4. Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, Tenn.
This isn't just for country music fans: Anyone with an inkling of interest in American history and culture should put this on his or her list. The collection runs the genre's historical gamut, with items that include everything from Mother Maybelle Carter's guitar to the set of the TV show Hee Haw. Platinum tickets include a guided tour of nearby RCA Studio B, where Elvis Presley recorded his first official album.
5. Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas
Nearby Big Bend National Park is one of the least visited parks in the system, but even it looks like Grand Central Station in comparison with 270,000-acre Big Bend Ranch State Park, which attracts only a few thousand people a year. The highlights include a massive volcanic extrusion known as El Solitario and a very scenic stretch of the Rio Grande. Overnight lodging and camping are available deep in the park's interior — known as the Texas Outback.
6. Schindler House, West Hollywood, Calif.
Skip the crowds outside of Hollywood tourist traps like Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and instead head west to what might possibly be America's first modern house, designed by minimalist architect Rudolph Schindler in 1922. A subtle series of concrete slabs creates two interlocking apartments; the "bedrooms" are open sleeping lofts on the roof. Over the years, artists such as Edward Weston and John Cage have been residents — now it's the perfect place to contemplate the sublime in the face of Hollywood's glitz.
7. Isle Royale National Park, Mich.
The largest island in the Great Lakes and the least visited national park in the lower 48 states, Isle Royale National Park lures in-the-know boaters, campers and hikers to its solitary shores. The closed ecosystem here is unique, and home to both moose and wolves, although the population of the latter has plummeted in recent years.
Published September 2012