In a country known for its magnificent historic sites and natural wonders, you may not even consider its many ghost towns. The United States, however, is packed with desolate cities that have seen better days. Once-bustling communities dwindled when residents abandoned them in the aftermath of the Gold Rush. The beauty of these haunting towns is that they remain fairly unscathed today — and while a few residents might be found in a few of the creepiest ghost towns in America, they’re largely abandoned. Here are five to consider for your next getaway.
1. Santa Claus, AZ
One wouldn’t imagine a town that shares a name with jolly Saint Nick to be so lacking in festive elements, but then Santa Claus is no ordinary town. The Arizona spot was developed in 1937 by a realtor whose goal was to create a lively resort town. True to its name, the holiday-themed locale drew visitors from far and wide for a few years. There were cute Christmas-themed properties galore, including the beloved Santa Claus Inn with a popular restaurant, but by far, the most well-known feature was the post office. It was the one place where kids could send mail to “Santa Claus”! Over time, though, its popularity diminished, and by the 1970s its heyday was well behind it. The once-brilliant likenesses of Mr. Claus himself, the formerly twinkling lights, and the pretty ornaments all faded, and today the town barely hints at its festive past. Some buildings are padlocked, others vandalized, many graffitied. You feel a sense of prickly unease as you wander the now uninhabited town whose streets and quaint buildings once rang with laughter!
2. St. Elmo, CO
The derelict remains of St. Elmo, CO, don’t look especially impressive at first glance. You have to remember, though, that this is one of the creepiest ghost towns in America. It was founded in 1880 and swiftly drew thousands of people thanks to its gold and silver mining opportunities. It was a truly vibrant, active town complete with a school, saloons, hotels, and a general store. But as the mining industry slowed, people quickly escaped town in search of other opportunities. By the 1950s, it was almost completely abandoned. That hasn’t stopped curious travelers from stopping through town, however, and if you’re so inclined you can even rent a cabin for a night — or for under $500 for a full week! The facilities can hold up to three people, and they’re suitably rustic and perfectly in keeping with what you might expect of a residence in a rather isolated town. Don’t forget to stop by the still-open general store for a snack or an antique souvenir to take home with you.
3. Bodie, CA
Once upon a time, Bodie, CA, was home to some 10,000 people. As is the case with many other ghost towns in the country, it experienced its boom during the California Gold Rush. By the late 19th century, there were more than 60 saloons in the town — but as gold supplies dwindled and mines closed, people followed suit. By the early 1940s, it was but a shadow of its former self. The beauty of Bodie, however, is that it’s remarkably well preserved. It’s a National Historic Site and is considered preserved under “arrested decay.” The term accurately describes the more than 170 buildings that still line Bodie’s streets. Although officials will not restore these properties to their former glory, the town will never fall into a state of disrepair either thanks to protections provided by the state. That’s largely why it’s so popular with tourists — and while you aren’t permitted inside the homes or the still-standing church, you can take a tour of the stamp mill and observe many of the relics that remain in the exact same place that they were left decades ago. Eerie, indeed.
4. Rhyolite, NV
Among the most popular ghost towns in Nevada is Rhyolite. It was founded in 1904 when it became a hotbed for enthusiastic miners who transformed it into a highly active and prosperous town. One of its most noteworthy features is a building constructed of 30,000 champagne, beer, and whiskey bottles. Due to the high price of labor and materials, it was far easier for builders to create dependable structures with bottles, which were readily available. Although it reached a point of disrepair during the 1920s, it was renovated for use on film sets several decades later. You can see remnants of the town’s former three-story bank, general store, and train station — and even wander inside some of them if you’re so inclined.
5. Goldfield, AZ
If you want to enjoy a more interactive ghost town, pay a visit to Goldfield, AZ. As one of the creepiest ghost towns in America, it boasts a fascinating history and a few ghosts to go along with it. It found glory in 1892 when gold mining was at its peak. Naturally, the supply dwindled eventually, and slowly everyone left town. Arizona’s acting governor, George Young, revived it briefly, but by the 1920s, the town was essentially abandoned for good. Today, it enjoys prestige as the only real ghost town in the Valley of the Sun. There’s plenty to do here, whether you want to take a walk down Main Street or pay a visit to the Goldfield Superstition Museum to learn more about the area’s background. The majority of buildings that stand are recreated, so it’s more of a tourist spot than some of the other ghost towns you might consider.
Book Your Ghost Town Getaway Today
If you’re ready to take a vacation of an entirely different kind, head straight to BusTickets.com to book your ghost town getaway today. You’ll make memories to last a lifetime while enjoying a taste of what life was like in bygone eras.