Oh, the places I've been...

who knows, maybe you'll find someplace worth trekking to

Cape May

according to wikipedia:  “It is a city at the southern tip of Cape May Peninsula in New Jersey, where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. One of the country’s oldest vacation resort destinations. With a rich history, award-winning beaches, designation as a top birdwatching location, and many Victorian structures, Cape May is a seaside resort drawing visitors from around the world.”

according to me:  cape may is one of those places I disregard too often because it’s only a short drive away. however, when considered more seriously, I have to admit it is a uniquely beautiful place. the structured victorian houses offset and juxtapose the whole “beach mentality”. because of the people that flock to watch the birds, there are plenty of trails along the beaches and marches that are fun to stroll in the morning or around the time the sun sets. also, because of the town’s rich history, you can bet your bottom dollar that the place is teeming with ghosts. I have heard the ghost tours are awesome and a must if you’re into that sort of stuff. if not, enjoy the old-school vibe and catch some rays.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art

according to wikipedia:  “It is among the largest art museums in the United States. It has collections of more than 227,000 objects that include “world-class holdings of European and American paintings, prints, drawings and decorative arts.”The Main Building is visited by more than 800,000 people annually, and is located at the west end of Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway.”

according to me:  I have been to this museum a handful of times and still cannot say that I have taken time to see everything in every room. I have gotten lost in the european art section more than I can count. aside from that, the museum has an obscene amount of artifacts and art work. you can see everything from a modern sculpture that looks like something found in a dumpster to van gogh’s sunflower painting to a recreated japanese tea room. recently, they had an exhibition of the faces of jesus by rembrandt and another consisting of only van gogh works. they bring in new exhibits every few months so there is always something new to see. it is overwhelming, but worth the time. just do yourself a favor and get a headset or a tour guide. also, sprint up the stairs rocky style.

Wupatki National Monument

according to wikipedia:  “It is a National Monument located in north-central Arizona, near Flagstaff. Rich in Native American ruins, the monument is administered by the National Park Service in close conjunction with the nearby Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. The many settlement sites scattered throughout the monument were built by the Ancient Pueblo People. Wupatki was first inhabited around 500 AD. A major population influx began soon after the eruption of Sunset Crater in the 11th century, which blanketed the area with volcanic ash; this improved agricultural productivity and the soil’s ability to retain water. By 1182, about 85 to 100 people lived at Wupatki Pueblo and by 1225, the site was permanently abandoned. It was a 100-room pueblo with a community room and ball court; making it the largest building for nearly fifty miles.

according to me:  this was another quick stop on a family vacation, but it turned out to be one of my favorites. the history behind the ruins is impressive due to the fact that mother nature has yet to destroy it after all these years. also, you are allowed to walk all through it and around it, which gives you a better perspective on just how these natives lived. the architecture is quite basic, but the fact that the structure is still standing and certain rooms and areas, like the ball court, are still identifiable is remarkable. also, the height of the structure gives you an encompassing view of the surrounding desert which is magnificent on a clear day.

Antelope Island

according to wikipedia:  “It is a Utah state park on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. It is open for year-round recreation and features an abundant wildlife population, including one of the largest free roaming herds of American Bison in the U.S. An effort to reintroduce Pronghorn Antelope to the park has been a success. Other animals at the park include Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer and a wide variety of waterfowl, wading birds and small mammals and reptiles. The park, at an elevation of 5,308 feet, was established in 1969 when the northern portions of the island were designated as a state park.”

according to me:  I really hate that I’m doing this, but this particular park was a complete and total let down. I did not see any bison or any mammals for that matter. the only living creature that was in sight was the black widow spider that was chilling next to the only toilet I could find. needless to say, I peed outside. my utter hatred for this place could be derived from the fact that it was over 100 degrees and we had just driven for over 10 hours, but still the place was not kept clean and there were no signs around the park to direct visitors. salt lake city itself, though at a distance, was engulfed in haze, which also made for an unappealing view. maybe one day I’ll head back and give the place another chance.

Flathead Lake

according to wikipedia:  “It is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western part of the contiguous United States, located in the northwest corner of the state of Montana. With a surface area of between 191.5 sq mi  and 197 sq mi, it is slightly larger than Lake Tahoe. The lake is a remnant of the ancient inland sea, Lake Missoula of the era of the last interglacial. Flathead Lake is 27.3 mi long and up to 15.5 mi wide. Its known maximum depth is 370.7 ft, making it deeper than the average depths of the Yellow Sea or the Persian Gulf.  It is one of the cleanest in the populated world for its size and type.”

according to me:  we didn’t spend much time here, unfortunately. the length of our stay along this beautifully serene lake lasted as long as it took to jump in the water and climb out because it was freezing. but regardless, the water is ridiculously clear and feels so crisp and soft on your skin because it’s fed from all of the nearby streams and glaciers. we drove along one of the two scenic highways that runs alongside the shoreline, which made for a very leisurely drive that led us straight to glacier national park.

National Museum of Natural History

according to wikipedia:  “It is a natural history museum administered by the Smithsonian Institution, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Admission is free and the museum is open 364 days a year. The museum’s collections total over 500 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, and human cultural artifacts. With 7.4 million visitors in 2009, it is the most visited of all of the Smithsonian museums and is also home to about 185 professional natural history scientists — the largest group of scientists dedicated to the study of natural and cultural history in the world.”

according to me:  this is probably one of the coolest museums I have ever been to. I feel cheesy saying this, but there is seriously something for everyone here to enjoy and be entranced by. from the giant elephant in the rotunda to the butterfly experience thing, it’s impossible to spend only a few hours browsing the rooms. do yourself a favor an allot a lengthy amount of time to explore things for yourself. no one likes to be rushed through the exhibits, unable to absorb any of the magnificence. my personal favorite is the exhibit with all of the mammals of the world. I’ve always been a sucker for stuffed lions and zebras…

Little Bighorn Battlefield

according to wikipedia:  "It preserves the site of the June 25, 1876, Battle of the Little Bighorn, near Crow Agency, Montana. It also serves as a memorial to those who fought in the battle: George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry and a combined Lakota-Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho force. The site of a related military action led by Marcus Reno and Frederick Benteen is also part of the national monument, but is about three miles (5 km) southeast of the Little Bighorn battlefield.”

according to me:  my dad and sister are really big on war history, so after visiting the crazy horse memorial, we decided to stop here. as someone who knew nothing about the battle, or the ongoing struggle in the area between the natives and the “whites” this park really opened my eyes to a part of our national history that is so often over looked. the land is grassy and bland, but it’s worth the visit because of all the artifacts they preserved in the museum part and the wealth of knowledge you’ll attain.

Lake George

according to wikipedia:  “It is nicknamed the Queen of American Lakes. It’s a long, narrow oligotrophic lake draining northwards into Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River Drainage basin located at the southeast base of the Adirondack Mountains. It lies within the upper region of the Great Appalachian Valley. The lake is situated along the historical natural path between the valley of the Hudson River and that of the St. Lawrence, so lies on the direct land route between Albany, New York and Montreal. The lake extends about 32.2 miles on a north-south axis, is quite deep, and varies from 1 to 3 miles in width, so presents a significant barrier to east-west travel.”

according to me:   I have been to lake george twice. both times were spent camping at local sites. both times, my family rented a pontoon boat, which is the suggested way of water travel. some areas have really cool cliffs on the shore of the lake that people love to climb, because I’m sure the view is beyond spectacular. some the towns surrounding it are quite adorable and filled with mom and pop places that have been around for ages, but like all other places, some areas are too commerical. the most recent time I visited, we went horseback riding through wooded trails and had a wonderful time exploring.

Eastern State Penitentiary

according to wikipedia:  "It is a former American prison in Philadelphia that was operational from 1829 until 1971. The penitentiary refined the revolutionary system of separate incarceration first pioneered at the Walnut Street Jail which emphasized principles of reform rather than punishment. Notorious criminals such as bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone were held inside its unique wagon wheel design. When the building was erected it was the largest and most expensive public structure ever constructed, quickly becoming a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide.”

according to me:  although eastern state offers that terrifying “terror behind the walls” haunted house/maze thing during the fall, I visited during the afternoon as a part of a school trip. even in the broad daylight the place is creepy as hell. no matter the temperature outside, there is an eerie coldness about the place that sends shiver across your skin. the history, however, is alluring because the establishment was so revolutionary for its time. I suggest you take a guided tour of the grounds. however, like most places, your experience is contingent upon your tour guide. luckily, mine was a really insightful hipster that cracked jokes, but really knew his facts. it’s also amusing to see this random giant castle like fortress plopped in the middle of fairmount.

Belleplain State Forest

according to wikipedia:  “It is a 21,320-acre New Jersey State Forest in northern Cape May County and eastern Cumberland County. It has many young pine, oak and Atlantic white cedar trees, having better soil than the northern Pine Barrens. It was established in 1928 and the Civilian Conservation Corps set up camps here in 1933, converted Meisle Cranberry Bog into Lake Nummy and constructing the original forest headquarters, maintenance building, a road system, bridges, and dams.”

according to me:  though this place really isn’t THAT spectacular, I basically grew up camping here. the lake water, if you ask any of my childhood friends and family, tastes like iced tea, but I wouldn’t suggest trying. there are plenty of trails and swamps to explore and huge fields where, if you’re lucky, they’ll have star gazing and jazzy equipment like telescopes for your use. it’s beautiful in the fall and I’m assuming it’s just as peaceful in the spring when all the wildflowers bloom.

Crazy Horse Memorial

according to wikipedia:  “It is a mountain monument complex that is under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills, in Custer County, South Dakota. It represents Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The memorial was commissioned by Lakota elder Henry Standing Bear to be sculpted by Korczak Ziółkowski. It is operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a private non-profit organization.”

according to me:  even though the monument has been in the works for what seems like forever (since 1948), it’s still one of my favorite places. the image of crazy horse exudes not only strength, but dedication and pride. aside from the metaphors and the impeccable precision of the feature carved into the mountainside, there is a museum that houses thousands of native american artifacts that are just exquisite. everything from the weaponry to the jewelry and clothing is so well-made and incredibly intricate. we took so much from the native americans, I only hope we, as a nation, somehow find a way to help them complete this memorial and immortalize their culture.

Gettysburg

according to wikipedia:  “It is the area of the July 1–3, 1863, military engagements of the Battle of Gettysburg within and around the borough of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Locations of military engagements extend from the 4 acre site of the first shot at Knoxlyn Ridge on the west of the borough, to East Cavalry Field on the east. On Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg.”

according to me:  this is another one of those places that is eerie due to the natural beauty that juxtaposes all the devastation during the civil war. the park service does an amazing job keeping the grounds clean and reminiscent of the 1860’s. the statues, monuments, grave sites, and all the brochures and packets make the visit educational as well as interesting and inspiring. this type of learning beats lectures and note-taking exponentially.

Petrified Forest

according to wikipedia:  “It is a national park in Navajo and Apache counties in northeastern Arizona. Named for its large deposits of petrified wood, the park covers about 146 square miles, encompassing semi-desert shrub steppe as well as highly eroded and colorful badlands. About 600,000 people visit the park each year and take part in activities including sightseeing, photography, hiking, and backpacking.”

according to me:  old wood, thrilling. WRONG. this forest or rather sporadic chucks of wood dates back nearly 225 million years. we stopped here briefly because my mother is obsessed with it, and frankly, looking back, I don’t blame her. the colors within the wood are so unique and, dare I say, funky. museums everywhere have these on display, but I promise you it’s more impacting seeing them where they once thrived, which ironically is now in the desert. plus it’s like common knowledge that you’re going to be cursed if you steal a piece of wood. people leave notes for the park service saying sorry and listing the terrible things that have happened to them since they stole the wood. you can look but if you touch, I’m pretty sure you’re going to lose your job or get struck by lightning.

Natural Bridge

according to wikipedia:  “Also known as Natty B by locals, it is “in the eponymous Rockbridge County, Virginia is a geological formation in which Cedar Creek  has carved out a gorge in the mountainous limestone terrain, forming an arch 215 ft high with a span of 90 ft. It consists of horizontal limestone strata, and is the remains of the roof of a cave or tunnel through which the creek once flowed. The initials G.W are engraved on the wall, many believe this to be those of George Washington…Hermann Melville alludes to it when describing Moby Dick.”

according to me:  this, again, was one of the quick stops on one of my family’s long trips around the nation. this place wouldn’t be so cool if it didn’t have such a intriguing history and profound affect on some pretty influential historical figures. nevertheless, it is awesome to see just how incredible forces of nature are. the size, however, is pretty overwhelming and astonishing. of course, I don’t suggest walking across it. I’m not even sure they allow it.

Oklahoma City National Memorial

according to wikipedia:  "It is a memorial that honors the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were affected by the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. The memorial is located in downtown Oklahoma City on the former site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which was destroyed in the 1995 bombing. The memorial was formally dedicated on April 19, 2000: the fifth anniversary of the bombing, even though it was built three years prior. The museum was dedicated and opened the following year on February 19."

according to me:  word of advice, bring a lot of tissues. this place is probably one of the most beautifully constructed memorials ever. aside from the sadness and devastation that is portrayed through pictures, unclaimed memorabilia and news clippings, there is an undertone of strength and hope. one tree survived the bombing and (to my knowledge) still stands today, which is an inspiration that seems to speak directly the struggling individual in all of us. it’s grim to consider this act of terrorism was committed by a fellow american, but it is uplifting to see the support and respect paid to this site by the rest of the country and world.