There is no shortage of beautiful places across the US, but the majority of them aren’t found on the average vacationer’s itinerary. If you’re willing to venture off the tourist-trodden path, you may end up in one of this country’s breathtaking, bizarre, or otherwise unforgettable travel spots. For those adventurous spirits seeking a place to start, here are just a few of America’s little-known, or ‘should-not-be-missed’ places.
Door County, Wisconsin
Located on a peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, Door County is overflowing with natural scenery and local art. The county’s 104-year-old Peninsula State Park receives around one million visitors each year, many of whom come to hike, climb and swim along sprawling shorelines. Door’s numerous lighthouses are works of architectural mastery, which double as nature observation areas.
If soaring between the world’s tallest trees sounds exhilarating, you might want to schedule a trip to Arcata. A hamlet nestled away in Humboldt County, Arcata is surrounded by stoic marshlands, as well as a giant redwood forest. Here, the North Coast Adventure Center presents an opportunity to experience redwoods in a way unlike any other; travelers can ascend to the treetops, then strap into the Center’s three ziplines and fly among the hundred-foot-tall trees at thrilling speeds.
Beacon, New York
Those visiting New York City might consider making the less than 90 minute drive to Beacon, a town that also never sleeps, especially during its Second Saturday extravaganzas. I’ve been fond of Beacon since I was a kid, and went to summer camp just outside the village. On the second Saturday of every month, art galleries and stores stocked with unique antiques stay open extra late to hold special events. The town is a haven for food enthusiasts as well; gourmet restaurants abound, and produce comes fresh from the field at the Beacon Farmers Market. Many of the town’s shops are set against a fabulous riverfront backdrop, which also boasts sites of historical interest, like the ruins of Bannerman’s Castle. Driving either of the two routes to Beacon from New York City, Route 9 along the Hudson, or the woodsy Taconic State Parkway, alone would make the trip worthwhile.
Kodiak Island, Alaska
America’s second largest island bears little resemblance to the rest of the country; its Russian monuments and Orthodox churches, there from before 1867, when the United States purchased Alaska from Russia. What’s left of the Russian influence on Kodiak provides a striking contrast to the island’s Native American roots. That diversity is mirrored in the island’s wide range of wildlife, which includes the aptly named Kodiak bear. With gorgeous sights in every direction, Kodiak isle is raw nature at its best: a mecca for bikers, hikers, and all manner of outdoor fanatics.
Deep in the Kentucky hills is where America’s most legendary family dispute boiled over into bloodshed. History buffs know that the Hatfields and McCoys warred along the winding paths of Pikeville 150 years ago; nowadays, however, the area plays host to a much different kind of competition: ATV racing. Pikeville’s Hatfield-McCoy trail is the perfect place to ride; its rugged and varied terrain spans a seven-county swath of magnificent valleys and vistas.
These are only a few of the unforgettable experiences awaiting travelers willing to stray from the beaten path of American tourism. Those willing to traverse the US with open minds and an explorer’s spirit are guaranteed journeys of a lifetime.