The road less traveled is reserved for explorers like you. You never know what wonderful surprises you’ll come across during trips off the beaten path—like new friends, new experiences, and new destinations to spend a hard-earned vacation. Sometimes you need a quick trip to small enclaves of major metropolises. And that’s where we, CarRentals.com, come in handy. We gathered the best neighborhoods in America’s top 30 major metropolitan areas for you to explore. Plan, pack, and go. It’s that simple.
This hip North Side neighborhood is located along the shore of Lake Michigan and is a must-visit whenever you find yourself in the “Windy City.” Go for a scenic drive along N. Sheridan Road that runs parallel with the lake until you hit the parking lot of Osterman Beach. Soak up the sun’s rays for a few hours and then make your way to the Aragon Ballroom for a live show. But before the show, it’s imperative to get a big meal from the Little Bad Wolf.
Sandwiched between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Grapevine Lake is the splendid suburban town of Grapevine, Texas. This is a place where cruising down Historic Main Street is like driving through a time portal to the early 1950s. It’s also where fine wine is produced in nearby wineries like the Bingham Family Vineyards, and juicy Texas steaks are flame-grilled and perfectly paired with cold Lone Star beer at Dino’s Steak and Claw House.
A quick 38-mile drive from New York City is the cozy and quaint town of Greenwich, Connecticut. Make your way north along E. Putnam Avenue until you get to Putnam Cottage. Formerly known as Knapp’s Tavern, this is the place Revolutionary War general Israel Putnam made a daring escape from those pesky red coats. After exploring the public museum at Putnam Cottage, cruise over to Bruce Museum of Arts and Sciences. And when you’re finally ready to call it a night with a fine meal, enjoy oysters on the half-shell at Elm Street Oyster House.
With its postcard-perfect beaches and proximity to the star-studded streets of Hollywood, Santa Monica, California, is the perfect place to get away for a few days. Shop until you drop along downtown’s 3rd
Street Promenade. After you’ve loaded up on the newest styles in the fashion world, head to Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier for some thrills. Once you’ve regained your senses after going for a spin on the West Coaster, sit down for the best sushi meal of your life at SUGARFISH by Sushi Nozawa.
Located 63 miles east of Philadelphia is the great town of Reading, Pennsylvania. Even if you only spend a day or two here, the friendly locals will make you feel right at home—especially when you cheer wildly for the hometown Fighting Phils at Reading Metropolitan Stadium. Feel like walking through a traditional Japanese garden? Make your way to the Reading Pagoda and become Zen-like.
The Woodlands, a small enclave of Houston, Texas, is big on fun things to do. Peruse the fancy boutiques along Market Street and get yourself a whole new wardrobe. Everything from 10-gallon hats to fancy dress shirts are sold in these luxurious shops. But enough of the city streets for now. When you want to get active in nature, rent a kayak from the Riva Row Boat House and go for a paddle around Lake Woodlands. From the water’s surface, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the town center and some of the most beautiful mansions in the city. Finally, no trip to Houston is successful without barbecue, so be sure to stop at Jasper’s.
Welcome to the land of the Terrapins. Speaking of those semi-cute turtles, take a drive through the University of Maryland’s picturesque campus and make a stop at the college’s art gallery. When you’re ready to stretch your legs, park your vehicle at the Lake Artemesia Natural Area and go for a scenic walk along the shoreline. Take it during the early evening and treat yourself to a pastel-colored sunset. Oh, the beauty.
We know your twilight years are a long ways off, but that doesn’t mean you can’t retire for a short time. If taking a couple of days off from real life sounds good to you, make a beeline to Jupiter, Florida. Pay a visit to the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum and learn about the history of the city’s most famous landmark, and then take your club-swinging talents to the links at Jupiter Dunes Golf Club. If you’ve ever wanted to live out a true “Old Man and the Sea” scenario, reserve a spot on a charter boat through Reel Candy Fishing and see if you can hook a marlin bigger than your rental car.
Twenty-seven miles north of the sprawling capital city of Atlanta, Georgia, lies Alpharetta, a place where the scent of flowering dogwoods wafts through your open car windows as you drive down Main Street. Speaking of Main Street, there’s a place called All Fired Up, where you and the gang can create your own pottery. When you get so hungry you could eat a horse, take a stroll through the Alpharetta Farmers Market or check out Food Truck Alley. Nothing better than a city block full of trucks dishing out delicious cuisine.
The small village of Salem, Massachusetts, has come a long way from its witch hunting past, but they haven’t forgotten about the magical days of yore. Stop by the Salem Witch Museum and learn about the history of the witch hysteria of 1692. Continue your self-guided driving tour through town to the New England Pirate Museum. That’s right, it wasn’t just witches who roamed these parts back in the day. Finally, when the day is coming to a close, treat yourself to classic tavern food at Nathaniel’s located inside the Hawthorne Hotel.
If you had any sort of childhood, you probably read the “Peanuts” cartoon strip, which is why paying a visit to the Bay Area town of Santa Rosa should be high on your list. Why? Because that’s where the Charles M. Schulz Museum is located. After paying homage to one of the greatest cartoonists of all time, head over to Luther Burbank Home & Gardens and stretch your legs in the city’s finest public garden. And considering this town’s proximity to incredible wineries, pair some of them with woodfired pizza at Rosso. Wine and pizza? Yes, please.
This isn’t Mooseborn, Michigan, it’s Dearborn, Michigan, and it’s the next stop on your must-visit checklist—especially if you’re a fan of Ford automobiles, because this is where the headquarters of the legendary car company is located. Cruise over to the Henry Ford Museum and get a look at the history of the company from the first Model T to the modern-day Ford Fusion. Since we’re on the subject of cars, make your way over to the Automotive Hall of Fame. And if you happen to be staying at the Edward Hotel & Convention Center, be sure to enjoy a meal at Giulio & Sons.
The Inland Empire of Southern California is loaded with cheeky towns that are perfect for weekend getaways. One such town is Ontario, where the Chaffey Community Museum of Art will invigorate your passion for fine paintings. After talking in hushed tones at the art gallery, enjoy side-splitting laughs at the Improv Comedy Club. Who knows, you might just witness the next Eddie Murphy take the stage.
Scottsdale, Arizona, is billed as the place where “the old west meets the new west.” As you drive through the entertainment district into Old Town, it’s like traveling through a wormhole from present-day to the 1880s. Shop through the boutique stores that sell everything from leather chaps to 10-gallon cowboy hats, or escape the city for a bit by going on an off-road tour through the desert mountains on AZ Hummer Tours. When the sun dips below the western horizon and it’s time to eat, take a Taste of Old Town Scottsdale food tour.
Located 10 miles from Seattle across the sparkling waters of Elliott Bay, Bainbridge Island is a town straight from a postcard. Just coming here to do nothing but cruise around and stare at the incredible scenery is enough to make a trip here well worth it. But since you’re active, take a stroll through Bainbridge Gardens and then check out all the cool stuff at the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum. When you get the craving for an all-American breakfast, head to the Streamliner and all will be well in the world.
Remember those little yellow toy Tonka trucks you used to play with as a child? They were named after Lake Minnetonka in Minnetonka, Minnesota. This Twin-City suburb has everything you need to enjoy a few days of rest and relaxation. Drive down to the shores of the lake and soak up the sun at Shady Oak Beach. If you really feel like getting pampered, make your way to The Marsh, a full-service spa and recreational center. After you’ve been properly taken care off, enjoy a steak at BLVD Kitchen & Bar.
The beach communities of North County San Diego are everything you’d expect when it comes to picture-perfect coastal towns. And Encinitas may be the best of them all. Soak up the sun with the locals at Moonlight Beach and then find your Zen at the Self-Realization Fellowship Encinitas Temple. There’s also the San Dieguito Heritage Museum and San Diego Botanic Gardens that are worth checking out. For a hearty breakfast of pancakes the size of umbrellas, eat at the Potato Shack Café.
Don’t you just love cities that are named after other states? We do and that’s why the small town of Maryland Heights, Missouri, made our list. Well, that and the fact that when you go there you can visit the Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum and go for a hike in Katy Trail State Park and try your luck at the Hollywood Casino. Not to mention the amazing selection of beers and burgers at O’Fallon Brewery.
If you want to understand why people like to retire to the great state of Florida, spend a day or two in Largo. The pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and friendly locals make this an ideal place to take a vacay. Stroll through the 70-acre Largo Central Park and snap Instagram photos in front of the many fountains that sprinkle the park. After your nature stroll, drive over to the Roosterfish Grill and replenish your energy with fresh seafood.
When a place in America is named after a town in Ireland, you know you’re going to have a good time if you visit. Which brings us to Dundalk, Maryland, a small unincorporated community in Baltimore County. Go for a scenic drive through the Dundalk Historic District and then park at one of the meters so you can stroll along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Chesterwood Park. And no trip to this town is complete without breakfast at the Boulevard Diner.
There are plenty of towns sitting at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, but only one of them can be labeled as the home of the Coors Brewery. But don’t worry, non-beer aficionados, there’s more to do in this town than drink brewskis as cold as the Rockies. Take a drive up Lookout Mountain and visit the grave of Wild West gunman Buffalo Bill. Head back to town and enjoy a gourmet hot dog at the Miners Saloon. And of course, a cold Coors Original.
Pittsburgh has a history of being a tough, blue collar town. The steel mills dotting the city turned boys into men and men into legends. There are, however, softer neighborhoods along the Monongahela River like Oakland. Take a drive up Forbes Avenue to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and check out dinosaur skeletons. When your stomach begins to growl, enjoy dishes made with local produce at Legume Bistro.
Located 8 miles west of downtown Portland and the soothing waters of the Willamette River, sits the relaxing suburb of Beaverton. Stretch your legs in Mother Nature at Cooper Mountain Nature Park and then head back to town to check out local artists at Art on Broadway. If you’re looking for a scenic drive through one of the area’s most beautiful wineries, cruise through the vines at Oak Knoll Winery. Don’t forget to pick up a souvenir bottle of red.
Davis, CA – Sacramento Metro
You only live once, so head to Yolo County, California, and spend a few days exploring Davis. While there, make your way to the UC Davis Raptor Center and then go for a trippy stroll along the Davis Transmedia Art Walk. When the day is done, head to the G Street WunderBar for great food, live music, and refreshing cocktails.
Welcome to San Antonio, the home of the Spurs, fine Tex-Mex cuisine, and the neighborhood of Alamo Heights, the next stop on your must-visit list. Get yourself a fancy new get-up at the Alamo Quarry Market and then try to figure out the meaning of paintings at the McNay Art Museum. And before you get back into your car and depart on your next adventure, go for a walk through Olmos Basin Park.
Have you ever wanted to pretend like the real world doesn’t exist for a few days? If so, drop what you’re doing and head immediately to Winter Park, Florida. Winter Park is known for its Old World charm, elegant homes, quaint bricked streets, extensive tree canopy, first-class shopping and dining, world-class museums, and Rollins College. Be dazzled by fine works of art at the Morse Museum. Do you enjoy spending time on the water? Head to the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour and get a glimpse of the gorgeous homes along the Winter Park Chain of Lakes. After a refreshing 1-hour tour, treat yourself to a Cajun meal at Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen. Described by some as a small New England village with a European flavor, Winter Park is as beautiful as it is unique.
With the Blackstone River cutting through the center of town and residential streets lined with buildings dating back to the 1800s, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is a postcard picture-takers dream. When you get there, sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at McCoy Stadium while the Pawtucket Red Sox destroy their opponents. After the final out of the 9th
inning, enjoy pub food at the Roast House. And by pub food we mean delicious beer cheese pretzels and chicken pot pies.
The shores of Lake Pontchartrain in southern Louisiana are loaded with marshlands, green parks, and cozy neighborhoods like Kenner. Take a drive down Joe Yenni Blvd and then hang a left on Williams Blvd until you get to the Treasure Chest Casino. Blackjack, roulette, craps, and just about any other casino game you can think of are on offer here. But let’s be real, you came here to see how many oysters on the half shell you can suck down, so make your way to Harbor Seafood & Oyster Bar and order as many as you can.
From Franklin, Tennessee, you can almost hear the swinging tunes of country music coming from the Grand Ole Opry in nearby Nashville. But you don’t have to go all the way to “Music City” to catch a great live show. Check out what’s going on at the Whiskey Room Live and then treat yourself to a new wardrobe at The Factory at Franklin. How does snacking on freshly dried beef jerky sound? Make your way to Carnivore Meat Company and enjoy a taste of heaven.
Nearby Niagara Falls isn’t the only cool thing to check out during your time in Tonawanda, New York. You can explore the nearby Buffalo Zoo and go on a leisurely ride through Niawanda Park. After a long bike ride along the shoreline of the Niagara River, you’ll be mighty hungry so head to the Texas Roadhouse for hand-cut steaks.
So, there it is. We’ve told you about the 30 coolest neighborhoods and places to visit in some of America’s biggest metropolitan areas. Time’s a wasting so start planning your much-needed vacation the second you’re done reading this. Start the engine of your four-wheeled steed and hit the open road like Sal Paradise.