If you don’t already have somewhere in particular you want to explore, you might find this list handy. Each one of these abandoned places is in various states of ruin, parts of them may be submerged in water, and some may still have fully functioning buildings.
Where are these amazing abandoned places?
All over America. Most of the abandoned locations are in coastal states, as settlers would make early cities where they landed, but there are still hidden treasures further inland. There are so many more abandoned places to see that aren’t on this list, but here are some to get you started.
If you want to learn more about urban exploration before you make one of these trips, take a look at the beginner’s guide here!
Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel, California
Located between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and sitting right off I-15, the abandoned Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel used to be a great place to stop. It opened in 1957 and closed in 2009.
Nobody knows why the motel closed, but it probably had something to do with the frequent prison escapes nearby. It could also have something to do with the terrible Yelp reviews it received from the people who stayed at the motel.
Being compared to Bates Motel doesn’t make it an appealing place to rest your head, but it does sound like a great place to check out.
Murphy’s Ranch, California
Murphy’s Ranch in Rustic Canyon, Los Angeles, was built to serve as a base for Nazi activity. It was designed to be able to sustain itself for long periods with a large water storage tank, fuel tank, and even a bomb shelter.
Many of the people living at the Ranch were captured by police the day after the Pearl Harbor attack on December 8, 1941. Murphy’s Ranch was officially abandoned in 1990, and while it sat empty, it had been covered in graffiti.
The site now belongs to the city of Los Angeles, and several of the buildings were demolished. All entryways on the remaining buildings have been sealed, but if you’re interested in history, or unique abandoned locations, this is a must-see!
Titan 1 Missile Silo, Colorado
The Titan 1 Missile Silo was built in 1959. The silos stored missiles underground and brought them to ground level for deployment. The complex was built so structurally sound that it would be able to survive everything except a direct hit from a nuclear attack.
The facilities were removed in 1965, only to be replaced by new missiles.
The silos no longer contain missiles now, but the site isn’t the safest place to visit. The ground near the old silos has high contamination from previously housing the nuclear weapons. The U.S. army actively monitors the area and maintains the site so that the contaminants don’t spread any further.
Check out the Missile silo floorplans here
Dome House, Florida
Dome house was built in 1979 by Bob Lee to use as a vacation home during his retirement. The home is comprised of six dome-shaped rooms on stilts, that now sit in the water off the coast of Cape Romano.
Over the years, rising tides and hurricanes cut the home off of the island. In 2009, the foundational pillars were completely underwater.
There were six feet of water under the house in 2013 and was 180 feet from shore. When Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, it caused two of the domes to collapse into the ocean.
Now, the underwater Dome Homes are part of a very diverse reef. Cynthia Mott from Florida Weekly wrote an article where she compared the reef under the dome home to reefs in the Cayman Islands, Mexico, and Fiji, and she said she had never seen such a diverse concentration of marine wildlife.
“It was as if all the fish and rays living along that part of the Collier County coast decided to hang out in one location,” and even comparing the schools of fish to iridescent tornados.
Methodist Church, Indiana
This gorgeous church in Gary, Indiana cost over $1 million to build in 1926, that would be about $15.5 million today!
The church was made of stone, was nine storeys high, and could hold 3,000 people at a time. The Methodist Church was built in a booming steel town in hopes it would help with the crime, the bars, and the brothels.
Unfortunately, as employment rates fell, crime rates increased, and the church population dwindled. By 1980 the church had been abandoned.
Holland Island, Maryland
There’s not much left of Holland Island. There was once 70 building on the island; homes, a community center, a medical center, and stores.
When water levels started rising, the people who lived on the island took their homes apart and relocated to the mainland.
The very last building on the island was built in 1888. Unfortunately, tropical storms and island corrosion made the house collapse in October 2010.
Orpheum Theatre, Massachusetts
This building was originally constructed by the French Sharpshooter’s Club to be a shooting range and ballroom. On April 15, 1912, the doors opened, which was also the same day the Titanic sank.
The space was leased out to the Orpheum Circuit who brought vaudeville performances to Massachusetts. By 1920, they had started showing motion pictures at the theatre.
The theatre sat empty in 1958, only opening for special events. The Sharpshooter’s Club sold the building in 1962 and it was used as a storage warehouse by a tobacco company.
The back of the building is currently a supermarket, but there are plans to restore the building to its former theatre glory by a non-profit company.
Stonehenge and Ponyhenge are a lot alike; nobody knows the exact origins of how things ended up in the space, or why they were brought there, but the mystery makes both more interesting.
Ponyhenge also referred to as the Rocking Horse Graveyard, is exactly what you’d imagine. Dozens of discarded rocking horses in a field 35 minutes outside Boston.
Nobody knows who, but someone keeps rearranging the collection of wooden and plastic horses into rows, or sometimes circles.
Belle Isle Zoo, Michigan
The doors to the Belle Isle Zoo opened in 1895 and had a whopping variety of two animals; some deer and a bear. In the early years, the zoo grew rapidly, and they increased the animal population to 150.
The Detroit Zoo took control of the zoo, and they were able to keep the zoo extremely popular. To give the zoo a little bit of rebranding in 1980, they developed an African safari in the park that featured huts and boardwalks.
The African safari made the zoo hugely popular, but in 2002 Detroit suffered major budget problems, and the mayor closed the zoo.
Belle Isle Zoo still sits abandoned, but it is part of the Belle Isle Parks. If you want to explore the zoo, you’ll have to purchase a park pass, but by looking at some photos, the cost of the pass is worth every penny!
Michigan Central Station, Michigan
The Michigan Central Station was built in 1914 for the Michigan Central Railroad. The original station was shut down after a fire in 1913.
At the time of its construction, it was the world’s tallest rail station. It, unfortunately, closed in 1988 when the Amtrak service stopped running.
You might recognize the station though. Did you watch the movie 8 Mile that came out in 2002? Eminem was in it. If you watched it, you might recognize Michigan Central Station. In 2012, Eminem used the location again when he and 50 Cent shot a music video at the station.
Bannerman Castle, New York
Frank Bannerman hit the jackpot when he realized the U.S. government was auctioning off military goods by the tonne to be scrapped for metal. He knew from his father’s business, that military goods could be sold at a much higher price than the value of scrap, and he became the world’s largest buyer of surplus military goods.
The lot for Bannerman Castle was purchased in 1900 as a place to store the military surplus items. From here, they sold cannons as decorations to nations at peace, and nations at war outfitted entire armies with the stock from Bannerman’s.
In 1967 the castle was sold to New York State. The state had plans to open the castle and grounds as a park that gave tours, but in 1969, a huge fire started, burning down and destroying all the buildings, and anything that was left in them.
Dundas Castle, New York
Before it was Dundas Castle, there was a summer house built on the land called Craig-E-Clair built in the early 1880s by Bradford Lee Gilbert. He named the summer lodge Craig-E-Clair in honor of his Scottish wife to remind her of the small town she came from in Scotland.
Gibert passed away in 1911 and the home and land were eventually bought by Ralph Wurts-Dundas in 1915. He used Gilbert’s original design in his own plans for a castle, keeping the L shape design Gilbert had built, except making it much larger.
Dundas never saw the completion of his castle as he died in 1921. His wife never had the chance to stay in the castle either, since she was carted off to a sanitarium a year after her husband’s death.
Although neither had the chance to live in their castle, it’s rumored that the ghosts of the Dundas’ roam the hallways of the castle.
Grossinger’s Resort, New York
When Asher Selig Grossinger and his family moved to the Catskill Mountains in the 1900s, they opened a resort in 1919 that featured a kosher kitchen that catered primarily to Jewish clients.
Through its many years, Asher, his wife, and even their daughter grew the resort to be something special. It had over 35 buildings, a dining hall that could seat over 1,000 guests at a time, and they earned a special place in history by being the first resort to use artificial snow.
In 1972 the daughter died, and with her death, the decline of the resort started. By the 1980s, the resort could no longer attract new, younger guests, and the resort closed in 1986.
This was the resort that inspired the movie Dirty Dancing. If you’ve dreamed of having the time of your life, you may be in luck. There have been small efforts made to bring the resort back to its former glory.
Overlook Mountain House, New York
The current ruins are actually the third hotel built on the site; I guess third times not always the charm.
The first hotel was a very small lodge that was built in 1833. In 1871 it received a huge renovation and became a 300 room hotel, only for it to burn down four years later.
The second hotel was built in 1878and burned down in 1921.
The third time the hotel was built, they used concrete instead of wood to prevent it from burning down a third time, but the construction was never completed. The ruins you see are the unfinished shell of the third hotel.
Trees are growing through the building, overtaking it and bring it back to nature, but you can walk up a staircase that leads to nowhere and appreciate the views.
Elkmont Historic District, Tennessee
Elkmont Historic District is an entire abandoned town. It started as a logging town in 1908, and eventually became a resort destination.
When money started coming into the town, a group of businessmen bought properties and expanded businesses into the town. The Appalachian Club was built as a social clubhouse, and later a 50 room hotel was built for tourists.
The government bought the 76,000 acres of land, including the vacation village in 1925 to turn it into a National Park. In 1992, when the leases on the houses ended, the National Park Service went to demolish all the buildings, but the Elkmont Historic District and the Wonderland Hotel were added to the National Historic Register, so they couldn’t be demolished.
If you adventure out solely to look at abandoned hotels, unfortunately, the Wonderland Hotel burned down in a fire and completely collapsed in on itself in 2005. You won’t be exploring the hotel, but there are several buildings left in the area that haven’t been demolished.
The Great Saltair, Utah
Saltair was originally built in 1893 by the Mormon Church and would become an important cultural part of Utah’s history. The Saltair was built to be an amusement park, and a place where Mormons had a safe environment, but it also served as a way to bring the church into everyday American life.
It’s not all that sur[rising that by the early 1920s, Saltair was attracting almost half a million people each year. With the great swimming water, the world’s largest dance floor, a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, midway games, fireworks, hot-air balloons, and so much more, I would have gone if I could, too.
In 1925, the decline of Saltair started with a fire. Everything burned to the ground. There was a new building put up, but the Great Depression, maintenance costs, and receding lake levels made the new building close during World War II.
From that point, until 1993, Saltair continued the pattern of rebuilding, opening, and closing a few more times. On its 100th anniversary, Saltair opened once and for all. It is still open and selling tickets for shows!
St. Ambrose Church, Wisconsin
St. Ambrose Church is a great day trip to make if you’re in Milwaukee.
The property was originally purchased in 1896 by the Salvatorian Fathers. They turned it into a very successful seminary, where students went to become priests.
In 1968, the seminary had reached an all-time low in their enrollment, and the building was converted into a high school. In 1892 the high school enrollment was dwindling, and the school closed.
As the buildings sat vacantly, they were a great place for the homeless people to take shelter, or for excessive damage and vandalism. Unfortunately, the latter meant the old buildings are left in ruins, and most of the areas are unsafe to explore.
The church, however, remains open for tours or prayers. Much of it is still in ruins, but you can tell how grand the space once was by what is left.
Do you have a favorite from the list? Grab your camera, maybe a tripod, and go adventure! Make sure you’re careful if you’re exploring somewhere that’s mostly in ruins, but above all make sure you have fun.