View of Main Street in the historical downtown area of Galena, Illinois, USA. Editorial credit: David S Swierczek /

7 Underappreciated Towns to Visit in the Northern United States

Visiting lesser-known towns can unveil hidden treasures often overshadowed by larger, more popular destinations. However, there is nothing like a tour throught the northern United States to gain an all knew appreciation for some of the most historically rich areas the country has to offer. From amazing outdoor adventures through forests and on the shores of the great lakes to quirky trolls and fine family dinning these 7 towns are sure to create family memories that will last a lifetime.

Marquette, Michigan

Marquette, Michigan, a port city situated on the shores of Lake Superior.

Marquette, Michigan, a port city situated on the shores of Lake Superior.

By blending academic energy with natural beauty, this town epitomizes a small-town gem. Northern Michigan University anchors the town, bringing a youthful vibe and numerous seasonal events. The Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, established in 1866, provides guided tours all year long.

Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Presque Isle Park for its hiking trails and cliff diving spots. Families can explore interactive exhibits at the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum. Blackrocks Brewery, famous for its craft beers, is a must-visit, featuring a lively outdoor area. The annual UP200 Sled Dog Race attracts participants and spectators, adding excitement to the town’s winter landscape.

Galena, Illinois

Historic brick buildings and quaint shops along Main Street in Galena, Illinois, USA.

Main Street in Galena, Illinois, USA. Editorial credit: Wirestock Creators /

Another underrated gem, Galena, is steeped in history and architectural beauty. The Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site offers a glimpse into the life of the former president. The Galena/Jo Daviess County History Museum provides further insights into the area’s rich past.

A stroll down Main Street reveals 19th-century architecture and a variety of boutique shops like Dreams Boutique. Wine enthusiasts will enjoy the tastings and tours at Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery. The Belvedere Mansion and Gardens, a Victorian mansion, is open for guided tours, adding to the town’s historical allure. Galena’s Oktoberfest, featuring German cuisine, music, and wiener dog races, is a festive town event perfect for family and friends.

Stillwater, Minnesota

Stillwater, Minnesota, USA, known for its National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum.

Stillwater, Minnesota, USA. Editorial credit: Cheri Alguire /

Charming visitors with its blend of history and riverfront beauty, Stillwater is well worth the visit. The Historic Lift Bridge over the St. Croix River is a pedestrian favorite and an excellent backdrop for family photos. Paddlewheel riverboat cruises on the St. Croix River provide a romantic perspective of the area.

The Washington County Historic Courthouse, open for tours, adds a historical dimension to any visit, and families will appreciate Teddy Bear Park, a popular spot for children. Annual Lumberjack Days celebrate the town’s logging heritage with various activities and competitions combined with a visit to The Lift Bridge Brewing Company. Craft beer aficionados will enjoy a diverse selection, further enhancing Stillwater’s appeal as a travel destination.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine.
Bar Harbor, Maine. Editorial credit: Darryl Brooks /

Bar Harbor is waiting to be discovered by travelers seeking new and untapped experiences in the northern United States. As the gateway to Acadia National Park, it draws visitors with its hiking trails and scenic drives, perfect for outdoor excursions and bonding moments. Whale-watching tours departing from the harbor offer the chance to see majestic marine life up close.

The Abbe Museum provides a deep dive into the history and culture of Maine’s Native people, enriching the town’s cultural diversity, while the Bar Harbor Historical Society Museum adds another layer with exhibits on the town’s past. Strolling along the Shore Path, with views of Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands, is a peaceful way to soak in the coastal scenery. Local restaurants serve up fresh seafood, including the famed Maine lobster, making every meal a refreshing feast.

Holland, Michigan

Nelis' Dutch Village in Holland, Michigan, USA.
Nelis' Dutch Village in Holland, Michigan, USA. Editorial credit: Rachael Martin /

Holland brings a touch of Dutch heritage to the northern United States. Windmill Island Gardens is home to a working Dutch windmill and vibrant tulip gardens, offering a colorful display each spring. Holland State Park, known for its beach on Lake Michigan and the iconic Big Red Lighthouse, is a favorite spot for relaxation and recreation. The annual Tulip Time Festival showcases Dutch culture through parades and performances, drawing visitors from all over.

New Holland Brewing Company is a must-visit for craft beer lovers, pairing local brews with delicious pub food. Nelis' Dutch Village offers a family-friendly experience with traditional Dutch architecture and activities. The Holland Museum provides insights into the town’s Dutch roots and local history, making it an informative stop for history buffs.

Mount Horeb

Opera Block in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.

Opera Block in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin. By Jaknelaps, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

This town is famous for its Norwegian roots, celebrated annually during the Fall Heritage Festival with traditional crafts, food, and entertainment. Open House Imports, a Scandinavian gift shop, offers a selection of Nordic goods, reflecting the town’s heritage.For a sweet treat, Sjölinds Chocolate House offers artisanal chocolates and a cozy café setting.

Another local favorite, Spring Garden a Family Resturant, known for serving homestyle meals and delectable baked goods. Whether exploring troll legends, savoring local flavors, or enjoying historical insights, Mount Horeb delivers a delightful blend of activities and attractions that make it a great American town to visit.

Sandpoint, Idaho

First Avenue, the main street through downtown Sandpoint, Idaho, USA, captured on a summer day.

Downtown Sandpoint, Idaho, USA. Editorial credit: Kirk Fisher /

Sandpoint might not be on everyone’s radar, but it’s a destination worth exploring. Schweitzer Mountain Resort is a year-round attraction, offering skiing in winter and mountain biking in summer. City Beach Park, situated on Lake Pend Oreille, is a favorite for swimming and picnicking, providing a great spot for family outings. The historic Panida Theater, built in 1927, hosts films, concerts, and live performances, adding cultural flair to the town.

The farmers' market features local produce, crafts, and live music, creating a vibrant community atmosphere,which when combined with Pend d’Oreille Winery, renowned for its locally produced wines, creates a cultural experience never to be forgotten. The annual Lost in the '50s car show attracts classic car enthusiasts, adding a touch of nostalgia and excitement to the town’s events calendar.

Why the Northern United States is Worth Exploring

Cultural diversity, history-filled streets, and outdoor adventure are just a few things that make the northern United States well worth a visit. There are so many fun-filled experiences to be found that it is almost a wonder the region does not see more tourism each year. Between samilpling the local flavors or participation in seasonal festivals that shine a light on town spirit and camraderie, making one of these towns the next family vacation destination is a no brainer.

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