12 Oldest Places in America

Published: Wednesday, July 04, 2012 @ 6:53 PM
Updated: Wednesday, July 04, 2012 @ 6:53 PM

Just how far back in time does human achievement go in this country? We challenged ourselves to find out and in the process discovered everything from a prehistoric settlement near St. Louis to a pirate bar in New Orleans.

What constitutes "old" depends on where in the world you are—200 years sounds old, but not in comparison with 2,000 or 20,000. But just how far back does human achievement go in this country? We challenged ourselves to find out. We hit the road, spoke to historians, and dug deep in the history books to find the oldest of the old when it came to everything from cities to airports across America. And while not everything on this list is old in the European sense of the word, you'll find that it's some of the 19th and 20th century firsts (the airport, the skyscraper, for example) that established the United States as an important player in the world's history. Of course, there are churches, cities, and archaeological finds that well pre-date our own 1776 Independence, too, thanks to Spanish settlements, Pilgrims, and the Native Americans who have been here all along. Here are the top 12 places for exploring America's past.

SEE WHERE HISTORY COMES TO LIFE

Oldest City: Cahokia, c. 700–1400

UNESCO officially named Cahokia (15 minutes from modern-day St. Louis) the largest and earliest prehistoric settlement north of Mexico back in the 1980s. It was thought to be just a seasonal encampment, important but not that exciting. Then, in January 2012, reports were released showing that this was actually the first true North American city: 500 thatch-roofed rectangular houses were gridded around ceremonial plazas and stretched eight miles on either side of the Mississippi River; at its peak it had 20,000 inhabitants. Visit the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site and get a sense of the scope from the top of Monks Mound, a 100-foot-tall monumental outlook that took an estimated 22 million cubic feet of earth to make. 30 Ramey St., Collinsville, Ill., 618/346-5160cahokiamounds.org. Suggested donation $4 per person.

Oldest Art: Chumash Cave Painting, c. 1000

Art, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Still, few can debate the impressiveness of these 500-plus-year-old rock paintings in Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park in the Santa Ynez Mountains near Santa Barbara, Calif.. Colorful and abstract symbols, possibly representing mythic figures or natural phenomena (like a 1677 solar eclipse), were applied with crushed mineral pigment for unknown reasons. Is it art? Is it graffiti? Bring a flashlight and theorize away. The paintings are easily viewed behind a protective grate after a short, steep hike. Painted Cave Rd., Santa Barbara, Calif., 805/733-3713parks.ca.gov.

Oldest Community: Acoma Pueblo, c. 1150

Seventy miles west of Albuquerque, N.M., the Acoma people have lived continuously for nearly 900 years atop a 367-foot sandstone bluff. Homes are multi-story, multi-family "apartment complexes" that can be reached only by exterior ladders, much like the cliff cities of Mesa Verde and Gila, where their first nation brethren the Anasazi and the Mogollon lived, respectively. Group tours depart daily from Sky City Cultural Center at the bottom of the mesa, while the Haak'u Museum screens culturo-historical videos, offers fantastic pottery for sale (with plenty more vendors outside), and fry bread with green chile stew in the café. Interstate 40 & Exit 102,800/747-0181, sccc.acomaskycity.org. Guided tours $20 per person.

Oldest Timber Frame House: The Fairbanks House, c. 1637–1641

Thanks to the magic of dendrochronology (a.k.a. tree-ring dating), the Fairbanks House was declared North America's oldest timber-framed house. It's amazing that the wooden house is still standing, about 375 years after it was built. Eight generations of the Fairebanks family lived in this homestead, 25 minutes outside of Boston, first in the two-story, two-room core, and later, as fashions dictated and wealth allowed, throughout its "new" additions. No grand renovation ever unified the various sections, so much of the original handiwork and historical details and construction techniques have remained. The house now exists as a museum and contains furniture, paintings, and other artifacts from the Fairbanks family. 511 East St., Dedham, Mass, 781/326-1170,fairbankshouse.org. Open May 1 through October 31. $12 admission.

Oldest Church: San Miguel Mission c. 1710

Although Santa Fe, N.M., can feel a bit like a studio backlot at times, there is some authenticity under all that freshly spread adobe. This is America's oldest capital city, after all, and the third oldest surviving European settlement (after St. Augustine, Fla., and Jamestown, Va.). Minus a few years of Indian occupation and partial razing during the Pueblo Revolt, serene San Miguel Chapel has stood as a compact call to Catholicism from the day Spain planted its founding flag right until U.S. annexation. The Spanish Colonial church was finished in 1710 (it replaced a 1626 chapel that was destroyed in a fire) and anchors the Barrio de Analco Historic District. Mass is still given on Sundays within its cool confines, beneath thick wooden beams and in front of a gorgeously carved wooden reredos. 401 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, N.M., 505/983-3974.

Oldest Bar: Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, c. 1722

Nightlife is a murky business—especially when you're dealing with pirates and smugglers, which is how this bar got its start. The squat townhouse is the oldest structure to operate as a bar in the States, and it may even be the country's oldest continuously operating bar, period. Located on the far end of Bourbon Street, in New Orleans, it's the Vieux Carré's best remaining example of French briquette-entre-poteaux construction. And the establishment has weathered the centuries, first as a grog-soaked home base to nefarious privateers Jean and Pierre Lafitte, a gay bar in the 1950s, and the laid-back, candle-lit pub that survives today. 941 Bourbon St., New Orleans, La., 504/593-9761lafittesblacksmithshop.com.

Oldest Continuously Operating Museum: Peabody Essex Museum, 1799

Back when museums were officially known as a "cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities," a group of Salem, Mass., sea captains founded the East India Marine Society with a specific charter provision to collect such specimens. That legacy is now the nation's oldest continuingly operating museum. (The Charleston Museum in South Carolina was founded in 1773, but had a period of closure and didn't open to the public until 1824.) Today, you can see the Peabody Essex Museum's 1.8 million pieces of maritime, Asian, African, Indian, and Oceanic art plus 22 historic buildings, including the Qing Dynasty Yin Yu Tang house. East India Square, 161 Essex St., Salem, Mass., 866/745-1876pem.org. $15 admission.

Oldest Public Garden: United States Botanic Garden, 1820

Perhaps it was all that cherry tree business, but George Washington himself had a vision of a modern capital with a botanic garden to teach the importance of plants to the young nation. This didn't become a reality until 1820, when President Monroe and an act of Congress created the United States Botanic Garden on the grounds of the Capitol building. Today's permanent location—a three-acre plot adjacent to the Mall and southwest of the Capitol—was established in 1933. Open every day of the year, the site allows visitors to explore a butterfly and rose garden outside and jungle, desert, primeval, and special exhibitions inside the gorgeous 1933 glass conservatory. 100 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, D.C., 202/225-8333usbg.gov.

Oldest National Park: Yellowstone National Park, 1872

With a flourish of the pen, Ulysses S. Grant changed where kids spend their summer vacations forever when he created the world's first national park. Yellowstone was made up of pristine wilderness straddling the Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho territories. (Tthey weren't states back in 1872, and the federal government oversaw the park until the National Parks Service was created in 1916.) Today, Yellowstone continues to be the system's bubbly, geyser-riffic, and wildlife-filled emblem of eco-consciousness. There is some controversy when it comes to which park is technically the oldest, though. Hot Springs National Park, southwest of Little Rock, Ark., was made a "government reservation" back in 1832, but didn't join the parks system until 1921. 307/344-7381,nps.gov. $25 per vehicle.

Oldest Skyscraper: Wainwright Building, 1892

When you are done looking at the prehistoric mounds at Cahokia, head into downtown St. Louis for a more modern pile. It's easy to define today's skyscrapers—just look up! But sussing out their more diminutive ancestors can be like figuring out if your great-great-great-great-uncle Jeremiah fought in the Civil War—and might bring architects to just that. One thing all experts can agree on: Skyscrapers must have a load-bearing steel frame. For that, Louis Sullivan's Wainwright Building, in downtown St. Louis, rises as America's oldest surviving specimen. (Chicago's Home Insurance Building, from 1884, was technically the first, but it was razed in 1931.) Dwarfed today by its neighbors, the Wainwright Building's 10 stories of red brick aesthetically defined what modern office buildings were to be in both form and construction. 705 Chestnut St., St. Louis, Mo.

Oldest Roller Coaster: Leap-the-Dips, 1902

The Leap-the-Dips at Lakemont Park in Altoona, Pa., has been white-knuckling riders for 110 years by roaring down a figure eight of oak tracks at 10 mph with a vertical height of 41 feet. This may sound tame compared with the cheek-blasting G-forces of today's sidewinding behemoths that loop your stomach in your lap, but a rickety ride on the world's oldest roller coaster can still thrill, especially when you consider that it's the last remaining side-friction model in North America—no up-stop wheels bolt it to the track. That nine-foot drop suddenly feels a whole lot steeper. 700 Park Ave., Altoona, Pa., 800/434-8006lakemontparkfun.com. Park entrance from $5 per person, ticket for Leap-the-Dips $2.50 per person.

Oldest Airport: College Park Airport, 1909

You won't be seeing any A-380s touching down at College Park Airport. The runway is only 2,600 feet long (jetliners need about 8,000 feet). We bet Wilbur Wright had no idea what the future of aviation would look like when he first brought military pilots here to train a century ago. Today, you can take the half-hour Metro ride from downtown Washington, D.C., to visit the on-site aviation museum. Temporary exhibitions are put on in conjunction with the Smithsonian, and there are classic aircraft on display, including a 1910 Wright Model B reproduction and the biplane-like Berliner Helicopter No. 5, which made its first controlled flight from here in 1924. 1985 Cpl. Frank Scott Dr., College Park, Md., 301/864-6029pgparks.com. Museum entrance $4 per person.

The least and most affordable places to spend your holiday vacation

Published: Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 2:30 PM

Southwest Airlines Is Finally Traveling to Hawaii

As the song goes, there’s no place like home for the holidays. But if you prefer to get away, there are plenty of cheap holiday trips you can take.

To help you pinpoint where to spend your Thanksgiving or Christmas without breaking your budget, GOBankingRates looked at six factors in popular destinations: the cost of hotels, holiday flights, food, drinks, transportation and entertainment. Read on to learn about the best and worst places to visit during the holidays.

Least affordable places to visit during the holidays

If you’re looking for cheap Christmas vacations or Thanksgiving getaways, cross these cities off your list of prospective destinations. We found that visiting these places can put a big dent in your budget during the holidays.

Honolulu

Honolulu is one of the most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S. Winter is the peak tourist season, making it one of the least affordable places to visit during the holidays. During Christmas, the average nightly hotel rate is $241 — the third-highest among the most expensive places in our rankings.

Flights aren’t cheap, either, but you’ll actually find lower fares during Christmas than Thanksgiving.

» Fido’s first trip: Disney visitors can bring dogs to some Walt Disney World hotels

Kihei, Hawaii

This city on the southwest shore of the Hawaiian island of Maui offers great beaches and surfing. It’s not a cheap place to visit for the holidays, however.

Lodging is especially expensive during Christmas, when the average nightly hotel rate jumps to $362 from $190 during Thanksgiving. In fact, Kihei has the second-highest lodging costs during the holidays in our rankings.

You’ll also have to shell out more for food here than in most other cities on our list. At $44, the average daily cost of meals makes Kihei the fourth-least affordable on our list.

Sydney

Christmas might seem like an ideal time to visit Sydney because it’s actually summer in this Australian city south of the equator. But December is peak tourist season here, which means prices are higher and crowds are bigger.

The cost of traveling to Sydney is what puts the city among the most expensive holiday destinations on our list. The average fare for a flight from Atlanta during Christmas is $2,666, with the average Christmas flights from Los Angeles costing $1,609.

» Warning: State Department discouraging travel to Cancun, Los Cabos

Park City, Utah

If you want to visit a world-class ski resort during the holidays, Park City, Utah, might be at the top of your list. Winter is peak season in this haven for skiers, who relish the city’s annual snowfall of 300 inches to 400 inches. But if you are looking for an affordable Christmas vacation, Park City isn’t it.

Flights to nearby Salt Lake City are actually cheaper than flights to most other places in our rankings. However, lodging costs can put a big dent in your travel budget if you plan to visit Park City during Christmas.

The average nightly hotel rate jumps from $116 around Thanksgiving to $534 around Christmas — the highest lodging cost of any place in our rankings. Daily transportation costs of $87 also are the highest on our list, and only Orlando, Fla., has higher entertainment costs.

Cape Town, South Africa

Winter is actually summer in South Africa, which makes it the peak season for tourists. As a result, it can be expensive to visit Cape Town during the holidays.

Flights are the biggest cost of visiting this cosmopolitan city on Africa’s Atlantic coast. It costs more to fly to from Los Angeles to Cape Town during Thanksgiving — $1,341 — than any other city on our list. During Christmas, the price jumps to $1,952. And a flight from Atlanta to Cape Town during Christmas costs $2,262.

Food and alcohol also are expensive. The average daily cost of meals is $48, and the average daily cost of drinks is $24.

» How to spend $25 or less on one week of groceries

Most affordable places to visit during the holidays

You don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount on a Thanksgiving or Christmas vacation. If you visit these affordable destinations, you can save money on your holiday travel.

Washington, D.C.

A trip to the nation’s capital can be an affordable Christmas vacation. Plus, you can avoid the crowds that are there at other times of the year. The average nightly hotel rate drops to $85 during Christmas from $97 during Thanksgiving. Christmas flights to Washington, D.C., also are cheaper than Thanksgiving flights and flights to most other cities in our rankings.

While there, you can visit holiday markets and see the National Christmas Tree near the White House, the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and the National Menorah.

Seattle

A trip to Seattle during the cold, rainy winter might not seem ideal. But if you’re looking for cheap holiday vacations, you should consider Washington’s largest city.

Holiday flights to Seattle are cheaper than to most other cities in our rankings. Although lodging costs aren’t exorbitant, they aren’t super cheap. The average nightly hotel rate during Thanksgiving is $142, and the average rate during Christmas is $140.

Chicago

Chicago offers an affordable holiday getaway, but be prepared to bundle up in the Windy City if you go during the cold months of November or December.

You’ll be rewarded for braving chilly temperatures with low average nightly hotel rates of $87 during Thanksgiving and $85 during Christmas. And holiday flights to Chicago are among the cheapest in our rankings.

San Francisco

San Francisco might not seem like it would be near the top of a list of cheap Christmas trips because it has a reputation for being expensive. However, The City, as locals call it, can be more of a bargain in winter.

You can find cheap Christmas flights to San Francisco from Los Angeles — just $96. And the average nightly rate for a hotel during both Thanksgiving and Christmas is $121.

San Francisco’s transportation costs are among the lowest in our rankings, and you can see the city’s most popular tourist attractions for free. Those include Pier 39 and the Golden Gate Bridge (if you cross by foot or bicycle). Don’t forget to grab some free chocolate samples at Ghirardelli Square.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

For cheap Christmas vacations at the beach, look no further than Playa del Carmen, Mexico — the most affordable place to visit during the holidays. Located in the most eastern part of Mexico, this popular tourist destination has incredibly inexpensive food, transportation and alcohol costs, as well as the lowest entertainment costs of any city in our rankings.

72-hour sale: Southwest Airlines offers round-trip flights for as low as $100

Published: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 @ 3:35 PM

Southwest Airlines Having Major 72-Hour

During one of their more popular sales of the year, Southwest Airlines is again offering customers non-stop round-trip flights for less than $100. 

>> Read more trending news 

Dozens of the carrier’s shortest routes are available for $49 each way. Other non-stop one-way fares are offered for $79, $99 and $129 for longer flights. Some international flights are also being offered at extreme discounts.

The prices of flights are loosely tied to distance, according to USA Today.

>> Related: American Airlines to decrease legroom for passengers

Discounted flights can be purchased for travel between Oct. 31 and Dec. 19 and from Jan. 3 through Feb. 14. Travelers cannot purchase the discounted tickets for travel on Fridays and Sundays. 

The sale ends Thursday at 11:59 p.m. local time in the city of the departing flight. 

This is the second time this year the airline is offering the deal. Southwest previously offered the low fares in June.

Read more at Southwest.

(KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Passengers upset after flight minutes from landing returns to departure airport

Published: Thursday, September 21, 2017 @ 8:28 AM

What To Do the Minute Your Flight is Cancelled

Passengers on a late night flight to Santa Fe Tuesday were confused when the plane, just minutes from landing, instead returned to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

Passengers and those waiting at the airport for loved ones to arrive told KRQE that it was a clear, calm night. After the flight's captain told passengers they were returning to DFW but didn't give a clear reason why, passenger Leighann Gagnon said other staff told her it was because there was no one in the control tower at Santa Fe's Municipal Airport.

>> Read more trending news

While the airport's control tower is unstaffed from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., flights can still land, and do so on a regular basis, KRQE reported.

American Airlines and airport staff clarified to KRQE that it was due to a technical malfunction at the National Weather Service, which could not provide a wind speed reading to the pilot. A wind speed reading is require by law in order to land, KRQE reported. 

Passengers were miffed that American Airlines didn't land in Albuquerque, but American officials said they don't operate out of Sunport International Airport, so that's why the flight returned to DFW.

When passengers arrived back at DFW at approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday, everything was closed and passengers were not offered a voucher for a hotel or a meal, KRQE reported. Passengers couldn't access their luggage because airport staff were not available. American Airlines officials said since it was not at fault, it could not issue vouchers per company policy.

Passengers took off for Santa Fe at 7 a.m. Wednesday. This time, the flight landed successfully at Santa Fe's Municipal Airport.

The truth about whether airlines jack up prices if you keep searching the same flight

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 1:54 PM

Channel 2's Consumer Adviser Clark Howard tells you how to avoid extra airline fees.

To make sure the right ads get to the people most interested in it, Google shows ads based on its users' search history. A user searching for "coffee" for example may see an ad for a coffee mug on the next page. But can airlines also harness that same personal data to increase the price of a particular flight?

Consumers may wonder whether airlines and ticketing websites raise airfares for consumers who research a specific route on their computer. However, airlines say prices change not because of a consumer's search history on a website, or their cookies, but because of inventory updates or glitches on the website, FareCompare's Rick Seaney said in an email.

>> Hurricane Irma price gouging complaints include $100 water delivery charge, soaring airfares

"If the airlines were to raise prices because of browser cookies (targeted individually) there would be air travel whistleblowers and senators running to microphones for legislation to prevent it," said Seaney. "What people see when they shop multiple times and prices are changing is a reflection of inventory changes, data caching techniques and the fact that prices generally get more expensive closer to departure date, even within a day."

Still, William McGee, an aviation adviser for Consumer Reports, says he's seen evidence that this pricing based on search history may not be entirely a myth.

In a 2016 study, McGee and his team conducted 372 searches on nine airline ticketing websites. The searches were simultaneous with the exact same itinerary and website but two different browsers — one with its cookies intact, another one that was scrubbed.

>> 10 ways to save money on a trip to the beach

McGee found that 59% of the times when the searches differed, the fares were higher on the scrubbed browser — the browser with no search history — but those higher fares often came from online travel agencies such as Orbitz. The lower fares on scrubbed browsers tended to come from meta-search sites, such as Google Flights or Kayak.

But McGee couldn't say for sure why he saw those different results.

"This is a very opaque industry," he said.

The best thing to do? Just shop around.

"Our takeaway advice is that consumers shop around, and ... if its possible, to search on at least two different browsers," he said. "If you see different results … you clearly want to go with lower ones."