So you’ve seen all of the best-known American icons? Then put the following dozen sites on top of your to-do list.
1. The Headwaters of the Mississippi River (Lake Itasca State Park, Minnesota): Even small kids can easily wade across the small, crystal-clear brook that marks the beginning of the mighty Mississippi River.
2. Taos Pueblo (Taos, New Mexico): These multi-storied adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years and still look much as they did when the first Spanish explorers arrived in New Mexico in 1540.
3. Glacier National Park (West Glacier, Montana): Yes, there are glaciers, hundreds of lakes, countless rivers and streams, but the park’s real claim to fame is the 50-mile-long “Going-to-the-Sun” Road, probably the most scenic drive in the known universe.
4. Atlantic City Boardwalk (Atlantic City, New Jersey): Home to the world’s oldest beachfront boardwalk and amusement pier. According to local legend, Salt-Water Taffy originated on the Boardwalk after a storm in 1883 flooded a candy store.
5. The Great Dismal Swamp (southeastern Virginia, northeastern North Carolina): Much of this 111,000-acre primeval forest is easily accessible by assorted trails and tour boats. Water from the heart of the swamp was/is believed to have magical healing and anti-aging properties.
6. Arches National Park (Moab, Utah): A crimson desert dotted with over 2,000 wonderfully weird eroded sandstone forms such as fins, pinnacles, spires, balanced rocks, and the world’s largest concentration of natural stone arches.
7. The Corn Palace (Mitchell, South Dakota): As a tribute to their state’s agricultural fertility, locals decorate the exterior of this huge arena each year with themed murals made from thousands of bushels of corn, grasses, wild oats, straw, and wheat.
8. The Badlands (Southwestern South Dakota): Badlands National Park is home to eroded buttes and peaks, the largest protected mixed-grass prairie in the U.S., and the most endangered land mammal in North America—the black-footed ferret.
9. St. Augustine’s Alligator Farm (St. Augustine, Florida ): The most interesting of the sunshine state’s classic roadside attractions, the Farm hosts the world’s only complete collection of crocodilians.
10. Death Valley (eastern California): Coffin Peak, Hell’s Gate, Funeral Mountains, Furnace Creek, Starvation Canyon, Dead Man Pass ? you’ll find them all here in the hottest, driest location in North America along with the lowest point in the western hemisphere—282 feet below sea level.
11. Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (Virginia Beach, Virginia): Deemed “One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World” by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the drive along this 23-mile span across the waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay is spectacular. The Bridge even has its own restaurant and gift shop.
12. Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square (Key West, Florida): Gather at the water’s edge with clowns, fire eaters, bagpipers, jugglers, psychics, parrots, trained dogs, and thousands of regular folks to watch the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico.