Hidden Coachella Valley: An Explorer's Guide to - Atlas Obscura

An Explorer's Guide to
Hidden Coachella Valley

The Coachella Valley and its environs boom in the spring, when tens of thousands of music lovers flock to catch their favorite artists perform in front of a dramatic, mountainous backdrop. But this region stays wonderfully weird all year long.

If the festival drew you to the area and you only have a day to explore, choose a direction: Either head north, toward Joshua Tree and Landers, or southeast to the Salton Sea and nearby oases for a blissful respite. If you can spare a couple of days, lucky you—go forth and see it all.

Explore
McCallum Pond is a dreamy place to spend a day. Kristina D.C. Hoeppner/CC BY-SA 2.0
Hikes With a View

1. Thousand Palms Oasis at the Coachella Valley Preserve

An easy way to appreciate the Colorado Desert's varied ecosystems is to spend an afternoon tromping around this preserve, which boasts more than 25 miles of trails that wind through all sorts of landscapes. Stroll past the riparian forest—which recalls a marsh—and the desert wash, home to smoke trees with branches that look like ash-gray plumes. If you're lucky enough to walk the Moon Country Trail during a superbloom, you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of buttery yellow desert sunflowers.

But don’t miss the McCallum Trail. This two-mile loop takes you around a pond that's fed by water seeping up from a nearby fault line. Note the prevalence of California fan palms (Washingtonia filifera), a thirsty bunch that thrive in this unique landscape. (This oasis is also, unfortunately, ideal for red swamp crayfish, which have moved in and outcompeted the native desert pupfish, much to the dismay of the preserve’s naturalists.) The trails are well marked, but it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts here. Some of the paths have set hours, so check the website or visitors’ center for times so you don’t find yourself stranded.

29200 Thousand Palms Canyon Rd, Thousand Palms, CA 92276

Drink up! John Muggenborg
Creamy Confections

2. Date Shakes

The dry, warm climate makes the Coachella Valley an ideal place to grow date palms. That’s good news for you, because dates are the key ingredient in date shakes, and date shakes are delicious. This icy marriage of dates, milk (or vegan alternatives), and sometimes bananas and spices is especially refreshing on a day when you’re broiling beneath the desert sun, but it’s reliably tasty all year. Whenever you visit, there are tons of places to sip one. In downtown Palm Springs, Great Shakes evokes an old-school diner, and you'll find a tiny donut threaded on your straw. Thirsty visitors can also throw one back at Hadley Fruit Orchards and Shields Date Garden, where expansive grounds also feature ponds, fountains, and a few dozen Biblical sculptures.

160 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262

The swap meet is a hodgepodge of sculptures and wares. Akos Kokai/CC BY 2.0
Serendipitous Shopping

3. Sky Village Swap Meet

If the directions seem wrong, you’re going the right way. Turn in to a nondescript alley to get to the grounds of the Sky Village Swap Meet, the site of a former drive-in movie theater. When you arrive, you’ll be pleasantly disoriented. This swap, which is open on Saturdays and Sundays from morning to early afternoon, is a hybrid: part sculpture garden and part salvage wonderland. Stop in to pan for treasures, and be sure to arrive early if you want to grab a biscuit at the cafe.

Of all of Sky Village's interesting nooks, the most enchanting is Bob’s Crystal Cave. Decked out in gemstones, foam, tiny trees, a running stream, and plenty of paint, the cave evokes a big, fluorescent aquarium. It’s the handiwork of the late Bob Carr, along with Merete Vyff Slyngborg and Mette Woller, who helped Carr restore it to his original vision after he destroyed the first amid fears that the land would be seized by eminent domain. If the door is open, grab a seat on the bench. If it’s locked up, peek in through the porthole windows and marvel at Carr's labor of love.

7028 Theatre Rd, Yucca Valley, CA 92284

We weren't kidding—this thing is huge. Cultura Creative (RF)/Alamy
Geological Gem

4. Giant Rock

You might think you’ve reached this big boulder a couple of times before you really get there. Along the way, you’ll spend several minutes driving (slowly, please) down a rolling, sandy road. You’ll bounce past lots of fascinating geology, including piles of rocks that look like rough-cut geodes. Hey, that boulder looks pretty big! Or maybe it’s this one? Any confusion is understandable: This desert is freckled with big rocks. By the time you arrive at Giant Rock, though, there’s no more doubt. This particular boulder is absolutely enormous.

In fact, it's roughly seven stories tall—so big that humans nearly disappear next to it, and a man named Frank Critzer even once built a home underneath. Giant Rock is widely considered to be among the largest free-standing boulders in the world, and has captivated people for centuries. It was said to be significant to several Native American communities, and in the mid-20th century, UFO enthusiasts flocked to it. It’s powerful to be in the shadow of something so startlingly huge, and you may find yourself entranced, wanting to stay for as long as you can, without knowing exactly why.

Landers, CA 92285

Today, the wooden structure is a sonic retreat. Courtesy Integratron
Otherworldly Outpost

5. The Integratron

Today, this white dome hosts sound bath spa treatments, but it has a storied past and a vaguely extraterrestrial bent. It was the brainchild of George Van Tassel, who claimed that a ship from Venus touched down at Giant Rock in 1953, carrying a 700-year-old being named Solganda, who let him in on a secret: The human body could be juiced up, like a battery, to stave off aging. Van Tassel spent years meditating beneath Giant Rock, in the warren that his friend Frank Critzer had excavated, and then got to work building a nearby structure that he claimed could generate electrostatic energy. The current owners of the Integratron make no promises of alien encounters or immortality, but visitors can make a reservation to spend an hour reclining on striped mats, listening to sound coaxed out of quartz crystal bowls as history echoes around them.

2477 Belfield Blvd, Landers, CA 92285

Step on in and check out the view. Ryan Vaarsi/CC BY 2.0
Desert Digs

6. The Ruins of Ryan Ranch

A trip to Joshua Tree National Park is worth it just for a glimpse of its famed Seussian yucca plants, stacked boulders, and cholla cacti—but in addition to its natural treasures, the park has archaeological ones, too. For proof, stop by Ryan Ranch. Though it’s in the shadow of the steep Ryan Mountain, this trail is one of the park’s easiest hikes. The surface is nearly flat, which is fine: You’re not here to get your heart pumping. Your goal is to soak up the history hiding in plain sight.

Your destination is a set of adobe ruins that aren’t easily visible from the start of the trail. Follow it, and you’ll come right up to them, the most obvious relics of an estate built here at the end of the 19th century by J. D. Ryan, who operated the nearby Lost Horse Mine. Much of the six-room main house burned down in the 1970s, in an act of suspected arson. It still warrants a visit, if only to see how the creamy beige remains evoke the hues and humps of the rocks beyond them. If you stand in the “doorways,” it’s easy to imagine the astonishing view that the family woke up to more than a century ago.

Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Shari Elf's cuddly collection is open to all. Samir S. Patel/Atlas Obscura
Mini Museum

7. A Collection of Crocheted Curios

As you leave Joshua Tree through the West Entrance, off of Highway 62, you’ll be in prime position to pull over and check out the teeny-tiny World Famous Crochet Museum. Inside a lime-green photo processing hut, you’ll find a collection of plush poodles, melons, mermaids, and more—all adoringly arranged by Shari Elf, who has been acquiring them since the 1990s. If you’re itching to get your hands on your own cozy souvenir, pop into the nearby shop, brimming with hats, tunics, and more.

61855 CA-62, Joshua Tree, CA 92252

The small shop is heavy on nostalgia. Samir S. Patel/Atlas Obscura
Hairy History

8. Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum

After the Crochet Museum, walk on over to this love letter to bouffants and the tools that make them soar. Painted bubblegum pink and various hues of blue and mint, the Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum is crammed with curlers, old-school dryers, and much more. Stop in for a quick history of hair styling—or if your own ‘do needs a little freshening up, call ahead for an appointment.

61855 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA 92252

The assemblages at the Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum bake in the sun. Samir S. Patel/Atlas Obscura
Salvaged Sculptures

9. Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum

The Alabama-born artist Noah Purifoy, who died in 2004, spent the final 15 years of his life arranging more than 100 of his sculptures and installations across several acres of desert. He worked almost exclusively with found objects, including salvaged, charred debris from the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles. Here, plywood, white bricks, and rusting parts almost blend in with the sand and scrubby plants. Exposed to wind, rain, and the straight-on sun, the sculptures change over time. No matter: Purifoy embraced entropy, and visitors have to do the same. Arrive with a curious mind, and you’ll reap plenty of rewards.

63030 Blair Lane, Joshua Tree, CA 92252

The salty shoreline looks beautifully alien. Sherman Yang/Unsplash
Watery Wonderland

10. Salton Sea Visitor Center

Come for the inland sea, stay for the wacky story about how it got there and the push to protect it. This mightily saline body of water—even saltier than the Pacific Ocean—was an engineering accident. In the rainy spring of 1905, the Colorado River rushed through the canal gates built to hold it back, flooding the Imperial Valley. This had happened several times in the past, but this time, it stuck. It took engineers roughly a year and a half to stem the flow, and in the meantime, water continued to pool at 227 feet below sea level. Today, the sea is fed by agricultural runoff. Some naturalists worry that if it continues getting saltier, many of the white pelicans and other birds that use it as a place to fuel up during migration may be out of luck.

Skip the eerie ruins of abandoned buildings chapped and flaking in the desert and check out the criminally underrated visitor center, where a pelican skull, with its long, sharp bill, is sure to leave you slack-jawed. If you’ve got a steel stomach, don't miss a slew of “Salton Sea Hush Puppies” near the window. (The charming name describes globs of waxy, insoluble fat formed when untold numbers of tilapia died at the same time in the briny water.) Then, make your way down to the beach. With each step, you’ll kick up sharp little backbones and barnacles that almost look tinted purple or dusty rose. Sit for awhile on the sun-battered picnic tables, surveying one of the prettiest infrastructure mishaps around.

100-255 State Park Rd, Mecca, CA 92254

Dos Palmas oasis is a wonderful place to wander. Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management/CC BY 2.0
Green Oasis

11. Dos Palmas and San Andreas Springs Palm Trees

Both San Andreas Springs and its neighbor, Dos Palmas, evoke secret gardens, filled with nothing but native California fan palms with fronds that fall down like shaggy skirts. When you arrive, park your car and wind your way down a tidy, sandy path. It will feel like you’re veering off in the wrong direction, but trust the twists and turns and you’ll land smack inside a grove of trees. There, you’ll be enveloped by fronds and the smell of damp dirt. In the precious, secluded solitude, it might feel like you’re breaking some rule—how could something so beautiful be so empty? It’s simply under the radar: This property is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, but open to visitors. Be sure to leave things as you found them, and don’t get in the way of the work.

Palmas Spring Rd, Mecca, CA 92254

Keep Exploring
Colonel Harland Sanders's Grave in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

5 Famous and Delightfully Obscure Folks Buried in Kentucky

When the Grim Reaper visits, it doesn't discriminate. The cemeteries of the Bluegrass State are home to a cast of characters that includes famous folks, as well as others whose faces you know, but whose names you might not recognize. Visitors can pay their respects to a fast-food icon, a world-famous athlete, comedic actor, and a local magician, as well as a folk hero who may or may not be buried there at all. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Abandoned for years, Smith Mansion's fate is still being decided.

4 Wacky Wooden Buildings in Wyoming

Picture Wyoming during its Wild West days. Once your mind wanders across the epic landscapes and into town, the mythic scene you might imagine—the saloon, the general store, the bank—will likely consist of wooden structures, ones thrown hastily up as settlers headed west in search of mining wealth, land, and work on the expanding railways. As it became the stuff of legend, accounts of the Wild West turned into tall tales, often conveniently overlooking the scale of the violent displacement of Native Americans. But as the period’s impact on the West is very real, it’s no surprise that the most unusual structures in Wyoming are wooden buildings that date from the frontier era or hearken back to it. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore

7 Spots to Explore New Jersey’s Horrors, Hauntings, and Hoaxes

In New Jersey, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. In 1909, newspapers published accounts of a monster known as the “Jersey Devil” said to be prowling the Pine Barrens. In 1938, a radio broadcast declared that aliens were invading the small community of Grover’s Mill. And today, streets and signs suggest ominous origins with names like Ghost Lake and Shades of Death Road. If you know where to look, the Garden State offers stories far stranger than any Springsteen song or scene from The Sopranos. Here are seven sites to explore the hauntings, horrors, and supernatural phenomena of New Jersey. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
This ball of stamps has been hulking since 1953.

4 Out-There Exhibits Found Only in Nebraska

Nebraska is affectionately known as the Cornhusker State or the Wheat State, but this particular swath of Big Sky Country could also be called “The Land of Very Cool Collections.” From monuments to powdered beverages to love letters to roller skates, here are four exhibits worth a visit. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore

6 Sweet and Savory Snacks Concocted in Utah

More than half of Utah’s population is Mormon, which translates to more than 1.5 million citizens who eschew coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes. Sugar, however, is not restricted. This may explain why the state’s candy-eating rate is twice the national average: Everyone needs a vice. Or perhaps it’s that Mormons’ proclivity for large families skews the demographics in favor of sweets and starches—more kids equals more unbridled sugar fiends.Couple the state's bounty of confectionary with its proximity to Idaho, and you've got a wealth of potato-based treats to contend with, as well. In some cases, potatoes and dessert become one. Our advice? Don't knock it until you try it. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore

12 Places in Massachusetts Where Literature Comes to Life

Massachusetts is a lit-lover's paradise. From landscapes that have moved writers to wax poetic about beans to story-inspired sculpture parks and shops stacked with volumes new and old, the Bay State would also be aptly named the Book State. Here are 12 places to celebrate writers or the places that inspired them. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Basshenge is a big homage to a big instrument.

8 Places to Get Musical in Minnesota

Two 20th-century musical figures tower over the state of Minnesota: Prince Rogers Nelson and Robert Allen Zimmerman. (That's Prince and Dylan to us mere mortals.) And while the Gopher State definitely celebrates its favorite musical sons, much of the state has a musical bent to it, from a singing beach to a room so devoid of sound is makes a musical madness all its own. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
The Boston Avenue United Methodist Church's dramatic entrance is one of the finest examples of Art Deco in the state.

8 Buildings That Prove Oklahoma's an Eclectic Art Paradise

In the 1920s, a number of oil reservoirs were discovered in Oklahoma, and the promise of riches led to a population boom. Would-be oil barons moved in from the coasts, bringing with them the most popular style of the moment, Art Deco. Much of that architecture still stands today, alongside institutions that honor the state’s earlier history and its modern culture. Though many people know Oklahoma better for its oil fields and cattle ranches, the state also has a rich history of innovative art and architecture. From elaborate family estates to experimental art collectives, these are a few of the unique creative spaces that await in Oklahoma. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Fermilab's bubble chamber, a device used to detect and study subatomic particles, looks like it's straight out of science fiction.

9 Stunning Scientific Sites in Illinois

When you think about Illinois, what are the first things that come to mind? Maybe it's the environment, with its vast prairies and cold winters. Maybe it's someone from the state, like Abraham Lincoln, or something, like Chicago-style hot dogs or deep dish pizza. What you might not realize, though, is that there's a lot of fascinating science happening in Illinois. (There was even a settlement named Science along the Illinois River in the early 19th century.) From some of the world's most powerful computers and particle-smashers to horological oddities, these are a few of the laboratories and collections that the 21st state has to offer. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore

5 Strange and Satanic Spots in New Hampshire

What is it with New Hampshire and the Devil? Since the time of European settlement, Satan seems to have lurked around every corner of the Granite State. In the era of witch hunts, terrified townspeople accused their elderly neighbors of speaking with the Devil, and local lore has it that the stones around a frothing waterfall in the woods once served as Satan's kitchen, where he cooked a pot of beans with the flames of Hell. Perhaps the Devil got his best turn in “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” a 1936 short story by Stephen Vincent Benét. The story features real-life lawyer and politician Daniel Webster fighting for the soul of a down-on-his-luck New Hampshire farmer who, in a moment of desperation, made a deal with the Devil. In the tale, the Devil uses every legal and supernatural means possible to outwit Webster, who battles to spare New Hampshire from further demonic meddling. “Any Hades we want to raise in this state, we can raise ourselves, without assistance from strangers,” Webster remarks. But for those who still do want to raise a little hell, New Hampshire has plenty of spots for devil-dealing. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
These Civil War guns are located at Fort Washington in Maryland.

8 Historic Military Relics in Maryland

Maryland has the distinction of being one of the first states to officially join the Union in 1788—and as such, it’s played both big and small roles in various battles across the nation's history. Here are eight nods to its military past, ranging from a furnace that produced George Washington’s cannonballs to an unusual museum dedicated to the U.S.'s cryptographic history. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
"Blucifer," in his gleaming glory.

5 of Colorado's Least-Natural Wonders

The state of Colorado is a gold mine of natural beauty: It's famous for its picturesque deserts, dramatic canyons, and shimmering, snow-capped peaks. But the Centennial State also deserves some love for its many unnatural wonders. There's a psychedelic church, a 231-pound sticker ball, and a cryogenic mausoleum. And who can forget the blue horse with neon-red eyes that towers outside the Denver airport? If you're looking to skip the ski slopes and hiking trails in favor of Colorado's strangest sights and most curious creations, this is where to start. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore

6 Hallowed Grounds in South Carolina

South Carolina is known for its picturesque coastal cities and Southern charm. Given its firm placement in the Bible Belt, the Palmetto State is home to many churches—but it also holds fascinating ruins of houses of worship, wondrous works of art inspired by African traditions, and historic holy grounds hiding in plain sight. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
The Rock of Ages Granite Quarry is the world's largest deep-hole dimension granite quarry.

9 Rocking Places in Vermont

Vermont may be known for its maple syrup and homey coziness, but beneath that rustic veneer lies a solid history of mineral industry. Here's a history of the Green Mountain State from the ground up. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore

Knoxville Study Guide

Knoxville, Tennessee, is a small city that’s made a big impact on the world. Founded by George Washington’s administration as the capital of the new Southwestern Territory, it was the 16th state’s capital — twice — for almost 20 years. Tucked in the heart of the valley along the Tennessee River, Knoxville is home to more than 120 parks and more than 160 miles of trails and greenways. It witnessed culmination of the women’s suffrage movement, played host to the 1982 World’s Fair and hosts the oldest symphony orchestra in the South. It’s also home to the University of Tennessee and its Volunteers, the fans of which bleed orange and white, the prominently displayed school colors. Need to give your feet a break as you explore the natural beauty, history, and culture of this thriving Southern city? Hop aboard the free Knoxville Trolley, the transit system operating since 1876. No matter how you choose to get around, there’s much to discover in Knoxville.

Explore

Nashville Study Guide

Glitz, glamour, guitars, honky-tonks, sequins, and neon are synonymous with Music City and its country music roots. While there’s perhaps no other city that embraces big hats, big hair and big personalities quite the way Nashville does, there’s much more to Tennessee’s capital than meets the eye. Its rich history of food, culture, and innovation makes it a haven for creatives of all stripes. Though the city shimmers with energy, it’s easy to commune with nature and enjoy the pristine beauty of East Tennessee, starting with the Cumberland River that runs right through the heart of downtown. Whether you’re looking for a brush with history, a chance to enjoy the great outdoors or an opportunity to hear some of music’s biggest stars, Nashville has it all. If your boots don’t feel like walking the entire route, Old Town Trolley offers hop-on-hop-off tours around the city, with a stop just outside Graduate Nashville.

Explore

Black Apples and 6 Other Southern Specialties Thriving in Arkansas

Climate, globalization, trends, employment rates, lobbying—it all influences what we eat. As time marches ever-onward, recipes are forgotten, traditions fade into quiet obscurity, and institutions are abandoned. But some entities that seem slated for cultural demolition are kept alive in Arkansas. From brewing beer using the spring water of a once-infamous bathhouse to serving historic Appalachian home-cooking hot off of diner skillets, these seven Arkansan spots savor and celebrate relics of regional heritage. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
The boll weevil monument is a grand celebration of a tiny critter.

4 Monuments to Alabama’s Beloved Animals

Maybe you love your cat a lot—maybe even enough to commission a little painting of your furry companion. But the people of Alabama can do you one better. Here, you’ll find a whole cemetery devoted to hounds, a heartfelt memorial to a fish, even a statue of a pest that drove farmers batty before it also spurred them toward ingenuity. Alabama knows how to fete Fido, as well as his scuttling, swimming, and spacefaring compatriots. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
A famous mountaineer.

The Dark History of West Virginia in 9 Sites

The Rockies may be bigger, but there's something special—and sometimes spooky—about the Appalachians. With dense forest cover, long history, and the shadowy hollows ("hollers," locally), they seem at times to be full of secrets. In West Virginia, the mountains and hills hold tales and myths, and a lot of places that were used and then abandoned. If you get excited about the feel of a shiver down your spine, you'll find a lot to love. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore

11 Zany Collections That Prove Wisconsin's Quirkiness

Pick an object. It could be a bottle of mustard. Or a life-size troll sculpture. Or a metal sculpture with big Victorian-steampunk energy. It doesn't really matter, as long as you collect or create so many of them that your collection becomes a roadside attraction and a cherished local landmark. A remarkable number of Wisconsinites have chosen this life path, and the result is a truly remarkable collection of collections scattered across the state. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
There are lots of big creatures at the Porter Sculpture Park.

7 Inexplicably Huge Animals in South Dakota

One of the great resources of the Mount Rushmore State is millions and millions of years old: fossils. The state has long had pride of place in the paleontology world for the dinosaurs and mammoths that have been excavated there. And that history seems to have provided inspiration for the state's menagerie of massive megafauna. Here are some of our favorite places that celebrate dinosaurs, huge animal art installations, mammoths, and ... a prairie dog? As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Displays at the Weaver Dental Museum include a jumble of dentures.

6 Fascinating Medical Marvels in Pennsylvania

In the 1700s and 1800s, Philadelphia was the center of medical scholarship in the United States. The city not only attracted the brightest minds, but also the most curious cases and characters. From the oldest quarantine facility in the country to a museum that memorializes a traveling dental circus, here are six places to marvel at the trials, errors, and triumphs of medical history in Pennsylvania. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
The <em>Cementiscope</em> is a jumble of color and light—inside a cement mixer.

8 Places in Virginia That Aren’t What They Seem

They say that Virginia is for lovers. If you love a little mystery, then they’re definitely right. With its mountain ranges, deep forests, and proximity to the nation’s capital, the state is filled with unusual corners and overlapping histories. From a Cold War bunker turned recording archive to a Styrofoam Stonehenge, these places in Virginia are more than meets the eye. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Some of the many historic stones on Graveyard Island.

7 Cool, Creepy, and Unusual Graves Found in North Carolina

Every state in the union has graves, and their share of unusual burials or cemeteries, but there's something about the Tarheel State's final resting places that carry a sense of history and mystery, from long-forgotten graveyards, to eternal resting places for conjoined twins, to a politician that had himself buried inside a giant boulder. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore

7 of Montana's Spellbinding Stone Structures

The Continental Divide runs through Montana, separating the mountains and glaciers on the west from rolling plains to the east. Much of the state is built on a bed of rock that dates back more than a billion years, to the Precambrian, or the earliest era in Earth’s history. The geology of Montana has shaped the state, from the mountain ranges to that draw hikers to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks to mineral deposits that drew prospectors during the Gold Rush to the vast plains that have long supported hunting and agriculture. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Waves crash against the rocks near Thor's Well in Oregon.

9 of Oregon’s Most Fascinating Holes and Hollows

Along with the rest of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon has been shaped by volcanic activity. Active volcanoes, Mount Hood among them, dominate the skyline, and the city of Portland was built atop an extinct volcano. Over tens of thousands of years, these geological hotspots have left many holes in their wakes, including deep craters, narrow canyons, and subterranean lava tubes. Here are a few of the most intriguing voids that Oregon has to offer. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
The Avrocar hovered, but never really lifted off in a big way.

Take to the Skies With These 9 Gravity-Defying Sites in Ohio

Sure, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, got headlines, but the Wright Brothers were Ohioans through and through. That's where they had their print and cycle shop, and established the world's first airplane factory. From Dayton's Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, to NASA's Glenn Research Center, to Congress officially declaring Ohio the “birthplace of aviation,” and much more, no other state takes to the skies and beyond like the home of the Buckeyes. Here are some of our favorite places to feel the wind beneath your wings. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
A foggy view from Washington's Mount Rainier, the most glaciated peak in the continental United States.

9 Strange and Surreal Spots in Washington State

The deep, moody forests of Washington state are filled with secrets and stories. From springy mosses to towering Douglas firs, rocky outcrops, and glacial deposits, it’s easy to see how the landscape helped set the tone for stories like David Lynch’s trippy TV series Twin Peaks and the teen vampire romance that is Twilight. Across the Evergreen State, human- and nature-made oddities are rarely far from reach. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore

8 Watery Wonders in Hawaiʻi, Without Setting Foot in the Ocean

Yes, we know, Hawaiʻi is surrounded by water—the state is a watery wonder in and of itself. But the ocean is only the beginning. The volcanic islands' dramatic topography, unpredictable coastlines, and high rainfall mean that water in and around the Paradise of the Pacific cavorts in all sorts of stunning ways: waterfalls, blowholes, pools, and more. (Plus rainbows. Lots and lots of rainbows.) And you can enjoy all of these natural showstoppers without having to get your feet wet. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Pizza, burgers, and a feminist restaurant: Connecticut has it all.

6 Unusual Eats Curiously Cooked Up in Connecticut

For superb pizza, most people look to New York. Excellent burgers are available in every one of the 50 states. But where can you find hamburger recipes caught in the early 20th-century, cooked in steamers or served on toast with absolutely no ketchup allowed? Or, for that matter, fancy cheese made by trailblazing nuns who launched their dairying business at a time when Velveeta was still the norm? Connecticut may be an odd place to designate as a culinary cradle, but the state contains everything from the last of a generation of feminist vegetarian restaurants to what the Library of Congress dubs the very first place to have served up a hamburger. Unique culinary institutions cropped up in every corner of the state. Some have survived, while others have fallen by the wayside (R.I.P. to the Frisbie Pie Company). Here are six remarkable gastronomic institutions in a place that has proved to be fertile ground for unusual eats. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Telescopes open up a window to the stars.

11 Close Encounters With Aliens and Explosions in New Mexico

In the arid and remote expanses of New Mexico's landscape, booms and zooms abound. From the volatile effects of the Manhattan Project to the otherworldly possibilities of Roswell's UFO, the Land of Enchantment has never shied away from the controversial or far-reaching. Here are several places to encounter those legacies across this southwestern state. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Jim Dickerman's sculptures are magical and a little brain-scrambling.

10 Places to Trip Way Out in Kansas

The Sunflower State has a reputation for being flat—in fact, scientists have shown that it is objectively way flatter than a pancake. Far from being featureless, though, Kansas can be mind-bending in its own weird way. Maybe it all started with The Wizard of Oz. From a missile silo that once dominated the world's LSD supply to rock formations shaped like mushrooms, roadside art that will make you think you've been whisked away by a tornado, and a giant pile of sock monkeys, Kansas is full of treasures that are sure to make you do a double take. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
The Museum at Eldridge Street Synagogue has a past full of stories and struggles.

The Resilience of New York in 10 Remarkable Sites

New York has been described as a playground for the rich and powerful, but the state's history is full of ordinary people who have overcome extraordinary struggles. What if Seneca Falls, the village that launched the fight for women's suffrage, were as famous as Niagara Falls? What if Weeksville, the historic free Black community in Brooklyn, were as well-known as Williamsburg? From immigrant sanctuaries to the Survivor Tree, here are sites where New York has shown its resilience. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Flat ground, big skies, huge cows.

7 Very Tall Things in Very Flat North Dakota

North Dakota is not quite the flattest state in the U.S., but it's pretty close. (In one analysis, it placed third, after Illinois and Florida.) During the last Ice Age, glaciers moving across the terrain had a planing effect on the land, dropping sediment that filled in any valleys, creating sprawling prairies and open, big skies. These large expanses are home to more than a few sky-high structures, both natural and human-made. From rocky peaks and multi-ton animal statues to one of the tallest buildings in the world, these are some of the most impressive structures that North Dakota has to offer. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
An architectural pilgrimage.

8 Blissfully Shady Spots to Escape the Arizona Sun

For about half of any given year, much of Arizona is too hot to handle. But even in peak summer, the state is home to a stunning spread of geographic diversity and a mysterious magic that emanates from the landscape—and we don’t just mean the mirages. Locals and visitors alike flock to higher altitudes, recreation-friendly bodies of water, and indoor spaces that are so heavily air-conditioned they practically require a jacket. Here are eight sheltered spots to retreat from the heat, from natural formations to an immersive art exhibit that invites lingering. We've even added a couple cool places (220 feet underground or a mile above sea level) to dream about spending the night. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore

On the Run: NYC

A run through New York City demands a delicate balance: Zoning out versus keeping your eyes peeled. On the one hand, there’s the clear-headed, in-the-zone mental state that any good sneaker-to-pavement exercise requires. At the same time, well, it is New York City. You can hardly walk two blocks without uncovering a hidden gem or noticing some new detail that’s actually been lurking in plain sight for decades. This 5.3-mile run takes you along a scenic route to discover some of these hidden gems. You can run the entire route, break it up into multiple runs, or do it in reverse. With the right running shoes, you’re bound to pick up on one of the million tiny, fascinating details along the way.

Explore

On the Run: Los Angeles

Originally named “Venice of America,” Venice, California, owes its existence to a wealthy developer’s dream of a canal-laden resort town west of Los Angeles. The dream didn’t last long: After opening in 1905, the city went broke before joining Los Angeles in 1926. The decades of neglect that followed earned Venice the nickname “the slum by the sea,” but its affordability also attracted artists, beginning with the Beats in the late ’50s. Venice’s identity as a rough-around-the-edges artist haven endures more than 60 years later, though its affordability less so. If you’re looking to plot a trek across Los Angeles pavement and beaches, zero in on Venice with a run that oscillates between fast-and-furious and slow-and-curious. Take on this 5.2-mile run in one go, break it up into multiple runs, or do it in reverse. With the right running shoes, you’ll be ready to navigate Venice’s storied past and its eternally eccentric personality.

Explore
The Blythe Intaglios are as mysterious as they are massive.

9 Surprisingly Ancient Marvels in Modern California

Long before California was home to tech campuses, freeways, and palm trees, Native inhabitants etched huge designs into the landscape. Even before that, at roughly the same time that the Pyramids of Giza were under construction, a tree that still survives today began taking root. And even farther into the past, glaciers and mammoths created enduring monuments to antiquity. Across the state, the distant past is still within easy reach. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
One of Houston's four giant concrete Beatles.

10 Art Installations That Prove Everything's Bigger in Texas

There’s a time-tested saying about things being large in Texas—and it certainly holds true for the state’s artworks, many of which are so huge or sprawling they could only reasonably live outdoors. Across the vast expanse of the Lone Star State are artistic testaments to some of the area’s oddest characters and stories. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Honestly, the tallest building in the state is still a little dinky, compared to skyscrapers elsewhere.

6 Huge Things in Tiny Rhode Island

The smallest state in America is often the butt of jokes. Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island, and it was once famously parodied in the now-defunct website “How Many Rhode Islands”—a simple tool that allowed you to see just how many Rhode Islands could squeeze inside a given country. The United States could contain 3,066 Rhode Islands, and Russia could hold 5,445. But the tiny state has a rather grand history. Rhode Island was founded on the principle of religious freedom, was the first of the Thirteen Colonies to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown, and was one of only two states not to ratify the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol. Many of the state’s attractions still loom large, including a 58-foot-long blue fiberglass termite and an improbably large blue bear slumped under a lampshade. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Forbidden Caverns, ready for its closeup.

7 Underground Thrills Only Found in Tennessee

Famous for country music and hot chicken, Tennessee is also filled with natural wonders. Across the state, caverns beckon. Venturing into some of Tennessee's strangest subterranean haunts is a great way to experience the depths of the state's spell-binding charm. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Watch out for any chimp-gator hybrids lurking in the tea-colored water of Honey Island Swamp.

Sink Into 7 of Louisiana's Swampiest Secrets

Louisiana has long had a complex relationship with the wet world. Chitimacha, Choctaw, and Atakapa peoples built communities among the knobby knees of bald cypress trees; French fur traders and pirates eventually made their own marks. Later still, modern engineers attempted to corral waters with levees and dams, or to reclaim land where there had been none. Across the 50,000-odd square miles that make up the state, troves of special places are becoming concealed by rising water. Here are seven places water has revealed or covered up. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Diego Rivera's mural sprawls across a light-flooded room in the Detroit Institute of Arts.

7 Mechanical Marvels in Michigan

Michigan is famous for its steep, sweeping sand dunes, freckling of lakes, and unique fossils—but across the state, you'll find slews of automated wonders, past and present. From old animatronic toys to the ruins of early assembly lines, here are seven places to be dazzled by industry. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Who doesn't love an old tree?

11 Wholesome Spots in Nevada

Here at Atlas Obscura, we have a fondness for the forbidden, a hunger for the hidden, a gusto for the grim. (You get the point.) But it wouldn’t be so intrepid to simply highlight Nevada’s underbelly, would it? There’s more to the state than extraterrestrial-themed brothels and nuclear bomb test sites. Kids and grandparents might enjoy enormous Ferris wheels, unusual geysers, or pristine parklands. Even Nevada—home to Sin City—has a family-friendly side. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
All aboard for a plate of pancakes.

7 Places to Glimpse Maine's Rich Railroad History

Maine is widely known for its mottled red crustaceans and stony-faced lighthouses, as well as bucolic towns and the top-notch hiking outside of them. But before all that, Maine was all about one thing: trains. As America industrialized in the 19th century, there was an insatiable demand to build and a hunger for lumber. Maine had plenty of it, and the state’s rivers became swollen with the fallen bodies of pine and spruce, much of which was hauled by rail. Trains did the heavy lifting to coastal hubs including Bangor and Ellsworth, and by 1924, there was enough railroad mileage in Maine to get from London’s King's Cross station to Mosul, Iraq. Over the years, some of the old cars were fashioned into eateries, but many were simply abandoned in the woods. Now, relics of Maine’s railroad history are scattered in museums, restaurants, and more. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
At Glacier Gardens, the tree canopies are flowers in bloom.

11 Places Where Alaska Bursts Into Color

Picture Alaska. You might see in your mind's eye the granite and stark white snowcaps of Denali National Park, or the dark seas that surround 6,000-plus miles of coastline, or the muted olive of its tundra in the summer. But as anyone who's been there knows, the country's largest, most sparsely populated state can absolutely burst with color, from the luminous green of the Northern Lights, to the deep aqua of its glaciers, to the flourish of wildflowers fed by its long summer days. Here are some places to see the full spectrum of The Last Frontier. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore
Workers assess the exterior of the Washington Monument after an earthquake in 2011.

9 Places in D.C. That You're Probably Never Allowed to Go

The District of Columbia is home to a number of places that you need to flash the right ID to access. From restricted rooftops to government storage facilities and underground tunnels, the city is filled with places that are off-limits to the average visitor. What’s more, many of them are hidden within popular tourist destinations and densely populated neighborhoods—so you might catch a glimpse of them, but never get any closer. These are a few of our favorite restricted spots in D.C., and the stories behind them. As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.

Explore

2 Perfect Days in Pensacola

If you thought Pensacola, Florida—with its powder-white sand beaches, near-perfect weather, and fresh seafood—was just a place to soak up the sun, think again. In fact, the city and beach of the same name is the site of the first European settlement in the continental United States. Established by Spanish explorer Tristán de Luna in 1559, it was christened Panzacola, a name of Native American origin and the precursor to the city’s modern name. The destination is also the birthplace of U.S. naval aviation and is still home to a naval air station and the thousands of service members stationed there, as well as the Blue Angels, the flight squadron famous for their death-defying fighter plane stunts. This delightful coastal city is an ideal, if somewhat quirky, blend of historical sites (on land and underwater) and activities to get your adrenaline flowing.

Explore

Taste of Tucson

The people of Tucson have been eating off the land for 4,100 years. From grains to livestock to produce introduced by missionaries in the 1600s, this UNESCO City of Gastronomy is home to some of the oldest farmland in North America. What once was old is new again in The Old Pueblo where ancient flavors are found in nearly every dish — trendy to traditional.

Explore

North Iceland’s Untamed Coast

Any travel enthusiast would be hard-pressed to open any social media channel and not see photos of Iceland, with its jaw-dropping peaks, natural hot springs, pure glaciers, northern lights and snow-covered landscapes. But the island nation’s appeal goes well beyond the well-worn paths of Reykjavik, the Golden Circle and the southern region's countryside. Travel to the untamed north along the Arctic Coast Way to discover otherworldly beauty—sans crowds—around every bend.

Explore
Look closely and wander widely: Parliament Square is full of charm.

Hidden Edinburgh

Crowds clog Edinburgh's Royal Mile, the main artery between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The road is dotted with stores selling Nessie trinkets and lined with bagpipers and street performers pulling off dazzling tricks. But look beyond the tartan tourist traps, and you’ll discover tucked-away gardens, remnants of the city’s medieval past, and much more.

Explore

Hidden Haight-Ashbury

In 1967, 100,000 artists, activists, and hippies gathered in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood for the Summer of Love. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix played free concerts for fields of college dropouts, and San Francisco established itself as a countercultural capital. More than 50 years later, in a city increasingly known for Twitter and tech rather than art and activism, travelers who come on a pilgrimage are often disappointed to find expensive, skin-deep psychedelia. But if you know where to look, you’ll find a walk down Haight Street to be wonderfully weird, full of historic links to hippiedom and modern takes on the vibe.

Explore

The Many Flavors of NYC’s Five Boroughs

More than eight million diverse individuals call New York City home, and many of them share their heritage through food. Whether it’s a billiards hall that serves stellar Bhutanese fare or a mosque where Malian vendors sell snacks for just a few hours each Friday, the city offers a vast culinary landscape for those willing to explore it. Venture beyond the flashy hotspots with months-long waiting lists and you’ll find New York’s true flavor lies within the small restaurants and stands rooted in its thriving immigrant communities.

Explore
Musical instruments in the courtyard of SecondLine Arts and Antiques in New Orleans' French Quarter.

Hidden French Quarter

It may be famous for Mardi Gras, but New Orleans has subtle, surprising wonders on tap all year long—even in the touristy French Quarter. Around every cobblestoned corner, you’ll find historic ephemera, bits of Creole culture, environmentalism, and no shortage of spooky stories, whenever you happen to visit.

Explore

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

From the street, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is hard to miss: The institution’s two-million-square-foot main building, at 1000 Fifth Avenue, spans four New York City blocks and stretches into Central Park. Inside the galleries, you’ll find thousands of objects spanning 5,000 years of world history. With so many treasures under one roof, it's inevitable that some fascinating pieces are tucked into the museum's lonelier nooks and crannies, hiding in plain sight. The next time you spend a day at the museum, keep an eye out for these overlooked wonders.

Explore
The RV/MH Hall of Fame.

Motown to Music City Road Trip

Detroit and Nashville are synonymous with two all-American music genres. It’s no surprise that visitors flock to these cities each year to get a feel for the places where artists such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross &amp; the Supremes, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton began their careers. A (relatively) straight, north to south route connects the two cities, as does musical heritage. Load up the RV, make sure your speaker system is in tip-top shape, and create a playlist filled with old-school Motown and Country hits. If you're not driving on the trip down south, you should be dancing.

Explore
The East Texas Bayou.

Gulf Coast Road Trip

The terrain along the Gulf of Mexico is sometimes called the “Third Coast,” but for an offbeat road trip, it’s second to none. Starting in Houston and ending in Pensacola Bay, this journey takes you through some of America’s most diverse landscapes. You’ll cross Cajun swamps, drive along sparkling white sand beaches, and even spend some time in the Big Easy. Take an RV and camp along the way to truly immerse yourself in this wondrous region. The world’s largest gulf, it turns out, holds some of America’s best-kept secrets.

Explore
A view of L.A. from the top of Highland Park.

Highland Park

Los Angeles’ Highland Park is a diverse, eclectic neighborhood that Native Americans and Latinx communities have inhabited for centuries. Celebrated for its history, art scene, ethnic diversity, and cuisine, Highland Park is filled with surprising delights that more and more people are discovering every day. Exploring the neighborhood's nooks and crannies is one of the most rewarding ways to spend a day in L.A.

Explore
The heart of Venice.

Venice

Once referred to as “The Coney Island of the Pacific,” L.A.’s beachfront neighborhood of Venice has long been a popular tourist destination. Its colorful characters, quirky architecture, and carnivalesque atmosphere are well-known the world over. But take a moment to look past the kitsch, and you’ll discover a place where artistic ingenuity thrives more than a century after Abbot Kinney endeavored to bring a grandiose version of Venice to America. The bohemian beehive has always attracted artists and performers, and everyone is welcome to enjoy the show.

Explore
Artist Colette Miller's tribute to the City of Angels.

L.A.’s Downtown Arts District

The 1970s brought a wave of artists into this former industrial area in Downtown Los Angeles. They sparked a fuse of creative imagination that burned for years. Up-and-coming creators took advantage of the then-low rents and built a foundation for the creative mecca that exists here today. In its infancy, L.A.’s Downtown Arts District came to life behind-the-scenes, with artists mostly working in closed studios. Today, the art has spilled onto the streets in the form of colorful murals, attractive gallery spaces, and stylish storefronts. But the curious explorer can still find literal and figurative traces of the ‘70s. In addition to the more historic spots that remain, a creative, entrepreneurial spirit abounds.

Explore
The Whitehall Banqueting House is full of topsy-turvy views.

Hidden Trafalgar Square

Wedged between Charing Cross and Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square is known for the throngs of people flocking to its famous attractions. Weave around the tourists on the National Gallery stairs and dodge the crowds clogging the street corners. Instead, duck down dreamy alleys and pop into unique, overlooked museums and shops. There, a secret side of this busy area waits to reveal itself.

Explore
An elevator shaft in Tribeca opens to reveal a museum of small wonders.

Secrets of NYC’s Five Boroughs

Few cities on Earth are as well-trodden as New York–but as any intrepid traveler knows, the more you explore a place, the more wonders you find. You may not be able to discover all of these spots in a single trip, but that could be a good thing. No matter how many times you return, the city that never sleeps never ceases to surprise. Visit NYCGo to uncover more of the city’s secret spots.

Explore
Plenty of sweet treats are on offer at Pastelería Ideal

Mexico City's Centro Histórico

Anchored by the Zócalo plaza and the architectural splendor of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City's historic center rightfully draws scores of visitors from around the world. If you look, smell, and taste carefully, you’ll also find a universe of culinary offerings that tells stories of immigration, adaptation, and imagination. With the help of Culinary Backstreets, we assembled a primer on eating and drinking your way through the district.

Explore
View of the Hollywood Sign from Babylon Court

Hidden Hollywood

Hollywood Boulevard is world-famous—for the Oscars and the Walk of Fame, for schlocky souvenir shops and crowded tour buses. But beyond the terrazzo stars and the occasional celebrity sighting, there’s plenty left to discover. Here’s how to make Hollywood’s acquaintance, whether you’re a visitor or a local who keeps a practiced distance from these busy, saturated blocks. Look closer and you'll find a neighborhood full of nature, history, and wonder.

Explore
A subway entrance in Times Square.

Hidden Times Square

There's the Times Square you know, full of blazing billboards, selfie sticks, and costumed characters. Then there's the less familiar one, beyond the lights—the nooks and crannies that most visitors to Midtown Manhattan overlook. They're not obvious, but surprises can still be found along this world-famous stretch of real estate.

Explore
Upper Hoh Road, Olympic National Park, Oregon.

Summer Radio Road-Trip

Follow along on our 2,200-mile adventure with NPR's 'All Things Considered.'

Explore

Amsterdam

Forge your own path in this tourist magnet, toward places that are less crowded but no less wondrous.

Explore

Buenos Aires

Find faded grandeur and vibrant street life in Argentina's largest city.

Explore

Chicago

Just when you thought you knew the Windy City, it finds new ways to surprise you.

Explore

Detroit

Find secret vistas, labyrinthine bookstores, and eclectic public art.

Explore
The dome of Estrela Basilica in Lisbon.

Lisbon

In the homeland of explorers, your best bet is to keep looking.

Explore

Miami

Go beyond the beaches in the continental United States’ only truly tropical city.

Explore

Queens

New York City's most diverse borough is also its most rewarding.

Explore

San Diego

Southern California's second city holds plenty of sparkling secrets.

Explore

Savannah

Find surprises around every corner in a U.S. city that embraces history like no other.

Explore