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10 underrated cities that deserve a visit

Many travel wish lists include citiessuch as New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta.But less well-known cities canbe equally riveting. Here are 10 underratedcities with unexpected appeal:

1. Kansas City, Mo. // KansasCity's downtown is undergoinga $4.5 billion face-lift that includesa nine-block entertainmentand shopping neighborhood.You'll find Art Decoarchitecture, public art and alot of affordable sightseeing.Then you can unwind amongfriendly residents at one ofmany renowned barbecuejoints.

2. Cleveland // There are tonsof family-oriented things to doin this Midwestern jewel onLake Erie's south shore. Leavethe little ones at home, though,for Cleveland's main attraction:the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

3. Truth or Consequences, N.M. // Kathy Clark of thetown's Chamber of Commercedescribes T or C as "the mostoutrageous, fun, eccentric,funky 1950s town in America --with hot mineral water." Otherscall it America's most affordablespa town.

4. Fredericksburg, Va. //Fredericksburg, where GeorgeWashington grew up, is an historictown that was at the CivilWar's crossroads and blendsColonial and Victorian influences.History buffs love it.

5. Makawao, Hawaii // Whoknew there would be an OldWestern town in the middle ofMaui? Hawaii's cowboy town,Makawao, has a main streetlined with frontier-style storefrontsoccupied by trendy boutiquesand galleries.

6. Pittsburgh // No longer asteel town (the mills closed inthe 1970s), Pittsburgh is clean,vibrant and blessed with physicalbeauty: three rivers, fivehuge parks and gorgeous viewsfrom just about anywhere. Italso has several first-rate museums,including the fourCarnegies.

7. Charleston, S.C. // Charlestonis the South's gem and hasstreets so fresh and clean theyalmost sparkle. It also has upscaledining and shopping, FortSumter (where the Civil War began),and several military-themedmuseums.

8. Asheville, N.C. // Locals callit the Paris of the South. Its reverencefor aesthetics is manifestin well-preserved architectureand the buzzing River ArtsDistrict. Visit America's biggestprivate residence (George Vanderbilt's250-room Biltmore Estate)or take in stunning BlueRidge Mountain scenery.

9. Davis, Calif. // Intellectual,progressive residents mingle inbustling cafes while othersstroll around the tree-linedUniversity of California campus.Take in a performance atthe world-class Mondavi Center(yes, as in the wine maker).

10. Tulsa, Okla. // Tulsa's on therise. Its industrial-chic BlueDome District ends any idea ofprovincialism, as do its PerformingArts Center (by the architectof New York's WorldTrade Center) and its spectacularPhilbrook and Gilcrease museums.Best of all, Tulsans makeyou feel at home.

[Los Angeles Times]

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