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Top 12 Unusual Destinations to Visit in the Great Plains
The American plains, often referred to as the “great plains,” are often overlooked as a travel destination. Characterized by the flat terrain and farmlands, the plains lack the visual appeal that some of the southern and coastal states possess. With that being said, these states offer much more than what appears at first glance, and those that choose to visit are often surprised at the amount of interesting sights and activities available. Not surprisingly, there are an abundance of unusual attractions to see in the great plains, from legendary caves to historical monuments. Take some time to check out the plains and make sure to visit these top 12 unusual destinations along the way.
1.) Geographical Center of North America- The small town of Rugby, in northern North Dakota, takes pride in their position as the geographical center of North America. In 1931, the town erected a fifteen-foot rock obelisk that flies both the U.S. and Canadian flags to mark the location. Visitors to this attraction can buy postcards and take memorable photographs.
2.) Enchanted Highway- In the late 20th century, the town of Regent, in southwest North Dakota, was struggling. Visitors to the town were scarce, and the economy was suffering as a result. In 1990, metal sculptor Gary Greff came up with a plan to attract tourists by creating massive sculptures along the Regency-Gladstone Road. So far, seven of these sculptures have been built, one of which was named the world's largest scrap metal sculpture by the Guinness Book of World Records.
(Sculptures along the Enchanted Highway, minnemon)
3.) 1880 Town- Ever wondered what a small cowboy town would have felt like in the late 1800's? The 1880 Town in Stamford, central South Dakota will give you a pretty good idea. The "town" was built by a movie company in 1969 as a set for a western. The movie was abandoned shortly after production began and the set was given to Richard Hullinger, the owner of the land. Over the years, Hullinger has collected historical artifacts to add to the town and several attractions to give it a more authentic feel. It is a surreal place to visit and one that anyone traveling through South Dakota should check out.
4.) Chief Crazy Horse Memorial- Most people traveling through South Dakota will go out of their way to visit Mt. Rushmore. For a more unique experience, check out the massive sculpture of Chief Crazy Horse in Crazy Horse, western South Dakota. Standing an incredible 563 feet high and 641 feet long, this sculpture is actually bigger than Mt. Rushmore. Make sure to check out the nearby museum that sheds light on the history of Chief Crazy Horse and the process that went into making the sculpture.
5.) National Presidential Wax Museum- One of the more interesting wax museums in the country lies in Keystone, western South Dakota. Most wax museums mold their creations after famous celebrities, but the National Presidential Wax Museum pays tribute to each President of the United States. The Presidents are molded at pivotal times during their terms, such as Nixon speaking with the Apollo astronauts from inside their space capsule, and George W. Bush standing with a New York firefighter after September 11th. The museum is a fascinating attraction and well worth a visit.
(Chief Crazy Horse Memorial, Christopher, Tania & Isabelle Luna)
6.) Museum of the Fur Trade- Fur trading is one of the oldest business practices in the United States. In the country's early years, people had to rely on the fur of animals to stay warm. One of the best places to learn about this trade, and the effect it had on the national economy is at the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron, northwest Nebraska. This museum had some fascinating exhibits on display including a parka made entirely of seal intestine.
7.) Kansas Underground Salt Museum- The Kansas Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson, central Kansas, is not your typical mine. There are no narrow passageways or dirt floors here, instead, it is one massive 67 mile long room. Visitors here are given tours on electric trams, stopping at the numerous exhibits on display.
8.) Subterra Castle- For a home tour unlike anything you have seen, check out the Subterra Castle in Shawnee County, eastern Kansas. Ed and Dianna Peden were some of the very first people to convert a nuclear missile silo into a livable home. Ed bought the silo in 1982 and has spent the last 36 years renovating it. Tours are arranged through email.
(South Haven, Kansas, Lane Pearman)
9.) Bonne Terre Mine- The Bonne Terre Mine was a fully functioning lead ore mine until 1962. Not long after the mine shut down, fresh groundwater began pouring in, quickly flooding over 88 miles of passageways and forming the worlds largest subterranean lake. The owners of the mine, Doug and Cathy Georgens, saw an opportunity with the newly formed lake, and opened it to the public for tours and scuba divers to explore.
10.) Ozark Distillery- The only legal distillery ever created in Camden County, central Missouri, has gained a reputation as a must-visit place in the "show me state." Ozark is a family run distillery that specializes in making moonshine, vodka, and whiskey. Tours are available daily, walking you through the distilling process and offering tastings of the various spirits. These tours are free and offer great insight into how these popular drinks are made.
(Fields near Springfield, Missouri, Heath Cajandig)
11.) Spook Cave- The spook cave in Mcregor, northeast Iowa, adds a fun twist to the traditional cave tours across the country. There is no walking inside the cave, instead you float through on a canoe, learning about the discovery and development of the cave. Anyone looking to escape the hot summer heat will love a visit here.
12.) Lewis and Clark Interpretative Center- In 1806, Lewis and Clark made history as the first Americans to cross the western portion of the United States. Their journey, from what is modern day St. Louis to the coast of Oregon, helped America gain a better understanding of the land and established contact with many different Native American tribes. The Sioux City Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, western Iowa, commemorates their voyage and showcases exhibits about how they completed it. History lovers will enjoy learning about what these early Americans endured to help expand our nation.
(Traditional Cornfield in Lyon, Iowa, Don Graham)