Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine.

The Northern United States' 7 Most Underrated Towns To Visit In 2024

Often overshadowed by the constant sunshine experienced in the southern portion of America, the Northern United States has long been hiding some of the most incredible towns offering hidden histories, outdoor adventures, and some small-town hospitality.

The Northern United States contains some of America’s largest metropolitan areas, such as New York City, Chicago, and Detroit, which have long served as popular tourist destinations for visitors from around the globe. However, the lesser-known side of things hides between these major tourist destinations. Whether you discover these towns by taking the wrong off-ramp or planning out weeks in advance, these seven underrated towns should sit atop your list of places to visit in 2024.

Lake Placid, New York

The Lake Placid Ski Lift in autumn
The Lake Placid Ski Lift in autumn.

This scenic New York town hides amongst the towering Adirondack range and is home to some of the best outdoor adventures offered within America, regardless of the season.

With that being said, Lake Placid is particularly known for its world-class skiing and snowboarding opportunities. The town hosted the Winter Olympics twice, in 1932 and 1980. Visitors can explore the history of the Olympics by touring the many Olympic sites located throughout the town. Stop by the Lake Placid Olympic Center to witness where history was made or stand tall at the former Olympic Jumping Complex. Visitors can even shred some powder down the same runs that Olympians once sped down at Whiteface Mountain, one of the region's tallest mountains.

As the snow melts, the newly forested mountains provide perfect opportunities for visitors to get out and explore the Adirondacks. Begin your summit of nearby Mt. Van Hoevenberg to obtain one of the best panoramic views of Lake Placid. For the more casual hiker, Cobble Hill trails provide the same scenic beauty without the steep summits, which makes it the perfect place for a family outing.

New Buffalo, Michigan

Harbor entrance in New Buffalo, Michigan
Harbor entrance in New Buffalo, Michigan.

Now, there are no hard feelings towards those who don’t necessarily associate pristine sandy beaches and crystal-clear water with the state of Michigan, but New Buffalo often surprises those who stumble upon this lakeside oasis.

Start your visit by setting up shop on the sandy dunes of New Buffalo City Beach. The beach is the perfect place to spend a hot summer day on the shores of Lake Michigan. If sitting on the sandy beaches of New Buffalo isn’t close enough to the water, then get out on the water itself by booking a sailing excursion with New Buffalo Sailing Excursions, which will take you out into the rolling waves of the lake.

There are also numerous must-see attractions within the town itself. Head over to the New Buffalo Art Gallery, which features works from local artists that help capture the town’s lakeside charm. Situated on the former grounds of the largest railroad in Michigan, The New Buffalo Railroad Museum showcases the railroad’s importance to the town and the region itself.

Big Fork, Montana

The extremely serene Flathead Lake, Montana
The extremely serene Flathead Lake, Montana. Image credit: Always Shooting via

Whether you’re visiting during the snowfalls of winter, the blossoming of spring, or the falling leaves during autumn, Big Fork has more than enough to keep you busy regardless of the season.

There is no shortage of outdoor adventure in this scenic Montana town. Adventures range from shredding through the freshly fallen snow as a team of huskies pulls you after booking a dogsledding trip with Base Camp Bigfork dogsledding guides. Or, when the temperatures climb amid summer, take a scenic paddle on the open waters of Flathead Lake or experience a laidback trip down the Swan River.

If you prefer the relative comfort of air conditioning and heating, stay indoors and tour the many fine art galleries in the town. Explore the creative pieces at Art Fusion Gallery or a more traditional approach at Eric Thorsen’s Fine Art Gallery. If you truly want to experience local culture, put on your finest cowboy boots and head over to Bigfork Art & Cultural Center and schedule a weekly line dancing class.

Devil’s Lake, North Dakota

Downtown Devil’s Lake, North Dakota
Downtown Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. Image credit: Andrew Filer via

Don’t let the town’s name scare you off. Devil’s Lake is as welcoming as any other town and offers a unique getaway that can’t be matched anywhere. Whether you are searching for a place to land the fish of a lifetime or explore the pioneer history of the great plains, Devil’s Lake has you covered.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an avid angler or a first-timer, Devil’s Lake has been named one of the top five fishing lakes in the US, meaning that your chances of reeling one in are pretty good. Schedule a fishing excursion with A and H Guide Service to show you the hotspots. If you prefer the stability of land, plan an outing at Grahams Island State Park, which features campsites, beaches, and hiking trails along Devil’s Lake’s shores.

The town also holds some fascinating historical attractions. Tour through a former outpost that once protected vital supplies across the Great Plains. The Fort Totten State Historic Site remains as it was in the late 1800s, and visitors can walk the grounds and immerse themselves in the past.

Cheboygan, Michigan

Cheboygan Crib Light in Cheboygan, Michigan.
Cheboygan Crib Light in Cheboygan, Michigan.

Resting along the banks of Lake Huron, Cheboygan is only 120 km from the neighbors of the north in Canada. One of Cheboygan's biggest draws is undoubtedly the natural beauty, and those who visit capitalize on the town’s “under the radar” status. Days are best spent in Cheboygan by getting outdoors, so spend your days hiking through the forests as great outdoors as nearby state parks, such as Cheboygan State Park or Aloha State Park, which offer well-maintained trails and scenic views of Lake Huron.

Visitors can also entrench themselves in the fascinating history of not just Lake Huron but all the great lakes by visiting the Inland Waterway Historical Society Museum. Visitors can explore early relics of the brave sailors who voyaged across the Great Lakes and even better understand how vital shipping routes through the lakes remain today. Visit the town’s beacon of hope. The Cheboygan River Front Range Lighthouse has been guiding weary sailors to the safety of shore since its creation in 1880.

Stowe, Vermont

Fall colors in Stowe, Vermont
Fall colors in Stowe, Vermont.

Despite being recognized as one of the premier destinations for skiers and snowboarders, Stowe has plenty of other attractions often overshadowed by the pristine ski havens nearby. Luckily, those who visit can experience unique attractions without the hustle and bustle of large crowds.

It’s worth noting that the town’s ability to provide high-quality winter experiences should not be understated. Prominent ski resorts such as Stowe Mountain Resort and Smugglers' Notch Resort offer plenty of trails suited for beginners and experts alike.

The town comes to life as the snow melts and dense forests become alive with vibrant green foliage. Trade in the ski boots for hiking boots, take to the trails and hike to the top of nearby Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak. For those who want to stand atop Vermont’s highest peak but don’t want to break a sweat doing it, take a ride along the Gondola SkyRide, which will drop you off amidst the mountain tops of Vermont.

Bar Harbor, Maine

The beautiful town of Bar Harbor, Maine
The beautiful coastal town of Bar Harbor, Maine.

You’ll want to bring your appetite to this coastal town as it is home to some of the freshest seafood in the world. Bar Harbor was founded in 1796 and has long been a place of salvation for weary seamen from the Atlantic Ocean.

Unsurprisingly, the town has over 220 years of maritime heritage that await your exploration. Head over to the George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History to explore the town’s hidden histories and the natural wonders of Maine. If a museum experience isn’t your forte, get outdoors and venture into Acadia National Park, which features everything from woodlands to rocky beaches and even the towering Cadillac Mountain, one of the highest points within 25 miles of the eastern coastline.

After a long day of adventure, sit at the Bar Harbor town pier and enjoy a beverage and a plate of fresh seafood at the Eagle’s Nest as the sun sets on your day in Maine’s coastal retreat.

So, now that the new year is officially underway, and you have a refreshed number of vacation days, consider taking a chance on the smaller towns with big excitement that hide throughout America’s Northern states. Whether you’re considering taking a weekend vacation or planning a cross-country road trip, add these seven underrated towns to the top of your travel destination lists.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. The Northern United States' 7 Most Underrated Towns To Visit In 2024

More in Places