The best-kept secret tourist spot in every state

Karen Grigoryan/Shutterstock and Edwin Verin/ShutterstockFinding a hidden gem while travelling can often be the highlight of a great trip.
  • 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

Larry Porges/ShutterstockPeople view miniature structures at the 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

Royal Flush/ShutterstockAn upside-down forest is found in Alaska’s Mendenhall Valley.

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

Steve Lagreca/ShutterstockDelgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In is a hidden-gem restaurant in Arizona.

The roadside attraction was built in 1953 byJuan Delgadillo, who made the location stand out by cutting the top off his car and attaching a Christmas tree to it, according to Atlas Obscura.

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

Ross Ellet/ShutterstockDepending on when you visit, you can see two or three streams of water at once.

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

Buyenlarge/Getty ImagesYou can still see the underground rooms constructed by Baldassare Forestiere.

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

jrog9832/TripAdvisorThere’s lots to see at Bishop’s Castle, from its architecture to a dragon.

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

Karen Grigoryan/ShutterstockYou can experience great views of the castle from inside or outdoors.

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

John Greim/Getty ImagesYou’ll have to walk outside to get from store to store.

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

Adventures On Wheels/ShutterstockYou can see everything from mermaid actors to manatees at the state park.

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

Carol A Hudson/ShutterstockThere are tons of plants, flowers, and streams to look at throughout the gardens.

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

KnelsenPhoto/ShutterstockIf you fall in love with a cat at the sanctuary, you can adopt it.

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

Steve Cukrov/ShutterstockFans of potatoes will love this museum in Idaho.

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

Education Images/Getty ImagesYou can actually stand inside the roadside attraction.

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

thetammyjo/TripAdvisorThis holiday-themed candy store is located in Santa Claus, Indiana.

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

AmanaSH/TripAdvisorThe trip is short, but worth it.

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

Management/TripAdvisorFans of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ will love this 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

BrittanyMosley/ShutterstockThere’s lots of history behind the now-abandoned USS Sachem 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

Tim Graham/Getty ImagesIn Louisiana, you can drink and ride a carousel at the same time.

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.


MAINE: Eartha

Portland Press Herald/Getty ImagesIt’s hard to miss Eartha if driving by.

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

Zack Frank/ShutterstockThe Maryland island is perfect for nature lovers.

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.


MASSACHUSETTS: Ponyhenge

Carol Ann Mossa/ShutterstockThere are always new rocking horses appearing in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

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

ehrlif/ShutterstockThis Christmas store is one of Michigan’s hidden-gem destinations.

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

Justin Ladia/Flickr/Attribution LicenceThe Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture has been in Minnesota for more than 30 years.
Spoonbridge and Cherry is a quirky touch to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. It was installed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen in 1988, and has remained a hidden gem of the state ever since.

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

Zack Frank/ShutterstockThough there isn’t much left, the Windsor Ruins are worth checking out.

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

turtix/ShutterstockBison are commonly found throughout 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.

Read more: The 50 best cities to live in the US in 2019


MONTANA: Iceberg Lake Trail

puttsk/ShutterstockIceberg Lake Trail in West Glacier, Montana.

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

Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center/TripAdvisorCrane Trust Nature & Visitor Center in Grand Island, Nebraska.

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

Let Go Media:ShutterstockRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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

SNEHIT/ShutterstockKancamagus Highway in North Conway, New Hampshire.

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

Dennis K. Johnson/Getty ImagesHamilton Park in Weehawken, New Jersey.

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

Traveller70/ShutterstockAztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, New Mexico.

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

Victoria Lipov/ShutterstockStorm King Art Center in Cornwall, New York.

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

Cholya/ShutterstockHigh Falls at DuPont State Forest in Cedar Mountain, North Carolina.

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

ShutterstockTheodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota.

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

American Sign Museum/TripAdvisorThe American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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.

Read more: THEN AND NOW: 34 photos that show how famous fast-food company logos have changed over time


OKLAHOMA: Endangered Ark Foundation

L L/TripAdvisorEndangered Ark Foundation in Hugo, Oklahoma.

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

ShutterstockSilver Falls State Park in Silverton, Oregon.

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.


PENNSYLVANIA: Fallingwater

Fallingwater/TripAdvisorFallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania.

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

P Meybruck/ShutterstockCastle Hill Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island.

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

Mike Ver Sprill/ShutterstockAngel Oak Tree in Johns Island, South Carolina.

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

Joseph Sohm/ShutterstockIron Mountain Road in Custer, South Dakota.

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

Weidman Photography/ShutterstockGreat Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

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

benedek/Getty ImagesJacob’s Well Natural Area-Hays County Parks in Wimberley, Texas.

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.

Read more: This dangerous swimming hole in Texas is over 100 feet deep


UTAH: Dinosaur National Monument

Zack Frank/ShutterstockDinosaur National Monument in Jensen, Utah.

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

banjo60/TripAdvisorHildene, The Lincoln Family Home, in Manchester, Vermont.

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

Jill Lang/ShutterstockPoplar Forest in Forest, Virginia.

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

Nadia Yong/ShutterstockCape Flattery in Neah Bay, Washington.

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

Steve Heap/ShutterstockWashington National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

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

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesGreenbrier Government Relocation Facility in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

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

Jean Faucett/ShutterstockApostle Islands National Lakeshore Ice Caves in Bayfield, Wisconsin.

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

Edwin Verin/ShutterstockDevils Tower National Monument in Devils Tower, Wyoming.

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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