Forgotten Tourist Spots In The U.S. You Have To See On Your Next Roadtrip

Forgotten Tourist Spots In The U.S. You Have To See On Your Next Roadtrip

When you think of touristy hotspots in the U.S., a few classic examples come to mind. You probably think of grabbing that Times Square selfie in New York City, trying your luck in a Las Vegas casino, or seeing the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles.

There are other landmarks you picture as well — the giant silver bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, or Walt Disney World. 

But that stuff is for tourists, right? You’re a traveler. You’ve got a beat-up copy of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, a full tank of gas, and you want to experience some genuine Americana — get in touch with the culture and spirit of the country. See the lesser-known sights.

Well, next time you need to embark on a major trip to satiate your wanderlust, here is a list of 50 places suggested by American travelers to mark off on your map.


50. Mile High

Denver. It is great for being outside, has a small but decent art/music scene.

It is developing. Close to Boulder which has fun yuppy stuff.

Close to Aurora (Aurora has amazing foods from all over the world in little shops throughout it).

Tons of breweries, bike paths, etc. Oh. Did I mention the legal stuff?!

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Image by David Mark from Pixabay

49. Dig In Your Spurs

I don’t think San Antonio is as recognized for its coolness as it should be (and that’s probably okay because then it might get a lot more crowded). But it’s one of my favorite U.S. cities and I’ve been singing its praises for years. From the Riverwalk to the Mexican market area to the Mission Trail its just so different from “generic America.” I just get an amazing feeling every time I’ve been there, like I’m really in a different country or I’ve stepped back in time to colonial Mexico. I’m really drawn to the culture, the visuals, and the feeling of antiquity there. Granted, I’ve never been to any of the newer residential areas, but I love the old city. As American cities go, it’s totally unique.

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48. Just Grand

Grand Rapids, Michigan. I am biased because I live just outside the city, but I love it. Good nightlife, has a balance of a wide range of politics and people. Housing is pretty affordable, the city is booming with businesses and other new opportunities. The city and streets are actually really clean. Sports culture is all minor league, so everyone is free to still root for their Detroit or Chicago teams (it’s literally halfway between the two cities). Despite being in an extremely conservative region, the city itself is very balanced and leans progressive with a ton of LGBTQ+ inclusion. The city was also built around Grand Valley State University, so it’s always being supplied with young adults bringing new ideas and trends.

Did I mention that there’s good restaurants on almost every street?

The only dark spot is that the name DeVos is on almost everything, and the city’s money came primarily from a pyramid scheme (Amway).

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47. Buffalo Soldiers

In the northeast, Providence and Buffalo.

Providence is basically a city for people that can’t afford Boston: good arts scene as well.

Buffalo is one of the few rust belt cities that is legit turning itself around. A lot of immigrants moving to the city and revitalizing the downtown. Lots of neat architecture as well. Helps to be near the Canadian border too.

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Image by linmarie5 from Pixabay

46. St. Lunatics

Pretty much any city that isn’t NYC, LA, SF, Boston, Austin, Chicago, and maybe Miami is underrated. Most cities have some nice neighborhoods, some unique food items, etc. It’s a great country and there’s tons to explore.

But two I’ve really enjoyed are Houston and St. Louis. Houston is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. It’s incredibly dynamic, stuff is changing constantly. It gets a bad rap as an industrial wasteland, and there are parts like that, but the Inner Loop is incredibly green and beautiful. It has the best food out of any city I’ve been to except NYC. Great quirky local stuff like the Art Car Parade as well.

St. Louis has some really great neighborhoods. I had the best coffee and best drink I’ve ever had there (at Sump and Perennial, respectively). It also has amazing architecture, parks, and the Arch really is cool.

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Image by skeeze from Pixabay

45. The Pitts

Pittsburgh is almost never talked about. It has pretty much everything any city twice its size has: museums, music venues, art exhibits, theater, great colleges, etc. It’s also one of the prettiest cities I’ve been to, with a heavy tree canopy, lots of parks, a “mountain” within city limits and three rivers for kayaking and boating. There’s lots of unique architecture. Plus when people say they want a European-esque city in the U.S., what they don’t realize is they can get it for cheaper in Pittsburgh.

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Image by David Mark from Pixabay

44. Such A Great City

My dad lived in San Lius Obispo, California for some years and my partner and I got to visit him there (we do not live in the U.S.). We loved it. It’s laid back, friendly, and easy to get around. There’s some great hiking nearby in the Irish Hills, good dining options and of course the climate is great. He’s moved now and I really miss it, so check it out if you can.

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43. Yes, There Are Things To Do In Arkansas

If you end up in Arkansas (I say end up, because nobody really sets out to be here), there are quite a few cool things you can go do. There is a diamond mining park in the southwest part of the state where you can mine for your own diamonds. The hot springs have some cool stuff including, you guessed it, hot springs. There is Petit Jean in central Arkansas, as well as the Arkansas River trail which is 88 miles and you can bike on it. Arkansas is also known for its gorgeous autumn leaves. There is the crescent hotel which is haunted. Eureka Springs has tree houses or Hobbit-holes you can stay in. There’s also Fayetteville, which I’ve never been but I hear is nice. 

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42. Bundle Up, Bucko

I’ll say Minneapolis. It is a real thing that people do not make a point of moving here and DO make a point of moving out. The market research on employment here reflects that. People think Minneapolis is just this frigid wasteland where it’s -20 degrees every day. The reality is that Minneapolis is beautiful, people-friendly, and a major hub for culture, especially music. The cold is only a problem if you don’t own a jacket.

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Image by Yinan Chen from Pixabay

41. Something For Everybody

Columbus, Ohio if you are a young professional and like to go out at night.

Rogers, Arkansas if you like outdoor living.

Cleveland is coming back but is definitely underrated currently.

Tucson, Arizona doesn’t get the love it deserves.

Santa Barbara, California doesn’t get the love of Los Angeles San Fran or San Diego.

Rutland, Vermont is awesome if you enjoy skiing and outdoor stuff.

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Image by Doug Bardwell from Pixabay

40. The Other Hole In The Ground

Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado is more beautiful than the Grand canyon according to most people who have visited both, but many people have never heard of it.

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Image by Alina Aigner from Pixabay

39. Worth A Drive

Galena, IL is a great small town in northern Illinois that is amazing. It reminds me of one of those towns in a Hallmark Christmas movie. You could see mostly everything in a couple days. If it’s within driving distance for you, please spend a weekend there. It’s a great little town that my wife and I drive down to once every year or two.

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Image by Vincent Ciro from Pixabay

38. A Picture-Perfect Postcard Town

Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. The town looks like a picture postcard and all the residents adopt historical practices. It’s right on the Appalachian trail if you like to do a little hiking, and right where the Shenandoah meets the Potomac. I would recommend Williamsburg as well, in Virginia, but they charge a fair penny just to get in the gate. If you do go through, the instrument makers shop is great.

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37. Quit Wining

Sebastopol, California, and Sonoma County wine country in general. Everyone knows Napa Valley but the truth is it’s unbelievably expensive. Sonoma County wine country is cheaper, and the wine has the same quality.

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Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

36. We’ve Got The Key

It’s not really underrated at all, but I feel like people don’t realize how amazing Key West can be. It’s pretty much like going to a Caribbean island. The atmosphere is unlike anywhere else in the US. It just feels completely separate from the rest of the country. Very cool nightlife, food, attractions, and the people are all just TOO nice.

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Image by bosa1 from Pixabay

35. Park It

Snow Canyon State Park in Washington County, Utah. Most people go to Zion’s (which is world-class), but Snow Canyon could be a national park in and of itself. While you’re there, head up to Pine Valley for a glimpse of mountain life right next to a red-rock desert and extinct volcanoes.

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Image by mblashoto from Pixabay

34. Would You Like A Finger?

I’m from Pittsburgh, which gets its fair share of tourists — but I think the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited on vacation was Finger Lakes, New York. Lots of charming little towns, good shopping, good food, and did I mention wineries all over the place?

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Image by Tommy_Rau from Pixabay

33. South/Southwest

Southwestern South Dakota. They have incredible scenery along the Needles Highway and Spearfish Canyon and more bison in Custer State Park than you’ll ever see at Yellowstone. One of my most memorable trips.

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Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

32.O, Maha!

Omaha, Nebraska. Lots of cool restaurants and museums to visit, plus there’s the zoo. The penguins at the zoo are awesome.

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31. Into The Pure Blue

In addition to the Great Lakes, Michigan has a lot of beautiful lakes. If you like camping there is a really nice state park at Higgins Lake. I also recommend the Cherry Festival in Traverse City.

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Image by David Mark from Pixabay

30. See A Side Of Vegas You Never See

Las Vegas, Nevada. Leave the strip, rent a boat or jet skis and hit up Lake Mead. Go snowboarding in Mt. Charleston or go hiking in Red Rock Canyon. You could even shoot up to Utah and hit the Valley of Fire. Las Vegas is way cooler than just partying.

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29. Check Out This Amazing Vintage Malt Shop In Minnesota

Duluth, Minnesota. Brick laid streets, a boardwalk along the shore, a one-room theatre, an adorable malt shop (natives know the one), some beautiful rivers and cliffside views not far outside the city, and a tower that overlooks all of it.

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28. Explore Florida’s Dangerous And Beautiful Wildlife

Wakulla Springs, Florida. Just a few miles south of Tallahassee. Home of one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, this park plays host to an abundance of wildlife which includes alligators, turtles, manatees, deer, and birds. Daily guided riverboat tours provide a closer view of wildlife and are perfect for the wildlife photographer. Glass-bottom boat tours are offered when the water is clear to a depth of 75 feet (an event that rarely occurs in the present day). Swimming is a popular activity during the hot summer months. Fall, winter, and spring are the best times to enjoy the nature trails where visitors walk beside remarkable karst features and among rare and unusual plants in its old-growth forests. The Wakulla Springs Lodge was built in 1937 by financier Edward Ball and is open year-round. A full-service dining room overlooks the spring. Lodge facilities offer an excellent place for meeting retreats, weddings, and other special family and business occasions. Wakulla Springs State Park and Lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Natural Landmark.

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27. A Spectacular View In Appalachia

If you are a day hiker and are here during autumn, catch the spectacular autumn leaves most anywhere in the Appalachian Mountains, from Georgia to New England.

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26. The Sky In A Canoe

Any river where you can kayak/canoe. Not in massive groups, but like a small group of friends spending the weekend on the river. My father used to take my brothers and myself out on these long canoe trips when we were kids. We live in Michigan, so there were plenty of rivers. At the time I hated going on these trips because I missed school and being with my friends. Now that I look back on all those trips, canoeing down these rivers and lakes was one of the most — if not the most — beautiful things I’ve ever seen with my two eyes. No civilization, no technology. Just nature, water, and the sky.

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25. New York, But Not The City

If you’re ever driving through New York State with an extra day to kill, Letchworth State Park is a nice surprise just outside of Rochester.

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24. Never-Ending Trees In California

The Redwood forests in California. You think you’ve seen big trees before, and then you come here.

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23. Ghost Towns In Texas

Big Bend National Park in Texas. It’s in the desert right on the border with Mexico. It’s stunningly beautiful. Climb to the summit of Emory Peak to get amazing views of the Chisos Mountains, the surrounding desert, and the Santa Elena Canyon. Then head over to Terlingua Ghost town afterward for some beverages in the Starlight Theatre.

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22. The Most Beautiful Wilderness Ever Seen

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a 1,090,000-acre wilderness area within the Superior National Forest in the northeastern part of the U.S. state of Minnesota under the administration of the U.S. Forest Service. Located in northeastern Minnesota, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) has a million acres of wilderness, with over 1,000 pristine lakes and streams, and over 1,500 miles of canoe routes. It is considered by some as the most beautiful wilderness they have ever seen.

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21. Freshwater Springs For Days

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Everything: The strikingly beautiful nature from the forests to the mountains in the west, rivers, Kitch-iti-kipi (the big natural spring), waterfalls, rocks. Then there’s local food to try.

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20. Navajo Nation

The Navajo Nation. It has some beautiful landscapes, but also has miles upon miles of nothing sometimes. Last time I drove my truck through it, I saw bus tours of foreigners checking it out. Honestly, the drive from Flagstaff, Arizona to Moab, Utah through the Indian lands is a great drive.

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19. Yellowstone’s Neighbor

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. It gets less publicity than Yellowstone, its neighbor to the north, but it is really beautiful. Absolutely worth visiting.

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18. Quaint Towns And Beaches In Maine

Maine. You have epic mountains, endless forest, and beautiful cliffs up the coast. If you stay near the south, they have some cool cities and beaches, too. New Hampshire has some pretty beautiful scenery, too. And Vermont is like one big quaint small town.

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17. The World’s Longest Bridge

Everyone goes to New Orleans for the food and the cemeteries and architecture, etc. Those are all great. But take just a 10-minute drive north during sunrise or sunset and you can see the sun on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain while driving over the world’s longest bridge. One of my favorite sights.

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16. A Little Bit Of Everything

The Finger Lakes of Upstate New York.

You’ve got wineries and bed and breakfasts and boating on the lakes for some, and Watkins Glen and NASCAR and hiking for others. You can spend a lot or a little, depending on how you camp or where you stay, and it’s all just beautiful.

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15. Stay Cool In The Mountains Of North Carolina

The mountains of western North Carolina — it’s a great place to visit in summer. Lots of small, quaint towns with bed and breakfasts. Some of the best hiking, fishing, and biking on the east coast. Higher elevation, so most towns stay cool even in the hottest months.

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14. See The Glaciers Before It’s Too Late

Glacier National Park in Montana. Not completely forgotten about, but the glaciers will be gone forever in a couple of years.

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13. A Road Trip Around The Great Lakes

The Great Lakes region. Starting in Chicago for an awesome city break, then driving up to Door County, then the Upper Peninsula, then Mackinac Island, then Traverse City, Michigan. Then you can hit Detroit, Toronto, and Niagara Falls.

Makes for a great two-week vacation. Great combination of beauty, beaches, and great city visits.

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12. Sugar Beaches

The “emerald coast” of the Florida panhandle. It stretches from Mobile, Alabama to Panama City, Florida.

The beaches are the color and consistency of sugar (that’s not a hyperbole) and compared to the beaches in California and Florida (like the Miami area) they are much more affordable.

Fly into New Orleans, spend a day or two there enjoying its own unique culture, then drive east three to four hours on I-10 and stop in literally any of the cities. I recommend Destin, Florida, but they are all great.

Beautiful, soft, snow-white beaches, seafood, golf, go karts/mini golf, nightlife, and great shopping. And it’s one of the most affordable trips you can do!

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Image by croisy from Pixabay

11. Visit This Former Great Lake

For New York: Thatcher Park. It’s a former Great Lake that dried up eons ago. It’s amazingly beautiful in the fall. The valley that was once the lake fills with orange and yellow and becomes amazing. Also, the night sky is great because of the natural light pollution cavities.

Another often-overlooked place would be the city of Troy, New York. This little place a few miles out from Albany was once growing like crazy and looked like it may become the Brooklyn of the north. Artists depicted it in the future as a city to compete with Manhattan.

Then the Depression hit. But it’s still a great and original Hudson Valley city. It’s the birthplace of the Uncle Sam character that represents America, and they make some amazing local things. Art shows are great, parties are nice. It’s a very great hipster escape in the middle of the woods. Also the site of my undergrad: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which is a nerdy school to the extraordinaire. There are rooms in that school with a live feed from the rovers on Mars. Some amazing stuff to see.

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10. Do As The Locals Do

Go to a college football game. I’ve been to Camp Nou and Wembley and neither of those environments are as good as Beaver Stadium, Death Valley, The Swamp, Camp Randall, etc.

There’s a reason why people do country-wide stadium road trips during the fall — it’s because there are so many great environments!

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9. Great Food And Forests In Louisiana

South Louisiana. There are some really neat places to go and see and food to eat. Also the Kisatchie National Forest, Toledo Bend, Atchafalaya Basin, Hodges Gardens.

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8. Go Upside Down At Cedar Point

Sandusky, Ohio. It’s located right on Lake Erie. There’s a ton of beaches, fishing, boating, etc. Also, it’s home to Cedar Point, which has the most roller coasters in the world. It’s about an hour from Cleveland if you feel like visiting the city.

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7. A Day Of Free Entertainment In St. Louis

St. Louis! Best free zoo in America, free art museum, free science center, free history museum, forest park, the arch, the City Museum (not a museum), Mississippi River Cruises.

STL is like a bunch of small towns in an urban region: The Loop, Central West End, Wash Ave, Tower Grove, Grand Center (arts district).

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6. Nobody Expects Philadelphia

Philadelphia is a fun town to visit. Lots of stuff to do, nutty people, historic sites. Like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects Philadelphia, but you’d be surprised.

And nearby are the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, which is great for hiking and camping, as well as searching for ruins (it used to be populated for 100 years or so and was known, among other things, for making cannonballs for the Union army, but people left and the forest grew up around the few villages there). Also, the Jersey Devil is from there, so don’t leave your livestock unattended.

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5. This Monument Tops Mt. Rushmore

Everyone wants to go to Mt. Rushmore. But Crazy Horse is about eight times more impressive and not even done yet. It’s also just a short drive from Rushmore.

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4. Slow Down In Rapid City

Rapid City, South Dakota. People often make fun of the Dakotas for being boring and in the middle of nowhere but Rapid City is a very pleasant town.

The layout and architecture Downtown is great and keeps a truly American pioneering feel about it.

The views are generally fantastic, and the the geography has a prehistoric vibe that I can’t describe. It just feels ancient. You’re within a short drive of Custer National Park, Mount Rushmore, and the Black hills. Not to mention the spectacular Badlands and the Petrified Forest. The roads are also spectacular and great to drive or ride. (There’s a reason the largest motorcycle rally in the world is held nearby in Sturgis. The roads are straight out of a road movie.) There are huge cliffs and mountainous terrain everywhere with beautiful forests that you can see for miles.

Everything I’ve listed above could potentially be seen in one day if you live or stay in Rapid City.

The wildlife: There are wild bison, black bears, turtles, mountain lion, moose and who knows what else.

Weather: You get all the seasons. Scorching summers and big snowfalls covering the forested mountains in the winter. It’s also known as the lightning capital of the world! During the summer you’re pretty much guaranteed a spectacular lightning show every evening. Sometimes the lightning even goes from the ground up!

The residents of Rapid City have a relatively secret paradise up there.

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Image by Lisa Johnson from Pixabay

3. Isle Be Back

Coronado Island, California. Most people overlook it and just stop in San Diego, but if you go a little bit further south, you will find a true gem. It is honestly one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen, and I go there every year on my birthday. The food is amazing, they have an iconic hotel where multiple movies have been filmed, and you can even watch some of those movies on the sand. It’s really cool during the winter when they have ice skating on their outer lawn, just meters from the ocean. Highly recommend visiting this place.

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2. No Driving Here

Mackinac Island in Michigan. Right next to Mackinac Bridge which connects the Upper and Lower Peninsula. The island is only available through ferries and planes. No gas powered vehicles allowed other than emergency vehicles. Has a pre-Revolutionary fort on it and very nice to visit.

It is the 2nd National Park in the U.S. Has the Grand Hotel on it. You can bike ride around the island (seven miles) or take a horse-drawn carriage. Other carriages act as taxis. The tourists who come every year are called “fudgies.”

Personally, very relaxed atmosphere and very much a tourist destination. But none of the buzz of major cities or places that you expect. Main Street and the fort are the biggest areas, but there are little places you can go that are great. For kids, the fort and the bikes (which can be rented, tandem or kiddy trailers). There is also a butterfly garden. For adults, Go to the top of the island and take some more athletic biking trails.

It is the best way to spend the day. Great tours, great exhibits, and great food! Also, a lot of candy/ice cream/fudge shops. Have a blast.

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1. Go Cave Exploring In Western Montana

If you are in the northwest, make sure you find your way to Lewis and Clark Caverns in western Montana. It’s a two-mile-long chain of cave formations where there are rooms of rock formations and crystals. You get to see several types of cave formations and the hike is pleasant without being too difficult. The hardest part is getting to the park which is kinda in the middle of nowhere. Still one of the best caves I’ve ever explored.

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