DETROIT-JULY 7: People assemble at Motown's memorial for Michael Jackson at Hitsville U.S.A., and Motown Museum on July 7, 2009. The Jackson 5 recorded their early hits at the Motown studio.

The Coolest Attraction In Every State

BY Matt Meltzer | July 10, 2024

Temperatures are rising, tan lines are coming in and days are finally long enough to drive well into the evening. Yes, American road trip season is upon us, and with it, the perfect excuse to visit states you’ve never seen before. When driving across unfamiliar state lines, sometimes it’s nice to have a little help deciding the best sites to see and which attractions are worth a detour — and that’s what Fifty Grande is here for, folks. In the United States, road trip attractions run the gamut from quirky museums to grand national parks, curated cultural trails to scenic drives and train rides. If you’re venturing into new territory this summer, here is the best attraction each state has to offer.


Photo courtesy of artistmac | CC BY-SA 2.0

U.S. Space and Rocket Center

If you’ve dreamed of going to space camp ever since you were a little kid, look no further than Huntsville to make your dreams come true. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is where amateurs can learn to be astronauts, and it also has an abundance of exhibits about rockets and how they take us to space. Their Space Camp programs aren’t just for the youth. A suite of multi-day adult Space Academies takes creaky-limbed, older folk and throw us into low element ropes courses and multi-axis trainers just like the ones that spin astronauts in every direction. If Space Academy is a little too much of a commitment, you can try smaller astronaut experiences like the G-Force Simulator and SCUBA space training, or take a ride on the Moon Shot, a carnival-style drop ride with birds-eye views of the center. 


Photo courtesy of Ian D’Andrea | CC BY-SA 2.0

White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad

Alaska has staggering natural beauty and plenty of national parks that show off its goods.. Every park makes a trip to the Last Frontier worth it, but they also require great effort to experience. If you want a more direct route to Alaska’s grandeur, take a ride on this 1898 mining railroad that runs from Skagway to Whitehorse in the Yukon territory. The 110-mile ride takes you past all the glaciers, mountains and untamed wilderness you go to Alaska to see. And all of it’s visible from the comfort of vintage rail cars.


Photo courtesy of Paul Fundenburg | CC BY 2.0

Grand Canyon

Sometimes the obvious choice is the only choice, and in Arizona, no attraction stands out quite like the Grand Canyon. If you can avoid going during the busy periods of spring break and fall weekends,  standing on the canyon’s edge will make you feel indescribably small. For a full Grand Canyon immersion, look into a multi-day rafting trip down the Colorado River. The ride makes you a resident of one of America’s great natural wonders, giving you the chance to explore side canyons and hidden oases that most visitors never see.


Photo courtesy of EEJCC | CC BY-SA 4.0

Crystal Bridges Museum

Few places in the United States combine art, architecture and wilderness like this Bentonville museum. The buildings are designed to look like extensions of the Ozark landscape; curves and stone walls keep the aesthetics of the forest as they drop into the river. Inside, you’ll find a fantastic collection of modern art diversified by rotating traveling exhibitions. Outside, you can traverse five miles of trails over 120 acres, connecting the museum to the creativity of the outdoors as well.


Photo courtesy of m01229 | CC BY-SA 2.0

General Sherman

Despite all of California’s pop culture icons, historic sites, and national parks, nothing in the Golden State is quite as impressive as the world’s largest tree. Inside Sequoia National Park, General Sharman is a Giant Sequoia that stands a staggering 275 feet tall and 36 feet wide. It’s surrounded by similar behemoths, making a visit here one of the trippier national park experiences in the nation. If nothing else, it’ll give you a new appreciation for the staying power of nature, as the 2,200-year-old tree has survived fires, snows and pretty much everything else planet Earth (and humanity) could throw its way.


Photo courtesy of snowpeak | CC BY 2.0

Garden of the Gods

Perhaps the most unique and unusual natural wonder in the Rocky Mountain state is Garden of the Gods Park near Colorado Springs. It’s a place where three distinctly American landscapes converge: jagged red rock formations tower over pinyon-juniper woodlands and great plains grass. You’ll find over 300 million years of geologic history packed in along its 21 miles of multi-use trails. And if you want to stay inside the park, the Garden of the Gods Resort and Club offers a Four-Diamond experience. 


Photo courtesy of David Shankbone

Mystic Aquarium

The seaside town of Mystic first gained fame in 1988 as the home of a fictional cinematic pizza spot, Mystic Pizza. In the years following, it’s become one of Connecticut’s most visited places. Mystic is all about maritime life, and the coolest thing to do here is visit the Mystic Aquarium, where you can play with penguins, paint with stingrays and learn how to train a California sea lion. It’s also home to an animal rescue center, and you can learn how the aquarium rehabilitates injured and displaced animals.


Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, USA - September 17, 2017: A large welcome sign greets visitors to Rehoboth Beach, "The Nation's Summer Capital". Photo by Shutterstock.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, USA – September 17, 2017: A large welcome sign greets visitors to Rehoboth Beach. Photo by Shutterstock.

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk

When one imagines the summer charm of a Mid-Atlantic beach town, they likely envision the scene at Rehoboth Beach. The mile-long, wood-plank boardwalk is lined with soft serve ice-cream shops, arcades, midways and Dolle’s iconic saltwater taffy. Over its 171 years, the boardwalk has managed to keep its idyllic charm, and even during its busiest months of July and August, it never feels like an uncomfortable tourist trap. No trip here is complete without lunch at Gus & Gus, a narrow diner where your fried chicken comes with a view of the Atlantic Ocean.


Photo courtesy of Sporst | CC BY 2.0

Weeki Wachee Mermaid Show

Fun fact: Florida is the only state where mermaids are government employees. This should surprise absolutely no one, especially anyone who’s been to the timeless roadside attraction, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Before Disney World, and long before South Beach, this park lured wintering motorists with its elaborate performances of The Little Mermaid done underwater in full mermaid dress, creating a nationwide legend. The show continues today, and while Weeki Wachee might not be the state’s biggest draw, it prevails as the most Floridian.


Photo courtesy of frankieleon – CC BY 2.0

The World of Coca-Cola

You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking the World of Coca-Cola is a two-hour advertisement for the world’s most popular soft drink. But it’s also a surprising education in how our brains process taste and smell, and how scientists can duplicate all kinds of things inside a 12-ounce can. The Beverage Lab is a fascinating look at soda formulation, and the Scent Discovery area will have you rethinking everything you smell. You can also sample over 100 sodas from across the world, see artifacts from the company’s early days, and enter the vault holding Coke’s secret formula. Pro tip: If you parked far away, use the bathroom before you leave. Those free samples definitely catch up to you.


Photo courtesy of Edmund Garman | CC BY 2.0

Iolani Palace

Finding ways to absorb Hawaiian history can be a challenge while visiting here, especially with the Aloha State’s abundance of beaches and natural wonders pulling your attention elsewhere. Iolani Palace, however, can give the white sand a run for its money. The best place to learn about the history of the islands is at this ornate palace on Oahu, which housed Hawaii’s monarchs before colonization. You’ll get an education on the islands’ pre-occupation story through the lineage of its rulers as you take in the splendor of their royal residence. Historic photographs and Native Hawaiian dress are displayed throughout, and though museums aren’t typically on anyone’s Hawaiian vacation itinerary, taking an afternoon to explore Lolani Palace gives you a better perspective on the islands.


Photo courtesy of Tore Khan | CC BY 2.0

Sun Valley Ski Resort

Next time you breeze up a ski run in the comfortable confines of a high-speed quad chairlift, thank Sun Valley. The resort opened by the Union Pacific railroad hired a team of engineers to find a faster method of getting skiers up its signature Proctor Mountain. Inspired by a system used to load bananas onto cargo ships in Panama, the team developed what we know today as the modern chairlift.  The lift and the mountain it carried people up are no longer in use, but you can still traverse Sun Valley’s 2,400 acres and 3,400 vertical feet of terrain.


Photo courtesy of Ryan Dickey | CC BY 2.0

Wrigley Field

A baseball game at Wrigley Field isn’t just a baseball game. It’s experiencing the sport the way it was meant to be experienced: with packed stands, blue skies and little more than the game to entertain you. Gamedays stretch far past Wrigley’s ivy-covered walls. The entire neighborhood around the home of the Chicago Cubs comes alive and turns into the social center of the Windy City.. Apartment buildings across the street from the stadium now sell seats on their rooftops, and though the view is not the best, it may be the ultimate way to experience the country’s quintessential ballpark.


Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior

Indiana Dunes National Park

The long, flat landscape of Indiana hardly seems like the place for a desert trek. But reach the edge of Lake Michigan and you’ll be in a white sand wonderland of desert and dunes, where the only thing that hints at the Midwest is the cool breeze off the lake. The topography here is unusual in the U.S., and a welcomed sight after driving hours through the plains. If you’re especially enamored by the scenery, make plans to camp inside the park somewhere along its 15 miles of lakeshore. It’ll feel a little like you’re sleeping next to a Saharan oasis, which is pretty cool considering you’re in Indiana.  


Photo courtesy of milst1 | CC BY 2.0

Field of Dreams House

Little did Kevin Costner know that if he built it, thousands and thousands of people would come. The Iowa cornfield where Shoeless Joe Jackson returned from the afterlife in “Field of Dreams” is now the state’s most recognizable attraction: a bucolic baseball setting that’s hosted Major League games the past few seasons. If there’s no baseball game happening, you can still tour the historic farmhouse and take pictures on the famous field – or of yourself walking out of the cornfields.


Photo courtesy of jeffreyw | CC BY 2.0

Kansas City Taco Trail

If you love tacos – and, really, who doesn’t? – you owe yourself a visit to the Kansas side of Kansas City. Though no official statistics exist, the town may have one of the highest concentrations of taquerias in the United States, with a whopping 50 storefronts within a couple miles of the Missouri River. The options range from full-fledged family restaurants to corner dive bars and Mexican markets that butcher their own meat. Kansas City has set up an official trail to lead you through them all and give you the chance to win prizes along the way. Whether that’s worth the ensuing atherosclerosis is up to you.


Photo courtesy of Scott | CC BY-SA 2.0

Keeneland Race Course

Churchill Downs may be the most famous race track in the world, but nowhere captures the spirit of horse racing like Keeneland in Lexington. You’ll wind through miles of rolling green hills and horse farms to get there, then rumble up the tree-lined drive to a clubhouse that looks more like an Irish castle than a race track. Inside, well-heeled fans pack the stands, even on weekdays, for the brief, glorious three-week seasons in the spring and fall. The experience is pure Kentucky. Bourbon for breakfast is expected and warming Burgoo stew is the meal of the day. That is to say, you don’t need to know a thing about horse racing to revel in an afternoon at Keeneland.


Photo courtesy of Ken Lund | CC BY-SA 2.0

The French Quarter

It’s not original, but it is true. When you think of New Orleans, you think of the French Quarter. Sure, The Big Easy has a lot more to offer than creole cottages with cast iron rails, but nothing makes you feel more of that New Orleans romance than wandering the French Quarter’s narrow, crooked streets. The neighborhood contains most of the city’s famous landmarks – Jackson Square, Laffitte’s Blacksmith Shop, St. Louis Cathedral – as well as the bulk of its historic hotels and rowdy bars. Maybe most importantly, the French Quarter is where you’ll find Café du Monde’s most iconic location dishing out its ever-alluring beignets.


Photo courtesy of William Brawley | CC BY 2.0

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is a national treasure because of its pristine beaches and wondrous panoramas from the top of Cadillac Mountain, the peak of which sees the first rays of sunlight in the United States each morning. With its granite cliffs dug out by glaciers, you won’t find a higher rocky headland on the Atlantic shore. Its famous Carriage Roads came courtesy of John D. Rockefeller Jr., who donated 11,000 acres to the park, and as the northeast’s lone national park, it stands as a landmark natural destination in the country’s furthest corner.


Photo courtesy of Chris6d | CC BY-SA 4.0

Camden Yards

Camden Yards is a beautiful place to watch a baseball game. Its red brick warehouse in right field has become instantly recognizable for many millions of baseball fans. When Camden Yards opened in 1993, it changed the way baseball stadiums were designed, eschewing the popular multipurpose monstrosities of the ‘70s and ‘80s for contoured design. Nearly every new park in the sport has taken cues from Camden, creating a new generation of stadiums that are as much a part of the experience as the game.


Photo courtesy of Rick Harris | CC BY-SA 2.0

Boston Common

America has lots of massive public green spaces, but Boston Common is also a big part of American history. You can see places where revolutionary troops mustered, anti-slavery movements sprouted, and World War I victory parties raged. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke here, as did Pope John Paul II, and it’s been the site of countless other important events. As a place for urban outdoor recreation, it’s tough to beat, too, with the option to skate, splash in Frog Pond, and enjoy a picnic on the lawns. 


Photo courtesy of soupstance | CC BY 2.0

Motown Museum

An unassuming house along Detroit’s West Grand Boulevard did more to influence American music than some entire states. Now dubbed “Hitsville, U.S.A” the house was purchased by Motown Records president Berry Gordy in 1959, and used to record hits from the Temptations, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson 5 and other Motown greats. The number of songs you know recorded within these walls is astounding, and walking through the offices and studios where it all happened can be almost surreal. You’ll also see artifacts ranging from original instruments to MJ’s famous glove, and each tour ends with a little singing and dancing in the Motown studio.


Photo courtesy of Lorie Shaull | CC BY-SA 2.0

SPAM Museum

Is there any food with a reputation quite like SPAM, the processed, tinned pork product that helped win World War II and make Monty Python a household name? Whether you subscribe to the gospel of SPAM or not, you can’t help but appreciate this quirky, kitschy, 14,000-square-foot space devoted to the stuff. You’ll discover how SPAM came to be, see how its packaging has changed (not much), and learn its role in World War II and American history. SPAM also has an astounding global reach, and the museum demonstrates how it’s incorporated into cuisines around the world. And yes, you’ll also get free SPAM-ples, if all that pork talk gets your digestive juices going.


Photo courtesy of Firecruise | CC BY-SA 4.0

Mississippi Blues Trail

If there’s one great cultural contribution Mississippi has made to the country, it’s the Delta Blues. And you’ll see all the places where the music genre began and flourished along the Mississippi Blues Trail. It’s not a specific path, but a collection of old juke joints, music rooms, towns and roads where famous blues musicians made their names. There are also plenty of museums on the trail, including Elvis Presley’s birthplace in Tupelo and the BB King Museum in Indianola. The most magic may lie at the infamous “Crossroads,” however, a rural intersection where bluesman Robert Johnson was said to have sold his soul to the devil for fame.  


Photo courtesy of amanderson2 | CC BY 2.0

National World War I Museum

Here’s a hot take: In terms of catastrophic and world-changing global conflicts, World War I really doesn’t get its due. Do you know why it started? What it was about? Why the U.S. got involved? Probably not, and that’s precisely why a trip to this Kansas City museum is so fascinating. Learn how regional conflicts boiled over and became all out global mayhem after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and how fear of a Mexican invasion launched the U.S. into the war. You can even strap on some VR goggles to place yourself in a chillingly realistic allied trench. It all ends on the museum’s rooftop, where you’ll get a perfect view of the KC skyline.


Photo courtesy of aparlette | CC BY 2.0

Glacier National Park

When this park opened in 1910, it had 80 glaciers covering its terrain. That number is down to only 26 today, and all are shrinking due to climate change. The message is clear: not only is the park one of the most special swaths of nature in the world, it’s also one that might not be around much longer. See it while you still can. If you’re up for a little international exploring, the park borders Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, so you can continue your adventure exploring Glacier’s Canadian twin.


Photo courtesy of Visit Grand Island | CC BY 2.0

The Crane Trust

Nebraska famously told us it’s not for everyone, but if you’re into large-scale animal migrations it’s one of the best places in America. The annual sandhill crane migration in March is a sight to behold, as over 650,000 birds cross the state’s Platte River Valley. The Crane Trust Nature and Visitor’s Center in Wood River isn’t just an ideal viewing point, it’s also an education center that will teach you why the sandhill cranes are so important to the state and showcases work by Nebraska artists depicting the state’s under-appreciated nature. You can visit year round. 


Photo courtesy of Andrew Keenan Richardson

Neon Museum

To get an up-close look at Vegas gone by, check out the Neon Museum just north of the strip, where the signs from long-lost casinos are laid to rest. Guided tours tell the city’s story through its discarded neon signs, though you can wander the Neon Boneyard alone and photograph these stellar examples of mid-century kitsch. The museum also has an immersive audiovisual experience by Craig Winslow called “Brilliant! Jackpot,” which makes dormant signs appear re-electrified.

New Hampshire

Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library | CC BY 2.0

Mt. Washington Cog Railroad

Mt. Washington jokingly likes to claim it has the “ world’s worst weather,” which might lead you to think it’s the opposite of a great attraction. Climb aboard its namesake cog railroad and you’ll think differently. The hour-long trip chugs its way to the highest point in the northeast, traversing three climate zones,  and making a quick stop to see Upper Ammonoosuc Falls and its resident moose, during the journey. Once at the summit, you’ll feel some of the mountain’s notorious wind gusts to be sure, but in the summer you might be able to tolerate them without a jacket.

New Jersey

Photo courtesy of Anthony Quintano | CC BY 2.0

American Dream

The unbridled fun of a New Jersey boardwalk is a quintessential part of summer in the Tri-state area. What if you could enjoy all those midway games, rides and days in the water all year long? That is, indeed, the American Dream, and why this monstrous amusement park in East Rutherford is truly one of the great wonders of the world — or, at least, the Mid-Atlantic. It’s home to the country’s only year-round indoor ski resort, so you can shred powder in the morning, then ride water slides at DreamWorks Water Park in the afternoon. There’s also an ice rink, a mini golf course, a Legoland, a surf simulator, and pretty much anything else you could imagine to keep a kid entertained.

New Mexico

Photo courtesy of Roller Coaster Philosophy | CC BY 2.0

Meow Wolf

Though it has sprung offshoots in Colorado, Texas, and Nevada, the original Meow Wolf was conceived inside an old bowling alley in Santa Fe. The spectacular installation that started it all has 70 rooms of mind-bending modern art, based loosely around the theme of a family home that becomes a portal of the space-time continuum. It’s the kind of place you can go 50 times and have completely different experiences, noticing odd little details and corridors you swore weren’t there before.

New York

Photo courtesy of dangaken | CC BY 2.0

National Baseball Hall of Fame

The National Baseball Hall of Fame is the hall of fame by which all others are measured, a city-sized tribute to America’s pastime. Cooperstown, N.Y. is as close as the world has to a baseball-themed town, where nearly every downtown shop deals in baseball memorabilia, and every bar is playing a ballgame. The hall itself is an extensive collection of baseball artifacts dating back 150 years, with plaques showcasing heroes across generations. If you’re not a baseball fan, you’re guaranteed to leave understanding why the baseball people in your life love the sport as passionately as they do.

North Carolina

Photo courtesy of Scot Campbell | CC BY 2.0

National Whitewater Center

This 1,300-acre adventure park just outside Charlotte has built a bonafide mountain sports experience in the big city. Home to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, the NWC has class II-IV rapids rushing through it. After you’re sufficiently thrilled on the river, you can try negotiating the ropes course in the forest beyond the water’s banks, climb the rock walls or careen down the zipline. There’s a sunny beer garden in the middle of it all as well, ideal for mid-day respites with cold North Carolina brews.

 North Dakota

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The Dakotas might be the most criminally underrated part of the country, dominated by expanses of life-affirming nature where the influence of humanity is barely felt. Case in point: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, an Eden of bison, grasslands, moon-like badlands and meandering river gorges. The hiking is spectacular, and you’ll rarely share the views of red rocks and green trees with other people. But if you want to catch the best of the park without leaving the A/C, go for a drive around the 36-mile scenic loop that takes you through all of the park’s highlights.


Photo courtesy of danxoneil | CC BY 2.0

Cedar Point

This roller coaster mecca isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s home to 18 of the most head-pounding, face-peeling coasters on the planet, including the triple-launch Top Thrill 2, which stands 420 feet tall and whips you around at 120 miles per hour. Other coasters have subtle names like Intimidator 305, Magnum XL-200 and Wicked Twister. The low-key banger, though, is the Cedar Creek Mine Ride, whose neck-snapping turns and inversions have earned it the nickname “Cell phone killer” because of all the devices hurled from its cars.


Photo courtesy of Gorup de Besanez | CC BY-SA 4.0

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

Oklahoma embodies the American ideal of “the western frontier,” with its wide open spaces, cowboys and cattle ranching culture. Throw yourself into all things Western at this Oklahoma City museum that takes you through the history of American settlement in the West. You’ll wander through a mocked-up frontier town and see rotating exhibits of everything from 19th-century photos to belt buckles. The museum also sells a joint ticket with the First Americans Museum, which goes deep into the region’s Indigenous history and is located just 15 minutes away by car.


Photo courtesy of DiscoverWithDima | CC BY-SA 4.0

Haystack Rock

Do you still find yourself randomly doing the Truffle Shuffle, or yelling “Heyyy you guyyys?” Then a pilgrimage to Oregon’s Haystack Rock is definitely in order, as the monumental rock played a big role in the ‘80s classicGoonies. Even if you’re too young to remember Mikey, Chunk and the gang, the rock is still a stunning site on the Pacific Coast, and hikes along the seaside cliffs here provide epic sunset views. You can also grab a happy hour drink at the famous Wayfarer restaurant right on the sand with its front row seat to the Haystack.


Photo courtesy of Pablo Sanchez Martin | CC BY 2.0


Set atop a waterfall in Laurel Highlands, Fallingwater is perhaps the world’s most luxurious treehouse. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it combines design and nature in the architect’s classic style. Towering sandstone walls make the house feel like it’s part of the landscape, and spacious outdoor balconies stretch out into the treetops. It’s seen over 6 million visitors since Pittsburgh’s Kauffman family donated their weekend home to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and it is the only Wright-designed house opened to the public with all its original furnishings.

Rhode Island

Photo courtesy of Tony Kent | CC BY-SA 2.0

The Breakers

A tour of the Newport Mansions is a must while in Rhode Island, but if you only have time to visit one, hit this 70-room, palazzo-inspired castle on 13 acres of manicured gardens. The summer “cottage” of the Vanderbilts begins with a Great Hall boasting 50-foot ceilings and the same Baccarat crystal chandeliers that dominate the interior design. After all that opulence, take a stroll by the ocean along the 3.5-mile cliff walk to see why Gilded Age royalty loved this spot so much.

South Carolina

Photo courtesy of rvaphotodude | CC BY-SA 2.0

South of the Border

More than a simple place to gas up and get food, this sombrero-ed supercenter is a landmark for anyone who’s driven I-95 from the northeast to Florida. It has everything from a reptile garden to an amusement park to a 200-foot observation tower. You can shop for Mexican-themed souvenirs, despite being literally a thousand miles from the border, then get a full steak dinner at the onsite steakhouse. If you need to sleep off your food coma, book a room at the South of the Border Motor Inn. 

South Dakota

Photo courtesy of Andrew Parlette | CC BY 2.0

Custer State Park

Seeing Mount Rushmore in South Dakota is kind of like seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris: a must for the photo op, but not even close to the best thing there. To truly understand the majesty of the Black Hills, head to Custer State Park, where even just a short drive through the grounds brings you past herds of roaming buffalo and up dramatic mountain passes. The Needles Highway is one of the most unique drives in the United States, as tight squeezes through rock crevasses open up into panoramic viewpoints. You can hike Cathedral Spires to see the park’s unusual rock formations or trek to the top of Black Elk Peak for the highest vantage point of the Black Hills.


Photo courtesy of Sharon Mollerus | CC BY 2.0

Beale Street

For lovers of real, down-and-dirty blues clubs you can’t get better than Beale Street.  At joints like B.B. King’s and the Rum Boogie Café,  you’ll hear real, hardened blues musicians playing music that makes you feel their pain. Sure, it’s turned a little touristy with a Wet Willie’s on one end and Tin Roof across the street, but in Memphis, you can still experience the up-and-coming music scene without competing with every bachelorette party on the eastern seaboard for bar space. And for that, we are eternally grateful.


Photo courtesy of Francisco Antunes | CC BY 2.0

Johnson Space Center

Anytime you utter the cliché “Houston, we have a problem,” you’re theoretically talking to Johnson Space Center. Along with Cape Canaveral in Florida, it’s the headquarters of the nation’s space program and is where Mission Control guided astronauts to the moon. You’ll see Mission Control, as well as some of the rockets that carried NASA’s early missions. There’s also an elevated tour of the Astronaut Training Center, where you’ll get an idea of what it takes to have The Right Stuff.


Photo courtesy of Bernard Spragg

Zion National Park

With five national parks (only Alaska and California have more, and they are MUCH bigger states, land-wise), it’s hard to pick Utah’s best. Zion makes a good case for itself, though,  with two of the most famous hikes in the country: Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. Both are extreme challenges with big payoffs. The former is a treacherous trail along a red rock canyon, and the latter will take you through waist-deep water. They’re far from the only two ways to explore the dramatic environs of Zion, but they’re a huge reason why the park sees over 5 million annual visitors.


Photo courtesy of Doug Kerr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Ben and Jerry’s

There are factory tours, and then there are factory tours with ice cream. And unless you’re a psychopath who hates ice cream, you know that the best factory tour in the United States is at beloved Ben and Jerry’s. The original Burlington facility has offered tours for nearly 40 years, leading 30-minute trips behind the scenes and showcasing how they crank out 350,00 pints a year. Every visit culminates with a trip to the Flavor Room, where you taste old flavors you thought had disappeared, and new ones you have yet to see on shelves. Finally, you pay your respects to B&J’s retired favorites in the Flavor Graveyard.


Photo courtesy of Matthew Benson | CC BY 2.0

Skyline Drive

This 105-mile highway through Shenandoah National Park is mesmerizing, winding through the Blue Ridge Mountains and some of the state’s most spectacular viewpoints. The whole thing can be done in a few hours, and it’s worth stretching a day of any road trip to drive Skyline Drive, especially if you’re visiting during the fall. While the road is rife with scenic overlooks, Spitler Knoll at milepost 48.1 and Range View at 17.1 provide the longest views of the mountains.


Photo courtesy of Smart Destinations | CC BY-SA 2.0

Seattle Center

If you think of the things people come to Seattle to see – the Space Needle, Chihuly Museum, Kurt Kobain’s Fender – most are found in the Seattle Center, which calls itself “a gathering place” in the city’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood. Gathering is one word for what’s going on here. Just get a load of everything you can do: You can catch a Seattle Kraken hockey game at the Climate Pledge Arena, explore the Pacific Science Center,  take the futuristic Monorail downtown and pop into the Museum of Pop Culture, where you’ll see artifacts from Seattle’s famous music scene. In the fall, you can also come here to see the annual Bumbershoot Arts & Music Festival, the year’s biggest collection of concerts and art experiences in the city. This is a one stop shop for many of Seattle’s most famous attractions.

West Virginia

Photo courtesy of Jason Pratt | CC BY 2.0

New River Gorge

Even before it was established as one of America’s newest national parks in 2020, the New River Gorge was a national treasure. Whitewater rafting enthusiasts flock here every year for, mile-for-mile, some of the most treacherous rapids in the United States. On Bridge Day, daredevils from around the world leap off the New River Gorge Bridge, bungee jumping, base jumping and paragliding their way down to the river. The surrounding wilderness takes you deep into American coal country, and will help you understand why they call this state “Almost Heaven.”


Photo courtesy of Lorie Shaull | CC BY 2.0

House on the Rock

Built in 1945 atop a chimney rock as one man’s dream home, the House on the Rock has evolved into a museum of the unusual. It displays an eccentric collection that seems to have turned nothing away at the door. You’ll see everything from a carousel of ferocious animals to model ships to a 200-foot sea creature. And the exhibitions only get bigger from there: the Infinity Room is a glass-walled passageway extending over 200 feet above the valley below. There’s also a mocked up turn-of-the-century street scene, Asian gardens, a room of theater organs and one of the planet’s largest collections of miniature dollhouses.


Photo courtesy of CraigNMMV | CC BY-SA 4.0

National Museum of Military Vehicles

Yes, yes, we’re well aware of the natural, awe-inspiring beauty of the Tetons and Yellowstone. But you knew about that already. What you may not be aware of is the absolutely batshit number of badass trucks, tanks, planes and choppers that sit in this relatively new museum outside the mountain town of Dubois. Started by a retired healthcare executive with one Abrams tank, the collection grew to 450 vehicles before spreading into this 140,000-square-foot museum in 2020. It’s more than just an armored car show, though, it’s a fascinating look at 20th-century American military history, with immersive battle scene mockups from Korea and Vietnam that give you a sense of the difficulty of those wars.