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New hotels, surprising restaurants, and easier access are just some of the ways these lesser-traveled domestic destinations are upping their games.

 Baltimore

The city’s empty industrial spaces are buzzing with new energy these days. The 50,000-square-foot food hall R. House, once an auto shop, rolled open its garage doors in December with seven restaurants, a café, an ice cream shop, and a bar. Early this year, West Coast hotel brand Pendry opens its first eastern outpost on Fell’s Point Recreation Pier. The 1914 building was originally a dance hall and social hub for Baltimore’s immigrants, and the former ballroom will now become a banquet space. The whole city is easier than ever to explore after the October launch of a 24/7 bike share program with a fleet of both eight-gear and electric-assist rides.

Oklahoma City

Over the past two decades, Oklahoma City has spent $5 billion constructing schools, a sports arena, and a mile-long canal that winds through Bricktown, a once-vacant warehouse district. The neighborhood and adjacent Midtown are growing up with additions such as Bleu Garten, OKC’s first food truck park, and the new 21c Museum Hotel. Built inside an old Ford Motor Company assembly plant, the hotel also houses a free contemporary art museum. Another pleasant surprise? The city’s phenomenal Vietnamese food, at spots such as Pho Lien Hoa in the Asian District. Owner Lien Le started the restaurant, which offers more than a dozen types of pho, after moving from Saigon to Oklahoma City in the ’90s.

Nashville

The Gulch, a walkable neighborhood near Nashville’s downtown and Music Row, is thriving. Several new hotels—such as the Thompson, 21c, and Virgin—have recently opened or are in development. Plus, thanks in part to LED traffic lights, more frequent bus routes, and reused spaces, it’s the first LEED-certified neighborhood in the South. In the neighborhood next door, 12South, fashion boutiques blend country and modern styles: Imogene + Willie has gained a cult following for its comfortable jeans; Draper James—Reese Witherspoon’s clothing line—charms shoppers with tongue-in-cheek pieces such as her signature “Totes, Y’all” bag. 

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Telluride

The ski town is shaking its image as a hard-to-reach destination with more frequent nonstop flights from Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Denver. It’s also polishing its beyond-the-slopes image: An outdoor stage unveiled last spring has hosted concerts by Pearl Jam and Neil Young, and in December, one of the town’s oldest bars, Roma Bar & Grill, was restored and reopened after stints as a sushi joint and a pizza place. A $15-million renovation has given the Madeline Hotel a new sky terrace overlooking the San Juan Mountains, and the Dunton Town House, a five-bedroom historic inn, provides guests with a convenient base for ski slopes, restaurants, and art galleries.

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