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As part of our Travel Sensations series, we asked over 1,000 U.S. travelers the last place that gave them goosebumps during their travels–whether from awe-inspiring scenery, chilly mountain air, ghostly encounters, or mysterious spaces to explore—and the results are in. We learned that when it comes to thrilling places in America, the sky is the limit (in some cases literally).
Get ready for eerie cemeteries, bone-chilling ghost tours, stomach-dropping rollercoasters, and insanely breathtaking vistas that raise chilling or thrilling goosebumps.
For a quick guide, we assigned each location categories based on the following types of thrills:
- Scary 😱
- Exhilarating 🎢
- Beautiful 🏞
- Cold ❄
- Mysterious 🔮
1. Juneau, Alaska – ❄ 🏞 🎢
As gorgeous as it is adventurous, Juneau and its surroundings will leave you breathless. The famous Mendenhall Glacier will make you shiver with cold as well as delight, and you can even tour the ice cave with a professional guide. Its otherworldly glow is extraordinary. Alaska Shore Excursions offer life-changing adventures—from helicopter and dogsled tours to whale watching excursions. The sights are so awe-inspiring, you’ll be pinching yourself to make sure it’s real.
2. Salem, Massachusetts – 😱 🔮
Salem’s past haunts our history books, and its infamous witch trials remain a current cultural reference. It also just may be one of the most haunted places in the U.S. This city is not only home to many practicing Wiccans today, it has turned its past into a tourist haven that plays on its spooky vibes. Take a trip with Bewitched After Dark Walking Tours, where you can see the ominous Witch House and historical cemeteries. To start your day off in a spellbinding direction, visit the Witch Dungeon Museum or Frankenstein’s Castle at the Salem Wax Museum, and feel the hairs start to raise on the back of your neck.
3. Moab, Utah – 🏞 🎢
With two national parks in one area, Moab ups the ante on goosebumps-inducing natural beauty. Amber-colored rocks, deep ravines, twisty slot canyons, and impressive arches make this Utah land mouth-droppingly scenic, and it sure impressed travelers in our survey. Hot air balloons factored into many answers, and a Canyonlands Ballooning ride will raise your goosebumps to new heights. Or, stay rooted to the ground with a Dreamride cycling trip. Perhaps even more inspirational by night, Moab’s dark skies are unparalleled for contemplating the infinite cosmos.
4. Santa Clarita, California (Six Flags) – 😱 🎢
Many survey respondents find their thrills on the coasters of Six Flags Magic Mountain. With names like CraZanity, Full Throttle, and Scream, the rides at this Santa Clarita park promise serious stomach-dropping fun. For extra chills, come for Fright Fest in October, where creepy characters and scare zones are hiding all over the park to send your fright levels through the roof.
5. New Orleans, Louisiana – 🔮 🏞
New Orleans is a city full of mystery, from its unique above-ground graves to its relationship to spiritualism and Voodoo, and the hair-raising vibes are as much beautiful as they are haunting. Eerie and fascinating, the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which dates back to 1789, is the oldest and most-visited in NOLA. Test your specter-seeking skills at the Sultan’s Palace in the French Quarter, often named one of the top 10 haunted places. Delve into the world of magick at Esoterica Occult Goods, and learn about the city’s spiritual history at New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum and Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo.
6. Salamanca, New York – 😱 ❄ 🏞
One part scary and many parts beautiful, survey-recommended Salamanca, New York made the list for its most chilling attraction, Wildwood Sanitarium. A purported hotbed of supernatural activity, this historical structure hosts haunted tours and spooky overnight stays. Is it the most haunted house in America? You tell us. If you prefer goosebumps of the non-scary sort, let the surrounding Enchanted Mountains induce your sense of awe. Allegany State Park is especially stunning in fall when the leaves change.
7. Chicago, Illinois – 🎢 🏞 ❄
Chicago is not the place to bring a fear of heights. Some of its top sightseeing activities take you high in the sky, where only the acrophobia-free can fully enjoy the view. Poll respondents mention the Skydeck at Willis Tower as particularly gut-wrenching, and Centennial Wheel offers 360-degree vistas from nearly 200 feet up. Take in all the beauty of the Second City in a Vertiport Helicopter Tours ride while learning about its famous landmarks. You’ll get butterflies in your stomach in no time.
8. Siesta Key, Florida – 🏞 🎢
Nothing gets the senses singing like ocean air in your hair, kissing your skin from the bow of a boat. Siesta Key was named as particularly swoon-inducing, and its beauty is matched with plenty of opportunities for exhilarating adventure. The rentals at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters will set you on the right course for adventure, and the parasailing excursions with Siesta Key Watersports will get your blood rushing.
9. Maui Island, Hawaii – 🏞 🎢
Of all the animal adventures that gave survey respondents the tingles, swimming with sea turtles in Maui was the most popular. You, too, can experience this joy at Turtle Town on your next Hawaiian adventure. If you prefer higher speeds, Skyline Eco-Adventures offer zip lining tours with phenomenal Pacific views. Sky-watching at Haleakala National Park will take your breath away as the sun rises over the volcanic landscape and a sunset hike culminates in moon, planet, and Milky Way sightings on the Astrology Tour.
10. St. Augustine, Florida – 🏞 🔮
The aged stateliness of St. Augustine speaks to the varied history of this U.S. settlement. Its culture and artifacts highlight the influences of Native Americans, British and Spanish settlers, and a range of pirates and eccentrics from its inception. As the oldest city in the contiguous United States (continually occupied European settlement, to be exact), it holds relics dating to the 1500s. You know a place this old is holding some serious spine-tingling secrets. Conjure the past on Ripley’s Ghost Train Adventure, an 80-minute interactive journey through the haunted streets of the city.
Have you ever been to a place so beautiful or scary or thrilling that it gave you goosebumps? Comment below, share your adventures on social with the hashtag #CometoYourSenses, and be sure to tag @Expedia!
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