Culture + Style

They’re Cool Like That. 7 U.S. Cities That Are Hipper Than You Think

Sick of $400 hotel rooms, tourist-flooded attractions, and overpriced restaurants? Take a trip to one of America’s hippest small towns. Offering equal parts art, culture, and cool factor, towns like Boise, Kansas City, and others are giving XXL metropolises like NYC and LA a run for their money. Here, 7 unexpectedly hip towns worth downsizing for.

Cincinnati

Cincinnati has plenty of Old World charm—19th-century Art Deco architecture, historic breweries, European-style neighborhoods. But the city has also seen a great cultural revival in the past couple of years, with buzzy storefronts, boutique hotels, standout restaurants and hip bars popping up.

This transformation is no more apparent than in the city’s Over-the-Rhine district—the once epicenter of German immigrant society—where an $80 million revitalization has added an outdoor sculpture garden, cool new shops (we love the craft shop MiCA 12/V), and local art galleries.

Stop for a sweet bite at Holtman’s Donuts, a family-owned chain dating back to 1960, before heading to the Zaha Hadid-designed Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, the first freestanding American museum designed by a woman (inside, you’ll find cutting-edge photography, film, and performance art).

cool cities
The funkiest little speakeasy in town is hands down, Video Archive. (Photo: Courtesy of Video Archive)

Another must-stop: The Video Archive, a Quentin Tarantino-themed speakeasy concealed behind a door in a storefront made to look like a VHS rental shop.

Boise, Idaho

Boise has earned a reputation as a culinary hotspot in recent years— its third-wave coffee roasters, gourmet donut shops, and tasting-menu restaurants on par with what you’d find in Portland or Seattle.

Start your eat-a-thon off with the three-hour Boise Food Tour, which covers 1.5 miles of downtown and may include stops at Juniper, a farm-to fork restaurant with an emphasis on local ingredients; Guru Donut, which sells cake and vegan varieties inspired by a handwritten 1940s donut recipe; and Mai Thai, home to some of the best Asian food in the city.

Work it all off by hiking, running, or biking through The Boise Foothills, which surround the city and offer 180 miles of trails.

Durham, North Carolina

Hot hotels, a booming culinary scene and an increasingly youthful vibe are transforming the hippest part of North Carolina’s bookish research triangle (which also includes Raleigh and Chapel Hill).

Grab a coffee and a sweet bite at Cocoa Cinnamon before heading to the Duke University campus to stroll through the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, one of the premier public gardens in the U.S., with 200+ colorful plant varieties, and see the latest show at the Nasher Museum of Art, where previous exhibitions have included work by Henri Matisse, Ed Ruscha and Joan Miró.

For dinner, tuck into fresh seasonal dishes like paneer stuffed squash blossoms and farm duck with shiitake mushrooms, wheatberries, and sweet potato mostarda at Piedmont before catching a show at the $48 million Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC).

Louisville, Kentucky

What’s not to love about Louisville? It’s got killer food, music, and a unique Southern style. Bardstown Road is lined with lively bars serving local ales, craft cocktails, and of course, bourbon—just make sure to fill your stomach with a Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich before you set out.

While in town, check out the Speed Art Museum, which recently underwent a $50-million renovation and expansion, and has a collection spanning 6,000 years.

Kansas City, Missouri

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Snap Insta-worthy pics at the Nelson Atkins Museum. (Photo: Getty Images)

KC offers the perfect mix of high and low culture: world-class museums, next-level BBQ joints, lively sports bars, boutique shops, and more fountains than Rome (allegedly).

Take the streetcar to the Crossroads arts district to shop at local spots like Coki Bijoux, a French-inspired jewelry boutique tucked away in a brick alley, and Hammerpress for exquisitely designed cards and posters fresh off the printing press.

For more shopping, head to Baldwin KC on the Country Club Plaza, to rifle through stacks of selvedge denim and shop the line’s iconic vintage-inspired “KC” baseball hats.

Or check out the city’s thriving art scene—you can catch a concert at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, or browse the Bloch Galleries at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art (we especially love the new collection of Impressionist art and Art Nouveau artifacts).

Our favorite spot for dinner is Port Fonda, which serves authentic Mexican eats, and hosts an unbeatable happy hour with margaritas and carnitas tacos.

Minneapolis

It may be known for its Midwestern friendless and summer lake culture, but Minneapolis has a seriously creative side, too.

Hit up dining hot spots like Bar La Grassa and The Bachelor Farmer, a slick, but inviting, Scandinavian restaurant. If you’re pining for some culture, hit up the Walker Art Center for contemporary works and the Mill City Museum, which is built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill, to take in exhibits by local and regional artists.

Athens, Georgia

cool cities
What’s hipper than midcentury furnishings? At the moment, very little. (Photo: Courtesy of Starlite Showroom)

The funky college town that produced bands like R.E.M. and the B-52s has a personality all its own, which is evident in the quirky shops and restaurants of its Victorian downtown streets.

The racks at Dynamite Clothing are a vintage lover’s dream, while midcentury furniture enthusiasts might prefer the digs at Starlite Showroom.

If shopping isn’t your thing, grab brunch at Five & Ten, which consistently ranks among the South’s best restaurants, and features an innovative menu driven by sustainable ingredients (order the braised lamb hash with fingerling potatoes, fennel, tatsoi, maitake mushrooms and garlic).

After dark, catch a live act at Georgia Theater, an Athens institution, then end your evening with the locals at Normal Bar.

This article was published through a partnership with Jetsetter magazine. Read the original story: 7 U.S. Cities That Are Hipper Than You Think by Siobhan Reid, a regular contributor to Jetsetter.

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