THE BLOG

15 U.S. Hotspots Nobody Cared About 15 Years Ago

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

By Jason Heidemann for the Orbitz Travel Blog

Remember the early aughts? It was the end of the Y2K crisis and the beginning of the iPod. It was also a time when many American towns and cities were in the midst of revitalization. It's hard to believe now, but if you rewind to '01 many destinations we visit today were still off the tourism radar. Just think about it: Bike lanes were scarce, the words celebrity and chef had not yet been strung together and there were no bearded lumbersexuals to pour you a $5 cup of third wave coffee while you ordered up an Uber on your smart phone. In honor of Orbitz's 15th anniversary, here are 15 U.S. tourist hotspots nobody cared about 15 years ago.

Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn, NY In the '90s BK was still primarily the domain of working families and urban pioneers (we're looking at you Williamsburg) and even by the decade's end Sex and the City's fab four still bristled at the notion of an outer borough visit. These days visitors love it (and also Queens for that matter). The sidewalks are being strolled by the likes of Anne Hathaway and Lena Dunham, there's at least a dozen restaurants where it's near impossible to snag a table and why stay in Manhattan when you've got hotels like the Dazzler and Hotel BPM?

Cleveland, OH

Cleveland, OH Everyone's lovin' the Cleve these days! But did people love it back then? A city that was once arguably the buckle of the Rust Belt has only recently come roaring back. The Drew Carey Show gave it some love back in the day and certainly there's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but it's only in more recent years that media outlets have begun singing the praises of the Gordon Square Arts District and the reopening of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Plus, in August the GOP will host its Republican National Convention there.

Prada store in Marfa, Texas | Flickr CC: Andy Price

Marfa, TX If you've never been to this teensy Lone Star town you're definitely out of the insider's loop. A distant 200 miles from El Paso (the nearest big city), this single-stoplight hamlet in the middle of nowhere doubles as an arts mecca boasting more than a dozen galleries, kickass foods trucks, dive bars, and restaurants (including a late night grilled-cheese parlor) and excellent lodging. Don't miss the Trans-Pecos Festival, Big Bend National Park, the mysterious Marfa Lights and the town's marquee art attraction--the Prada Marfa.

Los Angeles, CA

Downtown Los Angeles Angelenos have long snubbed their compact urban center in favor of sprawling, palm tree-studded enclaves and visitors likewise saw few reasons to pay it any attention. What a difference a decade makes. The Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, which opened in 2003, helped usher in a domino effect of new developments including trendsetting hotels like the Standard and the Ace, the boho cool L.A. Arts District (we love Pie Hole!) and last year's grand opening of the new Broad Museum.

Asbury Park, NJ

Asbury Park, NJ That's right, we're throwing the Garden State some major love. Although Jersey Shore might've put the town of Seaside Heights on all our radars and you'd have to be made of stone not to be aware of Atlantic City's colorful past (and current troubles), fun and funky Asbury Park deserves props for refashioning itself into a low-key and friendly LGBT alternative to Fire Island and P-Town. The action revolves around the Empress Hotel, Asbury Park Beach and a handful of gay bars. Newsflash: Straight folks are also falling for this lively boardwalk city.