Strange Roadside Attractions From Every State
In addition to wide-open prairie, twisting coastal highways, and sun kissed mountain ranges, the United States has its fair share of oddities—really, really odd oddities, as it turns out. What better way to spend a road trip than discovering how bizarre our country (and some of its inhabitants) is?
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In the Northeast, road-trippers eager for a peek at the out-of-the-ordinary can check out places ranging from a museum dedicated to the study of yetis, sea serpents, and the like, to a graveyard for Ben and Jerry’s flavors that didn’t work out, to a collection of diseased brains. Things start to get a little weirder towards the Midwest—like a public park filled with exotic concrete totem poles, a giant cow that used to be able to talk about the Wisconsin dairy industry, and a massive mountain containing way more nuclear waste than anybody knew existed. Further west, there is no shortage of strange attractions—large, steel animals, fruit-shaped planted mazes, a very inviting clown-themed motel. Head south, and travelers can catch a glimpse of America’s finest: a giant nut (we’ll let you guess which kind), a bunch of Airstream RVs sticking out of the ground, and even the gates to the voodoo underworld.
Scattered across the 50 states, these strange roadside attractions are a good excuse to get off the beaten path and stretch your legs after hours in the car—or to just get a little taste of weird America.
Alabama: Unclaimed Baggage Center
Known to many as the “land of lost luggage,” this stop in Scottsboro, Alabama sees about one million visitors from around the world every year. Covering more than a city block, visitors can purchase literally any item that has been packed in a suitcase that was never claimed by its owner or left on an airplane. It’s the only lost luggage store in the United States.
Alaska: Igloo City
This tourist attraction—located in Cantwell, Alaska—is especially odd because it never actually opened for business. The four-story, concrete hotel, (circa 1970) remains unfinished to this day because it failed to meet building codes. But tourists sure do love to pay it a visit—it can even be seen from airplanes cruising at a lofty 30,000 feet in the air.
Arizona: The Thing
Creators of the hit movie “The Thing” take roadside advertisement to the next level along Interstate 10. The stretch of endless highway is lined not only by dry desert for miles, but with billboards advertising the mysterious “Thing” at exit 312.
Arkansas: Christ of the Ozarks
Interestingly enough, this larger-than-life monumental Jesus is actually known for sort-of resembling a milk carton.
California: Salvation Mountain
Located in Nilan, California—not too far from Slab City—lays a mini mountain, covered in paintings of colorful biblical messages like “God is Love.” The late Leonard King who lived on Salvation Mountain and continuously painted his messages on it from 1985 until the early 2000s created the man-made mountain.
Colorado: UFO Watchtower
Finding a weird, alien-themed road stop is usually within a stone’s throw when it comes to the American Southwest. But the UFO Watchtower is pretty out-there. Finding herself in the middle of what many believers think to be a hub of galactic activity, Judy Messoline decided to turn her ranch into a campground with a UFO watchtower, which is open to the public.
Connecticut: Cushing Brain Collection
“Check out that diseased brain collection” is definitely not something you hear often. But around Yale’s medical school library in New Haven, Connecticut, it might be. Donated to Yale in 1939 in the name of Dr. Harvey Cushing, this collection of brains ridden with tumors and disease definitely earns a spot on the list.
Delaware: Miles the Monster
Think “The Hulk”—except stone grey, angular, and with glowing red eyes.
Florida: Airstream Ranch
Nothing says “America” like a good old, standing car formation that vaguely resembles Stonehenge. This collection of eight classic Airstreams alongside I-4, between Tampa and Orlando, looks more like the RVs were sent rocketing down from space, straight into the ground.
Georgia: Georgia Guidestones
“Let these be guidestones to an age of reason,” reads from the tablet in the front of the Georgia Guidestones. This structure—a monument made up of several 19-foot granite stones, commissioned by an anonymous man in 1979—offers 10 post-apocalyptic messages of guidance, written in eight different languages. The perfect thing for a bit of light reading.
Hawaii: World’s Longest Plant Maze
If you have time to pay a visit to the Dole Plantation in Wahiawa, Hawaii, you’ll want to stop by the world’s biggest botanical maze—made up of 14,000 colorful Hawaiian plants, all in the shape of a giant pineapple.
Idaho: World’s Biggest Beagle (Dog Bark Park Inn)
Here in Cottonwood, Idaho, you can visit the world’s biggest beagle—and sleep in it, too!
Illinois: Gold Pyramid House
This six-story, 17,000-square-foot private home in Wadsworth, Illinois is plated in gold—and it’s surrounded by a moat.
Indiana: Roofless Church
At the nondenominational Roofless Church in New Harmony, Indiana, all are welcome to pray under cover of the sky, next to a domed structure. It also serves as a popular wedding destination.
Iowa: The Hobo Museum
Since it opened in 1980, the Hobo Museum has come a long way in preserving the legacy of hoboes. It exists within an old converted town theater, and serves as an archive of all things created by hoboes of America (music, photographs, art, and more).
Kansas: The World’s Largest Collection of Smallest Versions of Largest Things
The creator of this mobile collection of roadside attractions (which is, in fact, a roadside attraction in itself) does just what you would think: When Erika Nelson hears news of a “World’s Largest” roadside item, she visits it for photo documentation and creates a tiny replica out of various materials.
Kentucky: Dinosaur World
When you spot the giant, larger-than-life T-Rex off of I-65, you know you’re close to Dinosaur World. Visitors will find massive, life-sized dinosaur replicas scattered throughout this park as they take a prehistoric stroll.
Louisiana: The Gates of Guinee
If you’re looking for the gates to the voodoo underworld, Guinee, look no further than the French Quarter. It is believed that seven gates are scattered around the city.
Maine: International Cryptozoology Museum
This unique museum unveils artifacts related to the study of hidden or unknown animals. Established by crypto-zoologist Loren Coleman, the museum is home to a collection of “cryptid” specimens—think Yetis, Bigfoot, sea serpents, and the like.
Maryland: Ouija Board Headstone
It’s only fitting that the man who patented the Ouija Board, Elijah Bond, has a headstone that resembles exactly what he created.
Massachusetts: The Witch House of Salem
This is the last standing structure in Salem with direct ties to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.
Michigan: Hell, Michigan
With a slogan like “Go to Hell…Michigan,” how could you not be curious? Established in 1838, this little town officially became “Hell” after the first settler began to pay farmers for their grain with whiskey.
Minnesota: Spoonbridge and Cherry
Located in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, this larger-than-life spoon provides a large dose of whimsy, with an even larger cherry on top. During the winter, when the spoon is covered in snow, the sculpture looks like a massive ice cream sundae.
Mississippi: Touch the Hand of Elvis
This bronze sculpture was created in Elvis’s hometown, Tupelo. Fans will often reach up to touch the hands of the King.
Missouri: Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail
Despite how it looks from the outside, this man-made mountain—just south of Weldon Spring, Missouri—encapsulates the remnants of the largest explosives factory in America, as well as a Cold War-era uranium refinery. Now, you can take a stroll over the 54-acre expanse of 1.48 million cubic yards of covered-up PCBs, mercury, asbestos, TNT, radioactive uranium, and radium.
Montana: Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
Surround yourself with more Buddhas than you’ve (probably) ever encountered in this international center for peace.
There’s something about vintage cars arranged in Stonehenge-like formations that really resonates with the American population. Carhenge, in Alliance, Nebraska, was created by Jim Reinders as a tribute to his father.
Nevada: The Clown Motel
Located on a stretch of the Nevada desert—right next to a century-old miner’s graveyard—sits the oh-so inviting Clown Motel. What about a motel decorated with dozens of smiling, glassy-eyed clowns in a desert doesn’t sound appealing? That being said, all are welcome.
New Hampshire: Yankee Siege Catapult
If there’s one thing that the good people of Greenfield, New Hampshire love to do in the fall, it’s launching enormous pumpkins into the sky with this massive catapult (which actually resembles a giant medieval weapon). As of 2010, unfortunately, the Yankee Siege Catapult is out of commission—but it sure is cool to look at.
New Jersey: Lucy the Elephant
Located in Margate, New Jersey, Lucy the Elephant just might be the coolest thing in the state. What’s not to love about a 134-year-old, 90-ton, 65-foot elephant made of tin and wood? You can even go inside the structure through a small spiral staircase to peruse a museum focused on the history of her creation.
New Mexico: World’s largest pistachio
It’s safe to say that this larger-than-life pistachio is one of the more unique “World’s Largest” items found in the U.S. It’s only fitting that this giant nut is located near Pistachio Land. The giant pistachio stands 30-feet tall and is pretty realistic—but don’t be fooled. It’s concrete.
New York: World’s Smallest Church
The Cross Island Chapel (or chapel-ette, perhaps?) in Oneida, New York, is tiny. The small structure has enough room to accommodate a bride, groom, and minister—but don’t worry, the church is in the middle of a pond, so the wedding party can anchor on a boat nearby.
North Carolina: The last Shell Oil Clamshell station
In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, you can ogle the last standing Shell Oil Clamshell station, from an era when Shell thought that selling gas from seashell-shaped stations was a good idea. Turns out, the clamshell shape doesn’t lend itself to much other than a clam. The station was abandoned in the 1950s.
North Dakota: Enchanted Highway Sculptures
Driving through the open, flat prairie of North Dakota can be monotonous—but things start to get exciting along highway 21 (now the Enchanted Highway) when heading toward the small town of Regent. From giant metal deer and geese frozen in mid-flight to an alarmingly large grasshopper, Gary Greff made sure that no traveler would find themselves bored while driving down the enchanted highway.
Ohio: Frozen Cleveland Lighthouse
Ever wondered what an empty lighthouse covered in hundreds of layers of ice looks like? Search no further than the Frozen Cleveland Lighthouse to discover this beautiful natural ice sculpture.
Oklahoma: Totem Pole Park
In 1938, local artist Ed Galloway began creating the first of 11 concrete totem poles, one of which became the world’s largest concrete totem pole, standing at 90 -eet. The structures eventually covered the expanse of 14 acres in what is now a public folk art garden and park.
Oregon: Octopus Tree of Oregon
The reason behind the octopus-shape of this wild Spruce tree in Tillamook, Oregon is a complete mystery. People have speculated that it was natural forces, and others attribute it to Native Americans, who some believe shaped the tree’s cage-like structure. Either way, it’s cool to look at—be warned: there are no octopus here.
Pennsylvania: Shoe House
A very wealthy shoe-enthusiast built this boot-shaped house in 1948. Once serving as an over-the-top advertisement for Haines Shoe Company, the giant boot is now open for tours.
Rhode Island: The Big Blue Bug
Located in plain site right along I-95, road-trippers don’t even need to stop for the experience that is the Big Blue Bug. The bug serves as a mascot for Big Blue Bug Solutions, and welcomes all who pass through Providence.
South Carolina: South of the Border
Advertisements leading up to this road side experience off of I-95 include signs that say things like, “You never sausage a place!” The stop offers restaurants, gas stations, a motel, and an amusement park. Its mascot—a giant sombrero-wearing caricature of a Mexican man—is known to be politically incorrect, but is impossible to miss while crossing the border from North Carolina to South Carolina.
South Dakota: Wall Drug
Wall Drug is the epitome of tourist traps and weird America, boasting over 80 years of inviting travelers in with giant billboards advertising kitschy attractions, restaurants, and stores (think giant dinosaur, life-size cowboy statues, western wear, and Wild West-style apothecary shoppe). One of the biggest draws? Free ice water.
Tennessee: Peabody Memphis Duck March
The Peabody Memphis Hotel Duck March began in 1933 and is now a famous tradition at this iconic Tennessee hotel. Everyday at 11am and 5pm, five North America mallards march (read: waddle) up a red carpet at the hotel lobby fountain to pay a visit to hotel guests.