Hey Babe, Take A Walk On The Wild Side: 5 Unique Travel Destinations in the United States
Guest Paloma proved there’s more to the USA than New York on an exciting three month cambio in the Rockies. Instead of doing the typical touristy ‘checklist’ holiday, she left Madrid for Evergreen, Colorado, and taught her Host family – the Pedens – basic photography through her native Spanish. During her stay with the Pedens, she went on trips to Denver (“It’s actually very cosmopolitan… they have a lot of museums, restaurants, and a lot of theatre.”) Dallas and even Fortworth, Texas. Paloma was so inspired that she’s even thinking of going on another cambio off the beaten track!
Rock City, Georgia
6 miles from downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee – near Ruby Falls – is the obscure roadside attraction that is Rock City. Eclectic, dreamlike and full of fantasy, it’s a 200-million year old rock formation situated atop Lookout Mountain. Along an enchanted, 4,100-foot woodland walking trail, Rock City Gardens gives you lush panoramic views of seven different states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
When you’ve finished admiring the breathtaking scenery, you can turn your attention 1,120 feet below Lookout Mountain, to the world’s tallest and deepest waterfall, Lover’s Leap. According to Cherokee mythology, a brave named Sautee and a beautiful woman named Nacoochee fell in love. As they were from two feuding tribes, Sautee was captured and thrown from the top of Lover’s Leap, while Nacoochee, distraught, jumped to her own death. After you’ve recovered from the heartbreaking legend, you can take a step back and admire the views of the valley below and the beautiful High Falls.
For an experience that’s a bit more light-hearted, Mother Goose Village houses figures from classic nursery rhymes – everything from Three Little Pigs to Humpty Dumpty – and exploring Fairyland Caverns introduces you to a mixture of European folklore and fairytales, and Rock City’s famous gnomes. You can lose yourself in the 400 native species of plants and trees, and then, before you return to real life, you need to take the perfect photo opportunity on Swing-a-Long Bridge, the suspended bridge that spans more than 180 feet over the Chattanooga Valley.
Door County, Wisconsin
The cherry on top of any trip to Wisconsin has to be ‘The Cape Cod of the Midwest’, Door County. Comprised of 19 municipalities, Door County is bordered by Green Bay to the west and Lake Michigan to the east. With 11 beautiful lighthouses (most of which date back to the 1800s), 300 miles of shorelines, 53 public beaches and thousands of acres of cherry blossom orchards, you never know what you’ll discover.
Wisconsin’s leader in cherry production, Door County boasts a serious collection of wineries, weekly farmers’ markets and independent art galleries. During your time here, you’ll have a real opportunity to get to the heart of the Door County Wisconsin, whether it’s meeting the local farmers and sampling their homegrown products, exploring the fine art studios or enjoying a lazy afternoon on an intimate wine trail.
Door County also contains the 104-year-old, 3,766 acre Peninsula State Park. Camping is a beloved Wisconsin family tradition, so pitching a tent in the third largest and most complete state park in Wisconsin is a sure-fire way to really get to grips with the authentic, down-to-earth philosophy Door County is all about. The park has four campgrounds and is home to the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, the American Folk theatre, an 18-hole golf course, bike trail, and plenty of vantage points for viewing the park’s incredible natural wonders.
Assateague Island, Virginia & Maryland
Assateague Island is a 37 mile long barrier island just off the eastern coast of Delmarva, with the northern two-thirds of the island in Maryland and the southern third in Virginia. The whole of Assateague Island is owned and run by three different agencies: the National Park Service, Maryland State Parks, and United States Fish and Wildlife Service. As the pristine beach, varied wildlife, wetlands and marsh islands are protected for public use, you’ll really get the feeling you’re in ‘untouched’ America.
The Maryland portion houses most of Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park. Assateague State Park, at almost 800 acres, is the island’s most developed area with 350 campsites and Maryland’s only oceanfront park. Meanwhile, Assateague beach – known as one of the best beaches in the East Coast – is totally unspoiled; no boardwalk, no tourist shops and almost no buildings. Anyone who’s ever struggled to lay claim to a small piece of a beach with their towel will appreciate the miles of peaceful, clean, white sand.
The Virginia section contains Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and a small part of the national seashore. (And is the place the inner horse girl in me wants to visit!). The Virginia side is famous for its herds of wild ponies, beaches, and the Assateague Lighthouse. More than 300 feral horses can be found wandering the beaches, pine forest and salt marshes, and the best way to admire the wild ponies is taking a wildlife voyage by boat, or watching the Annual Chincoteague Wild Pony Swim on the last Wednesday or Thursday of each July.
Big Sur, California
Situated in the central coast of California, Big Sur – a rugged stretch of highway – was a source of inspiration for Beatnik writer Jack Kerouac, who found solace in the area’s atmospheric fog, jagged cliffs and natural beauty. The name “Big Sur” is derived from Spanish “el sur grande”, meaning “the big south”, or “el país grande del sur”, meaning “the big country of the south”.
While taking a roadtrip in a car is the probably the most popular way of experiencing Big Sur’s 90 miles of scenic highway, you can also hike, mountain climb, camp and explore Big Sur’s remote beaches and state parks. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is home to McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall that flows year-round; other parks include Andrew Molera State Park, the largest state park, and Point Lobos State Park, which all boast wildflowers and a wide selection of flora and fauna. During your trip to the area, you should also visit Pfeiffer Beach, one of the area’s favourite beaches, as well as the two hot springs which are open to the public; Sykes Hot Springs and the hot springs located at the Esalen Institute.
Point Sur Lighthouse, a National Historic Landmark, is the only complete turn-of-the-century light station open to the public in California. Now a ghost town, Point Sur is still open to the public for tours, where you can see gray whales from December to May and humpback and blue whales during the summer.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado
The original beer garden, Garden of the Gods is a public park located in Colorado Springs, in the north of Colorado City. Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971, the area was first called Red Rock Corral. The dramatic red rock formations you can see are the result of geological upheaval along a natural fault line, millions of years ago. Ancient sedimentary beds of deep-red, pink and white sandstones and staggering rock-towers in the park provide an awe-inspiring backdrop against the snowy Pikes Peak.
Archaeological evidence indicates that the Garden of the Gods has been a popular attraction since around 1330 BC. Prehistoric people such as the indigenous Ute tribe etched cryptic messages into the park’s red walls, and you can find the remnants of 3,000 year old fire rings scattered throughout the site. The Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee and Shoshone people have also been associated with the park, attracted to its wildlife and the spiritual nature of the red rocks.
Now nature lovers flock to the park, which is home to over 130 species of birds, including white-throated swifts, swallows and canyon wrens, as well as mule deer, bighorn sheep and fox. Adrenaline seekers always find something hair-raising to do in The Garden of the Gods, whether it’s hiking, technical rock climbing, road and mountain biking or horseback riding.
Have any of these one-of-a-kind US attractions sparked your interest for visiting other destinations off the beaten path? GoCambio has lots of Hosts living outside the major cities around the world who can show you a unique, once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience. Sign up here to get your adventure started!