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The US, a vast and diverse continent, consistently ranks as one of the top destinations for Australian travellers, offering a banquet of tourist attractions, from the jaw-dropping wonders of national parks like the Grand Canyon to the family fun of theme parks like Disney World, and the endless attractions found in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

While these are all great reasons to visit the States, venturing off the beaten path will capture the heart and soul of America. From the cobblestone streets of historic New York villages to Oregon's rugged coastal settlements, these lesser-known towns promise a unique blend of culture, history, and natural beauty.

As you journey along America’s iconic Route 66 or the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway, don’t forget to consider travel insurance which can shield you against unexpected surprises during your travels through the land of stars and stripes.

Taos, New Mexico

Taos stands as one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the US, with the Taos Pueblo being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark. Its charm lies in the traditional adobe-style architecture, where buildings are crafted from earth-based materials like adobe bricks.

If you visit during the Winter, you’ll get the opportunity to visit the world-renowned Taos Ski Valley. On the other hand, spring and summer seasons are perfect for taking a scenic drive along the 130-kilometre Enchanted Circle, which offers a captivating mix of mountain, valley, and desert vistas.

Be sure to check out the views of the Rio Grande River from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, one of America’s highest bridges. You can also dive into a bit of history by visiting the San Francisco de Asís Mission Church, experience the valley from above with a hot air balloon ride, or rejuvenate at the renowned spiritual retreats and wellness centres in Taos.

Cold Spring, New York

Just an hour’s drive north of the bustling Times Square lies Cold Spring, a tranquil haven world away from the hustle and bustle of New York City. With a rich history dating back to the early 19th century, Cold Spring played a significant role in America’s Industrial Revolution and served as a key transportation hub for the movement of goods on the Hudson River.

Immerse yourself in the charm of well-preserved 19th-century architecture, including Victorian homes and storefronts. For nature lovers, hiking trails like the popular Breakneck Ridge Trail offer exceptional views of the Hudson River and Valley. Be sure to visit the Boscobel House and Gardens, a mansion built during the 1800s surrounded by gardens where you can again see the Hudson River.

Cold Spring is also home to a summer Shakespeare Festival and is regarded as the "Antique Capital of New York”, offering unique American souvenirs to treasure.

Madison, Georgia

Experience true Southern hospitality in Madison, Georgia, home to one of the state's most beautiful and well-preserved historic districts. The entire town, with its many antebellum homes, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Stroll through downtown’s brick-paved streets, lined with antique lampposts, and visit the Heritage Hall Museum to explore the town's rich history and culture.

Don't forget to explore the historic cemeteries, where many notable locals, including Civil War officers, have found their final resting place. Another notable museum is the Madison-Morgan County African American Museum, which focuses on the contributions of the region’s African American community.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Situated on the Monterey Peninsula with Pacific Ocean views, Carmel-by-the-Sea may have a funny name, but stepping into this town feels a bit like walking into a fairytale. Thanks to its storybook cottages. And you can say you visited a town where Clint Eastwood once served as mayor.

For art lovers, the Galleries by the Sea district is a must-visit, showcasing an array of captivating artworks. As the day winds down, head to Carmel Beach, where the iconic cypress trees frame the perfect sunset view. The town's cultural allure doesn't end there – it also hosts an annual classical music festival known as the Carmel Bach Festival.

Carmel Beach offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The town has taken unique measures to preserve its charm, banning streetlights, billboards, mailboxes, and commercial chain businesses.

St. Michaels, Maryland

St. Michaels is a historic waterfront town on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay. Begin your visit by climbing the 19th-century Hooper Strait Lighthouse, now part of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Known as the "Sailing Capital of the Chesapeake", St. Michaels offers various water activities.

You can rent kayaks, organise boat tours in the harbour and beyond, or simply enjoy sailing. After a day on the water, indulge in Maryland’s fresh seafood, with local specialties such as crab cakes and oysters. If you happen to be in town during autumn, be sure to attend the annual Oyster Fest.

Stay in one of the town's historic inns or bed-and-breakfasts, and then take to the streets to search for local historic churches and visit the old St. Michaels Mill.

Astoria, Oregon

As the first permanent American settlement on the Pacific Coast, Astoria is a place where history, culture and stunning vistas come together in perfect harmony. The journey into Astoria from Washington State is marked by the impressive Astoria-Megler Bridge, one of the world's longest continuous truss bridges, spanning the Columbia River.

Astoria boasts a rich maritime heritage, with its waterfront lined with piers, warehouses, and historic buildings. The Columbia River Maritime Museum makes the region's rich maritime history come alive. Don't miss the Astoria Scandinavian Heritage Park, celebrating the city's Scandinavian roots with cultural exhibits and a replica of a Nordic immigrant log cabin.

The town is also home to the large 125-foot-tall Astoria Column Tower, which looks somewhat like a lighthouse overlooking the Columbia River below. Climb the tower’s staircase to reach the observation deck at the top for panoramic views of the river and the surrounding landscape.

Asheville, North Carolina

Tucked away in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of America’s east, Asheville brings together a vibrant arts scene, historic architecture, and stunning nature. Drive along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway to discover places like the Biltmore Estate which is America’s largest privately-owned home.

Visit local art galleries in the River Arts District, book into a holistic retreat, or embrace the wild by hiking, mountain biking, or rafting in national parks like Pisgah National Forest or Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For a more tranquil experience of nature, visit the North Carolina Arboretum or Asheville Botanical Gardens, which host a variety of native Southern Appalachian plants.