Last Updated on August 29, 2023
Special to Rovology.com from Karen Gershowitz. In her upcoming book, “WANDERLUST: Extraordinary People, Quirky Places, and Curious Cuisine,” releasing October 2023 (She Writes Press), Karen dismantles myths around solo adventures.
In 2001, I set out on a nine-month road trip across the United States. My goal was to see places and events I’d heard and dreamed about for years. I was so inspired by what I found that ever since I’ve continued searching for our country’s hidden corners.
What I’ve learned is that the U.S., with its sprawling cities and well-trodden tourist sites, still has quaint, under-the-radar spots that made me feel like an explorer in my own country. Here are a few of the lesser-known places I’ve visited in the past few years and loved.
Embodying the spirit of the Old West, Cheyenne It’s best known for Cheyenne Frontier Days, one of the grandest rodeos in the country. When I visited, it was a quiet Sunday with no special events. As I drove in, a large mural immediately stopped me. I hopped out of the car and within a few blocks, there were more and more wonderful murals.
That walk led me to Depot Plaza, a converted railway station where I ate lunch. I then explored the collection of 8’ high boot sculptures decorated by local artists. Dubbed “These Boots are made for Talking,” thirty-two of them are scattered around the city.
My last stop was at the Botanical Garden—to see one final boot and the lovely, serene garden.
Shelburne Falls, MA
Boasting one of the world’s greatest concentration of glacial potholes, swirls of granite naturally sculpted over 14,000 years ago, Shelburne Falls, MA gets lost among New England’s more popular tourists destinations. I didn’t stop for geology, I saw a sign for the “Bridge of Flowers” and decided to check it out. It used to be a trolley bridge, but now it’s a beautiful garden with views of the Deerfield River and town.
When I’d gotten my fill of flowers, I walked through the small town. I was delighted to find a street filled with craft shops and restaurants. I ate lunch in a shady area looking at a vista of the flower-laden bridge and town.
Best known as the home of Walmart, Bentonville had been on my travel radar ever since the Crystal Bridges Museum opened in 2011. Photos of the museum’s unique architecture by Moshe Safdie and reviews of the art collection intrigued me. The museum showcases American art, including outsider, old masters, and up-and-coming artists. It also has a terrific restaurant.
The town of Bentonville is more than the museum. It exudes a sophisticated, friendly vibe. The streets are filled with artwork—murals, sculpture, and mosaics. For a small town, it has a collection of restaurants, from casual to gourmet, where everyone can find a meal to their taste.
Stepping into Woodstock feels like you’ve wandered into the heart of New England charm. It’s a small, historic town filled with covered bridges, historic homes, and a charming village green. Most of the granite buildings have been around for more than a hundred years. There are restaurants and shops galore.
I drove on back roads to get a feel for the area around Woodstock, stopping frequently to take photos of the countryside and covered bridges. On an unmarked, narrow road, I screeched to a halt when I saw a field full of sculpture. There were a couple of dozen sculptures, fanciful, modern, and traditional, and one lone sign “Sculpturefest.” It reminded me that with just a little exploring off main roads, it’s possible to find all sorts of treasures.
Breaux Bridge, LA
Breaux Bridge is the heart of Cajun country and the Crawfish Capital of the World! It’s almost impossible to spend time in town and not hear a pickup session with musicians on fiddles, harmonicas, and accordions. Check in with local restaurants and learn about dances, concerts and more. And you’ll eat some of the best food anywhere.
In the vast landscape of America, these towns offer a special magic. They’re not places that make headlines, but they hold beauty, history and lots to see and do. If I had space, I could describe dozens of out-of-the-way towns worth visiting. You just need to do a little research and have a spirit of adventure. My experience has taught me that every town and village holds a story waiting to be discovered.
Karen Gershowitz has been traveling solo since age seventeen when she flew to Europe and didn’t return to the U.S. for three years. In her career as a marketing strategist and researcher she traveled the world conducting thousands of meetings, focus groups and interviews.
When traveling for pleasure, those same skills helped her to draw out people’s stories. She learned about their lives, as well as local customs and fashions and what makes them laugh. Her first book of travel stories, “Travel Mania,” explores the confluence of travel and life events and how travel has changed her beliefs and life direction. “Wanderlust” continues those stories, addressing issues readers have asked to hear more about—memorable food, people, and places she experienced in her travels.
She hopes these stories tickle the travel bug in readers and set them off on their own adventures. Karen lives in New York City.