Underrated U.S. Capital Cities Worth A Visit

Denver, Austin and Nashville are hugely popular destinations, but consider these other state capitals for your next trip.

Many U.S. capital cities have long been major tourist destinations, like Boston, Denver, Nashville and Austin. There are also the smaller-yet-beloved state capitals like Santa Fe. And more recently, the “Real Housewives” franchise and lifestyle influencer frenzy have put Salt Lake City on the map.

Looking beyond those big-name cities, there are many other capitals that don’t get as much attention but are still worth adding to your bucket list. We’ve rounded up 10 underrated U.S. state capitals. While this list is by no means comprehensive, we hope it will inspire your future travels.

Providence, Rhode Island
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It may be the capital of the nation’s smallest state, but Providence packs a big punch when it comes to cultural cachet. The charming city boasts a top-notch culinary scene with offerings ranging from the classic Italian spots on Federal Hill to the eclectic eateries over in the West Side.

Visitors can take a gondola ride along the Providence River, stroll through historic neighborhoods and take in the art scene around the Rhode Island School of Design’s impressive museum and campus.
Helena, Montana
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The “Queen City of the Rockies,” Helena offers ample opportunities for outdoor recreation with its epic hiking and biking trails, natural hot springs and nearby ski area. And, of course, the Missouri River is a famous destination for fly-fishing and boat excursions.

As for cultural attractions, the city’s gold rush roots are evident in the architecture and historic sites around the city. Helena also has a booming local microbrewery scene and plenty of art galleries.
Sacramento, California
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Sacramento often gets overlooked in favor of more popular California travel destinations like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Monterey. But the vibrant capital city has plenty of attractions that showcase its unique history and culture.

Museum lovers have plenty to soak up between the California State Railroad Museum, California State Capitol Museum and Crocker Art Museum, while gastronomes can enjoy the many "farm-to-fork" restaurants and wineries. And outdoor enthusiasts will find lots of options for hiking, biking and water sports, thanks to the city's location on the banks of the Sacramento River and proximity to the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Montgomery, Alabama
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Montgomery played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement and is home to several important historic sites. The Rosa Parks Library and Museum is located near the stop where the activist boarded a bus in 1955 and made history by refusing to give up her seat. Martin Luther King Jr. helped organize the famous Montgomery bus boycott while he was a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

There’s also The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which honors Black victims of lynching, and the nearby Legacy Museum, which details the history of slavery, mass incarceration and racism in the U.S.

Additionally, the city has a thriving arts and culture scene, as well as a number of great restaurants and bars.
Olympia, Washington
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Located about 60 miles south of Seattle, Olympia is a true hidden gem of the Pacific Northwest. Visitors are treated to magnificent views of the Mt. Rainier and the Olympic Mountain Range, and can schedule excursions if they want to see them up close.

In addition to the many city park spaces and hiking trails for outdoor adventurers, Olympia is also home to a dynamic creative scene, with a large public art collection and numerous museums and galleries. The capital city was the birthplace of riot grrrl music, and independent artists still thrive there today. Don’t forget to try some fresh-caught seafood during your visit as well.
Des Moines, Iowa
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Traditionally, the Hawkeye State has gotten a lot of attention around presidential primary season, but otherwise, it's not a particularly popular travel destination. The capital city of Des Moines, however, has lots to offer on the tourism front — from the famous Iowa State Fair (butter cow included) to the gold-domed Capitol building.

Should you find yourself in Des Moines, you may also experience the region's strong agricultural tradition at the top-notch farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants. And the dive bar and brewery scene is large enough to keep visitors occupied for quite some time.
Augusta, Maine
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Founded as an English trading post in the 17th century, Maine's capital of city Augusta is an excellent destination for history lovers. The Maine State Museum, Maine State House and Viles Arboretum are popular attractions, but perhaps the most interesting site is Old Fort Western — the oldest surviving wooden fort in the U.S.

Located on the banks of the Kennebec River, Augusta also boasts plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure, including hiking, biking and in the winter, cross-country skiing.
Carson City, Nevada
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Sure, Las Vegas tends to attract most visitors to the state of Nevada, but there’s plenty to do in the capital city. Located near Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Carson City is known for its scenic views and outdoor recreation, so whether you’re into hiking, mountain biking, equestrian, off-roading or hot spring relaxation, there’s something for you.

Those interested in Old West history can learn about the birth of Nevada and Carson City at the Nevada Capitol Building, Nevada State Museum and the Nevada State Railroad Museum, as well as the number of Victorian-style homes around the city’s historic district. And golfers will no doubt be eager to check out the “Divine Nine” courses. As it is Nevada, casinos are of course an option for tourists in Carson City as well.
Little Rock, Arkansas
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The historical significance of Arkansas’ capital city cannot be overstated. Little Rock Central High School is now a U.S. National Historic Landmark and National Historic Site that tourists can visit to learn about the Little Rock Nine and the school’s role in the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation.

Additionally, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library is a top attraction where visitors can explore the history of President Bill Clinton's rise to power and the major events of his administration and post-White House life. For more political history, check out the Arkansas State Capitol and Governor's Mansion. Or stretch your legs with a hike at the nearby Pinnacle Mountain State Park.
Boise, Idaho
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Set against a stunning Rocky Mountains backdrop, Boise is a charming city with ample indoor and outdoor attractions. Explore the thriving culinary scene, with several James Beard semifinalists, microbreweries and an urban wine trail that meanders along the River Greenbelt, a beloved park with a 25-mile tree-lined trail right through the heart of the city.

The Idaho capital is also known for its Basque community, whose epicenter is at the Basque Block. There you can visit the Basque Museum and Cultural Center and sample the delicious pintxos and cocktails at one of the many great restaurants. Be sure to check the local events schedule for a variety of concerts, festivals, sporting events, theater performances and more.

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