20 U.S. Destinations Travelers Search for the Most
Shelter-in-place orders resulted in canceled traveled plans across the globe, but searching for a place to get away from it all still continued.
In March and April 2020, RentCafé surveyed 15,000 people, and a whopping 42 percent said they still wanted to hit the road. But where do they want to go exactly?
A quick look at Google revealed that travel-related searches dropped by 64 percent compared to 2019, but there were 20 U.S. destinations that travelers still searched for — without too large of a drop in searches before and searches during the lockdown. Perhaps it's due to their remote locations away from the crowds? These small towns, nature retreats and coastal oases offer just that and more.
20. Ruidoso, New Mexico
Searches before lockdown: 24,700
Searches during lockdown: 5,880
Haven't heard of Ruidoso, New Mexico? Perfect! It's a sign that you won't have to worry about too many tourists.
Set in the Sierra Blanca mountain range, the small town has a population of less than 8,000 people.
* The destinations are ranked based on the percentage difference between searches before and searches during the lockdown, starting with Ruidoso, which had a 52 percent difference.
What to Do in Ruidoso
The great outdoors is Ruidoso's greatest gift, and you'll enjoy it in Lincoln National Forest and Grindstone Lake.
The forest is spread across more than 1 million acres, offering a plethora of hiking and biking trails — and, of course, skiing!
When in town, Ruidoso offers horse racing and casinos for a bit of excitement that can last into the night.
19. Breckenridge, Colorado
Searches before lockdown: 13,530
Searches during lockdown: 6,550
Following the mountain trend set by Ruidoso is one of Colorado's more quaint ski resort towns.
"Breck" is a base town of the Tenmile Range in the Rocky Mountains. With a population of just over 5,000 people, this former miner town still holds its original Victorian charm, and its colorful buildings now house art galleries, shops and restaurants.
What to Do in Breckenridge
Exploring Breckenridge's Main Street shops is a highlight of exploring the actual village, but it's the mountains that really are the draw, any season of the year.
Bike and hike along Vail Pass Path, McCullough Gulch, the Hoosier Pass, Mohawk Lake Trail and Sapphire Point Overlook, and take in the forested views.
And don't forget to pop into Breckenridge Distillery for a taste of Colorado.
18. Fredericksburg, Texas
Searches before lockdown: 12,390
Searches during lockdown: 6,010
In a state as big as Texas, you'll easily find ways to social distance. Yet it's Fredericksburg, with less than 12,000 people, that interests travelers (along with the next destination on this list).
After all, there is a whole lot of history found within this Texas town. It's also known for its wineries as well as its German heritage, evident in its architecture.
What to Do in Fredericksburg
Pick your historical poison: World War II at the National Museum of the Pacific War, the Pioneer Museum or Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site.
Get outside and explore Enchanted Rock Cave and Old Tunnel State Park.
And then be sure to swing by one or two of Hill Country's wineries, from Pontotoc Vineyard to Hilmy Cellars, as well as Altstadt Brewery, if you prefer beer.
17. Amarillo, Texas
Searches before lockdown: 18,630
Searches during lockdown: 9,280
Amarillo may be in Texas, but it's anything but large. With less than 200,000 residents, it's a second-tier city with small-town charm. You'll enjoy the best of both worlds with an abundance of activities and attractions surrounded by plenty of wide-open spaces.
What to Do in Amarillo
To stay away from the crowds, try horseback riding outside of the city, strolling through the botanical gardens and exploring the wildlife-filled zoo.
You'll find the Route 66 Historic District and the famous Cadillac Ranch desert of cars as well as the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum for plenty of Americana kitsch.
Museum-packed, Amarillo also offers buildings dedicated to American Quarter Horses, Air and Space, and American Indians — there really is something for everyone deep in the heart of Texas.
16. Bozeman, Montana
Searches before lockdown: 11,160
Searches during lockdown: 5,580
Another Rocky Mountain retreat high on travelers' lists can be found in southern Montana.
Bozeman's mountain location makes stargazing a real treat for those escaping larger destinations, although it is still a good-size city of nearly 50,000 people.
What to Do in Bozeman
In the land of Montana you'll find relics from the beginning of time at the Siebel Dinosaur Complex within the Museum of the Rockies, which features dinosaur specimens found nearby.
Enjoy hiking, biking and, in the winter, skiing in Bozeman's Spanish Peaks, Bridger Range of the Rockies and Gallatin Canyon. And don't miss Palisade Falls, which requires a hike to catch the views.
15. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Searches before lockdown: 15,640
Searches during lockdown: 7,930
The South has its own mountains in which to get lost: the Ozarks. For Eureka Springs, that setting is coupled with a number of cool, crystal natural springs.
There are just about 2,000 people who call this town home, but it's a traveler's paradise with an array of restaurants, shops and attractions to enjoy. It's even more charming when you see its Victorian architecture.
What to Do in Eureka Springs
Eureka Springs' Historical Downtown should be your first stop in your exploration of this Ozark region. Hop on the Eureka Springs Transit, and visit Basin Spring Park, Quigley's Castle or Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge for a taste of the local scene.
Outside of the town, the Onyx Cave Park, Pivot Rock and Natural Bridge, and Lake Leatherwood give you a chance to enjoy nature and the area parks.
14. Rapid City, South Dakota
Searches before lockdown: 11,950
Searches during lockdown: 6,180
Many travelers seeking a safe retreat this summer are looking to the national parks. In South Dakota, Mt. Rushmore is an iconic site that is far removed from most travelers, making nearby Rapid City — the Gateway to Mt. Rushmore — a popular search.
Located in the western part of the state, the city is also within closes proximity to Black Hills National Forest and Badlands National Park, making it a prime national park destination.
What to Do in Rapid City
Besides a visit to the parks, Rapid City is home to Bear Country USA, where you can safely take your car on a safari to check out the area's bears, or visit the Reptile Gardens for a slightly tamer look at animal life.
Still too many live animals for your taste? Try Dinosaur Park or the Museum of Geology instead.
13. Taos, New Mexico
Searches before lockdown: 9,520
Searches during lockdown: 5,000
There are just over 5,000 people who reside in this Pueblo town located in New Mexico's high desert.
A popular destination for winter skiers hitting the Sangre de Cristo Mountain slopes, this town is filled with artisans galleries and museums set in historic adobe buildings.
What to Do in Taos
The famous Rio Grande runs near Taos, and many make their way to the bridge over the gorge to take in the magnificent views while traveling along the Enchanted Circle Drive.
When not pursuing art galleries, it's the outdoor life that lures visitors, with the Wild Rivers Recreation Area, Williams Lake and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument all beckoning.
12. Anchorage, Alaska
Searches before lockdown: 25,790
Searches during lockdown: 13,810
Anchorage may be the largest city in Alaska, but don't let that fool you.
Not only do you have to make it to this remote state, but its location is surrounded by wilderness that you can explore to keep the crowds at bay.
What to Do in Anchorage
Anchorage is the gateway to mountains such as Kenai, Chugach and Talkeetna. And since you've already made your way to the city, travel a little longer to Denali National Park, home to Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in the U.S.
You can reach the park via the Alaska Railroad, which provides fantastic views en route. You'll also find a number of glacier trails, coastal trails and aerial trams.
11. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Searches before lockdown: 11,400
Searches during lockdown: 6,290
Just ahead of Rapid City, people are even more interested in South Dakota's Sioux Falls, which is actually a decent-sized town with nearly 200,000 residents.
The highlight? Its riverfront location allows for the city to be filled with waterfalls. (It was named for this reason!) Follow bike trails around the city, and discover its allure.
What to Do in Sioux Falls
Your first stop in Sioux Falls should be Falls Park to see the impressive falls that run through the city.
Then, turn to the local museums, including Pettigrew Home & Museum, the Old Courtyard Museum and the SculptureWalk with its signature Arc of Dreams piece.
10. Cheyenne, Wyoming
Searches before lockdown: 9,080
Searches during lockdown: 5,080
The capital of Wyoming, as well as the state's largest town, has roots dating back to the Frontier Days.
You'll get a taste of this history from the city's architecture and cultural offerings.
What to Do in Cheyenne
Explore the Frontier with visits to the Wyoming State Museum, the Cheyenne Depot Museum and the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum.
Then, see if you can spot all the colorfully painted Big Boots on display throughout the town.
9. Kauai, Hawaii
Searches before lockdown: 61,230
Searches during lockdown: 34,890
Jetting off to the Hawaiian islands is always the perfect answer when looking for an escape.
That explains why Kauai, one of the state's less crowded islands, seems to be top of mind.
What to Do in Kauai
Don't miss the Garden Isle's many hiking trails, offering spectacular views.
Consider Kalalau Trail and Lookout, Sleeping Giant Trail, or the many beaches and waterfall routes. Trust us — you can't go wrong with any of them.
8. Moab, Utah
Searches before lockdown: 17,630
Searches during lockdown: 10,080
Another town that serves as a gateway to the great outdoors can be found in eastern Utah. Moab awaits just outside the entrances of Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
This is nature's paradise, with some of the most beautiful national parks in the country.
What to Do in Moab
Within the national parks, you can hike trails of red canyons and rocks, or explore them via a four-wheel drive or from the seat of a bicycle.
Then, when the day ends, Moab becomes the place to be with its shops and casual dining spots.
7. Nantucket, Massachusetts
Searches before lockdown: 8,090
Searches during lockdown: 4,720
This tiny island off the coast of Cape Cod has just over 11,000 residents and keeps the same small-town charm as it has since the island was settled in 1641. Other than Nantucket Town, where ships bring passengers to the land, the remaining parts of the island feel isolated from the world.
Quiet beaches, rental homes and seafood shacks serving the fresh catch of the day make for a carefree getaway.
What to Do in Nantucket
The beach is the driving force to the island that began as a whaling community. Surfside Beach, Siasconset Beach, Madaket Beach... there are plenty to while away the days.
Plus, the island is made up of biking paths, so you can discover every inch of the 100-square-mile bit of land.
6. Glacier National Park, Montana
Searches before lockdown: 13,790
Searches during lockdown: 8,190
Glacier National Park in Montana is another national park, featuring the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop. As its name implies, the land was topped with glaciers that carved canyons and valleys, with lakes and rivers still holding the chilly waters.
Want to get away from it all? There are more than 700 hiking trails in this more than 1,500-square-mile park.
What to Do in Glacier National Park
Take a drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road, and see the numerous glacier-made lakes as well as the remnants of actual glaciers.
Tours in the park can include white-water rafting, waterfall hikes, fishing and camping.
Searches before lockdown: 68,300
Searches during lockdown: 40,640
Hawaii returns to the list, this time in the top five. Oahu's Honolulu is the first point of entry for most flights and is a great year-round destination.
The city is the largest of the Hawaii islands but easily provides opportunities to keep your distance, be it in the rainforested mountains or the beaches.
What to Do in Honolulu
While in Honolulu, climb to the top of Diamond Head crater, with views overlooking the city. When you come back down to the water, the wreckage of the USS Arizona is visible from the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
Trails crisscross the island, which is filled with hidden beaches and coves to enjoy privately as well.
4. Aspen, Colorado
Searches before lockdown: 10,130
Searches during lockdown: 6,040
It's no surprise that another Rocky Mountain destination made it into the top five. Aspen, Colorado, began as a mining town and is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year.
Nestled into the hills, there are more than 7,300 people in this town that sits at 8,000 feet. Around town, boutiques, galleries and shops are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
What to Do in Aspen
Hitting the trails is what Aspen is all about, no matter the season. Follow along any number of scenic trails, such as Rio Grande Trail or the Maroon Lake Trail. You can also ascend to the mountaintops on gondolas.
Mountain biking, boating, water sports and more complete your summer camp adventure.
3. Fairbanks, Alaska
Searches before lockdown: 10,720
Searches during lockdown: 6,820
Back in the far reaches of Alaska, the smaller town of Fairbanks provides another distant-travel locale, as it's situated deep within the interior of the state. It's so remote, in fact, that the pandemic did not reach here (as of press time).
Smaller than Anchorage, there are more than 31,000 residents in Fairbanks.
What to Do in Fairbanks
Within the small city are museums such as Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, the University of Alaska Museum, the Aurora Ice Museum and Pioneer Park, where you will not only step into the past but will enjoy some amusements as well.
You'll be in the Arctic Circle in Fairbanks, so follow along James Dalton Highway and take in the scenic views.
2. Yellowstone National Park
Searches before lockdown: 12,990
Searches during lockdown: 8,370
One of the most remote national parks spans across Idaho and Montana, serving as home to hundreds of wildlife welcome to roam free in the 3,500-square-mile park.
What to Do in Yellowstone National Park
Nature abounds in Yellowstone, and time in the park can be spent viewing its waterfalls, canyons, hot springs and valleys.
Whitewater rafting, river floats, kayaking, safari tours and hiking will fill your hours — but make sure to save enough energy to stargaze in the nighttime hours.
Of course, be sure to give a wave to Old Faithful, Yellowstone's famous geyser.
1. Outer Banks, North Carolina
Searches before lockdown: 24,700
Searches during lockdown: 18,530
The most popular destination that people searched for is the Outer Banks, a string of barrier islands that dot the North Carolina coast. Miles and miles of sand dunes and sand-strewn roads stretch along the coastline, where camping on the beach is still allowed.
This is as close to heaven as you may come, with the open sea and beaches inviting you to enjoy time with your fellow travelers in what will feel like your own little world.
What to Do in the Outer Banks
When swimming in the ocean or biking beach paths won't do, visit the many lighthouses scattered about the Outer Banks and find the wild horses that call Currituck Beach home.
For a bit of history, this is where the lost colony of Roanoke Island once lived and went missing as well as where the Wright Brothers learned to fly airplanes.