The 10 Wackiest Hotels in The US

Do you ever get tired of checking in to the same old cookie cutter hotels? You know the kind, you can’t tell the difference unless you walk outside and look at the sign. Next time you travel try something a little more fun, in some cases just plain strange and wacky. There are wacky hotels all over the world like the Kumbuk Hotel in Sri Lanka made of grass in the shape of an elephant. If you live in the US you don’t necessarily have to travel across the world to find wacky hotels. We have listed a few a little closer to home.

10. Winvian Farm, Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

Winvian Farm is a 113 acre resort consisting of a major dating to 1775, 18 cottages, a suite and some unusual accommodations. The Hadley Suite is 950 sq. ft. with a wood burning fireplace, Jacuzzi and steam shower while the cottages vary in size and decoration. The room that catches everyone’s eye is the Helicopter Suite. A 1968 Sikorsky Sea King Pelican HH3F helicopter has been fully restored and awaits those eager to spend the night aboard. Your suite comes with pilot and copilot seats along with a few modern updates such as sofa and flat screen TV. Housed in a “hanger” you can sip cocktails while dreaming of flying through the skies. The king size bed site in the hanger next to the helicopter so if you get the urge to play pilot during the night it is only a few steps away.

9. The Shady Dell, Bisbee, Arizona

Step back in time to when things moved a little slower, families took long vacations and if you were lucky you had a sleek trailer in tow so you could set up and enjoy the outdoors with all the comforts. The Shady Dell originally began in 1927 when people traveling needed a place to stop and relax. Today you will find nine vintage travel trailers and a 1947 Chris Craft Yacht restored and available for rent. Trailers come complete with bedding, dishes and coffee maker but cooking is not allowed and no open campfires on the grounds. The park is only open part of the year so check in advance. Oh, one more thing. Unlike when the family cruised down the road with the dog in the back and dad puffing on a Lucky Strike cigarette The Shady Dell has a policy of No Smoking, No Pets and No Children under 15 years of age.

8. Dog Bark Park Inn, Cottonwood, Idaho

Until 1997 the small town of Cottonwood Idaho had one big thing in town, which was the Monastery of Saint Gertrude. But then Dennis and wife Francis began carving dogs using chainsaws. One thing led to another and Dog Bark Park and Inn opened. It was only natural that the carving got bigger and pretty soon the Inn was built. The Inn is complete with queen size bed, two folding beds in the loft, full bath and continental breakfast featuring home baked pastries and the family’ secret recipe for fruited granola. Pets are allowed, of course, and a shop where you buy the artwork that Dennis and Francis make is on the premises. There is no phone or television so plan on spending the day outside with your pet or take a drive and check out the monastery. No word on whether the monastery allows pets.

7. The Quarters at Presidio La Bahia, Goliad, Texas

Located one mile south of the town of Goliad Texas the Presidio La Bahia was established in 1749 and since 1853 has been owned by the Catholic Church. In the mid 1960’s a major restoration took place and in 1967 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. After the restoration the quarters was used as the residence of the priests and today is rented out to the general public for nightly stays. Located on the west wall of the old presidio the quarters is a two bedroom apartment with three beds. Included are living and dining areas with a fireplace, master bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and shower. Guests can come and go as pleased and take time to explore the mission grounds during their stay. With access via a back door to the mission you can relax in the courtyard, admire the chapel and contemplate history.

6. Kokopelli’s Cave B&B, Farmington, New Mexico

Located in northern New Mexico just outside Farmington you are greeted by the beautiful La Plata River Valley and Kokopelli’s Cave B&B. Carved into the sandstone cliff is a 1700 sq. ft. manmade cave. The cave comes with master bedroom, living area, dining area, kitchen and a bathroom with a waterfall shower and Jacuzzi tub. Being in a cave the temperature stays between 68- 73 degrees year round. The cave also has two porches with sliding glass doors so you can enjoy the views. Since there is an abundance of wildlife no pets are allowed. The cave is 70 feet below the surface and the only way to get there is to embark on a hike then take the trail down to the cave utilizing steps carved into the sandstone. It is probably best not to try and bring lots of luggage, instead pack a backpack.

5. Wigwam Motel, San Bernardino, California

Built in 1949 on historic Route 66 in San Bernardino, The Wigwam Motel saw it’s heyday during the golden age of roadside Americana when gas stations, motels and restaurants were built in shapes to attract the motorists enjoying the newly created highways. Gone are the Barbasol Shaving Cream road side signs and not too many restaurants in the shape of tea kettles still exist but the Wigwam is still standing. Originally there were seven Wigwam Motels spanning Route 66 from Kentucky to California due to an innovative entrepreneur named Frank Redford. Today only three are still intact. One in Kentucky, one in Arizona and Wigwam number 7 in California. The rooms are fairly small but come with free Wi-Fi, a pool and all the atmosphere of days gone by.

4. Cedar Creek Treehouse, Ashford, Washington

If you want to get off the grid and take a break with no crowds then head to the Cedar Creek Treehouse. Located near Mount Rainier National Park the treehouse sits 50 feet up a 200 year old redwood tree. There is also a 100 foot treehouse observatory so you can get an unimpeded view of the surrounding forest and a floating treehouse that are seen by tour which is included in the rental rates. The Treehouse uses solar power, has plenty of windows and comes with a small kitchen, a sleeping loft with futons, dining area and while it has a bathroom there is no shower. With five flights of stairs you don’t need a fitness center but you can go swimming in the nearby creek. There is no restaurant but you are invited to fish for native trout and can cook it up on the campfire. A two night stay is required and the rates are almost as high as the treehouse at $650 for a couple.

3. Liberty Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts

What once was the Charles Street Jail and temporary home of Malcom X, and Sacco & Vanzetti, underwent a $150 million renovation and reopened as the Liberty Hotel in 2007. Architects took extra care to preserve as much of the original features and history of the old prison. The Clink restaurant still has the original jail cells which create cozy nooks for dining while the Alibi Bar is located in what was once the jails drunk tank. The yard, now turned into outdoor dining can accommodate up to 250 people while the catwalk dining area is reserved for hotel guests only. Where you could once spend the night for free, by being picked up for drunk in public or some other crime, a stay now will cost a little more. Rates run from $465 to $6000 for the penthouse suite.

2. Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Key Largo Florida

Unless you are a certified scuba diver you will need to take a discover scuba course to stay at the Jules’s Undersea Lodge. The world’s first underwater hotel started off as an underwater research lab. Named after Jules Verne the author of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, the hotel sits 21 feet underwater in a lagoon. The hotel has a list of requirements in order to take the scuba course and be able to stay at the hotel. The hotel has two private bedrooms and a common room where you can dine or look out the 42-inch round window and view the marine life and a chef is available to dive down and prepare a meal. You can book a 3-hour visit and enjoy a pizza lunch for $150 or spend the night which will run $800 per couple. The hotel has attracted a few celebrities over the years including Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

1. The Shack up Inn

If you are a Blues lover then you probably know that the Mississippi Delta is the home of the Blues. Located on what was once a plantation the Shack up Inn serves up cold beer, blues music and the opportunity to spend the night in an authentic sharecroppers shack. The two-room shacks have been renovated from the original just enough to give you a few comforts but keep the experience as authentic as possible. As stated on their web site “The Ritz we ain’t”, no discounts, no room service, no phone and the only wakeup call you will get is if you don’t check out on time. Guests can enjoy live music, head to the nearby Blues Museum in Clarksville or just relax in the rocker on the front porch of your shack with a bottle of beer in hand and imagine the music of Muddy Waters, Charlie Patton, John Lee Hooker, and others.

The Best Places to Live in America

From sea to shining sea, America is a beautiful country filled with varied landscapes, eye-popping attractions and friendly people everywhere you go. Imagine being a new-comer to America and trying to decide where you’re going to call home, a tough task considering there are so many great options. Thankfully the readers of Outside magazine have done the tough work for us, Outside surveyed American’s from all walks of life to find out exactly what makes their hometown so special in order to come up with this list of the 16 best adventure places to live in America this year:

16. Seattle, Washington

Seattle natives aren’t shy to tell you why their city is so special, but spend some time there and you’ll figure it out for yourself pretty quickly. A world-class city in a location that’s abundant with trees, mountains and water, that’s something pretty special. Seattle, known as the Emerald City, has 465 city parks along with Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic National Park, plus six ski resorts within a three-hour drive. Seattle is truly an outdoor-lovers paradise.

Seattle washington

15. Durango, Colorado

Three-time Olympic mountain biker and Durango resident Todd Wells says that people don’t move to Durango for a job. They move here for the world-class biking, kayaking or other outdoor activities and they figure out a way to make it all work. Considering that the average home cost is around $360,000, it will take a bit of work, but Durango is certainly more affordable than many other Rocky Mountain meccas. Whether you’re into hiking, biking, rafting or just appreciate being in the great outdoors, Durango has it all.

Hiker Colorado Trail Durango, Colorado

14. Grand Marais, Minnesota

With a population of only 1,327, Grand Marais doesn’t seem like much at first, but once you understand its location it all starts to make sense. The tiny one-stoplight town sits between Superior National Forest and Lake Superior and is the only municipality in all of Cook County. This makes it the gateway to the 1.1 million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness which lies in the forest to the North. Name pretty much any outdoor activity and you’ll find it going on somewhere, but Grand Marais also has plenty of shops, restaurants and microbreweries for those days when all you really want to do is relax.

Grand Marais, Minnesota

13. Ketchum, Idaho

If you’re a skier, you’ve likely heard of Sun Valley, America’s first ski resort and site of the world’s very first ski lift. Well, Sun Valley is right next door to the town of Ketchum, so naturally it’s a snow-bunny’s paradise. The local’s don’t just stick to the tourist-packed ski areas either; the Pioneers, the Boulders, the White Clouds and the Sawtooth mountain ranges all surround Ketchum providing endless opportunities for world-class skiing of all varieties.

Ketchum, Idaho

12. Bend, Oregon

Imagine a small-scale version of Portland, except with less hipsters and more outdoor adventurers, this is the kind of vibe you’ll get from Bend, Oregon. The city has grown to a population of almost 90,000 and now has 16 microbreweries, a whitewater park and an $11.4 million dollar recreational center, not to mention the resident volcanoes in the Cascades Range. In-town, a hike up Pilot Butte is always a popular activity, while a short drive outside of town will bring you to Mount Bachelor, South Sister and a little further north, Mount Washington. Skiing, mountain biking, hiking and more, Bend provides small city amenities in a picture-perfect outdoor setting.

Bend, Oregon

11. Gunnison, Colorado

When a town’s elevation is higher than its population, you know there’s going to be some great adventures to be had here. Gunnison is located 30 miles north of the famous Crested Butte Mountain Resort, so naturally skiing is a big draw for this town, but it’s not the only activity to be found. the nearby Hartman Rocks is located only a few minutes from town and offers over 8,000 acres of prime hiking, biking and climbing land while Gunnison Whitewater Park is a mecca for paddlers. Recover from all those activities with a beer at High Alpine Brewing Company in town.

Gunnison, Colorado

10. Hanalei, Hawaii

If alpine skiing and snow isn’t really your thing, perhaps the tropical paradise of Hanalei, Hawaii will sound a little more appealing. This town of only 450 people doesn’t have a lot of amenities; you’ll find a grocery store, some cafes, a few board shops and not much else, but what it does have is a lifestyle centered around the ocean. Surfing is a way of life so it’s not uncommon to see locals getting a session in before and after work, but there’s also plenty of other vacation-esq activities like SUP, horseback riding, hiking to waterfalls and of course there are plenty of beaches where you can just sit back and relax.

Hanalei, Hawaii

9. Bellingham, Washington

This small, west-coast city’s nickname doesn’t do it much justice; Bellingham, aka the ‘City of Subdued Excitement’ is actually surrounded by amazing things to see and do for adventurers of all varieties. A short ferry ride away you’ll find the San Juan Islands which provide excellent whale-watching and sea kayaking opportunities, while a 90 minute drive East will get you to the peaks of North Cascades National Park. Combine that with the city’s proximity to other outdoor meccas like Seattle and Vancouver and you can see why this small city has big appeal.

Bellingham, Washington

8. Boise, Idaho

Idaho isn’t all about the spuds, in the city of Boise you’ll find a population over 200,000 and many residents live there strictly for the amazing outdoor options. With a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, the Boise Foothills provide residents ample opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and the Ridge to Rivers system makes it easy. This interconnected network of trails and roads courses through the Foothills linking neighborhoods and public lands. with over 190 miles of trails there’s a perfect route and degree of difficulty for everyone.

Playboat Boise, Idaho

7. Ludington, Michigan

This small city of just over 8,000 occupies some of the best waterfront real estate on Lake Michigan and the idyllic lighthouses and sandy beaches are only the beginning. Ludington State Park and the adjoining Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area have a combined ten miles of lakefront property perfect for exploring sandy dunes, camping, hiking, biking, swimming and paddling. In town, the 64-mile Pere Marquette River is a blue-ribbon fishery that flows through Manistee National Forest before reaching the Great Lakes.

Ludington, Michigan

6. Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Colorado has some pretty notable ski and adventure spots, so while you might not have expected a smaller city like Steamboat Springs to appear in this list, residents say it’s the city’s laid-back approach to adventure and the outdoors that has the biggest draw. Of course there is skiing, though Steamboat’s hills are a bit mellower than places like Jackson Hole or Telluride, and the city is also adding to it’s increasing network of bike trails and singletrack. Outdoor companies like Big Agnes, Smartwool and Moots all call Steamboat Springs their home, which should be proof enough that this is someplace worthwhile.

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

5. Taos, New Mexico

Residents of this Norther New Mexico town say “It’s all about the landscape” and when you’re bounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains how could it not be? Located were the high desert meets the Rockies, Taos has outdoor fun happening no matter the season. In winter it’s the bone-dry powder at Taos Ski Valley that draws locals and visitors alike, while summer provides it’s own kind of adventure in the form of class IV boating on the Rio Grande or mountain biking on the famous South Boundary Trail.

Taos, New Mexico

4. Yachats, Oregon

Yachats is a significant step down the population ladder from the previously mentioned city of Bend, but don’t let this town of just over 700 fool you, there’s still plenty of action to be found here. If living along one of the most amazing stretches of Pacific Northwest coastline sounds like your kind of thing, or you enjoy fat biking on the beach or strolling the shores at low tide, Yachats is definitely the place for you. After a hike with ocean views along Cape Perpetua, you can head back to enjoy a pint at the newly formed Yachats Brewing and Farmstore.

Yachats, Oregon

3. Denver, Colorado

The capital city of Colorado happens to be one of the fastest growing cities in the country with transplants being drawn to the big city appeal and eye-popping natural setting. There are few places where you can find the amenities of big city life within easy reach of the Rocky Mountains and their world-class skiing, biking and hiking.

Denver, Colorado

2. Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson, Wyoming admittedly has a few negative things stacked against it; the winters are long and cold, it’s a bad area for farming and ranching and the average housing price is north of a cool million. Negatives aside, it’s a small price to pay for living in a place that acts as the gateway to two of the greatest national parks in America. Grand Teton National Park is a mere 7 minute drive from town and the famed Yellowstone National Park is under a 2 hour drive away. With skiing, hiking, mountaineering, fishing, hunting and whitewater all easily accessible, it’s no wonder Jackson lands at number two on the list.

Jackson, Wyoming

1. Billings, Montana

The scrappy city of Billings, Montana comes out on top defeating prime adventure meccas like Denver, Jackson and Bend to be ranked as the Best Adventure Place to Live in America. There’s good reason for this of course, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area is only a short drive away as is the legendary skiing at Granite Peak. the Bighorn and Stillwater Rivers provide plenty of opportunity for fishing, boating and kayaking and Yellowstone Park is less than a three hour drive away. Locals say the charm of Billings comes from that fact that it’s still really a small town dressed up like a big city. Average housing prices here are still under the $200,000 mark, but don’t expect them to stay there for too much longer. Sorry Billings, your secret is out.

Billings, Montana

10 of the World’s Most Unusual Accommodations

There are traditional hotels the world over, from inexpensive motels to five-star luxury resorts offering a spread of classic services. For some, a clean room, comfortable bed, and a few valuable services are ideal but for those with a wild side and a definitive sense of adventure, something more unexampled is in the cards. Thankfully innovative hoteliers have come out of the woodwork to share their unusual–and sometimes even bizarre–hotel concepts. From Brazilian treetop rooms to a hotel made entirely of salt, here are ten of the world’s most interesting and unusual accommodations.

10. Propeller Island City Lodge, Germany

Berlin’s Propeller Island City Lodge is a visual masterpiece and a hotel unlike any other. Lars Stroschen, a renowned German artist, has designed a hotel-meets-museum backdrop with 30 one-of-a-kind rooms spanning from tame to incredibly dramatic. From a room with beds crafted from lion’s cages to one with a padded cell and another with a sloping floor called Mineshaft, these rooms are anything but conventional. The living work of art is nothing short of incredibly creativity–an inspiring feat for any visitor. The hotel is situated in fairly incognito postwar area block mostly comprising flats and accessible to exploring Berlin’s most significant destinations. A truly standout hotel, Propeller Island City Lodge is imagination coming to life from the head of an extremely innovative mind. If possible, ask for a multi-room stay to get real a feel for the breadth of the rooms.

Photo by: Mercury Press / Caters News
Photo by: Mercury Press / Caters News

9. The Dog Bark Park Inn, Idaho

About as unconventional as it gets when it comes to hotels, The Dog Bark Park Inns in Idaho is an immediate attraction for dog-lovers, even those just driving by. Chainsaw artists own the Beagle-shaped hotel, which stands at 12 feet and sleeps four. The second-story deck is the entryway and portal to the interior body, reached via a large sliding door and near (surprise) a giant fire hydrant. The Dog Bark Park Inns is on the grounds of Dog Bark Park where visitors can browse folk-art chainsaw sculptures including dogs, moose, bear, and fish throughout the grounds and explore the husband and wife’s art studio. The artists in residence, Dennis and Frances Sullivan, are each self-taught in chainsaw art methods and have created more than 60 different breeds of dogs. The property of pet-friendly of course!

Photo by: Frances Conklin via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Frances Conklin via Wikimedia Commons

8. V8 Hotel, Germany

In Stuttgart, Germany, in the area’s Motorworld Region (an international hub for car traders), the four-star V8 hotel has been attracting auto lovers from all around the world. Classic modernism is the style used throughout the hotel, where racing paraphernalia,  and even a drive-thru cinema, are key players. Ten car-theme suites are offered here, with beds designed in the shape of various cars, from modern to sporty and vintage to classic. Book early and choose from suite themes like a car wash or automotive garage. Sleep in a classic Mercedes, VW Bug, or Morris Minor. Each room is designed with dedicated car enthusiasts in mind and features a host of unique props like car-shaped soaps and faux gas pumps. The historic airport terminal was once a docking station for the 1920s Graf Zeppelin flights and home to the ME-109 squadron fighter during WWII.

Photo by: V8 Hotel
Photo by: V8 Hotel

7. Hotel Marqués De Riscal, Spain

In Elciego, Spain southwest of Pamplona is one of Canadian architect Frank Gehry’s most unusual endeavors, Hotel Marqués De Riscal. Situated in one of the country’s prominent Rioja wine regions, the avant-garde hotel is similar in style to Gehry’s other revered projects including the Bilbao Guggenheim: a mammoth structure with colossal metal ribbons implemented on the exterior creating dramatic contrast between nature and modern design. The ornate structure overlooks the surrounding vineyard, appearing as a whimsical creation from afar. Belonging to world-famous Starwood Hotels group, Hotel Marqués De Riscal is available for those with thicker wallets but worth the cost for the onsite Michelin-starred chef, luxurious Spa Caudalie Marqués de Riscal, and exquisite wine selection. Certainly one of the most unique looking hotels, it’s the exterior that shines while rooms really only stand out for their massive, slanted picture windows fringing sweeping terraces.

Photo by: Hotel Marques de Riscal
Photo by: Hotel Marques de Riscal

6. El Cosmico, Texas

Anyone with nomadic tendencies–or simply a love for unique experiences–will admire 21-acre El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas. Rather than one building, El Cosmico features a variety of shelters for guests including Aboriginal-style tepees, tent campsites, scout and vintage trailers, Mongolian yurts, and safari tents. Though it all sounds rather slapstick, design is an integral part of the shelters which are based in the high plains Texan desert. Communal spaces include an outdoor kitchen, outdoor stage, a hammock grove, and a community lounge. The owner, Liz Lambert, encourages guests to liberate themselves from modern world constructs and build on the unique theme: El Cosmico offers several ways to become truly involved in the concept of creativity with cooking and art classes, onsite building projects, song-writing classes, and more. Bikes for exploring the desert area and wood-fire hot tubs are also available at El Cosmico.

Photo by: El Cosmico via Facebook
Photo by: El Cosmico via Facebook

5. Quinta Real Zacatecas, Mexico

Get in the ring without the bull at Quinta Real Zacatecas, the 17th century San Pedro bullring painstakingly transformed into a luxury hotel. In 1975, the bullring hosted its final run and stood stagnant for years. Snapped up by Quinta Real hotel group, it was extensively renovated while maintaining the original colonial architecture. One of the details of the hotel design is the bullpens: the bullpen wall was integrated into the hotel’s restaurant as part of the main bar. But the most impressive parts are the grounds. The entire bullring floor, now called the plaza, is still intact, and the hotel faces an ancient viaduct–both are near the Mexican capital of Zacatecas, sitting on the edge of a rocky cliff side alongside the hills of the Cerro de la Bufa and lying almost 9,000 feet above sea level just five minutes outside of the city.

Photo by: Quinta Real
Photo by: Quinta Real

4. Inntel Amsterdam Zaandamn, Netherlands

Stacking houses to create one seamless building is an unconventional but creative way to build a hotel. The fairytale-esque Inntel Amsterdam Zaandamn is made from 70 individual houses put together like puzzle from both townhouses and cottages typical to the local Zaan area. The hotel, just 12 minutes by train to Amsterdam, is a sight to behold–each of the house are brightly painted in various colors which makes each individual house stand out accentuates the puzzle-like construction. The house colors, each a shade of vibrant green, are traditional colors of region. The inspiration for each of the rooms comes from local history and each is modern with clean lines and interesting features such as giant wall murals.  Guests have access to onsite amenities including a Finnish sauna, Turkish steam bath and a pool with adjacent spa. This is modern-day comfort meeting tradition head on.

Photo by: Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam via Facebook
Photo by: Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam via Facebook

3. Capsulevalue Kanda, Japan

In Japan, capsule hotels are a popular concept and one that works quite well with the country’s high population and very limited space. Stacked on top of each other and side by side to maximize on space, the capsules are exactly as they sound, tiny spaces perfect for one person and a few items. The capsule hotel concept has become so popular in fact that sleeping pods will also be introduced in Helsinki airports. Basic and cheap, the Capsule value Kana in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi area is a popular stopover for both tourists and businessmen looking for inexpensive accommodations who don’t require a host of services traditionally offered by hotels. The entrance to each capsule opens to enter and can be closed up to create private quarters. Communal washroom and baggage storage is also available. Capsulevalue Kanda also offers TVs, alarms, and free WiFi along with a business lounge.

Photo by: Agoda
Photo by: Agoda

2. Ariau Amazon Towers, Brazil

Far west of Fortaleza along the Rio Negro riverbanks in Manaus, Brazil is Ariau Amazon Towers, an eco-retreat high in the treetops where guests wake to the sounds of songbirds and the calls of primates. Visitors can stay in a dense jungle paradise and enjoy animal sights and encounters of all kinds. Tucked into the lush canopy, several circular buildings are incorporated into the tree-top level high above the river. Within this high-reaching resort, there are bars, restaurants, a swimming pool, and almost ten kilometers of wooden walkways skimming along the tree canopies through thick forest canopies. Each and every room includes a balcony affording incredible jungle panoramas and the perfect place to hear the call of the wild. This treetop wonder is one-of-a-kind, built by Dr. Francisco Ritta Bernardino in 1987–his inspiration was Jacques Cousteau, the famous oceanographer, a staunch Amazon River preservationist.

Photo by: Ariau Amazon Towers via Travel + Leisure
Photo by: Ariau Amazon Towers via Travel + Leisure

1. Palacio de Sal, Bolivia

At more than 10,000 square kilometers, Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats are the largest in the world so where better to build a hotel made entirely of salt?  The entire hotel and most of its furnishings are constructed from salt. The magical, natural space is on the majestic banks of the Salar de Uyuni, less than 30 kilometers from its namesake town, and in complete harmony with the surrounding landscape. Some might think a hotel built of salt would be more of a rustic experience but that couldn’t be farther from the truth: Palacio de Sal’s single and double rooms include central heating, hot and cold running water, and private baths. Each exhibits an igloo-shaped ceiling and simple, modern furniture and several spectacular common areas with fantastic outdoor views. A broad lobby, bar, central heat, and a complete electrical system throughout 30 rooms are offered.

Photo by: Palacio de Sal
Photo by: Palacio de Sal

8 Thrilling White Water Rafting Destinations in North America

Adrenaline rushes, your heart pounds and as you look up, the last thing you see is white water rushing at your boat; this is the ultimate white water rafting experience. North America is home to some of the biggest and most thrilling rivers for the adrenaline seeker. Rafting any rapids over a Class 3 is sure to get your heart pumping but these 8 destinations all feature exhilarating Class 5 rapids. From glacier rafting in the mountains of British Columbia to multi-day trips through the Salmon River; these 8 thrilling white water rafting destinations are the best in North America.

8. Kipawa River, Quebec

The Kipawa River is a thrilling 16 km run, from Lake Kipawa down to Lake Temiscaming with 18 big rapids and a 90 foot waterfall that is sure to keep your heart pumping. It has been rated as one of Eastern Canada’s best intermediate whitewater rivers and once you feel the power of this river, you will understand why. Currently it is an endangered waterway and thus by rafting this river you are actually helping to preserve it. If you want to raft this river with a guide you need to attend the Kipawa River Festival where Esprit Whitewater will take you down this epic portion of the river, feed you snacks and get you mighty wet. It is sadly only a matter of time before this river is dammed and the time is now to explore the incredible rapids in Quebec.

Photo by: All About Whitewater
Photo by: All About Whitewater

7. Nahatlatch River, British Columbia

This river boasts the most continuous Class 3 plus rapids in all of Canada, with over 37 of them.  This demanding river promises non-stop action, especially in the early spring when water levels are at their highest. The trade-off in the late summer is the chance to try and run the narrow Nahatlatch Canyon, a Class 4-5 mind-altering experience. This river happens to be located in the middle of nowhere, which explains the varied terrain as rafters move from the mountains into rugged canyon walls. Most companies like to run this river twice for the thrill seekers and guests will enjoy amazing accommodations, food and fun when they sign up with one of the guided companies. Although other rivers in the region get talked about more, it is the non-stop action and challenges that make this river stand out as one of the most thrilling in North America.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

6. Gauley River, West Virginia

Although you can raft this river almost anytime of the year, it is at its finest for 6 weeks during September and October when the water is released from the Dam and floods the river bed. It makes for the best single day rafting trip in all of America. Rafters can expect Class 4 and 5 rapids as they wind their way down this wild river. The scenery is just as epic as the rapids, with autumn descending on the surrounding forests, changing their leaves into brightly colored works of art. The towering canyon walls, the waterfalls and the scenic bridges make it hard to look away. The complete Gauley River is 26 miles and 100 rapids of intense whitewater rafting excitement that can be experienced in just one day or over two days; an epic adventure that you will never forget.

Photo by: River Expeditions - West Virginia
Photo by: River Expeditions – West Virginia

5. Arkansas River, Colorado

Whether you want to raft for just ½ a day or over multiple days, the Arkansas River is the perfect place to experience some serious thrills. It is the most popular spot to raft in the Rockies due to its varied nature of rapids. For thrill seekers there are plenty of Class 4 and 5 rapids in the Royal Gorge Canyon, a canyon that is often called the “Grand Canyon of the Arkansas.”. This narrow canyon features rapids such as ‘sledgehammer’, ‘wallslammer’ and ‘boateater’. Rafters here may be so concentrated on these awesome rapids they may miss the amazing scenery that surrounds them, including the world famous Royal Gorge Bridge that sits 1,053 feet above the river. This actual Royal Gorge section is only 10 miles so most companies choose to run it twice for a full day of rafting, or combine it with many of the other sections of river that are nearly as exciting.

Arkansas River, Colorado

4. Kicking Horse River, British Columbia

The Kicking Horse River is renowned for being an exciting river packed with mighty rapids and plenty of thrills and offers a single raft day unlike any other in Canada. This is alpine glacier rafting at its best with over 35km of upper, middle and lower canyon rafting. Experience breathtaking scenery as you start off in the calm waters learning how to work as a team and perfect your paddling skills, but as soon the canyon walls become deep, the rapids become mighty. This river also happens to be glacial fed and snow melt fed, which means it has great water levels all summer long. If you want extremely high water levels though it is best to go in early spring. An array of companies offer exciting trips down this river and it’s guaranteed to be packed full of thrills no matter what time of year you visit.

Kicking Horse River, British Columbia

3. Salmon River, Idaho

Although Idaho is known for its potatoes, any adventurer knows that Idaho is actually known for its mighty and wild Salmon River. This river boasts more options for trip length and more pristine and unbroken wilderness than any other river in America. It also happens to be the home of The Middle Fork, a section of river that boasts enough Class 5 rapids to keep your heart pumping over the five-to-six day adventure that awaits you. Starting off on a rushing alpine river and ending in a majestic desert canyon, this section of the river runs over 105 miles and drops a total of 3,000 feet in elevation along the way. The other two sections of the river feature Class 3 rapids and offer a bigger variety of day trips, multi-day trips and ½ day trips. If you want thrills and unprecedented scenery, the Salmon River in Idaho is a good place to start.

Salmon River, Idaho

2. Colorado River, Arizona

When the Colorado River passes through the Grand Canyon in Arizona, rafters can expect 226 miles of excitement and thrills. The geological beauty of the Grand Canyon surrounds rafters as they fight rapids anywhere from Class I to Class 5. Millions of years ago the river carved its path and it’s full of twists and turns, ever changing from dramatic walls to towering waterfalls. Rafting this river means also exploring the land; full of sparkling streams, waterfalls, luscious green forests and ancient ruins. A multi-day trip is the best choice to truly get the most out of your white water rafting trip down the Colorado and there are endless companies offering a number of different options. This remains one of the most popular rafting trips in North America and therefore spots fill up fast, therefore it is best to book your trip at least one year in advance.

Colorado River, Arizona

1. Chattooga River, South Carolina

Thankfully this amazing river was protected back in 1974 by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, forever preserving its rugged river gorge from development. In turn, the Chattooga River now delivers breathtaking scenery and prized whitewater in an unmatched wilderness setting. Section IV of this river is where thrill seekers will want to head as it features the steepest section of river, dropping more than 75 feet through the Seven-foot Falls and then onto the infamous Five Falls, appropriately named Entrance, Corkscrew, Crack-In-the-Rock, Jawbone, and Sock’em Dog. Although this section of the river only runs about 7 miles, it is the quick succession of so many Class 5 rapids that makes it such an intense experience. Rafting this river is something not only every Southerner should do, but something everyone in North America should try at least once.

Chattooga River, South Carolina

12 Natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the USA

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) describe a World Heritage Site as a place (such as a forest, mountain, lake, island, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) of special cultural or physical significance. 12 natural designated heritage sites exist in the United States, generally in the Midwest or west coast, with one situated on the island state of Hawaii. Included in the list, is one site whose preservation is currently in danger.

These sites must fit one of several criteria to be considered a heritage site. Until 2004, the sites were selected based on six criteria for a cultural site and four criteria for a natural site. After 2004 however, the criterion were combined making a total of 10 for both types of sites. Now, these landmarks must meet at least one of the ten according to the Operation Guidelines. Visit WHC.Unesco.org/en/criteria/ to see a full list of the selection criteria.

12. Redwood National and State Parks

This national site is indeed a special one. Redwood National Park is a region of mountains along the coast of Northern San Francisco on the Pacific Ocean. A forest of redwood blankets the area with the tallest and most awe-inspiring trees in the world. Sea lions, bald eagles and pelicans make these parks seem more like the setting of a Pixar movie rather than real life.

Nearly 16,000 hectares of old-growth redwoods are what’s left of trees of the old world. Once found in moist temperate regions throughout the world, they can now only be found on the west coast of North America. In fact, 42 per cent of the remaining redwood is located here. Marshes, ponds and streams comprised of freshwater act as a natural nesting and feeding ground for over 75 species of animals. The aforementioned birds are all endangered, which also includes the American falcon. Historically, the area was home to ranching, fishing, dairy, mining and logging industries, as well as military structure.

Redwood National Park California

11. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

These caverns of New Mexico consist of over 80 outstanding caves. Outstanding not just for their size, but also for the excessive diversity of mineral formations found within. One in particular, Lechuguilla Cave, contains a subterranean laboratory for geological and biological processes. The setting is as breath-taking as it is useful.

The reef sections within the Carlsbad Caverns National Park are some of the best preserved in the world that remain accessible for scientific study today. Around 800 species of plants have been identified at this site; three of which are a threatened species internationally. All three of these are species of cacti. Along with plant life, the caves are known for several species of migratory bats, including the Mexican free-tailed bat. Fungi and bacteria in the cave pique the interest of scientists and medical professionals alike. One threat exists to the park potentially, that being the oil and gas exploration near its borders.

Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico

10. Everglades National Park

The Everglades are the only site on this list that is currently in danger. The site on the southern tip of Florida has been referred to as “a river of grass flowing imperceptibly from the hinterland into the sea”. In laymen terms, it is an exceptional water habitat for a plethora of birds, reptiles and other endangered species like manatees.

Of the 800 protected species in Everglades National Park are 14 threatened species, 25 mammals, more than 400 bird species, and 60 reptile/amphibian/insect species which include two different endangered species of butterflies. Other than living species, the park has rich prehistoric and human history as well. Over 200 archaeological sites are located here, but also it was once home to the largest brick masonry fort in America. Fort Jefferson was big enough to hold 1,500 soldiers, and although it never saw battle, it secured a post for the Union during the Civil War, later to be used as a prison.

Everglades National Park Florida

9. Grand Canyon National Park

A movie reference and must-see attraction on the list of many road-trippers, the Grand Canyon is nearly 1,500 meters deep and is easily one of the most impressive gorges in the world. The Arizona wonder traces back more than 2 billion years, which is a bit less than half the age of the Earth.

Over 1,000 plant species have been identified at the park alone, 11 of which are labeled as threatened. There are an additional 15 plant species that have been recommended to be under the Endangered Species Act as well. Over 100 mammals and reptiles along with about 300 bird species have been spotted here, too. But human history takes no backseat at the Grand Canyon, with 2,600 documented prehistoric ruins showcasing evidence of early inhabitants such as the Cohonina and Anasazi natives. Grand Canyon National Park contains much more to learn than what is generally put across in the media, and requires more than a simple passing-by to absorb all it has to offer.

Grand Canyon National Park Arizona

8. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

While many endangered species call the Great Smoky Mountains their home (including the largest variety of salamanders in the world) the 200,000 hectare land grows almost as many species of trees as there are in the entirety of Europe. The roaring greenery that straddles the border of North Carolina and Tennessee remains reasonably untouched to this day, which is the main reason so many endangered animals still call it home.

The inhabitants of the Great Smoky Mountains were likely hunters and gatherers, whom built some of the best log buildings in the United States based on findings from the mid-1800’s to early 1900’s. With over 15,000 years to span, the culture of the site is vast. Evidence of four pre-Columbian cultures exists: Mississippian, Woodland, Archaic and paleo-Natives. The history ranges from the first evidence of organized horticulture in North America, to the saltpeter deposits discovered on nearby cave walls which were harvested and processed into gunpowder from 1809-1819. Great Smoky Mountains National Park displays temperate vegetation before the influence of humankind.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park North Carolina

7. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Perhaps the most dangerous natural site on the list, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park contains two of the most active volcanoes on Earth; Mauna Loa and Kilauea which stand 4.1 km and 1.25 km high, respectively. Amidst forests of giant ferns, the lava flow reveals wondrous geological formations.

Although it is preserved, the park has been forced to endure biological changes since the arrival of mankind. Forestry that has been removed for sugar and pineapple plantations or ranching and logging have drastically lowered the elevation levels of the wood. Most native mammals are scarce from the area, as most pig, goat and mongoose have had almost all (if not all) of their habitats destroyed. Malaria is also rampant in the area, which is one of the many reasons control programs have been undertaken to not only assist the existing ecosystem, but remove that which does not belong as well. Of course, the natural danger of the volcanoes will always exist too.

Magma Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

6. Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek

This mouthful of parks is a complex system of glaciers and high peaks on both sides of the United States and Canadian border. Yukon, British Columbia and Alaska all share these eye-catching natural landscapes which are native to grizzly bears, caribou and sheep. The largest non-polar ice-field in the world is located here, providing a great habitat to cold-weather animals even as portions of the arctic wither away.

A range of climates and elevations in the region give an extensive ecosystem representing all major biomes. Alpine tundra, northern coniferous and coastal coniferous biomes are there, which house tall spruce-hemlock forests, along with various bogs and marshes. A real sight to be seen, these parks have many song birds to whistle explorers through their journey. While east-coast fisheries struggle with population, all five species (red, chum, silver, pink and king) of Alaskan Pacific salmon thrive here. Other varying species of trout and whitefish are also found in surrounding and persevered waters.

Kluane Park

5. Mammoth Cave National Park

The largest network of natural caves and underground passageways can be found at Mammoth Cave National Park, located in Kentucky. Over 560 kilometers of cave paths are located here, along with different types of endangered species. These limestone formations have been the subject of great study for a long period of time.

Of the 200 mostly invertebrate species that are natural to the caves, 42 of them live in complete darkness. The caves are wondrous enough to be showcased on the must-see BBC documentary series Planet Earth. From glowworms and bats to crab and birds there is no shortage of marvelous lifeforms to learn about at Mammoth Cave. Coral life and other fossils of the Mississippian age are published on the rocks within the site that supports no real human life. About 240 people live on the outer buffer zones, with about 1,500 in total in the surrounding transition area.

Mammoth Cave National Park Kentucky

4. Olympic National Park

In Washington State, Olympic National Park expresses the diversity of its ecosystems. Glacier peaks and alpine meadow reflect the illustrations drawn only by old, temperate rainforest indigenous to the Pacific Northwest. The mountains (which are drained by 11 major river system), provide a great habitat for fish species which breed in freshwater (anadromous).

With over 100 km of undeveloped coastline, it is the largest of its kind in the United States. Critically underpopulated species such as the northern spotted owl call this site home, furthering the need for it to remain untouched. The argument for that however, would be that most of the Earth’s species inevitably go extinct. With about 60 active glaciers this site is unique in the fact its altitude is the lowest in the world in terms of where glaciers exist, at under 2,000 meters with some even under 1,000 meters. The old-growth forest is the shining example of preservation, which remains intact and protected through the many alpine meadows and woodlands.

Olympic National Park Washington

3. Waterton Glacier International Peace Park

Once existing as two separate parks (Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park) in Alberta and Montana, Waterton Glacier International Peace Park sits on the border between the United States and Canada to offer both countries a taste of its glorious scenery of plant and mammal species alike. Prairies, forests and glacial features also add to the picturesque land that bridges the gap of two nations.

Carnivores such as wolves, coyotes and cougars wander around the wide range of landscapes at this site. This includes a self-sustaining population of over 200 grizzly bears in the glacier complex. The five large eco-regions that make up this park are: alpine tundra, subalpine forest, montane forest, aspen parkland and fescue grassland. The varying temperatures and landscapes are the reason for the vast scope of species which also includes rare white-tailed deer, moose, bison and the indigenous mountain goat and bighorn sheep. Geologically, 1.25 million years of sedimentary and tectonic evolution lies underneath Waterton Glacier International Peace Park which give history not only based on ecosystem, but on earth formation as well.

Waterton Glacier International Peace Park

2. Yellowstone National Park

The world-famous Yellowstone National park is over 9,000 square kilometers in size. It spans three separate states, with 96 per cent in Wyoming and the remainder spread through Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone showcases over 10,000 geothermal features, which is half the number of the entire world. The largest collection of concentrated geysers (300+) is located here, which some confuse with hot springs which are located in places such as Iceland for example.

Bears, wolves and bison wander the plains of Yellowstone, with its proximity to many major water sources being a particular factor for the abundance of these mammals. Three major rivers come to a head at Yellowstone; Firehole and Gibbon rivers come together to form the Madison River, which then connects to the Missouri. Yellowstone Lake is the largest at a high elevation in North America, sitting at over 2 km in altitude. Although there are over 40 breath-taking waterfalls, archaeological investigations determined that human groups have visited the park area for 10,000 years, but none have made it “a permanent home”.

Yellowstone National Park

1. Yosemite National Park

Posted in the middle of California, Yosemite has an array of waterfalls, lakes, moraines and u-shaped valleys. Glaciation is prevalent in the park, with varying elevations ranging from 600 to 4,000 meters. This includes a 914 meter deep area which was scraped out by glaciers.

Although there are no longer any glaciers, the marks left behind are everywhere. The glaciers moving against the bedrock have shaped the area into unique and protruding landforms. The Sierra Nevada (which makes up most of the park) is made up of granite, showcasing itself by way of domes, knobs and cliffs. Walls of granite are freshly carved (relatively of course) out from glaciation, with very little erosion to be seen. Aside from these natural formations are many waterfalls and approximately 300 lakes. Other erosions such as the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River and the Tenya Canyon make Yosemite National Park a visual Wikipedia of naturally occurring rock and glacial wonders.

Yosemite National Park

10 Must-See Landmarks in the US

Just because you have a large family or find yourself on a budget, doesn’t mean you have to stay at home and pout. The good news is that there are numerous cultural, historic, kitschy, and fun landmarks right here in this beautiful country of ours.

So what are you waiting for? Hop in the car, tune up the music, and take a route to a few of these ten must-see US landmarks…

1. Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.

Standing proud between the U.S. Capitol and the White House, the Washington Monument soars 555-feet up, into the great blue yonder. Constructed completely of white marble, striking blue gneiss, and granite, you’ll want to snap some photos of it in the distance from the outlook at the National Mall. But the adventure doesn’t stop there. You can actually take the family to the top if they’re willing to brave the often long lines (from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. daily) and white-knuckle it to the top on the swift elevator that whisks you to the observation level for a spectacular vista of our nation’s capital.

washington-monument

2. Rocky Mountains, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

Stretching from Colorado all the way to Wyoming, the Rocky Mountains will leave you awe-struck—both because of their panoramic beauty and due to the sheer multitude of outdoor adventures they offer. From snowboarding to skiing and from hiking to off road cycling, the whole family will love it!

rocky mountains

3. Statue of Liberty, New York, New York

The Statue of Liberty bids welcome with her flaming torch from Liberty Island in New York Harbor. Big and small kids alike will be impressed by the lady’s size and magnificence. She was actually a gift of bestowed by France in 1886, and you can easily check her out, in all of her glory, via a harbor boat cruises, which takes you around Liberty Island or via a sail and tour of Liberty Island, in which you can climb to the top of her crown and check out the stunning vistas of New York City.

Statue of Liberty

4. Mount Rushmore, Keystone, South Dakota

The presidents carved into Mount Rushmore, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, were sculpted out of Harney Peak granite by artist Gutzon Borglum, who captured the first 150 years of American history in the likenesses of US presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Today, you can get a good look at the project that took 14 years to accomplish via an informative 30-minute guided tour about America’s history along the Presidential Trail.

Mount Rushmore

5. Yellowstone Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is home to Old Faithful (one of the world’s most unique geysers), as well as a plethora of wildlife, including grizzly bears, elk, wolves, and bison. Stretching over Wyoming and inching into Montana and Idaho, the hiking, birding, and photography opportunities are endless in America’s very first national park.

yellowstone park

6. Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is proof of Nature’s amazing power and beauty.  One can’t help but be amazed by the immensity of the steep-sided canyon, which stretches 277 miles (446 km) long, 18 miles wide, and dives over a mile into the vast open space carved out by the Colorado River. The surrounding Grand Canyon National Park preserves the local land and wildlife in the area, making an ideal hiking opportunity around one of the worlds “Seven Natural Wonders”!

grand canyon

7. Hoover Dam, Nevada-Arizona

Constructed from 1931 and 1936 to slow and store water from the Colorado River, the Hoover Dam lies on the Nevada-Arizona border. The sweeping 726.4-foot concrete dam wall attracts history buffs, engineers, and architectural enthusiasts for guided tours of the dam and adjoining power plant.

Hoover dam
Jeffrey J Coleman / Shutterstock.com

8. Niagara Falls, New York

A popular wedding destination (if drive-thru is your thing); the city of Niagara Falls, New York is home to another natural wonder of the world—the famed and romantic Niagara Falls. You can check out the falls for photo opps or even take a boat tour. But don’t ignore the other city attractions such as casinos, museums, hotels, and restaurants.

Niagara Falls, New York

9. The Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

Built in 1962 for Seattle World’s Fair, the futuristic Space Needle stands 605-feet high and is a lasting symbol of the city itself, and the potential of the modern world. You can purchase a ticket to ride the elevator to the 520-foot-high observation deck for a panoramic view of the city below or dinner at the swanky SkyCity revolving restaurant.

The Space Needle, Seattle

10. Empire State Building, New York, New York

Apart from the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building is one of the Big Apple’s most iconic structures. Built in 1930 to 1,453-feet, 8 9/16-inch heights, the Empire State Building hosts two observatories on the 86th floor (at 1,050-feet) and 102nd (at 1,250-feet) floors. You can visit year round, daily, from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Empire State Building