7 Unusual Things To Do In The USA

By Abi King | USA

Jun 05

Unusual things to do in the USA > Let's brush up on our stars and stripes and have a look at some unusual things to do in the USA - via @insidetravellab

Unusual Things To Do in the USA

Let’s face it, the United States of America have some of the most famous sights in the world. The Statue of Liberty and the yellow taxicabs of New York. The White House in Washington, that Hollywood sign and even, depending on which way you look at it, the golden arches of McDonalds.

But what about the rest? It’s a big old country after all, rich in landscapes, native and “imported” culture. So let’s brush up on our stars and stripes and have a look at some unusual things to do in the USA.

7 Unusual Things To Do In The USA

1. Unusually Wild: Riding Wild Horses In Nevada

At first, the salt stretched out into pools of white, turning pink with a violet shadow and evaporating into the sky. The salt made sense, as did the lake, those two words giving rise to the name of the place where we’d landed.

But then the salt stopped shining, the earth reasserted its dark chocolate tones amid scrubs of green that flew past the road as the silhouettes of mountains rose up on the horizon.

And then, by dawn, we were riding with wild horses.

Looking for an unusual thing to do in the USA? Try your hand at riding wild horses In Nevada.

2. Unusually Religious: The Home of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City

Like many a US city, Salt Lake’s centre has a tight, taut grid upon which glass and cement malls are mounted. Unlike many other cities, the biggest, shiniest mall was paid for by the Mormon Church.

For, although only 50% of current residents remain true believers, the existence of Salt Lake City today is irrevocably intertwined with the existence of the Mormon Church.

And the heart of Salt Lake City is Temple Square, a ten acre stamp of greenery between City Creek that flows into the River Jordan, and the imposing Salt Lake Temple.

Like many a US city, Salt Lake’s centre has a tight, taut grid upon which glass and cement malls are mounted. Unlike many other cities, the biggest, shiniest mall was paid for by the Mormon Church.

Related: Put Your Hands Up For Detroit!

3. Unusually Complex: The Decimated Tlingit Culture In Alaska

At Chief Shakes’ House, some 1000 miles north of Seattle, totem poles teeter above our heads and the women close their eyes as they sing. In the fresh, wet grass, the girl’s sneakers peek out from beneath her robe.

That’s the paradox here in Wrangell: all-American freshness trying to revive a damaged past.

Colonial powers arrived here and through religion, industry, deliberate oppression or imported disease, decimated the Tlingit culture that had survived 5000 years. For once, with my British passport I’m not made to feel like the bad guy. Well, not entirely.

Looking for an unusual thing to do in the USA? At Chief Shakes’ House, some 1000 miles north of Seattle, totem poles teeter above our heads and the women close their eyes as they sing. Experience the Tlingit Culture.

4. Unusually Wonderful: SatchmoFest & Louis Armstrong in New Orleans

The beauty of Satchmo SummerFest: it offers layers for all. Music aficionados, New Orleans residents, and people like me: here to explore the city for the very first time.

And for all the muck of the past that I’ve raked up here (or rather, that the museum carefully presented within the heart of the festival) I think that, ultimately, we can all draw great inspiration from it. Despite the misery and inequalities of the past – and even the misery and inequalities of today – there are still places with sunshine, laughter and music. And that, despite the headlines, most people really do want the world to change for the better.

Yes, as the red beans and rice sizzle from the stand-up stalls nearby and those lyrical notes blend with scratched-out voices, I find myself agreeing with Louis.

Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

The beauty of Satchmo SummerFest: it offers layers for all. Music aficionados, New Orleans residents, and people like me: here to explore the city for the very first time. It is definitely an unusual thing to do in the USA.

5. Unusually Historic: The Henry Ford Museum In Detroit

Since Detroit is the home of Ford cars and Ford cars practically represent American motoring history, I went to have a rummage beneath the hood of the Henry Ford Museum.

And cars barely featured.

Original posters depicted the suffragette movement in the States, along with manuscripts from the Declaration of Independence and historical memorabilia from the American Civil War. Ford stages a procession of Presidential Vehicles, all springing red, white and blue. Their stately rumps gleam in polished black but the signs beside them reveal hidden tragedies. One was the car involved during the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, another where Kennedy took his final breath.

This isn’t so much the Henry Ford Museum: it’s one of modern American History.

Votes for Women at the Ford Museum Detroit. Definitely an unusual thing to visit and experience in the USA.

6. Unusually Thought-Provoking: Swimming With Dolphins In Florida

At the Dolphin Research Center in Florida, you can pay to swim with dolphins. You can also, as I saw, learn to paint with them as well.

This is dolphin training at its most subtle. The trainer before us, sporting a hat and a trademark suntan, merely touches his fingers and thumbs together in the slightest of moves to exact the most intuitive of responses.

At a quiver of his fingers, the mother dolphin pauses from painting to swim by and pose. It’s impressive. Even breathtakingly, cliché-ridden, awesomely so.

At the Dolphin Research Center in Florida, you can pay to swim with dolphins. You can also, as I saw, learn to paint with them as well. An unusual thing to do in the USA, for sure.

7. Unusually Adventurous: Kayaking In Alaska

This isn’t for extremists but neither is it for the faint hearted. We’re in the kayaks for six or seven hours at a time, paddling, working, breathing, laughing. And although we’re a small group, it turns out that we’re not alone.

The saucer eyes of a seal greet me and then another row of heads pop up. I want to scream, I want to dance, I want to find some better way of saying “Wow. Just. Wow!” The word “awesome” crosses my mind but I let it pass. I don’t want to break the spell.

Instead I hold my breath and hold still – and I thrill in the experience of kayaking through southeast Alaska.

Looking for an unusual thing to do in the USA? Thrill in the experience of kayaking through southeast Alaska.

So, those are my first thought on unusual things to do in the USA. What suggestions do you have? Drop them in the comments below!

Disclosure. As ever, as always, and in each of these places, I kept the right to write what I like. Some were hosted or sponsored, some were not. Not one had any say in featuring in this list. Life’s too short, otherwise. Let’s keep it real as they say in ‘Merica. Maybe. OK, I need to work on my accent…enjoy!

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more.

  • Hi, Abi! Cool things here, I’d love to go horse riding in Nevada and I’ve always wanted to visit in Alaska. Getting to know the indigenous cultures is always fascinating. Thanks for the ideas!

    • Abi King says:

      You’re very welcome! It’s a fascinating – and obviously – large place so I could easily have written 77. Just trying to pace myself!

  • Megan says:

    Great suggestions! I especially love the riding horses and swimming with dolphins ideas.

    • Abi King says:

      If you have to pick one, I’d definitely recommend the horses. Surrounded by nature – and back in touch with the Wild West!

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