Bucket List September 21, 2021
19 Of The Most Fascinating Abandoned Places In The United States
There’s something wholly unsettling about abandoned places. Ghost towns and old cemeteries, derelict buildings, and forgotten sites; these are places that have been buried in the past — both literally and figuratively. With each passing day, these forsaken locations continue their descent into oblivion, banished to obsolescence. However, there are some that remain relevant; ironically, these sites are now defined by being abandoned. And in the fall, when there’s a nip in the air and dwindling daylight, abandoned places can cause imaginations to run wild — in the very best possible way. Here are 19 of the most fascinating abandoned places in the United States.
They are known because they’ve been forgotten, and so we challenge you to set forth and acquaint yourself with these extraordinary, intriguing ruins.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
Bodie State Historic Park - Bridgeport, California
Bodie State Historical Park, California 93517, USA
On the border of California and Nevada, there is a place where time stands still.
, is a fascinating place that gives visitors a glimpse into life in the Old West. Now a historic site called Bodie State Historic Park, many of the town's original structures still stand, including its notoriously haunted cemetery. Some 80 souls are buried here, most of whom did not perish from natural causes; but rather, they suffered unnatural and violent deaths. As a result, haunted tales abound about Bodie, including one story about a little girl named Evelyn who perished in a freak accident. When you visit Bodie, the air is thick with the tension of restless, unsettled souls.
Bombay Beach - Imperial County, California
Salton Sea Beach, CA 92274, USA
Once upon a time, there was a place with a future as bright as the California sun. Bombay Beach was a place of pure paradise; a SoCal mecca that boomed with luxurious hotels and yacht clubs in the early 1900s. The sea and its shores teemed with wildlife, and it truly was a slice of heaven. Then, seemingly overnight, this bustling resort town just up and vanished, leaving many to wonder if, in fact, Bombay Beach had been nothing but a desert mirage all along. By the ’70s, the fish had died, the birds had become ill, and the tourists had disappeared. Today, visitors will find vacant buildings, fish corpses, and an unpleasant smell that seems to permeate the town, making
one of California's most intriguing abandoned places.
Peter Iredale Ghost Ship - Fort Stevens, Oregon
Fort Stevens, Warrenton, OR 97121, USA
One of the Pacific Northwest's most infamous abandoned places, the Wreck of the Peter Iredale looms on the Oregon Coast. You'll find this ghost ship at Fort Stevens, a once-active (and now abandoned) military base that's now part of the 4,200-acre Fort Stevens State Park. While the base is intriguing on its own, the star here is the abandoned ship located just off the fort's southern shores. Known as the Peter Iredale Shipwreck, this is one of the most haunting places in Oregon. In its heyday, the Peter Iredale was a four-masted, steel barque sailing vessel that was quite commanding; it was part of a well-known shipping fleet. But on Oct. 25, 1906, the ship encountered thick fog and unrelenting tides en route to the Columbia River, and the crew had to bail out, leaving this beautiful vessel to
become yet another member of the Graveyard of the Pacific
. Today, visitors can admire this hauntingly beautiful ghost ship from afar.
Garnet Ghost Town - Garnet, Montana
The Wild West is full of notorious ghost towns, but Garnet, Montana, might just be the most beautiful. A thousand people once called this Montana mining town home; folks who flocked here during the Gold Rush to seek their fortune. Despite the natural beauty of the area, however, most who came to Garnet were only interested in what was
the earth. Once the land had been tapped of its gold and precious gems, folks packed up and moved on, leaving Garnet completely abandoned by the 1940s. But this is a story with a happy ending: today, Garnet is one of the
best-preserved ghost towns in the country
and a must-visit for anyone interested in learning about this iconic time in American history.
Home of Truth - Monticello, Utah
Home of Truth, Monticello, UT 84535, USA
There's no shortage of
ghost towns in Utah
, but Monticello is by far the most intriguing. Just 15 miles north of Monticello, Utah, a forgotten ghost town sits in the desert. The Home of Truth was founded in 1933, and just four short years later, it was all but abandoned. Marie Ogden was a spiritualist from New Jersey who founded The School Of Truth, a group that sought to communicate with the dead. She needed a place to set up her commune and decided this barren and remote property in Utah fit the bill. The cult grew, and everything was going well until one of its members died of suspicious causes in 1935. From here, uneasy members left the commune, leaving Marie to reside in the Home of Truth by herself until her death in 1975. Though it's now on private property, Utah State Route 211 goes right past the abandoned compound, and visitors to Canyonlands National Park Needles District can also catch a glimpse of this mysterious place, too.
Santa Claus Land - Santa Claus, Arizona
Santa Claus, AZ 86413, USA
When Arizona's Santa Claus Land was founded in 1937, it was meant to be an enchanting year-round destination along Route 66. This unique park provided families a magical holiday experience all year long, with the Man in Red on standby to listen as kids rattled off their Christmas wish lists. But by the 1970s, America's love affair with Route 66 had begun to dwindle, and its roadside attractions closed like dominoes. Today, road trippers can see the remains of Santa Claus Land behind a barbed wire fence, making this one of the
saddest abandoned spots in the country
Glenrio - Texas and New Mexico
Glenrio, TX 79045, USA
Glenrio, NM 88434, USA
Glenrio straddles the border between Texas and New Mexico, and is another roadside casualty along Route 66. This southwestern border town was founded in 1901 as a popular intersection for many of the growing railroad lines across America. It was a beautiful place filled with wheat fields and cattle; some movies, such as “The Grapes of Wrath,” even had scenes filmed here. But alas, its location on the border put it betwixt and between two states, neither of which were willing to cede control. Two post offices, two gas stations, two state taxes... between this and the dying railroad industry,
Glenrio was doomed from the beginning
. In 1955, the Rock Island Railroad Depot closed, and by the 1980s, all but two residents remained. Today, curious explorers can drive through this ghost town and imagine what life was once like.
Joyland Amusement Park - Wichita, Kansas
There's little more unsettling than an abandoned theme park -- the crowds, rides, and laughter that once filled the park grounds seem to linger in the air. Joyland Amusement Park was once an epic Midwest destination; open from 1949 until 2004, this park was good, old-fashioned American fun, with wooden roller coasters, bumper cars, and a Ferris wheel. Today, the once-popular destination sits quiet and abandoned, kept company by graffiti-covered attractions, decaying coasters, and sun-bleached ticket booths. Over the years, auctions, fires, and nature disassembled Joyland piece by piece; however, this story has a happy ending. Today, visitors can take a whirl on the original Joyland Carousel, which has been
renovated and relocated to the Wichita Botanica Gardens
Dinosaur World - Beaver, Arkansas
In Arkansas, the dinosaurs have gone extinct twice, it seems; what used to be the world’s largest dinosaur park now sits in silence. Off a lonely highway in Beaver, Dinosaur World is an abandoned theme park that's slowly being consumed by the earth. Dinosaur World opened in 1967 and was a wildly popular attraction; it was a wholly unique place with 100 hand-painted sculptures of dinosaurs, cavemen, and other prehistoric creatures. Today, Dinosaur World no longer draws crowds or attention, but visitors can stop and gaze upon its gated ruins, and imagine what once was in this
relic of Arkansas history
Laurel Valley Plantation - Thibodaux, Louisiana
Laurel Valley Village Store, 595 LA-308, Thibodaux, LA 70301, USA
There's so much to the story of America, and the Laurel Valley Plantation is a living testament to a very real part of our past. In Thibodaux, Louisiana, Laurel Valley Plantation offers visitors the unique opportunity to step into the history books, with over 50 original and well-preserved plantation buildings. Laurel Valley Sugar Plantation was originally owned by Joseph Tucker, who bought more than 50,000 acres along the beautiful Bayou Lafourche in the early 1800s. At one point, it was the largest producer of sugar in Lafourche Parish, and 135 slaves worked on the plantation. The grounds had a mill and slave cabins, all of which can be visited today. (The insides of these buildings are closed, however.) It's the
largest surviving sugar plantation from the 19th century in the U.S.
and a haunting reminder of a very conflicted time in our history.
Dome Home - Cape Romano, Florida
No -- these aren't UFOs on the Florida coast; this collection of dome-shaped outliers is known as the "Dome Home." And indeed, these buildings were actually once part of a one-family house: a 2,400-foot aquatic abode built in 1980 and fitted with state-of-the-art solar panels to make it self-sustainable. The home was abandoned in 1992 and sold in 2005; since then, it's stood strong against numerous hurricanes and tropical storms. Nature is slowly reclaiming this dome-shaped dwelling, which curious visitors
can still see standing in the turquoise waters off Marco Island
Elkmont Road, Elkmont Rd, Tennessee 37738, USA
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the country's most beloved and popular attractions, and there are numerous cabins and campsites where one can stay while visiting this American treasure. The Elkmont Historic District -- located deep in the national park -- used to be an upscale campground for Smoky Mountain vacationers in the first half of the 20th century.
Used to be
. Built by the Little River Lumber Company in 1908, it was a summer haven during the height of the timber business in Tennessee, but was abandoned decades ago. Today, this
Tennessee ghost town
is a place that's quite literally becoming swallowed up by the Smoky Mountain wilds; today, brave visitors can visit and wander through this eerie, abandoned place.
Virginia Renaissance Faire - Fredericksburg, Virginia
Fredericksburg, VA 22401, USA
Hear ye, hear ye: the riot and revelry that once existed at the Virginia Renaissance Faire in Fredericksburg has since been silenced by the unkind passage of time. Off Kings Highway, these once-riotous festival grounds
now sit abandoned
, the Tudor-style structures slowly being consumed by the wild woodlands of Virginia. This Renaissance Faire was built in the 1990s as a permanent home for the Virginia festival, but attendance never met expectations, and after a few unsuccessful seasons, the property faced foreclosure. Today, the Virginia Renaissance Faire is a shadow of its former self, an ironic reminder of a bygone time.
City Methodist Church - Gary, Indiana
City Methodist Church, 577 Washington St, Gary, IN 46402, USA
Gary, Indiana, is a place that inspires ghost stories and creepy lore, and the town's abandoned City Methodist Church is a physical manifestation of the town's tenuous reputation. The church was built in 1926 during the height of the steel boom in Indiana, and when the industry crashed in the '70s, residents moved away, and both the church (and town itself) began to decay. Today, the
is a popular stop for curious explorers, and has been used as a filming location for horror films like "A Nightmare on Elm Street."
Ohio State Reformatory - Mansfield, Ohio
Ohio State Reformatory, 100 Reformatory Rd, Mansfield, OH 44905, USA
If you’re looking for someplace out of the ordinary to explore, consider a tour of the Mansfield Reformatory in Ohio -- but be aware that
this experience isn't for the faint of heart
. While the exterior of the building may be beautiful (if not
), the lonely cells and restless spirits roaming about inside are far from welcoming. Formerly known as the Mansfield Reformatory, this historic prison first opened in 1886 and is nearly 130 years old. The reformatory is known to house some of the country's most violent ghosts; spirits of rioting inmates who fought each other to the death in overcrowded isolation cells are said to haunt the halls and cells of this former prison, which closed in 1990. Since then, the reformatory has gained national acclaim, most notably as the filming location for "The Shawshank Redemption." Today, it's open to curious visitors looking to explore a haunting -- albeit stunning -- piece of Ohio history.
Tug Boat Graveyard - Staten Island, New York
The high seas are notoriously harsh and unforgiving, claiming many a vessel over the years. And off the shores of Staten Island, there's a boat graveyard that serves as a sobering reminder of the power of Mother Nature. Staten Island’s "Arthur Kill" Tug Boat Graveyard was born in the wake of World War II, as a scrapyard for abandoned ships. But the boats accumulated faster than they could be dismantled, leaving many full ships to settle and ultimately surrender to the unrelenting Atlantic waters. A truly
, the ship graveyard is located just across the Arthur Kill from Carteret, on New York’s side of the strait.
Hudson River State Hospital - Dutchess County, New York
It doesn't get much creepier than an old, abandoned hospital, and the Hudson River State Hospital is one of the country's most notorious. This New York hospital was once an impressively sprawling psychiatric hospital designed by the architects who created Central Park. It operated from 1871 until 2003, when it finally shut down after years of disrepair. One of many
abandoned hospitals in New York
, what takes this place over the top isn't its brilliant architecture, but what happened within its walls. At the time, the hospital was considered very progressive and offered a number of "modern" treatments for the mentally ill, like electroshock therapy and lobotomies. Today, it's said the troubled and tormented victims of these procedures haunt the hospital's halls. Although it's a designated New York historic landmark, the entire complex now sits abandoned.
Orpheum Theatre - New Bedford, Massachusetts
New Bedford Orphuem Theatre, 1005 S Water St, New Bedford, MA 02744, USA
One of the most architecturally brilliant buildings in the country, the Orpheum Theatre has a story that's as heartbreaking as a Greek tragedy. Massachusetts's Orpheum Theater opened in 1912 with soaring, gilded ceilings built in the Beaux-Arts architectural style. In addition to a show-stopping stage, the space included a club, ballroom, shooting range, and gymnasium. For nearly 50 years, patrons came to enjoy opera, theatrical, and vaudeville performances; however, the final curtain fell at the Orpheum in 1958. Today, a group of passionate patrons is working on reopening this beautiful piece of Massachusetts history via the
New Bedford Orpheum Rising Project
Kennecott Mines - Kennecott, Alaska
Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark, McCarthy Rd, Chitina, AK 99566, USA
Way up in America's Last Frontier, the Kennecott Mines are a place of mystery and intrigue. These mines are part of an abandoned copper mining camp that operated from 1905 to 1938; but like so many prosperous places, the Kennecott Mines ultimately fell victim to the Great Depression. Today, the mines are considered to be one of the best-preserved abandoned mining towns in America, though the desolate locale makes this place quite literally one of the most chilling. Now a
National Historic Landmark
and tourist attraction for many visitors to Alaska, the Kennecott Mines is a bucket-list must for all curious adventurers.
Visiting abandoned places is a humbling experience that will ground you in the here and now. These abandoned places all have stories to tell, and they are all stories worth hearing. As we get into fall, plan on venturing out on your very own ghost hunt across the United States, to the places that, against all odds, simply refuse to be forgotten.
For more bucket-list-worthy adventures this autumn, be sure to visit some of these
superlative fall festivals across America!