Today Peter Greenberg went on CBS Saturday Morning and discussed how many popular destinations can be crowded and often overpriced. But for every popular spot, there’s a a great offbeat alternative. Here are Peter’s top six picks for the best offbeat destinations around the world.
Instead of Napa, Visit Washington
Most people don’t know that Washington is the number two wine producing state in the country. (For perspective, it’s pretty far behind California: in 2013, Washington produced 210,000 tons of wine grapes; California produced 4.23 million tons.)
What I like about it here, compared to more formal wine regions, is that it’s totally laid back. The winemakers are there on site and will sit down and talk to you. The wine is quality—Washington knows it can’t compete with the volume of California, so they produce mostly premium wines (more than $8 a bottle).
There are more than 800 wineries in Eastern and Western Washington over 43,000 acres, with over 350 grape growers and more than 40 varietals (almost 50-50 red to white). Top varietals include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, and Syrah.
There are several wine-producing regions: Yakima Valley, Walla Walla, and Columbia Valley are the largest. Most people are also surprised that there’s wine country right outside of Seattle, in Woodinville (part of the Puget Sound AVA). The terrain varies by location because of the Cascade Mountain Range.
For example, Walla Walla is located on the “dry side” of the Cascade Mountain range, averaging 20 inches of precipitation and 260 days of sunshine annually.
But it’s not just about wine in this nature-loving state. Washington is a hub for other forms of agritourism, with nearly 300 farms welcoming visitors.
Getting here is easy: Walla Walla is 4.5 hours by car from Seattle, and 4 hours from Portland and Boise. A flight into Seattle (near Woodinville) is accessible from all over the country: only $218 from Los Angeles; $419 from Chicago; $630 from New York.
Instead of Chicago, Visit Milwaukee
Chicago has always been a hip city, but smart travelers are starting to discover Milwaukee, its less glitzy cousin. It’s got a population of 600,000, affordable housing and hotels, a booming restaurant scene, and plenty of culture. It’s on the same lake, only 90 miles up the coast from Chicago.
It’s affordable and easy to access. You’ll probably be able to find a flight from New York to ORD for a weekend in June for $386 Delta. Or you can hop on a Southwest flight for about $240. Milwaukee is also home to one of my favorite airports: General Mitchell. It’s such a local secret that a third of the cars in the parking lot have Illinois plates.
The Riverwalk is a three-mile pedestrian walkway that takes you from downtown to the Third Ward District.
Milwaukee has one of the coolest public markets in the country. It’s a central gathering spot for local artisans and producers, cooking classes, and an outdoor market that runs between June through October.
No one associates Milwaukee with beaches, but it sits right on a lake. Bradford Beach is the only one with lifeguards, with live music, events, and volleyball.
Instead of Greece, Visit Turkey
This June, a flight from New York to Athens will cost over $2,000. New York to Istanbul is about $1,500 nonstop on Turkish Airlines.
Istanbul is the largest city in the country, a cultural and financial center that straddles the Bosphorus River. It’s really special place, where Europe meets Asia, a confluence of religions and complex history. The big attractions are the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, and the Spice Bazaar.
Don’t stop at Istanbul. There’s also the third biggest city of Izmir, which is often overlooked by tourists but is growing as an Aegean cruise ship stop. It’s a historic city about halfway down Turkey’s west coast is It’s also a good jumping off point to Ephesus and Pergamon.
Cappadocia is another must-do in Turkey. It’s a historic area with otherworldly geological formations, pillars, caves and even buildings carved out of volcanic deposits.
Instead of the Bahamas, Visit Turks & Caicos
Most Americans know the Bahamas, but they don’t realize the Turks & Caicos islands are also a hop and skip away.
This Caribbean island has been growing recently as a destination because of increased airlift, but it’s still off the radar and not packed with Americans. It’s very family friendly, and attracts everyone from young families to retirees.
Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales is a beautiful white-sand beach, which has won multiple awards. Summer and fall are actually the low season, so you can find some great deals right now.
The Sands at Grace Bay located on Grace Bay Beach has rates from just $195 per night, with a fourth night free, plus tons of free amenities such as water sports, snorkeling gear, bicycles. Excursions include world-class snorkeling and scuba diving.
Instead of Scotland, Visit Tasmania
These two places seem like worlds apart and are practically on opposite sides of the planet. But they do have something in common: incredible whisky.
This year, Sullivan’s Cove distillery near Hobart won the title of the best single malt in the world at the World Whisky awards—the first time it was ever awarded to a distillery outside of Scotland or Japan. There are nine distilleries in this state, which is incredible considering it was prohibited just two decades ago.
Tasmanian distilleries are winning accolades—pure water, barley, peat, and a cool climate are the ingredients for a great whiskey. In fact, Scottish are among the largest immigrant groups to Tasmania (behind English and Irish), partially because the terrain and the climate reminded them of the Scottish highlands.
Tasmania is also becoming known for its wine industry and cheese production. But most of all, its biggest draw is the natural beauty. The landscape is totally diverse: one third of the state is a protected national park, reserve or World Heritage site.
You can go hiking and rafting in iconic spots such as the Hazards Mountain range in Freycinet National Park, and in Cradle Mountain across Dove Lake.
The capital city of Hobart is easy to get to from mainland Australia by ferry.
Instead of the Great Lakes, Visit the Fingerlakes
This is one the best-kept secrets among East Coasters. The Fingerlakes in Upstate New York are named for the collection of lakes that look like fingers. There are 11 lakes that run as deep as 600 feet and 40 miles long. They lie in a triangle between Syracuse, Rochester, and Elmira-Corning and connect to Lake Ontario and the Erie Canal.
There are 11 lakes, including the two longest, Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake. The outlier is the “thumb” of Oneida Lake. In addition to the lakes, there are waterfalls, rivers, canals, and ponds, making this a go-to destination for water lovers who want to go swimming, waterfall hiking, kayaking, and diving.
In fact, it’s New York’s biggest wine-producing region with more than 100 wineries around the lakes. Here you can find lots of Riesling, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s also a ton of other agriculture here, including apple orchards and berry farms.
Getting here is straightforward: it’s about a three hour and thirty minute drive to Rochester from New York City, five hours from Philadelphia, and six hours from Boston. You can also fly into Rochester Airport, which is only about $330 from Chicago nonstop.
For more information about offbeat destinations, check out:
- The Insider’s Travel Guide to Malta
- The Hidden History of Catalina Island
- The Best Places to Visit Using Your Tax Refund
By Peter Greenberg for PeterGreenberg.com