Destinations Add Their Hidden Gems to Atlas Obscura

Head of Research and Insights
Published 7/25/17
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Results of the Miles / Atlas Obscura Competition

Featured in the Global All-Stars session at the Destinations International Annual Convention 2017 was Dylan Thuras, co-founder of Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura is a widely popular website, book and tour company that connects travelers with the “hidden gems” and out-of-the-way locations in destinations across the world. From the forgotten historic ruins to hidden works of art and thriving local bars hidden down back streets, Atlas Obscura celebrates the special, quirky and largely unknown attractions and activities of destinations. 

In conjunction with Atlas Obscura, Miles held a competition around Dylan’s presentation at the Destinations International Annual Convention. More than 60 destinations submitted their own hidden gems sourced from their locals, visitors and staff. Dylan and his team at Atlas Obscura assessed all entries to rank their uniqueness, interest and obscurity – coming up with five finalists, a winner and a wider list of runners up. All of the finalists will be listed on Atlas Obscura and the winner will be highlighted as the place of the day. All of the runners up and entries will be considered for listing over the next few months.

Here are the results from the Miles / Atlas Obscura 2017 Competition: 


Location: St. Simons Island Tree Spirits

Submitted by: Marcie Hunter, The Golden Isles CVB

Additional information: 

If you look closely at certain majestic oak trees that cover St. Simons Island, it's possible to find one gazing back at you. Either peering out from the trunk (in-between two huge branches) or from the stub of a long-vanished branch, you may see the unmistakable image of a weathered face. These are the Tree Spirits of St. Simons Island. Legend has it that the images immortalize the countless sailors who lost their lives at sea aboard the mighty sailing ships that were once made from St. Simons Island oak. 

2nd Place (Winner Best History) 

Location: Prince William Forest National Park Triangle, VA. 

Submitted by: Nicole Warner, Discover Prince William & Manassas

Additional information:  

These rustic cabins were once used by the Office of Strategic Services during World War II for spy training! Today, these cabins are restored and great for those looking for a thrilling way to enjoy nature and the great outdoors.

3rd Place (Winner of Abandoned Beauty) 

Location: The Cribs (Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum)

Submitted by: Sue Mageau, Visit Duluth 

Additional information: 

Although The Cribs are referred to as a mausoleum, the structure was actually used as a sand and gravel hopper. It is rumored that one of the former tunnels of The Cribs was used as an illegal casino. Today, the structure serves no real purpose, but adventurous swimmers like to use it as a diving platform and scuba divers love exploring this fascinating piece of history. 

4th place (Winner of Most Obscure)

Location: Gas 'n God

Submitted by: Kathleen Murphy, Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau

Additional information: 

It’s a Sunoco Gas Station in Arlington, Virginia and it’s underneath a church! Longtime residents nicknamed it “Gas ‘n God” and it promises to help equip you “for the next stage in your life’s journey.”

5th Place (Winner Secret Spirts)

Location: Congress Street Up and American Prohibition Museum

Submitted by: Lauren Cleland, Visit Savanah

Additional information: 

Located at an unmarked building along the back of Savannah’s famous City market, you’ll find a dapper individual guarding a very unassuming door.  This is Congress Street Up- Savannah’s newest speakeasy. It’s located inside the new American Prohibition Museum and brings history to life as barkeeps craft creative concoctions.

Runners Up 

Other exciting hidden gems submitted by destinations:


  • Abandoned Tunnel of Ely's Peak
  • Workhouse Arts Center
  • Cathedral Cave  
  • Cyprus Lake
  • Grotto Chapel, Illinois
  • Bes-Ben Hats
  • Bixby Marionette Exhibit
  • Gator Chateau
  • Dark Star Park
  • W.H. Tupper General Merchandise Museum 
  • The Truckee River Whitewater Park


Honorable mention to Green Bank Observatory, disqualified for already being in the Atlas. 

Honorable mention to Hoover Mason Trestle, disqualified for already being in the Atlas.

Honorable mention The Farnsworth House, disqualified for already being in the Atlas.