If you want to steer clear of tourist crowds or just want to see what else there is besides all the major attractions, America’s best kept travel secrets are calling to you. These are the places known to locals or those travel blog writers who specialize in seeking out off the beaten track attractions and places to go. If I were one of the latter, these would make my list of America’s best kept travel secrets.
You've heard of the famous beaches, like Waikiki Beach or Venice Beach, but there are wonderful beaches that are a little more serene and certainly less crowded, and are some of America’s best kept travel secrets. Observe a large variety of wildlife at Caladesi Beach, Florida, accessible only by private boat or ferry. See purple sand at Pfeiffer Beach in California, caused by manganese garnet particles that wash down the hillside. Walk along the pebbles at Orient Beach in New York and find yourself at the Long Beach Bar Lighthouse. Rugged Ruby Beach in Washington has unusual rock outcroppings that seem somewhat other-worldly.
What's better on a hot summer day than jumping into a cool swimming hole with a big splash? The Blue Hole in New Mexico is a crystal clear-blue artesian well that is a pleasant 64 degrees F. all the time. It's a favorite of scuba divers, with visibility up to 80 feet. Another Blue Hole, this time in Texas, is part of Blue Hole Regional Park, and offers a cool, spring fed blue pool that's inviting for swimming on a hot day or just lazing around on an inner tube. For a little more excitement try one of the 3 rope swings. Yet another blue hole (there seems to be a pattern forming here) called Peekamoose Blue Hole, located in New York, offers a deep, cold, deep, aqua-colored pool with a rope swing at the deepest end.
Who says you have to go abroad to see castles? Castles are among America’s best kept travel secrets. Bishop Castle in Colorado has Gothic-style architecture and has details to delight any visitor, including a castle dragon. Wing’s Castle in New York was the brainchild of Peter and Toni Ann Wing, and built from 80% recycled materials. Along with tours, it offers bed-and-breakfast accommodations. In Salisbury Park in Massachusetts stands Bancroft Tower, a miniature castle erected in 1900 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Caves and caverns are all over the U.S., and some are even famous. Most people have heard of the Carlsbad Caverns or Mammoth Cave. There are other lesser known caves and caverns that are great vacation day trips. The Smallin Civil War Cave in Missouri was likely used for war related activities during the civil war. It has walkways and areas to explore, as well as beautiful waterfalls. Secret Cavern in New York offers guided tours through stalactites, stalagmites and other water-formed stone features and arrives at an underground waterfall. Kartchner Caverns State Park in Arizona displays glittery quartz formations and a view of an 80,000 year old Shasta ground sloth fossil.
Everyone’s heard of Yosemite or Yellowstone National parks, but there are lots of lesser-known state parks that deserve more attention. Try parks like Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee, and enjoy a network of hiking trails along with several water features, like Fall Creek Falls itself. John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park in Florida offers glass bottom boat tours for close-up views of reef life. Why not try Custer State Park in South Dakota’s Black Hills, where wild bison still roam free?
Art can be found where you least expect it. For example, visit the Heidelberg Project in Detroit, Michigan. Artist Tyree Guyton began the project on the street he grew up on, where he began decorating houses with polka dots and salvaged items. In North Carolina, visit Vollis Simpson’s Whirligigs, an installation of 30 super large spinning pinwheels. If you’re in Kansas, stop by the Dorris place and enjoy their Dinosaur Not So National Park, where you can enjoy 20 large, welded replicas of dinosaur skeletons.
Forget the Smithsonian or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Why not head off to The Museum of Wonder in Alabama, where a dirt road and the #41 on a mailbox may be your only clue to its location. While you’re there, take a look at the collection of over 10,000 curiosities from around the world. If visiting the Northwest be sure to visit Rice’s Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals in Oregon. The museum houses the largest opal-filled thunderegg in the world, and has an extensive meteorite collection. The building is on the National Historic Registry.
The secrets are out! I’m now wondering how many of America’s best kept travel secrets are, in fact, secrets! Do you have a secret destination or attraction to pass on? (Go on – this is one time when spilling the beans is a good thing!)
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