Take to the Skies With These 9 Gravity-Defying Sites in Ohio: 50 States of Wonder - Atlas Obscura

50 States of Wonder
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.

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The old Wright Company Factory is still intact and recognizable. Andy Snow/National Aviation Heritage Alliance
Historic site

1. Wright Company Factory

Created by Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1910, the Wright Company Factory only produced aircraft under the auspices of the pioneering brothers for six years before being sold. In 1919, General Motors took over the site and began building cars around the historic buildings. Those older structures were hidden for nearly 80 years, until the surrounding buildings came down in 2013 and 2014. While the world's first plane factory had been expanded upon, its long, rectangular buildings were still instantly recognizable. The buildings are now being restored by the National Aviation Heritage Alliance and the National Park Service. (Read more.)

99 Cowart Ave, Dayton, OH 45417

One part of the three-part crash site. Wikimedia/U.S. Naval Historical Center
Historic site

2. Crash Site of the USS Shenandoah

On September 3, 1925, the airship USS Shenandoah crashed in the hills of southeast Ohio. Before its destruction, the airship had completed a transcontinental flight of North America, after which it became a promotional tool for the Navy. As it started a publicity tour, Shenandoah met a powerful squall that tore it in half—and portions of the vessel were strewn across three separate crash sites. Fourteen crewmembers were killed, and the wreckage was torn apart by locals. The disaster foreshadowed the beginning of the end for dirigibles: It was the first of several crashes that helped push the world away from lighter-than-air flight and toward planes. (Read more.)

Buffalo Township, OH

The unsuccessful but ambitious "Avrocar" on display. Ickiamp (Atlas Obscura User)
Museum Exhibit

3. The Avrocar

The year was 1952 and the Cold War was in full chill. As communist paranoia and the sci-fi craze swept the United States, UFO sightings were spreading, too. Enter the Avro Canada VZ-9, a vertical take-off and landing aircraft, also called the Avrocar,” developed as part of a once-secret U.S. military project. Lift and thrust came from a single “turbo rotor” in the disk-shaped aircraft, sort of like a hovercraft dialed way up. Prototypes were made, but testing revealed thrust and stability problems. One pilot likened it to “balancing on a beach ball.” The first Avrocar is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, near Dayton. (Read more.)

1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, OH 45431

Bird lovers flock to the Bath Road Heronry. National Park Service/D.J. Reiser
Animals

4. Bath Road Heronry

Every year around Valentine's Day, hundreds of great blue herons (Ardea herodias) descend upon the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Northeast Ohio to engage in their annual courtship and mating rituals. The Bath Road Heronry is unusual because of its proximity to the busy highway between Riverview and Akron-Penninsula Roads. Nothing more than a chainlink fence separates the nesting area from passing cars. It's a rare opportunity to see North America's largest herons—and their mating displays—up close. (Read more.

 

1803 W Bath Rd, Akron, OH 44313

A half-scale model of the lunar lander, complete with replica footprints in the ground below. CRXRD13 (Atlas Obscura User)
Memorial

5. Neil Armstrong First Flight Memorial

Ohio has produced 21 astronauts, including the legendary John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, so it may seem odd that the city of Warren has a half-scale model of the landing craft he used to make history, set on a simulated patch of Moon surface (complete with permanent footprints). But this realistic-looking monument actually sits on the site of Armstrong's very first flight ever. It is installed on the site of a former airstrip where, at the age of six, Armstrong and his father got into a little tri-motor plane and took off toward history. (Read more.)

2553 US-422, Warren, OH 44485

A 1963 Pilurs-Smith DSA-1 Miniplane built by Tracy Pilurs, winner of the 1962 Women's National Aerobatic Championship. Wikimedia/Aeroplanepics0112
Museum

6. International Women's Air & Space Museum

Where downtown Cleveland meets Lake Erie, there's a strip of land that many Clevelanders see as a huge waste of prime real estate: Burke Lakefront Airport. It gets a lot of use, but mostly by celebrities and sports teams. More obscure than the airport itself is the museum nestled within. The International Women's Air & Space Museum sits inside the terminal, where memorabilia, documents, photographs, and model planes can be found every couple of feet, along with quotes from famous aviators and astronauts, showcasing the achievements of daring, trail-blazing women. (Read more.)

1501 N Marginal Rd, Cleveland, OH 44114

It's hard to illustrate just how big this building is. IanManka on Wikipedia
Building

7. Goodyear Airdock

Built in 1929, the almost unbelievably huge Goodyear Airdock in Akron was created as a space where blimps, airships, and dirigibles could be constructed. The almost comically large hangar stands over 200 feet tall and well over 1,000 feet long, without any internal supports. A building this big develops some pretty weird problems, such as indoor rain and the need to put the whole thing on rollers so that it can expand and contract with the seasons. So completed ships could exit the building, both of the structure's rounded ends slide apart, each powered by its own separate power plant. The facility isn't open to the public, but the monolith is visible from the highway. (Read more.)

Ellet, Akron, OH 44306

Easy access to a hugely historic plane. National Museum of the U.S. Air Force/Ken LaRock
Historic aircraft

8. The First Air Force One

This notable machine has seen many famous, powerful faces, and served during some of the most tragic and tumultuous events in U.S. history. The Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000, the first jet-powered aircraft built for American presidential passengers, carried eight sitting presidents (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, H.W. Bush, and Clinton) in its 36-year career. Four seats had to be removed from the cabin to fly John F. Kennedy's casket from Dallas back to Washington, D.C. That same day, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in on the plane, making it the backdrop to one of the most iconic photographs of the era. The plane has been in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force since 1998, where visitors can walk through. (Read more.)

1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, OH 45431

Where one of the state's favorite sons grew up. jessecbethea (Atlas Obscura User)
Historic House

9. Eddie Rickenbacker Childhood Home

Edward Vernon Rickenbacker was the United States's Ace of Aces” during World War I, having shot down 26 enemy aircraft in less than a year. While serving as a driver in France, he talked his way into the new U.S. Army's Signal Corps, ancestor of the Air Force. Unlike many other fliers at the time—many of them aristocrats—Rickenbacker was poor and unsophisticated, but he knew the language of engines and speed. After a skillful, reckless military career, he went into business and eventually became head of Eastern Air Lines, one of the first U.S. commercial carriers. He continued flying into World War II and survived a couple of horrific plane crashes. His childhood home is designated as a National Historic Landmark, but despite years of fundraising and discussion, has not yet been turned into a museum. (Read more.)

1334 E Livingston Ave, Columbus, OH 43205

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Flat ground, big skies, huge cows.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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