Bucket List June 23, 2021
by Sarah McCosham 19 Spots Around The U.S. That Will Make You Feel As Though You’ve Entered A Fairy Tale
We can all use a little more
magic in our lives. There’s a reason fairy tales continue to stand the test of time, and that’s because the enchanting, fantastical worlds they create are a delightful escape. But these worlds are not confined within the pages of a book; there are places all around the country that offer real-life, fairy-tale fantasies for those seeking a bit of adventure. From enchanting castles and fortresses to forests and waterfalls so beautiful they do not look real, there’s magic to be found all across the country. The following 19 fairy tale places in the U.S. are almost too beautiful to be real, but lucky for us, they’re as real as it gets.
Let this list inspire you to go and find your own fairy tale because there’s magic hiding all around the U.S., just waiting to be discovered:
Natural Wonders in the U.S.
The world is a wide, wonderful place, and the possibilities for adventure are limitless. There are well-known wonders, like the eponymous Seven Wonders of the World, and exotic, awe-inspiring destinations all across the globe. But you don’t have to travel to the ends of the Earth to have a bucket-list-worthy adventure; amazing places exist all across this great country of ours. Here are some truly marvelous natural wonders in the U.S. to inspire your bucket list:
1. Akaka Falls - Hawaii Address: Akaka Falls, HI, 96720 What Makes It Special: One of the most iconic and staggering waterfalls in Hawaii, Akaka Falls is also one of the most accessible waterfalls in the Aloha State. Where To Stay Nearby: Accommodations abound in the area, including Honomū Haven, a beautiful home located just three miles from the falls!
Unimaginably beautiful and absolutely sublime,
is a true treasure on the Hawaiian islands.
In a state with arguably the highest density of waterfalls in the U.S., Akaka Falls is as pure, pristine, and perfect as it gets. An easy half-mile walk through a real-life Garden of Eden leads to the cascade, which, at 442 feet in stature, is widely considered one of Hawaii’s most recognizable – and accessible – waterfalls:
‘Akaka Falls, Hawaii 96720, USA
2. Cumberland Falls - Kentucky Address: 7351 KY-90, Corbin, KY, 40701 What Makes It Special: Cumberland Falls is one of the only places on the planet where a moonbow regularly occurs. Where To Stay Nearby: Accommodations abound in the area, though nothing compares to the acclaimed DuPont Lodge.
When Dorothy sang about "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," she was not talking about Kentucky; however, this Southern state is precisely where you'll find that fairy tale place.
In Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, the eponymous Cumberland Falls is itself a place of enchanting beauty; the 125-foot-wide "Niagara of the South" is a natural wonder everyone should experience.
While spectacular any time of the year, on a few nights each month, something truly extraordinary occurs at this cascade: a
. This nocturnal rainbow appears like a mirage as the moon and stars shine above - and it's worth the visit in the dark to experience this phenomenon. In fact, Cumberland Falls is the only place in the Western Hemisphere where you can experience this rare event.
Cumberland Falls, Kentucky, USA
3. Hamilton Pool - Dripping Springs, Texas Address: Dripping Springs, TX What Makes It Special: Hamilton Pool is a gorgeous natural, emerald green swimming pool located in the Texas Hill Country. It's a natural oasis in the Lone Star State. Where To Stay Nearby: Accommodations abound in the area, but if you want to "go big" in a Texas kind of way, this luxury retreat has a private pool and sprawling property in the heart of Hill Country!
If you're looking for an escape that feels like Neverland, you'll find it at
One of the most beautiful places in Texas (and the U.S.), Hamilton Pool features a cerulean blue pool located beneath an expansive limestone grotto. A 50-foot waterfall flows into the pool, making for a completely enchanting experience.
This place of pure fantasy formed thousands of years ago when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to erosion. The lesson of this fairytale? Out of devastation and ruins can come great, wondrous beauty.
Hamilton Pool, Texas 78620, USA
4. Multnomah Falls - Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Address: Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge (Exit 31 on 1-84), OR, 97014 What Makes It Special: Multnomah Falls is the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest, with more than 2 million visitors stopping by each year to behold this natural wonder in person. Where To Stay Nearby: Stay close to the falls in this well-appointed cabin in the Columbia River Gorge!
is a vision; a sublime sensory experience. Located in the Pacific Northwest's breathtaking Columbia River Gorge (which boasts 90 stunning falls on the Oregon side alone), Multnomah is its crown jewel.
This 611-foot-tall, two-tier, roaring waterfall is a true testament to the power of Mother Nature. The Platonic ideal of waterfalls, it's the most visited natural recreation site in the PNW, with more than two million stopping by each year to relish the magical views.
To make the experience even more magical, stay and dine at
Multnomah Falls Lodge
, where you can enjoy enchanting views (see below!) of the fantastic waterfall while you dine:
Multnomah Falls, Oregon, USA
5. Watkins Glen State Park - New York Address: Watkins Glen State Park, 1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY, 14891 What Makes It Special: There are 19 waterfalls in this glorious New York State Park! Where To Stay Nearby: Accommodations abound in the area, including this charming cottage. Watkins Glen State Park
is the most popular state park in the Finger Lakes region, and for good reason.
The park's iconic Rainbow Bridge and Falls are absolutely breathtaking - so beautiful, in fact, they don't look real.
The hikes in this state park are enchanting; the trails winding through verdant green forests that feature stone staircases, secret caves, and trickling waterfalls. Watkins Glen State Park is the closest you'll come to experiencing Tolkien's Middle Earth... and it's an absolutely sublime experience.
1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891, USA
Man-Made Wonders In The U.S.
It’s not just Mother Nature whose hand has created some truly marvelous natural wonders — across the U.S., there are man-made wonders both inspired and inspiring. For proof of this, simply look at the Brooklyn Bridge or Vanderbilt Estate; humans are capable of some pretty marvelous things. Behold: some of our favorite fairy tale places in the U.S. built by true visionaries and artists:
6. The Biltmore Estate - Asheville, North Carolina Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC, 28803 What Makes It Special: The Biltmore is an 8,000-acre estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, that's truly something out of a fairy tale. Where To Stay Nearby: Take your experience to the next level by booking a room or cottage at The Biltmore!
Perhaps no place in America is more of a fairy tale than the
The Biltmore was built by George Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895; a 178,926-square-foot mansion located on 8,000 acres of pristine property just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. The largest privately-owned home in America, it's a place of stunning scenery, lush gardens, ornate architecture, and historic relevance.
While the house itself is a major attraction (the Biltmore draws over a million visitors each year), the massive and meticulously kept gardens on the estate are absolutely heavenly and rival the home's stunning beauty. The summer rose garden, spring tulip display, and sunflower fields add an enchanting, natural element to this commanding castle and are worth seeking out during their seasonal blooms.
There's truly nowhere in the U.S. quite as magical as The Biltmore:
1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803, USA
7. Bonaventure Cemetery - Savannah, Georgia Address: 330 Bonaventure Rd, Thunderbolt, GA, 31404 What Makes It Special: The cemetery became famous when it was featured in the 1994 novel "Midnight in the Garden of Good" and Evil by John Berendt, and in the subsequent movie, directed by Clint Eastwood. Where To Stay Nearby: Stay in a historic Savannah Row House and be prepared to fall in love with this town!
Tucked away in the enchanting town of Savannah, Georgia,
is one of the most hauntingly beautiful cemeteries in the world.
This fairy tale place sits on 160 acres of scenic, serene land overlooking Georgia's Wilmington River. A place of immense mystery and intrigue, the cemetery gained national fame when it was featured in the novel "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt.
Today, visitors come to marvel at Bonaventure Cemetery's regal gravesites and statues, wandering through the ground's lush hanging mosses and bright azaleas.
While all sorts of legends and lore surround this historic cemetery, one thing is certain: Bonaventure Cemetery truly is magnificent:
330 Bonaventure Rd, Thunderbolt, GA 31404, USA
8. Ice Castles - Midway, Utah Address: Midway, UT What Makes It Special: Ice Castles is an awe-inspiring, must-see winter phenomenon that brings fairy tales to life. While there are five locations across the U.S., Midway is where it all began and attracts scores of folks looking to live out a "Frozen" fantasy. Where To Stay Nearby: Accommodations abound in the area, including this luxury mountain chalet!
For those wishing to enter a "Frozen" fantasy world, visit the
Ice Castles in Midway, Utah
A winter wonderland comprised of ice castles and sculptures totaling 25 million pounds, this experience is truly extraordinary.
While this event now happens annually at a few locations across North America, the Ice Castles originated in Alpine, Utah, in the backyard of ice artist Brent Christensen, who created a frozen playland for his kids during one particularly long winter. Christensen's ice caves and castles proved irresistible for the neighborhood kids, and he began to imagine bigger winter wonderlands -- which brings us to today's epic Ice Castle events.
Opening dates always depend on the weather, but the attraction is typically open from early January through early March. Ice Castles is an awe-inspiring, must-see winter phenomenon that brings fairytales to life, complete with dazzling LED-lit sculptures, frozen thrones, ice-carved tunnels, slides, and fountains:
700 Homestead Dr, Midway, UT 84049, USA
9. Mackinac Island - Michigan Address: Mackinac Island, MI, 49757 What Makes It Special: This car-free city is known around the world for its delicious fudge! Where To Stay Nearby: You'll find no shortage of accommodations on the island, including the darling McGreevy Cottage! Mackinac Island
is a treasure of a town; a winsome island nestled between Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. This place is postcard-perfect in every way, full of delightful shops, colorful architecture, and coastal charm.
A car-free town since 1898, the island is best explored by foot or by bike; or, for an absolutely enchanting experience, horse-drawn carriage.
Vehicles aside, Mackinac Island is perhaps best known for its amazing fudge (the island has 14 fudge shops that collectively make more than 10,000 pounds of fudge per day during the peak season); and the aroma of chocolate wafts through town - with nary a wicked witch to be found.
Mackinac Island, MI 49757, USA
10. Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado Address: Mesa Verde National Park, CO, 81330 What Makes It Special: America’s premier archaeological wonder, 14 centuries of history are displayed at this glorious national park. Where To Stay Nearby: Accommodations abound in the area, including The Mesa Verde Tiny House!
For more than 700 years, the Ancestral Pueblo people built thriving communities on the mesas and in the cliffs of Mesa Verde. In 1906, Mesa Verde National Park was established to preserve and understand the heritage of the Ancestral Puebloans who once inhabited the 600 cliff dwellings.
Today, it is one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in the United States; a portal into another time and place and a glimpse into a truly remarkable culture.
Dark Sky Park
, the skies over Mesa Verde are extraordinary; as you sit and stare at the same stars the Ancestral Pueblo people saw so long ago, you will be rendered speechless:
Mesa Verde National Park, CO 81330, USA
Beautiful Places In U.S. National Parks
Our National Park System encompasses 423 national park sites in the United States. They span across more than 84 million acres, with parks in each of the 50 states and extending into the outlying territories. Within this expansive system, there are 63 sites that include “National Park” as part of their proper name, including well-known places like Acadia, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon. Within each of these wondrous national parks worlds, you’ll discover some of the most beautiful places in the entire U.S.
11. Acadia National Park - Maine Address: Bar Harbor, ME, 04609 What Makes It Special: Acadia is home to Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the United States’ East Coast and, at certain times of the year, the first place in the country to see the sun rise. Where To Stay Nearby: There's no shortage of charming accommodations in Bar Harbor, though we're partial to West Street Hotel. Open seasonally starting in May, West Street Hotel is home to Maine's only rooftop infinity edge pool, from which guests can gaze out at a panorama of postcard perfection: Acadia, Frenchman’s Bay, and the outer islands.
Colloquially referred to as the "crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast," Acadia National Park boasts picture-perfect panoramas that will take your breath away. Adding to the park's beguiling beauty is its iconic Bass Harbor Head Light (the park's only lighthouse), which towers regally above the Atlantic, rivaling the park's nearby Cadillac Mountain for the spotlight.
This majestic mountain is the highest point on the East Coast, and during parts of the year, it's also the first place in the U.S. to see the sunrise.
With almost incomprehensible natural beauty,
Acadia National Park
really is one of the most magical places in the country.
Acadia National Park, Maine, USA
12. Carlsbad Caverns - New Mexico Address: Carlsbad, NM, 88220 What Makes It Special: Carlsbad Caverns is one of the best preserved and most accessible cave complexes in the world that's open to the public. The park's primary caves, Carlsbad and Lechuguilla, are celebrated for their diversity and beauty. Where To Stay Nearby: Accommodations abound in the area, including The Jalapeño, a historic adobe home.
For a fairy-tale adventure both above
below ground, journey to New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns.
Above the earth, ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, and desert foliage and wildlife paint a portrait of divine desert beauty. Hidden beneath the surface, however, is a veritable watercolor wonderland.
There are more than 119 caves at
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
; the result of a chemical reaction between sulfuric acid and limestone. Chemistry aside, what you'll see when down in these deep caverns are prismatic pops of green-blue hues that are nothing short of magical:
Carlsbad Cavern Natural Entrance, New Mexico 88220, USA
13. Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Ohio Address: 6947 Riverview Road, Peninsula, OH, 44264 What Makes It Special: Ohio's only national park, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs through the park and offers an accessible way to explore. Where To Stay Nearby: Stay in the heart of it all when you book a night at the historic Stanford House!
The only national park in Ohio,
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
lies along the eponymous Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron and is a stunner of a place.
Known for its abundance of waterfalls, fairy tale forests, charming covered bridges,
breathtaking natural beauty, this Ohio park will completely take you by surprise. Its crown jewel is Brandywine Falls, a 65-foot waterfall that cascades into a lush, green gorge. Visit the falls at sunrise, and you'll be rewarded with one of the most picture-perfect natural scenes in the country.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio, USA
14. Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, Washington Address: 18113 Upper Hoh Rd, Forks, WA, 98331 What Makes It Special: How Rainforest is one of the only temperate rainforests in the world, and it's quite accessible for explorers of all abilities. Where To Stay Nearby: Stay in the historic Lake Quinault Lodge, an absolutely glorious place that offers guests a serene space for unplugged, uninterrupted reflection.
Located in Washington's wondrous Olympic National Park,
Hoh Rain Forest
is an enthralling emerald oasis. One of the only temperate rainforests in the world, wandering through Hoh Rain Forest feels like stepping into
The rainforest gets a staggering 12-14 feet of rain annually, which gives this thriving ecosystem its verdant canopy of mosses, ferns, and trees. The "Green Giant" is one of Hoh's most extraordinary trees; a towering presence keeping watch over the forest.
Filled with untamed mosses and hanging ferns, old-growth trees, and an abundance of wildlife, Hoh Rain Forest is a lush wonderland within the Washington wilds, and hiking in this park truly belongs on every adventurer's bucket list, as evidenced in this rapturous video c/o YouTubers
Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, 18113 Upper Hoh Rd, Forks, WA 98331, USA
15. Redwood National Park - California Address: Kuechel Visitor Center, CA, 95570 What Makes It Special: Home to the tallest trees on Earth, Redwood parks also protect vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild rivers, and 40 miles of rugged coastline. Where To Stay Nearby: You'll find no shortage of swoon-worthy accommodations in the area, including this charming farmhouse adjacent to the park!
Deep in the old-growth forests of California, there stands an army of towering, gentle giants. This is not a fairy tale; this is
Redwood National Park
This national park and the adjacent state parks are home to the world’s tallest trees, providing sanctuary to nearly half of the world’s old-growth redwoods. Some of the trees here tower more than 370 feet tall - five stories taller than the Statue of Liberty.
Visiting the redwood forests is a bit like being in "Alice in Wonderland" - suddenly, the world feels very, very big, and humans very, very small. It's a grounding, transformative, and immersive experience that you will never, ever forget.
Redwood National Park - Kuechel Visitor Center, California 95570, USA
Little-Known Enchanting Places In The U.S.
Have you ever wanted to step into the pages of a fairy tale? Whether your preferred fairy tale is the verdant green world of Tolkien or a bit darker a la the Grimm Brothers, these little-known enchanting places in the U.S. will capture your imagination.
16. Atchafalaya Basin - Louisiana Address: Louisiana, 70517 What Makes It Special: Bigger than the Florida Everglades, Atchafalaya Basin is the nation's largest river swamp, containing almost one million acres of America's most significant bottomland hardwoods, swamps, bayous, and backwater lakes. Where To Stay Nearby: Immerse yourself in this wondrous area when you book a night at this riverfront home.
For those seeking an immersive experience in the wilds of the American South, there's no place as wholly wondrous as
Stretching more than 140 miles from Simmesport to the Gulf of Mexico, the Atchafalaya Basin is the nation’s largest river swamp, and it's home to some of the world's most amazing flora and fauna.
Within this region, compromised of about 70% forested habitat and 30% marsh and open water, more than 300 bird species have been identified, including the largest population of wintering American woodcock on the continent and the largest concentration of nesting bald eagles in the region. In other words, the Atchafalaya Basin is a real-life Garden of Eden:
Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana 70517, USA
17. Cliff Walk - Newport, Rhode Island Address: Newport, Rhode Island What Makes It Special: A National Recreation Trail in a National Historic District, the Cliff Walk combines sweeping seaside vistas, enchanting homes, and fascinating history. Where To Stay Nearby: Accommodations abound in the area, including this Home on Ocean Drive.
Rhode Island may not have many towering mountains or sky-high waterfalls, but this Northeast state has a coastline no other state can compete with. And there’s no better way to explore it than the iconic
This public access walk is about 3.5 miles in total and offers unparalleled ocean views. But what makes the Cliff Walk downright dreamy are the Newport Mansions you'll see along the way.
Living remnants of the city's gilded age, these majestic mansions are real-life castles, omnipotently overlooking their oceanic kingdoms:
Cliff Walk, Newport, RI 02840, USA
18. Crystal River - Florida Address: Crystal River, FL, 34429 What Makes It Special: You'll find manatees year-round in the warm Gulf waters at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Where To Stay Nearby: Accommodations abound in the area, including this Waterfront Condo!
If the aquatic world of "The Little Mermaid" is your fairy tale cup of tea, you must experience
. Located along Central Florida's "Nature Coast," Crystal River's beauty is truly otherworldly.
Lush trees line the banks of its crystal-clear springs, allowing visitors to see far below the surface. What you'll discover, isn't just a treasure trove of brightly colored seashells and creatures, but also one of the world's gentlest giants: the manatees.
Each year between November and March, more than 500 of these captivating creatures migrate to Crystal River's warm, welcoming waters and it's truly a sight to behold. But you don't have to just
from above; Crystal River is one of the few places on the planet where you can actually
with the manatees and it truly is a wondrous experience:
VIDEO 19. Ozark Mountains - Missouri and Arkansas Address: The Ozarks extend some 47,000 square miles in Arkansas and Missouri; for those interested in equestrian trails, Meramec Farm is located at 208 Thickety Ford Rd, Bourbon, MO, 65441 What Makes It Special: The Ozarks are the most extensive highland region between the Appalachians and Rockies. Where To Stay Nearby: Accommodations abound in the area, including riverfront cabins at Meramec Farm.
are another Midwest treasure; this resplendent range encompasses the Boston Mountains of Arkansas and the St. Francois Mountains of Missouri.
Adventures abound in the Ozarks, from hiking and camping to kayaking and birding. We're partial to exploring this underrated treasure on horseback, and Meramec Farm offers bucket-list-worthy expeditions through this wondrous, wonderful expanse.
Perfect for families and large groups, you'll find riding along the river is exhilarating -- the entire trip is filled with divine scenery straight out of an Ang Lee film.
Ozark Mountains, United States
Are you feeling inspired? These beautiful places in the U.S. are just waiting to be explored, experienced, and, most importantly, enjoyed — so pack your bags and get ready to embark on an enchanting adventure!
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The OIYS Visitor Center
Beautiful Places in the U.S.
March 18, 2023
What are the best must-see places in the United States?
The world is a wide, wonderful place, and the possibilities for adventure are limitless. Here in
America the Beautiful there are so many must-see places in the United States, including:
Central Park - NY.
Nothing captures the
je ne sais quoi
of New York City quite like
. A place that's inspired countless artists, directors, poets, and romantics, Central Park is peak NYC beauty; a dreamy oasis with fairy tale bridges, tree tunnels, and horse-drawn carriages -- all in the midst of one of the world's largest cities. And Central Park in the height of fall foliage or spring blooms? Heavenly.
Point Reyes National Seashore - CA. When it must-see places in the United States, Point Reyes National Seashore is a top contender. Boasting scenery that’s filled with rocky headlands, sandy beaches, open grasslands, and rich hillsides, visiting this destination feels like stepping into the pages of a storybook.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - MI. Epitomizing the sublime splendor of #PureMichigan, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is an enchanting natural wonder that seems too beautiful to be real. You'll find this otherworld located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, making it a somewhat remote destination, but one that is absolutely worth the effort to reach.
Waimea Canyon - HI. Hailed as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," Waimea Canyon is certainly a place of immense beauty. (Of course *the* Grand Canyon is another must-visit, as are all of these captivating canyons across the U.S.)
Mammoth Cave - KY. The world's longest underground cavern system, Kentucky's Mammoth Cave is over 400 miles of pure fantasy for intrepid explorers.
Where should I travel to in the U.S. to see enchanting places?
Looking to live out your own fairy tale fantasy? In addition to the fairy tale places in the U.S. outlined above, here are some other enchanting places to add to your bucket list:
Bamboo Forest - Maui, HI. While all of the Aloha State is bucket-list worthy, the hidden Bamboo Forest is a place unlike any other on the planet. To access this wonder, you'll head to the island of Maui and venture into the magical Haleakala National Park. Aptly named, the Bamboo Forest offers gorgeous greenery, plenty of bamboo, and just a touch of magic, which you'll discover along the two-mile Pipiwai Trail.
Pella - IA. Yes -- Iowa! Known for its Dutch culture and postcard-perfect downtown, Pella, Iowa, is one of the most delightful small towns in the country. Located less than an hour from Des Moines, Pella is a small town that feels like entering another time and place -- and country.
. Shoshone Falls is Idaho's most iconic waterfall, boasting falls that are higher than Niagara's. The sight of this cascade is downright awe-inspiring, and a favorite among ardent waterfall chasers. Shoshone Falls - ID
Palouse Falls - WA. The official waterfall of Washington, Palouse Falls is a 198-foot cascade surrounded by commanding cliffs and caverns. (Put in perspective: Niagara Falls stands at a mere167 feet tall.)
The deepest and purest lake in the country, nothing can prepare you for the beauty that awaits at this astonishing national park in Oregon. Crater Lake National Park - OR.
Of course, these places are just the beginning of the bucket-list adventures that await in this great country of ours. Be sure to subscribe to our Bucket List Newsletter for a weekly dose of inspiration!