10 Best Vacations You'll Never Get to Take

The car's gassed up, and you're ready to go on vacation. But if you were planning on visiting one of these spots in this article, you're going to have to choose another location.
The car's gassed up, and you're ready to go on vacation. But if you were planning on visiting one of these spots in this article, you're going to have to choose another location.
Maria Teijeiro/Getty Images/Thinkstock

They're gone. Lost to posterity. Dozens of landmarks throughout the years have been demolished, shaken, blazed, imploded, sunk, shifted and crumbled to oblivion.

Oftentimes, we bid good riddance to places we've been without a second thought. Change is nothing new, after all. But a handful of landmark destinations are worth remembering. They're the places that shaped our culture, history, politics, technology and understanding of the natural world. Even after going out with a bang, they've never fully left our social psyche.

Collectively, they've drawn millions -- maybe billions -- of travelers, vacationers and tourists over centuries. If we could get to them today, they'd undoubtedly draw more. We've picked 10, listed in no particular order, that we think merit special attention.

So let's jump into the first landmark destination, which drew gamblers, boozers, musical legends and showgirls in swarms.

10
The Sands Hotel, Las Vegas
The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev., seen here in a 1950s postcard, featured top-notch entertainment.
The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev., seen here in a 1950s postcard, featured top-notch entertainment.
Curt Teich Archives/Getty Images

The Sands Hotel was a luxury destination on the Las Vegas Strip in the 1950s and '60s. In the Sands Copa Room you could see Frank Sinatra and other Rat Packers smoking Cuban cigars and hobnobbing.

The 1960 film "Ocean's Eleven" starred Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop -- regulars at the hotel -- and used the Sands as a key filming spot. The final shot shows them walking past the hotel, where a sign out front advertises their real performances.

Other regulars included Louis Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, Nat King Cole and Elvis Presley. Copa Girls shared the limelight, performing in thousands of dollars' worth of heavy costume and jewelry.

In 1996, the hotel's owner, Sheldon Adelson, announced plans to demolish the hotel. Adelson wanted to make room for a hotel that could compete with sprawling, thousand-roomed "mega-resorts" popping up on the Strip. The $1.5 billion Venetian Hotel that rose from the Sands' ashes traded headliners for architectural feats, including an indoor gondola area.

Taking advantage of the hotel's doomed fate, a "Con Air" film crew got permission to film an airplane crash-landing in the hotel's lobby in October 1996. A month later, an implosion finished the job. Video footage shows the blast taking out the Sands' iconic tower -- a 1964 vertical addition designed by architect Martin Stern that ignited the trend of upward building on the Strip.

Read on to learn about a natural landmark that didn't need man's help to crumble to the ground.

9
Old Man in the Mountain, New Hampshire

Nobody knows exactly when the Old Man of the Mountain crumbled. On May 2, 2003, you could look up and see his face protruding from a New Hampshire mountain into the skyline. And the next day, you couldn't. The bottom half of his face had collapsed.

Fears of tourism collapsing led then-Governor Craig Benson to establish a 12-man emergency team to design a monument or restoration. As of this writing, nothing has replaced the rock.

Nobody really knows what happened to cause the face to fall off, although experts speculate the chin was a weak base point that gave way to natural erosion [source: Francis Treves Architect LLC].

Three years after the collapse, tourism in the area plummeted. The Associated Press reported that one local business, an ice cream shop, had lost more than half its annual sales [source: Associated Press].

The Old Man of the Mountain had lured Ulysses S. Grant to the area. It had inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Great Stone Face," a short story often illustrated with a photo of the Old Man. The New Hampshire state quarter, released Aug. 7, 2000, uses the rock face on the opposite side from the portrait of George Washington.

As of 2010, plans are in the making to develop a granite-slab monument at ground level [source: Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund Mission].

On the next page, thousands witness a fire destroy London's historic Crystal Palace.

8
Crystal Palace, London
The Crystal Palace was magnificent in its day, but burned in 1936.
The Crystal Palace was magnificent in its day, but burned in 1936.
Photos.com/Getty Images/Thinkstock

Lots of people saw the Crystal Palace burn down in 1936, so many that magazine Illustrated London News expressed fears the glass towers would come crashing down onto spectators in the street. More than 500 firefighters rushed to the scene, breaking London fire records but ending with the palace in ruin.

After serving its purpose as the host building of the Great Exhibition in 1851, the Crystal Palace moved from Hyde Park to Sydenham Hill. Gentry had bought the place, saving it from an otherwise uncertain fate [source: Crystal Palace Museum].

Before and after its relocation, the palace attracted millions of tourists. More than six million visited during its initial six months of operation. First-hand accounts of train riders flocking to see the palace's Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian and other exhibits date back to 1856 [source: The Leisure Hour]. Visitors could even buy refreshments.

Outside, huge fountains shot water into the air, contributing to an elegant image. The chief designer, Sir Joseph Paxton, had been a gardener with minimal architectural experience. His designs, more aesthetic than easily constructed, drew skepticism from professional engineers.

Today you can see artifacts from the original Crystal Palace inside the Crystal Palace Museum that stands in its place.

Click to the next page to learn about a destination whose location isn't exactly known.

7
Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Experts have pinned the location of the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon to about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of what today is Baghdad, Iraq. It's even unknown what the gardens actually looked like. They could have been gardens hanging off a rooftop, wall or vaulted-ceiling, or something else entirely. Many historians speculate the gardens existed on ziggurats -- terrace-stepped pyramids [source: Encyclopedia Britannica].

The gardens were a geological anomaly. Water had to be siphoned off the Euphrates River and travel across the dry Mesopotamian land through channels dug specifically for that purpose. The water trickled down the gardens from above. The image of the oasis catapulted the gardens into one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Two different myths surround the building of the gardens. The first is attributed to Nebuchadnezzar, who supposedly wanted to make his wife happy; she had grown up near green mountains, and the gardens were a way of making her feel at home after moving to the desert.

The second story suggests Sennacherib built the gardens about 100 years after Nebuchadnezzar ruled, in order to imitate natural mountain greenery.

Nobody wonders about the origins of the Cliff House, our next pick; they just wonder why it has so many.

6
The Original Cliff House, California
The Cliff House, seen here in 1898, has gone through several incarnations, two of which burned.
The Cliff House, seen here in 1898, has gone through several incarnations, two of which burned.
Buyenlarge/Getty Images

The Cliff House has seen at least three reincarnations of its original structure. Built originally in 1863 from the recycled lumber of a shipwreck, the Cliff House attracted a special crowd from the start. It didn't take long for presidents and wealthy businessmen to escape to the house with a view of Seal Rock.

An early renovation marked a declining reputation. Throughout the 1880s, the Cliff House was gradually seen as a meeting place for low-class visitors. Its reputation deteriorated, becoming a "scandalous" area [source: The Cliff House].

To combat the scandal, a wealthy San Francisco resident named Adolph Sutro bought the property and turned over management to a liquor company. The Cliff House began its resurgence as a clean, high-class restaurant and bath area. Unfortunately, in 1894, the shipwreck lumber succumbed to a fire.

Sutro rebuilt. The new house contained the infamous baths, a restaurant, a gallery, entertainment and private dining rooms. But Sutro rebuilt from wood, and in 1907, the building burned down again.

Sutro's daughter rebuilt with steel. Since then, the Cliff House has survived a massive earthquake. As of 2000, its scenic location on the iconic rock was drawing about 20,000 visitors a week [source: AllBusiness.com]. You can still see the autographed photos from celebrities who visited the original structures.

Nothing remains of the next destination, and no one knows exactly what happened to it.

5
Library of Alexandria, Egypt

The library at Alexandria was such a hot commodity, with nearly 750,000 scrolls at the height of its popularity, Julius Caesar couldn't keep his hands off, allegedly taking thousands of scrolls home with him [Source: Krasner-Khait].

In the library's time, about 300 B.C., books were rare, and having a collection the size of Alexandria's would have meant possessing all the written knowledge of the world. It's no wonder Demetrius, a student of Aristotle, dreamed up such a library.

Ptolemy I acted on Demetrius' idea. Ptolemy inherited Egypt when Alexander the Great died and wanted to understand all the citizens under his rule from Alexander's conquests. He acquired scrolls from around the world and had scribes translate them into Greek. Common subjects were medicine, geometry, astronomy, maps and mechanics [source: Brundige].

Three stories suggest how the library was destroyed, all incorporating fire, none proven conclusively:

  • Julius Caesar allegedly burned down part of the library in 48 B.C. Alexander set fire to an enemy's ships, and the flames spread into town, consuming the library.
  • Theophilus converted part of the library to a church in the year 391, and in the conversion, scrolls were destroyed. Many historians don't think the library lasted this long.
  • In 640, Caliph Omar, an Islamic leader, stated the scrolls either contradicted the Koran (and so should be burned) or they repeated what the Koran said (and so were redundant and should be burned). Then he burned them.

[source: Chesser]

Though it's uncertain exactly what happened to the library in Alexandria, there's no mystery how a historic American ballpark was demolished in 1985.

4
Roosevelt Stadium, New Jersey
Jackie Robinson, seen here in his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, broke baseball's color barrier in the minor leagues in New Jersey's Roosevelt Stadium.
Jackie Robinson, seen here in his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, broke baseball's color barrier in the minor leagues in New Jersey's Roosevelt Stadium.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Roosevelt Stadium is infamous for its role in the debut of Jackie Robinson as the first African-American to cross baseball's color barrier.

The minor-league baseball park was the historic site where Jackie Robinson smashed traditional prejudice by proving a black baseball player could hold his own with, and sometimes play better than white athletes. Robinson's minor-league game for the Montreal Royals against the Jersey City Giants was the first of its kind [source: Library of Congress].

The event was such a big deal the mayor required his employees to take the day off and buy tickets [source: Karnoutsos].

The stadium had originally been built as part of the New Deal, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's financial plan aimed at regenerating the economy in the 1930s. Members of FDR's Works Progress Association constructed the stadium, creating a minor-league ballpark that doubled as a boxing ring, hosting legends like Sugar Ray Robinson.

By the 1960s, focus shifted from baseball to rock and roll, and the stadium began hosting music legends, including the Beach Boys, Eric Clapton and the Grateful Dead, among many more.

But by 1985, according to New Jersey City University, the stadium had become structurally weakened by lightning and was costing the city more than the revenue it generated. That year, the building was demolished in order to make way for residential housing [source: Historic American Building Survey].

Our next destination would never be considered for residential housing; it was a cruise ship.

3
RMS Lusitania
Despite warnings that the ship might be in danger if it left port, the Lusitania sailed and was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915.
Despite warnings that the ship might be in danger if it left port, the Lusitania sailed and was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915.
Photos.com/Getty Images/Thinkstock

The RMS Lusitania infamously sank off the coast of Ireland in 1915. A German U-boat had launched at least one torpedo at her hull, downing the ship in 18 minutes and drowning just more than 1,100 people on board. Those who died were largely passengers, about 120 of whom were American citizens. The Lusitania's sinking increased Americans' ill will toward Germany before entrance into the war in 1917.

But what was lost was more than just morale, lives and extremely advanced steamship equipment. The Lusitania, for most purposes, was a luxury cruise liner.

The ship contained two royal suites, on either side of the boat. Passengers staying there or in the first-class rooms enjoyed lavish facilities, including a top-notch dining area with extravagant menus for wartime, including French delicacies. A plush library and elaborately decorated lounges were available to upper-class passengers.

The downfall of the Lusitania hinged on its alleged alter ego as a cargo ship. In fact, the Lusitania was carrying tons of war munitions when it went down [source: Encyclopedia Britannica]. Both the captain and passengers had been aware of active German U-boats off the coast of Ireland on May 6 and 7, but all decided to go anyway. Captain William Thomas Turner received two warnings on May 7 before the ship took the torpedo blow [source: The Lusitania Resource].

The next landmark in Texas received little warning it was about to go underwater.

2
Balinese Room, Galveston, Texas,

There was no saving the Balinese Room from the forces of Hurricane Ike in 2008. The eye slammed right into Galveston, Texas, submerging the long pier on which the Balinese nightclub sat. The rubble washed into the Gulf of Mexico, although bits remained on the pier, allowing for some groundwork for rebuilding.

The Balinese Room had been an iconic nightclub in the 1940s: a gambling hall and dance floor frequented by Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes (both of whom were later regulars at the Sands Hotel), Bob Hope and the Marx Brothers. ZZ Top even wrote a song about the place -- "Balinese" -- that talks about how the nightclub was the place to be.

The Balinese drew crowds for its dance, entertainment, food, drinks and gambling. It was, as Houston Chronicle writer Harvey Rice reports, a precursor to what Vegas would become.

On the next page, read how the Globe Theater was a symbol of... well, everything theatric.

1
Globe Theatre
A reconstructed Globe Theatre will give you the opportunity to experience the works of Shakespeare and many others. The original Globe was dismantled around 1644.
A reconstructed Globe Theatre will give you the opportunity to experience the works of Shakespeare and many others. The original Globe was dismantled around 1644.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

The Globe Theatre famously served as the initial stage for many of William Shakespeare's plays, some famous, others forgettable. A few of the famous plays performed at the Globe included:

  • "Antony and Cleopatra"
  • "Cymbeline Shakespeare"
  • "Hamlet"
  • "Henry V"
  • "King Lear"
  • "Othello"
  • "Macbeth"
  • "Romeo and Juliet"

Shakespeare shared the limelight with a handful of other early 17th century playwrights, including John Fletcher, with whom Shakespeare is believed to have co-penned Henry VIII [source: Dawkins]. Infamously, during a production of Henry VIII in 1613, a cannon fired for theatrical effect set the roof of the Globe on fire and forced an impromptu evacuation, burning down the theater but taking no victims. The theater was rebuilt a year later to the day, but because of anti-theater politics at the time, the Globe was reportedly taken down in 1644 [source: Gurr].

A handful of theaters based on the original Globe have popped up, including permanent ones in London and Chicago. The replicas are based on a single drawing that survives from 1596 of the Swan Theatre, one of the Globe's three sister theaters in London. The drawing is the most accurate depiction of what Shakespeare's theater might have looked like [source: Shakespeare Resource Center].

For more on these famous locales and other related information, take a look at the links on the next page.

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Sources

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