Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Locations You Won't Believe

Sports Illustrated swimsuit models add additional beauty to these U.S. locales.

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue has become one of the most anticipated magazine releases each winter since it began publishing in 1964. It follows: gorgeous models photographed in tropical paradises that are enough to help warm the coldest of seasons.

But don't just think far-off, exotic locales; the magazine has used the magnificent, diverse backdrop that is the United States with—not surprisingly—spectacular results.

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

1981: Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

The Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park in Crawfordville, Florida, was where Kelly Emberg mixed with nature in the 1981 edition from the safety of her rowboat. 

The state park and The Wakulla Springs Lodge, built in 1937, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are designated as National Natural Landmarks. Daily guided riverboat tours take visitors up close to wildlife including alligators, turtles, manatees, deer and birds. In addition to having one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, the park features nature trails, allowing hikes among rare and unusual plants. For those not staying on the grounds, the capital city of Tallahassee has food, entertainment and lodging about 16 miles away.

Alligator Reef Lighthouse

1993: Alligator Reef Lighthouse

Shooting in the Florida Keys isn’t quite so unexpected, but the location chosen for Vendela—one of the three 1993 cover models—was certainly different, venturing about five miles out into the Atlantic Ocean to shoot on the Alligator Reef Lighthouse.

More of the mainstream photos were taken on Islamorada, “The Village of Islands,” made up of Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe, and the offshore islands of Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key. Among other activities, Islamorada is known for its diving and snorkeling, fishing and provides the perfect backdrop as a wedding destination. 

Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel

1993: Mackinac Island, Michigan

Britta Dubbels and Stacy Williams made Grand Hotel their own in 1993. 

Located between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas, Mackinac Island's iconic hotel is known for its picturesque garden and has the world's largest front porch, coming in at 660 feet. The Grand Hotel wasn't the only location the magazine used as a location, however.

Local photographer Jeff Dupre got a call from renowned photographer Walter Iooss Jr., who he took on his boat to scout—the uninhabited—Round Island, which turned out to be a location Dupre assisted with for the next two days. The weather didn't cooperate that September, but Dupre was still impressed by what Iooss and the crew were able to accomplish.

"Foggy, dreary weather made it tough for pictures," said Dupre. "But instead, the conditions made the images look mystical, slightly spooky and it eventually worked out."  

Antelope Canyon sandstone formations

2004: Lake Powell, Arizona

Lake Powell, the second-largest man-made lake in America, was the backdrop for May Andersen, Angela Lindvall and Daniela Pestova in the 2004 swimsuit edition.

It would have been impossible to cover all of Lake Powell during the shoot as the reservoir on the Utah-Arizona border has 2,000 miles of shoreline.

One of the big draws on Lake Powell is just east of historic Page, Arizona. Antelope Canyon, on Navajo land, features two slot canyons; Upper Anterlope Canyon, or The Crack; and Antelope Canyon, or The Corkscrew. Visitors wanting to take in the stunning sandstone formations in either canyon must do so with a Navajo-authorized guide. 

2004: Natchez, Mississippi

Petra Nemcova and Noemie Lenoir headed south to the banks of the Mississippi River in Natchez, Mississippi.   

As they have done throughout other shoots, the magazine stayed at—and used as a setting—a National Historic Landmark, this time the Monmouth Historic Inn & Gardens for the 2004 edition. 

The early 19th-century antebellum mansion is set in 26 acres of manicured gardens, allowing guests to take in the beauty of blooming magnolias, roses, azaleas and Monmouth’s signature collection of angel statuary, accompanied by the gentle humming of cicadas. Stay in the main facility or one of seven outbuildings, all with period furnishings and/or antebellum-era reproductions. Enjoy a drink at the bar and then head to the award-winning Restaurant 1818.

Just 15 miles from the Monmouth is the beginning of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a winding, almost 450-mile two lane road, perfect for taking in nature including waterfalls, venturing past historic sites and driving over rivers and streams. It is a favorite of motorcyclists and cyclists, alike.

Elvis' TV room

2007: Memphis, Tennessee

A music issue wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Memphis, the "Home of Blues" and the "Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll."

Models posed all over town at historic sites such as Graceland (Elvis' home); Sun Studios, the recording studio opened by  rock 'n' roll pioneer Sam Phillips in 1950; and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music—with Isaac Hayes, no less. Artists who recorded in Stax' studio included Otis Redding and Booker T. and the MGs. 

On a trip to Memphis, music lovers would want to take in Beale Street in the heart of downtown. The Beale Street Entertainment District, three blocks of delta blues, jazz, rock 'n' roll, R&B and gospel, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

White Stallion Ranch, Arizona

2007: White Stallion Ranch, Arizona

In 2007, Yesica Toscanini, Brooklyn Decker and Irina brought a touch of the beach to the Old West in Tucson, Arizona.

The White Stallion Ranch, no stranger to bright lights, has been attracting filmmakers for 70 years. Notable productions include the 1977 TV mini-series "How The West Was Won" and the 2002 George Clooney vehicle "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind."

The ranch combines the service of a resort with the adventure of a dude ranch. Start the day with one of nine different rides; maybe riding all day or taking an invigorating trek up into the mountains. Riders of all levels are sure to be accommodated as the ranch has the largest private herds of horses in Arizona, allowing them to match horses to each rider.

After a long day of activities including swimming and hiking, relax at the bar, hot tub or pool before retiring to a spacious room with a private patio and views of cactus gardens, mountains or corrals.

Marching Trojans

2007: University of Southern California and Grambling State University

Not that the bands of Grambling State University and the University of Southern California needed any help with flair, but that’s what they got when Jessica White and Julie Henderson arrived wearing suits in school colors.

In addition to supporting the school’s athletic programs, USC's “The Greatest Marching Band in the History of The Universe” is no stranger to the big stage. The Marching Trojans have appeared on classic TV shows such as “Hollywood Squares” and “In Living Color,” while performing with artists such as John Legend, George Clinton and John Williams during halftime shows.

The World Famed Grambling State University Tiger Marching Band (Grambling, Louisiana) was no stranger to Sports Illustrated, having their 1967 Super Bowl performance dubbed “One of the Top 10 Super Bowl Halftime Shows” by the magazine. Among a myriad of notable appearances, the Tiger Marching Band performed in the movie “Drumline,” in addition to playing with President Bill Clinton in 1999. Grambling was the first HBCU band to march and lead in the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1980.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

2007: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Music fans must make the pilgrimage to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, on the shores of Lake Erie, on a trip to Cleveland, Ohio. It’s where Anne V posed in front of displays such as Jerry Garcia’s guitar and behind a Sex Pistols’ drum set. The only exhibit still remaining from her shoot is “The Wall” set used by Roger Waters in his 1990 “The Wall in Berlin” concert.

Want to combine a sporting event with a visit to the Hall? First Energy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns is just a half mile away while Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians) and Quicken Loans Arena (Cleveland Cavaliers) are just a mile off.

Space Shuttle Atlantis at Cape Canaveral

2014: Cape Canaveral

SI photographed Kate Upton on Cape Canaveral, and then in the skies, above using a specially-modified Boeing 727 in a ZERO-G Experience, simulating the weightlessness of outer space. 

Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral was the launch point for NASA's historic Apollo, Skylab and space shuttle programs. While space shuttle launches have been discontinued, visitors to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex may experience the excitement of liftoff as the schedule is filled with satellite launches and International Space Station resupply missions. There are four viewing locations including one at the main visitor complex, which is free with daily admission if the launch is during operating hours.

To enjoy other area attractions, Cape Canaveral is just 20 miles northwest of Cocoa Beach and 65 miles east of Walt Disney World.

Soulsby Service Station, Route 66, Mount Olive, Illinois

2015: Soulsby Service Station

In 2015, the magazine made its way across the famous U.S. Route 66. Ariel Meredith took point in Mount Olive, Illinois, posing in front of the now-defunct Soulsby Service Station, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. While in Mount Olive, check out the Grave of Mother Jones, a monument to the labor activist most notably known for fighting for miners' rights.  

Route 66 was created as a federal road in 1926 and traversed eight states—Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California—until it was officially replaced by the interstate system and decommissioned in 1985. 

"It [Route 66] emits a sense of time and place," said John Weiss, chairman of Illinois' Route 66 Preservation Committee. "You step back into the pages of time on Route 66. You can't do that anywhere else." 

If Weiss had to choose one place to go in Illinois on Route 66, it would be Pontiac

"They take the pulse of the people. They find a need and fill it ... You could spend days there. People from around the world come to Pontiac," said Weiss.

Among the many free attractions are the Livingston County War Museum and the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum.