Internet Travel Monitor - Industry NewsIf you really want to escape traffic and crowds this year, why not vacation in a place where the population has disappeared? Ghost towns have long attracted visitors, fascinated by a chance to touch a piece of the past, says Philip Varney, co-author of Ghost Towns of the West, his 10th book on the topic. But don't go expecting theme-park perfection, he says. "If you need the barroom saloon door creaking in the wind, you need a movie set. If you're willing to project yourself in the past a bit, you're going to like these sites." He shares some favorites with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
August 9, 2017
10 Great Ghost Towns, from Old West to Modern Michigan
This former gold mining camp, preserved as a state park, is a national treasure, Varney says. "Bodie is the real thing. It's the best ghost town that I've seen, and I've seen over 600." The town is kept in a state of arrested decay, meaning rangers don't let buildings collapse, but don't restore them either. And parking is kept out of sight. "When you're walking around Bodie, you're not looking at the 21st century." parks.ca.gov/?page_id=509
With more than four dozen well-preserved structures, this former gold town is both scenic and accessible. "Just turn the handle. You can go into virtually every building, but they ask you to shut the door," Varney says. He suggests looking for architectural surprises like the two-story building with a public school on the ground floor and a Masonic lodge above. bannack.org
St. Elmo, Colorado
With dirt streets, wooden boardwalks and false-front buildings, it's hard to beat this central Colorado gold mining town near the town of Buena Vista. "It's stunningly lovely, in some of the prettiest forest you can imagine, and extremely photogenic," Varney says. buenavistacolorado.org
While Nevada has hundreds of ghost towns, Varney considers this off-the-grid settlement the state's best. "It has a lot of brick buildings, which makes it unusual. There's a two-story courthouse and the ruins of a bank." travelnevada.com
Silver City, Idaho
Although still inhabited by descendants of the original settlers, this spot hasn't been visibly modernized, retaining the feel of a former 19th-century boom town. Visitors can spend the night in a partially restored hotel, Varney says. "You may be the only person there, but what atmosphere! It's absolutely charming, with good food and a great place to have a beer at the end of the day." visitidaho.org/things-to-do/ghost-mining-towns/silver-city-historical-area/
Fayette Historic Townsite, Michigan
You don't have to go west to find ghost towns. This spot in Michigan's Upper Peninsula tells a similar tale of boom and bust. It prospered for several decades at the end of the 19th century as a manufacturer of pig iron. Now it's preserved as a state park on cliffs overlooking Lake Michigan. "It has very stout buildings, a really beautiful setting," Varney says. michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/details.aspx?id=417&type=SPRK
Once closed to the public, this desert settlement near the Mexico border now welcomes visitors Thursday through Sunday. The mining town remained active through the 1940s, but faces preservation challenges. "Ten years from now, it won't look like it does now," Varney says. rubyaz.com
Shakespeare, New Mexico
It was spring water, not minerals, that first brought settlers to this tiny spot near the Arizona border. "It's the most authentic desert southwestern ghost town that I know of," Varney says. "There are adobe buildings, one even two stories. It's priceless." As for the name, there's nothing British about the spot, once used by Apache Indians. "It was named by a guy from England who wanted to give it a little bit of pizzazz." shakespeareghostown.com
Unlike most ghost towns, this settlement wasn't tied to mining. For decades, it was one of the largest wool shipping centers in the world. But overseas competition eventually brought the operation to a close, and by the 1940s, the town's railroad service ended. Now it has a population of just a few dozen. "It's pretty foreboding country out there, but it still has a wonderful hotel and schoolhouse," Varney says. shanikooregon.com
Kennecott Mines, Alaska
Copper lured settlers to this isolated spot near the Yukon Territory, and soon after the vein ran out in 1938, the town did too. "It's really dramatic, but it's also fierce country," Varney says. Now a National Historic Landmark, it's managed by Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. www.nps.gov/wrst/learn/historyculture/kennecott-mines-national-historic-landmark.htm
Copyright 2017 USA TODAY. All rights reserved. From http://www.usatoday.com. By Larry Bleiberg.
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