Maybe incurable wanderlust has made US hotspots such as New York, Hawaii, and LA, feel like old hat. Or perhaps a punishing travel schedule spins on an axis of meetings, clients, and conferences, sending you to cities where the phrase “tourism economy” sounds foreign and the major attraction is a mini-bar. Regardless of your reasons for exploring America’s oft-forgotten cities, you’re about to get a whole lot more excited.
We scoured a few of America’s less-hyped cities, and came up with a cache of cultural treasures most people don’t even know exist — let alone get to see for themselves. Once you read this list, you’ll never look at an onsite assignment in Indianapolis the same way again.
The museum guides visitors through five centuries of the fight for and progress of civil rights. The space itself is a group of historic buildings, including the Lorraine Motel, in which Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
From the beginning of the resistance to slavery through the Civil War, the era of Jim Crow, and the steps taken since to promote equality, the collection has a rich store of artifacts, films, and interactive media to bring the struggle for and triumph of freedom to life. After your visit, stop by Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar to digest what you’ve learned — along with a wine and seafood flight.
Whether you haven’t even read Cat’s Cradle, or have all 14 novels, 7 plays, and dozens of short stories in hardback (and e-reader), it’s tough to deny Vonnegut’s impact on the genre of dark comedy and on the American consciousness in general. The Vonnegut Memorial Library houses many of the Indianapolis native’s drawings and doodles, his own personal typewriter, reading glasses, Purple Heart, and other intimate personal belongings.
Perhaps even more compelling are the first editions of every Vonnegut novel (several of them signed), and rejection letters he received from editors we can assume spent a long while kicking themselves a few years down the road. If you have time to kill, you might enjoy stopping by All Souls Unitarian Church or the Plaza Service Station, both designed by Kurt Vonnegut, Sr., an architect.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s art was, as she described it, about expressing “the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.” The Museum’s houses over 3,000 works including 140 O’Keeffe oil paintings, nearly 700 drawings, and hundreds of additional works spanning from the beginning of her career to 1981, when she retired due to failing sight. If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, consider visiting O’Keeffe’s home and studio in Abiquiu, New Mexico, about an hour north. Just make sure to call ahead for an appointment.
Featuring diverse collections of art, archival materials, and film, the museum is a testament to the variety and prolificacy of Warhol’s career. The art collection includes 900 paintings, 100 sculptures, nearly 2,000 works on paper, more than 1,000 prints, and 4,000 photographs. One major draw is the collaborative paintings made artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Francesco Clemente. Often the most fascinating part of a museum, the archival collection here features source material for his art, thousands of collectibles, clothing, scripts, diaries, and correspondence. To see the archives, though, you’ll need to get an appointment ahead of time.
Distinguished as Texas’s first modern art museum, the McNay’s evolution has been similarly groundbreaking. Since it opened in 1950, the collection has grown to nearly 20,000 works, including Medieval and Renaissance art. The museum is highly praised for its prints and drawings, sculpture gallery, and stunning gardens. The McNay’s core collection of 700 works and the building in which it is housed were endowed by Marion McNay, upon her death, to the establishment of a modern art museum in Texas. The 24-room Spanish Colonial-Revival house commissioned upon her marriage has since been expanded by 45,000 square feet to create gallery space, classrooms, and more.
If the weather’s nice, you might visit the nearby San Antonio Botanical Garden. It’s open year round, and the 38-acre property offers bird walks, native plant walks, and gardening classes.
The Yale Center houses the largest collection of British art anywhere in the world — aside from the U.K., of course. The Center’s collection of paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, books, and manuscripts paints a rich and comprehensive picture of the evolution of British art and life from the Elizabethan period to the present day. Highlights include works by Francis Bacon, James Whistler, Samuel Palmer, and William Gilpin. The exhibition, Art in Focus: Relics of Old London, is a special draw. It highlights the lost architecture of pre-industrialized London, and runs from May-August of 2016. Please note, the museum is closed until May 11 for renovations.
These are just a few of the little-known cultural troves waiting to be uncovered around the U.S. Next time you’re going on a trip to the hinterlands, do a little research first. You might be surprised by what you’ll find.