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Secret Spots at Famous American Attractions

  • Tile Arches in Whispering Gallery in Grand Central Terminal, New York, Hidden Wonders at American Attractions
    Michael Freeman / Alamy

    Hidden Wonders

    En español | Uncovering the lesser-known nooks of well-known places is one of the missions of Atlas Obscura, an online guide that reveals many of the world’s hidden wonders. But you don’t have to travel the world to experience something magical — many popular tourist destinations in the U.S. have secret places you probably don’t know about.

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  • Times Square in New York Crowded with People, Hidden Wonders at American Attractions
    Getty Images

    Times Square Hum

    Not all works of public art can be seen; some just have to be heard. Stand on one particular street grate in New York’s Times Square, and you may be able to discern a low hum amid the cacophony of tourist chatter and blaring advertisements. The sound, which has no formal marker, is an art installation by Max Neuhaus that began in 1977 and has hummed day and night ever since. To hear it, seek out the traffic island between 45th and 46th streets and walk slowly over the grate. You’ll know when you’re there.

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  • Tent at Night Surrounded by Fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, Hidden Wonders at American Attractions
    Floris van Breugel/Getty Images

    Firefly Fantasia

    The Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina provide dramatic scenery for many an epic American road trip. Few travelers, however, find their way to a late-night light show performed by thousands of fireflies every spring near Elkmont, Tenn. For a week or so, the insects blink their abdominal lights in astounding unison (scientists call this bewitching phenomenon “coupled oscillation”). Thousands of the bugs go dark at once, then flash their brilliant glow all together.

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  • Nike Hercules Missile in Marin Headlands, Golden Gate National Recreation Area in Marin County, California, Hidden Wonders at American Attractions
    Robert Clay / Alamy

    Marin’s Military Past

    California’s Golden Gate Bridge is one of America’s most iconic landmarks, but few have crossed to the nearby verdant hills of Sausalito to view the multiple military installations that helped defend the country for almost 100 years. Fortifications, the earliest dating back to the 1880s, functioned during World Wars I and II — and a missile complex was installed during the Cold War. The various tunnels and bunkers in Marin are no longer in use, but they can still be toured by anyone looking for a bridge to our military past.

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  • Fiberglass Dinosaur Outside Grand Canyon Caverns in Arizona, Hidden Wonders at American Attractions
    Car Culture/Getty Images

    Subterranean Suite

    There are all sorts of motels to choose from near the Grand Canyon, but only one offers a suite in a fallout shelter deep within natural caverns. The Grand Canyon Caverns & Inn contains a room 220 feet underground near a cache of emergency rations that the Kennedy administration placed in the caves in preparation for possible nuclear war, when it was being prepared as a nuclear shelter. For $800 per night, you and a companion can hide away in the shelter suite yourself (you won’t have to eat rations, although they’re still usable after 40 years, kept fresh by the naturally dry climate).

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  • Tile Arches in Whispering Gallery in Grand Central Terminal, New York, Hidden Wonders at American Attractions
    Michael Freeman / Alamy

    Grand Central Whisperer

    Wait for long enough outside the subterranean Oyster Bar in New York’s Grand Central Terminal and you will likely witness an odd sight: someone squeezing face-first against a wall and whispering to the tiles. Even odder is the fact that these whispers can be heard perfectly clearly on the other side of the busy hall. The tiled arches in this spot form a whispering gallery — two sets of curves engineered to transport whispers from speaker to listener. If you have a special message for someone, get him or her to stand on one side of the gallery, then say your words softly into the wall.

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  • Radio City Music Hall Apartment, New York, Hidden Wonders at American Attractions
    Courtesy Luke Spencer for Atlas Obscura

    Radio City Secret

    A marvel of elegance in entertainment built in 1932, New York’s Radio City Music Hall is known for its opulent Art Deco design. Less known is the apartment above the theater that was built for one of the venue’s first impresarios. The lush apartment was created as a gift for Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, the theater entrepreneur who brought a unique brand of glamour to the early days of Radio City. After Rothafel’s death in 1936, the apartment languished, but it was eventually refurbished. It is now available to rent for luxury events.

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  • Hand of Faith Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hidden Wonders at American Attractions
    Keith Erskine / Alamy

    Big Chunk of Gold

    You’re not guaranteed to win in the Vegas casinos, but if you stay at the gambling palace known as the Golden Nugget, you are guaranteed to meet with riches. As befits its name, the Golden Nugget is home to the largest gold nugget in existence, known as the Hand of Faith. The massive gleaming hunk weighs a whopping 60 pounds, and was found in 1980 in the small Australian town of Wedderburn.

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  • Specialty Tours at Disneyland, Anaheim, California, Hidden Wonders at American Attractions
    Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

    Disneyland’s Club 33

    You’ll only get as far as the unremarkable door that leads to it unless you’re a member or a guest at this uber-exclusive, adults-only club. Decked out in 19th-century New Orleans style, the club has been catering to Disney investors since 1967. Today it is still hidden away behind an unremarkable green door. If you do manage to get in, ask to see the trophy room, where you can enjoy a sumptuous dinner, talking taxidermy and an animatronic turkey vulture.

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  • Bomb Shelter for Legislators at Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, Hidden Wonders at American Attractions
    epa european pressphoto agency b.v. / Alamy

    Containment for Congress?

    The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., is more than just a classic example of opulent American resort design. It also hides a once-top-secret fallout shelter meant to protect members of Congress in the event of a nuclear attack. Built by the Eisenhower administration, the secret bunker was set to provide a place for Congress to operate in case of disaster. The location was made public in 1992. Now visitors can take tours of the shelter to see where the country would have been governed from if the worst had happened.

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  • Radio City Music Hall apartment, Secret Places Inside Famous American Attractions
    Courtesy Luke Spencer for Atlas Obscura
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