5 quirky destinations to visit in the United States

America is a diverse country – from the established cities on the East Coast to the natural wonders out west, there are many things to see and do on a trip here.

However, those who get bored with standard sights won’t have to stifle yawns during their time in the USA, as there are plenty of quirky destinations from coast to coast. In the paragraphs that follow, we’ll share five of our favourites.

Marble Canyon, Arizona

America is a place filled with amazing natural wonders, but when it comes to quirky, few of them can outdo The Wave. Situated within the Marble Canyon, this attraction features the petrified remains of sand dunes.

Formed over millions of years, formations of this kind are rare in nature due to the constantly shifting nature of sand dunes, but even if you aren’t a geology nerd, you’ll appreciate the curvy striations found here.

If you wish to visit, however, note that this site is visitor-limited to protect the integrity of this stone feature. Permits are issued by lottery over the internet, so apply for as many days as you can and cross your fingers.

Gerlach, Nevada

The desert of Nevada can be a desolate place – however, there are several attractions which break up the monotony of this desiccated landscape. The Fly Geyser, which lies on the edge of the Black Rock Desert, is one of these features.

The remains of a failed geothermal well drilled over 40 years ago, boiling hot water was left to shoot up through the surface of the earth for decades, creating a 12 foot high ‘volcanic cone’, thanks to high levels of calcium carbonate present in the erupting H2O.

This mineral also gave this accidental geological feature an alien-like rainbow hue, complimenting a water feature which has drawn visitors to this isolated ranch for years. Note that Fly Geyser is on private land: all hikes should be done through Fly Ranch, as coming here without permission is treated as trespassing by the owners.

Yachats, Oregon

Located along the extended Pacific Coast Highway (which is outlined in this American road trip guide and others), Yachats, Oregon is home to an otherworldly seaside feature known as Thor’s Well. Situated south of Newport on the Oregon Coast, it is a deep pothole which appears to be draining the Pacific Ocean of its waters.

Estimated to be 20 feet from top to bottom, it is quickly becoming a draw for photographers traveling in the area, but it isn’t without its dangers: during high tide, visitors who get too close risk being washed into what is essentially a drowning machine by the occasional rogue wave.

If you end up paying this place a visit, be safe by staying off the black rocks – you can get great shots and dramatic video with a decent zoom-in lens.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

The history of Central Pennsylvania has long been dominated by the coal industry, as many communities between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia sit atop abundant seams of this fossil fuel.

Since the middle of the 19th century, Centralia had been part of that story as well – however, an innocent but ultimately careless act one day in 1962 changed its chapter permanently for the worse.

Depending on whose story you believe, an attempt to clean up the local landfill by burning it led to embers spreading to an old mine shaft beneath, or a shipment of red hot coal ash in a garbage load did the same.

Over the next twenty years, the underground fire which resulted slowly heated up the ground above, destabilizing it and releasing noxious gases to the world above. By 1981, the problem could no longer be ignored, as chasms began opening up in people’s backyards and tanks at gas station began to heat up to hazardous levels.

The state and federal government began to move people out in 1984 – today, only seven people remain. Know that visiting here is at your own risk – the ground is prone to collapse at any time throughout town, harmful gases continue to erupt from fissures, and with state police patrolling the area, you risk arrest if you attempt a visit.

Salton Sea, California

A saline lake turned into an accidental ocean by the failure of irrigation canals coming off the Colorado River, the Salton Sea is a far cry from the glamorous destination it once was. After expanding to near the size of Lake Tahoe before the gushing irrigation canals were sealed, it quickly became a pleasant place to be for humans and wildlife.

A productive fishery existed here in the 1940s, and Hollywood celebrities boasted holiday homes here the 1950s. However, with the dry climate of the area reducing the size of the lake over the decades and agricultural runoff polluting this body of water, it quickly became a nightmarish place plagued with toxic dust storms.

Today, the place is littered with the remains of what was once a place on the grow. From shells of the former homes of the wealthy (complete with empty swimming pools) to evidence of the horrors of environmental decline, it relays what can happen when an ecosystem tips out of balance.

Despite its ghost town appearance, a small but sizable population still lives here – respect their privacy by not venturing into houses, no matter how abandoned they may look.

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