From a “secret” National Park to a private castle on the bay our country sure has some magic left in it. Since I am about to be transitioning into full-time van life I have been thinking a lot about the destinations I want to visit in my new home on wheels. While this is by no means an all inclusive list, these are the most magical locations I have found while doing research, and it serves as a mini-bucket list of sorts.
I hope you can find some inspiration for your next trip! If you do, be sure to fill out an Expression of Interest form so we can get started on planning your trip!
Devils Den, Florida
Location: Williston, FL (2 hours north of Orlando)
Cost: $38/diver or $18/snorkeler (other fees may apply for camping or equipment rentals)
Devil’s Den is an underground spring located inside a massive cavern. It is privately owned, but allows divers (and snorkelers) inside for a world class diving experience. With a maximum depth of 54ft/16.45m and 72/22 degrees year round temperature it is the perfect place for divers to explore prehistoric rock formations.
Ozone Falls, Tennessee
Location: Rockwood, TN (1 hour west of Knoxville)
Cost: Free state park
Ozone Falls is a place I am well familiar with, being only about an hour from home I have visited Ozone many times. Though technically prohibited, there are those that have attempted to rappel the 110ft/33.5m fall over the rocks. Being so accessible as it is minutes from I-40, Ozone is one of Tennessee’s most visited outdoor areas. The pool is nice for swimming, and the spray of the falls hitting the rocks is great for hikers wanting to cool off.
Fun fact: Ozone Falls was used partially for filming in the 1994 movie The Jungle Book.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Cost: Free, National Landmark
Garden of the Gods is another place I have been blessed to have visited. The rock formations are massive and so uniquely beautiful. They also offer some incredible rock climbing that I hope to enjoy next time I’m out there!
Kenai Fjords, Alaska
Location: Seward, AK
Cost: Free, National Park
I have this theory that it is physically impossible to take a bad picture in Alaska; seriously just google image search “Alaska” every photo is breathtaking. The Kenai fjords on the edge of the Kenai peninsula is a place where you can take a boat tour to see some orcas, hike by an active glacier, or if you’re brave enough kayak and camp through the backcountry. With over 600,000 acres you’re sure to find something to take your breath away.
Bryce Canyon, Utah
Location: Bryce, UT
Cost: $35/car (pay in advance on the park service website!)
They’re going to Bryce Canyon, hoodoo? YOU do! Okay maybe that was a terrible joke, but seriously they can’t name these rock formations “hoodoos” without expecting some jokes. Located in the desert of Utah, Bryce Canyon is a place unlike any other. They have hiking, horseback riding, and even snowshoeing in the winter (seriously this place might look even better under a layer of snow!)
Seven Magic Mountains, Nevada
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Some go to Vegas for the gambling, others for the…art? Seven Magic Mountains is a public art installation in south Vegas. Created by world renowned Swiss artist, Ugo Rondinone, the boulders, stacking over 30 feet high, are meant to express human presence in the desert. Be sure to visit while you can as the BLM’s permit expires at the end of next year 2021.
Luray Caverns, Virginia
Location: Luray, VA
Cost: $30/adult (Children 6-12 $15, under 6 free, seniors $27)
Tucked away on the eastern side of the Appalachian mountains is one of the area’s oldest attractions, having been in service for almost 150 years! They also can claim the title of largest underground cavern in the east. In addition, with no steps leading into the caverns and fully paved trails, Luray is one of the few underground wonders in the world that is fully accessible. The ancient rock formations are breathtaking, but don’t take my word for it, take a virtual tour and find yourself booking tickets next time you’re in town.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Wyoming
While Yellowstone itself is high on my list, I specifically want to visit the Grand Canyon, no not the one in Arizona, the one in Wyoming! While I think the picture speaks for itself on why this is truly one of the most magical places in the US, let me tell you a few things you can do there! The obvious being hiking, but also plenty of nature watching; keep your eye out for buffalo, elk, even grizzly bears! Or take a snowmobile tour in the winter for some unforgettable views!
While not in the canyon, there is actually a livestream of the Old Faithful geyser within Yellowstone, and I just thought that was too cool not to mention!
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
Location: Nageezi, NM
Cost: $25/vehicle (good for 7 days)
I think the NPS website best describes this incredible place: “The Chacoan people were close observers of the skies and seasonal cycles, and their observations gave them the invaluable ability to time their agricultural and ceremonial events, which were central to their survival. Today, Puebloan descendants carry on many of these same traditions.
Visitors drawn to the park learn about the monumental Chacoan sites, to view the pecked and painted images on canyon walls, to observe scattered pieces of pottery, and to ponder the greatness of the Chacoan world. It is natural to wish for a connection with the people who flourished in this stark and challenging place.
“The night sky … is a special connection that we all share, as we look to the skies to better understand our place on earth.” The park, which is certified as an International Dark-Sky Park, hosts bi-annual star-parties in May and October, for all lovers of the stars to join.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
Location: Mammoth Cave, KY
Cost: Park entrance is Free, however cave tours are subject to fees.
Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest known cave system and honorably holds the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. While the caves themselves will take your breath away, the park also offers hiking, campting, kayaking and more.
Snoqualmie Falls, Washington
Location: Snoqualmie, WA
This is another one where I think the picture can speak for itself on what makes this place so magical! There are upper and lower viewing decks and many hiking trails along the falls. The 270 foot Snoqualmie falls has a special place in Native history, you can read more about it here.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Location: Mackinac Island, MI
Dubbed the Jewel of The Great Lakes, Mackinac Island is unique in many ways; with a population of under 500, no cars, and no comercial tourism a trip here would certainly be like none other. There is plenty to do however, with lots of hiking/biking trails, kayaking, and horse-drawn carriage rides the whole family will find a fun way to get around and see the sights. And maybe find some of their world famous fudge along the way.
Rainbow Bridge and Falls, New York
Location: Watkins Glen, NY
Watkins Glen State park has 19 different falls you can enjoy and marvel at, each more magical than the last. Within two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating the 19 waterfalls. Visitors to the park are welcome to camp, hike, and even swim in the olympic sized swimming pool. (included with admission)
It is very important to note the distinction between Watkins Glen State Park (seen here) and the Rainbow Bridge over Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. If you are google searching for this location, be sure to specify Watkins Glen State Park.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Location: Florida Keys, FL
Cost: $15/person entry fee (good for 7 days)(camping $15/night/tent)
Explore the 19th century fort, Fort Jefferson, experience world renowned snorkeling and diving, and even camp overnight for a unique experience on this tiny island in the keys.
There are hundreds of shipwrecks to explore on world famous diving tours, as well as learning the history of the fort as it used to be used “during the Civil War, Union warships used the harbor in their campaign to blockade Southern shipping. The fort was also used as a prison, mainly for Union deserters. Its most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd, the physician who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth.”
White Pass and Yukon Railroad, Alaska
Location: Skagway, AK
Cost: $130/person for 2.5 hours of trail ride
Known as the scenic railway of the world, this railroad system was built during the goldrush of the 1800s and considered a great feat of engineering due to the harsh climate and difficult terrain. Now over 100 years later we can enjoy those same views from the comfort of vintage passenger cars, climbing nearly 3000 feet in elevation in under 20 miles!
Bannerman Castle, New York
Location: Beacon, NY
Cost: Varies in price
Surprised there castles left in the states? Me too! Though the island itself has roots in native people’s history, believed to be haunted, it was purchased by Scotsman Frank Bannerman in 1901 who built the Scottish inspired castle to be his home. Today you can tour the ruins via boat tours, self-guided kayak tours, or even walking the grounds!
The Water Lantern Festival, Colorado
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Cost: $20 +taxes and fees (currently 50% for 2021! regular prices are $40)
We are back in Colorado Springs to fulfill our wildest Tangled dreams during the water lantern festival! It is important to note the Water Lantern Festival is hosted in cities across the country! Colorado Springs is claimed to be one of the best places to attend, but check their map to find one near you!
Avenue of the Giants, California
Location: Humbolt county, CA
Cost: Free to drive, attraction prices vary
The world famous scenic drive spans 31 miles and through 3 giant redwood trees! If the views alone aren’t enough, there are dozens of attractions along the way including multilevel treehouses, custom woodworking, and even a house built inside a tree!
Serendipity House, North Carolina
Location: Rodanthe, NC
Cost: Free to admire from afar, or an upwards of $2,00/week to stay
Locally known as Serendipity, the Inn at Rodanthe has a rich history. Having starred in romance movies, been condemned by the city and then picked up and moved 30 minutes down the beach from her original location, this house has seen a lot. Nicholas Sparks fans may recognize her from the popular movie adaptation of the novel Nights at Rodanthe, for which she is named.
Biltmore Estate, North Carolina
Location: Asheville, NC
Cost: Admission starts at $64/person and includes access to the house and gardens, a self-guided tour of the house, and access to the winery. Additional tours and experiences are available.
From luxury gardens to food and wine, to hiking and biking trails, Biltmore has magic to offer everyone! Sitting on 8,000 acres of gorgeous grounds the Biltmore house has been family owned since 1890.
“The luxurious family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt is a marvel of elegance and charm, as magnificent today as it was more than a century ago.”
That concludes our list of 20 of the most magical places in the United States. We may be passport restricted right now, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t beauty to be discovered right here at home!
That’s all for today! See you on the road!