Vermont: Willoughby Lake
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Vermont: Willoughby Lake
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Alabama: Dauphin Island
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Alaska: Gates of the Arctic National Park
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Alaska: Gates of the Arctic National Park

In a location as remote as Alaska, nearly everything outside the cities is a hidden gem in one way or the other. And with nearly two-thirds of all National Park Service lands falling within Alaska's 15 national parks, it's not hard to find a hidden gem. With no roads in a vast wilderness larger than Belgium, Gates of the Arctic is America's least-visited national park.

Related: The Best Remote Vacation Spot in Every State

Arizona: Havasu Falls
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Arizona: Havasu Falls

Everyone knows about the Grand Canyon. But despite the massive number of visitors to the region every year, relatively few make the trek to the visually stunning Havasu Falls, within Havasupai tribal land next to the park. The falls require a difficult trek to access, but the views are well worth it.

Related: 30 Spectacular Photos of Hard-to-Reach Places

Arkansas: Thorncrown Chapel
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Arkansas: Thorncrown Chapel

The funky tourist town of Eureka Springs suits a wide variety of travelers, with charming Victorian homes and steep winding streets that make any first-time visitor fall immediately in love. Venture outside town into the surrounding mountains to discover the one-of-a-kind Thorncrown Chapel, the glass-walled "chapel in the woods."

Related: Most Romantic Summer Date Spot in Every State

California: Convict Lake
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California: Convict Lake

From Lake Tahoe to Big Bear, the vast California wilderness is dotted with an array of stunning alpine lakes. For a more out-of-the-way experience, the awesomely named Convict Lake in the Mammoth Lakes region is an absolutely mind-blowing sight to behold. Do some trout fishing, wander around the lake, and marvel at its turquoise colors.

Related: 30 Serene and Secluded Lakes Worth the Drive

Colorado: Creede
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Colorado: Creede

Colorado is blessed with an endless assortment of charmingly obscure small towns; Creede somehow remains one of its most overlooked. Perched at an elevation of 8,800 feet in southwest Colorado's Mineral County, the pretense-free town of around 300 souls boasts a thriving theater scene and a charming downtown seemingly carved into the surrounding mountains.

Related: 10 Historic Firehouses Across America

Connecticut: Danbury
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Connecticut: Danbury

Danbury has raised its international profile significantly in recent months, thanks to a random feud with comedian John Oliver. After Oliver picked on the town for seemingly no reason during a recent episode of HBO's "Last Week Tonight," officials replied with jokes of their own — with the result being the town naming a sewage plant after Oliver. Well played, Danbury. 

Delaware: Winterthur Museum
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Delaware: Winterthur Museum

This quirky museum in an opulent, 175-room home is fun for the whole family, boasting a massive collection of 90,000 objects from U.S. history amid a 1,000-acre nature preserve of woodlands and meadows. Tour the gardens, explore the museum's extensive library, and imagine what life was like when Henry du Pont lived here in the late 1800s.

Related: The Best Outdoor Christmas Attractions in Every State

Remnants of trees on the south end of La Costa Island, near Captiva, Florida
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Florida: Cayo Costa State Park

While tourists continue to flock to overcrowded destinations such as Orlando and South Beach, the Sunshine State tucks away a vast expanse of treasures in its many nooks and crannies. On the southwest side of the state, north of the vacation retreat of Sanibel Island, hides a glorious white sand beach accessible only by boat. Wander the shores, listen to the sounds of the waves, and bask in the most welcome lack of other human beings.

Related: 50 Cheap but Scenic Campgrounds in Every State

Georgia: Cumberland Island
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Georgia: Cumberland Island

Georgia is home to a number of gorgeous barrier islands often overlooked by travelers to the Peach State. Jekyll Island is one of the most well known, but a more remote opportunity can be had just to the south, on Cumberland Island. Here you'll find rugged campsites, historic attractions, and wild horses roaming the beach. 

Related: 55 Surprising Facts About America's Beaches


Hawaii: Kehena Black Sand Beach
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Hawaii: Kehena Black Sand Beach

A "secret beach" is something of a cliché in Hawaii, yet this laid-back black sand beach on the Big Island near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park does little to disappoint. It is something of a hippie oasis, with a liberal "clothing optional" policy and a spirited vibe welcoming all walks of life.

Related: The Best of Hawaii on a Budget

Idaho: Wallace
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Idaho: Wallace

This fascinating little town tucked along the Coeur d'Alene River in the Idaho Panhandle refers to itself as the "Center of the Universe." The nickname came from a manhole cover and, since the theory can't be disproven, the mantra lives on. Stop by and explore the town's many delights, from historic mining sights and ski resorts to a charming downtown surrounded by nature.

Related: 20 Spectacular Trails That Used to Be Railroads

Illinois: Garden of the Gods Wilderness
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Illinois: Garden of the Gods Wilderness

While Chicago hogs attention in the Land of Lincoln, downstate Illinois is a whole different world. There you will find the massive 280,000-acre Shawnee National Forest, a stunning wilderness landscape of rolling hills and scenic bluffs. The most iconic sight within the national forest is the appropriately named Garden of the Gods Wilderness. Take in the panoramic views over sunset, then head to nearby Murphysboro for some world-class barbecue at 17th Street BBQ.

Related: Awesome Views in All 50 States

Indiana: Santa Claus
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Indiana: Santa Claus

Oh, this? Just a town where it's Christmas 365 days a year. Spirited, delightful, and endlessly weird, this small town in southwestern Indiana is stuffed with a Santa's bag of Christmas-themed attractions, from museums and water parks to a candy castle and a post office with a giant Santa out front.

Related: From Santa Claus to Mistletoe: 20 Towns With Festive Names

Main Street
Main Street by Bill Whittaker (CC BY-SA)

Iowa: Fairfield

If you didn't expect an internationally renowned center of transcendental meditation in the middle of Iowa, you're obviously not familiar with Fairfield. The town is most famous as the home of Maharishi International University, founded in 1971 as a center of "consciousness-based education" by the same maharishi who used to hang out with the Beatles. Today the hip Midwestern town is a hub of tech, spirituality, arts, and busting preconceptions.

Related: 22 Small Towns with Vibrant Art Scenes

Kansas: Wilson Lake
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Kansas: Wilson Lake

Looking more Texas than the Kansas most are familiar with, this rolling landscape of buttes, valleys, and bright red rock lies in stark contrast to the flatland that most associate with the Jayhawk State. Stop by this unique environment in the center of the state for a lesson in not judging books (or states) by their covers.

Related: 30 Under-the-Radar Road Trips You Can Take in a Day

Kentucky: Paducah
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Kentucky: Paducah

While Louisville and Lexington get the lion's share of attention in the Bluegrass State, the charming historic town of Paducah continues to thrive happily at the mouth of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, just across the Illinois border. In this largely overlooked gem, you can stroll across the riverfront, duck into local bars and restaurants, and consider yourself lucky to have found it.

Related: The Most Beautiful Main Streets in Every State

Louisiana: Lake Charles
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Louisiana: Lake Charles

As hard as it is to visit Louisiana and not go to New Orleans, Lake Charles makes a strong case for a trip all its own. On the opposite end of the state, where few tourists dare to tread, this charming small city offers a taste of classic Louisiana bayou life mixed with casino resorts, a wonderful Mardi Gras museum, and 31 parks.

Related: The 15 Best Casinos NOT in Las Vegas

Maine: Baxter State Park
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Maine: Baxter State Park

State parks may not get the attention enjoyed by their more famous national park cousins, but Maine's Baxter State Park offers all the charms and then some. This classic north Maine wilderness experience abounds with mountains, rivers, lakes, and a vast expense of Thoreau-quality nature to get lost in with nothing but your thoughts.

Related: The State Park You Don't Want to Miss in Every State

Maryland: Assateague Island
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Maryland: Assateague Island

Wild horses couldn't drag most away from this 37-mile barrier island where feral stallions are the most famous residents. In addition to wild horses and ponies, the Assateague Island National Lakeshore boasts a wealth of classic recreation activities including camping, off-roading, kayaking, hunting and, of course, kicking back on the beach.

Related: 30 Most Beautiful Places to Camp Across America

Massachusetts: Ponyhenge
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Massachusetts: Ponyhenge

One might not think of a rocking horse graveyard as a top travel destination in a state packed with as many historic spots as Massachusetts. Then again, these ain't ordinary times. Located on private property in the town of Lincoln about 30 miles from downtown Boston, this socially distant excursion is the perfect antidote to lockdown fatigue. Pack a camera.

Related: Spectacular Outdoor Art You Can See for Free

Michigan: Isle Royale National Park
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Michigan: Isle Royale National Park

In Lake Superior between Thunder Bay, Canada, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula, one of America's least visited national parks remains a mystery to even the most die-hard Michiganders. But those who make the grueling trek are rewarded with a wilderness paradise consisting of hundreds of gorgeous little islands brimming with wildlife and nearly entirely devoid of humans.

Related: Under-the-Radar National Parks to Visit

Minnesota: Grand Marias
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Minnesota: Grand Marias

Perched along Lake Superior in the northeast corner of Minnesota, this classic summer lake town is Midwest living at its finest. You could visit one of the state's 10,000 lakes, but why look farther than the edge of the world's largest freshwater lake? This town has everything you need for a vacation done right.

Related: 32 Charming Small Towns With Stunning Fall Colors

Mississippi: Johnny Knight Treehouse
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Mississippi: Johnny Knight Treehouse

This endlessly cool treehouse is a hidden gem nestled in a wooded area in the town of Mendenhall, about 40 minutes outside Jackson. Looking like something akin to a wooden spaceship from a distance, the more time you spend here the more you fall in love — like all good travel destinations.

Related: 50 Amazing Airbnbs and VRBOs Across the Country

Missouri: Ha Ha Tonka State Park
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Missouri: Ha Ha Tonka State Park

One might expect to find scenic beauty in a state such as Missouri. But castles? Most don't see that one coming. Combine both at this unique destination in Lake of the Ozarks, which also features caves, natural bridges, bluffs, and million-dollar lake views. There's a Southern indie rock band named Ha Ha Tonka (after the park), so maybe discover a new soundtrack while exploring it. 


Montana: Livingston
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Montana: Livingston

Quite possibly the coolest small town in America, there is a reason everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Jim Harrison fell in love with this town upon first visit. Home to a large concentration of writers, this bar-heavy old Western town combines majestic mountain landscapes with world-class fly fishing to round out an unforgettable experience.

Related: 16 Places With Spectacular Fall Foliage

Nebraska: Toadstool Geologic Park
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Nebraska: Toadstool Geologic Park

News flash: There's more than cornfields in Nebraska. And the Cornhusker State's geologic diversity is on full display at this stunning park in the Oglala National Grassland in the state's northwest corner. Often called "the Badlands of Nebraska," the park features a wealth of unique landscapes that will have you looking at Nebraska in a whole new light.

Related: 50 Best Small Towns to Visit in Winter

Nevada: Pyramid Lake
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Nevada: Pyramid Lake

Most associate Nevada with desert, but the Silver State is also home to one of the most eerily beautiful lakes in America: Pyramid Lake. Located about halfway between Reno and the Black Rock Desert, where Burning Man is hosted, this trippy lake is like a mirage in the desert. Only somehow, it's real.

Related: 50 Most Beautiful Highway Drives in America

New Hampshire: America's Stonehenge
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New Hampshire: America's Stonehenge

This strange archeological site in the town of Salem attracts visitors from all walks of life, from curious travelers to soul seekers looking to investigate the mystery of its origins. While few can agree how old the site actually is, everyone can agree it makes an interesting diversion from the everyday.

Related: 78 Weird Tourist Attractions Across America

New Jersey: Cowtown Rodeo
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New Jersey: Cowtown Rodeo

The oldest weekly running rodeo isn't in Texas or Oklahoma. It's in New Jersey. Located in the southern part of the state in the town of Pilesgrove, the rodeo was started in 1929 and remains a premier attraction for fans across the nation.

Related: 40 Iconic and Beautiful Boardwalks in the Country

Cheap Silver
Cheap Silver by BFS Man (CC BY)

New Mexico: Madrid

From Santa Fe to Taos, there's no shortage of funky art towns in New Mexico. The entire state might as well be one giant outdoor gallery. But the art town of Madrid is one of the most interesting such communities in the Land of Enchantment, where old miner's cabins have been converted into galleries and colorful living spaces that need to be seen to be believed. 

New York: Boldt Castle
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New York: Boldt Castle

This ridiculously scenic castle perched on Heart Island in the Saint Lawrence River is a fairytale-like destination sure to please visitors of all ages. The unique destination is surrounded by beauty, which makes getting there half the fun. With restored furnished rooms decked out with Gilded Age charms, you might want to move in.

Related: 50 Incredible Castles Around the World

North Carolina: Pisgah National Forest
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North Carolina: Pisgah National Forest

Nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway are no doubt worthwhile attractions, but the criminally underrated Pisgah National Forest near Asheville is an often-overlooked feast for the senses. Enjoy crowd-free views of the region's purple mountains majesty, then set up camp and stay a while. 

Deer at Lake Sakakawea State Park- Dec 2014

North Dakota: Lake Sakakawea State Park

Yeah, we get it. Fargo. But that's not all there is to North Dakota. Take Lake Sakakawea State Park, for example. The 368,000-acre lake is human-made, but can you really complain when you've got top-quality fishing and hiking along the western terminus of the 4,600-mile North Country National Scenic Trail?

Related: Best Fishing Spots in All 50 States

Ohio: The Mohicans
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Ohio: The Mohicans

Those nervous about checking into a hotel and dealing with a crowded lobby in the age of coronavirus have nothing to fear at The Mohicans, where remote treehouse escapes are the accommodations of choice. There are no lobbies, no interactions with staff, no hassles. Just gorgeous one-of-a-kind accommodations such as the Little Red Treehouse, a former brewery tasting room turned ultra-cute treehouse cabin.

Related: 20 Amazing Treehouse Vacation Getaways

Oklahoma: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
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Oklahoma: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

The rugged landscapes of Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge tug at the heartstrings of any self-respecting fan of the great U.S. West. Roaming bison, wildflowers, and an array of colorful landscapes make this off-the-beaten path destination (established in 1901 to protect nearly 60,000 acres of crucial wildlife habitat) worthy of a repeat visit.

Related: 18 Travel Destinations Where One Visit Isn't Enough

Oregon: Collins Beach
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Oregon: Collins Beach

Everyone knows Portland likes to keep it weird. But there are different thresholds for weird. If a nude beach populated by strange graffiti-covered structures called UFOs by locals fits your description of a good time, by all means point your GPS toward Sauvie Island in the Columbia River about 40 minutes north of Portland. Just don't say we didn't warn you. 

Pennsylvania: Ohiopyle State Park
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Pennsylvania: Ohiopyle State Park

When Michael Scott goes "deep into the Pennsylvania wilderness" for a moment of self-reflection in an episode of "The Office," this is the kind of place he probably had in mind. While on the complete opposite end of the state from Scranton, this state park in the Laurel Highlands about 90 minutes south of Pittsburgh offers whitewater boating and endless miles of hiking.

Related: 38 Spots for a Cheap Fall Weekend Getaway

Rhode Island: Block Island National Wildlife Refuge
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Rhode Island: Block Island National Wildlife Refuge

There are few things the average American knows about Rhode Island beyond it being home to the fictitious Griffin family of "Family Guy." And while many are familiar with classic East Coast escapes such as the Hamptons and Martha's Vineyard, Block Island National Wildlife Refuge is a gorgeous hidden gem roughly midway between the two. 


South Carolina: Daufuskie Island
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South Carolina: Daufuskie Island

There's no place on Earth like Daufuskie Island. With most residents getting around on golf carts, rich native Gullah culture, and remote landscapes dripping with Spanish moss that look unchanged for centuries, this wholly unique barrier island between Hilton Head and Savannah is a joy. 


South Dakota: Petrified Wood Park
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South Dakota: Petrified Wood Park

Looking for a museum fit for a hobbit? Look no further than this attraction in the town of Lemmon, which claims to be the world's largest petrified wood park and museum. Marvel at the 100 conical structures throughout the park and be sure to bring the kids.

Related: Cheap or Free Museums in All 50 States

voodoo village
voodoo village by Lindsey Turner (CC BY)

Tennessee: Voodoo Village

This mysterious Memphis attraction is known as St. Peter's Spiritual Temple to some and Voodoo Village to others. But everyone agrees it's worth the trip. It lurks in a funky neighborhood, littered with decades worth of strange Masonic folk art, lawn ornaments, and other oddball delights. Be sure to pack an open mind.

Related: Circus World and Other Weird Museums Across America and Beyond

Palo Duro Canyon State Park
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Texas: Palo Duro Canyon State Park

It's true the Texas Panhandle isn't an easy place to visit. But that makes finally reaching Palo Duro Canyon State Park all the more worth it. One of the most mesmerizing Old West landscapes of any American state or national park, this criminally underrated state park is everything you think of when you think of old-school Texas.

Related: 18 Towns Where You Can Still Experience the Wild West

Utah: Snow Canyon State Park
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Utah: Snow Canyon State Park

Zion National Park is utterly beautiful. But it certainly isn't a secret. America's fourth-most visited national park is rarely devoid of crowds in the high season, while few of those crowds make their way to nearby Snow Canyon State Park. Something of a mini-Zion that shares many of the same characteristics, this park is the definition of a diamond in the rough.

Related: 31 Bucket-List Experiences in America's National Parks

Vermont: Willoughby Lake
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Vermont: Willoughby Lake

How hard is it to find a beautiful place in Vermont? About as hard as locating a Ben & Jerry's. But don't let the state's ubiquitous beauty take anything away from Willoughby Lake, surrounded by Willoughby State Forest in the northern part of the Green Mountain State. There's scenic beauty everywhere, and even a nude beach.

Related: 20 Things You Never Knew About New England

Virginia: Tangier Island
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Virginia: Tangier Island

Perched in the middle of Chesapeake Bay and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this out-of-the-way island is a one-of-a-kind in the annals of U.S. history. With a unique local dialect and a way of life preserved by longtime isolation from the mainland, a trip to this affable island is like a trip to another world. 

The Gorge
The Gorge by Al Case (CC BY-NC-ND)

Washington: Gorge Amphitheatre

Wow, this place is "gorgeous." While most have heard of Red Rocks in Colorado, Washington's Gorge Amphitheatre also deserves a rightful place in any conversation about the best outdoor music venues in the world. When concerts do return with the end of the coronavirus pandemic, visiting this venue in the middle of the state should be at the top of anyone's post-pandemic must-do list.

Related: 15 Iconic Music Venues Across America

DEA Museum 6
DEA Museum 6 by GPA Photo Archive (CC BY-NC)

Washington, D.C.: DEA Museum

Washington, D.C., is famous for its museums, but this ain't the Smithsonian. The DEA Museum & Visitors Center is a strangely fascinating little museum run by the Drug Enforcement Administration and featuring a full display of drugs and the role of drug enforcement throughout U.S. history. Currently closed for renovations, the museum will reopen in 2021.

Related: 24 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Washington, D.C.

Exhibit hall blast door
Exhibit hall blast door by readontheroad (CC BY-NC)

West Virginia: The Bunker

From the outside, the Greenbrier looks like any other five-star resort. Just one crucial difference: the nuclear fallout shelter. Today, visitors can tour the declassified bunker and learn about the resort's fascinating history housing a full-scale Cold War-era nuclear bunker. The 112,544-square-foot bunker even had its own 25-ton blast doors.

Related: The 40 Best Places in America to Travel Back in Time

Wisconsin: Apostle Islands
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Wisconsin: Apostle Islands

This pristine group of 22 islands in Lake Superior off the coast of northern Wisconsin makes an interesting excursion any time of year. And while the fall foliage is no doubt stunning, winter may be the best time to visit due to the presence of its majestic ice caves. These naturally occurring beauties will help thaw out any cold Midwestern winter.

Related: Explore the Best National Parks in Every State

Medicine Wheel
Medicine Wheel by carfull...from Wyoming (CC BY-NC-ND)

Wyoming: Big Horn Medicine Wheel

This ancient medicine wheel in Wyoming's remote Bighorn National Forest dates back tens of thousands of years. And while no indigenous group has yet claimed to have created the wheel, it continues to fascinate a small number of visitors who make the trek to see it every year. Maybe one of them should be you.

Related: 30 Incredible Photos of Ancient Ruins Across North America