Our Favorite Underrated Cities

Dispatches from the Road, Tours & Attractions, United States — By on April 7, 2009 at 8:00 am

Little Rock Postcardby Molly Fergus

The downside to having a job that’s a giant road trip: We don’t get to pick where we go or how long we spend in our favorite spots; that’s our manager’s call. The upside? Sometimes we end up in cities and towns that we wouldn’t choose to visit but end up really loving. So, after ten months, 20 states and two countries, I’m listing what I think are some of the country’s most underrated locales.

Lafayette, LA: Often overshadowed by glitzier New Orleans, the heart of Acadia offers a heavy dose of Cajun culture. Think Zydeco, two-stepping, the zestiest etouffee (pronounced ay-two-fay) and alligator entrees (tastes like chicken – really!).

Little Rock, AR: It’s more than the library. The Clintons’ former stomping grounds offer a moving and informative monument to the Little rock Nine at Central High, a quaint and bustling downtown market, and a short but cute trolley system throughout the city center.

Omaha, NE: Yes, there’s steak. But there are also airy downtown lofts, cobblestone streets and sleek restaurants. Schedule time for a trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo, rated one of Trip Advisor’s most popular in 2008.

Lexington, KY: Horse racing, white fences, sprawling fields and two university campuses give this town an identity of its own. Don’t miss out on the hot brown, a local specialty that’s essentially a turkey sandwich smothered in gravy, covered in melted cheese and topped with a tomato and two slices of bacon. (You probably only need to try it once.)

You tell us! Where have you gone that completely surprised you? Comment below or email us at lostgirlsworld@gmail.com

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  • Schmanders says:

    This came to use from a reader, who made some clarifications about Kentucky–thanks for writing in!

    Good evening!

    I spent the first twenty-five years of my life in Chicago and have lived in Louisville, Kentucky for the past thirteen, so I’m still a newcomer—enough that I notice things that aren’t quite right in articles about this area.

    You cited the hot brown as a local Lexington favorite. The hot brown (or Hot Brown) originated at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, and you are far likely to find them in Louisville than in Lexington. Lexington, known for horse farms, has Keeneland but the world’s most famous racecourse, Churchill Downs, is in Louisville. (We have a little horse race every May.) I also don’t know of a university campus in Lexington besides that of the University of Kentucky. If you consider the University of Louisville as the other one, you’re off by maybe eighty miles (and it’s really a glorified commuter college). As for this collegiate nit-picking, I have no stake in either, as I went to Indiana University in Bloomington, which is infinitely cooler than any city or town in Kentucky! Louisville is like Chicago or New York City in a way, in that it is in no way representative of the rest of the state in which it sits; in fact, Louisville is a Midwestern city in a technically Southern state!

    Besides all that, thanks for not making any generalizations about Kentucky or feeding any stereotypes. It was hard enough to get my family to come down for my wedding. (Speaking of my wedding, my mother-in-law’s family hails from Louisiana and although many of the French-speaking settlers consider themselves Acadians, that’s because they come from French Canada, also known as Acadia. There are Acadians in Louisiana, but that doesn’t make Louisiana Acadia. Make sense?)

  • Blair says:

    Shout out to AR!! I grew up about 45 minutes away from Little Rock, so I know the city intimately, and it has been growing nicely in the past few years.

    As a longtime local, I think the best parts of Arkansas are outside of the capitol city. There are tons of recreational lakes nearby. The old resort town Hot Springs–an hour drive from L.R.–is known for Lake Hamilton and surrounded by two calmer (read: more nature, not as many party barges) lakes. And if you’re willing to really get out of the city, the Ozark Mountains are beautiful. It’s full of charming towns, and there are some great caves for spelunking!

    Glad you got to explore our little city, Molly! Can’t wait to read about all the other great places you find. 🙂

  • alphawoman says:

    The second university in Lexington is Transylvania University, which is one of the oldest universities in East US, small but very well known except to the transplant from Chicago. Also, you can get an excellent Hot Brown at the Campbell House in Lex and Hotal Harry’s in Versailles (next to Lex). The Hot Brown was invented at the Brown Hotel in Lou, thus the hot brown. Keeneland is much more beautiful than Churchill Downs, and has most the horse sells in this part of the country. Also, the hot brown is not smotherd in gravy, it is an open faced turkey sandwich smothered in a roux of heavy cream and cheese. If you ever get a Hot Brown that looks like cheddar cheese…that is gross and not right. Thanks for mentioning Lex as one of your fav’s.

  • Pranav says:

    cant wait to read on! Always wanted to visit Chicago. AllAudioGuides

  • molly says:

    Wow, looks like I was misinformed! Thanks for all if the updated info; guess I did get a bad, cheddar-cheese-ish Hot Brown. Just another good excuse to make my way back to Kentucky.

    Thanks for reading and correcting me!