With so many worthwhile places to explore in and around Texas, Dallas tends to get overshadowed by its bigger, more popular brothers like Austin and Houston. This is a shame, as Dallas is home to some of the most unique history, art, and attractions available anywhere in the world.
As proof, below are five unique things to see and do in Dallas that can’t be found anywhere else.
Site and Museum of JFK Assassination
As home to one of the most tragic events in American history, Dallas hosts lots of attractions around the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Your historic tour can start at the site of the assassination itself, Dealey Plaza. Around the plaza, you can check out such landmarks as the Texas School Book Depository, the Grassy Knoll, and Elm Street. While these landmarks might otherwise seem unspectacular, the fact that they belong to such an important piece of history gives them an air of uniqueness. Moreover, these landmarks have mostly been left unchanged, making you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
After getting your fix of the landmarks outside, you can head to the JFK assassination museum inside the former Texas School Book Depository. Opened in 1989, the museum chronicles the life, achievements, and assassination of JFK from historical, social, and cultural perspectives. You can check out more than 60,000 artifacts, including hundreds of photographs from the scene, analysis of the film of the tragic event, and a deep dive into the many conspiracy theories surrounding JFK’s assassination. You can even see the exact window that Oswald fired from.
House of Blues Dallas
Keep the good times rolling by checking out the House of Blues. The House of Blues is home to live music, original folk art, and delta-inspired cuisine. Considering it’s deeply influenced by southern tradition, the venue hosts plenty of folk- and blues-heavy musical performances. Heavily inspired by Juke Joints, the establishment has plenty of hand-painted signs and decor adorning its walls. In addition to the aesthetics and musical performances, the House of Blues serves authentic southern cuisine. This includes New Orleans jambalaya and gumbo, Lowcountry shrimp and grits, house-smoked Carolina pulled-pork barbeque, Memphis-style baby back ribs, and Delta fried chicken.
With either a group of friends, your loved ones, or just by yourself, a night out to the House of Blues is an absolute staple when visiting Dallas.
If you rather not stick to one place, you can check Deep Ellum. Named after the neighborhood’s main artery Elm Street, Deep Ellum offers plenty of live music, good eats, one-off shops, and groovy bars to take a load off.
Considering it’s been an entertainment district since the 1880s, if you can think of a blues legend, there’s a good chance that they’ve played at one of the many clubs and live venues at some point in the district’s history. Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, and Bessie Smith are just a few of the iconic blues legends to lend their sounds to roaring crowds in the 1910s and 1920s. More recently, venues in Deep Ellum have hosted plenty of household names from the 90s and 2000s. For example, Trees Dallas hosted such musical acts as Nirvana, Snoop Dogg, The Flaming Lips, Death Grips, Daughter, The Wailers, Nick Jonas, and Run the Jewels. If music isn’t at the top of your priority list, you’ll be happy to know that Deep Ellum has a slew of restaurants. There are options for ramen, tacos, sushi, and southern comfort food, along with craft breweries/distilleries.
Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park
There are regular amusement parks. Then there’s Dallas’s Zero Gravity “Thrill Amusement Park”. Founded in 1992, the park’s single goal is being the most extreme amusement park in the world. A quick glance at the names of these extreme thrill rides — Bungee Jump, the Nothin’ But Net, Texas Blastoff, the Skycoaster, and the Skyscraper — indicates that the park has already achieved it.
Due to the intense nature of their rides, Zero Gravity requires patrons to sign a one-page release form before getting on any of them. If that sounds off-putting, you can take some refuge in the fact that Zero Gravity claims to be incident-free in its nearly two decades of operation. If you’re looking for something more than just a mediocre roller coaster, Zero Gravity breathes new life into the traditional amusement park experience.
If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of walking tours available. These tours can help you get your bearings and see what’s available. Depending on when you’re visiting Dallas, you can experience one of the district’s famous Block Parties. These parties attract more than 50,000 people every year.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including its attractions. Bigger in entertainment, bigger in taste, and bigger in variety. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a city with a wider selection of things to do and see than Houston, Texas.
To give you a peek into the fun to be had during your next visit, below are five essential things to do and see in Houston.
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
You can’t visit Texas and not attend a rodeo. If you’re visiting Houston between late February and early March, you can join along with the hoards of hollering fans flooding NRG Stadium to cheer on daily rodeo shows. These shows include bull riding, steer wrestling, bareback riding, tie-down roping, and barrel racing. Also featured during rodeo season are livestock shows. These shows consist of livestock auctions, calf scrambles, and horse shows. Keep in mind that rodeo shows run on a tight schedule. They start at 6:45 p.m. on the weekdays and 3:45 p.m. on the weekends. Ticket prices and availability vary, so check out Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s website for the most up-to-date information.
Even if rodeos may not seem like your thing, the local spirit surrounding the event makes it well worth checking out. Plus, worst-case scenario, there are many other attractions, activities, and events surrounding the event that you can fall back on. This includes an amusement park, concerts, parades, barbecue contests, and trail rides.
Space Center Houston
To allow people to come and see the facilities behind such a monumental historic feat as the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, NASA created the Space Center Houston visitor center. You can walk through replicas of the space shuttle Independence and space station Skylab, get your hands on a rock from the moon, and even meet an astronaut.
For real space enthusiasts, there’s the option to sign up for the Level 9 tour. This tour offers an in-depth look at the behind-the-scenes operations at the Johnson Space Center. Although only a very limited 12 tickets are sold per day, this tour provides exclusive access to such things as the center’s Buoyancy Lab, the ISS Mission Control, simulation labs, and other areas off-limits to regular tours. If you choose this tour, make sure to set aside four to five hours out of your day. For a less in-depth, more convenient way to check out the Houston Space Center, sign up for a NASA’s Space Center Houston and City Sightseeing Tour. This tour includes free admission to the space center, as well as a bonus 1.5-hour open-air bus tour around Houston.
With plenty of sand to walk through, sun to soak in, and seaside restaurants and shops to explore, a quick, hour drive to the beach town of Galveston is the perfect way to spend a day. If you’re fortunate enough to visit during the warmer months, the beach is must-see. In fact, it offers shallow, turquoise water stretching out as far as the eye can see. Between dips in the water, you can take a walk to the nearby Pleasure Pier for some Instagram-worthy moments. If twiddling your thumbs on the beach doesn’t interest you, explore the town’s deep history, restaurants, shops, and other offerings. Other attractions worth checking out include the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum, the Texas Seaport Museum, the Strand Historic District, and Moody Gardens.
If you don’t have a full day to dedicate to visiting Galveston, you can just take an organized tour to the island. For instance, the Houston Sightseeing Tour and Galveston Day Trip tour. It comes with a 90-minute double-decker bus tour of main attractions around Houston, as well as transportation to and from Galveston.
If trails, open sky, and plenty of open space sound like a good time to you, then a visit to Buffalo Bayou is a must. Founded in 1986, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) has since implemented more than $200 million in improvements for the redevelopment and stewardship of the waterfront. They have spearheaded award-winning capital projects, protected land for future parks and green space, constructed hike and bike trails, and operated comprehensive clean-up and maintenance programs.
In 2015, BBP completed the $58 million Buffalo Bayou Park project. This 160-acres of green space lies west of downtown Houston. It includes:
Hike and bike trails;
Paddle craft and bike rentals;
The go-to dog park in the city;
A creative nature play area;
Two visitor centers and;
Gathering places for visitors to picnic, relax, and enjoy outdoor activities.
Together, these different activities, attractions, tours, and programs attract tens of thousands of visitors each year.
Original Ninfa’s on Navigation
If you had the chance to eat in a restaurant that was created when Texas was still part of Mexico, would you do it? Of course, you would!
Opened in 1973 — when Texas was in fact still part of Mexico — Original Ninfa’s offers a truly unique dining experience. While the authentic decor and atmosphere may be what first pull you in, the food itself is what will make you ultimately stay. From the stiff and delicious margaritas, to the colorful chile con queso, to the perfectly charred fajitas, you’re bound to be delighted no matter what you order from the menu. While Original Ninfa’s on Navigation was sold to new ownership in 2005 after the passing of creator Mama Ninfa in 2001, it still retains the original flavors, atmosphere, and heritage that made it famous in the first place.
Ninfa’s Uptown got their shades and heaters in the nick of time for Game 3!! Join us tonight on the patio and in the bar area to watch the @astros#TakeItBack with Happy Hour cocktails and taco specials running throughout the entire game! 🍹⚾️🔥 pic.twitter.com/ZLvf81C6aL
The United States is ripe with amazing cities to live in and travel to (in fact, here are some of our favorite cities to visit in the US). Despite ongoing concerns over firearm violence in America, the country as a whole is safer than you might realize. In fact, with a violent crime rate of 369 incidents committed for every 100,000 people in 2018, the U.S. is statistically the safest it’s been in the last three decades. Unfortunately, safety can look quite different at a local level than it does nationally. When it comes to individual cities, there are definitely some that are considered more dangerous than others.
Using the FBI’s most recent crime data from its 2018 Uniform Crime Reporting Program, we’ve ranked the cities with the highest violent crime rates in the country. This population-adjusted statistic measures all violent crimes and is a useful tool for determining how dangerous a city is.
We should note that just because a city is declared dangerous, doesn’t mean it should be avoided altogether. You’ll find there are safe neighborhoods in even the worst cities. Still, we’d recommend exercising caution if you’re thinking of traveling to one of the following 25 cities, which rank as the most dangerous in the U.S. in 2020.
25. Chattanooga, Tennessee
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,048 Property Crimes Per 100k: 6,058
Surrounded by mountains and nestled along the Tennessee River, Chattanooga more than lives up to its official nickname of “Scenic City”. However, those looking to explore the great outdoors in Chattanooga should take heed of the city’s high violent crime rate. While homicides were low, the city experienced 783 cases of aggravated assault per 100,000 people in 2018 — more than triple the national average.
The good news is that local authorities are taking steps to address the problem. More than 30 surveillance cameras have been installed across the city over the last three years to help increase public safety in Chattanooga’s most dangerous areas.
24. Beaumont, Texas
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,059 Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,783
With a violent crime rate of 1,059 per 100,000 residents, Beaumont just narrowly tops Houston as the most dangerous major city in the Lone Star state. Much like Chattanooga, Beaumont has an aggravated assault problem, with a whopping 798 reported in 2018. In 2019, Beaumont has also experienced more homicides than the previous year and city officials are desperate to change the narrative.
“Per ca-pita, we are the murder capital of the state of Texas, and we want to change that, we’re not satisfied with that,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham.
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,065 Property Crimes Per 100k: 5,430
While it may not be under attack by masked criminals like in HBO’s hit 2019 series Watchmen, the real-life city of Tulsa is still a dangerous place. In fact, based on its violent crime rate, Tulsa is the most dangerous major city in the state of Oklahoma.
While there’s a lot to love about Tulsa, including a thriving craft beer scene and a world-renowned art museum, its violent crime rate is not one of them. Firearm violence, in particular, has been a major problem for Tulsa, which has prompted police to more than double the number of firearms confiscated since 2011.
22. Hartford, Connecticut
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,066 Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,602
The capital city of Connecticut, Hartford is also known as the “Insurance Capital of the World” thanks to the many insurance companies headquartered there. It also holds the distinction of being one of the oldest cities in the United States and a great destination for history buffs. In spite of these distinctions, Hartford is a city currently suffering through a high crime rate and economic woes.
Hartford’s violent crime rate of 1,066 incidents per 100,000 people can be at least partly attributed to the city’s high unemployment and poverty. The unemployment rate (7.0%) and poverty rate (30.5%) are both well above the national average of 3.9% and 14.9%, respectively.
21. Lansing, Michigan
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,108 Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,030
The capital of Michigan (that’s right, it’s not Detroit!), Lansing is home to Michigan State University — one of the largest universities in the country — and is an important cultural, commercial, and industrial hub. Unfortunately, Lansing is held back by higher than average violent crime and poverty. The city’s main issue is aggravated assault, which accounted for nearly 74% of the 1,301 violent crimes reported in 2018.
The good news is the Department of Justice awarded Michigan more than $122 million earlier this year to help curb violent crime, so the situation stands to get better in Lansing going forward.
20. Nashville, Tennessee
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,113 Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,011
With its unbeatable live music scene and an amazing selection of bars and restaurants, it’s no surprise Nashville is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US. But what you won’t find on your typical list of the best things to do in Nashville are the city’s crime statistics, which are actually quite alarming.
Believe it or not, Nashville’s violent crime rate is more than triple the national average, with aggravated assaults leading the way. In fact, the city’s Metro Police reported that aggravated assaults were up 23% in 2019, which suggests things may be getting worse in Nashville.
However, this doesn’t mean you should cancel your trip to “Music City, USA”. As long as you take precautions and avoid Nashville’s most dangerous spots, there’s no reason you can’t safely take in the Grand Ole Opry.
19. New Orleans, Louisiana
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,163 Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,557
The home of Creole cuisine and Mardi Gras, New Orleans is one of the most unique cities in the United States. But while the city has benefited greatly from redevelopment efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s mass devastation, crime continues to be a major issue in “The Big Easy”.
Homicides are especially high in New Orleans, with the city’s homicide rate (37 per 100,000 people) ranking fifth-highest among mid – to large-size American cities. Fortunately, the 141 homicides New Orleans saw in 2018 were actually the lowest total since 1971 and that downward trend has continued in 2019, so things might be looking up for Louisiana’s most populous city.
18. Wichita, Kansas
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,179 Property Crimes Per 100k: 5,618
Wichita is the largest city in the state of Kansas and a major aeronautical hub, earning it the nickname of “The Air Capital of the World”. While Wichita’s unemployment and poverty rates fall within national averages, the city has experienced a “precipitous increase” in violent crime over the last three years.
The situation has gotten bad enough that earlier this year, Wichita sought federal help. The city is now a participant in the U.S. Department of Justice National Safety Partnership, a national program that aims to drive down crime. The three-year program provides training and technical assistance to the Wichita Police Department at no extra cost.
17. Indianapolis, Indiana
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,272 Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,129
Home to the Pacers and Colts, Indianapolis is also where you’ll find the world’s largest children’s museum and one of the largest privately funded zoos in the country. The city is an economic hub for the state of Indiana and boasts an unemployment rate lower than the national average. Unfortunately, Indianapolis’s violent crime rate makes it the most dangerous city in the state, with hate crimes and firearm violence, in particular, standing out as pain points.
The good news is that Indianapolis has made great strides in tackling its firearm problems in recent years. There are now several intervention programs in place, including firearm buyback events designed to get firearms off the streets.
16. Oakland, California
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,273 Property Crimes Per 100k: 5,390
For years, Oakland has struggled to break free of its reputation as a dangerous city. Unfortunately, statistics only help support the reality of Oakland being one of the most dangerous places to live in California. While the city’s violent crime rate did go down a bit in 2018, it still sits nearly four times the national average. The robbery rate in Oakland (610 incidents per 100,000 people) is especially concerning, trailing only Baltimore as the highest in the country.
There is reason to be optimistic about crime prevention in Oakland though. The city’s police department now uses a high tech program developed in nearby Silicon Valley called Law Enforcement Analysis Portal to help collect and analyze large amounts of crime data.
15. Anchorage, Alaska
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,309 Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,927
Home to more than 41% of Alaska’s entire population, Anchorage is an important northern economic center that boasts spectacular views (six different mountain ranges make up its skyline). Sadly, along with being the most northern capital city in the U.S., Anchorage holds the unfortunate distinction of being the country’s sexual assault capital.
With 210 reported sexual assaults for every 100,000 people, Anchorage has the highest rate of any US city with a population of at least 100,000. The reasons for this are complex but it’s not just Anchorage suffering from violent crimes. Alaska as a whole is considered the most dangerous state for women, with 59% of women who live there having experienced violence.
14. Springfield, Missouri
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,316 Property Crimes Per 100k: 7,019
Home to three universities — Missouri State University, Drury University, and Evangel University — Springfield has the look and feel of your average midwestern college town. However, this unassuming city has a surprisingly high violent crime rate, nearly three times that of Missouri as a whole.
In an effort to curb violent crime, Springfield Police recently formed the “Career Criminal Task Force” alongside the FBI to target repeat offenders. “We’re going to go after the bad guys and we’re going to put them in jail. People deserve to feel safe,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt told KSPR.
13. San Bernardino, California
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,333 Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,135
Home to the very first McDonald’s restaurant (now a McDonald’s Museum), San Bernardino is an inland California city that lies along the iconic Route 66. Unfortunately, the city has become better known for its struggling economy over the last 25 years. The closing of Norton Air Force Base in 1994 cost San Bernardino 10,000 jobs and the city has never truly recovered.
San Bernardino was declared America’s second poorest city behind Detroit in 2011 and while things have somewhat improved, more than 30% of residents still live below the poverty line. Areas with limited economic opportunities tend to have high crime, so it’s little surprise the violent crime rate in San Bernardino is nearly four times the national average.
12. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,364 Property Crimes Per 100k: 6,179
Although it never had to deal with a drug kingpin named Heisenberg, the real-life Albuquerque, New Mexico has crime problems of its own. Incidents of sexual assault and homicide are more than double the national average, while aggravated assaults are three times as common.
The fact that Albuquerque accounts for half of all crime in New Mexico while only being home to a quarter of the state’s population prompted the city’s mayor Tim Keller to ask for state help. We’ll have to wait until the FBI releases its 2020 data to see if the situation in Albuquerque improves.
11. Rockford, Illinois
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,386 Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,671
Although Chicago is probably the first city that springs to mind when you think of crime in Illinois, the Windy City is actually not the most dangerous place in the state. With a violent crime rate of 1,386 incidents per 100,000 people, Rockford stands as the most dangerous city in Illinois.
Despite economic revitalization efforts creating new jobs in the automotive, aerospace, and healthcare industries over the last few decades, Rockford continues to struggle economically. Both its unemployment rate (6.8%) and poverty rate (22.2%) sit well above national averages.
10. Stockton, California
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,399 Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,768
With a violent crime rate of 1,399 incidents per 100,000 people, Stockton ranks as California’s most dangerous city and the 10th most dangerous in the country. Home to the oldest university in California — The University of the Pacific — Stockton has a rich history, being one of the hubs of the 19th century Gold Rush.
Unfortunately, the 2008 financial crisis hit Stockton especially hard and in 2012, it became the largest city in US history to file for bankruptcy protection (Detroit would surpass it the following year). Despite exiting bankruptcy in 2013, job opportunities in Stockton remain slim, with 6.9% of the city’s labor force unemployed in 2018.
9. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,413 Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,971
Milwaukee is often associated with its proud brewing tradition and cold Midwestern winters; not violent crime. Alas, with 1,413 violent crimes for every 100,000 people, the home of the Bucks is not only the most dangerous city in Wisconsin but the United States as a whole. Researchers have pointed to segregation and the opioid crisis being major factors behind Milwaukee’s violence, though a poverty rate nearly doubles the national average also hasn’t helped matters.
Much like the young Parkland survivors, Milwaukee’s youth have become heavily involved in violence prevention. 414LIFE and other organizations are currently working to establish a youth violence interruption coalition in the city’s school system.
8. Little Rock, Arkansas
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,446 Property Crimes Per 100k: 6,547
Don’t let the name fool you. Despite having a name one would associate with a quaint American town, Little Rock has a shockingly high crime rate. In 2018, the city saw 1,446 violent crimes for every 100,000 people, nearly quadruple the national rate.
Property crime is also a major problem in Little Rock, with non-violent crimes like burglary and larceny leading the way. The city’s property crime rate ranks third among U.S. cities with populations of 100,000 or more. It’s a shame too, as Little Rock does have some decent attractions and boasts great walks down by the Arkansas River.
7. Cleveland, Ohio
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,449 Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,411
Crime is a serious issue in all major Ohio cities with the exception of Columbus, which does not rank on the FBI’s list of the 50 most dangerous U.S. cities. Out of all of them, Cleveland has the unfortunate distinction of being the most dangerous city in Ohio.
Despite thriving healthcare and tech sectors, Cleveland has alarming poverty and unemployment figures. 6.5% of the labor force is out of work, while a staggering 35.2% of the population live below the poverty line. These factors have helped drive a violent crime rate four times the national average.
6. Kansas City, Missouri
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,590 Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,306
The biggest question most people have about Kansas City is, “Why isn’t it in Kansas?” But the question we really should be asking is, “Why is the city so violent?” After all, poverty isn’t a major problem in Kansas City and its unemployment rate is actually lower than the national average.
And yet, violent crime is out of control in Kansas City, with the city on course to see a record number of homicides in 2019. A 4-year wave of firearm violence has left Kansas City grasping for solutions. However, firearm violence is a problem across Missouri as a whole, meaning KC will likely have to wait for a solution to be found at the state level.
5. St. Louis, Missouri
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,800 Property Crimes Per 100k: 5,911
Believe it or not, Kansas City is not the most dangerous place in Missouri. That title goes to St. Louis, a major economic hub and home to ten Fortune 500 companies. Unfortunately, low unemployment has done little to curb violence in St. Louis, which saw 187 homicides in 2018.
When adjusted for population, St. Louis’s homicide rate of 61 incidents per 100,000 people make it the homicide capital of the U.S. In recent years, fed up residents have been putting pressure on Missouri lawmakers to change the state’s firearm laws. But with no solutions in sight, it may be some time before St. Louis residents see any relief.
4. Baltimore, Maryland
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,833 Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,495
Baltimore, Maryland is a city obsessed with preservation. Nearly one-third of the city’s buildings are designated as historic, more than any other U.S. city. Unfortunately, recent history is something the city’s residents likely want to forget, as Baltimore continues to rank as one of the country’s most dangerous places.
With 309 recorded homicides in 2018, Baltimore is easily one of the most violent and dangerous major cities in America. The city’s homicide rate of 51 per 100,000 only trails St. Louis while the robbery rate of 837 incidents per 100,000 people is the highest in the country. According to the New York Times, violent crime has spiked since the infamous passing of Freddie Gray in 2015 and it’s showing no signs of getting better anytime soon.
3. Birmingham, Alabama
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,911 Property Crimes Per 100k: 6,313
Once known as “The Magic City”, today Birmingham is the most populous city in Alabama and one of the largest banking centers in the U.S. Yet for all its economic successes, Birmingham has an alarming crime rate that sits 112% higher than the national average. Aggravated assaults are the primary concern, as they accounted for nearly 70% of all violent crimes reported in 2018.
The homicide rate is also shockingly high. Although the 88 homicides the city saw in 2018 is much lower than other cities on this list, the homicide rate is actually third highest in the country once the population is taken into account.
2. Memphis, Tennessee
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,943 Property Crimes Per 100k: 6,405
With a violent crime rate of 1,943 incidents per 100,000 people, Memphis, Tennessee ranks as the most dangerous city in America’s south. One could argue that violence is just as much a part of Memphis’s identity as blues music and barbeque. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 and since the Civil Rights Movement, the city has become ground zero for some of the worst firearm violence in the country.
In fact, the majority of the city’s 186 homicides last year were firearm-related. Recently, U.S. Attorney General William Barr unveiled a new plan to reduce firearm violence in Memphis, Project Guardian, so hopefully, Memphis will start to see some relief in the coming years.
1. Detroit, Michigan
Violent Crimes Per 100k: 2,007 Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,304
The Motor City just can’t seem to catch a break. While most major U.S. cities continue to grow, Detroit has seen one of the steepest population declines over the last half-century. At its peak, the city was home to 1.8 million people in the 1950s. But the decline in manufacturing jobs has driven the population down to less than 700,000 today. The city’s massive unemployment and poverty rates (9% and 37.9%, respectively) amount to a city with the highest violent crime rate in the country.
Today, large swaths of Detroit lie abandoned; a living reminder of the city’s decline. Unfortunately, until Detroit’s public administration gets its act together and starts attracting business and economic growth, its status as America’s most dangerous city will only continue.
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.
It is an art form most associated with holy places, mostly Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages but stained glass can be found in so many different venues around the world. If you are lucky the sun will hit the glass just right, giving way to indescribable beauty and illumination. Stained glass windows aren’t just there for beauty but they most often tell a story, educate and inspire people. From the largest stained glass window in the world to medieval churches to modern-day takes on this art form, here are seven examples of incredible stained glass throughout our world.
7. Chapel of Thanks-Giving, Dallas, Texas
The most prominent and recognizable feature of the Thanks-Giving Square is the Chapel of Thanksgiving, thanks to the Glory Window; one of the largest horizontally mounted stained-glass pieces in the world. The chapel is a small spiral tower and the window was designed by Gabriel Loire who designed it to feature brighter colors as the spiral reaches its apex, becoming brighter as it reaches the center.
The spiral shape of the window was inspired by the spiraled shape of the chambered nautilus, a squid that lives inside a shell. The spiral is made up of 73 panels of glass and is one of the most unique stained glass features around the world. The chapel is part of a three-acre complex that also includes a garden and museum, dedicated to how Thanksgiving is celebrated around the world.
6. Erawan Museum, Bangkok
There are thousands of temples to discover in Bangkok but if you are looking for incredible stained glass, the Erawan Museum is the place to find just that. This whimsical museum is actually a sculpture of the three-headed elephant, Erawan, from the Hindu mythology and boasts an amazing stained glass ceiling. German artist Jacob Schwarzkopf was in charge of the project and took a traditional approach to the job, asking glass companies to use the ancient procedure of blowing the glass to produce the stained glass.
The stained glass is semi-abstract although it represents the story of the earth and consists of the five continents at the middle with the sun shining to provide energy to all life forms. Surrounding this is the ring of 12 zodiac signs and the human figure depicted in various gestures. Awe-inspiring to look at, don’t forget to explore the rest of this awesome museum.
5. Resurrection Cemetery, Illinois
It is here where you will find the world’s largest stained glass window, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Pickel Studio created this window that sits over 22,000 square feet of faceted glass and contains 2,448 panels. Work on this stained glass started in the 1960’s and since then over 1,000 new and exciting windows and walls of glass have been added. One of the most impressive places in the world to see such an extraordinary amount of stained glass.
4. Winchester Cathedral, England
In 1642 the cathedrals huge medieval stained glass West Window was deliberately smashed by Cromwell’s forces following the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, a tragedy to the beautiful works of art. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 the broken glass was actually gathered up and used again.
But this time there was no rhyme or reason to the design, the glass was placed randomly after it was determined it would be too hard to put back together. What results is a collection of colorful pieces that shine in the sunlight and tell a story of history, tragedy, and rebuilding.
3. Chicago Cultural Center, Illinois
Hundreds of thousands of visitor’s flock here each year, not just to marvel at the beautifully stained glass domes but also because of the many free public events it hosts. The landmark building is indeed home to two magnificent stained glass dome though, one that claims to be the largest stained glass Tiffany Dome in the world. In the south side of the building is that claim to fame, the Tiffany dome that stands 38 feet in diameter with some 30,000 pieces of glass.
This dome was restored in 2008, bringing even more visitors to gaze at its beauty. The second dome is located on the north side of the building and is a whopping 40 feet in diameter and features over 50,000 pieces of glass designed in an intricate Renaissance pattern. Whether you are coming here for the free festivals, art exhibits or family events, make sure to check out these two incredible stained glass works.
2. Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
This royal medieval Gothic chapel located in the heart of Paris boasts some of the most impressive stained glass in the world. There are a total of fifteen huge 13th-century windows that fill the nave and apse and despite some damage, are still in incredible condition. The windows are practically floor to ceiling and display a clear iconographical program.
A painstaking seven-year restoration of the windows was completed in early 2015, a process that removed centuries of dirt from the thousands of panels. It is best to visit on a sunny day when the deep blues and red stand out best, in images that depict Old Testament scenes and the Crucifixion. One does not need to be religious to appreciate this incredible artwork.
1. Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Netherlands
This building features a modern take on stained glass, according to designers the buildings façade is a screen of colored relief glass that depicts famous images from Dutch television. There are hundreds of panels of glass that represent images from all genres and eras and although difficult to see the images clearly from all angles, they can be seen more clearly from the inside. Described as cathedral-like, this is one of the most impressive modern stained glass displays out there.
The building itself is actually housed both underground and above ground, 10 stories’ in total with five of them being below the surface. Inside the building houses the national broadcasting archives which encompass over 700,000 hours of television, film, music and radio footage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Small towns have a style all their own. Some are quirky, some laid back and for many people living in large cities a weekend getaway to a small town is one way to relax and forget the hustle and bustle of the fast moving life. Whether you want to visit wineries, go shopping or just take time to relax on a sun soaked beach, every state has a few small towns that make for wonderful weekend trips and Texas is no different. From beach towns to the central Texas hill country we have listed a few of the small towns that make Texas unique and worthy of a weekend visit.
1. Gruene, Texas
Located just 40 miles south of Austin the small town of Gruene, pronounced “Green”, has been designated as a historical town by the State of Texas. The Gruene Mansion Inn, formerly the home of the town’s founder, sits prominently in the middle of the historic district. The historic district is full of old buildings turned into various shops and historical markers dot the town. The Gruene Hall is the oldest dance hall in Texas and has hosted the likes of Willie Nelson and George Strait. The town of New Braunfels and Canyon Lake are just a few minutes away where tubing on the Guadalupe River is a popular weekend activity. On the third weekend of every month from February to November the town hosts Gruene Market Days where vendors sell homemade crafts and antiques. Several B&B’s and Inns are in the area as well as other accommodations and nearby attractions include Natural Bridge Caverns, San Marcos Outlet Malls and various wineries.
2. Round Top, Texas
Round Top is a small town half way between Houston and Austin. With a population of around 80, this little Texas town transforms into a weekend shoppers mecca three times a year. For close to 50 years the Round Top Antiques Fair is one of the most popular places in the US to pick up European and American antiques. Dealers flock to this small town from around the world to buy and sell their wares in several locations around town. From the 30,000 sq. ft. Big Red Barn to the 43 acre Marburger Farm featuring over 350 dealers, the town is an antique hunter’s dream. Other activities include a summer music festival in June and July, a lavender farm and various museums depicting early Texas life. Three wineries are within a short drive and there are also six art galleries in town.
3. Pecos, Texas
Situated in the river valley on the west bank of the Pecos River lies the small town of Pecos, Texas. On July 4, 1883 Pecos had the world’s first rodeo and a rich heritage was born. The legendary Judge Roy Bean known as the “Law West of the Pecos” had his famous Jersey Lily Saloon, named for famous English singer and actress Lily Langtry, in the town of Langtry named in her honor just south of Pecos. A replica of the courthouse and jail are in the town of Pecos. The Fort Davis National Historic site lies 70 miles south of Pecos. Considered one of the best preserved of all 19th century frontier forts, Fort Davis houses 523 acres of preserved buildings and museums of what once was home to the famed Buffalo Soldiers. The old Orient Hotel once known as the best hotel between Ft Worth and El Paso still exists as a museum featuring over 50 rooms of history and memorabilia, including the bullet holes in the wall where a cowboy met his demise in the old saloon.
4. Fredericksburg, Texas
Fredericksburg was founded in 1846 by German, Baron Otfried Hans Freiherr von Meusebach, who later dropped the nobility and just became known as John O. Meusebach. Originally settled as town for German immigrants, Fredericksburg today is a popular day trip and weekend getaway for people living in San Antonio, Austin and surrounding areas. Fredericksburg has over 700 historic structures in town including churches, the old White Elephant Saloon and the Nimitz Hotel. The Nimitz Hotel was built in 1852, resembling a steamboat, by Charles Henry Nimitz the grandfather of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz of WW2 fame and now house the National Museum of the Pacific War. Other notable attractions include the 3.5 acre Pioneer Museum featuring examples of early German settlers, Fort Martin Scott the first fort established on the western frontier of Texas and numerous shops. The nearby town of Luckenbach, made famous by a Willie Nelson song is just 13 miles south of Fredericksburg and the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site is only a few miles away.
5. Wimberley, Texas
While Wimberley was home to the Tonkawa Indians and Spanish explorers ventured through the area it wasn’t until the mid 1800’s when William Winters, a veteran of Texan Independence opened a gristmill and built a limestone home that Wimberley really began to grow. The old ruins still exist today but what has grown in its place is a small rustic town that draws weekend tourists looking to shop and relax. Visitors can take a dip in the historic “Blue Hole”, a deep clear natural pool or slid across the hillside on the longest and highest zip line in Texas. There is also an outdoor movie theater where you can relax under the stars in a lawn chair and watch a good movie. Most of the accommodations are small B&B’s and Inns and there are several restaurants in town including the crowded Wimberley Café. Many small shops selling everything from antiques to crafts are located around the town square and down the main street.
6. Port Isabel, Texas
The history of Port Isabel dates to 1519 when Spanish explorer Alonzo de Pineda first came on shore. Today this town, with a population just over 5,000, has 3 museums and is a sport fisherman’s paradise. The Port Isabel Lighthouse was constructed in in 1852 guiding vessels into the mouth of the Brazos Santiago Pass and tickets can be purchase to visit the lighthouse and groundskeepers cottage. Also of interest are the Port Isabel Historic Museum and the Treasures of the Gulf Museum. Because of the year round climate fisherman enjoy the waters of the Laguna Madre as well as visitors seeking to enjoy the beach and surfing. Several private charters operate in the area to take you out for a day of deep water fishing and Texas longest lighted fishing pier attracts those wanting to stay on land. Visitors can enjoy a cruise to watch the dolphins and enjoy one of the many restaurants serving up fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico.
7. Granbury, Texas
The city of Granbury has a rich past. Davy Crockett’s widow and son once had a homestead nearby and at least two notorious people are said to have lived there. John St Helen lived in Granbury for a while and many believe he was in fact John Wilkes Booth and several historians and documentaries have explored the connection. Also said to have been in Granbury is Jesse James. Many believed he actually fled here and lived out his last days including many of his descendants which erected a head stone where he is buried. Granbury has over 40 historic sites including the Granbury Opera House built in 1886. Today the Opera House hosts 8-10 productions throughout the year. As is the case with many small towns, Granbury has a town square where today visitors can visit the many boutique shops and enjoy coffee shops and restaurants.
Are your usual travel plans seeming a little flat? Do you want a travel experience that is truly conversation-worthy when you return home? Do you crave something out-of-the-box, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Read on below for some suggestions of amazing tours that are out of the ordinary- to varying degrees. Some will put a different perspective on familiar sites or cities. Others may have you saying- they have a tour for that?
1. Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom, Orlando
One of the first rules of being a magician is to never reveal the secrets behind your tricks. Well, the Magic Kingdom in Orlando turns that whole concept on its ear by providing a tour to its underground tunnel system (Utilidor) – which is where much of their magic happens. If you’ve been to the Magic Kingdom- think about it; have you ever seen anything the least bit utilitarian (i.e. supplies traveling) or un-magic? The complex Utilidor system is an intricate, minutely detailed system that is the conduit for Disney Cast Members (staff) to whisk from one location to another, supplies to be delivered and for garbage to be transported. It’s a whole other world underground at Disney World- complete with cafeterias, a hairdresser as well as a myriad of offices. The traveler who has a keen appreciation for well-executed logistics will enjoy this 7 hour tour, which includes lunch. It’s Disney from a whole new perspective.
2. Chernobyl, Ukraine
While touring the site of a nuclear disaster may not top everyone’s travel wish list, those wishing to gain insight into the historic 1986 Chernobyl disaster will be pleased to know that there are a number of organized tours open to the public. There are one day and two day tours offered (some include transportation to and from Kiev). Depending on your tour company, expect to see the village of Chernobyl and to travel through various checkpoints. You’ll see the abandoned town of Pripyat. Groups are taken through the Exclusion Zone (which is closed to the general public, but open to tour groups) and then brought into the Chernobyl Power Plant itself to witness the site of the disaster.
3. Helter Skelter Tour, Los Angeles
In Los Angeles you can go on a guided tour that takes you through the sites of some of the grisly Tate/LaBianca murders committed by the Manson family. The tour delves into the minds of the killers and victims themselves in the hours prior to the murders. These cases continue to fascinate the public to this day, and this tour explores some of the reasons why.
4. Funky Chicken Coop Tour, Texas
This organized tour is a little different than other tours for a number of reasons. For one thing- it is a once-a-year event. For another, it was developed as a promotional tool of sorts. The annual tour was launched by not-for-profit Urban Poultry Association of Texas, Inc. in order to raise public awareness around urban farming. The tour has a home base with family-friendly activities, and proceeds to tour around several urban chicken coops in the Austin area, where the public can view urban poultry (and other) farming first hand.
5. Train with a Sumo Wrestler, Japan
Ever wonder what it would be like to be a Sumo Wrestler? In Japan, there are a number of tours intended to acquaint you with a morning in a typical day in the life of a Sumo Wrestler by immersing you in the experience. The art of Sumo Wrestling is steeped in centuries of tradition, deep history and regard for ritual. The tour begins in a traditional Sumo stable, where wrestlers live and train together. On this tour, your day starts with the traditional early morning Sumo Wrestling practice, where you’ll watch wrestlers have at it, and then have a go in the ring yourself. After your wrestling, you’ll eat the traditional Chanko meal (which is a mix of protein and veggies) which Sumo Wrestlers eat every day (these wrestlers reportedly eat about 10,000 calories in a single meal) to maintain their training regime. You’ll share the meal with the Oyakata (master) who will field any questions about what it is really like to be a Sumo Wrestler.
6. Tragic History Tour, Los Angeles
Unfortunately, often with fame comes a lot of tragedy and promising young lives are cut all too short. So it is no surprise that star-studded Hollywood has been the scene for a number of star-related deaths and scandals. There are a few organized tours that let you be celebrity voyeurs, and get your fix of celebrity gossip, complete with guided commentary. The Dearly Departed, Tragic History Tour brings you to 75 different sites over the course of an afternoon. See where Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and River Pheonix died. See the sites of the scandals that surrounded Hugh Grant, Rhianna and Chris Brown. With a nod of decidedly dark humor, this tour is delivered from a “tomb buggy” (a bus). It’s the perfect tour for the celeb-obsessed.
7. Red Light District Tour, Amsterdam
There is nowhere quite like Amsterdam, the ultimate melting pot of all vices. Why not benefit from a little local commentary from an expert guide while taking in the “sights”. One tour company (named, plainly Amsterdam Red Light District Tours) has a tagline of ‘History, Hookers and Hashish: we have an awesome tour for you’. Delivered in English by local Dutch guides, guests of this tour will see the first condom shop in the world, peep shows, the infamous Amsterdam pot-smoking coffee shops, prostitutes (including the Museum of Prostitution) and appropriately, the Hangover Information Centre.
8. Crop Circle Tours, UK
Paranormal believers unite! You have likely heard of crop circles, but did you know that they have a high season? (which interestingly peaks in the middle of high traffic summer vacation season). There are a number of tours that take you out to tour recently formed circles. If you’d like to extend your extra-terrestrial tour time, then combine the crop circles with a “Magical Mystery tour” which hits all the local crop circles, but also takes you to see Stonehenge and Avebury, which borders the Warminster Triangle, where there has reportedly been strange sights, sounds, ghostly/unexplained apparitions- not to mention a very strong electro-magnetic field, which is requisite it would seem for UFO encounters.
Indoor water parks promise endless summer, a perfect getaway as the winter months are quickly coming. These water parks are only getting bigger and better, featuring huge wave pools, wild water slides, ziplines, arcades and even spas inside. From Niagara Falls, Canada all the way to Galveston, Texas we have rounded up 15 incredible indoor water parks across North America.
15. Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park -Erie, PA
This park is loaded with a ton of water slides and rides, along with a tropical colorful atmosphere that sets the stage for the perfect getaway during the long cold winter months. At just over 100,000 square feet, Splash Lagoon is full of exciting thrill rides for the adventurer. Among the unique features here are two bowl rides, The Cyclone which accommodates one and two rider tubes and Hurricane Hole, which sends you flying down at over 40 mph. Watch out for the tipping bucket on top of Tiki Tree House which dumps on unsuspecting riders on the The Cyclone. If you are looking for something a little more relaxing head on over to the Frog Pond Whirlpool where giant lily pads, tall amphibians and splashing fountains set the stage. A large arcade, mini-free fall ride and onsite restaurant compliment this awesome water park.
14. Schlitterbahn Indoor Water Park -Galveston, TX
Although this water park is an outdoor park most of the year, it actually transforms into an indoor park during the colder months and with over 70,000 feet of indoor play, it is one of the best in North America. With four tube slides, three speed slides, a heated pool, a man-made wave and a tidal wave river, there is no shortage of things to do here. The Torrent River is a favorite among visitors as it sends inner tubers along a quarter mile long, 20 foot wide wave filled river, twisting and turning riders throughout. Kids will love their own beach section that is full of tipping buckets, a beached boat, smaller slides and spraying jets. Although this indoor water park is one of the smaller on the list, it deserves recognition for the ability to change from an outdoor park to indoor park, and still offer amazing fun.
13. Palmetto and Palm Water Parks at Dunes Village Resort -Myrtle Beach, SC
There are actually two water parks located at the Dunes Village Resort in Myrtle Beach and guests to this resort get access to both. Palmetto caters to the younger guests with a 250-foot lazy river, a Kiddie Adventure pool with tons of spray features and a lagoon pool with basketball nets. Adults will also enjoy this park with two water slides and two hot tubs. Over at Palm Water Park there is something for everyone to enjoy including a lap pool, teen pool, three hot tubs and more. The Wild Winding Slide and Speed Slide are there for the more adventurous riders. Little ones will love the Silly Submarine, a water play structure that is loaded with spraying water features. The parks are open from 9am-11pm and while there are no lifeguards on duty, there are attendants at the top of each slide to ensure each rider descends safely.
12. Fallsview Indoor Waterpark -Niagara Falls, Canada
It boasts itself as the largest indoor water park in Niagara Falls and visitors will delight in the sheer number of thrilling water slides here. A total of 16 water slides make up this water park, along with a massive wave pool, adult-only whirlpools and a massive beach house play area. From extreme racing slides where riders will shoot down on mats to four different tube slides and one gigantic super bowl; there are enough slides to keep any adrenaline junkie happy. Planet Hollywood Beach Club is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat and is located on the main floor of the water park. Little ones can head to the Tiny Tots Splash Park where they can swim, splash and slide down kid-sized water slides. Don’t forget about the year-round outdoor sun deck which is heated in the winter and operates an outdoor pool in the warm months.
11. Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark -Boyne Falls, MI
Michigan’s largest indoor water park resort offers plenty of thrills and excitement for the whole family. Always at 84 degrees and open all year around it is easy to make your way here any time of the year, especially in the cold winter months when you are looking to escape the cold. One of the latest additions to this park is The Big Couloir, a water slide which begins in a capsule and shoots riders down a narrow tunnel into a super loop, with powerful g-forces keeping them glued to the sides the entire time. The lazy river on the other hand will lead riders throughout the park, while flowing water features hide around corners. The amazing 800-gallon water avalanche though is perhaps the highlight of this park and when the horn blows you will want to look out below! This climbing structure with its bridges, buckets, slides and climbing wall provides hours of endless fun.
10. Klondike Kavern at Wilderness Resort -Wisconsin Dells, WI
This indoor waterpark offers over 65,000 square feet of water fun for all ages. Guests to this water park rave about the famous Hurricane, a ride that sees riders whip down a 45-degree angle in a four person raft, scoot across a funnel at 20 mph, experience weightlessness and then drop into a splash pool. This ride is made even better with sound effects, fog and strobe lights. For those wanting a little less excitement, head over to the lazy river or the indoor hot spa. Little ones will love Bonanza Bluff, a huge structure that features over 50 squirt features and smaller slides, all situated in a shallow pool. A new ride is currently under construction here and promises to combine exciting water sliding with video game technology.
9. Chula Vista Resort -Wisconsin Dells, WI
Wisconsin Dells is known as the water park capital of the world and Chula Vista is among one of the best indoor water parks in all of North America, and perhaps even the world. The most loved attraction at this park is the Fly’n Mayan; an uphill water coaster that is designed to take riders throughout the park on an exhilarating ride. It prides itself on being on the longest and fastest uphill water coasters in the world! The Jungle Adventure complete with lights and sounds is also one of the famous rides here, a bowl ride that will leave you breathless. The never-ending tropical lazy river is great for relaxing while the oversize wading pool is perfect for little ones to splash around in.
8. Kahuna Laguna at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort -North Conway, NH
It is New Hampshire’s largest indoor water park and features over 40,000 square feet of fun and excitement. This water park has gone all out to bring the tropics indoor and comes off more like a large tiki hut with its colorful decorations and faux palm leaves. There are only four water slides here, two tube slides and two body slides, totaling 900 feet in length, which means you will want to try them all out. The 67,000 gallon wave pool is one of the highlights of this water park, with three patterns of powerful three foot waves, perfect for those who want to body surf. The pool also features two waterfalls and is no more than five feet in depth. The Adventure Tower teems with slides, sprayers, rope bridges and one huge tipping bucket, which anyone of any age can enjoy. At the end of the day make sure to head over to the adult and kid 25-person hot tub that overlooks the entire water park.
7. Big Splash Adventure Indoor Waterpark -French Lick, IN
A retractable roof covers this awesome 40,000 square foot indoor water park, which means whether it is hot or cold outdoors, visitors here can enjoy this space any time of the year. With an abundance of pools, tube slides, body slides and over 50 interactive features; there won’t be any time to be bored. Favorite activities here include the Treasure Lagoon Vortex, a round pool with fun whirling water, as well as the Jolly Roger Jetty, a tube ride that takes riders through seven curves and can accommodate both single and double inner tubes. The Splish Splash Pool has been designed for the youngest of visitors, and they can choose to sit in the swings and bounce until their feet hit the water, or slide down the mini slide.
6. Wings & Waves at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum -McMinnville, OR
This ultra-cool water park is both a water park and an educational experience, but don’t fear, kids won’t even know that they are actually learning because they will be having so much fun. The water park includes 10 water slides, 91,000 gallon wave pool and a Boeing 747 plane on the roof. Kids are encouraged to learn about water by building tsunami-proof models in the classrooms and then test them in the wave pool. A favorite of visitors here is climbing the 111 stairs up to the plane and then sliding down one of the four water slides, one of which drops a total of six stories. Aquaplay is a favorite among young visitors as the structure is loaded with smaller slides, water guns, spouts, valves and a 300 gallon firefighter bucket that drops on you. Trained and certified lifeguards are on duty at all times at this incredible and educational water park.
5. Water Park of America -Bloomington, MN
It is one of the biggest and the best water parks in all of North America, hence the name and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in terms of activities. It houses the tallest indoor water slide in all of America, stretching 100 feet into the air, along with a scenic and relaxing lazy river, indoor arcade and the Lake Superior Wave Pool. The 7th Floor Body Slides are among the favorites here as riders can race each other as they travel down twin body slides that actually go outside the building before a final splash. Friends and families should check out the Family Raft Ride, at over a mile long and 10 stories high, this ride offers tight turns, big splashes and lot of laughs. Learn how to body board, shoot a game of hoops in the pool or take the little ones to the zero depth activity pool where they can safely splash and slide.
4. World Waterpark, -West Edmonton Mall, Alberta
It is home to the world’s largest indoor wave pool and more than 17 unique water slides and play features. World Water park is also home to two high water slides, both 83 feet high, and favorites of all visitors. The Cyclone is perhaps the most well known water slide here as it is one of the most extreme slides in all of Canada, where riders enter into a capsule and fall straight down, into a gravity defying loop and ending up in a splashdown chute. The world’s largest permanent indoor zipline is also found here and riders will zip across the water park, over the wave pool and end up near the children’s play area. Speaking of the little ones, World Water park is home to an awesome kid’s area with plenty of water cannons, buckets, rope bridges, slides and pipes to play with.
3. Great Wolf Lodge -Niagara Falls, Canada
The fun never stops at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, especially at the indoor water park that offers thousands of square feet of non-stop fun. From tube rides that can fit the whole family to body slides to an uphill water coaster; the whole family will enjoy this park. The Rapids Run tows tube riders up and sends you plunging down a 15.8 meter vertical drop, along with zipping you through enclosed tunnels and around thrilling curves. An indoor wave pool, lazy river, a multitude of slides and specially designed play areas for the little ones makes this one awesome indoor water park.
2. Wild West at Wilderness Resort -Wisconsin Dells, WI
It is the largest indoor water park of four that is located at Wilderness Resort, spanning over 70,000 square feet. Thrill rides are the highlight of this water park, with The Black Hole being at the forefront. This thrilling slide has a huge descent followed by spins and turns, before dumping riders into the unknown. A 4-person raging raft ride provides plenty of laughs and thrills. The four-storey interactive play feature is loaded with body slides, water blasters, cannons and one gigantic tipping bucket! The indoor bumper boats are fun for the whole family where you can battle it out against both family members and other visitors. For a more relaxing activity, make sure to visit the indoor and outdoor hot springs.
1. Kalahari Water Park at Kalahari Resort -Sandusky, OH
It hails itself as being the largest indoor water park in all of America and at 173,000 square feet, we don’t doubt it is. Kalahari Resort is an African themed resort and throughout the water park this theme stays true with ride names such as Zig Zag Zebra, Cheetah Race and Crocodile Cove. A 920 feet lazy river runs throughout the park crossing through waterfalls and rapids while thrill seekers can head over to Zimbabwe Zipper where they can reach 40mph. A 12,000 square foot wave pool, kids only play area, tons of exhilarating water slides and indoor whirlpools all make up this awesome water park. An uphill water coaster ride and the two FlowRiders are among the most loved activities here. No matter what the weather outside is like; you can certainly play all day here.