- There are plenty of popular tourist destinations you can visit in every single one of the United States.
- Finding a hidden gem while travelling can often be the highlight of a great trip.
- Take a deep dive into Jacob’s Well, a more than 100-foot-deep spring near Austin, Texas.
- You can also explore Thomas Jefferson’s lesser-known home at Poplar Forest in Forest, Virginia.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
There are plenty of popular tourist destinations you can visit in every single one of the United States, from skyscrapers in big cities to famous national monuments.
But sometimes, visiting more under-the-radar sites can be the highlight of a great trip. From a toy rocking horse farm in Massachusetts to Thomas Jefferson’s lesser-known Virginia home, there are hidden gems all across the country for you to explore.
Check out the best kept secret things to do in every US state below.
ALABAMA: Ave Maria Grotto
The location is home to 125 miniature structures of religious buildings, which were constructed by a monk named Joseph Zoetl beginning in 1892.
According to the location’s website, Zoetl created the structures using everything from costume jewellery to seashells, and did so whenever he wasn’t working at the monastery. The miniatures have been on display since 1934, with tickets currently priced between $US5 and $US8.
ALASKA: Mendenhall Glacier
According to Atlas Obscura, the trees were flipped upside down in 1985 by a landscaper named Steve, who was heading up to the Mendenhall Glacier to fix a stream that was destroyed in a landslide. After he arrived, Steve reportedly damaged a piece of moving equipment.
He then got angry, and is said to have used the machine to slam a tree upside-down into the mud, according to Atlas Obscura. He continued to do so with another 20 dead trees, and then planted 75 flowers in the roots of each one.
Currently, visitors can view the tress from May until September.
ARIZONA: Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In
Today, travellers can stop by the restaurant for a meal, or just to view the unique decorations that fill the building.
ARKANSAS: Triple Falls Trail
According to Explore Harrison, visitors often spend between 30 minutes and one hour hiking to reach the waterfalls. The trek, however, is said to be easy.
Once there, travellers can typically see two streams of water cascading down the rocks, or three streams during days of high water.
CALIFORNIA: Forestiere Underground Gardens
The site was constructed with hand tools in the early 1900s by a Sicilian immigrant named Baldassare Forestiere.
His aim was to turn “useless farmland into a vast network of rooms, tunnels, and courtyards,” which could eventually become a resort, according to the location’s website.
While his plans never came to fruition, visitors can still take tours of the tunnels, and view the underground grapevines and fruit trees that were planted by Forestiere himself.
COLORADO: Bishop’s Castle
The castle was constructed byJim Bishop after he purchased two-and-a-half acres of land in 1959. The castle still stands today, and welcomes travellers to climb to the very top free of charge. There’s even a steel, fire-breathing dragon onsite.
CONNECTICUT: Gillette Castle State Park
According to the state of Connecticut, a stage actor named William Gillette began building the structure in 1914. Gillette helped to develop everything from walking paths to 47 unique doors on the property.
While there is a fee for touring the castle, you can also relax outside for free.
DELAWARE: Penny Lane Mall
Don’t expect to find your favourite chain at this outdoor mall. Instead, the shopping center is home to a variety of independent retailers that sell everything from art to sunglasses, according to the center’s Facebook page.
FLORIDA: Weeki Wachee Springs
For many travellers in Florida, visiting Disney World and Universal Orlando is a top priority. But for a more underrated option, try Weeki Wachee Springs.
The state park is most widely known for its mermaid shows, in which women swim while wearing mystical tails, but you can also ride waterslides, kayak, and spot manatees in the wild.
GEORGIA: Gibbs Garden
The Georgia destination is comprised of 16 gardens, as well as an array of greenery, 24 ponds, 32 bridge crossings, and 19 waterfalls, according to the Gibbs Garden Website. There’s also a Manor House onsite, where visitors can learn about architecture.
HAWAII: Lanai Cat Sanctuary
Cat lovers visiting Hawaii can make a stop at the Lanai Cat Sanctuary. According to the organisation’s website, the location is home to hundreds of felines up for adoption. There’s also no fee to enter, though the sanctuary accepts donations.
IDAHO: Potato Museum
In the city of Blackfoot, you can learn all about the history of potatoes and take photos in front of giant vegetables at the Idaho Potato Museum, according to its website.
There’s also a gift shop available to visitors.
ILLINOIS: The World’s Largest Mailbox
Casey, Illinois, is widely known for having the world’s largest chair – but it’s also home to the world’s largest mailbox.
According to Guinness World Records, visitors to the roadside attraction often walk up into the mailbox to take a photo, and then mail a letter there.
INDIANA: Santa’s Candy Castle
From the building’s exterior to the attractions inside, it always looks like Christmastime when visiting Santa’s Candy Castle.The store has tons of candy available to purchase, and also offers holiday trinkets, like Christmas ornaments, according to its website.
Fans of Christmas will also enjoy the fact that Santa’s Candy Castle is located within a town called Santa Claus, Indiana.
IOWA: Fenelon Place Elevator Company
In the middle of Dubuque, Iowa, is the world’s “shortest, steepest, scenic railway,” according to the Fenelon Place Elevator Company’s website. It costs $US3 round-trip to ride in a car, where you’ll have views of the Mississippi River and Dubuque business district.
KANSAS: Oz Museum
While in Wamego, Kansas, the Oz Museum is a fitting place to visit. Inside, you’ll find everything fromvintage memorabilia to modern-day collectibles, all of which celebrate the magic of “The Wizard of Oz,” according to its website.
KENTUCKY: The Ghost Ship
The Ghost Ship was once an award-winning navy ship called USS Sachem that was used in both world wars, according to Atlas Obscura.
The ship was also featured in the background of Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” music video shortly before being abandoned by owner Robert Miller. Today, the ruins are said to be popular with kayakers and travellers, as Atlas Obscura points out.
LOUISIANA: Carousel Bar
The Carousel Bar is located within the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, Louisiana. It seats 25 people and slowly rotates while visitors sip cocktails, making it the only revolving bar in the city, according to the Carousel Bar’s website.
Travellers can find the world’s largest rotating globe in Yarmouth, Maine, according to Atlas Obscura. One inch of the globe represents 16 miles on Earth, and the sphere is tilted at 23.5 degrees to match that of the actual planet.
Visitors can view Eartha while driving on Maine’s Interstate 295, or by entering the three-story building it’s stored inside.
MARYLAND: Assateague Island
From swimming to viewing wild horses, there’s tons to do while visiting Assateague Island in Maryland. According to the location’s website, travellers can also spot wildlife like red foxes, bottlenose dolphins, horseshoe crabs, and peregrine falcons while there.
In Lincoln, Massachusetts, there’s no shortage of toy rocking horses. Instead, there’s a field called Ponyhenge where travellers can find dozens of them.
According to Atlas Obscura, locals aren’t sure why abandoned rocking horses started appearing in the field around 2010. They also haven’t figured out who is responsible for consistently rearranging them. Regardless, it’s quite the sight for travellers to see.
MICHIGAN: Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
Regardless of the time of year, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland is worth a visit. The shop is found in the small town of Frankenmuth, and is actually the largest Christmas store in the world.
While there, visitors can purchase items like ornaments, Christmas trees, nativities, and even Santa suits.
MINNESOTA: Spoonbridge and Cherry
Visitors can enter the park for free, and view the sculpture among a variety of others, according to the park’s website.
MISSISSIPPI: Windsor Ruins
According to the National Park Service, the Windsor house was built between 1859 and 1861 as the largest antebellum home in the state. But during a party in 1890, a guest dropped a cigarette onto the floor, unintentionally starting a fire that burned nearly the entire structure.
Today, 23 Corinthian columns still stand, which visitors can see for free.
MISSOURI: Prairie State Park
Prarie fields are shrinking in Missouri. According to Missouri State Parks, less than one per cent of the state’s tallgrass prairies currently exist, despite once covering a third of Missouri.
At Prairie State Park, however, you’ll find flourising fields of tall grass, tons of wildflowers, and herds of bison.
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MONTANA: Iceberg Lake Trail
Located in West Glacier, Montana, Iceberg Lake is a glassy, green pool that’s often filled with floating ice chunks in the colder months. The giant, snow-capped cliffs surrounding the lake are equally stunning.
NEBRASKA: Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center
Located along the Platte River, the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center in Grand Island, Nebraska, is home to protected lands where droves of cranes roost during the great sandhill crane migration each spring.
NEVADA: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Visiting a nature preserve doesn’t top many people’s list of things to do in Las Vegas, Nevada, but it’s worth taking a trip off the strip to hike through the colourful rock formations of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Kancamagus Highway
Each fall, the trees surrounding Kancamagus Highway in northeastern New Hampshire burst with colour, making the 34.5-mile stretch of road one of the most scenic drives in the country.
NEW JERSEY: Hamilton Park
Not only does this Weehawken, New Jersey, park boast stunning views of the New York City skyline, but it also has historical significance. On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in the park, which has since been named for the latter statesman.
NEW MEXICO: Aztec Ruins National Monument
You don’t have to travel all the way to Mexico to observe remains from the Aztec civilisation, as it turns out. Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, New Mexico, has stone structures that has survived for nearly a millennium.
NEW YORK: Storm King Art Center
Storm King Art Center is a museum with large sculptures scattered across its 500 acres. It’s a great place to enjoy a picnic or take a walk during fair weather.
NORTH CAROLINA: DuPont State Recreational Forest
With nearly 10,000 acres of wilderness, hiking trails, and waterfalls, DuPont State Recreational Forest in Cedar Mountain, North Carolina, is a great place to enjoy favourable weather.
NORTH DAKOTA: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Former president Theodore Roosevelt visited this stretch of wilderness, which has since been named in his honour, back in 1883. Now, visitors to Theodore Roosevelt National Park can take in views of the Missouri River and tons of wildlife.
OHIO: The American Sign Museum
The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, preserves 100 years of signs across nearly 20,000 feet of space. The museum has vintage signs from McDonald’s, Holiday Inn, Gulf, Shell, Chevrolet, and more.
OKLAHOMA: Endangered Ark Foundation
The Endangered Ark Foundation in Hugo, Oklahoma, is a nonprofit that provides a space for retired circus elephants to live. The organisation also works to help the endangered Asian Elephants thrive in North America while educating visitors about the animals.
OREGON: Silver Falls State Park
Silver Falls State Park in Silverton, Oregon, boasts 10 picturesque waterfalls worth exploring. A loop to visit all 10 waterfalls is 6.9 miles long, per Oregon.com.
Nestled in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, Fallingwater is an architectural masterpiece designed by famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright that seamlessly blends into the surrounding wilderness of Bear Run Nature Reserve.
RHODE ISLAND: Castle Hill Lighthouse
Castle Hill Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island, is a 121-year-old granite lighthouse with stunning views of Newport Harbour, Pell Bridge, and summer sunsets. The structure sits near the grounds of Castle Hill Inn, which served as “Farhampton Inn” in the final season of “How I Met Your Mother.”
SOUTH CAROLINA: Angel Oak Tree
This gorgeous, colossal Oak tree located just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, is estimated to be somewhere between 400 and 500 years old. Its trunk measures 28 feet around and it covers a more than 17,000-square-foot area in shade.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Iron Mountain Road
Mount Rushmore is far from an underrated tourist destination, but the winding, scenic road and narrow tunnels of nearby Iron Mountain Road certainly is. Take in stunning views of the famous monument while also exploring the beautiful topography of southwestern South Dakota.
TENNESSEE: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
You can get a glimpse of colourful sunsets, gorgeous scenery, and wild black bears at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
TEXAS: Jacob’s Well Natural Area-Hays County Parks
Jacob’s Well is a more than 100-foot-deep spring near Austin, Texas. Swimmers and divers can explore the spring and the hidden underwater caves from May 1 to September 30 each year.
UTAH: Dinosaur National Monument
Millions of years ago, dinosaurs roamed the land where Jensen, Utah, now sits. Today, visitors of the Dinosaur National Monument can explore more than 1,500 dinosaur bones embedded into the red rocks of Quarry Exhibit Hall, according to the National Park Service.
VERMONT: Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home
The home of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln’s sole surviving child, Hildene is a beautiful estate that boasts a farm, welcome center, and approximately 12 miles of hiking trails, per Hildene’s website.
VIRGINIA: Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is a popular tourist destination in Virginia, but his home at Poplar Forest is much less well known. The retreat is hailed as Thomas Jefferson’s “most personal, most mature architectural accomplishment” on the home’s website.
WASHINGTON: Cape Flattery
The most northwestern point of the contiguous United States, Cape Flattery provides a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean and the Washington coastline. If you’re lucky, you may spot whales and otters in the water during your visit.
WASHINGTON, DC: Washington National Cathedral
Although Washington National Cathedral is known for hosting the funerals of many late statesmen and presidents, it does not top many people’s lists of places to visit while in the nation’s capital. The cathedral, which is the sixth largest in the world, has stunning Gothic architecture, intricate stained glass windows, and there are beautiful gardens on the grounds.
WEST VIRGINIA: Greenbrier Government Relocation Facility
According to NPR, West Virginia’s Greenbrier Resort is home to an extensive underground bunker system designed to protect members of Congress in the event of a nuclear fallout during the Cold War. Now, visitors can take tours of the 112,544-square-foot bunker.
WISCONSIN: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Ice Caves
In the warmer months, visitors can kayak through the stunning natural cliff formations of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Ice Caves. In the winter, brave souls can walk across a frozen Lake Superior to explore the icicles that often form in the caves.
WYOMING: Devils Tower National Monument
Devils Tower National Monument is a stunning yet strange rock outcrop in the middle of a prairie in Wyoming. With vertical cracks running the entire 867 feet of the cliff, Devils Tower is a popular attraction among rock climbers.
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