When you start thinking about beautiful places to see in the US, you have already had a prepared list of well-known locations, right? Who wouldn’t like to visit Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Great Lakes? However, this attractive country has much more to offer, including real gems you have probably never heard about. What a pity!
I want to introduce some of my favorite places you should add to your wish list because they deserve it. On the other hand, you deserve to enjoy all the beauty these precious ones offer. Let’s travel!
1 Garden of the Gods, Colorado
What a name! It is a garden famous for the fantastic formations of impressive red rocks among 1,367 acres (553 ha) of beautiful, lush forests. Everyone can enter this park located on Charles Perkins’ land because his last wish was that everyone gets a right to explore these unique ecosystems free of charge.
You shouldn’t miss discovering a kingdom of breathtaking prairie-grassland and romantic cottonwood-willow when visiting Denver. Can you imagine practicing technical rock climbing just 61 miles (98 km) away from the urban zone? Yes, it is possible here!
And that is not all! You can use twelve excellent hiking trails while exploring the captivating specimens like mountain shrub, ponderosa pine, and pinyon-juniper. It’s up to you to pick out the horse riding, enjoy the view while riding a mountain bike, or take a Jeep tour.
In the end, you can spend a day with a wonderful view of Pikes Peak and learn something of the rich history of Ute Indians in Rock Ledge Ranch. It is the place where you can feel the real lifestyle of good old days.
2 Natchez, Mississippi
Natchez is a small city in Adams County with less than 16,000 citizens, located on the Mississippi River. It got that unusual name after the Indian tribe living there before the French colonial period. During the antebellum years, it was a meaningful center of cotton planters and merchants.
Nowadays, this place keeps tradition and takes pride in the preservation of famous historic sites and landmarks. One of them is a Forks of the Road slave market. You can visit it and try to understand the historical context of this significant part of the city, which was well-known for slave-trading.
However, you can feel the spirit of the large plantations and admire the majestic Antebellum homes at the hub of Deep South. I cried while looking at the remains of the Native American villages and took a rest at the National Historical Park. I promise, once you come here, your feelings will be in a mess, but your heart will become more transparent than ever.
3 Fayetteville, West Virginia
With less than 3,000 people living here, Fayetteville is one of the coolest small towns in the US you have ever visited. Once you come here, you will become overwhelmed by the beauty of excellently restored historic buildings and the hospitality of the local population.
Choose to enjoy hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, ultimate canopy tours, rock climbing, or rafting along the New River Gorge. I can recommend you adorable art galleries, but actually, the entire town is one big gallery in the style of Queen Anne or Romanesque Revival.
After having a picnic in the peaceful park, you can spend hours with your kids in the Playetteville or let your teenager ride at the skate park. Don’t miss seeing a play at the Fayette Theatre and try to relax in this real American gem.
4 Jekyll Island, Georgia
Once you see the beaches of this island, you will have just one wish to come here again as soon as possible. Try shelling at St. Andrews Beach, walk along the sea until reaching the fishing pier, and discover excellent bike trails and all 63 holes of golf available, depending on your preferences
Sea Turtle Center is definitely a must-see destination for children and those who love these adorable creatures. Don’t miss the Jekyll Island dolphin tour and attractive local water park, as well.
I highly recommend a tram tour. That is the best way for sightseeing in the National Historic Landmark District. You will feel like a billionaire while visiting their old cottages. They are worth exploring!
5 Byodo-In Temple in the Ko’olau Mountains, Hawaii
I can tell you one thing for sure. You will adore Byodo-In Temple hidden in a mysterious, intensely green Ko’olau Mountain on the Oahu island. It is actually an elegant duplicate of a prominent, 950-year-old temple in Japan built-in 1968. It was established in honor of the first immigrants who came to Hawaii from Japan a century ago.
You can enjoy a gorgeous pond with small waterfalls and meditate in one of a few peaceful places around. Since it is a non-practicing Buddhist temple, everyone is welcome to feel its quiet atmosphere in front of the statue of Lotus Buddha, which is tall impressive 9 feet (2.7 m). Make sure to ring sacred bell bon-sho before entering to purify your mind and bring blessings in your life.
6 Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona
Placed to protect the balancing rocks and hoodoos, this alien-looked monument is an exciting place, where the beauty of nature will take your breath away. I am impressed with the data that the entire forest of rock spires is actually the erosion of layers that remained after the eruption of the Turkey Creek Volcano.
Once you come here, go to visit the Faraway Ranch. It is a historic district that reminds us of the final conflicts of settlers and the proud warriors from the Apache tribe. Since access to the monument is quite tricky, you won’t need to share all the advantages of this gem of nature with a bunch of tourists.
7 Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Ice Caves, Wisconsin
Imagine the Lake Superior surrounded by picturesque lighthouses, lush forests, and memorable ice caves. I can’t describe the magnificence of the spectacular cliffs and walls full of glittering icicles. You should see them with your own eyes!
Unfortunately, the accessibility of these unique caves depends on the thickness of the ice, which varies related to the wind and temperatures. Therefore, you need to check in advance if this option is available. Meanwhile, until the ice is firm enough, you can enjoy many forms of recreation that a series of twenty-two islands offer.
8 Fort Jefferson in Key West, Florida
I like this massive coastal fortress made of more than 16 million bricks, which is just 68 miles (109.5 km) away from Key West. Even though the 19th-century fort is unfinished, it is still the most sizeable brick masonry structure in the US. The best of all is that seven small islands and crystal-clear water surround it.
Come to explore rich and unique marine life and impressive coral reefs. Keep in mind that you need to reserve a ticket for a seaplane, private airplane, ferry, or boat to get there. However, you can camp at Garden Key, learn about history, experience fantastic sunsets, and go diving or snorkeling whenever you want.
9 Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska
Mendenhall Glacier is an accessible natural attraction located 13 miles (21 km) from Juneau. Since it ends at Mendenhall Lake, you will have a clear view once you get to the Forest Service’s historic center. I can tell you that looking at icebergs floating around will be the most memorable experience in your life!
Explore the crystal ice caves where the frozen sea forms a natural cathedral. Don’t miss discovering excellent hiking trails and beauty of Tongass National Forest, as well. Find a remarkable, 377 feet (115 m) tall waterfall cascading in front of a stunning glacier. Go kayaking, learn about the geology of the glacier, and enjoy every single moment spent there.
10 Grotto of the Redemption, Iowa
When I heard about Grotto of the Redemption for the first time, I couldn’t imagine how large the human-made grotto can be. Then, I came here and saw the largest one in the world. If you are looking for the most precious hidden gem in the US, this is the place. The entire construction is literally encrusted with gems! In fact, it contains the most considerable collection of jewels in one location.
In 1898, father Paul Dobberstein came to Iowa to build a temple dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Even though there were no precious stones, he kept collecting crystals, colorful minerals, semi-precious gems, and snazzy stones and incorporating them into the construction for 42 years. Such a commitment is worth a visit. Come here and pray for this remarkable man.
Useful Tips for International Travelers
If you are a citizen one of 38 countries involved in the Visa Waiver Program, you will need ESTA application when deciding to visit the US. It is an effective pre-screening system you need to pass before boarding, used to control the eligibility of passengers arriving in the country regardless of the purpose of their trip.
After January 12, 2009, all citizens from ‘Visa Waiver Countries’ can come to the US without a visa after checking their ESTA status. With a valid passport with a digital chip and credit card, they can stay in the US for up to 90 days after getting an ESTA approval. Keep in mind that the authorities of the host country can require some specific security features if they deem it necessary.