The opportunity to try a local food specialty or walk down historic cobblestone streets without hordes of tourists! That’s what more and more travelers are seeking. So here are five less-known North American cities (to add to last year’s selection) of special appeal to explorers who venture beyond the typical sightseer circuit. They promise visitors a special experience, from the sizzling spicy cuisine of New Orleans to British Columbia’s garden city.

Savannah, Georgia, USA

Discover Savannah on your next home exchange

This lovely southern belle is the oldest city in Georgia, and a big destination for history buffs. Savannah takes its name from the river that flows through its center, which once served as an important port during the American Revolution, and drew attention as site of the sailing events for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Hot and humid summers add to the city’s rich and colorful character, making the classic sweet tea even more refreshing, especially when served on a restaurant patio in Savannah’s downtown area, one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States. River Street is also an active nightlife center, and the site of many festivals throughout the year.

But southern hospitality is evident in absolutely everything, from the classic antebellum architecture and expansive parks to the famous BBQ or seafood fare. There’s even a top-notch art and gallery scene anchored in part by the Savannah College of Art and Design, a prestigious art university.

Explore Savannah

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico

Discover San Miguel de Allende on your next home exchange

San Miguel de Allende is a colonial town in the heart of Mexico that enjoys moderate weather throughout the year. Perhaps that’s why nearly 10% of its 100,000 residents are Canadian and American expats!

Dramatic pink Neo-Gothic spires pierce the blue sky from the church located on El Jardin, the plaza at the heart of town. Equally colorful walls and tiled mosaics brighten an artistic city that gracefully balances the new and the old. Also a UNESCO World Heritage site, San Miguel de Allende is not far from relaxing hot springs, venerated churches such as the Sanctuary of Atotonilco, and the historic district of the town of Dolores Hidalgo, renowned for its beautiful pottery craftsmanship.

In addition, San Miguel de Allende has a host of great restaurants and shops, and an active theatre and concert scene. Grab a copy of Atención, the local Spanish and English newspaper to find out what’s happening that day.

Travel to San Miguel de Allende

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Discover Victoria on your next home exchange

Walk along the harbor to downtown Victoria, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, and you’ll understand why British Columbia’s ocean-side capital city is affectionately called “The Garden City.” Of course, its famous Butchart Gardens are a top tourist attractions and consistently rank among the best gardens in the world. Cruise ships, sailors and kayakers frequent the harbor, and visitors always enjoy the charming Fisherman’s Wharf.

Another landmark – the ivy-covered Empress Hotel – offers a classic and pricey British tea. For more options, head downtown and discover why foodies and shoppers flock to this city. Don’t skip a visit to the Royal British Columbia Museum, which features hundreds of artifacts, specimens and an IMAX theater. Better yet, get out and bike or hike in the nearby Beacon Hill Park. Mind the wild peacocks!

Visit Victoria, BC

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Discover New Orleans on your next home exchange

New Orleans is a city for the senses! Savor the powdered sugar as you bite into a beignet, a traditional deep-fried pastry. Listen to world-class musicians for free as you stroll through the French Quarter. People watch on Bourbon Street after dark, as its bars and clubs burst with life… and tourists toting hurricane cocktails. Smell the spices sizzling in a classic jambalaya, a Spanish and French fusion dish combining chicken, sausage, rice and vegetables.

Yes, the hot tunes and cuisine of New Orleans (pronounced “Naw-lins” by locals) keep this place bustling throughout the year, not just during Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest.

Be sure to set aside time to enjoy the greener sides of the city too, such as the Audubon Nature Institute’s world-class zoo, aquarium and parks. Visit Tulane or Loyola University, take a swamp tour, or read a book under a moss-draped oak tree.

Homes in New Orleans

Carmel, California, USA

Discover Carmel on your next home exchange

Slow down the pace of life at Carmel by the Sea, situated on the Monterey Peninsula two hours south of San Francisco. This California coastal town has no streetlights or even street numbers, but it does boast stunning natural scenery and an eclectic art scene!

The quaint downtown features restaurants, art galleries and historical museums, many of which are dog friendly. Also appealing is a picnic on the white sand beach notable for stunning sunsets and sea-glass combing. Perhaps you’ll see a whale in the distance or a sea otter floating near the shore. Learn more about sea life at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the most highly regarded aquariums in the world.

Golf fans will have heard of the legendary Pebble Beach Links, which has been the site of many of the sport’s premier tournaments. Right nearby is Big Sur, a spectacular region with Redwood forests tucked along rugged cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Homes in Carmel