Joseph Sohm/Visions of America/Corbis
Beyond the Smithsonians and Disneylands, there are plenty of spots off the radar of your typical tourist.
The seven underrated tourist attractions that follow have as much or more to offer than some of their better-known peers, and you'll sidestep most of the crowds.
1. Hovenweep National Monument, Utah and Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado gets the spotlight (and the crowds). That said, Hovenweep, straddling the Utah-Colorado border, is an amazing spot to delve into the history of the Ancestral Puebloans (aka the Anasazi), who called the American Southwest home a millennium ago.
2. Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming
Showcasing the life and times of William "Buffalo Bill" Cody — likely the most famous celebrity on the planet at his peak — this fantastic facility near Yellowstone National Parkalso has galleries dedicated to Native American history, the regional ecosystem and firearms. And don't miss the collection of Western art, one of the best anywhere.
3. Grand Central Station, New York
While hordes of tourists descend upon such overrated meccas as Times Square and South Street Seaport, you can get a very different slice of New York by wandering the open spaces, hallways, ramps and food courts of Grand Central Station, where tens of thousands of New Yorkers and local commuters pass through every day. Gaze up at its splendid "constellation" ceiling, have some fresh oysters at its famed Oyster Bar, nab a drink at the posh Campbell Apartment, or even shop for groceries at its gourmet food court — all while rubbing shoulders with locals speeding to or from their daily gigs.
4. Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, Tennessee
This isn't just for country music fans: Anyone with an inkling of interest in American history and culture should put this on his or her list. The collection runs the genre's historical gamut, with items that include everything from Mother Maybelle Carter's guitar to the set of the TV show Hee Haw. Platinum tickets include a guided tour of nearby RCA Studio B, where Elvis Presley recorded his first official album.
5. Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas
Nearby Big Bend National Park is one of the least visited parks in the system, but even it looks like Grand Central Station in comparison with 311,000-acre Big Bend Ranch State Park, which attracts only a few thousand people a year. The highlights include a massive volcanic extrusion known as El Solitario and a very scenic stretch of the Rio Grande. Overnight lodging and camping are available deep in the park's interior — known as the Texas Outback.
6. Schindler House, West Hollywood, California
Skip the crowds outside of Hollywood tourist traps like Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and instead head west to what might possibly be America's first modern house, designed by minimalist architect Rudolph Schindler in 1922. A subtle series of concrete slabs creates two interlocking apartments; the "bedrooms" are open sleeping lofts on the roof. Over the years, artists such as Edward Weston and John Cage have been residents — now it's the perfect place to contemplate the sublime in the face of Hollywood's glitz.
7. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
The largest island in the Great Lakes and the least visited national park in the lower 48 states, Isle Royale National Park lures in-the-know boaters, campers and hikers to its solitary shores. The closed ecosystem here is unique, and home to both moose and wolves, although the population of the latter has plummeted in recent years.