From Yosemite to the Everglades, the U.S. boasts world-famous landmarks. But we’re also a land of virtually undiscovered stretches of parkland and inviting towns smack in the middle of paradise. Here are some of the most gorgeous parks and small towns you’ve never heard of.
Fly Geyser (Nevada)
Apostle Islands ice caves (Wisconsin)
Tamanawas Falls (Oregon)
Do you ever feel like you’ve been transported to another world when you wander through a forest? Trees surround you on all sides, and there’s no sign of civilization anywhere – who knows where you could be. That’s probably why the things you find inside forests always seem so much more amazing than usual. Take Tamanawas Falls in Oregon’s Mt. Hood National Forest. At first, nothing seems out of the ordinary; then you stumble out in the open to find this incredible water feature cascading down from over 100 feet in the air.
Neptune Memorial Reef (Florida)
Looking for diving with a difference? Neptune Memorial Reef in Florida’s Key Biscayne can offer you that, though it might not be what you expect. It’s home to an underwater graveyard where the ashes of those who have passed away are stored in memorials. Apparently, the people of Florida grew bored of walking around a cemetery, so they went and put theirs somewhere a little more exciting. You might find it unsettling to swim around the deceased, but it’s one of the most tranquil ways to show respect to those no longer with us. What’s more peaceful than the silence you get while underwater?
Pismo Beach, California
Outdoors and adventure activities are plentiful in Pismo Beach, including golfing, bicycling, tennis, hiking, horseback riding, and scuba diving. The area boasts miles of beautiful, clean beaches with pools, coves, and caves that visitors can explore. There’s also the Pismo Pier, a 12,200-foot pier that’s a popular spot for sightseeing, walking, fishing, and sunset watching. And, best of all, visitors to Pismo Beach will be in prime position to visit some of the other amazing destinations on San Luis Obispo County’s Wine Coast.
Jekyll Island, Georgia
At the turn of the century, Jekyll Island was one of the most coveted vacation destinations for America’s jet-set luminaries. Today, the resort has opened its ranks to a much wider variety of holidaymakers, with golf courses, year-round festivals, and accommodation options to boot. However, this is a place that still bears the regal touch of class, one of its most defining features in the past, and the historic district stands as a beautiful example of 20th-century American high society. Jekyll Island is also home to some quintessentially East Coast marshlands and beachfront that have helped make it a favorite among families and couples looking for somewhere to relax.
Door County, Wisconsin
Door County, Wisconsin, is definitely an area worth exploring. With its limitless nature-seeking opportunities, beautiful lighthouses to climb, and local art at every turn, there’s always something to discover in this humble little county. The 104-year-old Peninsula State Park is host to a variety of outdoor activities and an estimated one million visitors annually. Within its 3776 acres, it has four campgrounds, a lighthouse, a theater, a golf course, bike trails, and plenty of vantage points for nature viewing.
Fort Bragg, California
Fort Bragg has a long and storied past as a Company Town, but it has re-emerged as a lovely seaside vacation getaway. Three hours north of San Francisco, it’s certainly off the beaten path — but those are the best kind of escapes. However, Fort Bragg’s coolest brag is its glass beach: when piles of discarded material, liquor bottles, pre-1967 auto taillights, shattered apothecary bottles, and broken windows were dumped into the ocean, they found themselves washed back ashore, literally sanded down and gleaming in the sunlight, forming the glass beach. The glittering shores, expansive coastal views, a sprawling botanical garden, and great local food and wine make Fort Bragg an awesome place to wander and explore.