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Travel News: 10 Most Welcoming Countries on Earth

By The Budget Travel Editors
January 12, 2022
A panoramic view of Salzburg, Austria, including the river.
Thomas Barrat/Dreamstime
There’s a great big world out there, and our latest “news you can use” may inspire a trip you never knew you needed.

Our friends at Booking.com (who power Budget Travel’s lodging-booking page) recently announced their annual Guest Review Awards, honoring more than 750,000 properties around the globe that deliver exceptional guest experiences. When a huge booking site crunches tons of user-provided data, some trends tend to emerge. Here, some of Booking.com’s findings, including some of the most welcoming places around the globe and in the U.S.

TRAVELERS VALUE APARTMENTS AND OTHER UNIQUE LODGINGS

In yet another sign of a significant paradigm shift in the way people travel, apartments were the top awarded accommodation category, comprising 36 percent of Booking.com’s award-winning properties worldwide in 2018. Hotels came in second. But perhaps most significantly, a full 73 percent of all award-winning properties were “unique properties,” including not only apartments but also private homes, bed and breakfasts, farmstays, riads, boats, and even igloos.

10 MOST WELCOMING COUNTRIES ON EARTH

A significant number of travelers, more than 70 percent of those surveyed, reported that “friendly and interesting locals” are among the criteria they value most when choosing a destination. With that in mind, Booking.com for the first time compiled a list of the “most welcoming” countries in the world. We couldn’t help noticing that eight of the top 10 are affordable European destinations—let them inspire your next hop across the pond (or beyond):

  1. Austria
  2. Czech Republic
  3. Poland
  4. New Zealand
  5. Taiwan
  6. Romania
  7. Hungary
  8. Ireland
  9. Serbia
  10. Greece

10 MOST WELCOMING CITIES IN THE U.S.

Further fuel for your wanderlust can be found in Booking.com’s most welcoming cities in the U.S., a good number of which Budget Travel has covered in recent years in our Locals Know Best and 51 Affordable Discoveries series:

  1. Newport, RI
  2. Sedona, AZ
  3. Oklahoma City, OK
  4. Pittsburgh, PA
  5. Fort Worth, TX
  6. Baltimore, MD
  7. Louisville, KY
  8. Arlington, VA
  9. Anaheim, CA
  10. Jacksonville, FL
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National ParksBudget Travel Lists

10 State Parks That Give National Parks a Run for Their Money

There’s no denying the allure of this country’s majestic national parks. But there's plenty of natural beauty to go around, and many state parks offer outdoor experiences that shouldn't be overlooked. State parks tend to have lower entrance fees and more manageable crowds than the marquee-name national parks, plus there’s the added bonus of not being affected by pesky government shutdowns. Here are 10 fabulous state parks to get you started. 1. Custer State Park: Custer, South Dakota (Courtesy South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks) A free-roaming herd of 1,500 bison is the main attraction at this park in the scenic Black Hills, but there’s plenty more wildlife to be spotted along its 18-mile loop road, including pronghorns, bighorn sheep, and even feral burros. Needles Highway, a popular 14-mile scenic drive through the park, is dotted with needle-shaped rock formations, two tunnels, and sweeping views of evergreen forests and lush meadows. Weekly park license, $20 per vehicle, $10 per motorcycle; gfp.sd.gov/parks/detail/custer-state-park 2. Kartchner Caverns State Park: Benson, Arizona Home to a 21-foot stalactite that ranks as the third-longest in the world, this multi-room cave located 45 miles southwest of Tucson has only been open to the public since 1999. Kartchner Caverns is a living cave, meaning that its formations are still growing, and the park offers two guided tours that explore several different areas. The park is also a designated International Dark Sky Park, so it’s great for stargazing. Tours, from $23 for adults and $13 for youth ages 7-13 (reservations recommended); azstateparks.com/kartchner 3. Petit Jean State Park: Morrilton, Arkansas (Courtesy Petit Jean State Park) Central Arkansas probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind for a mountaintop adventure, but that’s just what Petit Jean State Park offers. Perched atop the 1200ft Petit John Mountain, this park has 20 miles of hiking trails that feature captivating geological formations such as giant sandstone boulders, stone arches, rock shelters, and box canyons. The park’s historic Mather Lodge, a rustic, cozy accommodation built of logs and stone, is a great option if you’re staying a few days. Free entry; arkansasstateparks.com/parks/petit-jean-state-park 4. Anza-Borrego State Park: San Diego County, California A remote and rugged landscape located in southeast California’s Colorado desert, Anza-Borrego State Park has 600,000 acres of varied terrain including badlands and slot canyons. The popular Borrego Palm Canyon trail takes hikers on a rocky stroll to an almost surreal oasis filled with California palms. When you’re visiting, save time to check out the collection of more than 130 giant metal creatures built by sculptor Ricardo Breceda in the nearby town of Borrego Springs. Day fee, $10 per vehicle; parks.ca.gov/ansaborrego 5. Dead Horse Point State Park: Moab, Utah It’s not the Grand Canyon, but it was a suitable stand-in for filming the final scene of the classic film Thelma & Louise. In other words, the views from Dead Horse State Park are fantastic. Just 25 miles from Moab, this park sits 2,000 feet above a gooseneck in the Colorado River and looks out over Canyonlands National Park. Visitors can pick their favorite view from one of eight different lookout points along the seven-mile rim trail. Entry fee, $20 per vehicle, $10 per motorcycle; stateparks.utah.gov/parks/dead-horse 6. Watkins Glen State Park: Watkins Glen, New York With steep, plant-covered cliffs, small caves, and misty waterfalls, this state park in New York’s Finger Lakes region feels a little like stepping into a fairy tale. Visit in spring, summer, or fall, when you can hike the Gorge Trail, a two-mile journey that descends 400 feet, past 19 waterfalls into an idyllic narrow valley. Visitors can also enjoy the beauty from above on one of the dog-friendly rim trails. Season runs mid-may to early November. Day fee, $8 per vehicle; parks.ny.gov/parks/142 7. Tettegouche State Park: Silver Bay, Minnesota Eight great state parks dot the 150-mile stretch of Highway 61 along the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, but Tettegouche stands out for its scenic hiking opportunities through forests, past waterfalls, and along the shoreline. The easy Shovel Point trail takes hikers along jagged, lakeside cliffs to a dramatic lookout over Lake Superior. There are also three loop trails featuring waterfalls. One-day park permit fee, $7; dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html 8. Valley of Fire State Park: Overton, Nevada Drive just 50 miles northeast of the bustling Las Vegas strip, and you’ll find a peaceful valley filled with dramatic red-sandstone formations that take on the appearance of flames on sunny days. The popular Atlatl Rock trail features a giant boulder balanced on a sandstone outcrop 50 feet above the ground. Climb its metal staircase to see the prominent ancient petroglyphs.Entrance fee, $10 per vehicle; parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire 9. Montana de Oro State Park: San Luis Obispo County, California (Courtesy California State Parks) Spanish for “mountain of gold,” Montana de Oro gets its name from the golden wildflowers that cover the area each spring, but you can find colorful views year-round on the seven miles of rocky, undeveloped coastline that comprise the western edge of this state park in California’s central coast region. The 4.6-mile Bluff Trail is a great way to see a large swath of the beaches, tide pools, and natural bridges in the park, or you can hike the Hazard and Valencia Peak trails for summit views. Pebbly Spooner’s Cove Beach serves as the park’s central hub.Entry fee, $20 per vehicle; parks.ca.gov 10. Baxter State Park: Piscataquis County, Maine With no electricity, running water, or paved roads within its boundaries, this 200,000-acre park in North Central Maine offers mountain, lake, and forest adventures for those who like their wilderness truly wild. The park’s 5,200-foot Mt. Katahdin is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, but there are more than 40 other peaks and ridges to explore, and five pond-side campgrounds that offer canoe rentals. Entry fee, $15 per vehicle; baxterstatepark.org

Budget Travel Lists

7 Great Places to Eat in San Juan, Puerto Rico

With its beautiful white-sand beaches, a picturesque, colorful old town, and tropical Caribbean climes, Puerto Rico’s capital city has plenty to recommend it. But if you visit San Juan and don’t do some serious eating, you’re really missing out. From rich coffee (some of the best in the world) and stellar pastries (be sure to try the quesito, a tangy-cheese-filled treat with a crisp, sugary exterior) to snacks (the stuffed fritters known as alcapurrias are especially addictive) and fine dining, you really can’t go wrong. Here are seven delicious, budget-friendly bites from my last trip—each one $18 or less. 1. Jose Enrique (Maya Stanton) A chance to support a local civic-minded chef who also happens to be a James Beard award semi-finalist, and one of the island's most lauded culinary ambassadors to boot? Yes, please. Chef José Enrique offered up his restaurant as the initial base of operations for the disaster-relief work his friend José Andrés’s organization, World Central Kitchen, did in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and on top of that, his food is really something special. Though it’s a casual spot located in the neighborhood of Santurce, in a humble building sans signage, Jose Enrique is hardly nondescript. Between the bright-green exterior and the reasonably priced, ever-changing menu of traditional Puerto Rican favorites, it’s one for the highlight reels. For starters, try the poppers ($12), battered and fried chunks of fish in a creamy, spicy sauce, or the crab (above; $14), served cold with tomatoes, red onions, and herbs, doused with lime, and layered with a slice of avocado on a platter of crispy green plantains. Though they're equally good, the mains are pricier, so consider making a meal of the appetizers, and you'll walk away happy. (Pro tip: The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so arrive early and prepare to queue up. Lunch is a great option, especially mid-week—I went on a Wednesday, got there when it opened, and had my pick of the tables.)176 Calle Duffaut, San Juan; 787.725.3518; joseenriquepr.com. 2. Lote 23 (Maya Stanton) Launched in late 2016, Santurce’s Lote 23 is equal parts food park and community center: Its kiosks and Airstream trailers feed locals and tourists alike, and it’s a destination for yoga, music, and dancing too. If you’re coming to eat, you can fill up on hearty plates of pernil or fried chicken, go light with a poke bowl, snack on an order of croquettes, perk up with an iced Puerto Rican cold-brew coffee, and fill in the remaining cracks with a handmade popsicle from Señor Paleta. These are not the vaguely fruity concoctions you may remember from your childhood—we’re talking vibrant, full-bodied flavors here, from gelato-style varieties like peanut, pistachio, nutella, and dulce de leche to tropical sorbets like mango, guava, soursop, and passionfruit (above). They all ring in around $3 a pop (...pun intended), and you can’t go wrong with any of them.1552-1558 Avenida Juan Ponce de León, San Juan; lote23.com. 3. Santaella (Maya Stanton) With a chic, industrial-meets-contemporary dining room facing a lush, interior garden and a chef who’s worked with famous names like Ferran Adría and Eric Ripert, this fine-dining space in Santurce has the potential to be a real budget-buster. The smart bet is to swing by at lunch to sample chef José Santaella’s upscale, market-driven cocina criolla for less than $20, or belly up to the bar in the evening for a cocktail and a small plate or two. Drinks-wise, the spicy paloma ($15), with smoky mezcal, grapefruit juice, crushed red pepper, and a ginger-tahini salted rim, is an exceptional accompaniment to the empanadillas (above; $14), a plate of snack-sized empanadas with fillings that change from day to day. (Mine were stuffed with chorizo and cheese, a basic-sounding combination that tasted anything but.) Planning a splurge meal to kick off or wrap up your trip? This is the place to go big. 219 Calle Canals, San Juan; 787.725.1611; josesantaella.com. 4. Verde Mesa (Courtesy @VerdeMesa/Instagram) In the heart of Old San Juan (one of our 51 Affordable Discoveries for 2019!), this small restaurant features pressed-tin ceilings, eye-catching mason-jar light fixtures, a hodgepodge of vintage furniture, friendly service, and superb Mediterranean-Caribbean fusion cuisine. Vegetarian-friendly dishes are a rarity on the island, but here they’re more than just an afterthought—case in point, a refreshing ceviche-style chayote salad spiked with mango, lime, and cilantro; a hearty pumpkin and barley porridge with kale, pecorino, and roasted eggplant; and a vegetable-laced mound of rice, a signature dish. On the meatier side, the Moroccan-spiced lamb stew is a stand-out, bones and all, but the real winner is the octopus appetizer ($18), a pile of perfectly charred tentacles showered with pea shoots and served on a bed of smoky piquillo-pepper puree. They don't take reservations and there's usually a wait, but you won’t regret putting in the time.107 Calle Tetuan, San Juan; 787.390.4662; facebook.com/verdemesa. 5. La Bombonera (Maya Stanton) This circa-1902 Old San Juan bakery and café teases passersby with a tempting window display of assorted pastries, but don’t succumb—at least not ‘til later. You’re here for one singular sandwich: the Mallorca, a sweet roll layered with your choice of fillings, pressed until the edges are warm and crisp, and dusted with a heap of powdered sugar. You can have it with simple accompaniments like butter or chocolate, but I can never turn down a savory-sweet combination and chose the egg, ham, and Swiss ($7). The yolk was still soft, the cheese wasn’t quite melted, and the rich, salty filling just about stood up to the sugary roll. But it was the hot sauce that brought things into balance. I would’ve paid the fees to check a bag so I could bring home a bottle of the tangy, garlicky, house-made concoction, and I am an avid never-checker. Order a cortado ($3), a strong little cup of coffee with a touch of milk, to go with your sandwich, and pick up a few of those pastries on your way out, too. 259 Calle San Francisco, San Juan; 787.705.3370; facebook.com/labombonerasanjuan. 6. Kiosko El Boricua (Maya Stanton) For a taste of real-deal Puerto Rican snack food, jump in the car (or grab an Uber) and head out of town. Some 10 miles east of Old San Juan on the island’s north shore, the Piñones area boasts an array of roadside kiosks hawking local bites against a backdrop of postcard-perfect beaches. There’s always a line at Kiosko El Boricua, and for good reason: Everything's made to order, and it's all delicious. Try the pastelillos (turnovers with a shatteringly crisp exterior and a thin, soft layer of dough underneath) with crab (above; $5), the alcapurrias (fritters made from taro root and green plantains) with salt cod ($3.50), or the piononos (stuffed sweet plantains that are often rolled around the filling, but here it's more like a plantain sandwich) with beef ($4.50). The seafood tacos are also great, but this is where I should note that Puerto Rican tacos and Mexican tacos are not the same thing—the Puerto Rican version is yet another a deep-fried turnover-style snack, so don’t go in expecting a soft corn or flour tortilla. Come hungry, spring for a cheap beer to wash it down, and carry your haul across the street to tuck in on the sand.PR-187 km 8.0, Bo Torrecilla Baja, Loíza; 787.596.1684; facebook.com/kioskoelboricua. 7. Chocobar Cortés (Maya Stanton) A fourth-generation chocolate-making operation dating to 1929, Chocolate Cortés originated in the Dominican Republic before expanding production to the founder’s native Puerto Rico, and today, the bean-to-bar company’s locally and sustainably grown cacao varieties are starting to earn worldwide recognition. You can taste the goods at Chocobar Cortés, a cocoa-focused café in Old San Juan. Visit at brunch for sweet dishes like chocolate pancakes and French toast, or try the equally tasty, if a bit unconventional, savory preparations: roasted pumpkin soup with a white chocolate and wasabi crostini, perhaps, or a crispy chicken roulade with blood sausage and caramelized chocolate tomato sauce. My friend and I stopped by just after sunset and opted for pre-dinner drinks, a chocolate martini ($12) laced with Baileys for her, and a frozen mocha hot chocolate ($5) with whipped cream and chocolate nibs for me. Both were luscious and refreshing, and the quality of the chocolate was unmistakable. Ground chocolate is for sale, so yes, you can try this all at home. 210 Calle San Francisco, San Juan; 787.722.0499; chocobarcortes.com.

Road TripsBudget Travel Lists

5 Perfect U.S. Road Trips

Fire up your GPS and start your engines! Every corner of the U.S. delivers amazing road trip opportunities, from parkland to scenic byways to vibrant towns and cities along the way. Here, we’ve rounded up five of our favorite epic drives from sea to shining sea. Your only remaining challenge is to pick your favorite trip and hit the road. BEST OF THE WEST: CALIFORNIA’S HIGHWAY 1 (Jonas Weinitschke/Dreamstime) Pick any stretch of Highway 1 along the California coast and you’ll be treated to epic views and great stops along the way. But perhaps the most iconic portion of the route is the drive between the San Francisco Bay Area and San Simeon. While the drive can be accomplished in just a few hours, we recommend you plan affordable stops along the way: A motel stay in Santa Cruz, at the top of Monterey puts you walking distance to the beautiful beach and fun-for-the-entire-family boardwalk. A day or two in the city of Monterey gives you time to explore the coastal walking trail with its jaw-dropping views of the gorgeous blue waters of the bay and playful sea otters, a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and several world-class meals of fresh crab, sourdough bread, and other California favorites. Continue down Highway 1 for the star attraction, the winding drive along the cliffs of Big Sur, towering over the Pacific, and stop at Pfeiffer State Beach or a walk in the mountains just to the east of the highway. Your Highway 1 road trip can end at San Simeon, home to the incredible estate built by William Randolph Hearst with its truly amazing art collection and grounds. Or keep driving south for the delights of coastal communities such as San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, and the renowned beaches and cities of Southern California! ROAD TRIP TIP: Before leaving home, make sure you have the appropriate auto insurance policy for your vehicle and needs. A visit to Geico.com can help you understand your options and potential savings. SOUTHERN CHARM: BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY You don’t have to choose between a big-city culture and the natural beauty of a national park. The Blue Ridge Parkway allows road trippers to enjoy Washington, D.C., with its free museums, historical sites, and cultural offerings, then head to Virginia’s Skyline Drive along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which turns into the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of FDR’s New Deal projects, linking Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in North Carolina and Tennessee. The parkway’s hairpin turns and epic tunnels will delight every family member, and a manageable, affordable national park experience is unforgettable, with ranger-led walks and talks, serene hiking trails, and the opportunity to spot an array of wildlife, including black bears, from a safe distance. More adventurous travelers may want to try rock climbing and whitewater rafting (with guidance from a local outfitter). Cool towns such as Asheville, NC, deliver tasty Southern cuisine, and you can balance the great outdoors experience of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with fun family-friendly activities in Gatlinburg, TN. While camping is always the most affordable way to visit a national park, reasonable lodging is available a short drive from both Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains. ROAD TRIP TIP: Get your car inspected before embarking on your drive. Proper tire pressure and engine tune-up can save you money on gas mileage, and having up-to-date safety and security devices may even reduce your auto insurance rates. MIDWEST SPLENDOR: DOOR COUNTY, WISCONSIN Can you keep a secret? Door County’s Coastal Byway, a Wisconsin Scenic Byway, delivers an amazing, lesser-known Midwestern vacation experience that keeps families coming back year after year. Stretching over 66 miles around the Door Peninsula (nicknamed the “Cape Cod of the Midwest”), this scenic byway and the stops along the way add up to a relaxing and delicious getaway. Situated between Lake Michigan and Green Bay, the Door Peninsula can be explored in a weekend, or you can stretch out your experience (which we heartily recommend) over several days with stays in the region’s beautiful towns. Ephraim, on the shores of Eagle Harbor, boasts beaches and harbor views you may associate only with New England, and a stop at Wilson’s for ice cream is a must. Peninsula State Park is one of those “hidden gems” just waiting to be discovered, with acres of forest, shoreline, and camping facilities. You’ll find great food in the town of Sister Bay, and some pleasant opportunities for quiet family time on the eastern side of the peninsula in Bailey’s Harbor and Jacksonsport. ROAD TRIP TIP: Pack a cooler with fruits and veggies, whole grains, grab-and-go protein like cheese sticks, and plenty of water (when visiting a wilder space such as a national park, a gallon of water per passenger per day is recommended). SOUTHWESTERN PARKS: UTAH’S ‘MIGHTY FIVE’ (Ralf Broskvar/Dreamstime) Did you know that Utah packs five incredible national parks into one state? Whether you hit two, three, four, or all of the “Mighty Five” (Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands), a scenic drive into Utah’s wild spaces is perhaps the ultimate road trip experience. While your GPS may recommend major highways along the way, give yourself permission to explore Scenic Byways such as State Route 12, the 120-mile drive from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon, and return home with brag-worthy photographs you can’t snap on the Interstate. Once you enter one of Utah’s national parks, hiking will likely be the “main event,” and each park deserves at least a day or two, whether you take ranger-led walks or strike out on your own. Consider trying something new, like a guided horseback tour in Bryce Canyon, and remember that Bryce and Zion both offer exceptional public transportation to get you from site to site. Camping is an affordable way to bunk down in Utah’s parks, but be sure to reserve your spot several months in advance, especially if you’ll be visiting during the summer high season. ROAD TRIP TIP: Don’t count on GPS as your only source of driving directions, especially if you’re visiting a national park or other wild space. Pick up printed maps that cover your road trip and plan out each day’s driving in advance using both GPS and your map - you’ll thank us when your smartphone suddenly says, “No Service.” ULTIMATE NEW ENGLAND: VERMONT & WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS The Green Mountains of Vermont and the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts deliver one of the Northeast’s finest driving experiences, easily reachable from New York, Boston, and other cities. Start in Bennington, VT, where you’ll soon discover that a New England road trip can combine world-class art and culture with natural beauty right outside your car window. The Bennington Museum offers a permanent art collection plus exhibits devoted to contemporary work, and the Grandma Moses gallery lets visitors not only enjoy the work of the iconic American folk artist but also to recognize the nearby Green Mountains as the backdrop of many of her most iconic paintings. Outside Bennington there are ample opportunities for canoeing, hiking, and chowing down on comfort food (and, yes, they serve classic New England clam chowder even as far inland as Vermont). Head to Williamstown, MA, for another incredible art collection, the Clark, and a truly charming small town experience with a vibrant downtown, great shopping, and more. Then it’s off to North Adams, MA, for the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the endless opportunities for exploring the nearby Berkshire Mountains. You can keep busy in western Massachusetts for days, and it’s also a relatively short drive to the beaches of Gloucester, the New Hampshire seacoast, and even the stretch of Maine near the New Hampshire border, but that’s a road trip for another day! ROAD TRIP TIP: No matter what time of year you’re taking your road trip, there are a few packing essentials: Sunscreen (yes, even in winter), sun-protective clothing, plenty of drinking water, layers of clothing (T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets), and comfortable walking or hiking shoes.

Budget Travel Lists

10 National Historic Landmarks You Won't Believe Are Actually Landmarks

Of the 90,000-some sites on the National Register of Historic Places, a list determined by the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service, only about 2,500 are deemed to have enough historical and cultural significance to be recognized as National Historic Landmarks. Churches, forts, historic homes, banks, bridges, and even boats are a dime a dozen. Lesser known, however, are the mining sites, landfills, and zany statues. Here are a few of the more unlikely sites that have had an impact on our culture and influenced who we are as Americans. 1. Lynch Knife River Flint Quarry: Stanton, North Dakota Several thousands of years before North Dakota’s oil mines triggered a Gold Rush-style blitz of industry, the Plains Indians in the area were mining flint, a resource so valuable to them that archaeologists insist that you can’t talk about the native culture without mentioning it. They mined over 150,000 pounds of the stuff to make arrowheads and other tools. One of the biggest quarries, the Lynch Quarry site, which spans over 690 acres, has, thanks to the efforts of local landowners, staved off development and infiltration by coal companies. It’s remained intact to the point that the anvils used to sharpen arrows and such are still there. Arguably the nation's most overlooked natural resource, it became a landmark in 2012. 2. Peavy-Hagline Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator: St. Lewis Park, Minnesota (McGhiever/Wikimedia Commons) Before there were skyscrapers and Space Needles or, for that matter, telephone poles, there were grain elevators. The Peavy-Hagline Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator, a rural tower that stretches 125 feet into the air, is the first of its kind in the United States and, it’s presumed, the world. Before it was built in 1900, elevators were made of wood, but this one was an architectural marvel of its time. According to the Minnesota Historical Society, it served as a model for future concrete structures built around the United States, satisfying the builders’ intention to prove that concrete could indeed be used in elevator construction. French architect LeCorbusier praised it as "the magnificent First Fruits of the new age." 3. Fresno Municipal Sanitary Landfill: Fresno, California For the most part, we take garbage pickup for granted these days: You put it out on your curb and it disappears. But regional sanitation systems are part of a tremendous, complex industry, and it’s come a long, long way as cities have expanded and developed. The Fresno Municipal Sanitary Landfill is ground zero for innovation in the sanitation industry. The creators of the landfill, which operated from 1935 to 1989, at which point it spanned 145 acres, are known for pioneering trenching, compacting, and daily burial techniques to tamp down on rodent issues and other problems. Urban problem-solving at its finest. 4. Lucy the Elephant: Margate City, New Jersey (Mary Katherine Wynn/Dreamstime) Dumbo notwithstanding, Lucy, located five miles from Atlantic City, is easily the most famous elephant in the United States. The six-story, nine-ton quadruped, originally made of wood and tin sheeting (she was buttressed with steel in 1970), has appeared in movies, television dramas, comic strips, various History Channel and Travel Channel specials, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, and more. She's been a restaurant, offices, and a tavern. And as a testament to her endurance, she was virtually unscathed during Hurricane Sandy. Tourists visit her to climb the spiral staircase inside her to a hodwah on her back that delivers 360-degree views of the Jersey Shore. The National Park Service, which declared her a landmark in 1976, notes her as being a prime example of novelty architecture, an oversize structure designed in an unorthodox shape. 5. Howard High School: Wilmington, Delaware In 2005, when Howard High School in Wilmington, Delaware, became a National Historic Landmark, then state senator Joe Biden said in a statement, “The selection of Howard High School as a historic landmark is fitting because it encompasses both the struggles of our past and the promise of our future. Our hope is that this recognition will serve as a very visible and powerful reminder of just how far we have come and how much further we must still go." The school played a critical role in the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared it unconstitutional to segregate public schools. (The Brown case was actually a combination of five cases, including one that contested black students be bused to Howard, a black school, when a white high school was closer to their home.) Students here learn history not just from the books, but from their everyday surrounds. 6. American Flag Raising Site: Sitka, Alaska (Sphraner/Dreamstime) Really? A flagpole? Rest assured, it’s not just any old flagpole. The flagpole that marks Castle Hill, which was later renamed Baranof Castle State Historic Site, is where, in 1867, the Russians relinquished Alaska to the United States and, soon after, where the 49-star American flag was raised to commemorate Alaska’s new statehood for the first time. The pole is perched on a rock ridge that’s nearly 60 feet in the air, a prime perch for observing Sitka's gorgeous and historic cityscape. 7. Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1: Arco, Idaho Idaho is one of the 11 states that Lewis and Clark crossed during their epic expedition from 1804 to 1806, so, accordingly, the landscape is dotted with an assortment of landmarks marking their path. But there is one among them that has nothing to do with that dynamic duo: Declared a landmark in 1965, you might say the Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 is where nuclear energy was born. The desert-situated decommissioned reactor was the world’s first nuclear power plant to generate electricity when, in 1951, it illuminated four 200-watt bulbs. This relic of the past is commemorated as a harbinger of the atomic-energy-driven future. 8. Fireproof Building: Charleston, South Carolina Many buildings are declared landmarks because they're where a historical person lived or died, a monumental event happened, or a company set up its manufacturing operation. There are loads of landmark banks, courts, jails, hotels, and churches. But only the grand Greek Revival-style County Records Building in Charleston carried the superlative classification of most fire-protected building when it was built in 1829, making it oldest fire-resistant building in all the land today. The structure is solid masonry and stucco, with iron shutters on triple windows, which allowed for more light, which meant less need for candles. These and other architectural features made it so sound that it survived the 1886 earthquake. In recent decades, it housed the South Carolina Historical Society, which renovated the building and opened it as a museum last summer. 9. Davis-Ferris Organ: Round Lake, New York (Courtesy Grace Mayo/Wikimedia Commons) The stately, massive Davis-Ferris Organ was built in 1847 for $2,500 and sat in Manhattan’s Calvary Episcopal Church until 1888, when it was purchased by a Methodist camp for $1,500 and moved to a town auditorium in Round Lake, a village in upstate New York that has been on the National Register of Historic Places itself since 1975. The instrument features pipes wide enough for a small child to crawl through, earned the approval of the National Parks Service in 2016. It’s said to be the oldest and largest organ of its type. (For any organ aficionados out there, that’s a three-manual organ, to be specific.) 10. Baltusrol Golf Club: Springfield, New Jersey A.W. Tillinghast, who passed away in 1942, is the Frank Gehry of golf courses. He designed more than 265 of them throughout his prolific career, and the 36-hole golf course at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey, which was completed in 1918, is often seen as one of his greatest achievements. In 1919, Golf Illustrated wrote, "What they are planning at Baltusrol is on a vaster scale than anything that has ever been attempted in American Golf.” It’s since played host to numerous professional tournaments, including seven U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships.