Fall is a great time for travel: the weather’s cooled off, the youngsters are back in school (and not clogging up the national and state parks), and, as a bonus, there’s the fall foliage to enjoy. Back in the day (you know, before the advent of smartphones and digital maps), I used to rely on my handy-dandy Rand McNally road atlas. It was a must-have for the open road.
Here’s something more interesting. Atlas Obscura, created by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton, celebrates “the weird, the overlooked, the hidden, and the mysterious.” It details more than 700 strange and curious places worldwide. I opted for the Kindle version, and this review follows that format. You may want to spring for the full hardcover version to get the benefit of full-color photography and illustrations.
In either case, Atlas Obscura doesn’t follow the map-based format of most atlases. Instead, it features descriptions of unusual places along with good photographs and captions. Not to worry, GPS coordinates are provided for all the major entries along with directions for minor entries. Do you have geographically inclined children? There’s even a children’s version: The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid.
Atlas Obscura is organized by region, drilling down by continent, then country, and state. I started with my home state of Colorado and found two places I’d like to include on my next overnight trips and one fascinating day trip practically in my backyard.
Bishops Castle lies in the mountains west of Pueblo, Colorado, and is a multi-level stone castle with three towers, a grand ballroom, and a fire-breathing metal dragon, almost entirely constructed by one man. If that doesn’t sound impressive, click through the link for more details, photos, and the amazing back-story.
I’m a sucker for dinosaurs so I plan a trip to Lakewood, Colorado, to visit the Dinosaur Best Western which is decorated with a (surprise!) dinosaur theme featuring multiple dinosaur fossils, including a T-Rex skull. Next door is Dinosaur Ridge, which I wrote about in this newsletter so you can explore that park and use the Dinosaur Best Western for your accommodations.
Just 30 minutes south of my home is the Paint Mines Interpretive Park which is an amazing geological park named for its colorful clays that were collected by Native American to make paint. I’ve lived in Colorado for 20 years and I’ve never heard of any of these places.
That’s the beauty of Atlas Obscura: revealing the unusual, the odd, and the hidden—perhaps even in your own neighborhood like I did.
Planning a trip in the U.S. or internationally? Include Atlas Obscura as a resource to go beyond the standard tourist fare and reveal hidden jewels to include on your trip.
This article appeared in xyHt‘s e-newsletter, Pangaea. We email it twice a month, and it covers a variety of unusual geospatial topics in a conversational tone. You’re welcome to subscribe to the e-newsletter here. (You’ll also receive the once-monthly Field Notes newsletter with your subscription.)