The Best Day Trip Destinations in All 50 States

iStock.com/michaelquirk
iStock.com/michaelquirk

The allure of foreign countries and far-off places is tempting, but sometimes when you want to get away, the best adventures can be found right in your backyard. To help satisfy your wanderlust, we’ve compiled the top day trip destinations in all 50 states. So grab some friends and gas up the car—it’s time to hit the road!

1. Alabama // Little River Canyon National Preserve

Location: Fort Payne, Alabama

Little River Canyon National Preserve in Alabama
iStock/RobHainer

Little River Canyon National Preserve, often called the "Grand Canyon of the East," is a 12-mile canyon carved into Lookout Mountain. Whether it’s hiking to the Little River Falls or a relaxing, scenic spin along Canyon Rim Drive, the preserve is a must-do day trip for seeing the great outdoors.

2. Alaska // Kenai Fjords Whale Watching

Location: Seward, Alaska

Whale watching in some of Alaska’s most scenic waters—the Kenai Fjords—is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As you keep an eye out for a telltale whale blow, you can take in the surrounding glaciers, towering mountains, and variety of Alaskan animals like puffins and porpoises.

3. Arizona // Lower Antelope Canyon

Location: Page, Arizona

Lower Antelope Canyon in Arizona
iStock/AndreyKrav

Head 95 feet beneath the ground for one of Mother Nature’s most artistic works—Lower Antelope Canyon, called Hazdistazi by the Navajo, which means "spiral rock arches." Created by natural erosion, this slot canyon is a more difficult hike than its shorter section, Upper Antelope Canyon, which means fewer crowds (it's more popular with photographers and advanced hikers). Visit between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. when the lighting in the canyon is best to catch a rare sunbeam.

4. Arkansas // Crater of Diamonds State Park

Location: Murfreesboro, Arkansas

Get rich quick at the Crater of Diamonds State Park—one of the only public diamond-bearing sites in the world. Located on the surface of an ancient volcanic crater, the 37.5 acres of plowed fields are open for hunting diamonds, gemstones, and minerals, and there is a visitor center explaining the history of diamonds in Arkansas. Keep your eyes peeled for anything that might glisten—you get to keep what you find.

5. California // Alcatraz Island

Location: San Francisco, California

Alcatraz Island in California
iStock/NAN104

A short ferry ride from San Francisco will take you to the infamous penitentiary that held the country's meanest and most notorious criminals until it was closed in 1963. Known as "The Rock," the maximum security prison that once housed Al Capone is also known for the famous escape of three inmates in 1962. Alcatraz is a National Historic Landmark, and the detailed, interactive account of its history is something everyone should see.

6. Colorado // Ouray Mountain Town

Location: Ouray, Colorado

Nicknamed the "Switzerland of America," Ouray is a former mining town in the San Juan Mountains that offers plenty of Colorado-esque adventures. Go hiking and rock climbing, visit one of several ghost towns in the area, or try rafting down the river. Film buffs will recognize the scenery from old Westerns filmed in there, including the John Wayne classic True Grit. After a long day of exploring, you can wind down in one of the area’s five local hot springs.

7. Connecticut // Mystic

Location: Mystic, Connecticut

Sailing ships at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut
iStock/DenisTangneyJr

This quaint seaside town has that New England charm. Head to Mystic Seaport if you're interested in maritime history, or venture to the Mystic Aquarium to see seals, sea lions, and the largest outdoor beluga whale exhibit in the United States. One of the area's biggest happenings of the year, the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival, features more than 100,000 pieces of one-of-a-kind art.

8. Delaware // Dogfish Head Brewery

Location: Milton, Delaware

A mecca for craft beer lovers, Dogfish Head Brewery offers tours seven days a week. The brewery in Milton, Delaware, has beer samplings, corn hole, bocce, souvenir shopping, and an "industrial treehouse." Check out Dogfish Head’s Analog-A-Go-Go, an annual full-day celebration of “all things indie craft.” The lineup includes live bands, a local artisan market, local food trucks and—you guessed it—some great local beer.

9. Florida // Big Cypress National Preserve

Location: Ochopee, Florida

National Park Service sign at Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida
iStock/Pglam

Whether you’re kayaking through the wetlands or taking an SUV for a drive along Loop Road [PDF], the Big Cypress National Preserve is a great place to experience the Florida Everglades. (But if hiking’s on your agenda, take caution—many routes have you tromping through waist-deep water.)

10. Georgia // Toccoa Falls

Location: Toccoa, Georgia

Georgia's 186-feet-high waterfall is 26 feet taller than Niagara Falls, and one of the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Toccoa Falls is easily accessible from the landmark gift shop, and once you’ve finished marveling at nature, check out downtown Toccoa's art galleries, specialty shops and, if time allows, the Currahee Military Museum.

11. Hawaii // Volcanoes National Park

Location: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

The view at Volcanoes National Park
Marco Garcia/Getty Images

Get up close and personal with one of Mother Nature's most incredible, potentially treacherous creations: an active volcano. Explore Volcanoes National Park by foot, car, or bike. Or, for a bit of local culture and nature, every Tuesday evening the park has a speaker series, After Dark in the Park, which can feature talks about the environment or local initiatives, or concerts from local bands or chamber choirs. For a particularly unusual experience (in case an active volcano isn't enough), explore the Thurston Lava Tube—a cave-like lava passageway discovered in 1913.

12. Idaho // Bruneau Dunes State Park

Location: Bruneau, Idaho

Bruneau Sand Dunes in Idaho
cifraser1, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Home to North America's tallest free-standing sand dunes—with peaks that reach up to 470 feet—Idaho's Bruneau Dunes State Park is perfect for some epic sandboarding. During the warmer months, visitors can hike around or climb up the dunes. Come winter, the park is used for dune skiing, snowboarding, and sledding.

13. Illinois // Mermet Springs

Location: Belknap, Illinois

While it may be smack dab in the middle of the country, southern Illinois has one of the country's most unique underwater experiences at Mermet Springs. Diving into this 120-feet-deep spring-fed rock quarry, you're surrounded by albino catfish, paddlefish, sturgeon, and bass. You can also explore an underwater Boeing 727 from the movie U.S. Marshals, which was purposefully sunk into the quarry in 1998.

14. Indiana // Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame

Location: New Castle, Indiana

a big shoe outside of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame
Adam Julian, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Indiana is a basketball state through and through, from the stands at IU Bloomington to "Hoosiers" on the big screen. Get immersed in the sport's history at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, which features more than 14,000 square feet of exhibits and memorials highlighting the state's favorite game. Complete the Indiana basketball experience with a quick, 20-minute drive to the historic Hoosier Gym, where IU's most popular players became Indiana state legends (it was a main filming location for the 1986 movie Hoosiers).

15. Iowa // Pella

Location: Pella, Iowa

Experience all the beauty and culture Holland has to offer—without stepping foot on an airplane. Pella, Iowa, known as "America's Dutch treasure," is home to the largest working grain windmill in the U.S., a restored opera house from the 1900s, and the most iconic Dutch gem of them all—a spring tulip festival. Each May, the Tulip Time Festival draws more than 150,000 guests for three days of impressive, bright tulips on the Pella Historical Village grounds.

16. Kansas // Tree Climbing Kansas City

Location: Olathe, Kansas

Inner child, rejoice! Tree Climbing Kansas City offers—you guessed it—tree climbing lessons to help you perfect that childhood hobby. With ropes, harnesses, and helmets, tree climbing instructors will teach you how to select the right tree, then ascend and descend safely. If you were more of a "I'll stay down here" type of kid, you can still enjoy the tour—just find a sturdy, low-hanging branch, strap in and enjoy the views.

17. Kentucky // Red River Gorge

Location: Stanton, Kentucky

  Swift Camp Creek Overlook in Red River Gorge
Anthony, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Lace up for some of the Midwest's biggest adrenaline rushes at Red River Gorge in Kentucky. This 45-square-mile canyon system has a cult following among hikers, backpackers, rock climbers, and campers, but it's not just for professional adventurers. It has ziplines, trails, and self-guided tours for day trippers of all experience levels.

18. Louisiana // Global Wildlife Center

Location: Folsom, Louisiana

Home to more than 4000 exotic, threatened, or endangered species, the Global Wildlife Center in Louisiana is a feel-good, give-back day trip. Safari across this free-roaming preserve for the chance to not only view but feed the center's bison, giraffes, zebras, camels, and elands.

19. Maine // Peaks Island

Location: Portland, Maine

Sunset on Peaks Island, Maine
Don Shall, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Grab your swimsuit and board the Casco Bay Lines ferry to visit one of Portland's most popular destinations: Peaks Island. This quaint, dog-friendly island can be explored by foot, kayak, or bike, and it is home to one of the state's most unusual museums—the Umbrella Cover Museum (as in, a museum of umbrella sleeves). Once you've finished exploring, enjoy a lobster roll and a beer at the Inn on Peaks Island, one of the Peaks' few (but fabulous) restaurants.

20. Maryland // National Aquarium

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

From puffins to purple-striped jellies, sloths to sea turtles, the National Aquarium is a must-do day trip for anyone visiting the Baltimore area. The aquarium holds more than 2.2 million gallons of water and 750 species, making it one of the most unique aquatic sanctuaries in the world. Can't wait to visit? Tune into the aquarium's webcams for a sneak peek at the sharks and sea critters awaiting your arrival.

21. Massachusetts // Salem

Location: Salem, Massachusetts

a cemetery in Salem
Robert Linsdell, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Explore the history behind one of Massachusetts' most famous little towns: Salem. Known widely for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, the town lives up to its spooky reputation with the Salem Witch Museum, the Witch Dungeon Museum, and the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. If you'd rather skip the spooks (and their sad history), visit Pickering Wharf, a quiet little waterfront area with boutique shops and restaurants. To actively search for spooks, take a candlelight graveyard walking tour at one of Salem's many cemeteries.

22. Michigan // Mackinac Island

Location: Mackinac Island, Michigan

a streetview of Mackinac Island
Frank Thompson Photos, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Travel back in time to a world with no cars, all horses, on one of Michigan's northernmost locations, Mackinac Island. This eight-mile island is only accessible by ferry, and it's lined with fudge shops and restaurants, set to the tune of clip-clops from horses all over town. To see the island's quieter side, take an early ferry over from Mackinac City, rent a bike, and soar along the island's remote bike trails for crystal clear views of Lake Huron.

23. Minnesota // Stillwater

Location: Stillwater, Minnesota

Stillwater is a historic Minnesota river town, full of unique restaurants, local shops, and aquatic experiences. For an interesting peek into the town's history, take the 45-minute narrated trolley tour. If you'd like to take advantage of the water, try the gondola or boat rides along the St. Croix River. Or, if it's time to chill out and drink up, hop over to the Northern Vineyards on Main Street for their daily wine tastings.

24. Mississippi // Hope Fruit and Berry Farm

Location: Morton, Mississippi

Embrace the quiet, laid-back Southern charm at Hope Fruit and Berry Farm in Morton, Mississippi. Start the day picking berries, then sit back, relax, and breathe in that farm-fresh air on the front porch. Don't forget to grab some of Hope's famously delicious jams and baked goods on your way out!

25. Missouri // Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park

Location: Middle Brook, Missouri

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park
Eric Allix Rogers, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Swim, hike, and slide through the state's most down-to-earth water park—designed by Mother Nature herself. Known as "nature's waterpark," Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park offers more than 8000 acres of natural water slides, pools, and waterfalls, along with hiking and horseback riding trails for those who prefer to take in the Ozark landscapes.

26. Montana // Going-to-the-Sun Road

Location: West Glacier, Montana

Brace yourself for hairpin turns, extreme heights, and some of the most breathtaking Rocky Mountain scenery along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. This 50-mile road has made its way onto the big screen, with cameos in The Shining (1980) and Forrest Gump (1994), and is an unusual, thrill-inducing way to experience one of the country’s most popular national parks.

27. Nebraska // Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

Location: Royal, Nebraska

Roughly 12 million years ago, a volcano erupted in southwest Idaho, covering a large portion of northeast Nebraska in ash. Today, you can view more than 200 fossils from 12 species that were affected by the eruption and the subsequent ash, including camels, rhinos, and tortoises.

28. Nevada // Seven Magic Mountains

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Painted rocks piled in towers in the desert
Courtesy Seven Magic Mountains

Skip Sin City and head straight to the desert for a vibrant, colorful mirage: Seven Magic Mountains. Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone unveiled these seven 30-feet-high totems in May 2016, and while they were only due to remain on view for two years, the installation has proved so popular that it will stay open through the end of 2021. While you’ll have trouble looking away, take caution: Snakes have been reported in the area, so keep an eye on the ground.

29. New Hampshire // Gunstock Mountain Resort

Location: Gilford, New Hampshire

Gunstock has all the outdoor adventures and activities you need on one beautiful mountain. Hit the slopes for snowboarding, skiing, or tubing, or try out ziplining, off-road Segway tours, or the 4100-foot-long Mountain Coaster.

30. New Jersey // Point Pleasant Beach

Location: Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey

A crowded beachfront boardwalk
Courtesy Jenkinson's Boardwalk

Stroll the boardwalk and soak up the sun at Point Pleasant, one of the Jersey Shore’s most popular beaches. In addition to its clean, family-friendly beach, Point Pleasant has dozens of restaurants, miniature golf, an aquarium, and a comedy club.

31. New Mexico // Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Every fall, the skies around Albuquerque, New Mexico, light up with colorful hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes. The can’t-miss Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta includes choreographed balloon flights, light shows, live music, and more. The festival usually starts on the first Saturday of October and runs for nine days.

32. New York // The Catskills

Location: The Catskills, New York

Visit the Catskills in upstate New York and enjoy the mountain air just a few hours from Manhattan. Trade the skyscrapers for a walk along the Hudson River or visit one of the quaint little towns in the area for local breweries and wineries, shopping, and hiking. You can also see live music at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the site of the original Woodstock Festival in 1969.

33. North Carolina // Boone's Cave Park

Location: Lexington, North Carolina

Check out one of Daniel Boone’s favorite hideouts—Boone’s Cave—in Lexington, North Carolina. Accessible by foot, the Boone Cave is located along the Yadkin River, near where a teenage Boone and his family settled in 1750. You can explore inside the 80-foot cave, but beware—the tight quarters can make it a bit claustrophobic. The park also features a picnic area, campsites, hiking trails, a historic cabin, and a kayak trail.

34. North Dakota // Jamestown

Location: Jamestown, North Dakota

A large concrete buffalo statue
Rebecca Brown, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Home to the world’s largest buffalo monument—a 26-foot-tall, 60-ton concrete buffalo erected in 1959—Jamestown is one of North Dakota's most interesting, quirky day trip destinations. Relive the prairie days at Frontier Village, see the rare white buffalo at the National Buffalo Museum and, of course, grab a picture with the big buffalo himself.

35. Ohio // Cedar Point

Location: Sandusky, Ohio

There’s a reason people from all over the world visit Sandusky, Ohio: It’s home to the roller coaster capital of the world—Cedar Point. This 365-acre park opened in 1870 and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the U.S., with 70 rides and 18 roller coasters, including the Valravn, one of the the fastest, tallest, and longest dive roller coasters in the world.

36. Oklahoma // Alabaster Caverns State Park

Location: Freedom, Oklahoma

Hike into the largest public gypsum cave in the world at Alabaster Caverns in Oklahoma. In addition to gypsum, the site is home to a variety of rare minerals, including black alabaster, which can only be found in three places on the entire globe. You also may get a good look at some of the five species of bats who make their home in these caves.

37. Oregon // Cannon Beach

Location: Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach, Oregon, with clouds reflected in the shore
iStock.com/David Rigg

Cannon Beach is a quiet town on the Oregon coast that you might recognize as the backdrop for famous films like The Goonies (1985) and Twilight (2008). The beach is lined with unusual rock formations and was named one of National Geographic's 100 most beautiful places in the world in 2013.

38. Pennsylvania // Pennsylvania Amish Of Lancaster County

Location: Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Take a drive out to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, home to America's oldest Amish settlement. Visit the Pennsylvania Amish of Lancaster County to experience the simple life, and tour the countryside's windmills and farms on their traditional horse and buggy. After your tour, dine at one of the area’s many restaurants, and grab some local, handmade Amish goods to take back home.

39. Rhode Island // Newport

Location: Newport, Rhode Island

See how the other half lives with a visit to Newport, Rhode Island. Ten of the town’s over-the-top mansions are open for tours, including several Vanderbilt “cottages” like the Breakers and Marble House. After you’ve fallen in love with everything you’ll never have, get back down to earth at the Newport Cliff Walk, a scenic walkway along the shore.

40. South Carolina // Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge

Location: Awendaw, South Carolina

This 66,000-acre wildlife refuge has two lighthouses and more than 250 bird species. Stop by for fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking, tours, and a chance to see the rare, adorable Loggerhead Sea Turtle. End your day with a stroll along one of the area’s peaceful, stunning beaches.

41. South Dakota // Mount Rushmore

Location: Keystone, South Dakota

While it may be well-known, Mount Rushmore is an absolute must-visit for anyone in South Dakota. The 30-minute scenic drive from Rapid City out to the monument is almost as impressive as the carved faces of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.

42. Tennessee // The Great Smoky Mountains

Location: Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Lace up those hiking boots and head out to one of the country’s most beloved mountain ranges, the Smokies. The area has a bit of everything—fishing, hiking, horseback riding and waterfalls—as well as a chance to view wildlife like black bears and elk. If you're not that into nature, you can enjoy local breweries and distilleries, or take a romantic ride on the Gatlinburg Sky Lift and bask in the view.

43. Texas // Texas State Fair

Location: Dallas, Texas

A Ferris Wheel at the Texas State Fair
iStock.com/SAKDAWUT14

The State Fair of Texas is the granddaddy of them all. It’s one of—if not the—best-attended fairs in the country, and features livestock, artwork, music, and a huge auto show. This year, it takes place between September 27 and October 20. Be aware that almost everything on the menu is fried, from the Oreos and Twinkies to even the beer.

44. Utah // Silver Reef

Location: Silver Reef, Utah

Relive scenes from your favorite Westerns in one of Utah’s most deserted, eerie ghost towns: Silver Reef. What flourished as a mining town in the late 1800s now stands in tumbleweed-filled ruins, with a historical museum and placards highlighting once-famous landmarks—including some infamous Western shootouts—all over town. You can also venture further out and take in the red rocks of the surrounding area, which are perfect for backpacking, birdwatching, fishing, and hunting.

45. Vermont // Billings Farm and Museum

Location: Woodstock, Vermont

Experience an older, simpler way of life at Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, Vermont. The museum features interactive exhibits and demonstrations to take visitors step by step through the farming process and its history. You can also explore a calf nursery or watch an afternoon cow milking in Billings's fully functional farm.

46. Virginia // Dinosaur Land

Location: White Post, Virginia

Virginia's Dinosaur Land park
Tess Dixon, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If your childhood heroes were Alan Grant or Ellie Sattler, Virginia's Dinosaur Land is for you. It's the Jurassic Park of Virginia, just without the lab and the living, breathing dinosaurs. This "educational prehistoric forest" has more than 50 large-scale dinosaur sculptures or models, and still maintains a bit of its fun kitsch-factor from when it first opened in the mid-'60s.

47. Washington // Maury Island Marine Park

Location: Vashon Island, Washington

What's often referred to as the first UFO sighting in American history took place on the Maury Island Marine Park shore in 1947, and while the sighting remains unsubstantiated, an eerie, slightly spooky air continues to surround this uninhabited area. Even if you're not searching for UFOs, you’ll still enjoy the hiking and nature this quiet, remote land has to offer.

48. West Virginia // Lost World Caverns

Location: Lewisburg, West Virginia

Go up to 120 feet below ground at the Lost World Caverns in Lewisburg, West Virginia. The caverns house a variety of unusual rock and mineral formations, including “The Snowy Chandelier” and “The Bridal Veil.” Before heading out, stop by the Caverns museum to view dinosaur fossils and the remains of a prehistoric cave bear that were discovered in these very caves.

49. Wisconsin // Bristol Renaissance Faire

Location: Kenosha, Wisconsin

Get to know Wisconsin's knights and noblemen at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, which recreates scenes from the year 1574 every summer weekend. The fair features nearly 200 artists, live entertainment, themed rides, and everyone’s favorite snack of olden days: the turkey leg.

50. Wyoming // Thermopolis

Location: Thermopolis, Wyoming

Soak up Wyoming’s mountain scenery from the world’s largest mineral hot springs. The 104-degree water at Thermopolis is the perfect way to relax after a day of exploring nearby Yellowstone. Or, with the town’s shops, restaurants and hiking options, the town of Thermopolis makes for a perfect, unusual day trip unto itself.

Chernobyl Creator Craig Mazin Urges Visitors to Treat the Exclusion Zone With Respect

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Following the success of the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, one tour company reported that bookings to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone located in Ukraine rose 35 percent. Now, series creator Craig Mazin is imploring the new wave of tourists to be respectful when snapping selfies at Chernobyl, Gizmodo reports.

A 2500-square-kilometer exclusion zone was established around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant shortly after its reactor exploded in 1986 and flooded the area with harmful radiation. The abandoned towns are still too radioactive for people to live there safely, but they have been deemed safe to visit temporarily with the supervision of a guide.

Chernobyl has supported a dark tourism industry for years, but thanks to the miniseries, photographs taken there are gaining new levels of attention online. News of influencers posing for irreverent selfies at the site of the nuclear disaster quickly went viral. Mazin tweeted:

Regardless of why people are visiting the site, being respectful in the presence of tragedy is always a good idea. It's also smart to resist leaving a tour group to snap the perfect selfie in some abandoned building: Tour companies warn that breaking rules and wandering off approved paths can lead to dangerous radiation exposure.

[h/t Gizmodo]

A Traveling Harry Potter Beer Festival Is Coming to Several U.S. Cities

If you’ve ever wondered what the alcoholic version of a butterbeer would taste like, you’ll soon have the chance to find out. A series of ongoing Harry Potter-inspired beer festivals are coming to cities across the U.S. in the next couple of months.

According to Rock Star Beer Festivals, which is organizing the event, Muggles and wizards alike will get unlimited samples of 20-plus beers. There will be plenty of adult butterbeer to go around, and for more daring souls, there’s Snape’s Lair of Secret Cider Potions. Is it actually cider, or could it be a polyjuice potion? Attendees will soon find out.

In June, the festival will be coming to Fresno, California on June 21 and New Orleans on June 29. In July, it will head to Philadelphia (July 13) and Boston (July 20). Tickets to the festivals can be purchased through Eventbrite or booked on Rock Star Beer Festivals’ Facebook page under the Events tab. Act fast, though, because tickets—which generally sell for $40 to $45 apiece—regularly sell out.

What else can you expect to see at such a magical event? Rock Star Beer Festivals says the venues hosting the festival will be “transformed into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” with guests being transported to the Great Hall, Diagon Alley, and, of course, the Leaky Cauldron. You’ll also get to snap photos with Hagrid and dance to music by the Sorceress Sisters and DJ Dumbledore. Just be careful not to drink and do magic, or you could end up having an accident à la Neville Longbottom.

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