American Undergrounds You Can See

The urbex world has, over the past decade, exploded as a hobby-passion of many dedicated souls involved in all sorts of pursuits, from historic preservation to destruction photography to just partying in strange and smelly places. This short list is meant as a place to start as a tourist. But it takes only a quick check online to find more determined explorations in the sub-realm—and while I encourage you, I also warn you: it might not be pretty and it is sure to result in bad stains on your clothing.

1. Portland/Seattle

The 19th century Pacific Northwest had a crazy crime tradition called being “Shanghai-ed,” in which an unsuspecting, young male visiting a dockside bar would be kidnapped and knocked out, transported onboard a ship bound for foreign ports, and forced into servitude in exchange for his life. The tunnels where this nefarious crime was conducted still exist -- take a tour in Portland or Seattle.

2. Los Angeles

LA has a past and its not all pretty movie stars and orange trees. Find out how the underworld was integral to rampant corruption.

3. Philadelphia

Over the last 4 centuries, in the City of Brotherly Love, more than a few of those brothers headed below when love was not in good supply. Hidden City Philadelphia offers tours of Philly tunnels.

4. Charleston

This town is such a lovely, quaint array of cobblestone lanes and alleyways, who cares what’s down below? Have a julep and enjoy. But of course there is an underworld if you are one who’s interested.

5. New York City

Start with the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn and go from there. Grapple with the grandeur of the world’s largest and busiest transit system. Then ride somewhere you never planned to go.

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