50 States, 100 Hidden Treasures
Each state in the U.S. has its own hidden treasures and unique places to visit. No matter where you’re headed, we’ve found some off-the-beaten-path attractions that you just can’t miss. Some are a little out there, some are insanely cool, and all of them are worth the trek.
Photo by Gerrit Ebert
Natural Bridge (Natural Bridge, AL)
This 148-foot-long natural rock bridge is just outside of the William Bankhead National Forest. Naturally formed over 200 million years ago, it’s the longest natural bridge east of the Rockies. An added bonus is the Native American carvings that are just a short walk from the bridge. It is believed to be of a Chief’s head, but no one knows for sure who the man depicted is.
Joe Minter’s African Village in America (Birmingham, AL)
Joe Minter has filled his lawn with art made of different items that he finds. This is his version of recycling, as he makes his sculptures out of things like old sports equipment and hubcaps. His art typically follows the theme of African-American history and is truly one of the most eclectic places in all of Alabama.
Petroglyph Beach (Wrangell, AK)
This beach in southeast Alaska has some of the best preserved Native American rock carvings scattered along its shore. These amazing formations are located about a mile outside of town and are estimated to be about 8,000 years old. Although there is no way to know the true meanings of the carvings, many guesses have been made as to what they are documenting.
Photo from www.traveljuneau.com
Mendenhall Glacier (Juneau, AK)
This 13-mile-long glacier is located just south of downtown in the capital city. It is part of the Tongass National Forest, and it leads right to Mendenhall Lake. Mysteriously, the glacier gives off a unique blue color because of the way that it absorbs the light. Although it may look like it’s sitting still, it is actually moving at a “glacial” pace.
Valley of the Moon (Tucson, AZ)
This unique attraction was built in the 1920s by George Phar Legler whose mission was to spread kindness, imagination and mental health. The winding paths, stone towers and walls, and hidden grottoes give a lot of opportunities for exploration. The Moon is hard to put into words and is a place that you have to see to understand. It is only open on the first Saturdays (free) and third Sundays ($5) of each month, so make sure to check the calendar before going.
Photo from www.wired.com
Biosphere 2 (Oracle, AZ)
Although the original purpose of the biosphere was to study how to maintain human life in space, it is now dedicated to the understanding of many different global scientific issues. This unique building is owned by the University of Arizona and gives tours daily.
Photo from www.americancraftbeer.com
Joseph Knoble Brewery (Fort Smith, AR)
Joseph Knoble Brewery, built in the 1850s, is the only known surviving mid-19th century brewery in the state of Arkansas. Not only is it on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is also a restaurant with a beer garden.
USS Razorback (North Little Rock, AR)
The USS Razorback is open for tours at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum. It is the longest-serving submarine that still exists in the entire world, as it was active for 57 years during World War II, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. Contrary to popular belief, it is not named after Arkansas’s famous mascot, but it actually got its name from a whale species. It is just a happy coincidence.
Photo from www.parks.ca.gov
Bodie Ghost Town (Bodie, CA)
This authentic Wild West ghost town once had a population of 10,000. After the gold-mining started to decline around 1915, people started moving away, with the last person moving away in 1943. The interiors of the buildings remain exactly as they were left. Some are even still stocked with different goods. Take a tour or explore the town on your own.
Hearst Castle (San Simeon, CA)
One of Forbes’s “10 Amazing Castles” was built in 1919 to be the home for famous newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst. Invites to the castle were sought after by Hollywood and political elite, and many famous names have walked through the halls of this beautiful piece of architecture. Hearst even had a private zoo and today, many animals, including zebras, still live on the property.
The Dikeou Collection (Denver, CO)
Located right on the 16th Street Mall is one of the most unusual art galleries in Denver. Two inflatable pink bunnies greet visitors into the contemporary art collection, established in 1988 by the Dikeou siblings, who are artists and art collectors. This free museum features pieces from over 30 international artists.
Photo from gazette.com
Terror-Dactyl (Manitou Springs, CO)
This attraction is for the bravest of adrenaline junkies. The giant swing will take you through Williams Canyon at 100 miles per hour. Located in the Cave of the Wind, this ride is not for the faint of heart.
Photo from www.rgla.com
PEZ Visitor Center (Orange, CT)
Relive your childhood by taking a tour of the candy brand’s headquarters. There are lots of different PEZ themed exhibits, including a PEZ motorcycle and the world’s largest candy dispenser. You can even see the production area and learn how the candy is made and packaged.
Connecticut’s Old State House (Hartford, CT)
Visit the place where “democracy was born” and walk the halls of Connecticut’s political history. The Old State House is also home to the Joseph Steward Museum of Curiosities, which is a collection of strange memorabilia, including a two-headed calf. The building has a reputation for being haunted and is the subject of an episode of Ghost Hunters, so check out the curiosities and watch out for ghosts!
Photo from www.delawaretoday.com
University of Delaware Mineralogical Museum (Newark, DE)
This museum truly is a hidden “gem.” With lots of different rare and unusual minerals, the museum features skillfully carved gemstones and natural crystals. The museum began with Irene du Pont Sr.’s donated collection, and new finds are added each day.
Nanticoke Indian Museum (Millsboro, DE)
This museum depicts the way of life for the Nanticoke Indian Tribe many, many years ago. Displays show different homemade tools, like arrowheads and axes. There is also lots of artwork, pottery and clothing on display. The museum even has a replica of the village that the Nanticoke lived in. Some of the artifacts date back to 8000 BC.
Photo by Colin Hackley
Falling Waters (Chipley, FL)
Reaching 100 feet high, Falling Waters is Florida’s highest waterfall. It falls into a giant sinkhole, and the final destination of the water is still unknown. There are walking trails that take you to other sinkholes, and one that even goes to a butterfly garden.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (Key Biscayne, FL)
This state park is home to the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County – a lighthouse that was built in 1825. There are tours of the lighthouse and the lighthouse keeper’s cottage, along with a beautiful beach, ranked as one of the “Top 10 Beaches in America.” Complete with two Cuban restaurants, this is the perfect place for a day trip.
Photo by Dina Eric
Georgia Guidestones (Elberton, GA)
Built in 1980, a set of stones that show 10 “guidelines” in eight different languages stand tall in Georgia. This attraction is sometimes referred to as “American Stonehenge.” They have been the center of quite a few conspiracy theories, as no one actually knows the origin or true meaning behind the stones.
Lunchbox Museum (Columbus, GA)
Allen Woodall, Jr. has put his lunchbox collection on display. He has thousands of different metal lunchboxes, and any of his duplicates are for sale. He also has other collections on display too, including Southern stoneware, model airplanes, and classic cars.
Photo from TripAdvisor
Corsair Plane Wreck (Oahu, HI)
Scuba divers can explore the plane wreck just 3 miles out form the Hawaii Kai marina. A Captain on a mission from Pearl Harbor ran out of fuel in 1948. He made a perfect water landing, allowing the plane to sink to the bottom of the ocean with no damage. The Captain was rescued and is responsible for the perfect scuba dive location.
Dole Plantation (Wahiawa, HI)
This pineapple attraction began simply as a fruit stand in 1950. Now, the Dole Plantation offers many different entertainment options, including the Pineapple Express Train Tour, Plantation Garden Tour, and the Pineapple Garden Maze. No trip to the plantation is complete without trying the world famous DoleWhip.
City of Rocks National Reserve (Almo, ID)
The Reserve not only covers 6.2 miles of the California National Historic Trail, but also boasts giant granite formations standing over 70 stories tall. It’s the perfect place for rock climbers. The Reserve is also home to Idaho’s only pinyon pine forest. There are lots of different activities for visitors, including camping, hiking, rock climbing and horseback riding.
Dog Bark Park Inn (Cottonwood, ID)
Photo from www.complexmania.com
This unique bed & breakfast is in a building made in the shape of a beagle. The rooms inside of “Sweet Willy” are dog themed and are every dog person’s dream. Conveniently, reservations for a room can be made on Airbnb, where the inn gets rave reviews.
Honorable Mentions: Three Island Crossing (Glenns Ferry, ID)
Floating Winery (Grafton, IL)
This winery floats down the Mississippi River as you taste over 100 wines from all around the world. The Grafton Harbor has been nicknamed “The Key West of the Midwest,” so it definitely promises a good time.
Gold Pyramid House (Wadsworth, IL)
Tours are available of this home that was inspired by the magic of the Egyptian pyramids. The six-story home is the largest 24-karat gold-plated object in North America. The home is guarded by a 50-foot statue of King Tut. The owners of the pyramid use five words to describe it: “Power, Gold, Mystery, Exotic, Impressive.”
Honorable Mentions: Cave-in-Rock (Hardin County, IL)
Photo from activerain.com
Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum (Elkhart, IN)
This Indiana museum features 80 years of comics, toys, film and animation history. The Hall of Heroes is home to many rare items, 60,000 comic books, and 10,000 toys. It also displays quite a few original movie props, including Captain America’s shield from the first movie and Adam West’s personal Batman costume.
Mooresville’s Gravity Hill (Mooresville, IN)
This mysterious optical illusion seems to defy gravity. It seems to pull objects at the bottom back up the hill. The best way to try this is with an object, like a basketball or can of soda, and be amazed as it starts to roll up the hill. However, if you are feeling extra risky, some people have tried parking at the bottom, putting their cars in neutral and watching as they get pulled back up the hill.
Photo from en.wikipedia.org
American Gothic House (Eldon, IA)
The home is the backdrop of the famous Grant Wood painting, American Gothic. Although it was a private residence, it now is available for tours. The neighboring visitor’s center contains an exhibit about the painting and provides similar outfits to those that the subjects of the painting are wearing so that visitors can have their photo taken.
Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden (Des Moines, IA)
Ever wanted to be on set of a magazine photo shoot? Well, this is pretty close. The Test Garden is not only the testing grounds for new plants for Better Homes and Gardens, but it is also the site where the majority of their garden photo shoots are taken. Visitors are free to roam on their own or can request a tour.
A Kansas artist, Erika Nelson, created a museum that is dedicated to iconic roadside attractions. She travels to the World’s Largest Things, takes a photo and creates a tiny replica to be added to her collection. Quite a few of the small versions have even been back to visit their larger counterparts, and those photos are also on display.
Photo from www.dorothyshouse.com
Dorothy’s House and Land of Oz (Liberal, KS)
Liberal, KS has proclaimed itself the official home of Dorothy from the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz. You can take a tour led by guides dressed as Dorothy through a replica of the home from the movie as well as the Land of Oz. There is a 5,000 square foot exhibit and animated journey that takes you through the movie.
National Corvette Museum (Bowling Green, KY)
This museum is home to over 80 Corvettes from a wide span of time periods, including some special, one-of-a-kind models. The museum’s Hall of Fame honors people who have made significant contributions to the Corvette brand, like racers or general managers. Out back, there is a race track where a professional driver can take you on a ride in one of the Corvettes.
Photo by Bill Fultz
Cumberland Falls State Park (Williamsburg, KY)
The State Park is most famous for the waterfall that is located there, sometimes referred to as “Little Niagra.” Cumberland Falls is the only place in the Western Hemisphere where a moonbow is regularly visible. A moonbow is a rainbow that is produced by moonlight instead of by sunlight. The moonbows are best when there is a full moon, and the Kentucky Department of Parks regularly updates their schedule so visitors know when one will be visible.
Sideshow Props (Slidell, LA)
This warehouse is the home of a wide variety of props and sets from popular TV shows and movies. Step into the world of American Horror Story, Django Unchained, Maze Runner, and many, many others.
Photo from www.louisianatravel.com
Poverty Point World Heritage Site (Pioneer, LA)
This ancient Native American settlement was handbuilt well over 3,400 years ago. The stunning landscapes, 72-foot-tall mound and half-circles were once home to a couple of Native American tribes, but it was abandoned around 1100 B.C. with minimal human activity since. No one knows the true meaning behind the formations or why they were built.
Cliff Trail (Harpswell, ME)
There is a hiking trail right behind Town Hall in Harpswell, ME. It leads to a cliff overlook about 150 feet off the ground. That’s not the only place to see an amazing view, as the entire trail runs alongside Strawberry Creek. Along the trail, there are fairy houses which are little “homes” built out of all-natural materials. Visitors are invited to build their own for others to find.
Photo by Glen Abbott
Wild Blueberry Land (Columbia Falls, ME)
This interesting roadside attraction celebrates the wild blueberry – one of just three fruits native to North America. The main attraction at the park is the giant blueberry-shaped building selling quirky souvenirs, blueberry jams and jellies, and the most popular items – scones and pies. There is also a wild blueberry themed mini golf course in the back.
Smith Island (Smith Island, MD)
Smith island, right in the Chesapeake Bay, is only accessible by boat. Catch a ferry out there to try the world’s best crab cake and homemade eight-layer Smith Island cake, the official dessert of Maryland. Although you can’t take your car with you, there are golf carts and bikes available for rental to explore the island.
Dan’s Rock (Midland, MD)
Dan’s Rock sits at the top of Dan’s Mountain, which is 2,898 feet tall, making it one of the tallest points in Maryland. It’s a great spot for hikers and rock climbers, and at the very top, you can enjoy an amazing view of the Potomac River flowing into West Virginia.
Photo from www.marybakereddylibrary.org
Mapparium (Boston, MA)
This three-story, stained glass globe shows the world map as it was in 1935. It is the only place in the world where the surface of the earth is seen without distortion since you view it from the inside instead of the outside. Another phenomenon of the globe is its acoustics. Sometimes it is referred to as the “whispering gallery” because if you whisper something on one side of the globe, someone standing on the other side will be able to hear you loud and clear.
The Witch House of Salem (Salem, MA)
The Witch House used to be the home of Witch Trials Judge, Jonathan Corwin. It is the only structure still standing directly tied to the Witch Trials of 1692. Tours of the home incorporate history of the Witch Trials as well as information on seventeenth century architecture.
Honorable Mentions: Silo Studio Cottage (Tyringham, MA)
Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum (Farmington Hills, MI)
Marvin has been collecting vintage, coin-operated machines since the 1950s. In 1990, he decided to open up a museum. Most of the machines still work, so visitors are encouraged to bring coins with them in order to really enjoy all of the games and attractions.
Photo by Keith Watson
The Bottle House (Kaleva, MI)
In the small town of Kaleva (population 509), there sits a home constructed out of 60,000 bottles from a local bottling factory. Although it was originally built to be a family home, it is now a historical museum featuring items from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Rumor has it that the word “pop,” which some people use in the place of “soda,” originated at this bottling factory, but who truly knows?
Photo from www.trendhunter.com
SPAM Museum (Austin, MN)
The ultimate mystery meat has its own museum in the same town its mother company is headquartered in. Interactive exhibits walk visitors through the history of the company and the development of the canned meat. You can even participate in working the assembly line that produces about 44,000 cans an hour.
Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station (Cloquet, MN)
The famous architect once had plans for an entire futuristic, utopian society that he wanted to build. Although, he never got to do that before his death in 1959, one piece of it did get built – a gas station in Minnesota. It’s built in a futuristic style, complete with a watchtower on top. The gas station is still open and is the perfect place for a fun fill-up.
Photo from audubonphotography.com
Red Bluff (Morgantown, MS)
Mississippi’s “Little Grand Canyon” lives up to its name with steep slopes of red clay, soil and sand. It’s a great place to hike and a nice little surprise that’s different from the rest of the geography of Mississippi.
Small Town, Mississippi (Jackson, MS)
Located at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, Small Town, Mississippi is a life-size replica of a 1920s crossroads town. The goal is to preserve a way of life that doesn’t exist anymore. In the town, there is a blacksmith shop, doctor’s office, schoolhouse, and many other different buildings and shops that depict what life used to be like.
World Chess Hall of Fame (St. Louis, MO)
The World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis is home to both the U.S. and World Chess Halls of Fame. On top of that, the museum offers different exhibits that walk visitors through the history of the game. It features trophies, scorecards, chess sets and other important artifacts from some of the world’s most significant players.
Photo from www.tripsavvy.com
Berlin Wall (Fulton, MO)
A piece of the Berlin Wall stands on a small college campus in central Missouri. Westminster College was the site of Winston Churchill’s famous “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946 and now, the National Churchill Museum. One year after the wall fell, his granddaughter, Edwina Sandys, proposed moving a piece of the wall to the site of the famous speech.
Photo from www.survival-homestead-for-sale.com
Yaak Valley (Yaak, MT)
This valley is unique because it is one of the most biologically diverse areas in all of Montana. Because of its low elevation and high precipitation, it is classified as a rainforest – the only one in Montana. Although it is not home to many humans, it is home to lots of wildlife, including grizzly bears, lynx and mountain lions.
Havre Beneath the Streets (Havre, MT)
After most of the city burned down in 1904, Havre shopkeepers restarted their businesses in their basements. Eventually, a tunnel system was built to connect all of the shops, which became useful for smuggling liquor during Prohibition. You can take a tour of the town, most of which has been moved back above ground.
Honorable Mentions: The World’s Shortest River (Arlee, MT)
Photo from visitnebraska.com
Happy Jack Chalk Mine (Scotia, NE)
The chalk mine opened about 130 years ago and peaked in the 1920s. As chalk’s popularity declined, so did the need for the mine, so it is now open for the public to tour the 6,000 feet of tunnels. Bring a jacket because the mines sit at a cool 56 degrees all year long.
National Museum of Roller Skating (Lincoln, NE)
This museum, located inside the headquarters for USA Roller Sports, highlights people and artifacts that have made roller history. There are many different exhibits, including one on the evolution of roller skates. Different types of skating are covered in the exhibits, like roller hockey, speed skating and roller derby.
Photo from thingstodoinlasvegas.com
Neon Museum (Las Vegas, NV)
This unique museum is dedicated to iconic Las Vegas signs. Each one displayed is a national treasure of artistic and historical importance. Outside of the museum is the Neon Boneyard, which is an exhibition of giant neon signs. This part of the museum is only available through a guided tour.
Fly Geyser (Gerlach, NV)
Around 40 years ago, a geyser was created in a well-drilling-gone-wrong. Dissolved minerals began accumulating (and continue accumulate) to create the unique shape. Geothermal boiling water is constantly being sprayed from the top, and the vivid colors along the sides are caused by thermophilic algae.
Photo by Richard Rogers
Redstone Rocket (Warren, NH)
The Redstone Rocket is a decommissioned missile now installed in the middle of a public park. This missile was the first to carry nuclear weapons and was used for many other military missions during the Cold War.
Benson’s Park (Hudson, NH)
Formerly Benson’s Wild Animal Farm, this closed zoo turned public park is a nice place to spend a couple of hours. The animal cages are still standing, so visitors can see what a zoo would look like from the opposite perspective. There is also a miniature railroad, a 9/11 memorial, and an “Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe” model home. Benson’s Park was once home to the huge gorilla that once ran for President of the United States!
The Brewer’s Apprentice (Freehold, NJ)
This unique brewery offers the option for visitors to make their own beer, wine or mead right on the premises. The process can take weeks, however, so this is the place to go to if you’re on a long-term visit or just a local looking for fun things to do. Even still, it’s a cool place to look through, especially if they have an event going on!
Photo by Marion Brown
The Hermitage Museum (Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ)
This museum was the home of Aaron Burr’s wife during the Revolutionary War (even though they didn’t actually get married until after the war). During times of fighting, the house acted as General George Washington’s headquarters for him and his team. After being passed through multiple owners and acting as a restaurant for a while, the house was given to the state of New Jersey. A trip to the museum will take you through over 250 years of American history.
Photo from boardingpasstraveler.com
Plaza Blanca (Abiquiu, NM)
Plaza Blanca’s white limestone rock formation is the subject of Georgia O’Keefe’s painting, “The White Place,” along with many other painting and photographs. This unique wonder is a great place to take a hike and also is a gorgeous view! Just don’t forget your good hiking shoes.
The Lightning Field (Quemado, NM)
On this remote desert stands 400 stainless steel poles just over 20 feet tall to attract lightning. You shouldn’t visit during a storm, but the poles are beautiful during sunrise and sunset when they reflect a unique gold. It’s been said that standing right in the middle of Lightning Field is a “mind-altering” experience. Not many people can visit at once, so don’t forget to make reservations before you go.
Photo by Jung Hee Choi
Dream House (New York, NY)
Not your typical dream house, this truly unique place is hard to describe. A composer and artist worked together to create a place that would fully submerge visitors into a sound and light experience. Every move you make creates a sound while you’re simultaneously completely surrounded by neon pink light.
Mmuseumm (New York, NY)
This tiny museum is easy to walk right by if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Housed in a freight elevator down an alley, this museum is dedicated to displaying the overlooked, dismissed or ignored.” One item they have is the shoe that was thrown at George W. Bush in Baghdad. Some exhibitions are World-Leader-Used-Tissues and Bread Clips or Occlupanid Taxonomy.
Secret Falls (Highlands, NC)
This appropriately-named waterfall is unknown to most people, so you definitely will not find a lot of tourists here. At the bottom is a swimming hole, and all of this is just an easy half-mile hike from the parking area.
Photo by Christina Cooke
Mirlo Beach (Rodanthe, NC)
This whimsical town was once a bustling oceanfront community. However, since the beach erodes at 14 feet a year, a lot of it has been destroyed. There are houses on stilts out in the water, but originally, they were built three blocks from the ocean. This little town is definitely a must-see before it all washes away.
Photo from www.ndtourism.com
International Peace Garden (Dunseith, ND)
The large International Peace Garden sits on the border between North Dakota and Canada. It was originally created to honor 200 years of peace between the U.S. and Canada. The garden features a Peace Chapel, a 9/11 memorial, a floral clock and floral flags, and much, much more.
The Village of Murals (Jud, ND)
The town of Jud, ND is truly a tiny town. With only 76 residents, you may be wondering why we’re recommending you check it out. Not only are there lots of neat, unique and historical buildings, but almost every flat surface in the town is covered by a mural. These paintings are definitely a sight to see.
Honorable Mentions: Enchanted Highway (Regent, ND)
Glacial Grooves (Kelleys Island, OH)
When the same glacier that created the Great Lakes was moving through Ohio, rocks and debris that were caught in the ice cut into the limestone ground, creating the Grooves. The Glacial Grooves on Kelleys Island are the largest and most accessible grooves in the world.
Photo from www.themohicans.net
The Mohicans (Glenmont, OH)
Have an adventure in the forest and stay in one of these treehouses or cabins for the night. All the lodging was built with sustainability in mind, using solar power and recycled materials. The business operates on a “Leave No Trace” model and asks that visitors do so as well.
Great Salt Plains State Park (Jet, OK)
The Great Salt Plains State Park is covered with leftover salt from when the ocean covered Oklahoma in prehistoric times. There is also a lake in the area, the Great Salt Plains Lake, that is half as salty as the ocean. There are lots of activities to do – swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, and digging for crystals. Oklahoma is the only place in the world where the crystals are naturally hourglass shaped.
Photo from maps.roadtrippers.com
Chris Barbee’s Bowling Ball Yard Art (Nowata, OK)
Started as a memorial for his wife, Chris started making sculptures out of bowling balls, which quickly gave him the nickname of “Bowling Ball Man.” All over his lawn are pieces of artwork and specialty bowling balls, like Scooby-Doo, Star Wars, NASCAR and many more.
Honorable Mentions: Little Sahara State Park (Waynoka, OK)
Dee Wright Observatory (Blue River, OR)
This structure was built on the summit of McKenzie Pass out of lava stone. The observatory has holes in the walls that specifically frame the peaks of neighboring mountains to ensure the best view of them. On top of that, the lava stone gives the structure a very unique look.
Photo from www.oregonlive.com
Oregon Vortex and House of Mystery (Gold Hill, OR)
The Oregon House of Mystery is a place full of strange things that no one – not even the tour guides – can explain. Crooked buildings, things rolling uphill, people randomly losing their balance and changing height all make for one interesting roadside attraction. Legend has it all these phenomenons are due to a paranormal presence on the land, but we guess you’ll just have to check it out for yourself to decide.
Martin Guitar Factory and Museum (Nazareth, PA)
One of the most famous guitar brands – whose owners include Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Freedy Johnston – is open in Nazareth for free tours. The factory takes visitors through the 300 steps it takes to make the perfect guitar, and the museum tells the history of guitar-making from the first days of the instrument to the state-of-the-art process used today.
Photo by M. Edlow
Eastern State Penitentiary (Philadelphia, PA)
The Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous prison in the world, as it was the first “penitentiary” style prison. Meant to reform rather than punish, the design of the prison was revolutionary. Over 300 prisons worldwide have been modeled after Eastern State since its creation. Take a tour of the halls once occupied by famous criminals like “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone.
Photo from www.visitrhodeisland.com
Beavertail State Park (Jamestown, RI)
During the Revolutionary War, this area housed many different military forts. Now, it’s been turned into a unique state park. There is a lighthouse with a museum attached, hiking trails, overlooks with amazing views and some of the best saltwater fishing in the area.
Fantastic Umbrella Factory (Charlestown, RI)
Despite the name, this is not a place where umbrellas are made or a museum all about the history of people getting rained on. In fact, it is marketplace that sells items from local and international craftspeople. From stained glass to handmade jewelry to instruments, the Umbrella Factory offers the most unique gifts.
Ovis Hill Farm (Timmonsville, SC)
This farm offers tours that are fun for the whole family. In the barn, you can hang out with the animals, bottle feed the cows, and make your own butter. There are different types of tours the farm offers, so make sure to call in advance before going.
Photo from www.dwhike.com
Hagood Mill (Pickens, SC)
The Hagood Mill is the perfect place to take a step back in time and truly experience history. Along with a fully functioning 1845 water-powered gristmill, there are also two restored log cabins, a cotton gin, and nature trails.
Honorable Mentions: La Bastide des Lavandes (York, SC)
Photo from en.wikipedia.org
The Corn Palace (Mitchell, SD)
The world’s only Corn Palace features murals on the walls made out of colored corn. Each year, the murals come down, and new ones go up, using 13 different colors of corn. There are tours to show visitors the process that goes behind creating the giant masterpieces. Surprisingly, when The Corn Palace isn’t open to visitors, it’s used for proms, graduations and even basketball tournaments.
Art Alley (Rapid City, SD)
Close to Main Street in the heart of downtown Rapid City sits an alley dedicated to the freedom of expression. A public art project that began in 2005 attracts artists of all ages and encourages them to leave their mark (literally) on the walls. As you walk through, you’ll notice that the “art gallery” changes daily as more and more people paint over what was previously there.
The Secret City (Oak Ridge, TN)
In 1942, the federal government mysteriously purchased the land in Oak Ridge and created an entire community from scratch. Turns out, this was the first and largest of the three Manhattan Project sites used to develop the atomic bomb. The town was one giant secret – couldn’t be found on a map and billboards on roads leaving town read, “What you see here, what you do here, what you hear here, what you leave here – let it stay here.” Now, it’s just like any other town – just with abandoned guard towers around the perimeter and a museum dedicated to the Manhattan Project.
Photo from maps.roadtrippers.com
The Lost Sea (Sweetwater, TN)
Underneath the ground of Sweetwater is a giant lake. Hike through the caves, and at the very end take a boat ride around America’s Largest Underground Lake. There are also a few nature trails around the outside of the caves, so it’s a great geological adventure.
Marfa (Marfa, TX)
This interesting small town has quite the arts and culture scene. Artists have installed their work here, and many movies have used it as a filming location. Most famous of all, however, is probably the Marfa lights, which can be observed near US Route 67. No one can really explain where they come from, although many people have given theories – from paranormal activity to mirages from temperature changes, to simply reflections of car lights.
Photo by Jeff Lynch
Cattail Falls at Big Bend National Park (Cattail Falls, TX)
Cattail Falls is one of Texas’s best kept secrets! Not many people know about it and it can’t be found on any of the trail maps, but when you get to the end, you’ll understand why the long hike is totally worth it. The trail ends at a canyon with a beautiful waterfall, which some have described as a “rewarding oasis.”
Photo by Nancy Holt
Sun Tunnels (Lucin, UT)
These 22 ton concrete tunnels sit in the middle of the desert, with the purpose of “bringing the sky down to earth.” Holes are drilled in the sides to line up perfectly with the sunrise, sunset, and a few constellations. They are amazing all year long, but especially during summer and winter solstices.
Ice Castles (Midway, UT)
During the winters in Midway, there is a giant castle made solely out of ice. Visitors are encouraged to explore the beautiful outside, rooms inside, and furniture all made of ice. Because frozen water is the only material used to build this masterpiece, it is only open during the winter season after its been rebuilt.
Photo from www.benjerry.com
Ben and Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard (Waterbury, VT)
Ever wondered what happens to those delicious Ben and Jerry’s flavors after they’ve been retired from the shelves? Turns out, they are laid to rest in their very own cemetery, right behind their Vermont factory (which is open for tours daily). Each headstone has a clever little poem describing the taste, so pay your respects to your favorite flavors by dropping in for a quick visit.
The Museum of Everyday Life (Glover, VT)
In a society full of crazy and unusual museums, here’s one filled with perfectly familiar objects. Collections and exhibitions rotate through, and some past ones have included the full history of the safety pin, the match, and the toothbrush.
Honorable Mentions: The World’s Only Dog Chapel (St. Johnsbury, VT)
Photo from www.smithsonianmag.com
President Heads (Williamsburg, VA)
On a private farm in rural Virginia stand 43 giant busts of past American presidents. When Presidents Park, their previous home, closed in 2010, a Virginia man, Howard Hankins, couldn’t bear to see the sculptures destroyed, so he transferred all of the 22,000 pound heads to his property. Please note that the presidents do now live on private property, so visitors are not always allowed. Explore at your own risk (or just drive by)!
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum (Alexandria, VA)
This building used to be the home of a historic medication company, owned by generations of one family, but was forced to close its doors during the Great Depression. Almost immediately, it was turned into a museum and most of the inside looks exactly as it did on the store’s last day of business. Over the years, products were sold to many famous war veterans, including George Washington and Robert E. Lee.
Photo from Flickr
Blue Lake Rhino Cave (Coulee City, WA)
Not only does the opening to this cave look like the body of a rhinoceros, it was one! Back in ancient times, a volcano erupted, and unfortunately the rhino couldn’t escape. Lava cooled around the shape of the animal, creating a new cave. The outside is also a great place for hiking and rock climbing.
Official Bad Art Museum of Art (Seattle, WA)
This art museum celebrates the most tacky and terrible pieces. Located inside Cafe Racer (which has the artery-clogging Wonder Weiner on the menu), the gallery features those black velvet paintings, paint-by-number pictures and paintings of dogs playing poker.
Photo from blenko.com
Blenko Glass (Milton, WV)
The Blenko Glass factory has been making hand-blown glass since 1893. The craft was passed down through the family ever since. Tours are offered of the manufacturing facility, where visitors can watch colorful glass being blown, see some historic pieces, and stroll through the shop which sells recently completed pieces.
Hutte Swiss Restaurant (Helvetia, WV)
In a tiny West Virginia town, population 59, there sits a traditional Swiss restaurant. The menu is full of secret Swiss family restaurants, giving it a super authentic feel. Visitors have said eating at this restaurant is truly a unique dining experience.
Honorable Mentions: Blackwater Falls (Davis, WV), Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (Weston, WV), Congressional Fallout Shelter at Greenbrier Resort (White Sulphur Springs, WV)
Photo from www.thehouseontherock.com
House on the Rock (Spring Green, WI)
On top of Deer Shelter Rock sits a house built by Alex Jordan, Jr. who drew his inspiration from his father, Alex Jordan, Sr., and Frank Lloyd Wright. Since it first opened to the public in 1959, many structures have been added to make it into a community of tourist attractions. Not only is it home to the world’s largest indoor carousel, but there is also the “Infinity Room” which juts out 218 feet from the edge of rock – with no supports underneath!
The Rock in the House (Fountain City, WI)
Unlike the mirror of its name (see above), this landmark happened by chance. In an unfortunate accident, a 55-ton boulder came tumbling down a hill and crashed right into the house sitting at the bottom. Luckily, no one was injured in the accident, and instead of paying a fortune to have it removed, they opened the otherwise unremarkable house for tours.
Photo by Ruffin Prevost
Meeteetse Chocolatier (Meeteetse, WY)
Tim Kellogg, a true Wyoming cowboy, hand makes and sells chocolates daily. He sells specialized truffles, brownies and other sweet treats. A huge emphasis is placed on sustainability by using recycled materials, and the chocolatier only produces one bag of garbage a week. If you want to taste these candies, you’ll have to travel to Wyoming, as he doesn’t sell anywhere else so that he can ensure the quality of his chocolate.
Oregon Trail Ruts (Guernsey, WY)
Throughout history, the Oregon Trail has been one of the most widely used trails among western migrants. Due to such heavy use, some parts have been really worn down, causing wagons to get stuck. These ruts have been preserved, so visitors can actually see some of the abandoned wagons.
Honorable Mentions: Medicine Wheel (Lovell, WY)
Did we miss something in your state? Let us know what your favorite places are!