11 Places Planes Can't Fly Over in the U.S.

Jacqueline Nell/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images
Jacqueline Nell/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

From the obvious to the controversial to the mysterious, here are 11 places in the U.S. over which taking a plane just won’t fly.

1. George Washington's Home // Mount Vernon, Virginia

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Restriction: Surface to 1500 feet above Mean Sea Level.

I cannot tell a lie: Flying over Mount Vernon, the home of the Father of our Country, is a big no-no. The wooden mansion, built for George Washington between 1758 and 1778, has endured much wear over the years, and in an effort to prevent further damage caused by vibrations from overhead aircraft, a no-fly zone was established around the airspace above the National Historic Landmark. As a result of this restriction, even aerial photography of the home is rarely allowed.

2. and 3. Walt Disney World // Orlando, Florida and Disneyland // Anaheim, California

Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

Restriction: 3000 feet above ground level.

Restrictions on airspace are sometimes made on a temporary basis, usually at places where a great many people congregate (like the Super Bowl). And perhaps no place attracts larger crowds with more frequency than Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. After the September 11 attacks, Disney successfully had a “temporary” no-fly zone restriction slipped into a nearly $400 billion federal spending bill in 2003, which established the restricted airspace over its Anaheim and Orlando theme parks. The restriction remains in place to this day, and has faced legal challenges from a Christian group, the Family Policy Network. The group has argued on free speech grounds for the right to use the airspace to tow banners behind small planes in opposition to Disney’s unofficial but popular annual “Gay Days.”

4. Bush Family compound// Kennebunkport, Maine

Restriction: Surface to 1000 feet above Mean Sea Level.

The Bush family compound is located on a peninsula known as Walker’s Point in the scenic southern Maine town of Kennebunkport. The home has been in the family for over a century, and is the summer residence of former president George H.W. Bush. Over the years many important people have been through its doors, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher, and it has been the scene of numerous Bush family weddings. Given the sensitive nature of the compound, and the frequency with which both former presidents Bush and their families still visit, the airspace above the compound is restricted to aircraft.

5. Pantex Nuclear facility // Amarillo, Texas

Restriction: Surface to 4800 feet above Mean Sea Level.

The Pantex Plant is a high-security nuclear facility located about 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, Texas. Its mission is “to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the nation's nuclear stockpile." The facility dismantles excess nukes, keeps tabs on our existing ones, and maintains cold-war era missiles that are still knocking around after all these years, and therefore there is a ten-mile no-fly zone around it. As you might expect, the site is also closed to the public.

6. Washington, D.C.

Andy Dunaway/USAF via Getty Images

Restriction: Surface to 18000 feet above Mean Sea Level.

After the September 11 attacks, the airspace over our nation’s capital became some of the most highly restricted in the world. The Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Homeland Security together established concentric no-fly areas around Washington D.C. The outer ring of this boundary, known as the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) requires any aircraft entering the space to identify themselves. Within that zone exists a smaller area of 15 nautical miles around Reagan International Airport called the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ). They don’t mess around in that FRZ, either. In 2005, the pilot of a Cessna 150 aircraft was just five miles from the White House before it was greeted by the sight of an F-16 fighter jet dropping flares in its field of vision to send a signal it had wandered into unfriendly skies. Oops.

7. Camp David // Thurmont, Maryland

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Restriction: Surface to 5000 feet above Mean Sea Level.

Countless photographs of U.S. presidents in windbreakers have been taken at Naval Support Facility Thurmont, better known as Camp David, a presidential retreat and meeting place going back to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The compound has frequently played host to presidents’ families and visiting dignitaries, and numerous high-profile pacts have been struck at the retreat over the years, including the Camp David Accords, a peace deal between Egypt and Israel brokered in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. Due to the high-profile nature of the visitors and activities at Camp David, the airspace above the private compound has a three-mile no-fly zone around it.

8. Kennedy Space Center // Merritt Island, Florida

NASA via Getty Images

Restriction: surface to 5000 feet above Mean Sea Level, adjustable to unlimited with notice.

Florida’s “Space Coast” is a popular spot for space fans to see a rocket launch, but the only view you’re going to get is from the ground. Merritt Island houses NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Due to military and NASA activities on and around the island, airspace around the island is restricted to all civilian and commercial air traffic.

9. Area 51

Restriction: Surface to Unlimited.

Located in the western United States desert is the fabled Area 51. Its precise location is either in Nellis Air Force Range in Nevada or Edwards Air Force Base in California, but airspace above the general area is restricted to all aircraft, military and civilian. (Cue The X-Files theme.) Area 51 became the stuff of legend after the so-called Roswell Incident, and is allegedly where a recovered alien space ship was stored after crashing in New Mexico in 1947, spawning legions of alien enthusiasts. The Air Force says it uses the area to test new military technology, and declassified documents from 2013 revealed that the U-2 Spy Plane Program in the 1950s and '60s was worked on at the base. The spot of nearly empty desert boasts air space that's more restricted than that of the nation's capital.

10. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness // Northern Minnesota

iStock

Restriction: Surface to 4000 feet.

This million-acre expanse of pristine wilderness runs 199 miles along the Canadian border. The area’s nearly 1200 lakes, dramatic views of glacier-carved canyons, and untrammeled natural beauty make it a paradise for outdoor adventurers. President Harry Truman established the no-fly zone over the area back in 1948 and we thank him for it.

11. Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay // Georgia

Restriction: Surface to 3000 feet.

Another bit of restricted airspace we can safely file in the “no duh” category is the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia. This base houses the U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet’s Trident nuclear-powered submarines, ballistic and guided missile submarines, and the Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic (SWFLANT)—which is essentially a missile factory. The base’s functions include maintaining, overhauling, and modernizing the sub fleet, including its weapon systems. Despite the heavy artillery housed here and a strict no-fly zone, over the last decade pilots have violated its airspace eight times and there have been four crashes within the base’s borders.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

22 Creepy Cryptids From Around the World

Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx's interpretation of the Mongolian death worm.
Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx's interpretation of the Mongolian death worm.

According to Merriam-Webster, a cryptid is an animal "that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist." But as Bigfoot believers and Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts are often quick to point out, it’s pretty difficult to prove that something doesn’t exist. Plus, it’s much more fun to indulge in the idea that giant sea monsters and hairy humanoids are roaming the uncharted corners of the planet.

On this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is taking viewers across time and space to unearth legends about lesser-known monsters that, again, haven’t been proven to not exist. Take the Mongolian death worm, a lamprey-like nightmare that supposedly lives in the Gobi Desert and radiates a poison so strong that you could die just by standing near it. If you’re an ill-behaved child or a Catholic who scarfs down steak every Friday during Lent, watch out for the Rougarou, a Louisiana-based werewolf that sniffs out those two demographics.

Learn about more fearsome, fascinating cryptids of all kinds in the video below, and subscribe to the Mental Floss YouTube channel for future episodes of The List Show.