Visit The Past In An Ultimate Time-Warp Adventure
Ghost towns, forgotten cities: their nostalgic allure dots the American landscape. We'll show you how to connect to the past in an ultimate time-warp adventure.
This summer, identify the off-the-grid adventure that’s right for you and your group, and get there with the All-New Land Rover Discovery.
Get ready for a time warp. It feels like our modern world is constantly changing, but nothing moves too fast in travel destinations that offer that rare mix of adventure and tranquility. Whether it’s exploring a ghost town, road tripping to a tucked away locale, or just spending the weekend in historic lodgings, the following trips will satisfy you and your travel group’s nostalgic yearnings for a bygone era.
The eerie sound of a swinging saloon door, or a rusty street lamp whose flame was long ago snuffed out—these are our collective images of the fabled ghost town. Now considered genuine slices of Americana, they’re often the remnants of communities that popped up during the 19th century, when they catered to ambitious fortune seekers hoping to strike it rich in the West’s burgeoning goldmines. These cities still hold a fascinating allure today, even in their abandoned state. It’s fun to visit all those empty houses, general stores, and saloons and picture the people who used to occupy them.
After soaking in the atmosphere, there’s not really all that much to do in a ghost town (and that’s kinda the point!). Yet a trip to some of the country’s most fascinating examples is easily combined with other activities. Visitors flock to riverfront Thurmond, West Virginia, for the white water rafting, and one can actually canoe through some of the flooded-out remains of Flagstaff, Maine. Hiking enthusiasts will want to check out the trails that wind through Dogtown, Massachusetts, or the mountains surrounding Garnet, Missouri.
And several spooky ghost towns lie right at the edge of some of the country’s best national parks: drivers headed to the country’s most remote park, Big Bend in Texas, pass through Terlingua on the way. It’s also simple to add on a visit to Rhyolite, Nevada, with a trip to Death Valley, and Bodie, California, is on the way to Yosemite. If it’s just some light hearted kitsch you’re looking for, then head to Goldfield, Arizona and take in a gunfight, or a train ride in Calico, California.
Of course, while your group’s actual destination is of the utmost importance, your choice of lodging can really make or break your trip. Staying somewhere full of character can make a garden-variety trip extraordinary, and you don’t even need to spend tons of money. Check out these suggestions for waking up in another time.
For Lovers of Mid-Century Modern Design: With its drive-up parking spots and crescent-shaped pool, The Caribbean Motel in Wildwood Crest, NJ, was considered exceedingly modern when it was built back in 1957. Recently renovated to restore all its nostalgic charm, this hotel is a kitschy throwback with plastic palm trees, vibrant Heywood-Wakefield furniture pieces, and a cabana-themed lounge. If your mid-century dreams won’t be complete without a kitchen, then head for Kate’s Lazy Meadow in the Catskills Mountains of Upstate New York, where the rooms are decked out in vintage décor, and kitchenettes feature pastel-colored appliances.
For a Throwback to the Wild West: Head to St. Elmo, CO to live in a bonafide ghost town nestled within the deep reaches of the Rocky Mountains. Stay in the rustic cabin attached to St. Elmo General Store and imagine what life was like for the miners who originally settled this isolated area back in 1880. Or, sleep in a tipi while still enjoying modern amenities—those at the Wigwam Hotel in Holbrook, AZ, actually have real beds, bathrooms, and even air-conditioning and cable. Looking for a little more glamour? Then look no further than the beautifully restored Hotel Paisano in the famous (but very isolated) art destination of Marfa, Texas. Designed in the Spanish Revival style by renowned architect Henry Trost, it once welcomed old Hollywood stars like James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson, and the town has since become an unlikely center for artists of all stripes.
For Vintage Transportation Enthusiasts: Long gone are the days when travelers dressed up for a flight, let alone navigated the high seas on a glamorous ocean liner. Fortunately, visitors to Long Beach, CA, can still enjoy the elegant setting aboard the Queen Mary. Built in Scotland in 1930, the ship now functions as a hotel. Fervent fans of rail travel should set their sights on the Aurora Express—a bed and breakfast in Fairbanks, Alaska, constructed from old railroad cars. For an historic aviation theme, visit the World War II-era airplane hangar at the Hangar Hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas, and then wake up and have breakfast at the attached 1940’s-style diner.
It can be hard to believe there’s even a rock left unturned in this vast country of ours, but there are still relatively undiscovered Main Streets, cowboy saloons, and even all-American diners that aren’t swarmed by tourists yet—you just have to look a little deeper. These five historic towns all have different tastes of times that feel long-forgotten.
Alpine, Texas: Slip away to this remote southwest town (the nearest airport is about three hours away). It’s not at all uncommon to find a genuine tumbleweed rolling down the street or real live cowboys sipping Lone Star beers at Harry’s Tinaja.
Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin: Located along the Chippewa River, this town features an iconic version of an historic Main Street. Delight in a scoop of homemade mint chip at Olsen’s Ice Cream, a local institution that’s been in business since 1921, and then take a tour of the 150-year-old Leinenkugel Brewery, a remnant of the region’s German heritage.
Clarksdale, Mississippi: Considered by some to be the birthplace of the blues, music lovers should watch a performance at Red’s Blues Club and see the crossroads where, according to legend, guitarist Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil. A trip to the Delta region also requires a taste of the famous hot tamales from Hicks’.
Leadville, Colorado: During the 19th century, this Rockies town was the state’s second city after Denver. It still hasn’t lost touch with its mining roots—it’s even home to the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum.
Little Compton, Rhode Island: Drive past old farms and colonial homes along the Sakonnet river to this undisturbed New England village, complete with a main square lined with an old stone wall and a white church, a general store full of beach-going supplies, and a diner that serves favorite Rhode Island dishes like clam chowder, johnny cakes, and Indian pudding.