Rural heart of the US

Minnesota craft beers await tasting in Minnesota. PHOTO: EXPLORE MINNESOTA TOURISM
Minnesota craft beers await tasting in Minnesota. PHOTO: EXPLORE MINNESOTA TOURISM
The Valentino Vineyards and Winery showcases American flavours in Long Grove, Illinois. PHOTO:...
The Valentino Vineyards and Winery showcases American flavours in Long Grove, Illinois. PHOTO: ILLINOIS OFFICE OF TOURISM
The ECCE bed and breakfast overlooks the Delaware River in the Catskill region of New York state....
The ECCE bed and breakfast overlooks the Delaware River in the Catskill region of New York state. PHOTO: SULLIVAN COUNTY CATSKILLS
Visitors enjoy whitewater action on the South Fork American River in El Dorado, California. PHOTO...
Visitors enjoy whitewater action on the South Fork American River in El Dorado, California. PHOTO: WWW.VISITELDORADO.COM
A cowboy walks the streets of Tombstone, Southern Arizona. PHOTO: ARIZONA OFFICE OF TOURISM
A cowboy walks the streets of Tombstone, Southern Arizona. PHOTO: ARIZONA OFFICE OF TOURISM
Visitors walk around the John Deere tractor and engine museum in Iowa. PHOTO: JOHN DEERE TRACTOR...
Visitors walk around the John Deere tractor and engine museum in Iowa. PHOTO: JOHN DEERE TRACTOR AND ENGINE MUSEUM
Visitors relax in Ruhstaller Brewer's taproom, Sacramento. The region is known as the ''Farm-to...
Visitors relax in Ruhstaller Brewer's taproom, Sacramento. The region is known as the ''Farm-to-Fork Capital of America''. PHOTO: VISIT SACRAMENTO
A statue of Jim Beam master distiller Booker Noe takes pride of place in Louisville, Kentucky....
A statue of Jim Beam master distiller Booker Noe takes pride of place in Louisville, Kentucky. PHOTO: KENTUCKYTOURISM.COM
The Blunts Point World War 2 gun overlooks Pago Pago Harbour in American Samoa. PHOTO: JOHN RAYNAR
The Blunts Point World War 2 gun overlooks Pago Pago Harbour in American Samoa. PHOTO: JOHN RAYNAR
A caribou is flanked by spectacular scenery in Denali National Park, Alaska. PHOTO: STATE OF...
A caribou is flanked by spectacular scenery in Denali National Park, Alaska. PHOTO: STATE OF ALASKA/MICHAEL DEYOUNG

PAM JONES takes a look at the rural heart of the United States and picks her top places to visit. 

MINNESOTA

Not only is Minnesota experiencing a craft beverage boom, the state also boasts the 2015 United States' ''coolest small town'', the harbourside town of Grand Marais, in Cook County. The coastal settlement is the gateway to the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway - where the odds of spotting a moose are apparently high - and has some cute restaurants and shops back in town. In autumn, explore Minnesota's wineries, which feature grape stomps, harvest festivals and tasting events.

ILLINOIS WINE COUNTRY

It might not have the profile of the Napa Valley, but Illinois' wine industry has exploded in recent years, growing from just 12 wineries in 1997 to more than 100 today. And the state has much else to offer: it has a vibrant food scene, great state parks, hiking trails, kayaking and biking, as well as a section of the famous Route 66. Roll down the windows and enjoy.

CATSKILL MOUNTAINS

New York City is of course the most visited place in New York state, but explore further afield as well. The Catskill Mountains offer big and soft outdoors adventure: fishing, hiking, rafting, canoeing, and skiing, and accommodation including cute frontier-style cottages, cabins and bungalows.

CALIFORNIA GOLD COUNTRY

For a touch of gold fever, go to California's Gold Country, which mixes historic goldmining sites and stories with top California wine. The county of El Dorado is one of California's older wine-producing areas, with vineyards dating back to the 19th century gold rush. Adventure sports such as kayaking are also big here.

TOMBSTONE, ARIZONA

If you want to delve further into the Wild West, try out Tombstone, Arizona. Tombstone was the site of the famed gunfight at the OK Corrall and the historic town is now lined with old saloons, candy shops and gift stores, and boasts re-enactments of that fabled fight.

JOHN DEERE HEADQUARTERS

Who could forget one of the United States' most famous rural attractions, the John Deere headquarters and associated buildings, in Iowa and Illinois. There is a John Deere tractor and engine museum and a variety of behind-the-scenes factory tours, and you can even visit John Deere's original home and the site where John Deere forged his first self-scouring steel plough.

SACRAMENTO

For an unforgettable food experience that honours those who produced that food, visit the California area of Sacramento, which markets itself as the ''Farm-to-Fork Capital of America''. Sample one of its more than 50 farmers' markets, go on a farm, wine or culinary tour (or mix all three through the ''dinners on the farm'' initiative) and then toast the region's thriving craft beer industry at one of its boutique breweries.

KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL

Fancy a quiet bourbon every now and then at the end of the day? To combine road trip and bourbon tastings, try the Kentucky bourbon trail, which includes the Jim Beam distillery, in Louisville. As well as themain trail, there is also a ''sub-trail'' featuring lesser known, more boutique distilleries.

NATIONAL PARKS

You can't go past the United States' incredible national parks to sample the great outdoors and next year marks the 100th anniversary of the US' National Park Service. Alaska has more national parks than any other state - you can travel for miles for a remote adventure or try one of the more easily accessed parks for size: the Kenai Fjords National Park is only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Anchorage, and easily accessed from the southeastern town of Seward.

AMERICA SAMOA

It's not rural in the traditional sense, but American Samoa, the only United States territory south of the equator, is a back of beyond getaway that provides an alternative look at the South Pacific. For history buffs, there are a range of World War 2 installations on various islands: naval guns, a war cemetery, plane wrecks, an underground bunker, an old runway and even a shipwreck just 30m underneath the fuel dock in Pago Pago harbour.

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter