the hotspots anyway, but what if that friend or family member — the one who likes quirky museums, botanical gardens, wildlife sanctuaries, or other off-the-beaten path-spots — knows something you don’t?
To find out which spots visitors thought were worth going to and which were not, researchers at HawaiianIslands.com analyzed more than 17,000 Tripadvisor reviews for destinations in all 50 states, ranking them by how many posts label the attraction as ‘overrated’ or ‘underrated.’
For the millions of tourists who love museums, a visit to Washington D.C. is heaven — the city is packed with free museums, among the most popular are the Smithsonian, the National Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery of Art.
But off the mall, many visitors may be missing out on two underrated attractions, Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens and the National Postal Museum.
The gardens at Hillwood Estate, Washington, D.C. The site is one of the most ‘underrated’ and a hidden gem in the nation’s capital.
Hillwood Estate got more than 83 reviews out of 1,000 that described it as ‘underrated’ on Tripadvisor, more than any other spot. This remarkable estate houses a stunning art collection you don’t want to miss.
So whether you’re looking for quiet beaches, fascinating art collections, wildlife, gorgeous natural vistas, quiet escapes, antique cars and airplanes, gardens, or any other fun thing off the beaten path, here are the 30 most underrated tourist destinations in the U.S.:
1. Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 83.2
The former estate of businesswoman, socialite, philanthropist and collector Marjorie Merriweather Post, who died in 1973, has the most comprehensive collection of Russian imperial art outside of Russia, a distinguished 18th-century French decorative art collection, and 25 acres of serene landscaped gardens and natural woodlands just outside of Washington D.C.
At this diamond among gems, tour the mansion and see everything from Fabergé eggs to a dressing chair used by Marie Antoinette. There’s a Japanese-style garden, a pet cemetery and a putting green, too.
2. National Postal Museum
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 69.6
Reviewers called this large museum away from the mall “an excellent find,” and “a hidden gem” and said “The Postal Museum really delivered. Lots of history presented in a fun and engaging way.”
The museum’s galleries, housed in a spacious, attractive building, explore America’s postal history and philately (stamp collecting) from colonial times to the present, with everything from mail coaches, airplanes, mailboxes and a stamp gallery.
3. Richard H. Driehaus Museum
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 57.8
This Chicago museum celebrates art, architecture, and design of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its permanent collection and temporary exhibitions are presented in an immersive experience within the restored Samuel Mayo Nickerson Mansion, completed in 1883, at the height of the Gilded Age. The museum was founded by Richard Driehaus, a local philanthropist who supported programs in architecture and design, music and dance, fashion, theatre, and historic preservation of architectural landmarks.
4. Capitol Reef National Park
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 54.3
Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles. Pictured is the Temple of the Moon.
5. Grounds For Sculpture
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 38.5
This amazing 42-acre sculpture park, arboretum and museum has nearly 300 contemporary sculptures and temporary exhibitions from established and emerging artists in six indoor galleries.
6. The Morgan Library & Museum
New York City
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 37.8
This museum and research library in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan was originally the personal library of financier, collector, and cultural benefactor Pierpont Morgan. It’s a beautifully preserved mansion and a great visit for anyone who loves books, art, architecture and music.
7. Green-Wood Cemetery
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 34.1
Established in 1838 as one of America’s first rural cemeteries, Green-Wood Cemetery soon developed an international reputation for its magnificent beauty and quickly became the fashionable place to be buried.
8. Japanese Tea Gardens
San Antonio, Texas
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 34
Built in an abandoned rock quarry, this restored garden features a lush year-round garden a floral display with shaded walkways, stone bridges, a 60-foot waterfall, a pagoda and ponds filled with Koi.
9. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 32.9
Theodore Roosevelt National Park lies in western North Dakota, where the Great Plains meet the rugged Badlands. A habitat for bison, elk and prairie dogs, Roosevelt came here when he was young to hunt bison. The rugged landscape and strenuous life that he experienced in the area helped shape his conservation policy.
The park is known for its colorful Painted Canyon and the Maltese Cross Cabin, where Roosevelt once lived. A scenic drive winds past several overlooks and trails.
10. Sunken Gardens
St. Petersburg, Fla.
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 32
St. Pete’s oldest living museum is a 4-acre botanical paradise in the heart of the city. The 100-year-old Sunken Gardens is a historic gem and home to some of the oldest tropical plants in the region. Wander through a living collection of more than 50,000 tropical plants and flowers complete with cascading waterfalls and a flock of flamingos.
11. Fort Point National Historic Site
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 32
Sitting under the San Francisco end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point offers a different viewpoint of the underside of the famous landmark away from the more popular and crowded vista points. The fort, built between 1853 and 1861, defended the San Francisco Bay following California’s Gold Rush through World War II, has beautifully arched casemates that display the art of third-system brick masonry.
Complete with cannons, Fort Point was ever ready to protect against a Confederate attack from sea that never came.
12. National Museum of World War II Aviation
El Paso County, Colo.
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 31.7
This aviation museum at the Colorado Springs airport is a must-see for both aircraft enthusiasts and history buffs. It has 20 fully-restored, flying World War II aircraft and an extensive collection of artifacts and archival materials that tell the story of the nation’s advancements in aviation during WWII.
13. Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
Winter Park, Fla.
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 30.9
This musuem houses the most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, including the artist and designer’s jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps and windows; his chapel interior from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and art and architectural objects from his Long Island country estate.
If you’ve never seen a Tiffany stained-glass window, this spot is a must-visit. Pictured is one of the windows of the museums’ collection. The peacock on the left was a popular subject of the period and was closely associated with both Art Nouveau and the Aesthetic movement.
14. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 30.5
This immersive mixed-media art environment is completely covered with mosaics. The creator, Isaiah Zagar, used handmade tiles, bottles, bicycle wheels, mirror, and international folk art to chronicle his life and influences.
15. Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
Broward County, Fla.
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 30.3
This historic home and garden on Fort Lauderdale Beach is “unpretentiously unique, captivatingly colorful, absolutely artistic and wonderfully whimsical,” according to the museum’s website. The house belonged to Chicago-born artist Frederic Clay Bartlett and his wife, who amassed a priceless collection of paintings, including works by Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin, and Pablo Picasso.
16. Ellis Island Casino & Brewery
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 30.1
The family-owned Ellis Island Casino, Hotel, and Brewery calls itself the best-kept secret in Las Vegas since 1968. Within walking distance of the Strip, it offers old Vegas charm and is a mainstay favorite for locals and visitors in the know.
17. Tohono Chul
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 28.3
Discover the secrets of the desert at Tucson’s best kept secret, a crossroads of nature, art and culture. Set on 49 acres of lush desert, this stunning botanical garden has multiple themed gardens rich with wildlife and nature trails with towering saguaro cactus. Enjoy works by locals artists from artisanal to avant-garde, and sip a cool drink at the garden bistro on a gorgeous patio with spectacular views of the Santa Catalina mountains.
18. Lion Habitat Ranch
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 27.8
A reviewer on Tripadvisor calls this sanctuary a ‘Fantastic experience,’ and says “Seeing these majestic animals up close and learning about their age and ancestry made this a unique experience.”
See the full ranking at HawaiianIslands.com.
19. The Met Cloisters
New York City
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 27.5
Escape the hustle and noise of the Big Apple at The Met’s second location–this unique museum situated on a tall hill on the northern tip of Manhattan with stunning views across the Hudson River.
Nowhere else in the U.S. can you find this combination original medieval European architecture, exquisite gardens, and marvelous works of art. Wander the monastery, castle, portal, church and winding garden paths to explore a day in medieval life. You may even spot a unicorn.
20. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Seattle Unit
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 27.4
Seattle flourished during and after the Klondike Gold Rush as people from around the world passed through the city in a mad dash to the far north Yukon territory in search of riches. Most came back broke, but with memories of a wild adventure.
The park is located in the former Cadillac Hotel in the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle. There are other units of this park in Alaska and Washington state.
National Park Service
21. Navarre Beach
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 27
This compact beach community just east of Pensacola, Fla., at the far northwestern tip of the state beckons with 12 miles of pristine white shoreline. Far from crowded theme parks and packed beaches, it’s a rare piece of the old Florida offering solitude and simplicity for sun seekers, families, outdoor adventurers, nature lovers and water sports enthusiasts.
22. Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 26.1
There’s something for everyone at this Alaska museum with over 95 pre-World War II automobiles, including horseless carriages, steamers, electric cars, speedsters, cyclecars, midget racers and 1930s classics. It also is home to the largest, most extensive collection of vintage fashion in the Pacific Northwest and other post-Gold Rush heritage exhibits.
Foutainhead Auto Museum
23. Harry P. Leu Gardens
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 25.7
Escape those theme parks for a while and take time to explore this botanical oasis minutes from downtown Orlando that offers 50 acres of landscaped grounds and lakes, with trails shaded by 200-year-old oaks and forests of camellias. They offer events, tours, classes, and horticulture handouts.
24. Pfeiffer Beach
Big Sur, Calif.
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 25.7
Located in California’s Big Sur region, Pfeiffer Beach is part of the Los Padres National Forest. It’s not exactly a hidden gem, but it’s a gem worth seeing with its beautiful rock formations and purple sand at low tide. Dogs love it, too.
25. Cedar Breaks National Monument
Cedar City, Utah
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 25.4
Close to some of Utah’s other national parks, Cedar Breaks is kind of a smaller version of Bryce Canyon and less crowded. From 10,000 feet elevation, you can look down into a half-mile deep geologic amphitheater stretching for three miles. See ancient bristlecone pines, lush meadows of wildflowers, and enjoy stargazing in the crystal-clear night skies.
26. McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary
West Palm Beach, Fla.
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 23.5
This sanctuary and botanical garden rescues and rehabilitates a variety of wildlife, locally and afar, who are often injured or orphaned. Get up close to everything from lions and tigers to raptors, snakes, tarantulas and panthers. They offer guided tours for anyone over age 5.
McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary
27. Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 23.5
A must-visit in one of the largest music cities in the world, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville honors musicians of all genres and instruments. See Elvis Presley’s studio, Glen Campbell’s guitars, Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocaster and instruments used by the likes of Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Elton John and more.
28. Fred Howard Park
Tarpon Springs, Fla.
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 22.6
This 155-acre park and beach on the Gulf of Mexico in Tarpon Springs has a 1-mile causeway from the park to the white sandy beach for swimming and sunsets. This park provides homes to wildlife including eagles, gopher tortoises and fox squirrels.
29. Sea Pines Forest Preserve
Hilton Head, S.C.
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 22.3
This 400-acre nature preserve rich with wildlife has walking paths, boat tours and an archaeological site made of seashells. Walk through swamps on elevated boardwalks in this pristine part of Hilton Head Island.
30. Colorado National Monument
‘Underrated’ mentions per 1,000 reviews: 22.1
This park near the city of Grand Junction, Colorado has towering monoliths within a vast plateau and canyon panorama
Enjoy hiking, biking, camping, rock climbing and wildlife spotting, including eagles and bighorn sheep.