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12 Underrated Places to Go Outdoors

If you ask me, one of the very best things about living in the United States is the unending list of incredible places to go outdoors. I like to think it’s one aspect of this country that everyone across the board can agree on. Whether you’re looking towards the coasts, climbing up mountains, wandering the desert, or simply enjoying the thoughtfully cultivated gardens and parks laid out by landscape architects of yore, there’s always somewhere full of nature and fresh air within driving distance regardless of location.

While we have plenty of more famous places such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Pikes’ Peak, and many, many more national parks, below are some more underrated picks that you may just miss if you don’t know where to look!

12 Underrated Places to Go Outdoors


1. The Biltmore Gardens in Asheville, NC

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, The Biltmore Estate is one of the most-visited places in America and its French Renaissance design is recognizable to anyone planning a trip down south. However, how often do you see people discuss the equally impressive gardens that surround George Vanderbilt’s ambitious mountain escape?

To fully appreciate all 8,000 acres, let me preface this by saying that none other than Frederick Law Olmsted himself designed the gardens. As the father of American landscape architecture, Olmsted is responsible for the land in and surrounding some of the most famous landmarks in the country. Think Central Park, the U.S. Capitol building, Washington Park in Chicago, Stanford University in California, and many, many more.

The gardens at Biltmore Estate were his final project and today they are still preserved with the same plants and designs Olmsted created almost a century ago. Escape the floods of visitors crowding through the mansion and opt for one of the hike or bike trails instead. This way you can peacefully enjoy the creations of one of our greatest landscape artists.

See more of the Biltmore Gardens in our “Asheville” episode

Fort Zachary Beach - Key West - Samantha Brown

2. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic  State Park, Key West, FL

You may notice for such a coastal location, Key West doesn’t exactly have much of a beach scene. This isn’t true; it’s just that the beach is a little bit of a local secret. Over on the southern edge of the city sits Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, aka Fort Taylor.

The fort itself is a must-visit for history buffs, especially war history buffs. It currently houses the largest Civil War armament in the entire world and has also seen soldiers through the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. If those red-brick walls could talk…

The beach in question is at the southern end. After you’ve explored Fort Taylor, head over to enjoy some sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and even scuba diving. A bonus for scuba divers – you can see the new coral reef that Key West is building! Stay until sundown to enjoy one of the most glorious sunsets in Florida.

See more of Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park in our “Florida Keys” episode

Samantha Brown's Places to Love - Huntsville, Alabama - Burritt on the Mountain

3. Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville, AL

While Huntsville is more known for its U.S. Space & Rocket Center, don’t miss the very charming Burritt on the Mountain while here.  This 167-acre space overlooks the city and allows you to see what life would have been like for farmers in the 1800s. Explore six different 19th-century homes and live enactors before hitting Burritt’s nature trails. This is a definite must in spring for the wildflowers or autumn for the colorful foliage!

See more of Burritt on the Mountain in our “Huntsville” episode

Autism Nature Trail

4. Letchworth & Autism Trail in the Genesee River Valley, NY

While Letchworth State Park is easily one of the most popular things to do in Genesee River Valley, one trail within the park is particularly special – the Autism Nature Trail (ANT).

This mile-long loop is special as it’s the very first trail ever to be designed for people on the autism spectrum. The founders, with a 17-member panel and consultants like Temple Grandin, created multiple sensory-orientated stations for visitors to practice both balance and motor skills. The trail emphasizes a kind of peace and gentleness that any visitor would enjoy.

Once you check out the rushing waterfalls of Letchworth, make your way to this trail and see which of the stations you like best.

See more of the Letchworth State Park in our “Genesee River Valley” episode

nasher dallas - charitable giving

5. Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, TX

With 20 blocks of major art institutions, the Dallas Arts District is one of the largest art areas in the country. Within the district is Klyde Warren Park, a truly unique park as it’s built over a recessed eight-lane highway. Yes, you read that right. Dallas pretty much created something beautiful and enjoyable from something we associate so heavily with stress and burden.

Architect Jim Burnett designed the 5.2-acre park to feel as though you’re moving through “rooms,” so in all, you’ll find 15 major locations with everything from a Butterfly Garden to a Botanical Garden.

See more of Klyde Warren Park in our “Dallas” episode

giant wooden sculptures at Bernheim in Louisville Kentucky

6. Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest in Louisville, KY

Leave the racetracks and bourbon behind for a weekend afternoon and enjoy the beautiful Bernheim ForestThis giant forest was a gift to the state of Kentucky by Isaac W. Bernheim, who finally found his fortune here in bourbon distilling through the early 20th century. He specifically purchased this land so that people and nature could have a place to renew and restore their bond.

With 35 miles of trails and thoughtful art installations, you can really wander around and get into nature right near Louisville. Two installations you don’t want to miss are the Forest Giants in a Giant Forest by Danish artist Thomas Dambo and the 25-foot tall Spirit Nest by artist Jayson Fann.

See more of Bernheim Forest in our “Louisville” episode

Samantha visits Salt Marshes at the Wetland Institute at the Jersey Shore | places to go outdoors

7. The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, NJ

The most obvious answer for what to do at the Jersey Shore is to, well, go to the shore. However, if you find yourself needing a break from the boardwalk and sand, visiting the salt marshes at The Wetlands Institute is one of the best alternative places to go outdoors.

The institute covers over 6,000 acres of wetland and its main mission is to educate visitors on how important the preservation of this area is. You can do everything from strolling along the elevated walkway to riding through the marshes by boat or even trying your hand at paddle boarding and kayaking.

See more of the Wetlands Institute in our “Jersey Shore and More” episode

New Hampshire- Samantha Brown

8. Mount Washington, NH

Pikes Peak and its cog railway over in Colorado Springs is easily one of the most-visited mountains in the entire world, but did you know the first cog railway in the U.S. was actually over in New Hampshire?

The Mount Washington Cog Railway was built back in 1868 and brings you up to the highest peak in the northeastern United States. The whole experience, including an hour to enjoy the summit, is around 3 hours and really gives you the history of Mount Washington and the railway. For the best views, go over to the Adams Visitor.

You can, of course, also hike up instead of taking the cog railway. Be warned, though, it’s not for the faint of heart. After all, it’s been called the most dangerous hike in the U.S., the deadliest small mountain in the world, and home to the world’s worst weather. Even in the best of conditions, a hike will take at least 10 hours! If you were to ask me, I’d vote for the cog railway over the hike any day.

See more of Mount Washington in our “Lakes & Mountains of New Hampshire” episode

Dessert Botanial Garden, Phoenix, AZ | places to go outdoors

9. Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix will prove that there’s more to the dessert than sand and cacti and is easily one of the coolest places to go outdoors. With over 50,000+ desert plants and five different thematic trails, you can truly see just how diverse this arid landscape can be.

The garden began back in 1939 when locals decided they needed to make more of an active effort to both save and preserve their desert environment. For the next eight decades, the community has worked to preserve and expand the garden all in the name of both protecting the land and educating visitors on just how magical the desert can be.

See more of Dessert Botanical Garden in our “Phoenix” episode

Fruit & Spice Park in Miami, FL | places to go outdoors

10. Fruit and Spice Park near Miami, FL

About 35 miles south of the beaches and clubs of Miami sits the incredible Fruit and Spice Park in Redland. Thanks to Florida’s more humid climate, this 37-acre ethnobotanical garden is able to house over 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs from around the world.

Fruit and Spice Park began when Mary Calkins Heinlein pushed parks director, A.D. Barnes, in 1935 to create a space that showed off Redland’s unique agricultural environment. With the help of landscape architect Lyman Philips, construction began in 1944 and has since grown to be the sprawling tropical paradise you can visit today.

One of the coolest parts about visiting this park is that you can eat any edible fallen fruit as you explore! And if you’re unsure if the fruit is edible, just bring it to the Welcome Center to check.

See more of Fruit and Spice Park in our “Miami” episode

Dale Balls Trail, Santa Fe, NM | places to go outdoors

11. Dale Ball Trails in Santa Fe, NM

Just 10 minutes from downtown Sant Fe is what’s known as the Dale Ball Trails system which offers paths for both hiking and biking. Right at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, there’s a total of 24.4 miles of trails that offer some of the most stunning views of the city.

See more of the Dale Ball Trails in our “Santa Fe” episode

12. Rock City near Chattanooga, TN

Nowhere manages to merge whimsy, nostalgia, natural wonder, and adventure quite like Rocky City. Technically in Georgia, it’s mere minutes from downtown Chattanooga, and sits atop Lookout Mountain. Follow trails that’ll lead you to fairytale destinations and stunning rock formations. Don’t miss Lover’s Leap for some truly epic views and the chance to see seven states all at once!

See more of Rock City in our “Chattanooga” episode.

And there you have it – some truly underrated places to go outdoors all around the United States! I could keep going, but for now, I’ve narrowed it down to these eleven. Anything you’d add to this list?

Underrated places to go outdoors

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Love your show! We watch reruns all the time, too. I bought Buffalo Trace, after the Kentucky show–awesome product! Keep taking us places, please!



  2. You once said on one of the Podcasts that you wouldn’t film on Long Island because you wanted more than just the Hamptons. Well, Here’s 15 other things to see other than the Bars and Hangouts of the Hamptons.
    1. Greenport Village Blacksmith 101 Front St, Greenport, NY
    2. Antique Carousel: Jess Owen Carousel House, Mitchell Park, l115 Front St Greenport, NY 100 Years Old.
    3. Fireboat Firefighter Museum Wiggins St Greenport Commercial Pier, Greenport, NY The Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Fire Fighter as a fully operational vessel, memorial, and teaching museum.
    4. Croteaux Vinyards 1450 S Harbor Rd, Southold, NY – The only vineyard in the United States dedicated exclusively to making dry, fresh, fruity, rosé wines.
    5. Long Island Game Farm 489 Chapman Blvd, Manorville, NY The largest combined children’s zoo and wildlife park on Long Island we offer families a natural environment where they can learn about wildlife and animals through education and entertainment.
    6. Animal Farm Petting Zoo – 296 Wading River Rd, Manorville, (631) 878-1785 acre park, perfect place to get close to nature and animals. Adults…
    7. Long House Reserve, Sculpture Garden and Landscape Center – 133 Hands Creek Rd, East Hampton, (631) 329-3568 Located in beautiful East Hampton, New York, LongHouse Reserve is a sixteen acre garden with established lawns, ornamental borders, plant collections and outdoor sculpture, planned by the internationally recognized textile designer, Jack Lenor Larsen. Mr. Larsen, along with the recommendations of the LHR Art Committee, has assembled a collection of over 70 sculptures for the garde…
    8. St James General Store – St James, Established 1837 The First General Store in America and still running.
    9. The Riverhead Cider House – 2711 Sound Ave., Calverton, NY 631-591-0217 –
    10. Star Confectionary – 4 E Main St, Riverhead, NY SINCE 1920, THE MERAS FAMILY HAS BEEN SERVING CLASSIC AMERICAN FARE, HOMEMADE ICE-CREAM, AND HOLIDAY CHOCOLATES – serving simple American fare & housemade ice cream.
    11. Long Island Aquarium – 431 East Main Street, Riverhead One of its biggest attractions is a 20,000-US-gallon coral reef display tank, which is one of the largest all-living coral displays in the Western Hemisphere. They used to have Shark Diving in their Tank –
    12. Briemere’s Farms 4414 Sound Ave, Riverhead, NY 11901 “They’ve been known to bake and sell over 3000 Pies in a Weekend” A fruit farm and bakery on the North Fork of Long Island. All of our pies, bread, muffins, cookies, cakes, jam, and jelly are made right here on our farm from scratch. There are no pre-prepared ingredients or fillings bought for use. Most of the fresh fruit used in our bakery is grown right here on our farm.
    13. Liv Vodka 2182 Sound Avenue, Baiting Hollow, NY Long Island Spirits, founded in 2007, is the first craft distillery since the 1800’s located on Long Island, in Baiting Hollow, NY.
    14. Down the Rabbit Hole – Sayville – Worlds Smallest Wine Shop You may not even have room for the Camera Crew!
    15. The Sayville Ferry began the Fire Island run in 1894. For over one hundred years, Fire Island has been an attraction for people from all over the world. Fire Island’s central communities of Cherry Grove, Fire Island Pines, Water Island and Sailors Haven/Sunken Forest, a Fire Island National Seashore Park, are served by the Sayville Ferry, which is located on River Road in the South Shore hamlet of Sayville. Once on the island, the only means of transport is a hand-pulled wagon and the only rubber you burn is the soles of your shoes.

  3. I would like to add a place to visit to your “Underrated Places” List: Grounds for Sculpture and the Rat’s Restaurant in Hamilton, NJ. A great day trip and place for lunch, especially in the late spring.

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Underrated places to go outdoors
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