The USA’s diversity and beautiful natural landscapes provide some of the best frames ideal for that perfect shot. Although metropolitan areas and big cities have their highlights, some lesser-known destinations offer a surprising range of natural, cultural, and historical backdrops. From experiencing local cultures to culinary delights and more, these destinations offer travelers a diverse array of locations for that perfect Instagram able holiday. The eye-capturing beauty, activities and experiences, and stunning locales in the company of friends and family, or on your own, make that perfect and memorable photo opportunity. Here are some of our top picks.
Taos, New Mexico
Eclectic and culturally diverse, with outdoor adventure options, await you in this town in New Mexico. Set in a desert valley amid the crimson Sangre de Cristo Mountains, few cities in the USA are as unique as Taos. The influence of Native American, Spanish, and Anglo cultures can be felt around every corner. For 100 years, Taos has been home to artists and craftsmen, making it a great place to find creative inspiration and innovative souvenirs. Among the most famous monuments in Taos is Taos Pueblo, a multistorey adobe village inhabited for more than a millennium by the Taos Native American tribe. Spanish culture can be explored at the Hacienda de Los Martinez or the San Francisco de Asis mission. The mélange of cultures is evident in the cuisine as well.
With over 2,500 square kilometers of public wilderness, outdoor enthusiasts can find numerous places to hike, ski, or bike. A high-altitude hike to Williams Lake or a camping trip in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area is mandatory for nature and adventure lovers, not to forget the endless scenic beauty and natural backdrops for capturing the perfect photo. Visitors flock in the winter months to the world-class Taos Ski Valley, which features five ski resorts. For the best view of the valley, take a ride in a hot-air balloon. For a more low-key adventure, consider a scenic vehicle tour to discover sites like the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Wheeler Peak, and the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.
From the explosive music scene to the spectacular holiday lights that light up the whole town, Branson, nestled in the Ozark Mountains, is an ideal offbeat Instagram-worthy destination.
Branson is situated between two major lakes, with a third lake running through town. This unique location gives visitors a variety of outdoor activities, such as boating, hiking, biking, paddle boarding, and more, all with a backdrop of some of the most breathtaking scenery in the central USA.
The Ozark Mountain Christmas is one of the biggest winter celebrations, featuring 3 drive-through light shows. This includes the LED-lit Branson’s Gift of Lights, composed of more than 300 displays. Holiday Lights at Silver Dollar City are also quite fabulous with over 5 million lights beautifully illuminating the whole town. The decorated Christmas trees and parades are all part of these wonderful celebrations.
The Branson area is home to upscale resorts like Big Cedar Lodge and Chateau on the Lake Resort and Spa however accommodation options range across budgets.
Door County, Wisconsin
A long, narrow peninsula separating Green Bay from greater Lake Michigan to the east, Wisconsin’s Door County is fromed by beaches and bluffs, ferry boats, and historic brick lighthouses. The region is rich in limestone soil that supports its famous orchards and 482 kilometers (300 miles) of coastline, where whitefish—a local favorite—is harvested year-round. Surrounded on three sides by water, fishing is a year-round Door County pastime. In the winter, Green Bay is capped by several feet of solid ice, sturdy enough to construct little shanties on the lake’s frozen surface.
Getting to Rock Island, one of Door County’s five state parks, requires not one but two public ferries, crossing “Death’s Door”, plus a stop at the 56-square-kilometer (35-square-mile) Washington Island, home to some 600 or so year-round residents. Locals love that the island can only be explored on foot which makes for great camping and hiking, stargazing, and beach-going. It has the oldest lighthouse in the state, with a beautiful stone boathouse, which can be toured with one of the island’s volunteer docents. Once you’ve seen The Rock, the peninsula has another ten lighthouses that visitors can explore.
Wintertime is busy with festivities taking place everywhere. From holiday parades to events such as gingerbread-house-making, the whole area changes and is at its brightest. White Gull Inn and Thorp House Inn in Fish Creek are famous for their progressive holiday dinner weekends. Every winter, on January 1st, the 600 to 800 hearty souls in the Jacksonport Polar Bear Club hit the frigid waters of Lake Michigan for a swim signifying new beginnings. For another wacky celebration of the season, the Fish Creek Winter Festival is an outdoor party held each January beneath a big tent along the lakeshore. There’s a chili cook-off, a toilet seat toss, a fun run, a bike toss, human foosball, a fruit loops run—an assortment of oddball activities designed to beat the mid-winter blues.
Nashville offers everything from an electrifying multigenre music scene, award-winning cuisine, historic homes, world-class art, a myriad of attractions, unique shopping, college, professional sports, and more. As the result, the city is a favorite with younger people who are ready to experience the music and cultural scene in the city. Music remains Nashville’s calling card to the world and is the very heart of this city. Visit the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, The Johnny Cash Museum, and The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum for iconic photos and of course, great memories.
Nashville’s visual and fine arts scene is also making waves. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is housed in an exquisitely converted art deco post office and hosts roving exhibitions changing every couple of months. Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art houses an extensive art gallery, and there are art crawls, studios, and art galleries all around town.
Nashville hosts the annual New Year’s Eve celebration, Music City Midnight, which is complimentary and appropriately features great musicians. Several major bands take to the stage before Nashville’s signature “Music Note Drop,” which triggers confetti cannons and a fireworks display. Elsewhere, many of Nashville’s best bars and venues, including the famous Ryman Auditorium, throw parties and events. For something smaller, M Street, which owns several beloved Nashville restaurants and bars, sells one New Year’s Eve ticket to four parties.