by Blake Herzog
The bad thing about good places is that word gets out.
A beautiful area wild enough to be special but close enough to modern conveniences to keep our shortened attention spans engaged is trumpeted by a few people, and within a few years you must share it with thousands of other travelers.
It’s hard to select hidden vacation spots because the moment they pop up on the right person’s radar they’re destined for discovery, but here are a few locales that appear to be at the sweet spot between obscurity and fame. q
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
This growing city combines Midwestern hospitality and kid-friendliness with a thriving adult beverage scene, claiming the mantles of “America’s Best Beer City” and “Craft Beverage Capital.”
Stroll the downtown “refreshment area” with your drink to attractions like the world-class Grand Rapids Art Museum, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives (affectionately known as GRAAMA). Check out the elegant Amway Grand Plaza’s impressive lobby.
Mendocino is a picturesque collection of Victorian villages 150 miles north of San Francisco strung along rugged coastlines, sprawling vineyards and towering redwood forests, welcoming those who prefer taking the scenic route.
Most accommodations put an emphasis on pampering guests, whether they’re B&Bs or resorts with day spas offering massage and hydrotherapy — but no big chains!
Go to the shore to visit unusually beautiful stretches like Glass Beach and Bowling Ball Beach.
This district embraces six islands in the northern Florida Keys, each with its own gorgeous white beaches but the same laidback charm.
The Morada Way corridor has six blocks of galleries, art studios, restaurants and shops. Kayaking and snorkeling are just a couple of the activities you can partake in while you’re here, and its top resorts, Cheeca Lodge and Spa and Amara Cay Resort, include beautiful surroundings and top-notch services.
ESTES PARK, COLORADO
The gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, this classic mountain town is 90 minutes north of Denver and the ideal base for park adventures like hiking, wildlife viewing and scenic drives in the heart-stopping beauty of the park.
If you can get past the fact the historic Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for “The Shining,” explore its four options for accommodations and a brand-new day spa.
The fifth-largest of the Hawaiian Islands remains tucked away as a lesser-known option that retains the charm of old Hawaii as the birthplace of the hula, with unpaved roads leading into stunning jungles and over to villages like Maunaloa or the main town of Kaunakakai with a mighty 3,500 residents.
The island offers another respite from corporate hospitality, with just the Hotel Moloka’i and lots of condos and vacation rentals on one of the quietest, most rural areas of the state. Its location between Oahu and Maui makes it perfect for experiencing the joys of both hubs!