As summer approaches, one question looms in the minds of every burned-out student and weary worker: where am I going on vacation? Popular destinations like DisneyWorld and Yellowstone draw millions of visitors each year, but a few hidden gems scattered along the highways and byways of America offer guests a surprising array of entertaining experiences.

Tucked away in rural South Dakota, Wall Drug attracts roughly 2 million visitors each year. The store, which began its rise to fame in 1931, was originally a pharmacy. To promote their struggling business, the owners bought a hand-painted billboard advertising free ice water to weary travelers motoring through one of the most desolate areas in the country. The advertising campaign was a hit, and people came in droves to the once-faltering Wall Drug. Today, the pharmacy has expanded to include a café, an arcade, and a mall filled with stores of all kinds. The complex’s “backyard” contains several unique photo opportunities; tourists can take their picture in a horse-drawn covered wagon, in front of model of Mount Rushmore, and sitting atop a gigantic jackalope. An estimated 300 hand-painted signs have joined the original billboard that brought Wall Drug its fame, and ice water is still given to visitors at no charge.

Southern Appalachia is well known for its picturesque beauty. Rolling hills, lush foliage, and abundant wildlife have drawn countless wanderers to the Southeastern United States, but the earth under Sweetwater, Tennessee, holds a secret much fewer travelers have dared to discover. 140 below ground level lies a 4-acre lake known as the Lost Sea. Daily tours are offered in which visitors are invited to explore the cave’s countless formations before hopping aboard a boat for a ride across the Lost Sea, the largest underground lake in the America. After returning to the surface, visitors can participate in a number of activities on park grounds including mining for gems, observing glass blowers at work, or enjoying some ice cream at the park’s old-fashioned ice cream parlor.

We all know how annoying losing baggage after a flight can be, but have you ever wondered what happens to the luggage that goes unclaimed? Statistics show that 0.03% of baggage is never returned to its rightful owner, so the founders of the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, came up with a creative way to repurpose the lost luggage. If airline employees are not able to reunite a bag with its owner three months after a flight, the baggage is sent to to the Unclaimed Baggage Center to receive a second shot at life. After the baggage arrives in Scottsboro, workers take special care to inspect each item, sending clothes to be thoroughly cleaned, deleting personal data from electronic devices, and spiffying-up pieces of jewelry. The items are then either recycled, donated to people in need, or put up for sale in their public storefront. The store attracts many curious customers with its unique business plan and extremely low prices. Much of the revenue the store earns is donated to charity.


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