Whatever hand the U.S. had in shaping world music, it had its feet planted firmly in the South. From New Orleans, where a confluence of West Africans laid the groundwork for the musical improvisation we call jazz; to Mississippi, where work-songs birthed the blues before the blues birthed rock ‘n’ roll; to Tennessee, where rock intersected with Appalachian folk songs to create country rock, this distinct artistic heritage was forged uphill, from the humblest of origins. Nonetheless, the musical legacy of unsung field hands, farmers, and blue collar workers coming up from the South would go on to change the world, and in no quiet way.
In French colonial New Orleans, West Africans were permitted to congregate beyond city limits each Sunday in festivities that typically erupted in songs and dances of their homeland, using recreated instruments and costumes. These gatherings were later relegated to a grassy field that came to be known as Congo Square, a place to which Wynton Marsalis says “the bloodlines of all important modern American music can be traced.”
For over a century, Congo Square reverberated weekly through the recall of drums, gourds, pan-flutes, and a precursor to the banjo, played by both free and enslaved folks from across West Africa as well as the Caribbean. In time, these gatherings drew up to 600 participants at a time, rituals that came to fascinate white townsfolk and visitors alike. This cross-cultural assemblage encouraged a novel form of musical collaboration and improvisation that leads some music historians to see the plaza as the very birthplace of jazz.
Today, Congo Square is framed by enormous oaks, magnolias, and palm trees within Louis Armstrong Park, and it’s still making music: It’s titular fall music festival features African dance, latin jazz, brass bands, and more. The plaza is paved with granite cobblestones that radiate from the center of the Square, as if to mark the exact spot where the outsized seed of African influence on American music was indelibly sown.
701 North Rampart Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116
From Preservation Hall to Palm Court and Mahogany Jazz Hall, Congo Square’s legacy can be heard across the spectrum of historic venues throughout the city. But if you need some outside time, there’s one tree in town that keeps the music going. “Early jazz was invented in New Orleans, it was very improvisational,” said visual artist Jim Hart. “So what could be more improvisational than the wind playing a percussion instrument?”
In Hart’s Singing Oak installation from 2010, dozens of wind chimes from three to fourteen-feet long hang from a century-old oak doling out precisely the five tones that make up the pentatonic scale. While this scale is used across many cultures, this ancient ascension is the foundation of West African gospel hymns, African-American spirituals, and jazz music in particular.
A bench sits below one of the massive boughs, making for a perfect respite from the blaring seasonal Southern heat as well as an ideal spot to take in City Park’s 25 acres of wetland. With a thick canopy, the great oak seems to camouflage the dozens of black-coated chimes harmonizing above and around you. Bathed in sound and enveloped in greenery, the Singing Oak rests at the intersection of New Orleans’ rich musical and natural heritage.
1701 Wisner Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70124
‘Understated’ is one word to describe this century-old, open-air shack on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. What its aged wooden frame won’t tell you, however, is that in addition to headquartering an early Black benevolent society, the Dew Drop also once hosted some of the biggest names in New Orleans music during segregation.
Because Mandeville was about 10° degrees cooler than New Orleans at the time, moneyed urbanites of the late 19th and early 20th centuries often ferried north to weekend in cooler climes; Black musicians would hop the ferries as well, playing for tips on the boatdeck before performing in the more formal halls of Mandeville. Unfortunately, during the “Great Redemption”—a period following Reconstruction when gains in civil rights were quietly reversed by Southern politicians—Black musicians weren’t permitted to stay in hotels in Mandeville proper. Luckily, the Dew Drop was three blocks beyond city limits.
While the Dew Drop offered musicians like Buddie Petit, Bunk Johnson, and Louis Armstrong (whose grandmother lived right around the corner) a third act and a place to crash, it was also the headquarters of a benevolent society offering crucial social services to underserved Black families. It was the pride of Black Mandeville, where folks who couldn’t get a loan or healthcare could see intimate shows put on by prominent musicians of the day.
While the Dew Drop was abandoned in the 1980s, it reopened in 2002 to again host southern Louisiana roots music acts. Upcoming events, which run from spring to fall, can be found on their Facebook page. The world’s oldest virtually unaltered jazz hall keeps getting older, but won’t pipe down just yet.
430 Lamarque Street, Mandeville, Louisiana, 70448
Unfortunately, discrimination persisted beyond the Great Redemption. As such, the “Chitlin Circuit” emerged as a word-of-mouth network of Black-friendly performance venues throughout the American South. Teddy’s Juke Joint, ten miles north of Baton Rouge, is one of the last ones standing.
Owner Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson will tell you he’s only ever had one address his whole life. He was born and raised in his eponymous juke joint, back when it was just a shotgun shack at the end of a dirt road. After touring the country as a record DJ, Johnson returned to the thick woods north of Baton Rouge in the 1970s, building a bar and small concert venue onto his childhood home. By the end of the decade, blues acts from around the Delta and beyond were lining up to perform at Teddy’s Juke Joint.
Teddy still books blues acts, though he’s broadened to host rock bands and singer-songwriters as well as an open mic on Wednesdays. One thing he never stopped doing, however, is decorating. Between year-round Christmas lights, disco balls, music paraphernalia, Teddy’s childhood possessions, and a thick canopy of multi-colored tinsel swaying in the air conditioning, one visitor aptly described it as feeling “what I imagine it would be like inside a kaleidoscope.”
While it is a live music venue, the nights without live music are just as much a treat: that’s when Teddy spins. To the backdrop of niche blues, soul, and R&B records, Teddy’s DJ alter ego emerges— flashy, brazen, and raunchy—to crack jokes with bartenders and regulars. Behind a wall of stuffed animals and knick-knacks, summoning stacks of CDs, cassettes, and vinyls, he seems right at home—perhaps, because he is.
16999 Old Scenic Highway, Zachary, Louisiana, 70791
A former train-depot turned museum in Ville Platte—the “Swamp Pop Capital of the World”—lays out the tale of a little-known genre that, even in its heyday, didn’t have a name for itself.
Southern Louisiana kids born in the 1930s and 40s grew up listening to Cajun, Creole, and country music with their parents. As teenagers during the dawn of rock and roll in the 1950s, they traded fiddles, banjos, and accordions for pianos, horns, and electric guitars. They dropped French to sing in English and adopted stage names northern DJs could pronounce (John Phillip Baptiste becoming “Phil Phillips,” Robert Guidry becoming “Bobby Charles”, etc). Still, the lovelorn lyrics, feel-good rhythms, and harmonized melodies they inherited from their parents shone through, creating a distinct regional sound that—only a decade after its heyday—a British DJ would finally term “Swamp Pop.”
The museum displays artist outfits, instruments, and memorabilia as well as a detailed history of Swamp Pop, with ambient hits playing from a genre you know by sound, if not by name.
205 NW Railroad Avenue Ville Platte, Louisiana, 70586
The opening hours here are no typo: Fred’s is, in fact, only open Saturday mornings from 8 A.M. to 2 P.M. There’s a small chance you’ll be handed a fresh bag of boudin, and an even stronger chance that you’ll be asked to dance.
For 75 years, this windowless brick bar in a 3,000-person prairie town has served as the uncontested “Cajun Music Capital of the World.” Canned beer, well-liquor, and “Fred’s Omelet” (Bloody Mary in a plastic cup) starts flowing around daybreak before a live Cajun band kicks up around 9. By 10, the dance floor is near-to-full and the bounce is in your bones. If you don’t have a dance partner by 11, resident septuagenarian party-starter Rita will come and find you.
Back in the late 1940s, a once-thriving French-American culture had all but faded from the farming communities of Evangeline Parish: French was discouraged in school and Cajun music was giving way to swing jazz and big bands. Alfred “Fred” Tate had had it—the French-speaking Mamou native returned from WWII, opened a big brick bar on Main Street, and reminded Evangeline Parish how Cajun it really was.
Over 75 years strong, the house band at Fred’s only stops so the town councilman—who broadcasts the performance in French on AM and FM stations—can read the names of local sponsors. There’s a host of regulars, but folks travel from every direction each weekend just to party away the morning and keep things French at Fred’s.
420 6th Street, Mamou, Louisiana, 70554
Juke joints emerged throughout the South during emancipation to offer rural Black workers barred from white establishments a place of their own to eat, drink, and enjoy music after a long day’s work. These joints popped up at rural crossroads or by large sharecropping centers—anywhere trafficked by the weary worker. As such, the Blue Front Cafe—nestled between a railroad track and a cotton gin in a small town that once had plantations in every direction—is quintessential “juke,” and the oldest in Mississippi.
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes is the owner and proprietor of Blue Front, a soft-spoken guitar virtuoso and one of the last of the Bentonia bluesmen. If it surprises you to hear he’s a one-time GRAMMY Award® nominee, you’ll believe it when you hear him play. The Bentonia school of blues is distinguished by dexterous finger-picking on drop-tuned, acoustic guitars, set to a hauntingly slow tempo, exuding a deep melancholy—even by blues standards. It’s a niche style making its last stand here at Blue Front, a style sustained by Holmes and several others.
The squat, cinder-block cafe was opened by Holmes’ parents in 1948, intended initially to sell food and beverages to workers from the cotton gin next door. It only became a juke when bluesmen on their way north began giving impromptu performances. When shows became regular, it was made an unofficial stop on the Blues Highway.
During the pandemic, shows have become impromptu once again, a circumstance perhaps more authentic than adverse. If there’s no music when you get there, grab some drinks and hang out. “Duck” may just pick up a guitar and start playing anyway.
107 W Railroad Avenue, Bentonia, Mississippi, 39040
The trope of the traveling blues musician stems partly from the hopeful pilgrimage many Southern artists often made to Chicago, where audiences craved sounds of the Delta. Like countless others, B.B. King trekked north, but he didn’t stop there.
All told, “The King of the Blues” toured his signature sound in 90+ countries over the course of a 60-year touring career, which was regularly over 200 shows per year. He ran through seven different tour buses doing so, but the longest-traveled one now sits in the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi.
A special wing of the museum was built to house the black, 42-foot-long 1987 Van Hool Aero Magnum King toured on from 1987–1992. If five years sounds like a short lifetime for a tour bus, that’s because, according to the museum, it drove over 12 million miles—equivalent to 25 round-trips to the moon—bringing King and his band from show to show.
400 Second Street, Indianola, Mississippi, 38751
Of course, the impact of blues musicians isn’t always measured in miles traveled or records sold. The elusive Robert Johnson only recorded 29 songs and never formally toured during his life, which was cut tragically short in 1938. Just two pictures of him exist at all. Only posthumously would he become a legendary bluesman.
One of the most famous guitarists of all time died such an enigma that, for nearly a century, no one was even sure where he was buried. His legacy became so iconic, however, his catalogue so canon, that researchers later spent 40 years tracking down his remains to Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Greenwood, Mississippi.
The search for Johnson’s grave started in 1965, slowly churning its way through a vague death certificate, contradicting testimonies, and multiple headstones throughout the state claiming to mark Johnson’s remains. Based on corroborating interviews from Johnson’s half-sister, records from the town undertaker, and testimony from the gravedigger’s widow, Johnson’s remains were finally confirmed in 2002 to rest at Little Zion. Now every August—the month of his death—flowers, beers, and notes are left at Johnson’s grave to honor the life of the “King of the Delta Blues Singers.”
For a short life so injected with mythology, it’s refreshing for Johnson’s legacy to retain a semblance of certainty.
Money Road, Greenwood, Mississippi, 38930
Indeed, Johnson is the central figure of the darkly romanticized legend of a bluesman selling his soul to the devil for virtuosic guitar skills at the crossroads of Highways 49 and 61 in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
As an upstart musician, the story goes, a young Johnson jumped the stage during intermission one night at a Mississippi juke joint to perform his own songs. The crowd booed him and he was chastised by more accomplished bluesmen. He disappeared that night a nobody and returned six months later an unrivaled master of the six-string. He became so good so quick, they said, it had to be a deal with the devil.
Of course, Johnson mastered his craft the same way anyone else did, though perhaps in a different setting. Blues historians believe he trained under a Hazelhurst, Mississippi, guitarman named Ike Zimmerman, often in the dead of night in the town cemetery where none could hear him. However he did it, his ability to play rhythm, bass, and squealing slides seemingly simultaneously—all while singing, and in a voice aged eerily beyond his 27 years—made him a blues legend, even if he never lived to see it.
Months after he died under mysterious circumstances at age 27, a recording of Johnson’s music was played to a packed audience in New York City’s Carnegie Hall. He received a standing ovation.
North State Street, Clarksdale, Mississippi, 38614
A lesser-known true tale from Blues history took place in a wooden sharecropper’s cabin now sitting in the Delta Blues Museum. It doesn’t look like much, but the humble shack is so imbued with meaning that it has toured the country with the House of Blues, had several beams removed to make guitars for ZZ Top, and was featured in the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympic Games.
The cabin once belonged to a man named McKinley Morganfield, a sharecropper living on the sprawling Stovall Farms, just outside Clarksdale. An avid guitarist and harmonicist, he put on shows not only for fellow fieldhands inside the cabin, but for Stovall family functions as well.
Morganfield knew he could play, but it was a 1941 recording of himself, taped in this cabin by Alan Lomax—a renowned ethnomusicologist working for the Library of Congress—that gave him the confidence to journey north. “When he played back the first song I sounded just like anybody’s records,” Morganfield later said. “[I] just played it and played it and said, ‘I can do it, I can do it.’”
In time, Morganfield became Muddy Waters, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, six-time GRAMMY Award® winner, and “King of the Chicago Blues,” responsible for incorporating the electric guitar into a previously all-acoustic genre.
1 Blues Alley, Clarksdale, Mississippi, 38614
In time, the blues gave birth to rock ‘n’roll—with pioneering artists of each genre continuing to emerge from hardscrabble origins. A two-room shotgun shack in Tupelo marks the spot where a titan of American music made his entrance into the world.
Shortly before Elvis Presley was born in 1935, his parents Gladys and Vernon borrowed $180 to build a small home for the soon-to-be family. While they worked hard on the neighboring dairy farm to pay off their debts, the house was ultimately repossessed before Elvis’ third birthday. “The King” later bought back the home, which sits in its original location but has been redecorated to its late-1930s likeness as the centerpiece of the Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum.
After the eviction, the Presleys stayed in Tupelo long enough to expose Elvis to the building blocks of his imminent musical greatness, which are also on display. The Assembly of God Church, where Elvis first heard Southern gospel music as a child, was relocated in one piece to the museum grounds, and Tupelo Hardware up the street, where his mother Gladys bought him his first guitar, is still open today for customers, Elvis fans, and tourists.
Less is made, however, of Tupelo’s “Shake Rag” neighborhood—an underserved Black community where Elvis first encountered the blues.
306 Elvis Presley Drive, Tupelo, Mississippi, 38804
At age 13, Elvis and his folks moved north to Memphis, Tennessee. By age 19, he’d put on his first professional concert, opening for Slim Whitman at this open-air bandshell in Overton Park.
Of the 27 public bandshells built throughout the country in 1936 as part of President Roosevelt’s Depression-era WPA program, the Overton Park Shell (formerly Levitt Shell) is one of only a few still standing. The egg-white, scalloping quarter-dome looks out onto a sloping green lawn framed by oak and pine trees on the east-end of Memphis’ 300+ acre city park.
While it primarily held ticketed operas and orchestras in its early years, the Shell began hosting big bands in the 1940s while making all shows free admission. Later, in the 1950s, directors took a chance on crooners with electric guitars: in fact, the night Elvis Presley stole the show from Slim Whitman in the summer of ‘54 is considered by some to be one of the first rock ‘n’ roll performances in history.
Whatever the case, it was certainly the night Elvis developed a once-controversial trademark move. After missing a cue, he began nervously shaking his legs, sending 5,000 teenagers into a veritable frenzy. “It looked like all hell was going on under those britches,” recalls guitarist Scotty Moore.
While Elvis has left the building, so to speak, the Shell continues hosting both ticketed and free concerts in this rare, historical venue. On any given night during the spring, summer, and fall seasons, visitors can enjoy performances from jazz to rock to symphony, in addition to workshops on health and wellness. Bring your favorite chair or blanket and don’t be late—lawn seating is first come first serve.
1928 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, 38104
Between Stax Records, Beale Street, Sun Studio, and Graceland, this city’s musical history runs deep. Nestled within a drum shop in midtown Memphis, however, is an otherworldly sonic experience that brings that heritage to new heights—aural marvels make the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll seem recent.
Gongs have been used for spiritual and ceremonial purposes for well over 1,000 years, and between two windowless rooms in the heart of the Memphis Drum Shop, over 1,000 unique gongs are on display in the Memphis Gong Chamber—and they’re not just for retail purposes.
The shop’s Lesser Chamber offers small and medium-sized gongs for sale, from six inches to several feet wide, but the gongs within the Greater Chamber are not. These behemoth cymbals are here to transport you.
A 7-foot wide Paiste Symphonic gong is the pièce de résistance of Nancy Pettit’s Sound Journeys (private and group appointments bookable through their website). Laying prostrate on zero-gravity chairs in a dimly lit, soundproof room, surrounded by several-hundred pound gongs, listeners are led on a sonic journey through chimes and singing bowls before a mallet-head the size of a melon brings the colossal cymbals lining the walls shimmering to life. They resonate at a frequency so low, it’s less of a sound than a sensation—a transcendent, bronze din that seems to crescendo from within you rather than from any one point in the chamber.
For all the complexities at the intersection of music and human history, it’s refreshing to experience the curation of pure, unadulterated sound—music, in its barest form, as the decoration of time.
878 Cooper St Memphis, Tennessee, 38104
The only museum where one can learn about the origins of Tina Turner is the literal schoolhouse where The Queen of Rock and Roll herself learned to read and write.
Built in 1889, the Flagg Grove Schoolhouse was one of the first schools in the American South made for Black children. Coincidentally, it was her great uncle, Benjamin Flagg, that built it. Like many of her classmates in the 1940s, a young Turner (born Anne Mae Bullock) learned reading, writing, and arithmetic at Flagg Grove before helping her family to pick cotton in the neighboring fields before nightfall.
The building functioned as a school until 1960, when it became a farmhouse that was later abandoned. When Turner found out it was being relocated to Brownsville, Tennessee, in 2012 as part of the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, she donated stage outfits, platinum records, private photographs, and her high school yearbook to the exhibit. The schoolhouse now displays Turner’s personal effects as well as the original desks, benches, and chalkboard that first educated the young icon.
121 Sunny Hill Cove, Brownsville, Tennessee, 38012
Johnny Cash’s last hit record told the humorous tale of a Detroit auto-worker who stole each individual part of a Cadillac Coupe DeVille, “One Piece at a Time,” over the course of his career. When he finally retired and put it all together, the mismatched pieces made him the laughing stock of town, but he finally had the free Cadillac he’d long dreamed of.
Of course, the song is fictitious, but that didn’t stop Bill Patch, an Oklahoma car collector and Cash-fan, from actually putting together a Frankensteined Cadillac according to the song’s lyrics.
Patch gifted Cash the 1949–1973 DeVille in 1977 and the two went on to become lifelong friends. Just like the song, it’s got mismatched headlights, an asymmetrical tailfin, and patchwork seats and headrests. It’s not just for show either—the one-of-a-kind vehicle actually runs.
The “One Piece at a Time” Cadillac now sits in a garage behind Cash’s long-time rural retreat in Bon Aqua, Tennessee, where he’d unwind after long tours. The car and farmhouse are part of the Storyteller’s Museum, which features rare professional memorabilia and personal belongings that offer a unique window into the private life of the Man in Black. If his nephew Mark is around, he’ll tell you all about “Uncle Johnny.”
9676 Old Highway 46, Bon Aqua, Tennessee, 37025
Tennessee has a vibrant musical heritage and over 10,000 caves, so it was inevitable that a couple would become concert venues, but at the end of a dirt road in the Cumberland Plateau, one venture really went above and beyond—or rather, below.
An 18-month excavation process and meticulous vetting by a team of various -ologists transformed Big Mouth Cave into a 1,200-person venue that hosts a range of acts from jam bands to bluegrass and, of course—East Tennessee being its very birthplace—country music. And the cave comes with amenities, too: There’s cold beer on tap, professional sound and lighting systems, enhanced concessions, and bathrooms—although at a steady 59°F year round, you may want to hold onto it. Millions of years in the making, the striking acoustics are all-natural.
The Caverns is home of Bluegrass Underground—a PBS program that brings concerts to the home-screen throughout Tennessee—but it’s also expanding to host EDM, metal, and contemporary Christian shows as well. This living cave and subterranean amphitheater pay homage to the state’s unique musical legacy and geological identity.
555 Charlie Roberts Road, Pelham, Tennessee, 37366
There is no town called Ciderville, and this music shop doesn’t actually sell cider (anymore). It’s a music shop with a down-home venue, an array of bluegrass instruments for sale, and area musicians offering private lessons, but more than anything, Ciderville is an experience.
Owner David West was born on the property, located alongside the Old Dixie Highway, and still lives there to this day. He did inherit a cidery that was once here, but when the drinks business began attracting country musicians who came to play at a now-shuttered concert hall a couple miles up the road, West dropped the cider and picked up the guitar, then the harmonica, and kept collecting until Ciderville became what it is today.
According to West, the “Music Barn” has hosted the likes of Chet Atkins, Bill Carlisle, Kenny Chesney, and other giants of the country and bluegrass world. In the music shop, the few spaces between guitars, banjos, and violins for sale are sealed with faded photographs of southern celebrities, athletes, and musicians who’ve come to visit West over the years. If that weren’t enough already, there’s also a baffling series of handmade folk-art installations on a lawn outside, including but not limited to a staged airplane crash, nine-foot tall rooster named Ro-Ho, and a Noah’s Ark full of ceramic ducks. Ask West ‘why?’ and you’ll only come away with more questions.
2836 Clinton Highway, Powell, Tennessee, 37849
Nestled in the imposing Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the gorgeous high-alpine valleys, the Historic Hot Springs Loop is a treasure trove of geothermal hot spring resorts and destinations, offering visitors a chance to unwind and recharge in pristine natural mineral waters. The loop, which stretches from Glenwood Springs to Ouray, is home to an array of distinctive hot spring resorts, each with their own unique history, atmosphere, and therapeutic properties. From the luxurious spa-like feel of Glenwood Hot Springs with the world’s largest geothermal pool, to the rustic charm of Ouray Hot Springs with soothing vapor caves, there's something for every type of hot spring enthusiast.
Arizona has some of the most beautiful and surprising landscapes the American West has to offer. The geography of this northeastern stretch of the Sonoran desert can be incredibly dramatic. And while we’ve all heard of—or seen—the majesty of the Grand Canyon, there are a number of lesser-known natural wonders that will take you off the beaten path in this gorgeous state.
In the desert of Arizona, a string of ghost towns have been preserved and refurbished to give visitors a glimpse into the history of miners and the businesses who served them during the boom times of the turn of the century. Whether you want to pan for gold, discover junk art, or stay a night in a mining engineer’s cabin, these ghost towns will transport you into Arizona’s Wild West past.
Just a short trip north of New York City, the Hudson Valley is great for both day trips and road trips. Atlas Obscura co-founder Dylan Thuras is a local resident, and loves the natural wonders, as well as the incredible culture and history found in the region. This itinerary combines his favorite spots into one stunning road trip. Start your adventure at a living antique aviation museum near the historic town of Red Hook, and end with dinner at a Victorian resort. Along the way, you’ll make pit stops and at towering waterfalls, giant kaleidoscopes and incredible views of the beautiful Hudson Valley.
When people think of Maine, it’s often the rugged beauty of the coast that comes to mind: sunsets over craggy shorelines, lighthouses surrounded by towering pines, and lobster boats dotting the bay. But whether you’re angling for a hike, paddle, or simply a long drive through the backcountry, there’s no shortage of spectacular natural features throughout all of Maine’s 16 counties. This itinerary will take you from secluded coves along Maine’s coastline to the highest peaks in the state, alongside thundering waterfalls, mystifying geology, and myriad wildlife. Welcome to Maine—act natural.
There’s already plenty to see and do in Maine with your feet firmly planted on the ground. But what if you could change your vantage point and get above it all? This itinerary will send you into the clouds, atop the state’s highest peaks, and through endless skies on planes, chairlifts, and hot air balloons where you’ll be able to take in Maine’s grandeur with nothing but crisp, clean, mountain air in the way.
Granbury, Texas is 70 miles southwest of Dallas but a world away from the Big D’s big-city vibe. Founded in 1860, Granbury started as a town square with a log cabin courthouse. Today, this charming town of around 10,000 is the seat of Hood County and home to the first town square in Texas to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A poster child for restoration projects all over America, Granbury boasts a lively arts and dining scene; plenty of green space; and a lake with a sandy beach used for splashing, sunning, and kayaking along the shore. Then there’s the lore and legend that the locals swear by, Texas tales which may be tall or true. The town’s history is one of its great advantages, and peering through that lens is the best way to truly see Granbury.
If you’re planning a trip to San Antonio, all signs will point you to the Riverwalk, the most-visited tourist destination in the whole state. And while the area offers countless bars, restaurants, and shops, the city is host to a wide array of cultural gems, waiting in plain sight. Whether it’s visiting gorgeous missions, touring sculpture gardens, or immersing yourself in African-American history, San Antonio contains fascinating excursions that will brighten up any trip.
In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt so enjoyed a ride through Virginia’s Skyline Drive that he wanted to make it go on longer—nearly 500 miles longer, to be exact. In the coming months, his administration kicked off a massive roadway project to connect Skyline with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the Blue Ridge Parkway was born. Today, the Parkway remains one of the most beautiful drives in the country, connecting the Great Smoky Mountains to Shenandoah National Park. While its scenic overlooks get all the attention, the region’s restaurants offer a more intimate way to experience the landscape: through the very flavors of the berry bushes that line its trails, the trout that swim in its rivers, and the vegetation that gives its green mountains their striking hue. From elk burgers at a Native-owned diner to a foraged feast at an Afro-Appalachian restaurant, here’s a guide to the most incredible places to taste the flora and fauna of the Blue Ridge mountains.
Addison, Texas found acclaim in 1975 when residents pushed for alcohol to be served in public areas, when many nearby towns were dry. With an almost immediate surge in visitors, about five years later the Town launched an aggressive beautification program. Fast forward to present day, and every corner of this small town has a unique theme or landscape, and the city is teeming with public artworks. Conveniently, visitors can download the Otocast app, which offers guided audio and a full map of all the public artwork found throughout the town. The guided tours come complete with photos, descriptions, and audio of the artists discussing their work. Below is a list of places from which to start your journey.
Located just outside the skyscrapers and congestion of downtown Dallas, Mesquite has managed to hold onto its roots as an agrarian community while still keeping up with the times. Known as the Official Rodeo Capital of Texas, the city attracts hundreds of thousands of rodeo fans annually. But the rich town history is also a major draw for visitors wanting to get off the big city track, as exemplified by these six spots.
Plano, Texas may get its name from the flat local terrain—plano is the Spanish term for "flat"—but this Dallas suburb is anything but boring. The town makes up part of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, so it’s an easy day or overnight trip if you’re visiting the big city. Located in the Northeast region of the Lone Star State, Plano is a mid-sized city with big personality, offering plenty of history and culture, with dozens of restaurants, bars, and shops. It also has an impressive collection of sculptures and public art pieces, which make for an excellent way to see the city.
In a city as big and vibrant as Dallas, it’s possible to miss a few things—like a giant eyeball statue or an enormous, happy robot, for example. This Texas city has a wonderfully quirky side; here are the best ways to take in its wide-ranging and often surprising arts and culture scene.
Waxahachie is a small Texas town that’s rich with history. Over thirty motion pictures have been filmed here, including the revolutionary Bonnie and Clyde and the Oscar-winning films Tender Mercies and Places in the Heart. It’s also been designated as the Crape Myrtle Capital of Texas, a place where you can witness the flower’s glorious blooming—especially during the Crape Myrtle Festival and Driving Trail every July. Despite its size (population: 36,735), Waxahachie boasts a wide array of historical places to visit.
There is more to Austin than really, really, really good tacos and barbecue. The city is also home to a smorgasbord of natural wonders, many of which are free to enjoy. So burn off your breakfast tacos or brisket by swimming and strolling among Austin’s diverse wildlife and plants.
Between all the world-class kayaking, hiking, and biking available in Colorado, you’re bound to find adventure-lovers around every corner this summer. But sometimes, what you really want is wide-open spaces, quiet vistas, and your footprints as your only company. In short, you want adventure on the secluded side. Luckily, in Colorado, there’s no shortage of hidden wonder. This itinerary will take you to a pristine mountain-top lake, under a triple waterfall, through majestic peaks on a historic railway, and over an iconic mountain pass on the state’s oldest aerial tram. There’s solitude to be found on this trip, but there’s also the thrill of finding some of Colorado’s best kept secrets. If you’re headed into the backcountry, follow these tips to stay safe and Do Colorado Right.
Beneath Colorado’s majestic peaks, beside its roaring rivers, and nestled in the curves of its dramatic canyons, remnants of the prehistoric world have quietly waited for eons. Only over the past several centuries have people discovered these fossils, unlocking answers to the lives of ancient flora, the behavior of long-gone plants and animals, and the ever-changing landscape of this geologically dynamic state. Pieces of the prehistoric past that you can personally witness in Colorado include the continent’s longest dinosaur trackway, the remains of an ancient rainforest, the stumps of petrified redwood trees, and much more. A lot can happen over several hundred million years—but here in Colorado, none of it’s hiding.
Over the past month, Atlas Obscura has been exploring the stories of women who changed the world, from wildlife biologists and mountain climbers to Civil War spies and tattoo artists. To celebrate these daring women who struck out on their own, we’ve put together a cross-country road trip. Over 12 stops and more than 3,000 miles, this route will give you a front-row seat to women’s history in America.
With all its tidal pools, mangrove islands, and estuaries, Florida’s Gulf Coast shoreline is one of the most dynamic in the country. Throw into the mix almost a thousand natural springs, and Florida truly is a place with as much to explore both above water as below. This ten-stop itinerary is by no means exhaustive. The mermaid shows, cave-diving, underwater museums, mangrove-kayaking, and wildlife-watching opportunities presented here still only scratch the surface – and the depths - of the myriad activities possible along this wondrous coastline.
With bustling food, music, and brewery scenes, Asheville has plenty of attractions—but stick to the downtown area alone, and you’re missing half the fun, at least. Surrounded by national forests, hideaway mountain towns, quirky arts centers, and more, some of Asheville's best spots lie beyond the downtown area. This itinerary will help you navigate America’s weirdest little mountain town like a local as you scale mountaintops, watch artisans at work, ride century-old trolley cars, and get fake-married at a real-live punk bar. Welcome to Asheville.
If ghost stories help us confront a harrowing past, it’s no surprise that Louisiana is filled to the brim. From the swamplands to the pine forests, the state reverberates with tales of fortunes won and lost, untimely demises, and some of the darkest chapters of early American history. Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, the stories below reveal the hidden histories behind this mystifying state—place by place, spirit by restless spirit.
Created in 1926, Route 66 was once the primary way drivers headed West, and a network of local economies sprouted up along its path. But after the Interstate Highway System replaced many portions of the “Mother Road,” most of its associated attractions faded away. Intrepid travelers, however, can still seek out the remnants of this artery through America and even find a few new gems along the way. Along with the towering Muffler Men and the sprawling, changing landscapes that speed past your car windows, the restaurants and bars along Route 66 offer an enchanting glimpse into American history and culture. From an Illinois watering hole once frequented by Al Capone to an Albuquerque restaurant specializing in pre-Columbian cuisine to a steakhouse born of Tulsa’s once-booming Lebanese community, these spots showcase the delicious diversity of America’s most iconic road. As you travel, please follow each state's and business's COVID-19 guidelines.
Adventures filled with oversized characters, obstacles, and castles await—all you need to join is a putter and a ball. Yes, we're talking about miniature golf, the Lilliputian game with a big imagination. Since 2012, we—Tom Loftus and Robin Schwartzman—have been documenting the world of mini golf on our website A Couple of Putts. After putting our way through more than 300 courses, we’ve stumbled into becoming experts who design, build, and consult on all things miniature golf. With our keen eye for elements that make courses distinctive and magical destinations, we’ve created this world tour to showcase some of our personal favorites, as well as a few courses on our “must play” list. In keeping with the theme, here are 18 unique courses that span the globe. This wild assortment of putting places offer unique ways to interact with the past and present. Putt when ready!
You probably know that Florida is famous for its shorelines, from the shell-stacked beaches of Sanibel Island to the music-soaked swaths of Miami. But many of the Sunshine State’s coolest attractions rarely see the light of day—they’re fully underwater. Here are some of the state’s strangest and most spectacular sites, beyond the beach, and below the surface. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Students of American history will know that Delaware is noteworthy for being the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, earning it the nickname “The First State.” But look beyond Delaware’s American roots, and you’ll find other cultural influences, tucked away where only the most enterprising of explorers will find them. From a Versailles-inspired palace to an English poet casually lounging in a garden, here are six places to help you travel the world without ever leaving the state. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
East Tennessee boasts some of the state’s most beautiful highways and byways. Rather than rushing from one destination to the next, this is the perfect road trip to meander and stop along the way. Follow this suggested itinerary between Knoxville and Nashville, and you’ll discover lesser-known historical gems, stunning natural landscapes, and some memorable treats, all bookended by two of Tennessee’s truly great cities.
Celebration or desperation aside, these six spots in Missouri are proof that imbibing is only half the fun of bar culture. From a mountaintop drive-through golf-cart bar to the state's oldest waterhole hole—nestled more than 50 feet underground in a limestone cellar—the “Show-Me State” has no shortage of boozy fun to show you (as long as you're 21+, of course). As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say this route from Salt Lake City to Colorado Springs is paved by rogue trailblazers. Indeed, much of it remains unpaved, not so much out of disregard as in homage to the rugged landscape that has inspired so many to strike out against the banal, to write their own script. From pioneering artists to obsessive curators and bold builders, this route follows in the footsteps of a bold few—watch your step.
Artistic visionaries and the spirit of rogue ingenuity define this route that starts in Denver, winds through the plains of southeastern Wyoming, and finishes in Alliance, Nebraska. It takes you off the beaten path to discover quirky art installations, historic monuments, local flavors, and natural wonders. This route of 11 inspiring spots is certain to spark the autonomous flame for all who take it on.
Iowa is the pantry of America, giving over the vast majority of its land to agriculture and producing more corn and pork than any other state. But the state has also proven fertile ground for pop culture, as well. The landscape has inspired movies, films, songs, paintings, and novels while spawning movie royalty in the form of a certain Duke. Bask in the wonderful corniness of these four pop-culture touchstones in the Hawkeye State. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
At the heart of every peach rests its stone center, or pit. So perhaps it’s fitting that Georgia, the Peach State, holds a wealth of stone-based treasures of a different sort. In Walker County, a labyrinth of limestone passages leads to the deepest cave drop in the continental United States. In Calhoun, a rock garden of spectacular sculptures hides behind a church. And in Savannah, two gravestones appear on an airport runway. Whether carved by hand or nature, these stone wonders truly rock. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
It turns out that no one really knows how Idaho got its name. It's been thought that the name came from Shoshone, but in truth it may have just been made up by a somewhat shady politician. Regardless of what you call it, the Gem State is sparsely populated and unapologetically wild, and full of wonders—especially geological ones. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
The Magnolia State is also famous, of course, for being one of the locales ribboned by the squiggly Mississippi River, which stretches more than 2,300 miles from Minnesota to Louisiana. Combined with the Missouri River, one of its tributaries, the Mississippi is the fourth-longest river in the world, trailing the Nile, Amazon, and Yangtze. The river is well worth a visit—and if you’re roaming the state that shares its name and want to hug fairly close to the shore, here are eight places to pop in along the way. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Once upon a time, the forests of Indiana were endless. Or that was how it seemed in the 19th century, when the state produced more lumber than anywhere else in the nation. The valuable trees went first, such as black walnut and white oak. The scrubby leftovers were often burned to create farmland. At the start of European settlement, 90 percent of what is now Indiana was forest. That number plummeted to a measly 6 percent by 1922. While the forests have significantly recovered, there are still only about 2,000 acres of old-growth forest left in the state. Yet trees hold a hallowed place here. One town has graciously allowed a tree to grow on its courthouse roof for more than a hundred years. In many graveyards, markers are fashioned to look like stumps and branches. Read on for five woody wonders of Indiana, all rooted deeply in their communities. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
When the Grim Reaper visits, it doesn't discriminate. The cemeteries of the Bluegrass State are home to a cast of characters that includes famous folks, as well as others whose faces you know, but whose names you might not recognize. Visitors can pay their respects to a fast-food icon, a world-famous athlete, comedic actor, and a local magician, as well as a folk hero who may or may not be buried there at all. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Picture Wyoming during its Wild West days. Once your mind wanders across the epic landscapes and into town, the mythic scene you might imagine—the saloon, the general store, the bank—will likely consist of wooden structures, ones thrown hastily up as settlers headed west in search of mining wealth, land, and work on the expanding railways. As it became the stuff of legend, accounts of the Wild West turned into tall tales, often conveniently overlooking the scale of the violent displacement of Native Americans. But as the period’s impact on the West is very real, it’s no surprise that the most unusual structures in Wyoming are wooden buildings that date from the frontier era or hearken back to it. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
In New Jersey, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. In 1909, newspapers published accounts of a monster known as the “Jersey Devil” said to be prowling the Pine Barrens. In 1938, a radio broadcast declared that aliens were invading the small community of Grover’s Mill. And today, streets and signs suggest ominous origins with names like Ghost Lake and Shades of Death Road. If you know where to look, the Garden State offers stories far stranger than any Springsteen song or scene from The Sopranos. Here are seven sites to explore the hauntings, horrors, and supernatural phenomena of New Jersey. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Nebraska is affectionately known as the Cornhusker State or the Wheat State, but this particular swath of Big Sky Country could also be called “The Land of Very Cool Collections.” From monuments to powdered beverages to love letters to roller skates, here are four exhibits worth a visit. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
More than half of Utah’s population is Mormon, which translates to more than 1.5 million citizens who eschew coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes. Sugar, however, is not restricted. This may explain why the state’s candy-eating rate is twice the national average: Everyone needs a vice. Or perhaps it’s that Mormons’ proclivity for large families skews the demographics in favor of sweets and starches—more kids equals more unbridled sugar fiends.Couple the state's bounty of confectionary with its proximity to Idaho, and you've got a wealth of potato-based treats to contend with, as well. In some cases, potatoes and dessert become one. Our advice? Don't knock it until you try it. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Massachusetts is a lit-lover's paradise. From landscapes that have moved writers to wax poetic about beans to story-inspired sculpture parks and shops stacked with volumes new and old, the Bay State would also be aptly named the Book State. Here are 12 places to celebrate writers or the places that inspired them. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Two 20th-century musical figures tower over the state of Minnesota: Prince Rogers Nelson and Robert Allen Zimmerman. (That's Prince and Dylan to us mere mortals.) And while the Gopher State definitely celebrates its favorite musical sons, much of the state has a musical bent to it, from a singing beach to a room so devoid of sound is makes a musical madness all its own. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
In the 1920s, a number of oil reservoirs were discovered in Oklahoma, and the promise of riches led to a population boom. Would-be oil barons moved in from the coasts, bringing with them the most popular style of the moment, Art Deco. Much of that architecture still stands today, alongside institutions that honor the state’s earlier history and its modern culture. Though many people know Oklahoma better for its oil fields and cattle ranches, the state also has a rich history of innovative art and architecture. From elaborate family estates to experimental art collectives, these are a few of the unique creative spaces that await in Oklahoma. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
When you think about Illinois, what are the first things that come to mind? Maybe it's the environment, with its vast prairies and cold winters. Maybe it's someone from the state, like Abraham Lincoln, or something, like Chicago-style hot dogs or deep dish pizza. What you might not realize, though, is that there's a lot of fascinating science happening in Illinois. (There was even a settlement named Science along the Illinois River in the early 19th century.) From some of the world's most powerful computers and particle-smashers to horological oddities, these are a few of the laboratories and collections that the 21st state has to offer. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
What is it with New Hampshire and the Devil? Since the time of European settlement, Satan seems to have lurked around every corner of the Granite State. In the era of witch hunts, terrified townspeople accused their elderly neighbors of speaking with the Devil, and local lore has it that the stones around a frothing waterfall in the woods once served as Satan's kitchen, where he cooked a pot of beans with the flames of Hell. Perhaps the Devil got his best turn in “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” a 1936 short story by Stephen Vincent Benét. The story features real-life lawyer and politician Daniel Webster fighting for the soul of a down-on-his-luck New Hampshire farmer who, in a moment of desperation, made a deal with the Devil. In the tale, the Devil uses every legal and supernatural means possible to outwit Webster, who battles to spare New Hampshire from further demonic meddling. “Any Hades we want to raise in this state, we can raise ourselves, without assistance from strangers,” Webster remarks. But for those who still do want to raise a little hell, New Hampshire has plenty of spots for devil-dealing. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Maryland has the distinction of being one of the first states to officially join the Union in 1788—and as such, it’s played both big and small roles in various battles across the nation's history. Here are eight nods to its military past, ranging from a furnace that produced George Washington’s cannonballs to an unusual museum dedicated to the U.S.'s cryptographic history. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
The state of Colorado is a gold mine of natural beauty: It's famous for its picturesque deserts, dramatic canyons, and shimmering, snow-capped peaks. But the Centennial State also deserves some love for its many unnatural wonders. There's a psychedelic church, a 231-pound sticker ball, and a cryogenic mausoleum. And who can forget the blue horse with neon-red eyes that towers outside the Denver airport? If you're looking to skip the ski slopes and hiking trails in favor of Colorado's strangest sights and most curious creations, this is where to start. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
For all of the images of Hollywood glamour, beach living, and beautiful people, Southern California has a lot of peculiarities that don’t get nearly as much attention. This route from Los Angeles to Twentynine Palms seeks out the strange and novel, providing a refreshing foil to SoCal clichés.
South Carolina is known for its picturesque coastal cities and Southern charm. Given its firm placement in the Bible Belt, the Palmetto State is home to many churches—but it also holds fascinating ruins of houses of worship, wondrous works of art inspired by African traditions, and historic holy grounds hiding in plain sight. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Vermont may be known for its maple syrup and homey coziness, but beneath that rustic veneer lies a solid history of mineral industry. Here's a history of the Green Mountain State from the ground up. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Knoxville, Tennessee, is a small city that’s made a big impact on the world. Founded by George Washington’s administration as the capital of the new Southwestern Territory, it was the 16th state’s capital — twice — for almost 20 years. Tucked in the heart of the valley along the Tennessee River, Knoxville is home to more than 120 parks and more than 160 miles of trails and greenways. It witnessed culmination of the women’s suffrage movement, played host to the 1982 World’s Fair and hosts the oldest symphony orchestra in the South. It’s also home to the University of Tennessee and its Volunteers, the fans of which bleed orange and white, the prominently displayed school colors. Need to give your feet a break as you explore the natural beauty, history, and culture of this thriving Southern city? Hop aboard the free Knoxville Trolley, the transit system operating since 1876. No matter how you choose to get around, there’s much to discover in Knoxville.
Glitz, glamour, guitars, honky-tonks, sequins, and neon are synonymous with Music City and its country music roots. While there’s perhaps no other city that embraces big hats, big hair and big personalities quite the way Nashville does, there’s much more to Tennessee’s capital than meets the eye. Its rich history of food, culture, and innovation makes it a haven for creatives of all stripes. Though the city shimmers with energy, it’s easy to commune with nature and enjoy the pristine beauty of East Tennessee, starting with the Cumberland River that runs right through the heart of downtown. Whether you’re looking for a brush with history, a chance to enjoy the great outdoors or an opportunity to hear some of music’s biggest stars, Nashville has it all. If your boots don’t feel like walking the entire route, Old Town Trolley offers hop-on-hop-off tours around the city, with a stop just outside Graduate Nashville.
Lush rainforests filled with ethereal shades of green; foggy beaches that stretch on for miles; towering mountains that dominate city skylines. It’s hard to think of a region with more diverse natural beauty than the Pacific Northwest. Take a journey from Seattle to Colton through the environments that have inspired artists, musicians, and storytellers for generations. From ancient mountains to reclaimed lands, these places are filled with excitement, intrigue, and maybe even a little off-road mystery.
Climate, globalization, trends, employment rates, lobbying—it all influences what we eat. As time marches ever-onward, recipes are forgotten, traditions fade into quiet obscurity, and institutions are abandoned. But some entities that seem slated for cultural demolition are kept alive in Arkansas. From brewing beer using the spring water of a once-infamous bathhouse to serving historic Appalachian home-cooking hot off of diner skillets, these seven Arkansan spots savor and celebrate relics of regional heritage. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Maybe you love your cat a lot—maybe even enough to commission a little painting of your furry companion. But the people of Alabama can do you one better. Here, you’ll find a whole cemetery devoted to hounds, a heartfelt memorial to a fish, even a statue of a pest that drove farmers batty before it also spurred them toward ingenuity. Alabama knows how to fete Fido, as well as his scuttling, swimming, and spacefaring compatriots. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
The Rockies may be bigger, but there's something special—and sometimes spooky—about the Appalachians. With dense forest cover, long history, and the shadowy hollows ("hollers," locally), they seem at times to be full of secrets. In West Virginia, the mountains and hills hold tales and myths, and a lot of places that were used and then abandoned. If you get excited about the feel of a shiver down your spine, you'll find a lot to love. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Pick an object. It could be a bottle of mustard. Or a life-size troll sculpture. Or a metal sculpture with big Victorian-steampunk energy. It doesn't really matter, as long as you collect or create so many of them that your collection becomes a roadside attraction and a cherished local landmark. A remarkable number of Wisconsinites have chosen this life path, and the result is a truly remarkable collection of collections scattered across the state. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
One of the great resources of the Mount Rushmore State is millions and millions of years old: fossils. The state has long had pride of place in the paleontology world for the dinosaurs and mammoths that have been excavated there. And that history seems to have provided inspiration for the state's menagerie of massive megafauna. Here are some of our favorite places that celebrate dinosaurs, huge animal art installations, mammoths, and ... a prairie dog? As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
In the 1700s and 1800s, Philadelphia was the center of medical scholarship in the United States. The city not only attracted the brightest minds, but also the most curious cases and characters. From the oldest quarantine facility in the country to a museum that memorializes a traveling dental circus, here are six places to marvel at the trials, errors, and triumphs of medical history in Pennsylvania. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
They say that Virginia is for lovers. If you love a little mystery, then they’re definitely right. With its mountain ranges, deep forests, and proximity to the nation’s capital, the state is filled with unusual corners and overlapping histories. From a Cold War bunker turned recording archive to a Styrofoam Stonehenge, these places in Virginia are more than meets the eye. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Every state in the union has graves, and their share of unusual burials or cemeteries, but there's something about the Tarheel State's final resting places that carry a sense of history and mystery, from long-forgotten graveyards, to eternal resting places for conjoined twins, to a politician that had himself buried inside a giant boulder. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
The Continental Divide runs through Montana, separating the mountains and glaciers on the west from rolling plains to the east. Much of the state is built on a bed of rock that dates back more than a billion years, to the Precambrian, or the earliest era in Earth’s history. The geology of Montana has shaped the state, from the mountain ranges to that draw hikers to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks to mineral deposits that drew prospectors during the Gold Rush to the vast plains that have long supported hunting and agriculture. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Along with the rest of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon has been shaped by volcanic activity. Active volcanoes, Mount Hood among them, dominate the skyline, and the city of Portland was built atop an extinct volcano. Over tens of thousands of years, these geological hotspots have left many holes in their wakes, including deep craters, narrow canyons, and subterranean lava tubes. Here are a few of the most intriguing voids that Oregon has to offer. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Sure, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, got headlines, but the Wright Brothers were Ohioans through and through. That's where they had their print and cycle shop, and established the world's first airplane factory. From Dayton's Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, to NASA's Glenn Research Center, to Congress officially declaring Ohio the “birthplace of aviation,” and much more, no other state takes to the skies and beyond like the home of the Buckeyes. Here are some of our favorite places to feel the wind beneath your wings. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
The deep, moody forests of Washington state are filled with secrets and stories. From springy mosses to towering Douglas firs, rocky outcrops, and glacial deposits, it’s easy to see how the landscape helped set the tone for stories like David Lynch’s trippy TV series Twin Peaks and the teen vampire romance that is Twilight. Across the Evergreen State, human- and nature-made oddities are rarely far from reach. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Yes, we know, Hawaiʻi is surrounded by water—the state is a watery wonder in and of itself. But the ocean is only the beginning. The volcanic islands' dramatic topography, unpredictable coastlines, and high rainfall mean that water in and around the Paradise of the Pacific cavorts in all sorts of stunning ways: waterfalls, blowholes, pools, and more. (Plus rainbows. Lots and lots of rainbows.) And you can enjoy all of these natural showstoppers without having to get your feet wet. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
For superb pizza, most people look to New York. Excellent burgers are available in every one of the 50 states. But where can you find hamburger recipes caught in the early 20th-century, cooked in steamers or served on toast with absolutely no ketchup allowed? Or, for that matter, fancy cheese made by trailblazing nuns who launched their dairying business at a time when Velveeta was still the norm? Connecticut may be an odd place to designate as a culinary cradle, but the state contains everything from the last of a generation of feminist vegetarian restaurants to what the Library of Congress dubs the very first place to have served up a hamburger. Unique culinary institutions cropped up in every corner of the state. Some have survived, while others have fallen by the wayside (R.I.P. to the Frisbie Pie Company). Here are six remarkable gastronomic institutions in a place that has proved to be fertile ground for unusual eats. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
In the arid and remote expanses of New Mexico's landscape, booms and zooms abound. From the volatile effects of the Manhattan Project to the otherworldly possibilities of Roswell's UFO, the Land of Enchantment has never shied away from the controversial or far-reaching. Here are several places to encounter those legacies across this southwestern state. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
The Sunflower State has a reputation for being flat—in fact, scientists have shown that it is objectively way flatter than a pancake. Far from being featureless, though, Kansas can be mind-bending in its own weird way. Maybe it all started with The Wizard of Oz. From a missile silo that once dominated the world's LSD supply to rock formations shaped like mushrooms, roadside art that will make you think you've been whisked away by a tornado, and a giant pile of sock monkeys, Kansas is full of treasures that are sure to make you do a double take. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
New York has been described as a playground for the rich and powerful, but the state's history is full of ordinary people who have overcome extraordinary struggles. What if Seneca Falls, the village that launched the fight for women's suffrage, were as famous as Niagara Falls? What if Weeksville, the historic free Black community in Brooklyn, were as well-known as Williamsburg? From immigrant sanctuaries to the Survivor Tree, here are sites where New York has shown its resilience. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
North Dakota is not quite the flattest state in the U.S., but it's pretty close. (In one analysis, it placed third, after Illinois and Florida.) During the last Ice Age, glaciers moving across the terrain had a planing effect on the land, dropping sediment that filled in any valleys, creating sprawling prairies and open, big skies. These large expanses are home to more than a few sky-high structures, both natural and human-made. From rocky peaks and multi-ton animal statues to one of the tallest buildings in the world, these are some of the most impressive structures that North Dakota has to offer. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
For about half of any given year, much of Arizona is too hot to handle. But even in peak summer, the state is home to a stunning spread of geographic diversity and a mysterious magic that emanates from the landscape—and we don’t just mean the mirages. Locals and visitors alike flock to higher altitudes, recreation-friendly bodies of water, and indoor spaces that are so heavily air-conditioned they practically require a jacket. Here are eight sheltered spots to retreat from the heat, from natural formations to an immersive art exhibit that invites lingering. We've even added a couple cool places (220 feet underground or a mile above sea level) to dream about spending the night. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Originally named “Venice of America,” Venice, California, owes its existence to a wealthy developer’s dream of a canal-laden resort town west of Los Angeles. The dream didn’t last long: After opening in 1905, the city went broke before joining Los Angeles in 1926. The decades of neglect that followed earned Venice the nickname “the slum by the sea,” but its affordability also attracted artists, beginning with the Beats in the late ’50s. Venice’s identity as a rough-around-the-edges artist haven endures more than 60 years later, though its affordability less so. If you’re looking to plot a trek across Los Angeles pavement and beaches, zero in on Venice with a run that oscillates between fast-and-furious and slow-and-curious. Take on this 5.2-mile run in one go, break it up into multiple runs, or do it in reverse. With the right running shoes, you’ll be ready to navigate Venice’s storied past and its eternally eccentric personality.
A run through New York City demands a delicate balance: Zoning out versus keeping your eyes peeled. On the one hand, there’s the clear-headed, in-the-zone mental state that any good sneaker-to-pavement exercise requires. At the same time, well, it is New York City. You can hardly walk two blocks without uncovering a hidden gem or noticing some new detail that’s actually been lurking in plain sight for decades. This 5.3-mile run takes you along a scenic route to discover some of these hidden gems. You can run the entire route, break it up into multiple runs, or do it in reverse. With the right running shoes, you’re bound to pick up on one of the million tiny, fascinating details along the way.
Long before California was home to tech campuses, freeways, and palm trees, Native inhabitants etched huge designs into the landscape. Even before that, at roughly the same time that the Pyramids of Giza were under construction, a tree that still survives today began taking root. And even farther into the past, glaciers and mammoths created enduring monuments to antiquity. Across the state, the distant past is still within easy reach. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
There’s a time-tested saying about things being large in Texas—and it certainly holds true for the state’s artworks, many of which are so huge or sprawling they could only reasonably live outdoors. Across the vast expanse of the Lone Star State are artistic testaments to some of the area’s oddest characters and stories. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
The smallest state in America is often the butt of jokes. Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island, and it was once famously parodied in the now-defunct website “How Many Rhode Islands”—a simple tool that allowed you to see just how many Rhode Islands could squeeze inside a given country. The United States could contain 3,066 Rhode Islands, and Russia could hold 5,445. But the tiny state has a rather grand history. Rhode Island was founded on the principle of religious freedom, was the first of the Thirteen Colonies to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown, and was one of only two states not to ratify the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol. Many of the state’s attractions still loom large, including a 58-foot-long blue fiberglass termite and an improbably large blue bear slumped under a lampshade. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Famous for country music and hot chicken, Tennessee is also filled with natural wonders. Across the state, caverns beckon. Venturing into some of Tennessee's strangest subterranean haunts is a great way to experience the depths of the state's spell-binding charm. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Louisiana has long had a complex relationship with the wet world. Chitimacha, Choctaw, and Atakapa peoples built communities among the knobby knees of bald cypress trees; French fur traders and pirates eventually made their own marks. Later still, modern engineers attempted to corral waters with levees and dams, or to reclaim land where there had been none. Across the 50,000-odd square miles that make up the state, troves of special places are becoming concealed by rising water. Here are seven places water has revealed or covered up. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Michigan is famous for its steep, sweeping sand dunes, freckling of lakes, and unique fossils—but across the state, you'll find slews of automated wonders, past and present. From old animatronic toys to the ruins of early assembly lines, here are seven places to be dazzled by industry. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Here at Atlas Obscura, we have a fondness for the forbidden, a hunger for the hidden, a gusto for the grim. (You get the point.) But it wouldn’t be so intrepid to simply highlight Nevada’s underbelly, would it? There’s more to the state than extraterrestrial-themed brothels and nuclear bomb test sites. Kids and grandparents might enjoy enormous Ferris wheels, unusual geysers, or pristine parklands. Even Nevada—home to Sin City—has a family-friendly side. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Maine is widely known for its mottled red crustaceans and stony-faced lighthouses, as well as bucolic towns and the top-notch hiking outside of them. But before all that, Maine was all about one thing: trains. As America industrialized in the 19th century, there was an insatiable demand to build and a hunger for lumber. Maine had plenty of it, and the state’s rivers became swollen with the fallen bodies of pine and spruce, much of which was hauled by rail. Trains did the heavy lifting to coastal hubs including Bangor and Ellsworth, and by 1924, there was enough railroad mileage in Maine to get from London’s King's Cross station to Mosul, Iraq. Over the years, some of the old cars were fashioned into eateries, but many were simply abandoned in the woods. Now, relics of Maine’s railroad history are scattered in museums, restaurants, and more. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
Picture Alaska. You might see in your mind's eye the granite and stark white snowcaps of Denali National Park, or the dark seas that surround 6,000-plus miles of coastline, or the muted olive of its tundra in the summer. But as anyone who's been there knows, the country's largest, most sparsely populated state can absolutely burst with color, from the luminous green of the Northern Lights, to the deep aqua of its glaciers, to the flourish of wildflowers fed by its long summer days. Here are some places to see the full spectrum of The Last Frontier. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
The District of Columbia is home to a number of places that you need to flash the right ID to access. From restricted rooftops to government storage facilities and underground tunnels, the city is filled with places that are off-limits to the average visitor. What’s more, many of them are hidden within popular tourist destinations and densely populated neighborhoods—so you might catch a glimpse of them, but never get any closer. These are a few of our favorite restricted spots in D.C., and the stories behind them. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.
If you thought Pensacola, Florida—with its powder-white sand beaches, near-perfect weather, and fresh seafood—was just a place to soak up the sun, think again. In fact, the city and beach of the same name is the site of the first European settlement in the continental United States. Established by Spanish explorer Tristán de Luna in 1559, it was christened Panzacola, a name of Native American origin and the precursor to the city’s modern name. The destination is also the birthplace of U.S. naval aviation and is still home to a naval air station and the thousands of service members stationed there, as well as the Blue Angels, the flight squadron famous for their death-defying fighter plane stunts. This delightful coastal city is an ideal, if somewhat quirky, blend of historical sites (on land and underwater) and activities to get your adrenaline flowing.
A deep blanket of snow often covers New England in the winter. But there’s adventure to be found in the frozen landscape, with its steep mountains and frozen ponds—and not just for skiers and snowboarders. This route blazes a unique path through Massachusetts and New Hampshire that is filled with bright colors, bold flavors, and the legacies of pioneering thinkers.
The people of Tucson have been eating off the land for 4,100 years. From grains to livestock to produce introduced by missionaries in the 1600s, this UNESCO City of Gastronomy is home to some of the oldest farmland in North America. What once was old is new again in The Old Pueblo where ancient flavors are found in nearly every dish — trendy to traditional.
Any travel enthusiast would be hard-pressed to open any social media channel and not see photos of Iceland, with its jaw-dropping peaks, natural hot springs, pure glaciers, northern lights and snow-covered landscapes. But the island nation’s appeal goes well beyond the well-worn paths of Reykjavik, the Golden Circle and the southern region's countryside. Travel to the untamed north along the Arctic Coast Way to discover otherworldly beauty—sans crowds—around every bend.
Crowds clog Edinburgh's Royal Mile, the main artery between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The road is dotted with stores selling Nessie trinkets and lined with bagpipers and street performers pulling off dazzling tricks. But look beyond the tartan tourist traps, and you’ll discover tucked-away gardens, remnants of the city’s medieval past, and much more.
In 1967, 100,000 artists, activists, and hippies gathered in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood for the Summer of Love. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix played free concerts for fields of college dropouts, and San Francisco established itself as a countercultural capital. More than 50 years later, in a city increasingly known for Twitter and tech rather than art and activism, travelers who come on a pilgrimage are often disappointed to find expensive, skin-deep psychedelia. But if you know where to look, you’ll find a walk down Haight Street to be wonderfully weird, full of historic links to hippiedom and modern takes on the vibe.
More than eight million diverse individuals call New York City home, and many of them share their heritage through food. Whether it’s a billiards hall that serves stellar Bhutanese fare or a mosque where Malian vendors sell snacks for just a few hours each Friday, the city offers a vast culinary landscape for those willing to explore it. Venture beyond the flashy hotspots with months-long waiting lists and you’ll find New York’s true flavor lies within the small restaurants and stands rooted in its thriving immigrant communities.
It may be famous for Mardi Gras, but New Orleans has subtle, surprising wonders on tap all year long—even in the touristy French Quarter. Around every cobblestoned corner, you’ll find historic ephemera, bits of Creole culture, environmentalism, and no shortage of spooky stories, whenever you happen to visit.
From the street, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is hard to miss: The institution’s two-million-square-foot main building, at 1000 Fifth Avenue, spans four New York City blocks and stretches into Central Park. Inside the galleries, you’ll find thousands of objects spanning 5,000 years of world history. With so many treasures under one roof, it's inevitable that some fascinating pieces are tucked into the museum's lonelier nooks and crannies, hiding in plain sight. The next time you spend a day at the museum, keep an eye out for these overlooked wonders.
Detroit and Nashville are synonymous with two all-American music genres. It’s no surprise that visitors flock to these cities each year to get a feel for the places where artists such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross & the Supremes, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton began their careers. A (relatively) straight, north to south route connects the two cities, as does musical heritage. Load up the RV, make sure your speaker system is in tip-top shape, and create a playlist filled with old-school Motown and Country hits. If you're not driving on the trip down south, you should be dancing.
The terrain along the Gulf of Mexico is sometimes called the “Third Coast,” but for an offbeat road trip, it’s second to none. Starting in Houston and ending in Pensacola Bay, this journey takes you through some of America’s most diverse landscapes. You’ll cross Cajun swamps, drive along sparkling white sand beaches, and even spend some time in the Big Easy. Take an RV and camp along the way to truly immerse yourself in this wondrous region. The world’s largest gulf, it turns out, holds some of America’s best-kept secrets.
The Coachella Valley and its environs boom in the spring, when tens of thousands of music lovers flock to catch their favorite artists perform in front of a dramatic, mountainous backdrop. But this region stays wonderfully weird all year long. If the festival drew you to the area and you only have a day to explore, choose a direction: Either head north, toward Joshua Tree and Landers, or southeast to the Salton Sea and nearby oases for a blissful respite. If you can spare a couple of days, lucky you—go forth and see it all.
Los Angeles’ Highland Park is a diverse, eclectic neighborhood that Native Americans and Latinx communities have inhabited for centuries. Celebrated for its history, art scene, ethnic diversity, and cuisine, Highland Park is filled with surprising delights that more and more people are discovering every day. Exploring the neighborhood's nooks and crannies is one of the most rewarding ways to spend a day in L.A.
Once referred to as “The Coney Island of the Pacific,” L.A.’s beachfront neighborhood of Venice has long been a popular tourist destination. Its colorful characters, quirky architecture, and carnivalesque atmosphere are well-known the world over. But take a moment to look past the kitsch, and you’ll discover a place where artistic ingenuity thrives more than a century after Abbot Kinney endeavored to bring a grandiose version of Venice to America. The bohemian beehive has always attracted artists and performers, and everyone is welcome to enjoy the show.
The 1970s brought a wave of artists into this former industrial area in Downtown Los Angeles. They sparked a fuse of creative imagination that burned for years. Up-and-coming creators took advantage of the then-low rents and built a foundation for the creative mecca that exists here today. In its infancy, L.A.’s Downtown Arts District came to life behind-the-scenes, with artists mostly working in closed studios. Today, the art has spilled onto the streets in the form of colorful murals, attractive gallery spaces, and stylish storefronts. But the curious explorer can still find literal and figurative traces of the ‘70s. In addition to the more historic spots that remain, a creative, entrepreneurial spirit abounds.
Wedged between Charing Cross and Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square is known for the throngs of people flocking to its famous attractions. Weave around the tourists on the National Gallery stairs and dodge the crowds clogging the street corners. Instead, duck down dreamy alleys and pop into unique, overlooked museums and shops. There, a secret side of this busy area waits to reveal itself.
Few cities on Earth are as well-trodden as New York–but as any intrepid traveler knows, the more you explore a place, the more wonders you find. You may not be able to discover all of these spots in a single trip, but that could be a good thing. No matter how many times you return, the city that never sleeps never ceases to surprise. Visit NYCGo to uncover more of the city’s secret spots.
Anchored by the Zócalo plaza and the architectural splendor of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City's historic center rightfully draws scores of visitors from around the world. If you look, smell, and taste carefully, you’ll also find a universe of culinary offerings that tells stories of immigration, adaptation, and imagination. With the help of Culinary Backstreets, we assembled a primer on eating and drinking your way through the district.
Hollywood Boulevard is world-famous—for the Oscars and the Walk of Fame, for schlocky souvenir shops and crowded tour buses. But beyond the terrazzo stars and the occasional celebrity sighting, there’s plenty left to discover. Here’s how to make Hollywood’s acquaintance, whether you’re a visitor or a local who keeps a practiced distance from these busy, saturated blocks. Look closer and you'll find a neighborhood full of nature, history, and wonder.
There's the Times Square you know, full of blazing billboards, selfie sticks, and costumed characters. Then there's the less familiar one, beyond the lights—the nooks and crannies that most visitors to Midtown Manhattan overlook. They're not obvious, but surprises can still be found along this world-famous stretch of real estate.
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