Recently, the Huffington Post decided to see what the most popular places on Instagram were in each of the 50 states was. Most of them were not very surprising: Disney World for Florida, the Grand Canyon for Arizona, various stadiums and ballparks in many other states. But a few did stand out as interesting places that maybe outsiders don’t hear about often. Here are a few under-the-radar – and very photogenic – places in America you should visit.
Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
When you think Idaho you probably think “potatoes,” since those are its most popular crop, and the state isn’t famous for much else. But what you should think of is Lake Coeur d’Alene, a breathtaking lake 25 miles long that plays host to cyclists, tourists, and bald eagles who eat the kokanee from the lake. You can dive into the lake to see the graveyard of steamships (purposely burned from disuse) and multiple old Ford Model T cars that 20th Century drivers tried – and failed – to drive across the lake when it froze for the winter. There are over 55 other lakes left over from the ice age glaciers within driving distance but it’s Coeur d'Alene that’s worth staying for, whether you’re camping, kayaking, or just admiring the postcard-perfect view of the deep blue water and mountains in the foreground.
Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Nebraska
Nebraska is not famous for much, so it might be surprising that the most instagrammed place in Nebraska this year was the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. With the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit, cat complex, and indoor desert, and one of the largest indoor rainforests, this year it was named the “world’s best zoo” by TripAdvisor. These exhibits are a result of Doorly Zoo’s mission of conservation, allowing it to create the perfect space for its inhabitants. The Lied Jungle hosts many animals including the pygmy hippopotamus, Expedition Madagascar houses seven different kinds of lemurs, and in the aquarium you can see various salt water creatures from a Gentoo penguin to a weedy sea dragon. You can travel all over the world for a photo op with a blue monkey and a meerkat, or you can just visit the Doorly Zoo in Omaha for an afternoon.
Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska
It’s no wonder the Mendenhall Glacier was the most photographed place in Alaska this year – the glacier is nothing if not photogenic. 12 miles long, the glacier is a white, grey, and blue work of natural art. You can go to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center at any time throughout the year and take it in from afar or get a closer look when you walk the new Nugget Falls Trail; you could see mountain goats, wolves, or even black bears along the way. The trail is free and will take you near the face of the glacier – or you can take the West Glacier trail to view its ice caves, or hike near Steep Creek to watch bears paw at the river for salmon. The climate’s rising temperatures may start to affect the glacier within the next few decades, so plan your visit sooner rather than later!
Café du Monde, Louisiana
It may seem random for a coffee shop to be the most instagrammed location in a state as varied and cultured as Louisiana, but Café du Monde is a big hit in the French Quarter. Its French-style beignets (donuts covered in powdered sugar) are popular enough to get the shop a 4-star rating on Yelp. During the Civil War the French began blending coffee with chicory, a practice that Café du Monde keeps up today to the delight of its patrons who adore the added chocolate-y flavor. Although there are multiple locations now, it is the original French Quarter spot established in 1862 that remains a crowd favorite. At night the stone building and its green-and-white striped canopy are lit up with just enough light for you to snap a photo of your picture-perfect café au lait and beignets.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas
Crystal Bridges collects American art dating back to colonial times, but it’s also much more than an art museum. There are galleries of course, but also a library, sculpture garden, hands-on art studio, space outside for outdoor concerts, nature trails, and a great hall that can hold 300 people for whatever event you want to hold there – including a wedding. It’s not surprising that it was so popular this year on Instagram: the galleries and pavilions were built with glass walls to complement the natural greenery and ponds they encircle. With an exterior this gorgeous, it’s a wonder anyone can tear themselves away to go inside.