Every corner of the United States is seemingly overflowing with creativity and raw, natural beauty – though often, the heavy-hitters (Vegas, Yellowstone) steal all the glory.

But if you’ve never set your eyes upon the largest mountain carving in the world (the Crazy Horse Memorial) or drank from the pure hot springs of Arkansas (Hot Springs National Park), you might end up missing out on some big experiences that will stay with you for life. Road trip to the Arctic Circle, anyone?


Be inspired in South Dakota

Must-see & do:

Credit: Travel South Dakota

Bike the George S. Mickelson Trail

Adventure seekers: bicycling 175 kilometres through South Dakota’s Black Hills is something you should put on your bucket list, stat.  The scenic Mickelson Trail has more than 100 converted railroad bridges and four rock tunnels. And if biking isn’t your thing, you can opt for hiking, horseback riding, or even cross-country skiing. Location: 3060 State Highway A, Mansfield, MO.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Home

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s HomeTravel South Dakota

Little House on the Prairie fans won’t want to miss a visit to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homestead, where families can try their hand at pioneering activities like making rope and cob dolls. The whole place is decked out like it was in the 1880s, so settle in for a theatrical performance and learn a little about the real little house on the prairie.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

MountRushmoreSDTravel South Dakota

There’s a good chance you’ve seen the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in plenty of pop culture—now, see it for yourself. One of the most famous landmarks in the U.S., this enormous Memorial looms 60-feet high and features the faces of four Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. For the best views, stroll the Presidential Trail or take it all in from the Grand View Terrace. Location: 13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Location: 12151 Ave of the Chiefs, Crazy Horse, SD

It’s a rare opportunity to see the incredibly significant artwork in the process of being created, but you can do exactly that at the Crazy Horse Memorial. In 1948, sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began carving a memorial to the Native American people after accepting an invitation from Chief Standing Bear. Although Ziolkowski passed away in 1982, his work continues on. When finished, it will be the largest mountain carving in the world.

Badlands National Park

BadlandsTravel South Dakota

Canyons, pinnacles, and skeletons of saber-toothed cats—those are just some of the fascinating encounters you’ll have at Badlands National Park. You’ll likely come across some living wildlife while you’re exploring as well, including bighorn sheep and antelope. At night, the sky is a glittery canvas worth spending time outdoors for.

Where to eat and drink in South Dakota:



The name of this restaurant is easier to understand when you see the 10,000-pound coal-fired oven. Meals are prepared in front of patrons, and cater to the more health conscientious diners. (But, feel free to indulge.) kolfired.squarespace.com

State Game Lodge

This historic, high-end lodge is known as the Summer White House, and the menu features local game. For adventurous foodies, there’s everything from buffalo empanadas to rattlesnake sausage. custerresorts.com/state-game-lodge

M.B. Haskett

Join the farm-to-table movement at M.B. Haskett, where all ingredients are locally sourced. Grab a crepe and a cappuccino, and dive in.

Tally’s Silver Spoon

Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Benjamin Klinkel combines modern fine dining and comfort food. The restaurant’s original blueberry pancakes from the 1930’s are a definite must-eat. tallyssilverspoon.com

Hayride & Chuck Wagon Cookout at Blue Bell Lodge

Take a 45-minute drive through Custer State Park to a scenic mountain meadow canyon for a chuck wagon feast. It’s the ultimate dinner with a view.

Where to stay in South Dakota:

Hotel Alex JohnsonHotel Alex Johnson

Hotel Alex Johnson,
Rapid City

This historic luxury hotel has been around since 1928, and has served presidents, celebrities, and even a few ghosts. The handcrafted decor may be reminiscent of a bygone era, but the amenities are all modern. alexjohnson.com

Frontier Cabins,

The name says it all: cozy, custom-built log cabins at the entrance to Badlands National Park. Children under 12 stay free. frontiercabins.net

Holiday Inn Downtown Sioux Falls,
Sioux Falls

This hotel is located smack dab downtown, allowing guests to get anywhere with ease. The Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science is nearby. Details here.

The Historic Bullock Hotel,

This hotel is a blast from the past, with 19th-century furnishings and historic ambiance. Rumour has it Deadwood’s first Sheriff, Seth Bullock, still haunts the halls.  historicbullock.com

MyPlace Hotel,

Simple, incredibly comfortable accommodations (pillow top mattresses!) ideal for both short-term and long-term stays. Units with kitchens are available. myplacehotels.com


South Dakota's best-kept secrets:

Corn Place MitchellFlickr/M01229 (CCby2.0)

Corn Palace,

Corn Palace is indeed a palace made of corn - a humble tribute to the state’s agricultural heritage. Sound corny? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) It’s actually a work of art. The building’s exterior is beautifully decorated with murals made each year from thousands of bushels of corn, grains, and native grasses. Address: 604 N Main St, Mitchell. 

World’s Largest Pheasant,

It’s impossible to resist taking an Instagram shot in front of this 28-foot, 22-ton pheasant made of fiberglass and steel. You’ll find it if you drive north along Hwy 37 to Huron. Fun fact: the pheasant is South Dakota’s state bird. 


Wall Drug

wallTravel South Dakota

A tiny drug store roadside attraction might seem like an odd choice for a “best kept secret,” but wait ‘til you step inside. The tiny drug store opened in the 1930s, but since then has grown to a 76,000-square-foot emporium filled with odds and ends. Purchase a cup of coffee for five cents, or check out the playground in the backyard. Address: 510 Main St, Wall. walldrug.com 


Dinosaur Park,
Rapid City

Dinosaur Park, Rapid CityTravel South Dakota

Here’s one for the kids! Dinosaur Park consists of seven life-sized dinosaur sculptures overlooking Rapid City. The dinosaurs are for the kids; the view is for the adults. (But we won’t blame you for trying to hop onboard a giant stegosaurus.) Address: 940 Skyline Dr, Rapid City.

Listen to Brulé

Sit back and enjoy some live music from Brulé, a Native American drum and song group performing nightly at High Country Guest Ranch. Hauntingly hypnotic drums and vocals will lull you well into the evening.


Be inspired in Arkansas

Must-see & do:

Crater of Diamonds State ParkCourtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

Crater of Diamonds State Park

Searching for diamonds in the world’s eighth largest diamond-bearing volcanic crater? We think that’s a pretty good way to spend an afternoon in Murfreesboro. If you happen across a diamond on the 37.5-acre ploughed field, you can keep it! Location: 209 State Park Rd, Murfreesboro. craterofdiamondsstatepark.com


Hot Springs National Park

With 47 hot springs flowing from the Hot Springs Mountain, this park is an easy must-visit on your trip. The water’s so pure the locals drink it right from the surface. The water is too hot to enjoy a bath in a natural pool, but there are plenty of bathhouses on Bathhouse Row where you can take in the full spa experience.


Lake Ouachita

Lake OuachitaCourtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

Crystal clear waters and endless natural beauty awaits you at Lake Ouachita, the largest man-made lake in Arkansas. If you’re into watersports, take advantage of swimming, skiing, scuba diving, boating, and fishing. Cast your line for bream or catfish, and enjoy the fruits of your labour in a fish-fry cook-up.


Lake Ouachita Vista Trail

On the southern shore of Lake Ouachita, you’ll find 70 kilometres of hiking and mountain biking trails. The trail system winds through the Ouachita National Forest, with plenty of stunning viewpoints overlooking the lake. It was also recently designated an Epic Ride by the International Mountain Biking Association. 

Wegner Quartz Crystal Mines

Wegner Quartz Crystal MinesCourtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

If searching for diamonds doesn’t satiate your adventurous site, perhaps scouring a 40-acre open field for crystals will. Learn how to use a gemstone sluice and screening box to search for rubies and topaz, or sift through “The Pit” for clear quartz and phantom crystals. The kids will love this one. Location: 82 Wegner Ranch Rd, Mt Ida. wegnercrystalmines.com


Where to stay in Arkansas:

The WatersThe Waters, Hot Springs

The Waters,
Hot Springs

The newest boutique hotel in Hot Springs, this place is on the doorstep of Hot Springs National Park. Never mind the plush amenities, you’ll want to pay attention to the artwork--the hotel is practically a gallery filled with art from Arkansas artists. thewatershs.com


Hotel Hot Springs,
Hot Springs

Gleaming with its new renovations, Hotel Hot Springs offers spacious rooms and welcoming beds. We’re excited about the soon-to-open spa, featuring Hot Springs’ famous thermal healing waters. 


Lookout Point Lakeside Inn
Hot Springs

Romantic lakefront B&B, anyone? In the heart of the Quachita Mountains, overlooking Lake Hamilton, this is your go-to place for some rest and revitalization. Add a 90-minute river cruise to your day, complete with mimosas and homemade muffins. lookoutpointinn.com

Queen of Diamonds Inn,

A charming Victorian inn located near Crater of Diamonds State Park, you’ll appreciate the atmosphere as much as the included breakfast. Take your cup of coffee on the veranda, and soak it all in. diamondsinn.com


Mountain Harbor Resort,
Mount Ida

A waterfront resort on Lake Quachita, these lakeview log cottages sit next to a restaurant, full-service marina, and boat rentals. Bonus: get some spa treatment at the onsite Turtle Cove Spamountainharborresort.com

Where to eat & drink in Arkansas:

The Ohio ClubThe Ohio Club

Ohio Club,
Hot Springs

The oldest bar in Arkansas, Ohio Club’s previous patrons included the likes of Al Capone and Mae West. Enjoy live music while you chow down on burgers and hearty sandwiches. Address: 336 Central Ave, Hot Springs National Park. 


DeLuca’s Pizzeria,
Hot Springs

Authentic Napoletana brick oven pizza? We won’t say no to that. This legendary place on Park Avenue is always busy, but there’s a good chance you’ll run into DeLuca’s friendly owner, Anthony Valinoti. Address: 407 Park Ave, Hot Springs National Park.

Mount Ida Cafe,
Mount Ida

This is the place to go to for southern style cooking, including everything from chicken fried steak to frog legs and rib plates. This is home-style cooking, the way it’s meant to be. Address: 978 US-270, Mt Ida.


Fayetteville Farmers Market

Locally grown produce and handmade goodies – you can’t go wrong at a farmers market, especially if you’re in Northwest Arkansas. Veggies, fruits, flowers, handicrafts, honey, baked treats, and more are all on offer at this Saturday market. Its historic grounds and its tendency to draw quite a few street performers are added bonuses. Address: 101 W Mountain St. fayettevillefarmersmarket.org


Arkansas' best-kept secrets:

Superior brewryFlickr/Morten F (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Superior Bathhouse Brewery

Craft beer fanatics will appreciate this one. The Superior Bathhouse remained vacant for 30 years, until a cunning entrepreneur re-imagined the entire venue into a brewery, craft beer tasting room, and full-service restaurant. Fun fact: they’re the first brewery to be established in a U.S. National Park, and the first ever in the world to use the thermal spring water as a main ingredient. Be sure to try the Hitchcock Spring Kolsch. Address: 329 Central Ave, Hot Springs.


Garvan Woodland Gardens

Anthony Chapel Garvan Woodland GardensCourtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

Belonging to the botanical gardens of the University of Arkansas, the Garvan Woodland Gardens are perched on the shores of Lake Hamilton in the picturesque Quachita Mountains. Be sure to see the Joy Manning Scott Bridge of the Full Moon -a stone bridge with a stunning self-supporting “full moon” arch--and the beautifully constructed Anthony Chapel, complete with meditation garden. Address: 550 Arkridge Rd, Hot Springs. 

Clinton Presidential Library,
Little Rock

Clinton Presidential Library,  Little RockCourtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

This gem of a library is located in downtown Little Rock, on the Arkansas River. It’s home to the largest collection of presidential papers and artifacts in U.S. history. If you’ve ever visited the White House, you’ll appreciate the spot-on replica of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room. Address: 1200 President Clinton Ave, Little Rock. clintonlibrary.gov  


Blanchard Spring Caverns

Blanchard Spring CavernsCourtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

Take a guided walk through this fully developed cave system, and find yourself surrounded by glittering calcite formations. Stalactites, stalagmites, and columns make up this intricate pathway, and the sheer size of the caverns will blow your mind – one “room” is equal the size of six football fields. Address: NF 54 Forest Road 1110A, Fifty-Six. blanchardsprings.org


Van Buren Downtown Historic District

Van Buren Downtown Historic District  Old Frisco StationCourtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism

As if Van Buren wasn’t quaint enough, they’ve got a beautifully restored Victorian Main Street where you’ll no doubt spend a fair chunk of time. Six blocks of art galleries, antique shops, restaurants, and attractions await! When the shopping and eating is done, hop on the 1920s-style train from the Old Frisco Station and see the Ozarks in style.


Be inspired in Fairbanks, Alaska

Must see and do:

Denali Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks

Denali National Park

You’d be remiss to come to Alaska without visiting Denali National Park. Six million acres of jaw-dropping nature and wildlife – let that sink in a moment. Snowy mountains and alpine tundra give way to awe-inspiring Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America. The park is a surprisingly quick two-hour drive from Fairbanks, or you can take the train. 

Cross the Arctic Circle

Cross the Arctic CircleSherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks

Crossing the Arctic Circle is one of those experiences that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Tour buses will take you up the Dalton Highway to latitude 66° 33’ north, where the sun doesn’t rise for one day during winter solstice, nor does it set for one during summer solstice. You can’t help but feel the significance of it all while standing on one of the outer reaches of the world.

Pan for gold

Gold Dredge 8Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks

Fairbanks was founded on the discovery of gold, so it only makes sense that you do a little exploratory research of your own. You can either visit the enormous display of gold at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ museum, or take the Tanana Valley Railroad to Gold Dredge 8 and try your own hand at panning for gold. Address: 1759 Old Steese Hwy N, Fairbanks.


See the Northern Lights

Northern LightsSherman Hogue/FCVB

No journey to Alaska is complete without seeing the Aurora Borealis, and Fairbanks is one of the best places to do it. Aurora Season is from August 21 to April 21, and thanks to the “Aurora Oval” (a circular zone where most Northern Lights activity takes place), most visitors walk away having witnessed the greatest light show on earth. It’s easy to find the lights on your own--whether from a heated cabin or a little backcountry trek--but if you’d prefer a guided tour, there are plenty of options available...like dog mushing or snowmobiling.

Chena River

The people of Fairbanks use the 160-kilometre Chena River year-round, rain or shine (or snow). Hop on a sternwheeler cruise and enjoy a relaxing river outing, or mix it up with canoeing, rafting, or kayaking. The stunning three kilometre river walk is a leisurely stroll through sculpture art and wildflowers in bloom. The river freezes over in the winter, but the fun doesn’t stop--dog mushers, cross-country skiers, and snowmobilers all take to the Chena when temperatures drop.


Where to eat & drink in Fairbanks:
Tanana Valley Farmer’s MarketSherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks

Tanana Valley Farmer’s Market

Where there’s eternal midnight sun, there’s farmland aplenty. Delicious veggies grow up here, including tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and zucchini. Craftsmen also come here to sell their wares, including woodworking and mosaic artwork. The market runs from May to September (Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays), but with occasional special events in the off-season. Address: 2600 College Road. tvfmarket.com

Ursa Major

Fairbanks is a spirited place, literally. Distilleries like Ursa Major serve up crisp, high-latitude spirits with locally sourced grains, berries, and potatoes. Hoarfrost Distilling and Fairbanks Distilling Company are two other options if you’re feeling thirsty. Address: 2922 Parks Highway.

Alaska Salmon Bake & Palace Theater

Alaska Salmon Bake & Palace TheaterAngie Cerny/Explore Fairbanks

Alaska is well known for its delicious seafood, and the fire-grilled salmon and beer-battered cod at Alaska Salmon Bake in Pioneer Park are a must-try. akvisit.com


The Fudge Pot

Satisfy your sweet tooth at The Fudge Pot with their homemade fudge and other dessert treats featuring Alaskan cranberry and blueberry. This place also makes a great souvenir stop. Address: 515 1st Ave.  thefudgepot.com


HooDoo Brewing Company

The HooDoo Brewing Company is a local favourite for craft beer, especially for their kolsch and American IPA. As they say, there are no fancy labels or quirky beer titles--it’s all about keeping the beer pure and delicious. Address: 1951 Fox Ave. 


Where to stay in Fairbanks:Aurora Borealis LodgeMok Kumagai/Aurora Borealis Lodge

Aurora Borealis Lodge

These cozy rooms atop Cleary Summit are designed specifically for viewing the Northern Lights. Other than wonderful amenities, their signature north windows are the main attraction. Now that’s a room with a view. auroracabin.com


Alaska Heritage House

This elegant building is a 1916 National Historic Register Home, perfect for history buffs and nostalgic types. Suites are luxurious, and the breakfast is decidedly gourmet. alaskaheritagehouse.com


Fairbanks' best-kept secrets:

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, Wedgewood ResortSherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks

Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum,
Wedgewood Resort

Even if you’re not a car enthusiast, this incredible collection of 85 rare antique cars is sure to keep you entertained awhile. Vintage clothing exhibits and memorabilia are also showcased alongside the automobiles, and you’re invited to don a duster coast and have your picture taken. Address: 212 Wedgewood Dr. fountainheadmuseum.com


Alaska’s Native Culture

Alaska’s Native CultureSherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks

Indigenous arts and culture are at the heart of wild Alaska, and Fairbanks is home to some incredibly rich native culture. Drum circles and dance and fiddle sessions regularly take place all over Fairbanks, but the more adventurous type can travel deeper into the country to visit remote villages. Getting to know the lifestyle and personalities of Arctic peoples is the kind of local experience you won’t soon forget.  


Baseball under the Midnight Sun

In Fairbanks, there are 70 straight days of sunshine and zero days of darkness from mid-May to the end of June. People embrace middle-of-the-night fun, like hiking, running, and golfing. If you’re lucky enough to be in town during the summer solstice, catch the Alaska Goldpanners’ historic solstice game--the baseball team starts their game at 10:30PM, and they’ve never used electric lights.


Fairbanks’ thriving arts scene

Fairbanks’ thriving arts sceneSherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks

You might not think of Fairbanks as an artistic community, but the arts scene thrives here in the north. Painting, ceramics, mask making, and sculpture are all part of the local culture, and galleries like 2 Street Gallery and Expressions in Glass are the best way to view it all. 


Insider tip:

“The community and people of Fairbanks are welcoming. One of my favourite parts of growing up here is that there are so many people to meet and learn from. People from all over the world visit or move here and we all come from unique backgrounds. What draws us together is adventure and exploration. Fairbanks is a perfect community for that because there are so many things to see and do. If you are new in town, just stop by a local restaurant, café or brewery, and get a perspective on how locals enjoy this wonderful place.” – Jenny Tse, small business owner. 


Be inspired in Presque Isle, Erie, PA (and beyond)

Must see and do:

Discover Presque IsleDiscover Presque Isle 

Kite Beach

Presque Isle has an impressive 17 kilometres of beaches, but Beach 10 is the most worthy of your time. This must-see stretch of soft powdery sand is the gathering point for avid kite flyers. This isn’t a place for amateur kite flyers, either--the shapes, sizes, and varieties of kites being flown all over the beach will amaze you.

Asbury Woods

Outdoorsy types will want to check out Asbury Woods. Spanning 205 acres, these woods are home to seven kilometres of leisurely hiking trails. There’s also a high-tech Nature Center, built to offer educational experiences for all ages. You’ll find live animal habitats, a turtle pond, and a Discovery Room for younger children, complete with a serene reading area. Address: 4105 Asbury Road. 

Waldameer & Water World

Whether you have kids or you’re just a kid at heart, this amusement and waterpark will keep everyone happy for hours. More than 100 rides and attractions make for a busy day, including roller coasters, a giant wave pool, and plenty of waterslides. And when you’re done with all the excitement, you can warm up in the giant hot tub. Address: 3100 W Lake Road. waldameer.com

North Pier

Discover Presque IsleDiscover Presque Isle

The lighthouse on the North Pier of Presque Isle doesn’t get as much attention as its neighbours, but it’s definitely worth the trek to visit. Pack a picnic and enjoy some leisure time on the pier, watching the freighters go by. On the way to North Pier, check out the houseboats on Horseshoe Pond, and the U.S. Coast Guard Station.

Bicentennial Tower

Looking for the best view of Erie? Climb to the top of this impressive tower for a 360-degree view of the area from 138 feet in the air. There are 210 stairs from the first observation deck (at 17 feet) to the second observation deck, so you’ll get your cardio in as well. porterie.org/bicentennial


Where to stay in Presque Isle:

Lakeview on the LakeBrian Edwards | Lakeview on the Lake

Lakeview on the Lake

For anyone who loves chasing epic sunsets, these waterfront accommodations make for a great overnight stay. Rent a cottage and enjoy a dramatic sky of orange, pink, and red over Presque Isle Bay. lakeviewerie.com

Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel

With all the comfortable amenities you can expect from the Sheraton brand, this hotel boasts stunning views right on Presque Isle Bay. sheratoneriebayfront.com

George Carroll House

This redesigned historic property served as a home for George Carroll, an early settler and lumber dealer. Now a bed and breakfast, the house still boasts antiquated features dating back to 1872. georgecarrollhouse.com


Where to eat & drink in Presque Isle:

Brewerie at Union Station Erie PenBrewerie

The Brewerie at Union Station

A local favourite, the Brewerie has been churning out fantastic brews and cuisine to the Erie area for over a decade. The beautifully restored Union Station building is an added bonus. Address: 123 W 14th St, Erie. 

Lucky Louie’s Beer and Wieners

Who can resist a name like Lucky Louie’s Beer and Wieners? There’s a selection of more than 300 beers to pair with their handmade hot dogs, including the Moby Dick—a two-pounder that requires a big appetite. Address: 8238 Perry Highway. 

Mi Scuzi

A beloved Italian joint, Mi Scuzi has been serving Erie for the last 20 years. Try the stuffed poblano peppers or the calamari ceviche.  The wine menu is dreamy too. Address: 2641 Myrtle Street. 


Presque Isle's best-kept secrets:

Discover Presque IsleDiscover Presque Isle 

Erie Art Museum

This epic 80,000 square foot complex is home to galleries, classrooms, a gift shop, and a café. The museum was founded in 1898 along with the Art Club of Erie, and is also houses five historic buildings under one roof.  Its permanent exhibits include a folk art carousel by Louis Dartanion Alexatos. Address: 411 State St, Erie. erieartmuseum.org

Warner Theatre

This historical theatre was built in 1929, and is named after the legendary Warner Brothers who commissioned to have the theatre built nearly a century ago. Nowadays, it showcases entertainment of all sorts, including theatrical performances, ballet, and big-name musicians. Address: 811 State St, Erie, PA. eriewarnertheatre.com

Seaway Trail

The most scenic drive in Pennsylvania is also the Seaway Trail, America’s Byway. It’s also a handy way to avoid the highways. This 811-kilometre byway stretches all the way from the Ohio/Pennsylvania border to New York, meandering through vineyards, beautiful neighbourhoods, and quaint towns like North East.  Being in the middle of the Lake Erie wine region, you’ll want to sample the wares.

Discover Presque IsleDiscover Presque Isle

Insider Tip:

A stop in Erie and Presque Isle Beaches is not complete without stopping at Sara’s Diner. Popular with locals and tourists, conveniently located at the entrance to Presque Isle, this 50s-style car hop/diner is best known for their Smith brand (made in Erie) foot-long hot dogs, orange vanilla twists and freshly squeezed lemonade.”