Every destination is known for some attraction: amusement parks in Orlando, casinos in Las Vegas and any place with a National Park. But while those are amazing sights in their own right, wouldn’t it be fun to try a path less traveled?
The United States features a number of lesser known gems all over the place, you just have to know where to look. So if you’re thinking of adding something different to your Global Discovery Vacations itinerary, consider these attractions you may not have heard of.
Many people go to Idaho for Yellowstone National Park, which is unfathomable in its beauty and depth. But you should also know about the majestic Sun Valley region.
Aptly named since the sun shines for three fourths of the year, Sun Valley overflows with the great outdoors. If you are into anything that involves movement and scenery, enjoy the skiing, hiking, biking, eating, drinking, paragliding, sightseeing, camping and more to your heart’s content. The granite Sawtooth Mountains (top image) loom over the countryside, inviting you to tackle the amazing wilderness. And if you’re lucky, you might catch a live musical act or attend the delightful Trailing Sheep Festival.
Also of note, Ernest Hemingway finished For Whom the Bell Tolls in Sun Valley, which helped bring the area into the public eye. You’ll find many memories of him throughout the surrounding towns.
Occupying thousands of square miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, the largest Native American tribe is a cultural experience unlike any other. On the surface, the Navajo Nation features modern attractions just like any city: museums, parks, historic landmarks, casinos and local shopping. But these attractions are rooted in vibrant history the inhabitants are more than happy to share.
It doesn’t get much more authentic than in the Navajo Village, where guests can embrace the culture in the form of food, dance and storytelling. The Chaco Canyon National Historical Monument, meanwhile, displays the talent and resourcefulness of the natives, showing how they thrived over the centuries. And you’ll have four casinos to test your luck.
Navajo Nation makes for a great day trip while you’re visiting the southwest, but the rich culture will stay with you long after you leave.
ACE Basin, South Carolina
In the age of persistent gentrification, it’s nice to see some places humans have yet to touch. Tourists visit South Carolina for either Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head, but while everyone is having fun on the beach, you could be taking a scenic tour through one of the country’s largest estuaries.
Covering 350,000 acres, this hidden wetland near the Atlantic coast has a unique collection of wildlife and landscapes that you can’t find anywhere else. There are various preserves open to visitors, so you can be floating down one of the many rivers (the area is named after the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers) or stumble upon an isolated beach. Along the way, you’ll find charming towns for antiques and historic plantations, where you can learn a great deal of the state’s history.
Taos combines several unique features, making it a one-of-a-kind destination: one part historic civilization, one part art colony, one part ski resort and the list goes on. About an hour and a half away from Santa Fe, Taos draws visitors with its mighty pueblos, which are Spanish-style lodgings reminiscent of ancient apartments. Classic art has a profound effect on the community as well, which you can see displayed at several museums, such as the Taos Art Museum and the Harwood Museum of Art.
Member Gayle S. told us about her time in Taos: “We visited the Taos Pueblo, inhabited by the natives for more than 1,000 years. Our guide recounted the trials of her tribe over the centuries and how she is raising her two sons to follow the ways of her people.”
There’s a side of Texas you just don’t see much, perhaps because the enormous state has a personality to match in the form of big cities, lucrative sports teams and cowboy history. But a batch of 21 counties in the middle of the state make up Texas Hill Country, which features glowing greens, rushing waters and natural wonders around every turn.
You’re most likely to visit this area when you stay in Bandera, which is itself considered the Cowboy Capital of the World. You’ll begin your journey with the majestic Medina River, which is a peaceful stop whether you just want to look, swim or boat. From Bandera, we suggest heading north to Fredericksburg and making a stop in the Luckenbach, a historic town with just two buildings: a post office from 1850 and a dance hall. Around Fredericksburg, there are 14 wineries, a pink giant known as Enchanted Rock and the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park.
That’s just one of many routes you can take, but we suggest asking the locals and trying one of your own. There is really too much to see in one trip.
If you think you’ve seen everything the country has to offer, we’d be willing to bet there are countless realms you have yet to uncover. When you’re ready to change up your traditional vacation and explore the path less traveled, give these hidden gems a try.
We’d love to hear your favorite “hidden gems,” so share with us in the comments below (your secret’s safe with us)!