Ohio is a state with wonderful possibilities for travelers looking for a cosmopolitan experience, a small-town retreat, or a full-on escape to nature. Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton offer many of the state’s best cultural attractions, great shopping, and a full repertoire of things to do. Head into the countryside to discover the best of Amish Country, or hit the summer fun towns, like San dusky, and spend a day at an amusement park. From spring until fall, the lakes and forests are inviting destinations to discover Ohio’s best outdoor adventures, many of which can be found in the national and state parks. In winter, you can even try your luck out on the lakes ice fishing. Regardless of the season, you can find interesting and fun experiences in Ohio.
1 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
On Cleveland’s waterfront, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has become a pilgrimage site for music aficionados. The museum offers an extraordinarily comprehensive look at rock and roll history on a decade-by-decade basis, featuring all the great artists from various time periods. Among the seven floors of rock memorabilia, you will find one-of-a-kind musical instruments, costumes, and interactive exhibits. A must-see gallery during your visit is the wing of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees. Renowned architect I.M. Pei designed the building, which is one of the most recognized structures in Cleveland.
2 National Museum of the US Air Force
The National Museum of the US Air Force is one of the top free things to do in Ohio. The museum is located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. With more than 360 aerospace items on display, you will walk through a time capsule of aviation history with indoor and outdoor exhibits. The museum has special meaning in Ohio as natives Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the first successful aircraft. From the Wright brothers’ invention to space travel, military aircraft, and the stealth technology of today, you do not have to be an aviation fanatic to enjoy the visit. One of the most notable areas of the museum is the Presidential Gallery, where you can walk through several preserved aircraft used by Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower.
3 Cedar Point Amusement Park
Cedar Point amusement park is one of the most popular summer destinations in Ohio. Located near San dusky on the shores of Lake Erie, Cedar Point has more than 17 world-class roller coasters, several kids’ areas, and live entertainment. Adjacent to the amusement park is the Cedar Point Shores Water Park, with equally thrilling water adventures. The park has a wave pool, lazy river, shallow pools for children, and a six-story aqua-drop water slide for the truly adventurous. The resort has a variety of accommodation options, from camping to cabins or suites in Cedar Point’s Hotel Breakers.
4 Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park near Logan is a rugged natural area popular with outdoor enthusiasts. The area has hiking trails, caves, camping facilities, and cottages. It is also one of the best places for a weekend getaway, especially in the fall, when the leaves are changing to vibrant colors in the forested areas. Park naturalists host regular events throughout the year on topics like bird watching; photography; caves; and hikes, including a popular winter hike that draws thousands of participants. You can review the Hocking Hills State Park event calendar before your visit for the most updated programs. Local outfitters offer other outdoor adventure options including canoeing, zip lining, and rock climbing. The top areas to visit in the park are Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Cantrell Cliffs, Rock House, and wheelchair-accessible Ash Cave
5 Amish Country
A drive through the rolling landscape of Amish Country on a summer’s day is a wonderful way to escape the city and see a simpler lifestyle at work. Amish buggies ply the twisting roads, and farmers work in the fields. Small communities offer opportunities to stop and pick up everything from household goods, to locally made cheeses, candy, ice cream, produce, and much more. While Amish Country spans five counties, the best places to start is along the 160 miles of the Amish Country Byway, in Holmes County.
6 Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is consistently rated as one of the top zoos in the nation. More than 10,000 animals and six regions are featured in the zoo, like Asia Quest, Heart of Africa, Congo Expedition, and North America. Regular stage performances and special educational programs are held throughout the year. The winter draw is Wild lights, a spectacular celebration with more than three million lights throughout the zoo. It generally runs from late November through the holidays. It is a unique way to see the zoo animals at night and a fun way to enjoy winter in Ohio. Next to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is Zambezi Bay water park, which is a popular add-on to a day at the zoo in the summer.
7 Cincinnati Museum Center
The Cincinnati Museum Center is a multi-museum complex inside Union Terminal giving visitors a range of scientific, historical, and educational experiences. There are several museums with combined collections of 1.8 million artifacts. Visitors can spend time exploring the museums, which include the Cincinnati History Museum, the Duke Energy Children’s Museum, the Cincinnati History Library and Archives, and the Museum of Natural History and Science. It can easily be a multi-day visit. The center is worth a visit just to see the 1930s Art De co train station building
8 Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus is a year-round tourist attraction that features indoor and outdoor exhibits of plants and flowers, with special exhibitions that change throughout the year. The horticultural institution has exotic plant collections that take you around the world. The conservatory is home to several glass greenhouses that feature more than 400 species of plants from the Himalayas, rain forest, desert, and Pacific Islands. You might see a wedding taking place during your visit to the Palm House, which is a popular backdrop for events. The Victorian-style glass greenhouse was built in the late 1800s and is one of the oldest and largest wings of the facility. The exquisite glass room features 43 species of palms from around the world.
9 The Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleveland Museum of Art has been an institution in the city since it was founded in 1916. By the 1950s, it had established an international reputation for its collection. The collection has grown and changed directions over the years, and the original Neoclassical building has been repeatedly expanded and renovated. Today, the museum focuses on a number of different areas, with outstanding collections of European, Asian, and American art.
10 Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, Akron
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in Akron is the nation’s sixth largest historic home that is open to the public. You will find yourself enchanted with the original furnishings in the Manor House and the elegant details in the five buildings and historic gardens throughout the 70-acre estate. F.A. Sterling, the founder of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, built the home and surrounding gardens. The name, Stan Hywet, is an Old English term referring to “story quarry,” which was the most significant natural feature on the property when it was purchased at the turn of the 20th century. Take your time as you stroll through the home, gardens, Corbin Conservatory, Gate Lodge, and Carriage House. A gift shop and café are also on the property.
11 Toledo Museum of Art
One of the highlights of Toledo is the outstanding Toledo Museum of Art. In existence for well over 100 years, the museum has amassed an extensive collection, which ranges from ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian pieces to American and European painting, and modern and contemporary art. Of particular note is the glass collection. Spread over 32 acres and six buildings, the main museum has a distinctive and grand Greek facade. Opened in 2006, the Glass Pavilion, which contains glass-blowing studios and galleries, is a unique postmodern structure with many walls, including the exterior, made entirely of glass.
12 Fountain Square, Cincinnati
Cincinnati’s Fountain Square is a central meeting place in the city
where people can have an outdoor coffee in summer, skate the ice rink in
winter, and escape from the confines of offices and apartments. Located
in the center of Cincinnati’s expanding and vibrant Fountain Square
District, Fountain Square offers great restaurants and free music and
entertainment throughout the year. The main feature of the park is the
ornate Tyler Davidson Fountain, dedicated in 1871. Fountain Square is
just a few blocks from the Backstage District, Cincinnati’s arts
district, so many people congregate at the square before or after
theater and music shows.
Situated in the center of the country, South Dakota offers urban attractions and rugged natural beauty. From badlands jutting into the sky and lush woodlands that have hosted Native American tribes for thousands of years, to deep underground caves and the larger-than-life presidential monument of Mount Rushmore, South Dakota’s landscapes provides unique opportunities. Whether you’re interested in nature, culture, or history, you’ll find plenty of things to see and do. Badlands National Park offers dramatic vistas. The city of Deadwood brings the Old West to life, and you can learn about local tribes and prairie ecosystems at Good Earth State Park in Sioux Falls. Use this list of top attractions in South Dakota to help plan your next visit:
1 Mount Rushmore National Monument
This historical monument is South Dakota’s most prominent tourist attraction. Carved majestically into the side of the mountain are the heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. The carving, designed by Glutton, was begun in 1927, halted for several decades, and finally completed in 1991. In its creation, more than 400,000 tons of rock was blasted from the side of the mountain. The monument is illuminated in the evening and accompanied by a patriotic ceremony. Located on the terrace overlooking the monument, the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center is a fun part of any visit. The 0.6-mile Presidential Trail allows visitors to get a closer look at the monument.
2 Badlands National Park
The dramatic landscape of Badlands National Park consists of uniquely formed hills and pinnacles made from the erosion of clay and sand. A large herd of bison roams freely within the park, adding a unique element to the whole experience. This inhospitable scenery is strangely beautiful and one of South Dakota’s most visited destinations.
Lined with parking places and viewpoints, the Badlands Loop Road tours the scenic environment from the northwestern Pinnacles Entrance to the Ben Eiffel Visitor Center. Changing vistas of rugged rock formations are the real appeal of this scenic route, as well as the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, one of the last remaining intact prairie landscapes in North America. Throughout the park, particularly in the Cedar Pass area, are marked hiking trails. Maps can be obtained from the park administration or from visitor centers.
3 Custer State Park
As one of the best state and national parks in South Dakota, Custer State Park covers a wide range of different terrain, offering opportunities for outdoor recreation and sightseeing. A large herd of bison roams the peaceful landscape, which is also home to a wide variety of other wildlife. Granite peaks tower over the forests, lakes, and streams. Scenic drives, like the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road, provide easy access to the park with great views along the way. For the more adventurous, there are trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, with one must-see route including the Sylvan Lake Shore Trail.
4 Crazy Horse Memorial
The Crazy Horse Memorial, north of Custer, has been a work in progress since it was begun in 1947. The head and upper body portion of Chief Standing Bear have been carved into this mountain, like the Mount Rushmore carvings just down the road. The on-site Indian Museum of North America enriches any visit to Crazy Horse, and visitors can also access scheduled bus rides to the base of the memorial throughout the day to meet Crazy Horse face to face.
5 Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park, located just north of Hot Springs, is home to a huge artistic cave system, thought to be among the largest in the world. It was discovered in 1881 by a hunter, who noticed a draft coming from a split in the rock. The cave contains a unique and delicate cave structure known as “box work,“ which is found in few other places in the world. The only way to explore Wind Cave is through one of the many Park Ranger guided tours that take place nearly every day of the year. Different tours are available for different ability levels, with most routes following along lighted and cement pathways installed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. For those not interested in an underground tour, the above ground area of the park is also very beautiful, with rolling hills and roaming bison.
6 Mammoth Site
The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs features a large number of Columbia mammoth bones. More than 60 mammoths, including three woolly mammoths, have been discovered at this site. Visitors can see partially uncovered mammoth bones shown as they were found, in a covered, climate-controlled building. Guided tours are available, giving visitors a glimpse of the excavation process. Junior and Advanced Paleontology Classes are available for anyone interested in getting their hands dirty, and the on-site Ice Age Exhibit Hall displays some of the fossils being found underground.
Nestled into dense Black Hills scenery and steeped in the rich history of the Black Hills Gold Rush, the city of Deadwood is a blast from the past. Deadwood’s Wild West origins are on full display and waiting to be experienced right from the streets. Some of the top-rated attractions of Deadwood include reenacted shootouts on Historic Main Street, the Adams Museum, and the Broken Boot Gold Mine. Another fun place to visit in Deadwood, the Mount Moria Cemetery is the final resting place for some of the biggest characters of the Wild West, including “Wild Bill” Hickok, who met his demise right on the streets of Deadwood
8 Spearfish Canyon
Spearfish Canyon is a beautiful natural area known for an abundance of ponderous and spruce pine trees, as well as stunning waterfalls and dramatic cliff walls. Popular roadside attractions and hikes in Spearfish Canyon include Bridal Veil and the Rough Lock Falls, and the Spearfish Peak and Little Crow Peak. While anytime of the year guarantees beautiful natural scenery along the 22-mile route, the entire area is particularly scenic in the fall, when the foliage begins to change color. Just north of Spearfish is the geographical center of the United States
9 National Music Museum
The National Music Museum & Center for Study of the History of Musical Instruments at the University of South Dakota in Vermilion features thousands of American, European, and non-Western instruments from all over the world and a range of historical periods. At this self-touted spot for music lovers, a small admission fee provides access to a wide variety of musical instruments on display, ranging from American electric guitars to German zithers.
10 Good Earth State Park at Blood Run
On the western side of the state and outskirts of Sioux Falls, Good Earth State Park has a deep history in the area despite its relatively new status as a state park. Good Earth State Park, as part of the larger Blood Run National Historic Landmark, occupies a lush area that once served as a thriving trading center and gathering places for the Neonatal peoples. The site is currently regarded as one of the oldest areas of human history in the country. Visitors today can learn about the culture and history of the area through the modern visitor center and see the environment that has hosted these Native American people for thousands of years.
11 Stomacher Butterfly House and Marine Cove
The Stomacher Butterfly House in Sioux Falls is home to hundreds of free-flying butterflies from all over the world. While the butterflies are the true highlight, the Marine Cove is also home to a variety of marine life in tanks and petting pools. Popular exhibits and activities at the Butterfly House include the Pacific Tide Pool and Shark & Stingray Touch Pool, and the 3,600-square-foot indoor tropical garden that hosts the butterflies. Visitors are also encouraged to check out weekly classes and events at the Stomacher Butterfly House, including yoga, meditation, and tie-chi in the garden.
12 Old Courthouse Museum
The Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls is a restored 1800s quartet building with three floors. The interior contains a number of interesting features, including murals on the walls showing life in an earlier time period in Dakota. The museum displays exhibits related to the history of the state and town. Admission is free, although donations are accepted. Popular permanent exhibits at the Old Courthouse Museum include a replica of a 19th-century schoolroom and an artifact-filled gallery dedicated to the first World War.
On the Pacific Ocean north of California and south of Washington, Oregon is a lush and slightly wild state offering many scenic tourist attractions. US 101 runs along the coast, connecting a wide variety of beautiful resorts, beaches, and scenic coastal landscapes. At the northernmost point, the coast meets the mouth of the Columbia River, which marks the state’s northern border. This major river leads inland, paralleled by the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area with many fun things to do, including waterfall hikes and windsurfing or kite boarding in Hood River.
In addition to its natural beauty, Oregon is equally known for its urban charms. The state’s largest city, Portland, has an international reputation for drawing tourists with an offbeat and welcoming culture. Portland’s sightseeing gems range from rose gardens to art museums and an immense bookshop. Farther south, other cities and fun places to visit include the thriving university town of Eugene, the coastal city of Newport, and the state capitol of Salem. Plan your trip to this scenic state with our list of the top attractions in Oregon.
1. Crater Lake National Park
With a landscape like nowhere else, Crater Lake National Park lies in
the Cascade Mountains of southwestern Oregon. It is not actually a
crater, but rather an ancient caldera of an extinct volcano, Mount
Mazama, and its lava cliffs rise to heights of up to 2,000 feet around
the intensely blue and extremely deep lake.
Just a short distance from the edge of the crater, Rim Drive circles the lake in a clockwise direction. It begins at Rim Village and is only accessible by vehicle in warm weather months. Throughout winter, snowshoes and cross-country skiers can use the unplowed road for winter travel.
Crater Lake National Park is a popular weekend trip in Oregon, and camping is available at two developed campgrounds, with the most sites found at the Mazama Campground. Extended hiking and backpacking opportunities can be found in the national park away from the rim, and stunning trails like Watchman Peak give great views of the caldera. To explore the lake itself in the summer months, head to Eastwood Cove, where cruises depart for Wizard Island.
2. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area follows the course of the Columbia River as it cuts through the Cascade Range. The boundary line between Oregon and Washington, the gorge is known for its spectacular views and numerous waterfalls, including Multan Falls — the tallest waterfall in the state. The area offers a range of hiking and biking trails, plus camping facilities.
This is one of the most popular day trips from Portland, and one of the many great destinations to aim for in the gorge includes Punch bowl Falls on Eagle Creek.
3. Cannon Beach
A popular tourist resort on the northern Oregon coast, Cannon Beach offers a wide stretch of sand and spectacular views of jagged coastal rocks. The largest of these monoliths, Haystack Rock is an impressive feature that dominates the background of any visit to this coastal community. As one of the best small towns on the Oregon Coast, Cannon Beach also delivers on cultural appeal with restaurants, boutique shops, and great hotels.
To the north of Cannon Beach, the enchanting Eco la State Park and Amontillado Head offer historic and scenic landscapes to explore. The charming city of Seaside can also be accessed from the other end of Ecola State Park, adding even more family-friendly attractions to visit on the Oregon coast. For more historical interest, the Lewis and Clark Salt works gives insight into the challenges and lifestyles of the Corps of Discovery.
4. Washington Park, Portland
Portland offers a bevy of delightful parks and gardens, but none has quite the density of attractions as Washington Park. Within park grounds, the famed International Rose Test Garden is located near the impressive Portland Japanese Garden. Each displays exceptional horticultural expertise and are favorites with green thumbs.
For families, the park entices with fun explorations at the Oregon Zoo, as well as the Portland Children’s Museum. With plenty to explore in a day, including some of the best hiking trails near Portland, Washington Park delivers on something new with each visit.
5. Mount Hood National Forest
With a peak rising to 11,239 feet, making it the highest mountain in Oregon, Mount Hood is an unmistakable landmark of the state. On its slopes are downhill offerings at Mount Hood Ski bowl, picturesque hiking paths like the Timberline Trail, and scenic viewpoints accessible via the Mount Hood Scenic Loop. The historic town of Government Camp and the nearby Timberline Lodge are also big attractions in this mountain landscape. The surrounding Mount Hood National Forest fans out from the peak to encompass waterfalls and hot springs.
Edged by a mix of national forests, volcanoes, and dry plains, Bend sits roughly in the center of Oregon. The city’s High Desert Museum has informative displays about the surrounding arid regions. Popular things to do in Bend include rafting trips on the Des chutes River, excursions to the volcanic landscapes of Lava Butte and New berry National Volcanic Monument, and skiing at the large Mount Bachelor Ski Area. Also nearby, Smith Rock is famous with climbers for its many routes and long history as a rock-climbing destination.
Hiking trails around Bend are a great way to explore the scenic areas and mountain biking trails can also add to the excitement. For a more laid-back approach, Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is a popular auto-touring route through the Deschutes National Forest. The drive passes lakes, mountains, and spectacular scenery with many picnic and campsites available along the way. For an iconic waterfall of the area, Tumalo Falls can be reached from Bend in just over a 10-mile drive.
In the far northwest corner of Oregon, abutting the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean, Astoria is a charming seaside city with inspiring surroundings. It’s the backdrop for the 80s cult-classic movie, The Goodies, and visitors to Astoria can learn more about this movie and other Oregon productions at the Oregon Film Museum, located in the old Clapton County Jail. Nearby, the Flagella House Museum in Astoria provides historical insight on this well-aged city. Other top attractions of Astoria include a scenic Riverfront; vibrant downtown neighborhood; and the Astoria Column, with great views of the area.
8. Hood River
The scenic city of Hood River is located on the banks of the Columbia River just over an hour east of Portland. Although well known as a destination for keyboarding and windsurfing, Hood River is a great place a full range of outdoor sports, including hiking, biking, and camping.
Visitors wanting a little less physical activity can easily hop on the Historic Columbia River Scenic Byway or the Mount Hood Railroad. Cultural attractions, great restaurants and hotels, local shops, live music venues, and aromatic coffee spots and a few more of the reasons to stop in Hood River.
9. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, Brooking
Located between Brooking and Gold Beach on the southern Oregon coast, the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is a 12-mile linear park, which exhibits some of the best Oceanside scenery in the state. Easily accessed from US 101 and named after the first Oregon Parks superintendent, the Oregon Coast Trail and various pull-off parking spots connect the beaches, rock formations, and natural beauty that defines this part of the coast. Popular pit stops along this scenic corridor include Arch Rock; Indian Sands; and one of the best beaches on the Oregon coast, Lone Ranch Beach.
10. Smith Rock State Park, Terrence
An international climbing destination in central Oregon, Smith Rock State Park, near Bend, has over 1,000 bolted sport routes lining a stunning river canyon environment. It’s not just climbers who flock to this outdoor playground just outside of Bend, though; mountain bikers, hikers, and photographers can be found exploring throughout the extended high-desert warm weather season. Smith Rock is home to one of the best hiking trails near Bend, and despite its foreboding name, Misery Ridge at Smith Rock provides an absolutely stunning view of the Crooked River and canyon walls.
Mixing beach scenery with Victorian heritage, the city of Newport is on the Oregon coast and lined with family-friendly attractions. The Oregon Coast Aquarium and Hatfield Marine Science Center are often favorite places to visit, and to the north, the Yaqui Head Lighthouse is a beacon of coastal beauty. The town’s busy bay front faces sheltered Yaqui Bay (home to a large fishing fleet), while the wild Pacific beaches offer storm-surge rollers and unfiltered sunsets. The town is a good base camp for exploring along the coast and whale watching.
12. Silver Falls State Park, Sublimity
Thirty minutes east of the state capital of Salem, Silver Falls State Park provides perhaps the most dazzling display of waterfalls in the country. This crown jewel of the Oregon State Park system is home to the nationally recognized Trail of Ten Falls, a moderate hiking path that tours the many moving water attractions of the area. The trail even takes users behind a few waterfalls for an interesting perspective, including the largest waterfall of the area and one of the best waterfalls in Oregon, the stunning South Falls.
13. Oregon Coast Trail Editor’s Pick
Stretching for over 360 miles along the western edge of Oregon, the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) takes in the sights, sounds, and top attractions of the Oregon coast. From the mouth of the Columbia River in Fort Stevens State Park, the OCT heads south and connects such scenic landmarks as Haystack Rock, Cape Perpetual, Oregon Sand Dunes, and the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. While the trail mostly sticks to beaches, intrepid explorers on the OCT can expect to navigate forested headlands, catch boat rides across estuaries, and follow along the shoulder of the US 101 for portions of the trek.
14. Willamette National Forest
The vast Willamette National Forest is located along the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains and covers nearly 1.7 million acres. The forest contains spectacular scenery, including several volcanoes, mountains, rivers, and some of the best hot springs in Oregon. Visitors can explore trails or head to attractions such as the Dee Wright Observatory (a stone tower atop McKenzie Pass) or Salt Creek Falls, a waterfall over 280 feet in length. The popular Three Sisters Wilderness can also be accessed within the Willamette National Forest.
15. New berry Volcanic Monument
Within the Deschutes National Forest of central Oregon, the New berry Volcanic Monument provides a plethora of unique scenery to explore. It is centered around the New berry Caldera and surrounds a 1,200-square-mile volcano. Popular activities at New berry include bicycling, hiking, boating, and enjoying hot springs. One of the best campgrounds in Oregon can be found in New berry, and those who nab a reservation at the popular Little Crater Lake Campground have immediate access to the welcoming waters of Paulina Lake. A great first stop when visiting the monument is the Lava Lands Visitor Center.
16. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
South of Florence begins the dune landscape of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. It stretches along the Pacific Coast for about 40 miles before reaching Coos Bay. The massive wind-shaped sand dunes between the beaches and pocket forests offer a unique area to explore on foot or via off-highway vehicles. Popular destinations within the dunes include the sand boarding destination of Sand Master Park and the Ump qua Dunes area at Winchester Bay.
The Oregon Dunes NRA is within the Sulawesi National Forest, alongside other scenic attractions such as Cape Perpetual and the Hecate Head Lighthouse. For a great place to pitch a tent or park an RV, Jessie M. Honey man Memorial State Park is located south of Florence and is one of the best campgrounds on the Oregon coast. Visitors to the dunes should make themselves aware of snowy plovers and the restrictions put in place to protect their habitat.
17. Willamette Heritage Center at The Mill, Salem
Within the Willamette Valley, the city of Salem is the state capitol of Oregon and is filled with scenic appeal. You’ll find historic theaters, family-favorite carousels, and an Enchanted Forest. Other top attractions of Salem include Riverfront City Park, the State Capitol building, and the Willamette Heritage Center. Spread over five acres, the Willamette Heritage Center centers on the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill dating to 1895. Alongside the large red structure, historic wooden buildings are brought to life by exhibits and interpretive guides, who give a look at the history of life and industrialization in the late 19th century.
18. Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
In the extreme northeast of the state, Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon in the United States and marks the Idaho border. The protected area within Wallows-Whitman National Forest is largely inaccessible, but for the adventurous, it offers lengthy outdoor excursions including hiking, backpacking, wildlife spotting, and fishing. The Wild and Scenic Snake River runs at the bottom of the canyon and is a popular waterway for whitewater boating. The Hells Canyon National Scenic Byway departs from Baker City and La Grande, with side trips to Hells Canyon Dam and viewpoints.
19. Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Eugene
This windowless museum in Eugene is designed to protect its art treasures. The wide-reaching collection features primarily Asian artworks, along with pieces from America and Europe. Opened in 1933, the museum is located on the University of Oregon campus, where other attractions include the Museum of Natural and Cultural History and a historic track at Hayward Field. Guided tours of the museum are available the first Saturday of every month and are included with the cost of admission.
20. Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve
This subterranean attraction centers on a marble cave, accessible only during guided tours. The National Park Service offers a variety of tours that explore the cave, ranging from guided treks for families and kids to wild cave expeditions that veer off the normal tourist path. Above the surface, the protected area offers hiking trails through old-growth coniferous forest. The monument sits at 4,000 feet elevation in the Sikorsky
With museums, outdoor activities, and theme parks on offer, there are plenty of things to do in North Carolina no matter what the season. Mountains in the High Country provide opportunities for great skiing and tubing during the winter months, hiking during the warm months, and amazing foliage in fall. Beaches and coastal attractions tempt for relaxing weekends throughout the year. And the entire state has a history all its own, from the famous flying Wright Brothers to the expansive Baltimore Estate and WWII-era Battleship North Carolina.
1 Blue Ridge Parkway
Nicknamed “America’s favorite drive,” the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway was designed by landscape architect Stanley Abbott whose vision was to create a road that was far more than just a way to get from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, with its scenic hiking trails. The drive itself has incredible views of the Blue Ridge mountains and the surrounding landscape, and the road is popular with motorcyclists and bicyclists for its endless scenery. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails that branch off from the numerous pull-offs, picnic areas, and campgrounds that line the road. Tourists will find the parkway most crowded in October during foliage season, while summer visitors can enjoy the colors of flaming azaleas and rhododendrons.
In addition to the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is home to several visitor centers and museums, some of which are open seasonally. In the summer and autumn, Maury Mill (Milepost 176) has demonstrations that include grinding corn in the original mill, cutting boards in the sawmill, and the art of blacksmiths. The Folk Art Center (Milepost 382) is open year-round and includes a gallery of folk art as well as demonstrations by local craftspeople, and the Museum of North Carolina Minerals (Milepost 331) has detailed exhibits that look at the region’s mineral resources and mining industry. Between the months of November and March, tourists should be sure to check for weather-related road closures prior to setting out.
2 The Baltimore Estate
One of North Carolina’s must-see attractions is the Baltimore Estate, one of the top attractions in Asheville. At the center of an 8,000-acre compound, the Vanderbilt Mansion is the largest private home in the United States. The mansion has 250 rooms with impressive artwork, antiques, and architecture, as well as collections of vintage clothing and accessories. The estate’s gardens are expansive, including the Italian Garden, with its ornate pools and sculpture, and the Rose Garden, which features more than 250 varieties. The grounds also include the first managed forest in the country, a deer park, and miles of level paths and walking trails throughout. There are many dining options throughout the estate and shopping and entertainment in Antler Hill Village.
3 More head Planetarium and Science Center
The More head Planetarium and Science Center, located at the University of North Carolina in the heart of Chapel Hill, has been a stop for more than seven million guests since first opening in 1949. The center presents more than 15 planetarium shows on a rotating schedule, including fun and educational topics like black holes, Galileo, and astronauts. Permanent exhibits in the Science Center explore a variety of topics, including the planetarium’s proud history as a training center for astronauts. From 1959 through 1975, more than 60 astronauts learned about celestial navigation here, including the majority of those who walked on the moon. Other exhibits include Water in Our World, which looks at the importance of clean and accessible water as the earth’s most important resource, and Firsts in Flight, which illustrates the important contributions that African Americans made to the progress of aviation and space exploration.
4 Neville Gorge and Falls
Neville Gorge and Falls Share:
Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Neville Gorge is the deepest and one of the most scenic gorges in the eastern United States. Located in the Pisgah National Forest, the Neville River enters the gorge at Neville Falls and drops 90 feet, continuing for 12 miles within the steep rock walls. The trails are accessed at Milepost 316 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, offering a total of four overlooks on an easily-traversed 1.6-mile round-trip hike. While visiting the Neville Falls Visitor Center, it is worth the short hike (.3 of a mile) to the small but beautiful Daggers Creek Falls. Other nearby spots include Crab-tree Falls and incredible views from Table Rock Mountain and Handbill Mountain.
5 Battleship North Carolina
Located in Wilmington, the USS North Carolina was the first of 10
battleships to join the American fleet in WWII having been commissioned
on April 9, 1941. The vessel is well armed: there are nine 16-inch,
45-caliber guns in three turrets, and 20 five-inch, 38-caliber guns in
ten twin mounts. She was the world’s greatest sea weapon, but today
tourists can wander through the ship to visit the mess hall, tour the
sailor’s and officer’s quarters, and wander the expansive deck to see
the intimidating guns up-close and personal.
6 North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Dedicated to the natural history of North Carolina, this is the oldest museum in the state. The museum has two buildings: the Nature Exploration Center and the Nature Research Center, both of which are filled with exhibits, interactive learning opportunities, and educational presentations. Permanent exhibits at the Nature Exploration Center include topics from the coastal regions of North Carolina to an exhibit that explores the history of gemstones in the state. You can also find sections that explore the habitats of the tropics and rain forest, where you can hang out with the resident two-toed sloth. This is also where you will find the “Terror of the South,” the only genuine Brontosaurus skeleton on display in the world, which is the centerpiece of the Prehistoric North Carolina exhibit. Next door, the Nature Research Center focuses on the science and exploration that are crucial to learning about the natural world. Exhibits here cover everything from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to the exploration of deep space and include the study of things as small as DNA to the massive science of weather patterns.
7 North Carolina Aquarium
The North Carolina Aquarium has four coastal locations at Roanoke Island, Pine Knoll Shores, Fort Fisher, and Jeanette’s Pier. While Jeanette’s Pier is not an actual aquarium, it does offer views of marine animals like humpback whales in their natural habitat. (Check with the aquarium to find out what marine life might be passing through during your trip.) The Roanoke Island location, situated close to Jeanette’s Pier, features the largest collection of sharks in the state. At Pine Knoll Shores, visitors learn about the state’s varied marine life, while Fort Fisher introduces the freshwater streams, swamps, and open ocean of Cape Fear.
8 North Carolina Zoo
Strolling five miles of shaded pathways, tourists can see more than 1,600 animals and 52,000 plants at North Carolina Zoo. (Wear comfortable shoes.) Located in Seborrhea, the animals represent species from Africa (elephants, rhinos, ostriches, lions, chimps, zebras, and giraffes) and North America (cougars, alligators, bobcats, red wolves, bison, elk, roadrunners, and grizzly and black bears). Exhibits are designed to resemble the natural habitat.
9 Outer Banks
With beach erosion and shore damage, the future of the Outer Banks is unknown – which is why it’s an important area for visitors to explore now. This 200-mile stretch of barrier islands offers natural beauty, rich history, and lovely towns. Tourists can learn about the region at the Outer Banks History Center and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and enjoy a drive on the outer Banks Scenic Byway. Visitors to Roanoke Island can learn about the lost colony, visit a living history museum about farm life, and learn about the island’s importance in the Underground Railroad Network. Other sightseeing attractions in the area include historic lighthouses, Elizabethan gardens at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and the Frisco Native American Museum
10 Cape Hatteras
Cape Hatteras National Seashore was the country’s first coastal preservation area and includes the important barrier islands along North Carolina’s coast in the Outer Banks region. Visitors to the area come for the beaches, but also for the unique wildlife and rich history. Bird-watchers can get a peek at the threatened piping plovers that nest on the beach, as well as the American Oyster-catcher, gull-billed tern, and black skimmer. The beaches here are also the nesting ground of several types of sea turtles, including the endangered loggerhead sea turtle, and in the winter months, you may see seals resting on the beach. Another favorite activity is climbing historic lighthouses, like the 1872 Dodie Island Light Station, which is on its third incarnation after the first became unstable and the second was destroyed in the Civil War. The Cape Hatteras Light Station was first built in 1803 and rebuilt in 1870, serving as a crucial beacon on one of the most dangerous stretches of the Atlantic coast where the Gulf Stream meets the Virginia Drift, the site of hundreds of shipwrecks. Although it is not open to the public, the Corncrake Light has been in operation since 1823 on the island that is also known for its unique breed of Corncrake Ponies.
11 Chimney Rock State Park
Twenty-five miles southeast of Asheville, a 315-ft granite spire rises to an elevation of more than 2,280 ft in Chimney Rock State Park. There is a 26-story elevator built inside the mountain, making the trip to the top an easy excursion for tourists. Also within the park, the Hickory Nut Falls Trail is a moderate, mostly-level trail to the base of the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls
From its 18 miles of seacoast – the shortest of any coastal state in the US – to the summit of the Northeast’s highest peak, New Hampshire packs plenty of variety into an easy-to-reach area. Along with the many places to visit, New Hampshire’s natural attractions offer plenty of things to do in the great outdoors, many of them free. The attractions that draw tourists to this part of New England include beautiful ocean and lake beaches, miles of kayaking waters, above-timberline hiking on the Appalachian Trail, sailing on mountain-ringed lakes, fun-filled theme and water parks for kids, exciting rides to mountaintops, and tours of historic houses. So whether it’s challenging hikes, sailing, foliage viewing in the fall, tax-free shopping, skiing in the winter, covered bridges, or colonial history, you’ll find it – and plenty more – in New Hampshire.
1 Mt. Washington Cog Railway
The easiest way to reach the top of Mount Washington, the highest elevation in the northern Appalachians at more than 6,000 feet, is on the steep Cog Railway that has been carrying tourists since it opened, the first of its kind in the world, in 1869. On a clear day, the view from the summit of Mount Washington spans four states; on a cloudy day, you may be able to look down on the tops of clouds. Those who long for the nostalgia of an authentic coal-fired steam engine train, can reserve the steamer special morning departures from late May through late October. At the top, the Sherman Adams Visitors Center houses a small museum; a cafeteria; and the Mount Washington Observatory, a research station that studies extreme weather conditions, for which the mountain is notorious. In 1934, the world record wind speed was recorded here. From the opposite (Pink-ham Notch) side of the mountain, you can drive up the six-and-a-quarter-mile-long Mount Washington Auto Road or ride a van operated from Great Glen Trails. Climbers have the choice of several trails but should be aware of the mountain’s unpredictable and sudden weather changes.
2 Strawberry Bank
Strawberry Bank was the name of the first 1623 settlement at what is now Portsmouth. The ten-acre Strawberry Banks Museum contains houses from four centuries of the old port neighborhood. Some are restored and furnished to show life in the various eras, while others are preserved to show construction methods and restoration techniques – of particular interest to those who are restoring old homes. Costumed interpreters demonstrate cooking, crafts, and skills from the various periods, and you can watch authentic boats under construction. The homes vary from that of a prosperous merchant and political leader to a 1950s duplex, and represent various ethnicity that called the neighborhood home. Period gardens, a 1770 tavern, a fully stocked World War II era neighborhood market, and frequent special musical and historical programs make this an interesting place to visit. In December, the houses and workshops are open for candlelight evening tours.
3 Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway and Franco Notch
The first aerial tramway in North America, the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway carried its first passengers to the 4,080-foot summit high above Francois Notch in 1938. On clear days, you can see New Hampshire’s Presidential Range and mountains in Vermont, New York, and even Canada. The short Rim Trail to the observation tower offers spectacular views straight down into the floor of the notch. A notch is a pass that was carved through a mountain range by retreating glaciers, and Franconia is one of the biggest notches in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
Farther south in Francisco Notch State Park, Flume Gorge is an 800-foot-long crack in the rock at the base of Mount Liberty. Its walls rise 70 to 80 feet above the brook that flows through it, and you can follow it on a boardwalk just feet above the water. When the mile-high sheet of ice that formed the notch melted, torrents of water raged down this valley, carving a 20-foot smooth-bottomed depression into the solid granite of the mountain. Follow signs to The Basin, where the now benign Passageway River still continues the process begun 10,000 years ago. Francisco Notch has miles of hiking trails, a campground, and Echo Lake State Park, with a beautiful sandy beach and boat rentals.
4 Portsmouth Harbor Trail and Historic Houses
As it winds its way along the harbor and waterfront through busy Market Square and into streets of sedate old homes, the Portsmouth Harbor Trail connects more than 70 of the city’s historical sites and scenic attractions. Among these are 10 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, 10 National Historic Landmarks, and a number of historic homes that are open to visitors. Each of these has unique features, history, and collections. Warner House, built in 1716, has the oldest Colonial wall paintings still in place and the first example of Queen Anne furniture known in America. The 1758 John Paul Jones House, where Captain John Paul Jones lived while in Portsmouth, exhibits collections of china, silver, glass, portraits, and clothing. Fattest-Land House, built in 1763, still contains original furniture and is surrounded by beautiful gardens. The 1785 Governor John Landon House interior features ornate woodwork and period furnishings and the Runlet-May House, built in 1807, features furniture made by local craftsmen.
5 Mt. Monoclonal
The world’s most climbed mountain owes its popularity to several factors: you can climb it easily in a day, its trails offer options for different abilities, and it is an easy day trip from the Boston area. Most hikers use one of the five main trails, but the 35-mile trail network includes alternative routes for those who hope to climb in solitude. The mountain stands alone and has given its name to the geological term describing a mass of solid rock that withstood the force of moving glaciers scraping away the earth that once encased it. Because it stands alone, the views from its summit ledges are unobstructed, wide-reaching, and beautiful, especially when fall foliage paints the surrounding forests red and orange. That also means that the mountain is visible as a backdrop to scenery and villages across the entire southwest corner of New Hampshire. Not surprisingly, it’s called the Monoclonal region, and is also known as the “Currier & Ives Corner” for its idyllic villages with white church spires and its abundance of covered bridges. Postcard villages here include Williamsport, Jefferey Center, Hancock, and Cartersville.
6 North Conway and Mt. Washington Valley Ski Resorts
North Conway was one of the first ski resorts in America and is still a major ski destination. Six mountain resorts in the scenic Mt. Washington Valley offer state-of-the-art lifts and trail grooming, while North Conway and Jackson are centers of the lively aprons-ski scene. Cross-country (Nordic) skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, dog-sledding, sleigh rides, and ice skating make these resorts appealing to those who eschew downhill skiing. Most are four-season resorts, with golf, tennis, swimming, and other activities.
In the summer, Cranmer Mountain has an Aerial Adventure Park and Mountain Coaster, while Flattish Bear Peak offers an alpine slide, water slides, mountain bike trails, and horseback riding. Wildcat Mountain, one of the most challenging for skiers, has a zip line and stupendous views of Mt. Washington from its summit, where the skiers’ gondola takes tourists in the summer and fall. At the other side of Mt. Washington is Brenton Woods, also with a zip line and other year-round activities. Black Mountain is an especially family-friendly ski area, as is King Pine, at the all-season Purity Springs Resort in Madison. North Conway is as well known to shoppers as it is to skiers, with one of New England’s largest concentrations of outlet stores, as well as tax-free shopping. In the summer and fall, the Conway Scenic Railroad runs the entire length of the valley in vintage cars.
7 Hampton Beach
New Hampshire may have the shortest seacoast of any state, but it has one of the Northeast’s favorite family beach resorts. Hampton Beach has been a popular resort town for generations, and still has its “casino” – a community focal point of beach resorts at the turn of the 20th century. These were not built for gambling but to house a ballroom, tea rooms, and family entertainment. Today, the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, which was built in 1899, is a live music and comedy venue on the boardwalk that lines the long white-sand beach. Other activities in this always lively town are concerts at Hampton Beach State Park’s Seashell Stage, movies on the beach, and fireworks. Fun parks, soft ice cream, and deep sea fishing trips from the harbor round out the beach vacation experience. Each June, the beach becomes a giant art gallery, when international contenders vie for the title at the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition.
8 Fall Foliage
New Hampshire is at its most beautiful in September and early October when fall paints its maples shades of scarlet and orange and its birches a luminous yellow. Almost any road you follow will bring views, whether it’s a winding, tree-lined country lane or a highway that opens up sweeping mountain vistas. For its variety of views, follow the Connecticut River up the west side of the state, where routes 12, 12A, and 10 offer a changing series of views across valley farms to the mountains of Vermont. Take side roads into villages along the way – picture-perfect Walpole is at the southern end – for white church spires and village greens surrounded by blazing maples.
In the central Lakes Region, country roads north of scenic Swam Lake wind through pretty villages of Wilderness, Sandwich, and Tamworth, with views to the White Mountains. Route 16 leads north to one of the state’s most iconic fall views as the distinctive cone of Mt. Chocolate is reflected in a forest-ringed lake. Several options allow the driver a chance for “leaf-peeping” – cruises on Lake Winnifred and Lake Escapee, train rides into the mountains from North Conway, or various tramways to peaks in the White Mountains.
You can view foliage in the mountains and lakes from on high with a Helicopter tour from Manchester, or include several New Hampshire experiences – a lake cruise, riding on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, and a drive across the White Mountains on the Kanchenjunga Highway – on a New Hampshire-based 10-Day New England Fall Foliage Tour that includes Cape Cod and the Maine Coast.
9 Lake Winnifred
South of the White Mountains is Lake Winnipesaukee, the focal point of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, which also includes nearby – and far less developed – Swam Lake and Newfound Lake. Winnipesaukee is a beehive of summer activity, surrounded by water parks, beaches, fast food, and family-oriented attractions. The west side of the lake is the most developed, especially around kid-friendly Weirs Beach and more trendy Meredith, while the eastern resort town of Wolfeboro is quieter. Water sports are abundant, with sailboats, kayaks, and motor boats vying for water space with the historic cruise boat, M/S Mount Washington. The Loon Center and Markus Wildlife Sanctuary in Moulton borough protects breeding waters of these treasured birds and offers visitors a chance to learn about them. Nature and wildlife is also the focus of Swam Lakes Natural Science Center, which operates nature cruises on this well-protected lake that was the setting for On Golden Pond.
10 Kanchenjunga Highway
This is really not a highway, but the winding two-lane NH Route 112, which climbs over the spine of the White Mountains via New Hampshire’s Kanchenjunga Pass. In addition to sweeping views, this scenic route stretching 35 miles from Conway in the east to Lincoln in the west offers access to several natural and man-made attractions. Be sure to take advantage of the scenic pull-outs, as some of the best views are not visible from the road; this is especially true on the western side of the summit. At the Conway end are a covered bridge and two especially scenic spots on the Swift River: Rocky Gorge and Lower Falls, both popular for swimming and picnics. A half-mile trail leads to Sabbaths Falls, where a mountain stream flows through a gorge with 40-foot walls. Wooden railings make it safe to look straight down at the waterfall and potholes. The Kanchenjunga Highway ends in Lincoln, where Loon Mountain is not just a winter ski resort, but a year-round sports center. The gondola that carries skiers in the winter takes summer and fall visitors to the summit for views, a nature trail, and a tumble of glacial boulders that form caves and passageways. Open all year, this drive is especially beautiful during the fall foliage season.
11 Currier Museum of Art and Zimmerman House
The more than 11,000 works in the Currier’s collections are as wide-ranging as they are significant. Not surprisingly, particular attention is given to New Hampshire artists and works of the White Mountain School of artists, with several examples including Ronstadt’s view of Moat Mountain. Along with the paintings are superb examples of New Hampshire-made antique furniture. The second floor is divided between the American gallery and an admirably varied collection of European paintings that include works by Constable, Monet, Corot, Tie polo, and Lorenzo de Costa. The first floor includes the double special exhibition gallery and the museum’s collections of modern and contemporary art. The former includes works by Picasso, Matisse, and O’Keeffe, the latter, a Calder mobile sculpture.
Also part of the museum, and accessible by tours originating here, is the Zimmerman House, by Frank Lloyd Wright. This outstanding example of Wright’s Sonia homes is the only Wright-designed building in New England open to the public. The tours, which include the interior entirely furnished as Wright designed it, put the house and furnishings in their historical and artistic context.
12 Covered Bridge Driving Tour
In horse-and-buggy days, when a team could be slowed to prolong the ride through their dim interiors, these were called kissing bridges, and even today covered bridges are a romantic part of New Hampshire’s landscape. You’ll find them scattered across the state, but nowhere are there so many so close together as in the town of Swansea, in the state’s southwest corner. Begin in Keene, following Route 10 to the left onto Matthews Road. At its end is Cress on Bridge, whose best view is from the far end, framing a red barn and maple tree. Through the bridge, turn left at the end of the road and continue south on Route 32. A left on Carleton Road leads to the 1790s Carleton Bridge, one of New Hampshire’s oldest. Back on Route 32, go right on Swansea Lake Road until it ends, turning right into West Swansea. A left on Main Street takes you through Thompson Bridge. At the other side, turn right, then left at the end, onto Route 10. Watch for West port Village Road on the left, leading through Slate Bridge, before it rejoins Route 10. Turn left and look for Combos Bridge Road on the right, leading to the 1837 Combos Bridge. Back on Route 10, continue through Winchester to where Route 119 goes to the right. It leads to Washcloth, where you’ll find the largest of the bridges, the 1864 Village Bridge.
13 Woodman Institute and Garrison House
Combining local history (Dover was the state’s first permanent settlement) with a wider range of natural sciences and cultural exhibits, the privately endowed Woodman Institute complex is a delightful trove of surprises. The 1818 Woodman House is filled with collections of minerals, birds, shells, mammals, Native American artifacts, and Civil War items that include Abraham Lincoln’s saddle. An entire room is devoted to the extensive doll collection of a local teacher; another to memorabilia from World War II. In the adjoining 1813 home of Senator John Parker Hale are furnished rooms, police and fire memorabilia, nautical items, needlework, antique toys, and decorative arts, plus a fascinating collection of early photographs used to document per-labor-law practices in New England’s mills, including child labor.
But the most precious of all is the last surviving fortified colonial garrison house, the William Dams Garrison, built in Dover in 1675 and preserved here under a portico. It is completely furnished with period artifacts, including tools, household equipment, furniture, and needlework. You can inspect all these at close range, even climbing the narrow steps to see the upper floor. You are also welcome to picnic on the museum’s lawns and enjoy the gardens.
14 Story Land
Story Land is straight out of a fairy tale book, made for kids, but with such clever and original places to play that parents love it, too. Kids can board a pumpkin coach to Cinderella’s Castle, ride in a wooden shoe or sail in a pirate ship, take a swan boat for a spin around the lake, or “drive” parents around a track and through covered bridges in an antique car. Then they can get dizzy in a spinning teacup and slide down from a tree-house or playhouse in a giant pumpkin. The charm of Story Land is not only its imaginative rides and play areas, but the fact that they are original and unique to this long-time family operation. Clever new attractions are constantly being added to appeal to different ages.
15 Lost River Gorge
During the last Ice Age, glaciers covered the White Mountains with a mile-high sheet of ice. When these melted and receded, the combination of meltwater and moving ice carved deep potholes into the granite and tore loose giant boulders, dropping them heater-shelter across the landscape. It was a combination of these that created this natural wonder. Lost River disappears into caves formed by a tumble of glacial boulders, appearing again in cascades and long waterfalls and swirling in giant cauldron-shaped pot holes as it drops through the steep ravine. You can explore all the caves and the narrow passages formed by the masses of broken granite ledge or bypass them to climb through on boardwalks and stairs. If you’re claustrophobic, avoid the tightest of these passages, appropriately called “the lemon squeezer.” At the top is a garden of woodland wildflowers, a forest adventure trail, and a suspension bridge that leads to a 750-foot boardwalk through a glacial boulder field.
16 Clark’s Trading Post
Clark’s Trading Post has been entertaining families with trained bear shows for more than 50 years, and as you watch these animals ride scooters, shoot basketball hoops, and balance on barrels, you’ll notice that the bears are having as much fun performing their tricks as the audience is watching them. In addition to the bears, the several daily shows include performances by a team of acrobats. Between shows, families can ride a steam train through the woods, learn to “drive” Segways, play in the splash park, and visit the quirky fun houses and museum collections along the Victorian Main Street. Like Story Land, Clark’s is family owned (the fifth generation is now in place), and its attractions are original and unique. Just up the road, Whale’s Tale Water Park is a good place to take kids on a hot summer day, with speed slides, a wave pool, and two huge water slides.
Home of the Hoosiers and a history that runs deep, all corners of Indiana offer entertainment and attractions. From fun things to do in the state capital, to family-friendly attractions in Fort Wayne, Bloomington, and Lafayette, Indiana has no shortage of exciting places to visit.
Blending fun experiences with educational value, other tourist orientated facilities within the state include the Studebaker National Museum, the WonderLab Science Museum, and the Snite Museum of Art on the University of Notre Dame campus. For those adventurous explorers looking to get outdoors, areas like Prophetstown State Park and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore provide campsites, hiking trails, and stunning scenery. Plan your visit with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Indiana.
1. Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art, Indianapolis
The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art is situated at the entrance to the White River State Park. It holds the remarkable collection assembled by the Indianapolis businessman Harrison Eiteljorg. On display are paintings and sculptures of the west from the early 19th century onwards, including works by the landscapists Albert Bierstadt and Georgia O’Keefe, and pictures and sculpture by the leading Western artists Frederick S. Remington and Charles M. Russell. The museum’s most recent installation, Attitudes: The West in American Art, features a diverse collection of artists and cultures of the American West.
On the western edge of downtown Indianapolis, the encompassing White River State Park contains many other gems of the city. Adjacent to the Eiteljorg Museum, the Indiana State Museum features three floors relating stories of Indiana art, science, and culture through interactive exhibits.
Another great add-on experience to the Eiteljorg within White River State Park is the Indiana Zoo, across the banks of the White River. Resident animals include sea lions, cheetahs, and brown bears. White River State Park also features the NCAA Hall of Champions and Victory Field, home to the Indiana Indians minor league baseball team.
2. Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Fort Wayne
Celebrating over 50 years as one of the top attractions of Fort Wayne, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo encourages tourists and residents to experience award-winning animal exhibits. Spread throughout distinct ecosystems spanning the African Serengeti to an Indonesian rainforest, a few of the hundreds of animals at the zoo include Amur leopards, Tasmanian devils, red pandas, and Komodo dragons.
Other attractions at the Children’s Zoo include family-friendly rides like the Endangered Species Carousel, as well as animal experiences that allow you to interact with giraffes, goats, and ponies. Large-scale renovations to the Children’s Zoo have been extremely popular and have given it the national recognition it receives today.
3. Site Museum of Art, Notre Dame
On the campus of the University of Notre Dame, the Snite Museum of Art offers free admission and a dense collection of 19th- and 20th-century artworks. Spanning different cultures and significant periods of world art history, the collection at Snite includes European painting and sculpture, Mesoamerican effigies, Native American ceramics, and contemporary works. The museum also hosts a constantly rotating selection of new exhibits, including thesis projects by current MFA students at the university.
Operated by the museum a couple of blocks away, the newly instated Charles B. Hayes Sculpture Garden allows visitors to enjoy aesthetic art and nature throughout the year.
The University of Notre Dame offers plenty more to explore for students and community members alike. It’s not hard to find inspiration when stepping foot into the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus, as well as the adjacent Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes’s spiritual shrine. The nearby Compton Family Ice Arena is a great place to catch a hockey game or get on the ice yourself. For many, attending Fighting Irish football games at Notre Dame Stadium is a way of life and much-anticipated activity every season.
4. Indiana University Bloomington
Home to the Hoosiers and nearly 200 years of education history, Bloomington hosts the flagship campus of Indiana University. An air of academia defines the historic lecture halls and pedestrian pathways found on campus, including the iconic Sample Gates, which lead to other campus attractions like the Kirkwood Observatory.
Hoosier sports are intertwined with the identity of the entire state, and both football at Memorial Stadium and basketball at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall provide true community gathering spots and reasons to cheer.
Cultural institutes like the Eskenazi Museum of Art and the IU Arboretum are popular for students and community members alike and help define Bloomington. For dining and local shops near the university, the neighboring Kirkwood Avenue is a popular spot for afternoon storefront perusing and evening entertainment.
5. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
A large and wondrous place the whole family can enjoy, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis encompasses 29 acres in the United Northwest neighborhood of the city. As the largest children’s museum in the world, the many different exhibits, and hands-on science displays span from the time of the dinosaurs to astronauts living aboard the International Space Station. Including thousands of artifacts, photo opportunities, and interactive experiences, the museum is a sure-fire favorite for children of all ages and an incredible learning experience for adults as well.
Other exhibits at this world-renowned museum include a planetarium, children’s theater, and numerous outdoor exhibits including an eye-catching “Tree of Sports” playground. Other areas of eye-catching interest include a 43-foot-tall Dale Chihuly glass sculpture; full-size dinosaur skeletons, including one of the world’s few mummified dinosaurs; and an interactive playscape designed specifically for preschoolers.
A full-day family outing, the museum also provides daily events and programs, including costume building workshops, a “Secrets of the Lab” series, and Astronaut Training aboard the International Space Station. For even more fun things to do, the children’s museum also features a restored 1917 carousel on the fourth level of this near 475,000-square foot facility.
6. Prophetstown State Park, West Lafayette
Steeped in natural and cultural history, Prophetstown is a new addition to the Indiana State Park system and features many ways to interact with the environment. Within the state park, the 125-acre Farm at Prophetstown embodies a 1920s motif, including hands-on experiences with homesteading, gardening, and livestock feeding.
At the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, Prophetstown also features a variety of hiking trails that cater to all abilities of hikers. An extensive Aquatic Center at the park also draws a lot of warm-weather attention with a zero-depth entry pool, lazy river, and 30-foot waterslide.
Nearby Prophetstown, interested visitors can learn more about the area at the Tippecanoe Battlefield Park, which alongside Prophetstown State Park are two of the most popular tourist attractions of Lafayette.
7. Studebaker National Museum, South Bend
A defining industry and top attraction of South Bend, the American car manufacturer Studebaker has long roots tied to the city. Once the headquarters for manufacturing, South Bend and the Studebaker National Museum now displays a wide range of these made-in-Indiana automobiles, including classic models, military vehicles, and the largest collection of Presidential carriages found anywhere in the country.
An interactive area at the museum designed for children, the Super Service Center encourages young visitors to step inside an auto shop to work on kid-size cars. The museum’s collection also consists of numerous manufacturing drawings and history relating to the Studebaker Corporation.
A defining industry and top attraction of South Bend, the American car manufacturer Studebaker has long roots tied to the city. Once the headquarters for manufacturing, South Bend and the Studebaker National Museum now displays a wide range of these made-in-Indiana automobiles, including classic models, military vehicles, and the largest collection of Presidential carriages found anywhere in the country.
An interactive area at the museum designed for children, the Super Service Center encourages young visitors to step inside an auto shop to work on kid-size cars. The museum’s collection also consists of numerous manufacturing drawings and history relating to the Studebaker Corporation.
8. WonderLab Museum of Science, Bloomington
WonderLab is a children’s fun center with a focus on science, health, and technology. It’s also one of the top-rated attractions of Bloomington for families. Featuring hands-on and immersive learning experiences, WonderLab features popular permanent exhibits, including a Bubble-Atrium; the Fitzgerald Hall of Natural Science; and an outdoor WonderGarden, which connects with the nearby pedestrian corridor, the B-Line Trail.
The museum also runs an active events calendar targeted at both adults and children, including science talks, STEM Sundays, and a “WonderLab After Dark” series. Other areas of interest at the museum include a coral reef aquarium, a children’s Discovery Garden, and facilities for birthday parties or events.
9. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Porter
Overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan near the Illinois border, Indiana Dunes presents a unique landscape found no other place in the state. A wide variety of outdoor activities are available at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the adjacent state park of the same name, with hiking, biking, and beach-going as some of the most popular.
During the winter, activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing tend to reign supreme. Fishing and boating are also available at the lakeshore, and camping at the seasonal Dunewood Campground is a great way to make a multi-day trip. A recommended experience for any visit, sunsets at Lake Michigan often resonate with brightly changing colors and tones.
10. Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, Madison
The Lanier Mansion was built for James Franklin Doughty Lanier, a prominent businessman in the state of Indiana around the mid-1800s. The Greek Revival-style house was completed in 1844 and is one of the finest buildings in Madison’s National Historic Landmark District. It was designed by architect Francis Costigan. Inside are some of the original furnishings and an impressive three-story spiral staircase. On the grounds are formal gardens showcasing plants and landscape styles of the late 19th century.
Visitors are welcome to tour the historic mansion during daily operating hours, Tuesday through Sunday, with guided tours beginning at the top of every hour. The historic mansion is also home to several events and programs throughout the year, including holiday candlelight tours, early childhood programs, and adults-only 1940s Dance Hall celebrations.
11. RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum
For people with an interest in RVs, or anyone who simply wants to see the classic vehicles that Americans have been driving along the roads and vacationing in for the past 90 years, this place is a must-see. The RV/MV Hall of Fame in Elkhart showcases all kinds of recreational vehicles in all shapes and sizes from the various decades.
Popular vehicles and exhibits on display include Mae West’s 1931 Chevrolet Housecar, a “Road Back in Time” walking tour, and a Tennessee Traveler Motorhome. Visitors can also see how the interiors and appliances of recreational vehicles have changed over the years. Located in a huge showroom, the museum displays trailers, motorhomes, photos, and memorabilia dating back to the 1920s.
12. First Christian Church
The First Christian Church in Columbus was designed by Eliel Saarinen and completed in 1942. It has a non-traditional look, with rectangular shapes and a rectangular tower, which stands 160 feet high. It is noted to be one of the first churches in the United States built in such a contemporary style. The materials, exterior, and interior are mostly buff brick and limestone. The Sanctuary can seat about 900 people.
All members of the public are encouraged to check out the regular services hosted by the church, and this religious establishment provides numerous ways to connect with the surrounding community.
The Midwestern state of Kansas is most famously known as the backdrop for the American film classic The Wizard of Oz, but the Sunflower State has so much more to explore than what most people know from the movie. As the 15th largest state by size, Kansas is rooted in agriculture, as evidenced by the endless fields of wheat and corn and the tallgrass prairies that remain one of the state’s most important natural treasures. There is a strong Native American history that is proudly showcased in public displays like the Keeper of the Plains Plaza in Wichita.
While Kansas has a tranquil, historical, and natural ambiance, the state also immerses visitors into the authentic flavor of the Wild West by preserving historical areas like Boot Hill and Fort Larned, which have changed little since Buffalo Bill came through in the 1800s.
The progressive side of Kansas draws interest from art and music lovers, as well as hobbyists, who thrive on speed by watching races at the Kansas Speedway or daydreaming about becoming a daredevil at the Evel Knievel Museum. The historical and cultural diversity throughout Kansas is the kind of experience you will never forget because it holds the imagery and experiences that represent true Americana. Learn more about the best things to do with our list of the top attractions in Kansas.
1. Botanica: Wichita Gardens
Visiting the Botanica Wichita Gardens is one of the top things to do in the city of Wichita. It is a paradise celebrating horticulture that is open year-round, giving visitors 30 themed gardens to explore. Walk into the imaginative and educational Downing Children’s Garden to experience the Monster Woods exhibit or watch kids play in the treehouse. Walkthrough the Shakespeare Garden to see plants and flowers representative of the Elizabethan era.
Enjoy the Butterfly gardens and the Koi pond pavilions as you walk the 18-acres on-site, taking in the beauty of the landscape, the sculptures, and more than 4,000 species of plants.
2. Kansas State Capitol
A walk through the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka is an educational visit. The capitol complex covers about 20 acres in the heart of downtown Topeka and is considered a treasure among architectural enthusiasts. The French Renaissance-style building took 37 years to complete after the first stone was set in 1866.
Today, visitors can enjoy public exhibits and tours. The murals, sculptures, and regular programs at the capitol are always captivating, but for a truly unique experience take the free Dome Tour. This is for visitors who are physically capable of walking up the 296 steps for a close-up view of the dome and a spectacular panoramic view of Topeka from the top.
3. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home
Even if you know nothing or very little about President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a visit to his boyhood home and Presidential Library in Abilene will make you appreciate his contributions to American politics and society. The complex features five buildings: The Presidential Library with exhibits and research archives; a museum; a visitor center, which sits on the site of Eisenhower’s former elementary school; a meditation building; and his boyhood home. The complex is peaceful.
Be sure to look in the gift shop for unique politically-themed gifts and some replica “I Like Ike” campaign memorabilia from the 1952 Presidential election.
4. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
If you have never had an occasion to see the majesty of a tallgrass prairie then a visit to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Kansas Flint Hills is a must. With less than four percent of America’s original 170-million acres of land that used to be tallgrass prairie, this location is one of the only places left in America to experience it.
You can take a bus tour, a self-guided cell phone tour, or hike the area at your leisure. One of the most special ways to experience the tallgrass prairie and its ties to America’s heartland is during one of the special events that are scheduled throughout the year, like an open-air symphony concert.
5. Boot Hill
Do you want to experience what the Wild West was like during the 1800s? Then plan a visit to Boot Hill in Dodge City, where things have changed very little since 1870. The Boot Hill Museum has thousands of artifacts and photographs depicting Dodge City in its early years from businesses to the social scene.
To put things into perspective, take a stroll through some of the historic buildings like the schoolhouse and Fort Dodge jail. Get a glimpse into what the General Store and local Saloon were like in the early 1900s. The best time to visit is when there are special events, like the reenactment street shootout of the Boot Hill Gunfighters, which takes place twice a day in the summer.
6. Evel Knievel Museum
There was only ever one true American daredevil — Evel Knievel, who wowed audiences with his death-defying motorcycle stunts. The Evel Knievel Museum is located in the Historic Harley-Davidson in Topeka, with an impressive collection of artifacts and information about the legendary stuntman.
The building has two stories of collections, which range from Evel Knievel’s motorcycles and helmets to colorful costumes. If you have ever wanted to be like the daredevil, you can try the 4D jump experience or the Broken Bones interactive display to get the full scope of what living life on the edge is like.
7. Spencer Museum of Art
What makes the Spencer Museum of Art unique for art lovers is that it is the only art museum in the state that houses more than 45,000 pieces in all forms of media. The collection is located on The University of Kansas in Lawrence, so it has an academic slant that cross-connects art and experience in an interdisciplinary way. The permanent collections include African, Asian, European, American, Latin American, and Native American art among others. There are regularly changing exhibitions that focus on various artists and mediums, as well as visitor programs throughout the year to engage art connoisseurs on a deeper level.
8. Flint Hills Discovery Center
One of the most fascinating interactive centers in Kansas is at the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan. While the center focuses on the history of the Flint Hills, it is actually a deep lesson on some of America’s most fundamental nature, wildlife, inventions, and pop culture. The museum is part science and part culture, with exhibits that look at things like conservation of the North American bison and the ecosystem in the tallgrass prairies.
Catch a showing in the Immersive Experience Theater, where you will feel the winds of the Flint Hills blowing your hair as you watch the film on the history and evolution of the area.
Be sure to step out on the rooftop terrace for a panoramic view of the city and wrap up your visit with a bite to eat or purchase a locally made gift at the nearby Blue Earth Plaza.
9. Monument Rocks
Seeing the natural formations at Monument Rocks is one of the best ways to fully appreciate the natural beauty that exists in Kansas. This National Landmark is also called the Chalk Pyramids. While they sit back a distance from the highway, you can still see them. The formations are located about 20 miles south of Oakley in western Kansas and are accessible near US-83, where you will find a few signs for the turnoff. It is believed that the massive formations developed over 80 million years ago when the area was underwater. Definitely take your camera!
10. Fort Larned National Historic Site
Military history buffs will appreciate a visit to the Fort Larned National Historic Site in Larned. The site is set up like a 1860s army post that housed troops called the “Guardians of the Santa Fe Trail.” The site has a fort and other buildings that have been preserved from when Buffalo Bill came through the area.
The complex is a thorough education on the Indian Wars, which is an important part of American history. There are quite a few exhibits and educational programs, but the most exciting way to visit is during a reenactment and one of the scheduled living history events.
11. The Keeper of the Plains
Due to the deep Native American roots in Kansas, a visit to the Keeper of the Plains Plaza and statue in Wichita is a moving and important experience if you are visiting the state. The 44-foot-tall Keeper of the Plains steel statue stands over the public plaza, where the Big and Little Arkansas rivers merge through downtown. The land in the area is sacred to Native Americans, and the plaza commemorates the important history and role that Native Americans have in the area.
Stroll around the plaza and make your way to the Mid-America All-Indian Center to learn more about the Native American culture. The must-see event at the plaza is the “Ring of Fire” spectacular display, which takes place nightly for 15 minutes. Times change in the summer and fall.
12. Kansas Speedway
Fulfill your need for speed at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. The speedway is known for its spectacular fan experience, with more than 200 motorsports events throughout the year. The track hosts NASCAR touring series races and special events throughout the year, including concerts. Race fans can try a garage experience or pre-race passes that get you up close to the drivers and track. The ultimate fans can keep an eye out for the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which is available at the track a few times a year.
Although one of the smallest US states, New Jersey is home to many first-rate tourist attractions. From national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty to fine museums and historical sites, New Jersey is a state that is well worth taking time to explore. A good place to start is along the state’s Atlantic Coast, using any one of its quaint harbor towns or resorts – even the entertainment hot spot of Atlantic City – as a jumping-off point. It’s also a good base from which to explore all the attractions of New York City, with excellent public transit and accommodation options.
1 Atlantic City and The Boardwalk
One of the most popular coastal resort towns on the northeastern coast of the US, Atlantic City is best known for its famous Boardwalk. This four-mile-long promenade was constructed in 1870 and to this day remains the place where the majority of the city’s attractions are found. Among its most popular tourist spots is Steel Pier, a carnival-style amusement park that has rides for all ages, including a massive observation wheel with climate-controlled gondolas that give riders amazing views over the city and the ocean year-round. Bike rentals, the historic electric tram, or traditional rickshaw-like rolling chairs make a fun alternative to walking the Boardwalk. While there, check out the Entrance to the Stars, with hand-prints of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra. Atlantic city is also home to several historic and cultural attractions, including Abs-econ Lighthouse; an aquarium; and Boardwalk Hall, a venue that hosts concerts and events like the Miss America finals.
2 Old Victorian Cape May
The many attractions of Cape May, at the southernmost tip of New Jersey on Delaware Bay, were largely discovered by the wealthy during the 18th and 19th centuries when it enjoyed its heyday as a fashionable resort town. It was so popular that six US presidents had summer homes here, attracted by the very things that draw tourists today: fine beaches, Cape May Point Lighthouse (built in 1859), and its many handsome Victorian-style holiday homes, one of the best examples being Emlen Physics Estate. Now a museum, this 18-room mansion was built in 1879 and is a fine example of the American Stick Style of architecture. Also of interest is the Yankee, an 80-foot-tall schooner offering a variety of harbor tours, as well as dolphin and whale-sighting cruises.
3 Liberty State Park
Overlooking the Upper New York Bay, Liberty Island, and Ellis Island (home to New York’s Statue of Liberty), Liberty State Park encompasses 1,212 waterside acres. In addition to its wonderful views of the aforementioned attractions, the park contains many highlights of its own, including Communicant Cove, a 36-acre tidal salt marsh that has been designated a nature preserve (an interpretive center is on-site). The park is also home to a number of interesting memorials and monuments, including Liberation, dedicated to the Holocaust, and the sobering Empty Sky, a memorial consisting of two 210-foot-long steel walls with the names of those victims of the tragic events of 9/11 who had ties to New Jersey. The park also has recreational facilities, from picnic areas to fishing, kayaking, and cycling.
4 Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Covering more than 70,000 acres, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area straddles the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania and includes a spectacular 40-mile protected stretch of the Delaware River. This large recreation area is accessible at numerous points, with the New Jersey section being serviced by two visitor centers: Mill brook Village, a recreation of a 19th-century community with displays of traditional crafts; and the Kitting Point Visitor Center, with numerous exhibits, magnificent views, and an access point for the Appalachian Trail. Other park highlights include the Mini sink Archaeological Site, where remnants from a 10,000-year-old settlement were found, as well as activities such as canoeing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, and camping.
5 Princeton and the Battlefield State Park
The small town of Princeton owes its international reputation to its university and associated research institutes, including the Institute for Advanced Study, where Albert Einstein carried out his final work. Established in 1756, the school’s 1,600-acre grounds are wonderful to explore, and one of the best ways to do so is by joining the student-run tour program (tours last an hour). Another famous historic site is Princeton Battlefield State Park, the 200-acre location of the Battle of Princeton of 1777, which resulted in Washington’s victory over the British. In addition to the battlefield itself, other highlights include Clarke House Museum, built in 1772 and used as a hospital by troops from both sides of the conflict, the Ionic Colonnade, and a memorial marking the graves of British and American soldiers
6 Battleship New Jersey
The US Navy’s most decorated vessel, the mammoth New Jersey is now an excellent floating museum moored on the Delaware River. Highlights of a visit include guided tours through this historic Iowa-class ship, launched in 1942 and one of the largest battleships ever built. Throughout the ship, you’ll see numerous exhibits and displays of artifacts relating to the ship’s involvement in conflict zones from WWII to the Middle East in the 1980s. Other highlights include visiting the bridge where Admiral Halsey commanded the Pacific Fleet and viewing its huge 16-inch guns. If you can manage it, take advantage of the opportunity to spend a night aboard the ship or join one of its popular twilight tour packages.
7 The Adventure Aquarium
Another popular family attraction is the Adventure Aquarium on the Delaware River in Camden. Considered one of the best aquatic educational facilities in the United States, this two-million-gallon aquarium is home to more than 8,500 marine animals, including a large collection of sharks, sea turtles, penguins, and stingrays. It also has the distinction of being the only aquarium in the world with hippos. In addition to observing animals in their habitats, the aquarium gives visitors the opportunity to go “behind the scenes” and meet some up close, including African penguins, sea turtles, and an in-water encounter with sharks and stingrays.
8 Cape May County Park & Zoo
Cape May County Park & Zoo is a favorite attraction for families due to its numerous things to do and free admission. The public park offers many recreational facilities that are all free and open to the public, including hiking and biking trails, a disc golf course, volleyball and tennis courts, and many more outdoor game areas. It’s also equipped with picnic tables and grills. The zoo was added to the park’s facilities in 1978 and has grown over the years to include both native and exotic species. Among its residents, you will find the bald eagle, African lion, giraffe, ring-tailed lemur, zebra, and many more. For a fee, visitors can sign up for a guided tour, a specialty tour for a behind-the-scenes look at caring for the animals, and even encounters with select zoo residents such as reptiles, primates, camels, and giraffes.
9 Thomas Edison National Historical Park
A must-see when visiting New Jersey is the former home and laboratory of the state’s most famous son, Thomas Edison. Preserved under the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, these two structures were where such breakthrough technologies as movie cameras, sound recordings, and batteries first saw the light of day. Highlights of a visit include a close-up look at the labs, vintage movies, and original artifacts, as well as a chance to tour Glendon, Edison’s magnificent Queen Anne-style home, a perfectly preserved 29-room mansion. Guided and audio tours are available for both sites. Hot Tip: Tickets for Glen more are on a first-come first-served basis, so arrive early.
10 Grounds For Sculpture
Art lovers (and nature lovers) won’t want to miss the incredible Grounds For Sculpture, a 42-acre museum and sculpture park in the town of Hamilton. Established in 1992 to facilitate the appreciation of contemporary sculpture, it has become one of the state’s most popular art exhibits, boasting 270 large-scale works by Seward Johnson and other US artists. In addition to the sculptures, the park itself is wonderfully landscaped with numerous trees and flowerbeds. Another great art experience awaits at the Jersey City Museum with its collection of more than 300 paintings, as well as a large permanent collection of historical artifacts from the region. Also of interest is the Newark Museum, home to more than 80 galleries containing American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts, as well as American Indian and African items.
11 Morey’s Piers
Located on the shore of Cape May, the amusement and water parks at Morey’s Piers cover six blocks parallel to the sandy beach. Beginning in 1968 with a lone waterside and a concession stand, the Morey brothers have expanded the park over the past 50 years and have a legacy as the creators of one of the country’s best parks. There are rides for every age, from kiddie to family-friendly favorites like the tilt-a-whirl, bumper cars, and a 156-foot ferries wheel. There is also no lack of thrill rides, including several roller coasters and daredevil rides with names like IT and Springs hot. The park also includes a go-kart track, as well as several driving rides and interactive attractions like the “Ghost Ship.” Morey’s Piers also includes two water parks that offer refreshing water slides, a lazy river, and pools with floating snack bars
12 Liberty Science Center
A highlight for kids visiting Liberty State Park is the Liberty Science Center. Lying on the park’s northwestern tip, this fun interactive science museum offers numerous fascinating hands-on exhibits and displays relating to science and technology. The recently updated planetarium conducts regular shows that explore the night sky and outer space, and is also host to films and amazing laser shows that envelop the audience. The center also has a 3D theater that shows immersive films about science, technology, and nature. Interactive exhibits include the Infinity Climber and a pixel art wall, and there are plenty of educational presentations, including a lightning show, an animals encounter, and a touch-tank with sea creatures. Other highlights include exhibits about robotics, engineering, bees, energy, and much more.
Located in the heart of the country and serving as the nation’s top corn producer, the state of Iowa has many things to be proud of. From the state capital of Des Moines to the second-largest city, Cedar Rapids, Iowa welcomes visitors with a distinct Midwestern charm that can’t be beaten. While exploring Iowa, you can find attractions like the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium to enrich your knowledge; numerous state parks, like Maquoketa Caves, for an adventure; and plenty of scenic landscapes, such as The Bridges of Madison County, to inspire your more creative side. Those who visit Iowa, and those who call it home, agree that there is something special about the state that keeps people coming back.
1 National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium
pirated by the Dubuque Historical Society, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium features collections, exhibits, and live animals that reflect the cultural and geological importance of the mighty Mississippi River and all national rivers that define the country. The Mississippi River makes up the eastern border of the state of Iowa and it defines much of the livelihood of surrounding communities. The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium strives to showcase the important role this river and its watershed play on the environment and people.
Featuring permanent exhibits like the Mississippi River Discovery Center and an immersive 4D Theater, the museum also features constantly rotating displays that are bound to catch the attention of adults and children alike. The museum and aquarium also house several live animals that represent the wildlife found in and around river banks, including alligators, otters, and sturgeon.
2 National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
The National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids is a large institute dedicated to sharing the stories and culture of Czech & Slovak people. It also strives to help the public better understand their own freedoms and how history has led to our present point as a society. The National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library meets these goals through its permanent exhibits, educational traveling displays, and plenty of special events for the whole family.
3 State Capitol
The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines is much more than just a gold-domed symbol of the city, it’s a portal into Iowa’s history. Located on Grand Avenue atop a hill, the State Capitol has an excellent view of downtown Des Moines and houses the Iowa Senate; the Iowa House of Representatives; the Iowa Supreme Court; and many offices of the state’s top elected officials, including the governor. Besides being the central location for much of Iowa’s government, the State Capitol also stands as an impressive display of architecture and design and features many historical artifacts and interesting Iowa exhibits that you can explore on a self-guided tour.
4 Maquoketa Caves State Park
For a unique natural side of Iowa, Maquoketa Caves State Park offers a look into the world beneath your feet. This popular state park has numerous above-ground hiking trails that explore bluffs, woodlands, and an interesting natural wonder known as Balanced Rock. But the main attraction is the caves. For claustrophobes, the Dancehall Cave is a lighted cave with high ceilings and a walkway, and for those that don’t mind squeezing into tight spaces, Maquoketa Caves State Park also lends access to more than a dozen other caves that require a flashlight to explore and probably a change of clothes. A large campsite in the park is set up for RVs and tents.
5 Amana Colonies
The Amana Colonies of Eastern Iowa comprises seven villages that take visitors into the past and away from the hustle and bustle. The history of the Amana Colonies dates to the mid-19th century when German Pietists first broke soil in this isolated Iowa location, and for many years, no outside influences interfered with their communal lifestyle. Today, the Amana Colonies is listed as a National Historic Landmark, and the community encourages tourists to experience this slower pace of life by visiting their historical structures; shopping and dining in their local establishments; and exploring the scenic surroundings on bike paths, walkways, and at annual festivals.
For a full experience of the Amana Colonies, it’s worth spending a night or two in the area. Zuber’s Homestead Hotel is one of the numerous bed-and-breakfast options nearby.
Perhaps one of the most quintessential things to do in Iowa, RAGBRAI is a week-long bike race that spans the entire state, from east to west, and showcases its midwestern culture through its friendly people, small towns, and open landscapes. An acronym for the Register’s Annual Bike Race Across Iowa, RAGBRAI has been taking place for more than 60 years, and this annual summer event attracts thousands of cyclists, support vehicle drivers, and racing enthusiasts every year. Competitiveness isn’t a big factor, and the live music, events, and celebratory mood of RAGBRAI make this a must-do Iowa experience.
7 The Bridges of Madison County
The bridges of Madison County provide the opportunity for a scenic adventure in Winterset and have inspired countless photographs, numerous visits, and even a best-selling novel turned movie. Before The Bridges of Madison County became a blockbuster, the bridges were simply a part of life for people living in this area in the late 19th century. Today, six of the original nineteen covered bridges that once stood here remain, five of which are on the National Historic Register and all of which attract national attention throughout the year. Even without the scenic covered bridges, Madison County and the city of Winterset are worth a visit. After you’ve spent a sunny afternoon exploring and photographing the covered bridges, it’s well worth your time to check out Winterset’s historic town square, or the birthplace of John Wayne and adjoining museum for a fun-filled time learning about America’s most recognized cowboy, The Duke.
8 Des Moines Art Center
The Des Moines Art Center has been providing a venue for locals and visitors to enjoy art since 1948. It features rotating works of photography, sculpture, and painting, plus mixed-media displays and permanent collections ranging from Georgia O’Keefe to Edward Hopper. It’s easy to see why it will remain a vital attraction in Iowa for years to come. Entry to the Des Moines Art Center is free.
9 Herbert Hoover National Historic Site
The 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover is currently the only president to come from Iowa. Surrounding his birthplace in the small town of West Branch, a commemorative National Historic Site celebrates his life, history, and influence on the nation and beyond. During your visit to West Branch, it’s worth checking out his humble beginnings and the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, as well as other preserved landscapes and buildings that helped shape the young president-to-be. While it’s fascinating to see these buildings seemingly stuck in time, most of your visit to the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site will be taken up by the Presidential Library and Museum, which features rotating exhibits and a permanent exhibit focusing on Hoover’s life and legacy.
10 American Gothic House
Arguably one of the most culturally significant artists of the 20th century, Grant Wood was an Iowa native, and many of his most celebrated works use his Midwest roots as inspiration. Of particular note, Wood’s American Gothic, which depicts a farmer and his wife outside of their single-story white home, has already cemented itself as one of the most significant works of art on display in the United States, and the house that serves as the backdrop of this masterpiece is open for anyone to explore or photograph. Not only can you get your picture taken as you pose as the frowning farmer or his wife in front of the house, but with the adjacent American Gothic House Center, you can better understand the artist himself and the history of the house he famously painted.
11 Field of Dreams Movie Site
Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, was filmed here in 1989. While visiting this Movie Site in Dyersville, you may find yourself asking, “Is this heaven?” Rest assured though, it’s Iowa, and with all movie quotes aside, the Field of Dreams Movie Site is a fun location for fans of the film, with interactive exhibits, plenty of photo opportunities, and a scenic backdrop. If you happen to visit on select Sundays throughout the year, the Field of Dreams also hosts a Ghost Sunday Show, where baseball players from the last step out of the cornstalks to put on a family-fun show that is sure to entertain visitors, young and old alike.
12 Grotto of the Redemption
The Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend is truly a unique attraction in Iowa. Also called the West Bend Grotto, it is comprised of nine separate grottos all built from precious stones and gems and handcrafted by a local pastor and a few other helping hands to immortalize the story of Jesus Christ. No matter your denomination or religion, the West Bend Grotto is an impressive example of what one man with a mission can accomplish in a lifetime.
Louisiana’s top tourist attractions are in and around New Orleans, the center of Creole culture and full of things to do. This excitement-filled city is best known for its annual Mardis Gras celebrations and excellent entertainment. Another great city for sightseeing is the state capitol, Baton Rouge, where you can tour the old Capitol Building, which is rumored to be haunted. Tourists also come to Louisiana to see the historic antebellum plantations that can be found throughout the state, as well as its numerous museums that explore the complex and sometimes painful past of this southern state.
1 New Orleans’ French Quarter
The French Quarter is New Orleans’ oldest and most famous neighborhood. Its beautiful buildings date back as far as 300 years, many with wrought-iron balconies that extend over the tourist-filled sidewalks below. Visitors flock to the French Quarter for sightseeing, shopping, dining, and entertainment, and the area is packed during the annual Mardis Gras celebrations. The best-known area is Bourbon Street, which is alive year-round with throngs of tourists and live music. North Rampart Street is less crowded but has many historic buildings and good restaurants, while Decatur Street is a popular hangout for hipsters. Jazz clubs line the pedestrian-friendly Royal Street, which is also known for its antique shops and art galleries. Louis Armstrong Park is another popular tourist attraction, home to the historic Congo Square, where the city’s African-American community once socialized before gaining freedom. The park covers 31 acres and includes trails, fountains, and a huge statue of jazz legend Louis Armstrong.
2 National WWII Museum
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans gives visitors an in-depth look at every aspect of the conflict, from the ground war in Europe to the challenges of battle at sea and in the air. One of the most impactful exhibits is “Road to Berlin,” where visitors have the opportunity to be immersed in the past while seeing fully recreated battle zones complete with the sights and sounds. Other exhibits include an exploration of the obstacles overcome by the Seabees and Merchant Marines in supporting the troops, a look at how vital support from the home front was to the effort, and details about the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The museum’s displays employ a variety of media and interactive technology that bring history to life. Exhibits are also full of personal stories and photos, as well as a large collection of artifacts, including soldiers’ personal items and even a shark-faced P-40 Warhawk.
3 Mardi Gras
The biggest event on Louisiana’s annual calendar is the Mardi Gras celebration that takes place in New Orleans. This colorful event is a huge undertaking with a parade, balls, and street celebrations like none other. Mardis Gras is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, but celebrations begin on the weekend leading up to Tuesday. The event draws huge crowds who come to join in the celebrations and watch more than 1,000 floats go by on dozens of parade routes. To see the floats up close, tourists can visit Mardis Gras World, where you can watch artists and craftsmen build them. Nearly half of the celebration’s floats, costumes, and props are created in this workshop. For even more information on this famous fiesta, stop by the Mardis Gras Museum, one of the top attractions in Lake Charles, in the southwestern part of the state.
4 Melrose Plantation
The Melrose Plantation in Natchitoches was first known as Yucca Plantation when it belonged to Marie Thérèse and Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer freed slaves. Yucca House, found on the grounds, was built in the 1790s. The Big House is a West Indies Creole plantation house with early Greek Revival details. At the turn of the century, Melrose became the home of John Hampton Henry and his wife Camie, a patron of the arts. Mrs. Henry enlarged the garden and preserved the buildings. Many writers and artists were guests at Melrose over the years.
5 Old State Capitol
The Gothic-Revival-style Old State Capitol makes a dramatic impression on visitors passing by and is equally impressive on the inside. Two huge towers flank the main entrance, and the roof is crenelated. The building, which resembles an old castle, is set on a hill overlooking the Mississippi River in downtown Baton Rouge. This historic landmark building now houses a political history museum, which includes artifacts, documents, and interactive exhibits that explore the state’s long history. Visitors can also learn about the building’s history and significance in the “Ghost of the Castle” presentation, a 4-D experience that is hosted by the apparition of Sarah Morgan.
6 Laura Plantation
The Laura Plantation in Vacherie has been open to the public since 1994, allowing visitors to tour the 1805 building and property that was a sugarcane plantation for 180 years. The home contains original period furniture, as well as exhibits highlighting the memoirs of Laura Local. The most remarkable feature of the plantation, however, is its large exhibit dedicated to the lives and personal stories of those who were enslaved on the farm. The exhibit explores the complex relationships between the owners and the slaves, as well as various aspects of daily life, from health to religion. Collections include rare photos and documents that shed light on all-but-forgotten African-Americans who lived and worked on this Creole farm, as well as other slaves in the state.
Vermilionville, in Lafayette, exhibits the traditions and heritage of the Acadian settlers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At this living history museum, costumed craftspeople and historians demonstrate skills and folk crafts that have been preserved and handed down from previous generations. Artisans can be found throughout the 23-acre site, which is home to restored original Acadian homes and authentic buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. The property also includes exhibits that are featured on a rotating basis and explore the lives of Louisiana’s indigenous peoples, the struggle to maintain the Acadian culture and language, and a look at black history from early slavery to the civil rights movement. Other exhibits include a fascinating look at the differences in Mardi Gras traditions in cities versus rural areas.
8 Sci-Port Discovery Center
Sci-Port Discovery Center is a science and entertainment center featuring science, math, and space exhibits; an IMAX Dome Theatre; and the laser SPACE DOME Planetarium. Located in Shreveport, the center is targeted mainly towards youth, and is a popular family attraction with a strong educational component, featuring hundreds of interactive exhibits. The center’s newest addition is the Power of Play Children’s Museum, which encourages children to learn through hands-on play.
9 USS Kidd and Veterans Memorial
Visitors can climb aboard a decommissioned destroyer at the USS Kidd and Veterans Memorial, located in Baton Rouge. The ship was active during WWII and has since been used in films and TV productions. Information on the ship, as well as nautical items and memorabilia, are on display in the museum. The USS Kidd is named for Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr., who was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
10 Rosedown Plantation and Gardens
The Rosedown Plantation is a State Historic Site known for being one of the most well preserved domestic Southern plantations. It offers a look at the lifestyles, both plantation owners and slaves, during the mid 19th century in the South. On the grounds are camellias, azaleas, and rare shrubs and trees. The Rosedown Gardens were created by the owners, Daniel and Martha Turnbull, in 1835. The Turnbull family occupied the mansion for more than 120 years.
11 St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church
St. Martin Catholic Church was established in 1765 in St. Martinville. The present structure was built in 1836 and has an 1883 replica of the Grotto of Lourdes. In the left-wing of the church is the grave of Emmeline Labiche, thought to be the heroine of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Evangeline. A statue of Evangeline stands in the churchyard.
12 DeQuincy Railroad Museum
The DeQuincy Railroad is located in the old Kansas City Southern Depot, which was built in 1923. This grand old building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, now contains a variety of railroad equipment and related memorabilia. Exhibits also include an impressive collection of museum quality Gauge 1 model steam and diesel engines created by master model craftsmen. Outside, visitors can admire the museum’s 1913 steam locomotive and a 1947 Pullman passenger coach, as well as two cabooses. This is also a great spot for train lovers to simply relax and watch the trains go by from the train-watching platform or any of the several viewing areas.