(By Thrillest Travel) The process of choosing just 19 places to visit in 2019 was long, arduous, fraught with infighting — nah, just kidding, we had a great time. But by necessity, a list so limited overlooks some truly remarkable corners of this big ‘ole world of ours. As we Sophie’s Choice’d one destination after another, we kept coming across cities in our own backyard that made surprisingly compelling cases for a visit.

Sure, they lack the daydreamy wanderlust of brand names like New Zealand and Morocco, but a handful of American cities have been quietly upping their games, making 2019 the year to visit. Think new entertainment districts and thriving old neighborhoods, renewed support for the arts and more beds for travelers. Yes, food scenes will flourish and breweries will boom, but it’s all the more impressive when a city manages to stick to its roots and dig its heels ever-deeper into whatever it does best — be it bourbon or cattle or fresh veggies or just general weirdness. So by all means, head to Uzbekistan if the spirit moves you. If not, here are eight American destinations proving you don’t have to stray far to find the next cool thing.

 Bricktown Water Taxi

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Modern neighborhoods tap into OKC’s former glory
Settled by robbers and outlaws in the late 1800s, it’s easy to think of Oklahoma as the Australia of America, but it’s time to stop calling it “flyover country.” Having weathered the largest homegrown terrorist attack in U.S. history, enormous economic fluctuation, and of course the infamous tornadoes that sweep through the state in the summertime, Oklahoma City carries chutzpah that is not to be underestimated.

The fast-developing neighborhoods smartly take advantage of their historical roots, like Film Row, which celebrates a direct connection to Hollywood’s golden age of Hollywood. In the Deep Deuce District, the city’s 1920s and ‘30s African American jazz district, new housing and attractions like a whiskey bar and gourmet hot dog eatery are reviving the area. Be sure to swing through Automobile Alley, formerly the center of a thriving automobile manufacturing industry and the district credited with jumpstarting Oklahoma City’s revitalization. The stylish Sidecar Bar features a menu of bar bites, with a wide range of craft cocktails, all at $11 or less. At Water’s Edge Winery, you can find traditional varietals like chardonnay and pinot grigio, or fruit wines made with peach, apple and berries. Read more on Thrillest.