VACATION IDEAS

12 Oldest Places in America

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.

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., 800/434-8006, lakemontparkfun.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., 301/864-6029, pgparks.com. Museum entrance $4 per person.

SEE THE PLACES!

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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