Hopefully, that will be back on the menu soon. But until then, there are places you can get away to a lot closer to home than you think. Trust me, I know.
Besides being a writer, I am a photographer. And as a photographer, there is one element required to practice my craft.
I need something on the other side of the camera worth taking a picture of.
2020 was a real challenge. I had to get creative and make every image count. This is why I ended up with about 10% of the number of images I have averaged over the last 15 years. But still, I got quite a collection.
As with most people, when I think travel, I think distant travel. The canals of Venice, the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu in Peru. But think about why you go to those places. They are amazing sites, and they are far away. But why is it that distance adds to the attraction? Or the converse, why are sites close by less attractive?
Take Stone Mountain, for instance. Forgetting the park’s dubious history, it was once touted as the largest piece of exposed granite in the world. People who care about such things have since made the assertion that it’s really not all granite, but the point is, growing up close to it, we took it for (no, I can’t go there) granted.
Do people who live in Northern Arizona think, “Oh no, the Grand Canyon, again?”
A neighbor who got close to the end of 2020 with most of his vacation days, went on a quest to see all the waterfalls in Georiga. I since learned it was a specific list of major waterfalls as there are actually 700 of them in the state.
The point is that, no matter where you live, there are day trips to amazing places that you didn’t even know existed or that you had forgotten about.
You don’t have to get away to getaway.
One absolutely indispensable resource I only recently discovered is the website Only in Your State. It is amazing to scroll through the places in my own backyard that I have never heard of. And the site has listings for all fifty states.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise as Georgia’s geography ranges from beaches and coastal islands to swamplands, through beautiful mountains. I’ve visited much of the state, but there was so much I had never seen. The number of impressive waterfalls, such as Amicolala and Angel falls, could keep a hiker going for weeks.
But there are so many other places to visit within a half day’s drive. I could have easily met my normal photography quota if I had only known. Rock gardens, butterfly houses, tunnels, canyons, covered bridges, and yes, waterfalls. My bucket list just got larger and closer to home.
Here are some of the more popular listings in (not all) the other forty-nine states.
- Maryland has a vineyard where you can drink wine in your own private igloo in the winter.
- You can kayak in Kansas through rock formations that rival those around the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
- The entire Pacific coast is beautiful, but there is a park in Oregon that rivals them all, with topography ranging from rocky cliffs to rainforests.
- Both Maryland and Georgia have unspoiled barrier islands where wild horses roam free.
- You don’t have to go out west to visit canyons, as Georgia and Alabama have beautiful canyons of their own.
- The largest underground lake in the States is located in Tennessee and can be visited via a strenuous hike deep into the earth.
- Want to see climate change in action? The largest glacial grooves in the world are located not in Alaska but in Ohio.
- You probably wouldn’t think something called the Corn Palace would be popular, but half a million people visit this South Dakota site each year.
- If you thought Nebraska was just cornfields, you need to check out the eerie lunar landscape of Toadstool Geologic Park.
Or if you want to see a great deal of the country and cross 15 states, there is the relatively new and unknown American Discovery Trail. At about three times the length of the better known Appalachian trail, it runs from Delaware to California.
The country, or the world for that matter, is not quite ready to return to the travel days we once knew, but you can get away without going far.
Check out the site above or your state’s tourism bureau to find amazing sites to visit in your own back yard.