If you really want to escape traffic and crowds this year, why not vacation in a place where the population has disappeared? Ghost towns have long attracted visitors, fascinated by a chance to touch a piece of the past, says Philip Varney, co-author of Ghost Towns of the West (Quarto, $24.99), his 10thÂ book on the topic. But donât go expecting theme-park perfection, he says. âIf you need the barroom salon door creaking in the wind, you need a movie set. If youâre willing to project yourself in the past a bit, youâre going to like these sites.â He shares some favorites with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
This former gold mining camp, preserved as a state park, is a national treasure, Varney says. âBodie is the real thing. Itâs the best ghost town that Iâve seen, and Iâve seen over 600.â The town is kept in a state of arrested decay, meaning rangers donât let buildings collapse, but donât restore them either. And parking is kept out of sight. âWhen youâre walking around Bodie, youâre not looking at the 21st century.â parks.ca.gov/?page_id=509
With more than four dozen well-preserved structures, this former copper town is both scenic and accessible. âJust turn the handle. You can go into virtually every building, but they ask you to shut the door,â Varney says. He suggests looking for architectural surprises like the two-story building with a public school on the ground floor and a Masonic lodge above. bannack.org
St. Elmo, Colo.
With dirt streets, wooden boardwalksÂ and…