America’s 10 Coolest Scenic Caves

Cave’s are truly among Mother Nature’s most fascinating creations. They are worlds of their own, shaped by geological processes over thousands of years. Spectacular formations, underground lakes and waterfalls, cool temperatures and some of the most stunning landscapes known to man lure many people underground. From the largest cave system in the world to one of only three marble caves in the US, these are 10 of America’s coolest scenic caves.

10. Marengo Cave -Marengo, Indiana

This large cave is filled with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, divided into two different sections, the Crystal Palace and the Dripstone Trail. In the Crystal Palace is where visitors will wind their way through formation filled rooms and past huge flowstone deposits. The Dripstone Trail on the other hand will introduce you to delicate soda straws, totem pole stalagmites, and the unique penny ceiling. This cool upside-down wishing well lets visitors add pennies to the ceiling by throwing them up, where they stick in the thick silt. With eight different kinds of formations throughout, there will be shortage of things to look at. Choose from either tour or experience both and save on admissions.

Marengo Cave

9. Caverns of Sonora -Sonora, Texas

It is known around the world that these show caves are among the most beautiful and visitors can get up close to their beauty on intimate guided tours. The Caverns are famous for their exquisite calcite crystal formations as well as the rare helictites that can be found in abundance. One cavern is even so densely packed with these helictites that it earned the name “Snake Pit”. What is even more marvelous is that the crystals found in the caverns are still actively growing. An extremely rare formation of helictites called “The Butterfly” is one of the main attractions of the Caverns and made the place world-famous, even after in 2006 it was vandalized by a visitor. Choose from the Crystal Palace Tour where you descend 155 feet below the surface for a guided walking tour or get adventurous and sign up for the discovery challenge tour which will have you repelling into the caves.

Caverns of Sonora

8. Jewel Cave, Custer -South Dakota

It is known to be the world’s third longest cave, and with over 177 miles mapped and surveyed, it is thought there is much more to discover. Visitors are required to take one of four guided tours in order to explore this cave and the highlight for many and how it got its name are the sparkling calcite formations adorning its walls. The Scenic Tour takes visitors to various chambers and passages decorated with calcite crystals and other speleothems, up and down 723 steps and not recommended for children under 5. The Historic Lantern Tour is one of the more popular tours as the only light that will guide you is the lantern and visitors have the chance to visit passages to the Dungeon Room or the Heavenly Room. If you want to do some real caving make sure to sign up for the Wild Caving tour where participants experience the cave in its natural state.

Jewel Cave

7. Craighead Caverns -Sweetwater, Tennessee

This extensive cave system is best known for its underground lake, the largest of its kind found in the U.S. It isn’t actually known just how big this lake is but so far it is measured at 800 feet long and 220 feet wide. The lake is just one of the incredible things to see in these caverns as they are known for their remarkable collection of cave flowers which are delicate and spiky crystal formations. The history of this cavern system is fascinating, and nearly a mile from the entrance, in a room now known as “The Council Room,” a wide range of Indian artifacts including pottery, arrowheads, weapons, and jewelry have been found, testifying to the use of the cave by the Cherokees. Open year round, this guided tour takes visitors on a 1-mile journey through the caverns on a wide sloping pathway and then into a glass bottom boat to explore the lake. The temperature remains a pleasant 58 degrees in this cave year round.

By Oydman (talk) - self-made, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
By Oydman (talk) – self-made, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

6. Oregon Caves -Cave Junction, Oregon

Although many people have tried to replicate marble halls, there is nothing more magical than seeing these actual Marble Halls of Oregon. They are nestled deep inside the Siskiyou Mountains, formed as rainwater from the ancient forest above dissolved the surrounding marble and created a special marble cave system. The highly complex geology found here contributes to the unusual and rare plants and animals found. The cave system features rooms such as Paradise Lost, the Ghost Room and Banana Grove; an underground stream called the River Styx; and hunger-inducing formations named for popcorn, bacon and soda straws. It’s one of only three caves in the United States to be made out of marble. The park runs multiple campgrounds and a chalet in which you can stay if you’d like to spend more than a day exploring.

Photo by: National Parks System
Photo by: National Parks System

5. Mammoth Cave -Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park is the largest cave system in the entire world, thus justifying its name and despite how much has already been discovered; new cave connections and discoveries are still being made. There is over 400 miles of cave to explore here and visitors can choose from a variety of guided tours which range in difficulty, price and length. This is definitely a place where you will want to spend a couple of days exploring and two of the favorite tours are the Historical Tour and the Great Onyx lamp tour. Although cameras are allowed, you will truly get the most out of your experience just by walking through them, feeling the temperatures change, viewing the different geology and learning about the history of this amazing underground system.

Mammoth Cave National Park kentucky

4. Niagara Cave -Harmony, Minnesota

If you have ever wanted to get married underground, now is your chance while visiting this cool cave. Niagara Cave actually houses an underground wedding chapel that has seen over 400 weddings take place. If you aren’t ready to get hitched though, you can still visit this cool cave with a guided tour. On the one-hour guided tour visitors will be taken a mile underground among fossils that date over 450 million years old, along with an abundance of delicate and massive cave formations. One of the highlights of this tour is the underground 60-foot waterfall. The cave is long, with large rooms and thin high ceiling passageways rather than most which are made up of many rooms, making it feel as though you are in a slot canyon rather than a cave. Along with exploring the cave, little ones can pan for gemstones and fossils and families can indulge in a game of mini-golf. Great staff, great gift shop and an incredibly scenic cave made this place a must visit.

Niagara Cave

3. Carlsbad Caverns -Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

It is the most famous of America’s underground cave systems and deserves to be visited, as proven by the 400,000 or so tourists that flock here every year. Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 known caves – all formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes. Explore the undersea world that used to be New Mexico and the Big Room that is filled with classic stalactite and stalagmite formations so interesting you can spend a day exploring it by yourself. Visitors of Carlsbad Caverns National Park can take a self-guided tour of the main rooms, or a ranger-led foray into creepily named niches such as the Hall of the White Giant, the Rookery and Spider Cave. If you really want to get spooky head here in the summertime when swarms of bats are seen leaving the cave each evening.

Carlsbad Caverns

2. Glenwood Caverns -Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Glenwood Caverns is the largest show cave open to the public in Colorado and not only includes a few epic cave tours but also numerous rides and activities. But if its scenic caves you are after fear not, there are many here. Visitors that choose to go through the Historic Fairy Caves will have access to some caves that were only recently excavated. Back in 1897 these caves actually became the first in the US to have electric lighting installed, although you would have to belly crawl to reach them. Today through years of extensive work visitors can walk through them. Highly-decorated rooms and a section of underground canyon with fifty foot ceilings await visitors here. For the more adventurous cave explorer, try the two hour tour which takes you into caves rarely seen by the public, and that you will have to get down and dirty on your belly to discover.

Glenwood Caverns

1. Luray Caverns -Luray, Virginia

It is here where over a million people come every year to experience this amazing cave formation, loaded with a variety of water features and unique formations. It can be called a subterranean wonderland and has paths throughout so people can stroll through the multiple caves. Visitors will be immediately stunned when they enter and see the almost white calcite formations that look more like bridal veil, or the creature’s mouth from Aliens. Towering stone columns stretch the entire length of the massive chambers. The prettiest part of these incredible caves may be the 2 feet deep lake in the middle that reflects all the formations. These formations are often referred to looking like giant church organs and in the 1950’s a contraption was made with mallets that hit the stalactites and makes an incredible sound, a sound that still plays during every tour.

Luray Caverns

Top 10 Badlands Around the World

When you imagine badlands, the mind goes to alien looking formations, minimal vegetations, fascinating colors and other geological forms. Badlands are actually a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water. These badlands can be found all over the world, from Canada to the United States and all the way to New Zealand. What fascinates people most about these landscapes are the incredible formations that look as they have come from another planet. They may be designated as parks, hidden along deserted roads or turned into tourist destinations but one thing remains the same; these badlands are “badass.” Wondering where are the badlands? We’ve got you covered with the best spots to see the badlands around the world.

10. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

When Theodore Roosevelt came to Dakota Territory to hunt bison in 1883, he was just a young guy from New York. The rugged landscape and strenuous life that he experienced here would help shape a conservation policy that we still benefit from today. During his administration his conservation efforts led to the founding of the National Park Service, established to protect and preserve unspoiled places, just like his beloved North Dakota Badlands. Visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park can be done year round and visitors have their choice of seeing the North and/or South Unit of the park. In the north visitors will be treated to an abundance of wildlife, along with deep gorges, and colorful badlands; making this sweeping vista absolutely incredible. The South Unit offers the chance for visitors to see the badlands that have been shaped from millions of years of wind, rain, erosion and fire. The Painted Canyon Visitor Center is also a stop along the way, giving you a first glimpse of the badlands from above.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

9. Hell’s Half-Acre – Natrona County, Wyoming

Years ago this badland was a tourist stop, famous for its place in the 1997 Starship Troopers movie. At one point the canyon rim held a restaurant, campground and small motel but for years the landscape has been deserted. Although not as big as other badlands on this list, the sheer remoteness and desolation of Hell’s Half-Acre makes it unique. The history behind this canyon can be found on an interpretative sign stating that Native American tribes used the ravines to drive bison to their death during their hunts. Today it stands as a geological wonder, deep ravines and caves, colorful rock formations and alien looking columns that rise above the clay. Bands of yellow, pink, white and orange stripe the canyon walls. For now, this abandoned badland sits deserted, in the middle of nowhere but perhaps that’s just what makes it so intriguing.

Hell's Half-Acre, Wyoming

8. Caoshan, Taiwan

Taiwan’s badlands are unique, and unlike any other in the world, seeing as they are the only badland formation on the face of this earth in a tropical area with good rainfall. The Taiwanese refer to these badlands as “moon world” and although these areas are slowly being turned into tourist destinations, complete with walkways and buildings, there are still a few places to go that remain untouched. Head to Caoshan, where some the of largest and most expansive of badlands are found. Start at 308 Viewpoint where you can get birds eye views of the surrounding landscape and then head to the “Grand Canyon”. As you walk photogenic pinnacles of earth start to loom above the road on either side like miniature mountain ranges. A little further along the ground suddenly falls away and the ‘Grand Canyon’ is revealed, the countless formations of the rain- and wind-carved ravine walls. It is impressive, exquisite, delicate, and appears to defy gravity.

Caoshan, Taiwan

7. Cheltenham Badlands, Ontario

It is one of the most striking geological features in the province of Ontario and these badlands are a brilliant red in color. At one point this area was actually occupied by a river and the hills at this site signify the riverbed. Thousands of years ago the lake dried out and the badlands were created. The red color is due to iron oxide deposits and features faint green streaks. Visitors come from all over the province to walk among the badlands here but unfortunately all the visiting is causing accelerated soil erosion. In 2015 the site was closed to visitors, although they can still be seen from the viewpoint at the top of the badlands slope. Conservationists will be spending the next few years trying to come up with a plan for these colorful and unique badlands.

Cheltenham Badlands, Ontario

6. Putangirua Pinnacles, New Zealand

This geological formation is best known for its appearances in the Lord of the Rings movies and is one of New Zealand’s best examples of badland erosion. These amazing rock formations, called Hoodoos are essentially hundreds of eroded pillars that form a quiet and eerie atmosphere, transforming you into what feels like a different world. Here you will find a total of two walking trails to choose from and allow yourself 2-4 hours for a round trip. The Walking tracks into the Putangirua Pinnacles generally follow the river bed into the valley and do change with river flows. This makes the tracks rough but easy enough to get deep into the rock formations. Pack plenty of water, snacks and don’t forget your camera as you travel into this incredible landscape.

Putangirua Pinnacles, New Zealand

5. Toadstool Geologic Park, Nebraska

It’s a known fact that the badlands in South Dakota are incredible but what about the ones that start in the northwestern corner of Nebraska. This geological park provides excellent sneak previews of what you may be in for if you are traveling onwards to South Dakota. Park in the lot at the entrance of the park and make sure to pick up a guide pamphlet at the start of the trail. A one-mile loop will take you around the park and past all the incredible formations. The trail starts off slow at first taking you past a few eroded hills, quite beautiful and striking. The flat part of the trail takes you through angled rocks of varying height and size but the real adventure begins when the trail starts to climb. This is where you will get to see many of the formations that resemble toadstools; hence the name of the park. You get an impressive view over the site at the top of the loop and it’s easy to imagine why large prehistoric animals used to wander these grounds.

Toadstool Geologic Park, Nebraska

4. Makoshika State Park, Montana

At over 11,000 acres this state park is the largest in Montana and protects 20% of Montana’s continuous badlands topography. Not only will you get to experience some incredible badland formations but also found here are the fossil remains of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops and more. There are several trails throughout the park, introducing visitors to different kinds of topography as well as a campground if you plan on staying for a few nights. Cap Rock Trail is a one-mile loop that allows hikers to get up close and personal with the smaller, delicate features such as pinnacles and caprocks. The Diane Gabriel Trail on the other hand shows visitors the bigger features such as sinkhole caves and sod tabletops. The highlight of the trail is a climb up to a series of Hadrosaur vertebrae left partially exposed in the hillside so visitors can see what it is like to find and excavate fossils.

Makoshika State Park, Montana

3. Red Deer River, Alberta

The badlands here cut a swatch through southeastern Alberta, and is a fossil hotbed since the 19th century with no signs of slowing down. There are multiple ways to experience these badlands, whether you want to join one of many guided tours or take a self-guided road trip. Start in the town of Drumheller smack in the middle of the Badlands, and well known for its rich fossil beds and mining industry. Want to see the town from a different vantage point? Climb into the mouth of the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus Rex. Other stops along the way include Horsethief Canyon and Midland Provincial Park. Cross the Red Deer River on the Bleriot Ferry and reach the Hoodoo Trail which takes you to the Hoodoos site and the Rosedale Suspension Bridge. Make sure to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum and Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Red Deer River, Alberta

2. Big Muddy Badlands, Saskatchewan

The Big Muddy Badlands have one of the best names in our opinion and offer up amazing architecture that transports your mind back to the times of the “Wild West.” These remote badlands have a fascinating history and once were a hideout for famed bandits such as Sam Kelly, Dutch Henry, and the Sundance Kid. The valley also is dotted with strange ancient aboriginal stone effigies with names such as Minton Turtle and the Big Beaver Buffalo, which add to the mystery and magic of the landscape. From early May to September is the best time to head here as guided tours operate on a daily basis. Because much of these badlands are on private property, it is imperative you use a guide.  Tours range from four hours to eight hours and cover sites such as Castle Butte, the Sam Kelly Caves and the Ceremonials Circles. Come play where the bandits played and you will understand why they were drawn to this particular landscape.

Big Muddy Badlands, Saskatchewan

1. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

This unique region has been ravaged by water and wind, resulting in a scenic wonderland, begging to be explored. The badlands region sprawls over thousands of square miles and includes vast prairies, grasslands with sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires. Visitors here can expect some of the most spectacular sunsets in the world, along with viewing millions of stars at night. In order to get the best views of the badlands head to Badlands Loop Road where you can hike along scenic nature trails among spectacular formations. Badlands National Park has two campgrounds for overnight stays and we highly suggest spending at least a few days in the park as the opportunities for exploration are endless.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

5 American National Landmarks That Deserve a Trip All Their Own

It’s the red, white, and blue, the old tried and true. A country that’s so happy about its patriotism, that it took more than a flag to tell you about it. It took thousands of flags, tons of poems and songs, landmarks, countless t-shirts and other paraphernalia, and they’re still not done telling you about it. At the bottom of all that pride, however, rests several perks to the American way. One of which is the ability to travel and see some seriously amazing sights. Ones that were put into place to honor the very country they reside in. From former presidents’ faces that were carved into a mountain, to a statue made to welcome traveling immigrants, to national parks that were put into place just to preserve the area’s incredible nature, here are five top American landmarks that without a doubt, deserve a visit of their own.

5. The Statue of Liberty

For decades, this green lady welcomed all who sailed in to the United States. Located off the coast of New York City, she faces just outside of Ellis Island, where immigrants were funneled through once traveling to America. Her tall torch represents a land of freedom, while her book shows a freedom of religion and speech. Once colored copper (as it’s made from that very metal), she’s since turned green with years of weather and sea exposure. A change that has since helped further her iconic state. Visitors can travel up inside this massive monument, check out the museum, or even head over to the Ellis Island welcoming center and look up relatives’ information. As a strange bonus fact, the statue is actually French; it was a gift from the country to America handed off in 1886.

statue of liberty

4. The National Mall

Like its name might suggest, this collection of landmarks has nothing to do with shopping. Instead, it’s a compilation of national monuments in the country’s capitol, Washington, D.C. Some of the most memorable sights include the Washington Monument, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial (with reflecting pool), and the Vietnam Memorial. The mall is free to visit, and is accompanied by a number of educational buildings, such as museums. Many of which are also free to attend. Many tourists take several days in order to take in each stop. But no matter how many you choose to view up close, the collection can be seen from miles away. It’s even a favorite among air travelers, who get an aerial view when flying in to the nearby Ronald Reagan airport.

National Mall and Washington Monument

3. Mount Rushmore

It’s massive, it’s bold, and it hosts the faces of some of America’s greatest presidents. Including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln … in that order. And though they face slightly different directions, there’s no denying the impressive carving that spans 60 feet in height across a South Dakota mountain. A project that was accomplished by a father and son sculpting pair in the 1930s – one which took roughly seven years to create. Put into action as a way to draw tourists (which totally worked, by the way), Mount Rushmore draws in thousands each year. There’s also a museum and gift shop duo, and a series of lights that fall upon its side at night to create an even more epic view of this longtime national favorite.

Mount Rushmore

2. Hoover Dam

Talk about a huge piece of construction, the Hoover Dam is something you won’t soon forget. Located just outside of Vegas on the Nevada and Arizona border, it’s a landmark that’s as impressive as it is functional. Since the 1930s, it’s a structure that has held back the Colorado River and Lake Mead, allowing water and natural powered electricity for multiple states. The dam hosts some unique archeticural traits, some of which had never been tested at the time of building, including an arch-gravity design, which allows the force behind the water to be placed back into the canyon. It also includes a cement wall that ranges from 45-feet deep at the top, to 660-feet at its base. And if you think that sounds like an incredible amount of concrete, you’re right. Many visitors claim sheer awe even after having seen the structure in person.

Hoover Dam

1. The Golden Gate Bridge

Getting its name from its unique design and its waters below, a bridge that hosts ladder-like posts and a bridge that is entirely golden in color, it’s become a go-to San Francisco staple. A design that was put into effect to mirror the Golden Gate strait. In laymen terms, it’s a sight of pure beauty. And in technical terms, it’s a suspension bridge that spans an entire mile of water (a gap where the Pacific Ocean meets the San Francisco Bay). The passage has been open since 1937 and is one of the most recognizable symbols in the entire country. As well as the world. Visit and gaze from afar, or actually drive across the golden beauty. Fun fact: it’s painted “international orange” to provide better visibility to boats in intense fog, which takes place frequently in the city of San Fra.

Golden Gate Bridge

 

The 12 Strangest Sayings in America

If you’ve had a chance to travel, you’ve noticed differences in the way people talk in other places. This is something that anyone who has traveled the U.S. is keenly aware that people in Seattle talk differently than New Yorkers, and Texans are a whole other kettle of fish again. Even then, we can usually figure out what people mean when they break out a colloquialism or a local version of an idiom. Sometimes, though, we’re left scratching our heads. Here are 12 of those strange sayings that will have you wondering if everyone’s still speaking English.

12. “Bang a U-ey” – Rhode Island

For most of us, “banging” something either means you’re making a big noise, like construction workers hammering nails into a wall or … well, you get the idea. We do use “bang” colloquially, but nowhere is the verb more colloquial than in Rhode Island where locals might tell you to “bang a U-ey” if you make a wrong turn. “U-ey” is pretty common slang for a U-turn. When Rhode Islanders tell you this, they just want you to make a U-turn, and there’s no need to make a lot of noise about it. The term might be related to the phrase “bang one out,” which essentially means to do something, but it sure sounds strange nonetheless. If you happen to be told to do this, your Rhode Island tour guide will likely be impressed if you just wheel it around, no questions asked.

Rhode Island

11. “Your wig’s a little loose” – Kentucky

The Bluegrass State is known for some of its quirky Southern slang, although it shares much of this lingo with other Southern states. One interesting phrase you might hear only in Kentucky is, “your wig’s a little loose” or “I think your wig’s a little loose.” This is essentially telling someone you think they’re crazy—not exactly a compliment. The phrase is comparable to idioms like “doesn’t have his head on straight” and “I think you have a few screws loose.” You needn’t be actually wearing a wig, in this case, your wig is more a metaphor than anything, so don’t worry about telling your Kentucky friends that you’re not even wearing a wig. Bets that this phrase got its start in the early days of the Union, when everyone was still wearing powdered wigs? We really hope so.

Kentucky 1

10. “Get a wiggle on” – South Dakota

The Dakotas get a bad rap: the weather isn’t all that great, there’s not much to see or do and the locals are friendly, but perhaps a little strange. One thing you’ll quickly notice is that South Dakotans, much like Minnesotans and North Dakotans, have some pretty odd turns of phrase. One of the most intriguing is “get a wiggle on,” which essentially means “hurry up.” Others might be familiar with the phrase “get a move on,” which uses the same construct and means the same thing. We’re not entirely sure why South Dakotans want everyone to wiggle to their destination, though maybe it has something to do with keeping warm during the harsh winter weather. Nonetheless, if a South Dakotan acquaintance happens to suggest you should get your wiggle on, you needn’t bust a move like you’re on the dance floor—a bit more spring in your step will do.

South Dakota

9. “Gotta get flat” – California

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Golden State has some pretty slangy terminology. While a lot of California colloquialisms have arisen from surf culture and then spread to a wider demographic through the magic of Hollywood, there are still a few turns of phrase that are uniquely Californian. One of those phrases might be “gotta get flat,” which, at first glance, seems pretty obtuse. Why do we need to get flattened out? Is this something to do with earthquakes? Or maybe it’s some new twist on “getting down.” It actually just means “I need to lie down”—and if you think about it, it makes perfect sense: we often talk about being “laid flat out” or “flat on our backs,” so “getting flat” would be lying down.

California

8. “Geez-o-Pete!” – Michigan

Michigan’s strangest idiom might seem relatively tame or even understandable from some points of view. It’s a sort of mild swear, certainly not as rude as some of the phrases you can find around the world. In some ways, it’s almost cute and it’s definitely Michigan. “Geez-o-Pete!” is an exclamation that’s sort of like “Jesus Mary Mother of God!” with much the same meaning and a kind of parallel structure in that it calls on Jesus and St. Peter. If you hear your Michiganian friends shouting this, you know something’s caught them off-guard and not in a way that’s made them happy. It’s just that polite company is likely forcing them to keep it G-rated—otherwise you might hear some other choice words instead of this phrase.

Michigan

7. “Just because a cat has her kittens in the oven don’t make them biscuits” – Vermont

Local pride is something you’ll run into in any number of states (and countries, for that matter), but Vermont seems to take the cake with their own colloquialism about what makes a local a local. Specifically, they might tell you that “just because a cat has her kittens in the oven don’t make them biscuits.” What they’re really saying is that even if you were born in Vermont, you’re not necessarily a Vermonter, just like putting those kittens in the oven doesn’t make them biscuits. Once an outsider, always an outsider in Vermont, it seems. It will apparently take a couple generations to be considered a real Vermonter. In the meantime, nobody’s said we can’t all enjoy maple syrup, fantastic fall colors and great skiing in the Green Mountains in the wintertime.

Vermont

6. “That dog won’t hunt” – Georgia

Georgia’s another Southern state with that peculiarly Southern way of speaking. Of course, the Peach State has its own lingo, and one of the native phrases is “that dog won’t hunt” or “that dog don’t hunt.” While outsiders might think nothing of this idiom, it’s actually a way of saying something won’t work—much like a dog that won’t hunt, something’s a little off. Other versions of the phrase include “that horse isn’t a runner” and the historical predecessor “that cock won’t fight,” which was used as a natural metaphor for an idea that was bound to fail during the heydays of cockfighting in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, if someone from the Peach State tells you the dog won’t hunt, you’d better go back to the drawing board.

Georgia

5. “Looks like 10 miles of dirt road” – Wyoming

Wyoming is a relatively “young” state and this Western state has been decidedly pastoral and rural throughout most of its history, even before statehood. With a large interest in ranching, the smallest population in the U.S. and a huge swath of land dotted by mountains and valleys, it’s little wonder that Wyoming’s slang would take on a distinctly rural flavor. The phrase “looks like 10 miles of dirt road” is an example of that. This phrase is pretty easy to figure out: it means someone looks disheveled or unwell. Dirt roads are often unkempt and bumpy, washed out by storms and rutted especially after use or the winter—so saying someone looks like 10 miles of that is not a compliment! If your hosts in Wyoming suggest you look like this, you might want to nip off and “freshen up.”

Wyoming

4. “I’m going by your house later” – Louisiana

At first glance, the phrase “I’m going by your house later” may not seem all that strange. In fact, some of us may have offered someone a ride home from a party or offered to drop something off because we were “going by later.” But in Louisiana, “going by your house later” doesn’t mean someone is just going to drive by like a bitter ex. It means they’re actually going to stop in and visit. Whereas people from other places might say, “I’m going to stop in later,” Louisianans like to keep you in suspense by suggesting that they’ll be in the neighborhood, at some point. Chances are that the phrase started off much like it’s used in other regions—to mean somebody’s place is on your way—but eventually just became another way of saying they were going to drop by.

Louisiana

3. “Red it up” – Pennsylvania

Have you made a bit of a mess of things? If you’re in Pennsylvania, chances are you won’t be told to “clean up.” No, Pennsylvanians are more apt to tell you to “red it up,” an odd turn of phrase that could catch most of us off-guard. It seems, at first glance, tangentially related to phrases like “paint the town red,” but the actual meaning of the phrase is a lot more buckled down and serious than we might imagine. It’s actually descended from the verb “to ready [up],” which means to make a room ready for a guest or to set the table for a meal. It might be related to other archaic uses like “ready the cannons.” The Pennsylvania Dutch introduced that particular idiom to English in the Keystone state. In the modern day, “ready” has been changed to “red,” even though the phrase still means the same.

Pennsylvania

2. “Butter my butt and call me a biscuit!” – Alabama

Alabama is probably best known for its Southern drawl, that oft-mimicked and mocked accent that is supposed to characterize people who hail from Alabama and the other states that make up the Deep South. Alabamans have a few expressions that set them apart from other Southern states. One of the best (and most mystifying) is “butter my butt and call me a biscuit!” This is an exclamation expressing delight at discovering something surprising yet pleasant. Other variants exist around the English-speaking world, such as “pin my tail and call me a donkey.” A close synonym is “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” Just don’t take the suggestion too literally if you’re visiting the Heart of Dixie—nobody actually wants to be buttered and called a biscuit, although they’d surely be surprised if you did!

Alabama

1. “Slap you naked and hide your clothes” – Missouri

This phrase comes to us from Missouri, although there might be variants on it around other parts of the South and the West. In other areas, we might have heard our parents threaten to “tan your hide” or “slap you silly” when we did something they didn’t like. In Missouri, the threat is to “slap you naked,” and then “hide your clothes” so you can’t go out again in public—at least, not unless you want to go out in the buff. Really, this seems like a pretty good threat. If your parents were to “tan your hide,” nobody would really know. If you get slapped naked and have your clothes hidden though, everybody’s going to know what happened—you get a bruised ego in addition. Best to mind your manners when you visit Missouri!

TommyBrison / Shutterstock.com
TommyBrison / Shutterstock.com

Top 6 Dishes to Eat in the Midwest

The Midwest is known as the heartland of the country. Not only because of its location, but because of the values its citizens possess. With their stereotypical thoughtfulness and businesses that help hold down the fort – with “fort” being our country, that is – the Midwest is often seen as the glue that helps hold America together. They’re that important. And did we mention they have some pretty good food? With such a broad span across the nation and roots that stick where they land, the Midwest has become home to some incredible dishes. Whether you’ve visited or are considering a trip just so you can test out the flavors, here are some Midwestern resident faves:

6. Deep Dish Pizza

Hailing from Chicago, the largest town in the entire Midwest (and one of the largest cities in the nation), this pizza is as filling as it is delicious. And when they say deep, they mean it. The crust is enough to fill you up on its own, let alone with all the toppings of choice. Just don’t be alarmed when it comes out red, sauce is traditionally placed on top, rather than underneath the toppings. Stop along a street stand for a slice on the go (though, in all reality, you’ll need a knife and a fork … and multiple napkins), or seek out a local favorite sit-down stop. Just know that, for the best stops, you’ll likely be waiting more than an hour!

deep dish pizza

5. Family-Style Meals

Because they’re known for families – often big ones – the Midwest is home to the “family-style meal.” This means large servings in bowls or large containers. Where dishes are all brought out at once and folks serve themselves … just like you’d eat at home. This can be found at both sit-down and fast-food restaurants, and is often a better deal for your buck. Generally you can choose the number of eaters, and a few sides as well, that way you’re getting a side sample, but still have a pick of your family’s (or friends’) favorites. Casseroles and salads – lettuce or otherwise – are often popular choices.

family meal

4. Wisconsin Cheese

They’re known for it, you’ve heard of it, and thousands eat it every year. And for good reason. This state offers up their favorite dairy dishes in all types of flavors and consistencies, and it’s delicious. If you haven’t yet graced your taste buds with their masterpieces, it’s high time you give it a try. There are even dairy tours for newbies to test out! So much cheese, and so much flavor; if you’re so inclined, pack some crackers for your tasting pleasure.

cheddar cheese

3. Loose Meat Sandwich

Often known as a sloppy Joe, the Midwest takes this classic dish to a new level. Which is to say they take out the tomato sauce, but not the mess. Depending on who’s cooking, the meal can come with various seasoning and breads, though it’s generally served on a bun, hamburger style, and served with traditional burger fare. Like pickles and onions. Brave your version and eat with your hands, or go the safe route (so as to not lose any food) and stick to a fork instead.

Loose Meat Sandwich

2. Juneberry Pie

Dark in color and very blueberry-esque, the Juneberry is a Dakota classic. They’re produced in the summer – hence it’s “June” name – and call for some seriously delicious pies to be made. (Other pastries are created, though pies remain as the local favorite.) Traditional Juneberry crust is made with almond flavoring for a nutty contrast with each bite. The real stuff even calls for almond slices for added texture and garnish.

berry pie

1. Cincinnati Chili

Chili is known in all regions with its respective differences, and in Cincinnati, that means noodles. Much like spaghetti, the chili is topped with a heavy helping of pasta. Chili flavors and add-ins vary from cook to cook, but are most often topped with a handful of cheddar cheese to help send the dish home. Personal favorites, such as jalapeno slices or sour cream, and oyster crackers are also welcome.

Cincinnati Chili

Lonely Planet’s Best of the U.S. 2015

America the beautiful… so many sights to see, places to explore and winding roads to follow. With all that choice it’s hard to decide where to spend your treasured vacation days but fear not, after reading this article you’ll likely have some new inspiration. As the year wraps up, the people at the ever popular travel guide publisher Lonely Plant have started making predictions and recommendations for your next year of travel.

This list showcases some amazing American locales with a variety ranging from old favorites to new up and coming destinations on the cusp of major tourist booms. With offerings highlighting the best of natural beauty, city life, culture and the rugged west, there’s a destination to suit every kind of traveler. Oh, you’re already asking what about the foodies? Well, all you culinary travelers, no need to worry because the whole country has been going through a sort of local food resurgence, so no matter where you go you can expect something delicious to be waiting around every corner.

10. Mount Shasta Region, California

Tucked away in California’s lesser known northern end lies the majestic Mount Shasta. It’s landscape reminiscent of scenes from such far flung places like Mount Fuji in Japan or Mount Ararat in Turkey. This potentially active volcano lies among Native American tribal lands and has long been regarded as a deeply spiritual place and a center of creation.

Of course climbing the 14,179 ft ascent to the summit is a popular activity during the summer time for both experienced trekkers heading for the top or those just exploring the more leisurely trails, but those not up for that kind of challenge can explore Mount Shasta city which lies at the base of the volcano. This quaint city offers B&B’s, adorable inn’s, cafes and locally owned shops that blend old time charm with new age appeal. Come visit this region for excellent nearby trout fishing, many hiking opportunities, a city teaming with charm and the chance to enjoy one of California’s lesser known natural wonders.

Mount Shasta, California

9. Duluth, Minnesota

Another great American outdoor destination, Duluth lies between the crashing waves of Lake Superior on one side and snow-capped mountains on the other.  Being surrounded by all this natural beauty it’s no wonder that 150 Olympic athletes call Duluth their hometown.

One major highlight of the area is the 290 mile Superior Hiking Trail which runs around the lake enroute to the Canadian border. The trail passes some spectacular sights such as waterfalls, red-rock outcrops and if you’re lucky maybe some wildlife. The trail isn’t the end of the outdoor adventures to be had either, in the winter there’s nearby skiing, zip-ling in the summer and the lake offers the opportunity for watersports like kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing and boating. Another familiar Duluth native is legendary musician Bob Dylan, who’s album ‘Highway 61’ turns 50 in 2015. Visit this Minnesota gem and check out his birthplace or take a road trip on the actual Highway 61 and see where you end up.

Duluth, Minnesota

8. Oakland, California

The city of Oakland hasn’t always been considered a great American tourist destination but thanks to sky-high real estate and cost of living in neighbouring San Francisco, people are moving east of the bay to the more affordable city of Oakland, bring with them the trendy hipster vibe of the bay area.

As the city flourishes, it’s come to host innovative restaurants like the Michelin-rated Commis where you can enjoy an 8-course dinner for $95 or experience a modern twist on soul food at Brown Sugar Kitchen. Aside from eating the city also has a booming arts culture which can be explored during Oakland’s Art Murmur, which is a doors open art gallery event on the first Friday of each month. Or for an amazing live music or performance experience visit one of the city’s historic theaters like the Fox, Paramount, or Grand Lake theatres. No matter how you choose to spend your time in Oakland, we know you’ll see how this city’s come a long way and will surely enjoy some much due tourist attention in 2015.

cdrin / Shutterstock.com
cdrin / Shutterstock.com

7. Greenville, South Carolina

This next entry makes us believe the people at Lonely Planet are really pushing outdoor exploration and activity for 2015! But that’s ok with us, especially when it comes in the form of a place as beautiful as Greenville South Carolina.

Six rugged state parks are within easy driving range of this city that favors those who appreciate natural beauty. Right in the city itself you’ll find one of the best natural attractions around; the Reedy River. With trails and gardens winding along its banks, rent a bicycle from Greenville B-Cycle and take a ride along this picturesque waterfront. Explore the city’s revitalized Main Street area for local shops, cafes, craft-beer restaurants and review-worthy restaurants. Make sure you keep your eyes out for the “Mice on Main”! For the best blend of attractive natural scenery and a city that offers so much for explorers and families alike, make sure you check out Greenville this coming year.

Falls Park, Greenville, South Carolina

6. Indianapolis, Indiana

Reading the next city on this list you might think Lonely Planet is off the mark but believe us when we say Indy has a surprising amount of interesting things to see and do! Race fans can check out the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway where you can actually take a spin around the track. The Indy Zoo also has a great new International Orangutan Center where you can get up close and personal with these fascinating animals. The Indianapolis restaurant scene doesn’t disappoint diners with a range from local farm to table establishments, world class steakhouses and trendy brewhouses.

Families especially have the upper hand here as the kids can enjoy the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the world’s largest museum just for the kiddies. In 2015 the museum turns 90 years old so you can bet there will be appropriate celebrations. Come for the vintage carousel or come for the enormous dinosaur collection but either way come to Indy.

Indianapolis Indiana

5. North Conway, New Hampshire

Alright, so there’s not a lot going on in the small New Hampshire Village known as North Conway, but that’s exactly the reason it’s made this list. A far cry from busy city life, this destination is quintessentially New England with quaint B&B’s, covered bridges worthy of landscape paintings and scenery that just won’t quit.

The best time to visit this area is in the fall when the trees are seemingly ablaze with vivid colors of red, orange and yellow. You can take a hike to see the colors upclose on one of the many area trails, or drive the famed Kancamagus Highway. Alternatively, take a relaxing ride on the Conway Scenic Railway which makes its way through the New England country side and gives guests the opportunity to site back, relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery in comfort and luxury. The village of North Conway celebrates its 250th birthday in 2015 so there’s no better time to visit this quaint countryside.

North Conway, New Hampshire

4. Colorado River region

This choice by lonely planet speaks not to a specific city but to the beauty and natural wonder of the famous Colorado River and the areas it flows through.  Starting in Colorado’s legendary Rocky Mountain National Park, the 1,450 mile waterway then flows through Utah’s Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park before flowing through Arizona and the spectacular Grand Canyon.

While the river itself is more than worthy of your tourism time, the many interesting spots along its route could easily make an amazing road trip. Check out the city of Moab Utah, famous for dessert adventures and once in a lifetime hiking trips in the nearby parks. In Arizona, the 290 mile stretch of the Colorado that flows through the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead features nearly 100 rapids, with amazing sights and some remote beaches along the way. In a world of environmental uncertainty, take advantage of this natural wonder while it’s still here to enjoy.

Colorado River

3. New Orleans, Louisiana

Flash back 10 years ago and New Orleans was under water. The tragedy of hurricane Katrina may be gone but not forgotten and 2015 marks the 10th anniversary so what better time to come to New Orleans and experience the blend of old and new. Yes, the Big Easy isn’t just back, it’s thriving, and it shows in everything from the music, to the food to the cultural celebrations that make this city so special.

The people of New Orleans pride themselves on tradition but they’re not afraid to mix it up once in a while either. Experience this new life fused with old traditions at Pêche Seafood Grill where James Beard Award winning chef Ryan Prewitt prepares modern coastal seafood dishes in an open hearth over hardwood coals. Oh, did we mention the restaurant also won the 2014 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant? Most come to New Orleans looking for nightlife and the city’s live music scene is alive and well so be prepared to experience the best jazz, bounce, rock and brass bands the city has to offer.

Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock.com
Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock.com

2. Western South Dakota

Few places in the country are as ruggedly beautiful as the wild expanse of Western South Dakota. So vastly different to the big cities that one might forget exactly what country they’re in…but just when you might start to forget you’re reminded by the giant rock carvings of 4 noble men.

In 2015 there are a number of events of note happening in this region. First at Custer State Park, they’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo Roundup. This event sees skilled cowboys and cowgirls move 1400 buffalo to their winter grazing home. Witnessing this wild event is definitely a sight to behold. Another parade of sorts is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which is the largest motorcycle gathering in the world and happens each August. This year the more than 500,000 participants will be celebrating the events 75th anniversary so you can bet the 2015 Rally will be bigger and louder than ever!

Custer State Park South Dakota

1. Queens, New York

It’s a secret that mostly just New Yorkers are clued in to; Queens the city’s largest of the 5 boroughs has been on the rise for a while and is quickly becoming one of the trendiest. It’s a secret that Lonely Planet wants travelers to know about for 2015 as they deemed this New York locale their #1 for Best of the US 2015.

With more and more people relocating to Queens for the (slightly) more affordable living and less congested lifestyle it’s no wonder so many great new things are spring up here, from chic new hotels to craft breweries and innovative local eateries. It’s also home to the city’s largest Chinatown and a flourishing arts scene thanks to places like Queens Museum, the Museum of the Moving Image, and many arts festivals. So forget Manhattan (ok don’t forget it but expand your travel horizons) and come explore Queens this year.

Long Island City, Queens New York

The 10 Best Day Hikes in America

Whatever your experience or location, in America there are so many hikes that you’ll always be faced with a tough choice as to which one you want to tackle.  From swamps in the south to canyons in the west, via the spectacular southern monoliths, giving a definitive list of the best hikes in the country is, quite possibly, an impossible task.  Here’s a few that, given the chance, you definitely should not miss.

1. Letchworth State Park, New York

The park is known  as ‘The Grand Canyon on the East’, and for good reason, as the Genesee River snakes and tumbles its way down the gorge it has cut through the beautiful surrounding forest.  An excellent day hike for all experience levels will take you about 11 km through the canyon past the lower, middle and upper falls, with plenty of places to stop along the way to take in the views, picnic and learn about the history of the Genesee valley area.  If you don’t want to stop at hiking, other activities are readily available, including white water rafting, and snow tubing in the winter.  The park has many campgrounds for overnight visitors.

Letchworth State Park

2. Border Route Trail, Minnesota

The clue’s in the name as the trail hugs the border between Minnesota and Ontario, following the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).  The trail is 65 miles long in all, so unless you’re planning on an impromptu ironman triathlon, taking on the whole thing in a day is probably out of the question.  The Border Route can be accessed by connecting trails though, making a day hike possible along the rugged ridges and cliffs that it follows, which give way to stunning views over the surrounding wilderness.  Be sure to plan ahead and grab the Border Route Trail guide and map before you head off.

Border Route Trail

3. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park’s landscape is a mix of steep sided eroded hills and canyons – where it gets its name – and expansive grass lands, so the trails and hikes here are really as difficult as you want them to be, and there are plenty to take on in a day.  The Castle Trail is a great day hike at 16 km round trip, and passes along some of the badlands formations along the way.  If you’re not looking for anything too strenuous the Door and Fossil Exhibit boardwalk trails give you great views, as well as information about the history and wildlife of the park without too much physical work.  The Ben Reifel Visitor Center has all the information you need before heading out.

Badlands National Park

4. Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm, Washington

The landscape this stunning trail meanders through is somewhat of an anomaly.  When you stop and take in the surrounding scenes you’ll be met with nothing but beautiful, quintessentially rugged mountainous splendour, which doesn’t match the perch you inhabit.  The striking greenery of the trail is made possible through a number of factors and makes for some of the most breathtaking terrain you’re likely to see.  Highlights include the sudden view of Doubtful Lake, with Sahale glacier and mountain climbing high into the background, as well as world class camping at the glacier terminus.  And a good chance of spying a bear.  The hike is a 12 mile round trip and isn’t a casual affair, so be sure to plan ahead, and take all the correct supplies and permits.

Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm

5. Enchanted Valley, Washington

A round trip hike through the famous valley is over 20 miles in total, and is definitely one to take on when time isn’t an issue.  Great day hikes are a possibility though, such as the Graves Creek to Pony Bridge track, which follows a section of the East Fork of the Quinault River through a deep channel to the Bridge.  The walk takes you through imposingly high trees, through a canyon and onto views off the bridge of the river and falls way below.  In winter stay sharp as huge elk herds mass in the area.

Enchanted Valley Washington

6. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

This Northern Californian park is dominated by Lassen Peak, one of the world’s largest plug dome volcanoes, and attracts close to half a million visitors annually. Lassen Volcanic National Park features a range of contrasting scenery, from towering lava peaks to colourful wildflower valleys, joined by rich coniferous woodland. There are a number of great day hikes to take on throughout the park, at varying levels of difficulty, and some of the best are in the Warner Valley Area, which is alive with geothermal activity. The Devil’s Kitchen and Terminal Geyser trails are a manageable distance and take hikers through a maze of bubbling mud-holes and steaming vents.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

7. Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

Around 25 miles southwest of Amarillo lies the second largest canyon in the US, Palo Duro, carved into the landscape by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.  One of the best and most travelled trails in the park is the Lighthouse trail which leads to the eponymous rock formation, just over 5 miles round trip.  You can couple this with a wander along some of the shorter, easy trails scattered through the canyon; the Paeso Del Rio and Pioneer Nature Trail give you staggering views of the surrounding landscape, as well as a peak into the past, passing by cowboy hideouts dating back to the 19th century.  Due to the climate be sure to plan ahead and take a lot of water.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

8. Congaree, South Carolina

Most of the trails at Congaree National Park lie beneath some of the oldest woodland in the US, which includes some incredible pines.  Trails start and spread out from a centralized boardwalk loop separated into two sections – the low boardwalk sits just above the swampy forest floor, while the elevated portion creeps higher through the massive ancient trees.  A variety of trails spiral off into the park, the longest being the King Snake Trail (11 miles one direction) which dives deepest into the surrounding wilderness, increasing your chances of catching a glimpse of the abundant local wildlife.  Lookout for deer, wild pigs and turkeys, and a bobcat if you’re lucky.  Check trail conditions ahead of time as a lot of the park is submerged outside of summer months.

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

9. Angels Landing, Zion Canyon, Utah

Along with a map and food and water, a head for heights is a definite prerequisite for this famous hike.  The trail is about 5 miles round trip and the first section to the foot of the mountain is an easy amble alongside the Virgin River, before the track steepens and starts to hairpin its way up the steep slope.  Before you take on the final ascent, rest at Scout Lookout and take in the amazing views down Zion Canyon.  The last half mile is an intense hike along a narrow ridge, with drops of around 1000m on either side.  Anchored chains are in place for grip at points along the way.  The views from the summit are like nothing else you’ll ever witness, as the sheer red cliffs give way to the meandering river over a kilometre below.

Zion Canyon

10. The Franconia Ridge, New Hampshire

This popular 9 mile loop traverses the three peaks of Mount Lincoln, Mount Lafayette and Little Haystack, and is manageable in a day.  The loop consists of a number of trails, including the Falling Water, Greenleaf and Fraconia Ridge trails, and as the names suggest the scenery on show is gorgeous.  The peaks of the mountains and connecting ridge are pretty exposed making for stunning, uninterrupted views, as well as changeable conditions and cold winds outside summertime, so be sure to pack for all eventualities.  For possibly the best experience take a winter hike, with all the right planning and gear of course.

Franconia Notch Ridge Trail #2