When people learn that we generally spend about six months a year traveling around the country, they invariably ask “What is your favorite place?” We regularly answer “Wherever we are right now.” but in truth there are places, often off the beaten path, that we find ourselves describing as totally awesome and that we’d return to in a heartbeat.
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Our first visit to Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park in 2008 was a mind-blowing experience. It felt like an alien landscape from a science fiction story. Our most over the top experience on Rialto was our Hole in the Wall hike when we returned in 2018 and camped at Mora Campground near Forks WA. We encourage you to the lesser traveled parts of Olympic from Hoh Rain Forest and Kalaloch Beach to the Salmon Cascades there’s an incredible diversity. If you choose to go to Hurricane Ridge, don’t do it on a holiday weekend unless you love huge crowds, traffic jams, and jockeying for parking. Instead go to a visitor center and ask a ranger for an away from the crowds recommendation.
This park was not on our radar when we set out in 2008 to visit all the national parks in The West but in 2016 we found this “American Alps” treasure. With more than 300 glaciers this alpine landscape keeps inviting us back. We love exploring the history of Newhalem, marveling at the incredible blue of Lake Diablo, hiking in the forests, and just enjoying a lesser populated park that is incredibly fabulous.
Yes, we’ll admit that we see the town of Lowell and the Lowell National Historic Park as a Totally Awesome place because we’re fascinated with textiles, big machinery, and the history of The Industrial Revolution. This place is one of the gigantic landmarks in the history not only of industrialization but of labor organizing. And it’s right in the heart of New England near to places like Lexington and Concord, Salem, and much of Colonial and American Revolutionary history.
This campground came to our attention primarily because of it’s proximity to both the northern and southern units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Fort Union and Knife River National Historic Parks, Lewis & Clark’s Fort Mandan, and so many of the worthwhile places in western North Dakota. But it quickly became one of our top most memorable campsites due to its amazing scenery on the Little Missouri River in the North Dakota Badlands, its amazing dark sky, and its utter peacefulness.
This place is awesome in so many ways. The scenery is amazing. We are drawn to lighthouses because we love the history and find the technology fascinating. Here the original equipment is intact and fully functional and we could get up close and personal with it. Not only that but the Minnesota Historical Society interpretation of life for the light house keepers and their families is just extraordinary. In fact every Minnesota Historical Society site qualifies as Totally Awesome.
This world class museum does a fabulous job of feeding our curiosity not only about the creatures of the Jurassic Period but of multiple realms of history, science, and technology. Put this as a must-see when you are in Montana. And if you are truly into dinosaurs you definitely want to check out Dinosaur National Park. It’s a little more remote on the Colorado-Utah border but it’s astounding in-situ fossils are not to be missed.
As we travel around the country we constantly encounter opportunities to learn more about historical ways to travel around the country. Fascinated by stories of the pioneers in the history classes of our youth, sucked in by the computer game The Oregon Trail when our kids were young, and having had incredible interpretive opportunities from The National Road to Oregon Trail Ruts and the creation of the the Transcontinental Railroad and the National Trails Historic Center in Casper there’s so many places to learn more about the early trails but this one is extraordinary in it’s scope and the way it truly immerses you in the history of travel and communication.
Certainly you know that the Egyptians, the Aztecs, and the Mayans built pyramids but did you know that Cahokia, the site of huge earthen pyramids, on the banks of the Mississippi River across from St Louis, was a city larger than either London or Paris in 1250 A.D.? This state historic site is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The award winning visitor center truly immerses you into the heart of the Mississippian Culture and the view from atop Monk’s Mound is amazing!