Star Wars Day: May the 4th Be With You

May the force be with you and may you book these trips ASAP

No movies more famously transport their audiences to locales far, far away than the Star Wars franchise. Now at 12 installments and counting—not to mention shows like The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett (aka The Mandalorian Season 2), and Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries—the films have been shot on a ton of green-screened sound stages… and some of the prettiest freakin’ places on this planet.

It’s not everywhere on Earth, after all, that can stand in for remote moons in ancient galaxies. The prequels were great at finding amazing filming locations. You don’t have to jump into hyperspace to meander along the craggy, wind-battered trails of an Irish island, look high up in wonder at the world’s tallest trees, or explore pre-Columbian ruins in Central America.

Yuma desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Star Wars movies came to screens in 1977 and revolutionized the film industry. Since George Lucas released the first installment, nine Episodes of the Skywalker Saga, three spin-off films, and three television films have been released.

Star Wars is a billion-dollar franchise. What is not to love about the franchise?

The original films used inspiration from the landscapes of Tunisia and parts of Europe. Yet, over the years, the Lucasfilms crew has traveled around the globe, capturing more dramatic real-life scenery to add to the sci-fi series. 

UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These films feature strong characters facing hard choices, epic battle scenes, forbidden love stories, and locations that make you want to jump on a spaceship (Roswell, anyone?).

Star Wars fans tend to annually congregate online and in real life on May 4 to celebrate the date with like-minded people for major movie marathons in addition to obtaining limited-edition merchandise released specifically for the occasion.

Some of the best Star Wars filming locations include Bolivia, Italy, Iceland, Tunisia, Guatemala, Norway, Jordon, United Kingdom, Croatia, Ireland, Spain, and United Arab Emirates. Star Wars fans around the world have traveled far and wide to step in the same spots as Carrie Fisher, Natalie Portman, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and many more.

Read on to find out more about some of the most iconic places used as real-life Star Wars sets.

Here are three Star Wars filming locations in the U.S. and how to visit them yourself.

Are you ready to explore the known universe? Check out three of the incredible Star Wars filming locations you need to see in real life below. Even better, many Star Wars filming locations only require you to fuel up your RV. 

Wildflowers in the Yuma desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buttercup Valley, Yuma Desert, Arizona

“Building the set at Yuma was an enormous project… Over Thanksgiving holiday when we first erected the fence around the set, there was a reported crowd of 35,000 dune buggy enthusiasts there. We needed to camouflage ourselves from the public and to schedule our shooting to avoid stray dune buggies creeping into a shot in the distance. This wasn’t easy because on weekends the buggies covered the surrounding hills like ants.”

―Howard Kazanjian

Instead of returning to Tunisia for Return of the Jedi, the film’s producers chose to shoot Buttercup Valley, a flat depression completely surrounded by sand dunes in Arizona’s Yuma Desert for the Sarlacc Pit sequence. Jabba’s Sail Barge and the Sarlacc Pit took more than five months to build and more than 5,500 cast and crew members lodged in Yuma during filming in 1982.

The sail barge was constructed here, behind fences to keep out prying fans. It was so big that the crew used the space underneath for offices, trailers, and a commissary with 150 seats. They didn’t blow up the barge here but fans still like to hunt for pieces of the set in the sand.

Things to bring: 

Colorado River at Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Death Valley National Park, California

One of the most iconic locations throughout the three trilogies of Star Wars is the desert planet of Tatooine in A New Hope. Although most of Tatooine was shot in Tunisia, crucial scenes were filmed in Death Valley between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Mojave Desert. Twenty Mule Team Canyon was used for Episode VI: Return of the Jedi scenes with C-3PO and R2-D2 traveling to Jabba the Hut’s palace. Other stops in the park that seem familiar from the movies: Dante’s View and the Mesquite Sand Dunes.

Boasting sand dunes, salt flats, canyons, and more, they had their pick of picturesque backdrops to choose from when filming. Here, the danger of hidden Jawas is evident with the many nooks and crannies within the rockfaces.

Star Wars spots within the Death Valley National Park include the Mesquite Sand Dunes, Artist’s Pallet, Golden Canyon, and Towering-Mule Team Canyon. Hike these scenic spots at your own pace while hunting for Star Wars locations. 

Things to bring: 

Sequoias, not the tallest trees on Earth but the largest by volume © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Redwood National and State Parks, California

California’s Redwood National and State Parks portrayed the Forest Moon of Endor, the Ewoks’ home world in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Several scenes such as the speeder bike chase and the Ewok ambush were shot in the parks’ many redwood groves in Marin County which is close to Lucas’s home at Skywalker Ranch. Redwood trees rise like skyscrapers with thick trunks that depict their thousand years of existence. Giant trees with thick trunks surrounded by ferns and foliage fly past as Leia and Luke try to dodge stormtroopers. 

Home to mighty redwood forests, this collection of state and national parks that includes Redwood National Park and Del Norte Coast, has been used in a number of films like ET and Jurassic Park: The Lost World.

Things to bring: 

  • Water 
  • Camping gear 
  • Sunscreen and wide-brimmed hat
  • Bug repellant 
  • Comfortable shoes 

Worth Pondering…

In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.

—Obi-Wan Kenobi, A New Hope

A Giant UFO Festival with All the Outer Space Vibes

It’s going to be out of this world!

Was it an alien encounter, a weather balloon, or a flying saucer? The event known as the Roswell Incident quickly swept through the nation in 1947. The “UFO Capital of the World” is known internationally by UFO enthusiasts and deniers alike!

Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beware, Earthlings, soon you will be abducted and dropped into a land full of alien fun. If you love UFOs, Sci-Fi, and all things extraterrestrial, the Roswell UFO Festival this summer is the place to be. This is the only RV road trip that will take you to outer space!

Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Roswell UFO Festival is a 3-day event happening on July 1-3, 2022. This fest will be filled with tons of music, photo ops, and activities (most of them free) for everyone. This destination Festival will include plenty of immersive experiences, live music, local food, out-of-this-world photo ops as well as other family-friendly events happening all over the city.

Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a great place to visit if you plan to go on a road trip with family or friends this July. If you plan to stay for the three days, make camping reservations early since the fest is quite popular.

The festival will have guest speakers, space-loving authors, live entertainment, a costume contest, a light parade, a reenactment tour, and even the cutest pet costume contest (Saturday, 10 am), and parade. Family-friendly activities will also be part of the schedule. You will be learning how to create your very own alien hat and other fun crafts.

Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the adorable ET to the vast alien universe of Star Wars, American Culture loves all things alien. But the city of Roswell plays an essential part in our fascination with UFO appearances beyond movies. 

Related: 4 Things to Know Before Visiting New Mexico

Roswell has been at the heart of the UFO scene since July 1947 when the military announced it had found the remains of a crashed UFO in the desert nearby.

Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seventy-five years ago, a rancher named W.W. Mack Brazel checked his sheep after a thunderstorm and found debris made of a strange metal scattered in many directions. He noticed a shallow trench cut into the desert floor. As the story goes, Mac Brazel drove his rusty pickup to the county seat of Roswell to inform authorities that something had crashed and scattered metallic debris across his ranch land.

Figuring it must have come from the nearby Army airfield, officers accompanied him back to the ranch and what they witnessed in the desert has, in the decades since, mushroomed to become the most widely publicized event in UFO lore.

Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Days after something shiny crashed in the New Mexico desert, the Roswell Army Air Field issued a press release that said the military had recovered the remains of a “flying disc.” Although quickly discounted as erroneous, the announcement laid the groundwork for one of the most enduring UFO stories of all time. There had been 16 reported unidentified flying object sightings reported that year during the several months preceding what would be known as the Roswell Incident.

Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So—what is the truth? Well, plan to attend the Roswell UFO Festival and judge for yourself. Roswell has become the epitome of everything alien and is even called the “UFO Capital of the World.” The city is home to a UFO Museum and a planetarium that you can visit during the festival.

Related: What Really Happened at Roswell?

Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to Will Rogers, Roswell was the prettiest little town in the west. Money magazine has called it one of the 10 most peaceful places to retire. Hugh Bayless, in his book, The Best Towns in America, listed Roswell as one of the 50 most desirable communities in which to live.

Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The festival is a loved tradition in the city of Roswell, so you’ll see people of all ages and backgrounds enjoying the festivities. Many will be wearing costumes, hats, makeup, matching outfits with their pets, or creating their own UFO vehicles for the parades. 

Both UFO enthusiasts and skeptics alike are welcome to join the fun. 

Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Besides the activities, parades, movie screenings, panels, and contests, you will also be able to shop alien and UFO unique souvenirs and presents and even have some awesome thematic food and drinks. 

During the UFO Festival you will love the entire festivity in Roswell. But what to do if you arrive a week before or stay a few days after the festival?

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be sure to visit the world-famous UFO Museum and Research Center, Bottomless Lakes State Park, Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge, Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art (free admission), Roswell Museum and Art Center (free admission), Walker Aviation Museum (free admission), Spring River Zoo (free admission), all of which are located in Roswell.

Related: Spotlight on New Mexico: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking for more fun near Roswell? You can plan a day trip to Carlsbad Caverns National Park or enjoy gaming at the Casinos and Ruidoso Downs race track in Ruidoso, New Mexico. Visit Lincoln and see where Billy the Kid made his last escape. There are countless sightseeing places you can explore in a day.

If you are ready to experience tons of alien fun, let this UFO festival “abduct” you this summer. You won’t regret it.  

Worth Pondering…

Well, at least my mom knows what species I am.

Should We Be Taking UFO Sightings More Seriously?

There is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone

In April, military officials released footage of three Navy videos that they say show “unidentified aerial phenomena” or in layman’s terms, unidentified flying objects (UFOs). The videos which were released previously by a private company show the objects which were not identified flying quickly through the air. They were recorded by infrared cameras.

UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights

The videos were published by the New York Times in 2017. Two had been recorded in 2015: the other was captured in 2004. One person is heard on a clip saying that an object could be a drone.

From 2007 to 2012, the Pentagon had studied UFO encounters but was stopped because other programs needed funding. But the former head of the program said: “There is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone.”

UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights

“These aircraft—we’ll call them aircraft—are displaying characteristics that are not currently within the US inventory or in any foreign inventory that we are aware of,” Luis Elizondo said in 2017.

These physics-defying aerial phenomena elevated the UFO conversation from Bigfoot Reddit forums to Bloomberg opinion columns. Here are a few prominent people saying we should take UFO sightings more seriously: 

UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights

1. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Twitter: “The U.S. needs to take a serious, scientific look at this and any potential national security implications. The American people deserve to be informed.”

2. Economist Tyler Cowen for Bloomberg: “Humanity has a long history of being caught unawares by outside arrivals, and so we should pay more attention to that bias in ourselves.”  He cited the “technologically superior” Spanish invasion of the Aztec empire as an example. 

UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights

3. Political scientist Alexander Wendt to Vox: “Whether it’s alien life, who knows? It’s a plausible explanation. My point is that we should be agnostic about this and simply study it scientifically. Let’s do the science and then we can talk about what we found.” The overarching argument: Strange phenomena should be investigated, whether the end goal is to protect ourselves from cone-headed extraterrestrials or just to learn something new.

UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights

+ If you want to learn something new…here are a few of the UFO sightings taken seriously by the U.S. government. Mysterious lights. Sinister saucers. Alien abductions.

UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights

Between 1947 and 1969, at the height of the Cold War, more than 12,000 UFO sightings were reported to Project Blue Book, a small, top-secret Air Force team. Their mission? Scientifically investigate the incidents and determine whether any posed a national security threat.

> Here is one of their most fascinating cases along with the latest on alien abduction insurance.

UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights

The Roswell ‘UFO’ Incident

In the summer of 1947, a rancher discovered unidentifiable debris in his sheep pasture outside Roswell, New Mexico. Although officials from the local Air Force base asserted that it was a crashed weather balloon, many people believed it was the remains of an extraterrestrial flying saucer; a series of secret “dummy drops” in New Mexico during the 1950s heightened their suspicions. Nearly 50 years after the story of the mysterious debris broke the U.S. military issued a report linking the incident to a top-secret atomic espionage project called Project Mogul. Still, many people continue to embrace the UFO theory and hundreds of curiosity seekers visit Roswell and the crash site every year.

What Really Happened at Roswell? Click here, for the rest of the story…

UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights

Alien Abduction Insurance Policy

Did you know you can purchase alien abduction insurance? Seriously! According to a Geico blog post, a London-based firm has sold over 30,000 policies throughout Europe. Like other insurance, alien abduction policies can be used to cover medical or psychiatric care, lost wages, or additional damages caused by an alien abduction. But, contrary to many life insurance policies, these insurance claims can be filed if abductees are considered missing and never return.

UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights

If you’re a believer and alien abductions are a concern, you might be interested in learning more about this. However, you should consider that filing a claim will require proof of the occurrence. This would likely include providing specific information about the aliens and spacecraft involved, a detailed description about the incident, passing a lie detector test, providing video footage and alien signatures, and including statements from a third-party witness. Also, coverage will only include a single abduction so if you have “frequent flier miles” on alien spacecraft, you won’t benefit from a policy.

UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights

$10,000,000.00 ALIEN ABDUCTION INSURANCE

The “Perfect Policy for Anyone Who Thinks They Have Everything Covered

You can’t be turned down regardless of your Age or Frequent Flyer Status. Only if you don’t …*

UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights

Worth Pondering…

Don’t Leave Earth…Without It

What Really Happened at Roswell?

The Roswell UFO Incident

One morning around Independence Day 1947, about 75 miles from the town of Roswell, New Mexico, a rancher named Mac Brazel found something unusual in his sheep pasture: a mess of metallic sticks held together with tape; chunks of plastic and foil reflectors; and scraps of a heavy, glossy, paper-like material.

International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unable to identify the strange objects, Brazel called Roswell’s sheriff. The sheriff, in turn, called officials at the nearby Roswell Army Air Force base. Soldiers fanned out across Brazel’s field, gathering the mysterious debris and whisking it away in armored trucks.

International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On July 8, “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region” was the top story in the Roswell Daily Record. But was it true? On July 9, an Air Force official clarified the paper’s report: The alleged “flying saucer,” he said, was only a crashed weather balloon. However, to anyone who had seen the debris (or the newspaper photographs of it), it was clear that whatever this thing was, it was no weather balloon. Some people believed—and still believe—that the crashed vehicle had not come from Earth at all. They argued that the debris in Brazel’s field must have come from an alien spaceship.

International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It turned out that the Army knew more about Brazel’s “flying saucer” than it let on. Since World War II, a group of geophysicists and oceanographers from Columbia University, New York University, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod had been working on a top-secret atomic espionage project at New Mexico’s Alamogordo Air Field that they called Project Mogul.

International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Project Mogul used sturdy high-altitude balloons to carry low-frequency sound sensors into the tropopause, a faraway part of the Earth’s atmosphere that acts as a sound channel. In this part of the atmosphere, sound waves can travel for thousands of miles without interference, much like under the ocean. The scientists believed that if they sent microphones into this sound channel, they would be able to eavesdrop on nuclear tests as far away as the Soviet Union.

International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the U.S. military, the debris in Brazel’s field outside Roswell actually belonged to Project Mogul. It was the remains of a 700-foot-long string of neoprene balloons, radar reflectors (for tracking), and sonic equipment that the scientists had launched from the Alamogordo base in June and that had, evidently, crashed in early July 1947.

International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Because the project was highly classified, no one at the Roswell Army Air Field even knew that it existed and they had no idea what to make of the objects Brazel had found. (In fact, some officials on the base were worried that the wreckage had come from a Russian spy plane or satellite—information that they were understandably reluctant to share with the public.)

International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The “weather balloon” story, flimsy though it was, was the simplest and most plausible explanation they could come up with on short notice. Meanwhile, to protect the scientists’ secret project, no one at Alamogordo could step in and clear up the confusion.

International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, many people continue to believe that the government and the military are covering up the truth about alien landings at and around Roswell. In 1994, the Pentagon declassified most of its files on Project Mogul and the dummy drops and the federal General Accounting Office produced a report (“Report of Air Force Research Regarding the Roswell Incident”) designed to debunk these rumors. Nevertheless, there are still people who subscribe to the UFO theory and hundreds of thousands of curiosity seekers visit Roswell and the crash site every year hoping to find out the truth for themselves.

International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell was organized to inform the public about what has come to be known as “The Roswell Incident” and other unexplained phenomena related to UFO research.

International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Every July, the UFO Museum celebrates the famous Roswell Crash of 1947 by hosting several guest speakers who give lectures to thousands of people over the course of three days. During those three days, the Museum sees on average 12,000 visitors from all over the globe.

International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic brings concern for near-future events. The safety and well-being of our employees, speakers, visitors, and community remain a top priority. With all of that being said, the decision was made to cancel the 2020 UFOlogist Invasion. Although it was a difficult decision, it was the responsible one, according to the website.

International UFO Museum & Research Center at Roswell exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We hope to see you all at the 2021 UFOlogist Invasion.

Worth Pondering…

Well, at least my mom knows what species I am.

A Great Place to Crash a UFO

Roswell has been at the heart of the UFO scene since July 1947 when the military announced it had found the remains of a crashed UFO in the desert nearby

Seventy two years ago, a rancher named W.W. Mack Brazel checked his sheep after a thunderstorm and found debris made of a strange metal scattered in many directions. He noticed a shallow trench cut into the desert floor.

As the story goes, Mac Brazel drove his rusty pickup down to the county seat of Roswell, New Mexico to inform authorities that something had crashed and scattered metallic debris across his ranch land.

UFO Museum, Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Figuring it must have come from the nearby Army airfield, officers accompanied him back to the ranch, and what they witnessed in the desert has, in the decades since, mushroomed to become the most widely publicized event in UFO lore.

There had been 16 reported unidentified flying object sightings reported that year during the several months preceding what would be known as the Roswell Incident.

UFO Museum, Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Air Force issued a press release stating that a UFO had been found. That statement was quickly rescinded and another was issued indicating that the debris came from a top-secret weather balloon test.

Adding to the mystery, the Air Force ordered sealed coffins from a Roswell undertaker, fueling speculation that aliens had been recovered.

UFO Museum, Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roswell Army Air Field became Walker Air Force Base two years after the flying saucer flap. In 1967, the military vacated altogether, leaving what would eventually be developed into an industrial air center.

It’s also home of the notorious Hangar 84 where, legend has it, the Roswell wreckage and bodies were stored before shipment to their new digs at the even more notorious Hanger 18 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

UFO Museum, Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roswell has wisely embraced its extraterrestrial past. Once-empty storefronts in downtown Roswell overflow with E.T. and UFO everything. Cornerstone of it all is an old movie house converted into the world’s foremost center for UFO information and study.

Roswell, however, boasts much more, historically.

UFO Museum, Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The cattle industry brought settlement to the Pecos Valley when John Chisum founded the Jinglebob Ranch in 1878. Growth was slow at first.

Added to the usual frontier lawlessness, hostile Comanches east of the Pecos and Apaches to the west was the violence erupting from the Lincoln County War.

UFO Museum, Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roswell has been famous in agricultural circles for its high-quality alfalfa, in scientific circles for the rocket experimentation of Robert H. Goddard between 1930 and 1941, and in academic circles for New Mexico Military Institute.

UFO Museum, Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roswell has a varied economy based on agriculture, shipping, manufacturing, and oil production. Large artesian water supplies have enabled farmers to grow alfalfa, cotton, chilli peppers, corn, and pecans, while cattle, sheep, and goats thrive on local ranch lands.

UFO Museum, Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roswell’s food processing industries include the nation’s largest producer of mozzarella cheese, and a lollipop factory.

According to Will Rogers, Roswell was the prettiest little town in the west. Money magazine has called it one of the 10 most peaceful places to retire. Hugh Bayless, in his book, The Best Towns in America, listed Roswell as one of the 50 most desirable communities in which to live.

UFO Museum, Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roswell now is becoming known for its Downtown Historic District, which was created by the Historic Society for Southeast New Mexico. It was named to the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1985, along with the campus of New Mexico Military Institute, several outlying ranches, and Chihuahuita, probably the oldest settlement in the Roswell area.

UFO Museum, Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Downtown Historic District covers approximately 40 city blocks and contains homes of more than 22 architectural styles. Roswell’s early history explains this unusual architectural style mix. Many styles—Prairie-style, Bungalow, Mediterranean, California Mission, Pueblo Revival, Simplified Anne, Period, Federal, Colonial Revival, Southwest Vernacular, Italiante, and Southwest Vernacular—dot the historic district eclectically.

UFO Museum, Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So—what is the truth? Well, visit Roswell and judge for yourself.

Worth Pondering…

Well, at least my mom knows what species I am.

8 Weird and Wacky Destinations for a Family Road Trip

America is home to some weird and wacky attractions that may not be in your typical travel guide, but would be sure to blow any Happy RVer’s mind!

There’s nothing more American than a road trip. So this summer, why not pack up the car and veer off the beaten track to explore something a little bit different?

This list of destinations, from a palace made of corn to a UFO crash site, provides plenty of inspiration and enough surprises for the whole family.

Be prepared for a natural wonderland. underground marvels, and a few horse-drawn buggies along the way.

Mitchell Corn Palace in South Dakota

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Any drive through the Midwest will bring you face-to-face with cornstalks taller than you can imagine. The Mitchell Corn Palace in South Dakota celebrates all things corn—starting with this prairie town in the middle of nowhere. This “palace” looks like something straight out of Russia, built in 1892 to showcase South Dakota’s bountiful harvests.

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Step out of your car and into a natural wonderland. The vibrant colors of the Petrified Forest will keep your eyes engaged, while these fascinating ancient fossils will engross your mind. Check out the Rainbow Forest Museum first, so you can orient yourself and determine your trail route.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a break from being a road warrior and go caving instead. Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 caves—formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes. Experience the Big Room and Natural Entrance trails at your own pace. Ranger-guided tours include King’s Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, Hall of the White Giant, Lower, Spider, and Slaughter Canyon cave.

Amish Farm Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re determined to unplug and unwind, find your way to Lancaster County for a truly old-fashioned time. From buggy rides to dinner theater, there’s plenty to see and do—including traditional “mud sales,” or outdoor auctions, that specialize in handcrafted products and support the local fire department.

Lassen Volcanic National Park in California

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Peak is the southernmost of the Cascade Mountains’ 15 volcanoes. The mountain famously erupted from 1914 until 1921 and largely changed the landscape to what you see today around the Cinder Cone. But the park is more than just a volcano. It’s a set of peaks surrounded by a lush wilderness. This park is a laid-back spot with great camping and volcanic landscapes right next to verdant forests.

Wall Drug in South Dakota

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wall Drug has grown from its humble beginnings in 1931 to a thriving oasis. Wall Drug offers dining, activities, gifts and souvenirs, visitor information and, of course, free ice water. Many road-worn travelers stop at Wall Drug and leave awake and refreshed, just like they did more than 80 years ago. Attracting 2 million visitors each year, Wall Drug is a story of success because one simple idea took root: Offering road weary travelers free ice water.

Peachoid Water Tower in Gaffney, South Carolina

The Peachoid © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Peachoid (known locally as The Peach) was commissioned to be built in 1980-81 by the Gaffney Board of Public Works. A seven ton, 60-feet long leaf was applied to one side. A New Jersey artist, Peter Freudenberg, painted the sphere after studying local peaches for many hours. It took fifty gallons of paint in twenty colors. According to official literature, the Peachoid boldly “sets the record straight about which state is the biggest peach producer in the South. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT Georgia.”

Roswell in New Mexico

UFO Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If UFOs and cosmic mysteries intrigue you, plan a pit stop in Roswell, New Mexico. Roswell’s rise to fame began in 1947, when a local rancher claimed to have found debris from a flying saucer. The myths and facts have become stranger over the years, cementing this town’s place in national history. Today, you can also enjoy fine cuisine, art museums, and Bottomless Lakes State Park, which is perfect for camping and hiking.

Worth Pondering…

If you do nothing unexpected, nothing unexpected happens.

—Fay Weldon