These towns are full of gold rush history and a bit of spooky lore as well
Don’t wait for Halloween to plan a visit to these spooky spots. Ghost towns hold an element of curiosity even among adults so planning a visit with your kids to one of the many ghost towns in the United States can turn into a fun adventure. From ziplines to train rides, mine tours to gold panning, what’s not to like about a ghost town getaway? Bonus: it’s the perfect way to sneak in a little history lesson while you travel!
Goldfield Ghost Town | Arizona
In its heyday, Goldfield was a busy bustling little town perched atop a small hill between the mighty Superstition Mountains to the east and the Goldfield Mountains to the west. The first gold strike was made in 1892, and it took just a little under a year before the town came to life. After more than 115 years, travelers from all over the world still visit this gold mining town to enjoy the excitement and grandeur of Arizona’s Wild West.
Kids will love: Activities include daily gunfights, underground mine tours, a fun zipline experience, and the only narrow-gauge railroad in operation in Arizona.
Kennicott Ghost Town | Alaska
These historic mining ruins have been restored by the National Parks Service and include most of the original mine buildings. Tours of the huge mill building, bunkhouses, a train depot, worker’s cottages, and the power plant are available to visitors. The white-trimmed red buildings stand out against the dramatic mountain-and-glacier backdrop at the mine site. The General Store and Post Office have the most extensive collection of exhibits.
Kids will love: The General Manager’s Office is the oldest building. You can see the changes to the mill town and the glacier over the years through panoramic photos hanging on the walls. If you time your visit right, you just might get to see a Wild West shootout (or a reenactment, at least).
Rhyolite Ghost Town | Nevada
Two hours north of Las Vegas is the ghost town of Rhyolite—a gold-mining town established in the early 1900s. The still-standing remnants are as iconic as they are impressive, and include parts of a bank and jail, while the train depot is one of the complete buildings found. Golden hour is one of the best times of day to snap Insta-worthy shots or some of those family photos you’d always wanted.
Kids will love: This is located very close to Death Valley National Park so this can easily turn into a two-for-one experience during your visit to the area.
Batsto Village Ghost Town | New Jersey
Established in the 1700s, this area had an abundance of bog ore which could be mined from local streams and rivers, and wood from the area’s forests was harvested for charcoal for smelting the ore. During the Revolutionary War, Batsto manufactured supplies for the Continental Army. The last house was vacated in 1989. Today there are more than forty sites and structures in Batsto Village that are open for visitors.
Kids will love: Structures include the Batsto Mansion, a sawmill, a 19th-century ore boat, a charcoal kiln, ice and milk houses, a carriage house and stable, and a gristmill.
St. Elmo Ghost Town | Colorado
One of Colorado’s best-preserved—and most easily accessed—ghost towns is St. Elmo. The beginnings of the town were first constructed in the 1800s, and the local economy was made up of freighting and mining. Wooden storefronts and a dusty main street remain today in this ghost town, which is accessible year-round so you can visit even in the winter.
Kids will love: There are 43 buildings remaining including a saloon, courthouse/jail, mercantile, and private homes, making this one of the largest ghost towns one can visit.
Thurmond Ghost Town | West Virginia
Located in the heart of the New River Gorge, the town of Thurmond which was once a prospering coal town overflowing with residents and business is now known as a ghost town complete with abandoned buildings and eerie remains of the life that once was. At its time of operation in the 1920s, the Thurmond Depot was among one of the greatest railroads but the depot has now been restored and serves as a park visitors center.
Kids will love: Many believe the railroad to be haunted and visit to explore this spooky spot. You can do a self-guided walking tour or a guided Thurmond ghost tour.
South Pass City Ghost Town | Wyoming
This historic gold mining town is also home to South Pass City State Historic Site, which has 24 historic structures, more than 30 period room exhibits, a visitors’ center, picnic areas, and nature trails. South Pass City was established in the 1800s as part of a gold mining boom so you can tour the Carissa Gold Mine to see where miners labored and try your hand at panning for gold.
Kids will love: Plan your trip in July to experience Gold Rush Days, a two-day event featuring drilling demonstrations, prospecting, and nightly concerts.
Bonanza and Custer Ghost Towns | Idaho
A couple of hours from Boise are the ghost towns of Bonanza and Custer. These former mining towns were once bustling operations and today are remembrances of a time past. Bonanza has a number of buildings and an old graveyard that are interesting for the kids. Custer has a bit more to see with a museum and walking tour that gives you information about the families that made Custer their home in the late 1800s.
Kids will love: You can tour the massive Yankee Fork Gold Dredge between the two towns and learn about the area’s gold rush history.