Skip The Beach And Break The Vacation Monotony In These Little Known Gems


There’s no doubt that traveling comes with excitement.  But, often times, the weekend jaunts to the lake or the weeklong trips to the beach can become monotonous.  Finding those unique and off the grid travel destinations and excursions can be more exciting and rewarding than the traditional trip to the beach.

Whether you are the type to fly above California’s Big Sur coastline or the type to take a long hike up the rocky cliffs of the coast, there are some great cities that offer some great outside the box travel opportunities.  Here are four of our favorite cities, and some of their not so known but coolest places to visit.

Portland, Oregon

This city loves to be weird, and it is full of great food, nature, and tiny houses.

  1. Forest Park – A hideaway near the city of 5,100 wooded acres and 70 forested miles of trails.
  2. Voodoo Donuts – This donut powerhouse, which has garnered nationwide praise. A city icon with lines of tourists, and everything from bacon to vegan style donut originals.
  3. Powell’s City of Books – A literary giant full of great books, and an attached cafe.
  4. Portland’s Rose Garden – The oldest public rose test garden in the nation with more than 10,000 roses. It is free and fascinating even if you don’t enjoy flowers. Ha!
  5. Widmer Brewing Company – Delightful brewery with affordable prices and smooth beer. Portland, and overall Oregon is where it is at for craft beer.

San Francisco

The ever-changing city by the Bay has a lot to offer from history to world famous iconic attractions.

  1. The Golden Gate Bridge – The most famous bridge in the world! Bike the bridge or walk across the pedestrian walkway, and of course take some iconic pics.
  2. Alcatraz – The former prison, now museum, is visible from many spots in SF. This rocky island in the heart of San Francisco Bay has a lot of history and mystery.
  3. North Beach – The Little Italy of SF is a high density neighborhood full of authentic Italian food, cafes and even historical attractions. Check out the Beat Museum for city literary history.
  4. Golden Gate Park – The hippie park famed during the 1967 Summer of Love is now the home of many cool museums like the de Young Museum and California Academy of Sciences.
  5. The Presidio – The park contains a beautiful array of scenic coastlines, eucalyptus, and trails for hiking and biking. Moreover, the beach area of Crissy Field is nearby and great for pictures of Golden Gate Bridge.

Big Sur

The Beauty of this coastal area is unremarkable and full of drama, romance, and intrigue.

  1. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – The coastal attraction offers stunning views of the Pacific, and features a tide fall right on the beach.
  2. Andrew Molera State Park – A spectacular yet undeveloped coastal trial that is often overlooked. Full of diverse terrain and secret spots along the magnificent Pacific/Big Sur area.
  3. Bixby Creek Bridge – Take the celebrated Pacific Coast Highway 1 and go on a classic California road trip. The dramatic and eye catching Bixby Bridge, is a reinforced concrete open-spandrel arch bridge.
  4. Henry Miller Library – Amidst the natural beauty of Big Sur, check out this library dedicated to one of America’s famed authors. Also, a spot for live performances of all kinds on many Friday nights, especially during the summer.
  5. Esalen Hot Springs – Esalen Institute, located off Highway 1, features cliff-side hot springs with views of the ocean. Better yet, there is evening access from 1 – 3 AM!!


If you visit Minneapolis, you’ll have to take time to check out the following must-see attractions:

  1. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden – This is the site of the famous Cherry and Spoon sculpture.
  2. Target Field – If you can, watch a Twins game and appreciate the new stadium.
  3. Lake Harriet – Walk around the lake, and then go to Sebastian Joe’s for ice cream!
  4. Downtown Minneapolis – Visit First Avenue, where Prince started to play live, and check out the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Walker Art center.
  5. The Mall of America – Located on the Minnesota River, in Bloomington, check out the world renowned Mall of America. Also, no tax on clothing and shoes!


There’s no doubt there’s a lot to see and a lot to do if you want to expand your horizons and explore a vacation that is more than just packing up the kids and sitting on the beach for a week.  As long as you are open to exploring the wonders of this great country, there’s a lot to see in any city you choose to visit.  So what are you waiting for?  Pack up the kids and the minivan and get going—there’s so much to see and not enough time to see it.