The past four months of self-isolation and restricted travel have been more than rough. The rest of the world has been learning to work out in tight spaces, baking sourdough bread or terraforming their island homes in “Animal Crossing.” But if you’re anything like me, you’ve been scrolling through old travel photos and reminiscing over past adventures. I’ve decided to stop scrolling and start planning to come up with a list of five unique travel destinations you wouldn’t have thought to go to, but will be glad you visited.
1. Bentonville, Arkansas
This town, home to Walmart’s headquarters, does not seem like it would be an ideal travel destination. But this hidden gem, nestled in America’s South, receives plenty of love from Sam Walton’s family.
Walton’s daughter, Alice, founded the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. The museum has a vast collection of works pulled from the colonial era to present day. Indoor and outdoor exhibits offer visitors a completely free, interactive museum experience.
In addition to the museum’s large collection, the building itself is a beautiful piece of art, designed to highlight the natural beauty of the Ozark region. Some notable pieces on display include a portrait of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, painted by John Trumbull, and Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter.” Guests can also visit the Bachman-Wilson House, designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which sits on the beautiful land surrounding the museum.
In the middle of Bentonville’s downtown, Walton’s original Five and Dime store has been converted into the Walmart Museum. Inside, visitors learn all about Walmart’s history. The museum also has a gift shop where ice cream is sold for as little as a dollar. On a sunny day, buying a scoop of ice cream and perusing the town center’s shop is just about as pleasant as life could be.
2. Ogunquit, Maine
When looking to visit an ocean, you may not consider Maine an opportune choice to get the sun and sand you seek, but one seaside village serves as a travel destination you’ll never forget.
Ogunquit offers a relaxed environment and beautiful coastal views. Visitors can thus enjoy the seaside in a much cooler region than other beaches farther down the coast. An artisanal ice cream shop offers an amazing dessert option after dinner at any of the many seafood restaurants that take advantage of Maine’s fishing culture.
Twenty minutes from Ogunquit sits Nubble Light in York, where visitors can learn more about history, go scuba diving or even just catch the views from the lighthouse.
3. Indianapolis, Indiana
Many Midwestern cities are worthy of a visit, but Indianapolis is one that remains severely underrated. The shops, restaurants and museums are so unique to Indianapolis that you will wonder how you once overlooked such a distinct city.
Indianapolis takes its nickname “the Circle City” seriously when it comes to the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument. The monument lies in the heart of the city in the center of a huge roundabout, surrounded by shops and businesses. Some notable businesses right off of the circle include the South Bend Chocolate Company and Downtown Comics. On almost any day, you will find people enjoying themselves, sitting on the monument steps and basking in the sights of the city. The Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument is only one of many outdoor spaces worth visiting.
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis. And in a way he’s still there, immortalized on the side of a building on Massachusetts Avenue. Known by locals as “Mass Ave.,” Vonnegut is joined by a couple other famous Hoosiers. Mass Ave. also offers a variety of shops and dining options.
The city is also home to the Indiana Convention Center and several sports arenas that host events all year long. Even if your trip is spontaneous, the city’s planning isn’t, so there is always something to do. You don’t want to miss out on all the opportunities this travel destination has to offer.
4. Savannah, Georgia
Do you enjoy some good old-fashioned Southern gothic? If so, Savannah is the place you’ve been needing to visit.
The Southern city has many cemeteries, pulling visitors into an ethereal plane where many residents have found eternal rest. One of the largest is Bonaventure Cemetery, just outside of the city. Some notable, permanent residents of the cemetery include poet Conrad Aiken and lyricist Johnny Mercer.
As you first drive into Savannah, you may be amazed by a particular road lined with giant trees. As sunlight fights to find its way through the hanging Spanish moss to land on your car’s windshield, you’ll look upon beautiful buildings and wonder if you’ve been transported to another time period entirely. This road, known as Jones Street, is famous for being one of the prettiest streets in America.
Once you walk around Jones Street, you’ll find refuge in the city’s miniature parks, designed to act as havens from the sun and urban centers. One park may even look familiar to fans of “Forrest Gump.”
5. White Sands, New Mexico
Maybe your ideal travel destination is away from the urban environment. Maybe you like the beach but hate the water. Maybe you’re looking to head to the Southwest. The White Sands National Park, located in the northern Chihuahuan desert, could be the right place for you.
White Sands is the world’s largest gypsum dune field. The 275 square miles of desert is home to many flora and wildlife.
For the nature lover, the white sand dunes offer many opportunities not found in other places, including sand sledding. Visitors can bring their own sleds to the park — plastic snow saucers work best — and enjoy the powdery expanse of sand and fun.
To get a better view of the dunes beyond zipping by on a sled, visitors are also able to drive, hike and bike with cruiser bikes for women through the park.
When traveling within the United States, remember that each region and town has its own unique quality — which may not be obvious at first. Just being open to new experiences and opportunities is sometimes the best way to find unique travel destinations.