While visiting the well-known landmarks in the U.S. can be moving and awe-inspiring, it can also mean fighting off throngs of other tourists. If you are looking for a spot that has all of the beauty and allure of the big landmarks but want something a little calmer and quieter, check out these seven underrated U.S. landmarks.
Petrified Forest National Park
Located a little over 100 miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona, Petrified Forest National Park is often overshadowed by the pull of the Grand Canyon. For those who would like something a little off the beaten path, though, Petrified Forest National Park is a real gem. From panoramic views of the Painted Desert to a museum filled with fossils from the Triassic period, there is plenty to see and do.
Outdoorsy types will be pleased by the park's many different hiking trails that range from a short 0.3-mile loop to a 2-mile loop. Experienced campers can apply for one of the limited backcountry permits to backpack in and spend a night under the Arizona sky.
Everyone knows Niagara Falls, which means those falls can become very crowded. Less familiar but also impressive is Shoshone Falls, sometimes referred to as the "Niagara of the West." In fact, these falls located at the edge of Twin Falls, Idaho, are actually higher than Niagara Falls.
This is an excellent family trip with picnic areas, playgrounds, and a swimming area. There are also hiking trails and a boat ramp for those who would like to make their trip a little more adventurous. Of course, no waterfall attraction would be complete without an observation deck to allow for breathtaking views and envy-worthy selfies.
Crazy Horse Memorial
When it comes to giant faces carved into mountainsides, Mount Rushmore most certainly has top American billing. However, there's another monument with a complex and interesting history that's definitely worth a visit. Located in the heart of the Black Hills in South Dakota, the Crazy Horse Memorial is an impressive sight to behold.
The sculpture is actually a work in progress. It began in 1948 and is planned to be the largest mountain carving in the world. The finished product will portray Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse, seated atop of a horse with a flowing mane. Just because the massive vision has not yet been completed doesn't mean this spot isn't worth a visit. The face alone, which is currently complete, is an impressive endeavor, and the significant historical weight of the monument and its meaning is palpable for visitors.
It seems like everyone who visits Chicago has a picture with "The Bean" (officially known as the Cloud Gate sculpture), but did you know that the city is also home to one of the largest fountains in the world? The Buckingham Fountain was erected in 1927 with funds set aside by Kate S. Buckingham as a tribute to her brother Clarence. The siblings were both avid art enthusiasts who had been key benefactors to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Today, visitors can find themselves captivated by a twenty-minute-long water display at the top of every hour during warm months (roughly early May through mid-October). The fountain consists of 133 jets and has a capacity of 1.5 million gallons of water. Kate Buckingham envisioned a "soft moonlight" effect for the display, and it has been achieved using more than 800 filtered lights.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
The rocks that give the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument its name are the results of volcanic activity that date back 6–7 million years. Located in northern New Mexico, the monument is ideal for those who want to take in the wonder of Mother Nature without the difficult trails.
The three-mile hike includes easy parking and clear signage. There are picnic tables along the way for those who want to make a day of their excursion. While this lesser-known attraction does get busy during the summer months, visitors in the off-season are likely to find themselves with a fairly quiet experience.
Palo Duro Canyon
While the Grand Canyon is definitely the one with the name recognition and vacation clout, the Palo Duro Canyon is the second-largest canyon in the country, and it offers incredible views without nearly as much fuss and crowding as its larger counterpart. Located in the Texas panhandle, the canyon offers more than 30 miles of trails that are accessible by foot, bike, or horse.
Guided tours along the bottom of the canyon provide easy chances to take a close look at this wonder. After you're through exploring, you'll find some great family-friendly entertainment (at least during the summer) at the Pioneer Amphitheater. Options include singing, dancing, and fireworks. Of course, there's also plenty of Texas BBQ to round out your stay.
If it's historical significance you're searching for during your vacation, look no further than Cahokia, Illinois. Just a few miles west of Collinsville, Illinois, you'll find the largest archaeological site in North America. Remnants of the original city of Cahokia, which was active thousands of years ago, offer glimpses of an ancient civilization.
The site's Interpretive Center offers informational sessions and exhibits to get visitors more acquainted with the history of the place. Meanwhile, visitors are invited to hike the trails winding through the 2,200-acre tract of land, including climbs along gigantic earthen steps to the top of the 100-foot mounds.