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.Explore
Begin your adventure at Eastern Market, a historic commercial district and the site of a year-round public farmers’ market located just north of downtown Detroit. The alleyways and industrial buildings of this area act as giant canvasses for some of Detroit’s most impressive murals. Many are created anew each year at “Murals in the Market,” a world-renowned festival held in September.
Grab a map, or simply wander around. With the most concentrated collection of street art in Detroit, it’s hard to pick favorites in this area. One showstopper is New Orleans’ “BMike” Odums and Detroit’s Rick Williams’ affecting collaboration depicting a young African American boy holding up a fistful of flowers on the corner of Adelaide and Orleans streets. Another is artist Louise Chen (a.k.a. "Ouizi")'s blue blooms on Orleans between Division and Adelaide streets.
Plan ahead and visit on Saturday, when the farmers' market is in full swing. Stock your RV's fridge with locally-sourced meat and produce.
1357 Division St, Detroit, MI 48207
While you’re still in the district, head over to Bert’s Market Place, a restaurant, bar, and live music venue. Approach from Russell Street, across from the Eastern Market sheds, and you’ll be met by the sight and smell of ribs grilling outside. Inside, locals line up on bar stools to chow down and chat each other up. No matter the time of day, Bert’s is always buzzing. Don’t be afraid to talk to your neighbors here, because chances are they’ve been coming to Bert’s for years and have plenty of stories to share.
Owner Bert Dearing Jr. opened the Market Place in 1987, but he’s been running music venues his entire life. One main draw is Saturday morning karaoke. If you go, get there early. The room fills up quickly, and it’s no wonder–the talent on display here is truly something to behold. Many of the regulars are local legends who are clearly comfortable onstage.
Throughout the multi-purpose space, look out for memorabilia including Dearing’s personal photography collection of famous customers, historic maps of the city, and artwork by black artists.
2727 Russell St, Detroit, MI 48207
If you can’t resist a good roadside oddity, drive about 15 minutes to the city’s east side and you won’t be disappointed. At the corner of Lenox and Mack streets, an oversized cow head sits atop a comparatively tiny former ice cream stand. Surrounded by overgrown lots and vacant buildings, it’s a surreal sight that’s worth a stop (and a photo) before you embark on the drive south, where the actual cows roam.
Despite the odds, the hefty statue has remained on top of the abandoned shop since 1955, when it served as the mascot for Ira Wilson & Sons Dairy. More recently, it was immortalized onscreen in the 2002 film 8 Mile. Having reportedly been purchased in early 2019, the Cow Head’s future is uncertain–all the more reason to check it out.
Now might be a good time to make your way outside of city limits to nest. There are a number of campground options just northwest of the city, but for a more bucolic experience, drive about 40 minutes south to William C. Sterling State Park–the only state park located on Lake Erie. Its beaches and lagoons offer a nice respite for a multi-day stay in Motown.
13099 Mack Ave, Detroit, MI 48215
You can’t visit Detroit without making a pilgrimage to the place where Motown as we know it was born. On West Grand Boulevard in the heart of New Center, the charming blue and white house advertised as “Hitsville U.S.A” is impossible to miss. Formally known as the Motown Museum, the building itself belonged to Berry Gordy Jr., who in 1959 founded the famous Motown record label.
Gordy’s sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, opened the museum in 1985. By then, Berry had moved his entire operation to Los Angeles and left almost everything as is, including the candy machine that always had Stevie Wonder’s favorite Baby Ruth bars placed in the same place (four in from the right), and the front desk where Martha Reeves answered phones before becoming one of the scene’s most sought-after vocal talents.
For many, the museum’s crowning jewel is Studio A, where hits such as “Stop in the Name of Love,” “Please, Mr. Postman,” and “Do You Love Me? (Now That I Can Dance)” were recorded. Seeing some of the original instruments played on such iconic recordings and observing the grooves in the floor of the control room (made by producers pounding their feet to the beats), it’s hard not to be moved by the history that surrounds you.
2648 W Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48208
Motown’s influence continues to dominate the airwaves today. Go see for yourself over at Third Man Records, in the city’s historic Cass Corridor. Upon entering the storefront, you’ll smell the vinyl wafting from the pressing plant located in the back. The facility is the first of its kind to open in Detroit since 1965. It primarily presses records from owner Jack White’s label in a distinctive yellow hue. Put on a pair of safety glasses, and you can even take a tour of the factory floor.
Most vinyl pressing plants are automated, but here, everything is done manually. Watch employees run the Third Man yellow Newbilt presses and create a vinyl record from scratch. You’ll need to book a tour in advance for the full experience but if you can’t make a reservation, you can still see the factory from inside the store through windows.
441 W Canfield St, Detroit, MI 48201
Say goodbye to Detroit and hop on the highway to get to McCourtie Park. The main attractions at this pleasant green space are cement bridges made to look as though they were built from wood, and the remains of a notorious rathskeller.
The cement and oil tycoon W.H.L. McCourtie moved back to his home state and the current site of McCourtie Park in 1924, beginning construction of what the locals described as “a rich man’s hideaway.” In 1930, he hired George Cardoso and Ralph Corona, itinerant Mexican artisans, to construct the bridges. The men were experts at the folk art tradition of trabajo rústico, or “rustic work.” Facing the park, walk all the way to the right toward the road, and you can still see the artists’ names etched into the cement floor of the farthest bridge.
McCourtie’s “hideaway” was home to plenty of parties during the Jazz Age. The house has since been demolished, but its drinking den can still be seen through the windows of a garage that’s also survived. Take a quick peek through its windows for a view of the bar and a fireplace where gangsters like Al Capone were rumored to congregate.
10426 S Jackson Rd, Cement City, MI 49233
It's easy to take all of your RV's amenities for granted. You won't find stoves or refrigerators in the original campers, which rolled off the lot shortly after the very first automobiles. The RV/MH Hall of Fame is an enriching experience that will help you appreciate your camper all the more, whether this is your first jaunt in an RV or your hundredth.
The RV/MH Hall of Fame is home to more than 50 travel trailers and motor homes that date back to the early 20th century. Follow the exhibit’s “road floor,” beginning with the oldest recreational vehicles in the world: a 1913 “Earl” Travel Trailer and a 1916 Model “T” Ford Telescoping Apartment. Note the ingenuity of the design of these original RVs.
As you move forward in time, you’ll also learn about the formation of the first RV camping clubs, nicknamed the “Tin Can Tourists.” Despite the fact that transcontinental roads weren’t prevalent at the time, these groups congregated as early as the 1920s. By the 1930s, you’ll see the nascent aircraft industry’s influence on the vehicles’ design.
As you continue, you’ll have the chance to step inside some RVs from the 1950s and ‘60s. Aside from certain safety features, you won’t see many differences between these midcentury RVs and modern ones. The‘70s and '80s are a different story: camper decor trends from these decades include shag carpeting and don’t disappoint.
21565 Executive Pkwy, Elkhart, IN 46514
Continue your journey south, passing rolling hills, farms, and cattle pastures. The scenery may entice you to take a break from driving, and you’d be wise to do so at Bluespring Caverns, home to the longest underground navigable river in the U.S. Winding down the nondescript, residential road that leads you to the entrance, you may feel as though you’ve lost your way. But the attraction is well-marked once you arrive. Drive to the bottom of the hill to find the log cabin visitor’s center and sign up for a boat tour.
Discovered in the 19th century when this land was still privately owned, the story goes that one morning a farmer woke up to find his pond gone, replaced by a sinkhole that led to the cave system. Learn more about that fateful morning, along with facts about the cave’s rock formations and fauna. Keep your eyes peeled for salamanders, frogs, and crayfish.
1459 Blue Springs Cavern Rd, Bedford, IN 47421
The exit to get to Mammoth Cave National Park is impossible to miss: it’s marked by a giant dinosaur statue advertising “Dinosaur World.” Pull over to take another photo to add to your album, and then follow the bends to reach Mammoth Cave Visitor Center. Part of Mammoth Cave National Park, these caves hold the distinction of being the longest known cave system in the world.
You’re spoiled for options when it comes to tours. There are historical tours, including one that takes you through an 1840s underground hospital built to treat consumptive patients, and another that leads you to “Gothic Avenue,” a peculiar passage with handwritten messages and makeshift monuments left by the various people who have worked in these caves over the past two centuries.
Whichever tour you choose, pay attention to the stairs you traverse as you make your descent into the caves. The 280-step, narrow staircase is an engineering feat. Until the 1960s, these stairs were wooden. Figuring out how to manufacture the metal stairs that are still in use today wasn’t easy. The company that cracked the code, somewhat unsurprisingly, specialized in submarines. It’s estimated that each metal stair cost about $3,000 to create–roughly $25,000 in today’s dollars.
As an added bonus, there's a developed campground just a quarter-mile from the visitor's center. Make sure to book a reservation early—spots fill up fast in the summer.
1 Mammoth Cave Pkwy, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259
Emerge from the underground and hit the road again to reach your final destination: Nashville. Head straight to the center of town to the Country Music Hall of Fame, where Hatch Show Print has operated since 2013. Founded by Charles and Herbert Hatch in 1875, the letterpress print shop was originally located behind the Ryman Auditorium (home to the Grand Ole Opry) and was hugely influential in the evolution of country music. Its presence in music posters and concert flyers can still be felt today.
The shop’s heyday coincided with the rise of the genre, and its clientele included luminaries such as Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline. But the business didn’t just cater to the country and western set. The Ryman auditorium also hosted plenty of jazz and blues entertainers in the 1920s, and Hatch Show created posters for those artists too, including Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, and Duke Ellington.
Still an active press, visitors can sign up for a tour of the floor. Alternatively, you can visit the shop as well as a special exhibition celebrating 140 years of the business, on display through 2020.
224 5th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203
After a night on the town taking in the sounds that waft from just about every bar and restaurant on Nashville’s main drag, wake up the next morning and grab yourself a cup of coffee at a surprising location: Warner Park Nature Center. On Saturday mornings, coffee chats are held here to educate visitors about the ecological benefits of shade-grown coffee and the unexpected reason you should be drinking it: to protect birds.
Many birds migrate south to Mexico, Central America, or South America—the places we often associate with coffee bean production. Clearing forests to grow coffee beans is detrimental to birds and other wildlife. But coffee can also be grown in managed shade forests that make space for both birds and coffee plants. Warner Park sells such blends, which you can sip on the center’s wraparound porch or take with you on a hike through one of the forest’s trails. Or, simply purchase a bag to brew in your home-on-the-road's coffeemaker.
7311 TN-100, Nashville, TN 37221
You may have already reached Nashville, but for a true taste of the South, head deeper into the countryside, past 100-acre farms and historic estates. In the quaint village of Leiper’s Fork, you’ll find a shop called Serenite Maison.
Housed in a circa 1914 general store, the business is packed floor-to-ceiling with beautifully curated home goods, old and new. But the real draw of the shop is hidden in plain sight, to the right of the entrance. Old instruments that hang from the walls in the “Pickin’ Corner” include a 1944 D-28 Martin, a 1940s L7 Archtop Gibson, and a 1934 Gibson mandolin, to name but a few. Anyone is welcome to try them out, and the store is known for hosting both regular and impromptu jam sessions.
9520, 4149 Old Hillsboro Rd, Franklin, TN 37064
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 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.
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.
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.
Follow along on our 2,200-mile adventure with NPR's 'All Things Considered.'
Forge your own path in this tourist magnet, toward places that are less crowded but no less wondrous.
Find faded grandeur and vibrant street life in Argentina's largest city.
Just when you thought you knew the Windy City, it finds new ways to surprise you.
Find secret vistas, labyrinthine bookstores, and eclectic public art.
In the homeland of explorers, your best bet is to keep looking.
Go beyond the beaches in the continental United States’ only truly tropical city.
New York City's most diverse borough is also its most rewarding.
Southern California's second city holds plenty of sparkling secrets.
Find surprises around every corner in a U.S. city that embraces history like no other.