Travel: A guide to unique attractions in every U.S. state — Part 2: Montana through Wyoming
By Steve Stephens, More Content Now
As a travel writer, I've had the rare privilege of visiting all 50 states in this amazing country of ours.
Though I won't pick favorites (in most cases), I will suggest a nifty site I've visited in each.
Last week's installment of Alabama through Missouri is attached to this article. This week, part two of the list: Montana through Wyoming.
• Here’s a secret: The glaciers of Glacier National Park in Montana aren’t impressive. And they’re shrinking. But the park’s magnificent, majestic mountain scenery makes up for any glacial disappointments. And the park lodges are cozy, comfy and nearly as pretty as their surroundings. (nps.gov/glac)
• Lincoln, Nebraska, is more than just Cornhusker football. It’s also ancient elephants. Elephant Hall, at the University of Nebraska State Museum, has a world-famous collection of fossilized pachyderms, including one of the largest mammoth skeletons in the world. It’s like Barnum & Bailey meets Indiana Jones. (museum.unl.edu)
• Travelers who enjoy solo trips won’t get much more solo than a journey down the “Loneliest Road,” U.S. Highway 50 from Carson City to Baker, Nevada. The nearly 300-mile journey takes drivers through empty but scenic desert landscapes punctuated by small, fascinating and amiable towns. You might even make a friend. (ponyexpressnevadakiosk.com/survival-guide/)
• New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England, offers magnificent panoramic views. And the trip up the mountain really is half the fun when you ride the historic Cog Railway. Part train, part (very slow) roller-coaster, the railway will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2019. (thecog.com)
• Delaware Water Gap is a 67,000-acre National Recreation Area in New Jersey (and Pennsylvania) along 40 miles of the scenic Delaware River. The area offers more than 100 miles of hiking trails, including a 27-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The region is also filled with pretty and historic river towns. (nps.gov/dewa/)
• Glistening snow-white dunes of gypsum make White Sands, New Mexico, a unique natural wonder. You can hike, take a tour or even buy a sled to zip down your own private dune. (nps.gov/whsa)
• Visit here if you visit anywhere. New York (City), New York, is quite simply the world’s greatest city (although Peoria or Akron might have something to say about that). What to do? Almost anything that strikes your fancy. Just go and explore. After all, you’re king of the hill, top of the heap. (nycgo.com)
• Everyone has an opinion about the country's best barbecue, but if it isn’t North Carolina, it's wrong. The Tarheel State’s Barbecue Trail takes hungry visitors to some of the state’s most iconic barbecue joints. There are two different styles of N.C. 'cue: Eastern and Lexington. Choosing between those will require more research, though. (visitnc.com/story/cradle-of-cue)
• Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is home to vast colorful badlands, herds of wild bison and at least one rattlesnake that nearly chased me off a bluff above the Little Missouri River. So step carefully. (nps.gov/thro/)
• The only “skyscraper” ever built by Frank Lloyd Wright is located in the unlikely town of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The 19-story Price Tower office building was completed in 1955. Today it houses a museum and art gallery, a boutique hotel and a charming restaurant and bar with magnificent 15th-floor views of the surrounding prairie. (pricetower.org)
• The historic, century-old Columbia River Highway in Oregon was America’s first designated scenic highway. The road through the Columbia River Gorge has been supplanted by Interstate 84, but stretches of the old highway remain open to cars or, in a few places, as a biking and hiking trail, with magnificent views and interesting river-town stops. (columbiariverhighway.com)
• With the darkest skies in the eastern United States, Cherry Springs State Park near Coudersport, Pennsylvania, caters to amateur astronomers and guests who just like to look at the stars. Visitors to the park’s public sky-watching programs can look through park telescopes or bring their own. (cherryspringsstatepark.com)
• Historic and scenic Block Island, Rhode Island, is just a short ferry ride from the mainland but feels like a world away. The island has galleries, restaurants and beaches both crowded and isolated. (blockislandinfo.com)
• For many years, the lovely waterfall on the Reedy River in downtown Greenville, South Carolina, was obscured by a bridge. But when the bridge came down and Falls Park was established in 2004, the historic downtown woke up and today is a delightful neighborhood to explore for a weekend or more. (greenvillesc.gov)
• Belle Fourche, South Dakota, claims to be the geographical center of the U.S., with a visitors’ center and impressive granite monument to mark the spot. But don't be fooled, you geographical sticklers. The real center point is in a field about 20 miles northwest of town. There, dogged travelers will find a small American flag, a brass survey marker — and the truth. (bellefourchechamber.org/gcon/)
• “Walking in Memphis, walking with my feet 10 feet off of Beale.” Yeah, Beale Street, the “Home of the Blues,” in Memphis, Tennessee, has a vibe and scene that can’t quite be matched anywhere else. And maybe you’ll see Elvis. (www.bealestreet.com)
• Everybody remembers the Alamo. But the site of the famous battle for Texas independence is just one of five 18th-century Spanish frontier missions in San Antonio. The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park now comprises the other four restored historic sites, which also still serve as Catholic parish churches. (www.nps.gov/saan/)
• Dry, dusty southwestern Utah was once covered by a vast ocean. And fascinating evidence of the state’s watery past remains here for the digging, at the appropriately named U-Dig Fossils about 50 miles in the direction of nowhere from the town of Delta. Visitors are sure to find enough trilobites, the primary denizens of the site's rich shale beds, to be choosy about what they lug home. (u-digfossils.com)
• The Fairbanks Museum and the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, are venerable — some would say old-fashioned — institutions. The natural history museum and the library/art gallery, both constructed in the late 19th century, have been lovingly conserved and updated. But they're still reminiscent of 19th-century curiosity cabinets, like museums about museums. (fairbanksmuseum.org; stjathenaeum.org)
• Of course you'll visit Chincoteague, Virginia, for the wild horses. But the home of the fictional "Misty of Chincoteague" is also a small, laid-back ocean town that offers plenty of amenities but has avoided the worst aspects of development. (chincoteague.com)
• Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in Washington was one of the engineering wonders of the world when completed in 1941. Visitors can tour the dam, the largest concrete structure in the United States, and learn more about the structure, its history and surrounding communities at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation visitors center. (www.usbr.gov/pn/grandcoulee/index.html)
• The Gauley and New rivers in West Virginia offer thrilling white-water rafting adventures for experienced and newbie rafters alike. Outfitters near the town of Oak Hill arrange guided trips and can provide all the gear. (gotowv.com/adventure-play/whitewater-lake/whitewater-rafting/)
• If calm-water kayaking is more your style, Wisconsin offers the magnificently scenic Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, with 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland along Lake Superior to explore. The lovely little lake town of Bayfield is site of the park headquarters and is well worth exploring itself. (nps.gov/apis)
• At first sight of Devils Tower, fans of the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” will undoubtedly think of mashed potatoes. Aliens aside, the mesmerizing, otherworldly geological oddity (and national monument) thrusting up from the plains near Hulett, Wyoming, will certainly engage your imagination — at least through dinner. (nps.gov/deto/)
Astute readers will have noticed one state out of order, but I saved the best for last: My favorite place in the world is in my home state of Ohio along the banks of the Little Darby Creek National Scenic River, where a hammock hangs between two towering oak trees — just outside my own backdoor.
Sorry: There's only room for one.
But there are hundreds of other great Buckeye State destinations you can visit. (www.ohio.org)
Email Steve at [email protected].
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