Hyper-famous neighborhoods in America’s big cities tend to grab all the attention, and while the Williamsburgs and French Quarters of the world are worthy of acclaim, you'll discover some under-the-radar 'hoods – free of large crowds and filled with lots of flavor – if you venture further afield.
Here are six exciting neighborhoods in the USA to add to your must-see list, packed with artistic, culinary and entrepreneurial action.
Wander Wynwood to see street art in Miami
This former warehouse district has transformed into one of Miami’s hottest artistic centers. Here you can ogle incredible murals and other street art, including legal graffiti.
There are more than 70 galleries and museums in Wynwood: start with the Locust Projects, a pioneering art gallery that opened amid run-down warehouses in the late '90s. Second Saturday Art Walks remain popular, but really, any day is a good day for an art walk in Wynwood. Just hit the streets to explore and photograph the ever-evolving public displays.
Shop for unique finds in Philadelphia's Fishtown
Fishtown got its peculiar moniker because it was at one time the center of Philadelphia's shad (a type of sport fish) fishing industry. These days, it's the city's epicenter of cool, filled with local artists, chefs and musicians who have brought the area to life. It’s also one of the few neighborhoods in Philly where you’ll still find the narrow streets typical of the colonial period.
Fishtown is full of independent shops, galleries and music venues: drop by Minnow Lane for all-natural, organic children’s clothing, or browse Two Percent to Glory for its quirky collection of retro-chic jewelry, furniture and found objects.
Fishtown is also somewhere you can satisfy both your love of pizza and your hankering to discover a unique museum: Pizza Brain is a hybrid restaurant and museum devoted to “pizza culture” and highlights an array of pizza-themed memorabilia and kitschy kitchen accessories.
Delve into Black culture in DC's Shaw
Washington, DC, has an amazing array of historical sites and free museums, but while it's one of the most popular destinations in the US, the Shaw neighborhood northeast of the White House remains somewhat off the beaten path. That’s changing quickly: with its charming row houses, international cuisine and unique shops, Shaw is an epicenter of Black history and culture.
Get an eye-opening introduction to the neighborhood with a visit to the African American Civil War Memorial, an arresting outdoor sculpture that memorializes more than 200,000 Union Army soldiers who served in the Civil War. In the evening, take in a jazz or blues show at the Howard Theatre, which once played host to greats like Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and local legend Duke Ellington.
A stunning sculpture of Ellington, America’s greatest jazz composer, stands near the Howard, as does the Howard Theatre walk of fame. Hungry? Feast on Ethiopian food at one of 9th Street’s fine eateries, or grab pub grub and a locally crafted beer at Right Proper Brewing Co.
Eat your way around Highland Park in LA
Among Los Angeles’ legendary sprawl, one of the city’s especially tasty communities is Highland Park, not far from Downtown on Route 110. Craftsman-style homes along leafy streets announce your arrival to a neighborhood that has overcome urban challenges and is decidedly ready for its close-up.
You’ll find walkable thoroughfares such as Figueroa St, with its hopping nightlife, and York Blvd, with its arts scene and gastropubs. Traditional tacos and other Mexican fare abound and there's also a steampunk-themed bowling alley.
Explore three districts in Denver's Highlands
Denver’s Highlands is actually three districts: Highlands Square, Tennyson Street and Lower Highland, but all feature eye-popping Victorian homes, green spaces and the kind of independent shops, galleries and restaurants that beg to be discovered.
Explore Highlands Square for unique boutiques and bookstores (not to mention solid wine shops and great eateries); hit up the Tennyson Street Cultural District for the work of contemporary Denver artists and some of the city’s finest live music; and look for Instagrammable views of downtown Denver and the iconic Highland Bridge in Lower Highland (locals call it LoHi), plus some fine places to grab a bite to eat.
Get elevated in Chicago's Wicker Park
Vintage-clothing aficionados and thrifters will adore Wicker Park, but the neighborhood offers plenty to keep non-shoppers busy too. Head to Milwaukee Avenue for its varied blend of cool shops, including Vintage Underground and Reckless Records (one of those magnets for music-lovers that are making a comeback across the country). You’ll find great coffee, brunch spots, affordable dinners and late-night cocktail spots here as well.
Ready to get outdoors? The 606 is a repurposed, elevated railroad track that’s now an urban park, blending green spaces with public art and a trail that’s just right for every level of activity, from strolling to cycling. Wicker Park visitors with little ones in tow should head to One Strange Bird for art projects and Building Blocks Toy Store.