Close to home: 51 fresh summer destinations

The transformation of historic Greenville's downtown continues with this spring's opening of the Bob Jones University Museum & Gallery at Heritage Green, a rotating collection of European masters, antiquities, sculpture, biblical artifacts, decorative pieces and Russian icons. The new space is part of an expanding art scene at Heritage Green that includes the Greenville County Museum of Art, the new Upcountry History Museum, a community theater and the county library. Up next year: a children's museum. 864-770-1331; heritagegreensc.com — Laura Bly

South Dakota

The encouraging word out of Custer State Park is that come June 1, visitors will find a fancy new home from which to watch the buffalo roam. Creekside Lodge and Outdoor Pavilion, located 25 miles south of Rapid City on the grounds of the State Game Lodge, features 30 luxurious rooms with views of the Black Hills, a two-story lobby with a fireside seating area and a pavilion/picnic area with a wood-burning fireplace. 888-875-0001; custerresorts.com — Jerry Shriver

Tennessee

Falling head over heels for the Great Smokies is easier than ever this summer, thanks to Zorb Smoky Mountains, not far from Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. It's the first North American outpost to feature the extreme sport of "zorbing," a New Zealand invention that involves tumbling downhill while harnessed inside a clear, 11-foot-high plastic ball. Just make sure you save the corn dogs and cotton candy for later. 865-428-2422; zorb.com/smoky — Laura Bly

Texas

Dinos rule at the new Dinosaur World in Glen Rose, where life-size replicas — some up to 80 feet long — lurk along tree-lined paths. Indoor exhibits showcase triceratops horns, velociraptor eggs and, sure to delight visitors of a certain age, "authentic" dinosaur dung. A dig site enables visitors to plumb for bone chips, shark teeth and other souvenirs. The attraction is meant to complement nearby Dinosaur Valley State Park. 254-898-1526; dinoworld.net — Jayne Clark

Utah

A $2.8 million visitors center at Monument Valley on the Utah-Arizona border opens in mid June and spotlights the historical, geological and cultural significance of the signature red-rock landscape that defined dozens of classic Westerns. Also at the Navajo-run facility: a vendors' village where native craftspeople sell their wares. 800-574-4386; utahcanyon country.com — Jayne Clark

Vermont

Stowe, the East's grande-dame ski area, gets its first grand base resort, à la fancy Western and European ski destinations. The ski-in, ski-out Stowe Mountain Lodge, due in June, will boast 139 rooms and suites done up in "Vermont-Alpine" style, golf course, a sybaritic 21,000-square-feet spa and a Cooper Wellness Center. It also will cater to hikers and birders, who help make summer Vermont's peak tourist season. 888-478-6938; stowemountainlodge.com — Kitty Bean Yancey

Virginia

Opened last fall near the most visited presidential home in the nation, a reconstructed slave cabin at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate sheds a new, more realistic light on how field hands who worked the 8,000-acre property lived. Built of daubed mud and rough-hewn logs, the 16-by-14-foot dwelling, along with a small vegetable garden and chicken coop, provides a sobering contrast to Washington's nearby white-pillared mansion. 703-780-2000; mountvernon.org — Laura Bly

Washington

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