Written by: Adeline Yuboco
07/10/2013 3:17 PM
Visiting different roadside attractions in the U.S. is a great way to stretch your legs while out on a road trip. Some bring about a sense of nostalgia while others are just downright bizarre and hilarious.
We've scoured the country for the top roadside attractions that's worth the visit, whether you're planning to head out on a camping trip with your family or just want to go out on a road trip with friends for the summer. Here are 25 of the best and wackiest roadside attractions in the US, listed by state.
1. Ave Maria Grotto (Cullman, Alabama)
First stop on our list is the Ave Maria Grotto located in the city of Cullman in Alabama. Here you can find over 125 miniature replicas of some of the popular historical and religious landmarks all over the world like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Great Wall of China, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Grotto of St. Theresa. Brother Joseph Zoettl, a Benedictine monk from the St. Bernard Abbey, created all these replicas by using discarded building materials, shells, costume jewelry and even plastic animals. When asked what inspired him to start this project, which took him about 50 years to complete, Brother Zoettl's answer was simply because he wanted to do something to pass the time.
More information on Ave Maria Grotto.
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2. London Bridge (Lake Havasu City, Arizona)
Apparently, there was some truth to the nursery rhyme. Hailed by the Guiness World Records as the largest antique in the world, London Bridge was really falling down because of the load of London's traffic during the mid-20th century. The bridge was auctioned off and was sold to an oil baron living in Arizona for a whopping $2.46 million. The bridge was carefully dismantled and meticulously reconstructed in its new home at Lake Havasu City. Driving over this bridge will be a sure treat if you're heading out on a camping trip with your kids.
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3. Randy's Donuts (Inglewood, California)
Randy's Donuts is more than just another popular wacky roadside attraction where you can grab a quick snack before heading back on your road trip with family or friends. This drive-in donut joint-featured in movies like Mars Attacks!, California Girls, 2012, and Iron Man 2 - is also a nostalgic piece of architectural history. It was built during the peak of an architectural trend where instead of using signs to advertise restaurants and drive-ins, architects designed the buildings to look very much like the food that you can eat here. The result is an iconic Californian landmark you definitely won't miss.
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4. Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue (Plains, Georgia)
During the presidential election campaign back in 1976, Democrats in Indiana wanted to do something to honor former American President Jimmy Carter as he passed through the state. Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue was the result. Why, of all things, a peanut? First, former president Jimmy Carter lives in Plains, Georgia where one of the main industries is peanut cultivation. Second, former president Carter used to work as a peanut farmer in his younger years. In 2000, a driver smashed into the statue, nearly destroying it completely. No one can be sure if the driver was a Republican, but after it was restored, it was transferred to its current location along Route 45 near former president Carter's hometown.
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5. Spud Drive-In Theater (Driggs, Idaho)
Drive-In movie theaters were once a favorite weekend spot for couples, friends, and family. Today, only a few drive-in movie theaters remain. The Spud Drive-In Theater is one of them. But it's not just getting the experience of watching a flick outdoors while in your RV or car that makes this a popular roadside attraction. Many come here to visit and have their picture taken with Old Murphy-a red 1946 Chevy truck parked right in front of the movie screen with a 2-ton potato loaded on its back. It's not a real spud, but that doesn't seem to deter tourists from stopping by and snapping a few photos before continuing on their journey.
More information on Spud Drive-In Theater.
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6. Brooks Rich & Tangy Catsup Water Tower (Collinsville, Illinois)
Brooks Rich & Tangy Catsup Water Tower It may be hailed as the "Largest Bottle of Catsup in the World", but there is not a single drop of ketchup inside this next wacky roadside attraction. It's actually a water tower that was built for the G. S. Suppiger ketchup bottling plant. It was designed to look exactly like the bottle of Brooks Rich & Tangy Ketchup, which was bottled by G. S. Suppiger complete with the word catsup instead of the correctly spelling ketchup. Residents in the town of Collinsville love this roadside attraction so much that they hold an annual Catsup Bottle Festival during the summer in its honor. The one-day event features a whole series of different fun activities like a ketchup-smothered hotdog eating contest, ketchup tasting, and even a moment to sing "Happy Birthday" to it.
More information on Brooks Rich & Tangy Catsup Water Tower.
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7. Grotto of the Redemption (West Bend, Iowa)
You don't have to be a religious person to appreciate this next roadside attraction. Built by Father Paul Dobberstein as a way to show his gratitude to the Virgin Mary after healing him from pneumonia, the Grotto of the Redemption is more than just an interesting piece of architecture. It is also the largest collection of minerals and petrified materials in the world. According to geologists, the total value of agates, geodes, and other semiprecious stones that were used in this project, which took 50 years to complete, is about $4 million! Don't be tempted to bring home a piece, though, or you'll suffer a hefty fine for it.
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8. World's Largest Ball of Twine (Cawker City, Kansas)
If you're planning to go on a camping road trip in America's heartland, make sure that you take some time to drop by this next wacky roadside attraction. Started by a thrifty famer back in 1953, this humungous ball of twine has transformed into a project of this northern Kansas town. If you're lucky, you can even make a contribution by participating in their annual "twine-a-thon" held during the third Saturday of August.
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9. Desert of Maine (Freeport, Maine)
Back in 1797, nearly 50 acres of land in Freeport, Maine suffered from bad farming practices. As a result, the soil eroded and the once fertile patch of earth was transformed into a desert of sorts. The stark contrast of the green rolling hills and the Desert of Maine makes this a bizarre and interesting place to visit if you're planning a camping road trip with your family in the area this summer. Stop by to take a picture, or better yet, join one of the 30-minute coach tours they offer to explore this sandy haven.
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10. Paper House (Rockport, Massachusetts)
In 1922, an engineer by the name of Ellis F. Stenman got the idea of using newspaper to insulate his home instead of having to buy conventional insulation materials. After he did this, he got an even crazier idea: build an entire house made out of paper! Even the furnishings here in the Paper House are made out of different kinds of paper that have been stuck together with lots of glue and protected with heavy layers of varnish to protect it from moisture. This is definitely a must-visit sight for those trying to find ways of going green and help protect the environment.
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11. Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox (Bemidji, Minnesota)
For many people living across the Western Frontier, the name "Paul Bunyan" has been synonymous to strength and vitality. There are many statues of Paul Bunyan and his trusty sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox, across the country, but the one in Bemidji takes the cake since it is believed to be the very first statue ever erected. Locals also point to the fact that the town of Bemidji is the birthplace of Paul Bunyan. We can't really say if this is true or not, but that added piece of info is definitely enough to make the statue of this folk hero stand out above the rest.
More information on Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.
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12. Graceland Too (Holly Springs, Mississippi)
Paul McLeod is so obsessed with Elvis that he transformed his home into a shrine dedicated to the King of Rock and Roll. Located halfway between the King's birthplace Tupelo and Graceland, Graceland Too is literally filled from top to bottom with all sorts of Elvis memorabilia ranging from photographs to old records and even costumes the King wore during his performances. It's open 24 hours a day, and for an entrance fee of $5, McLeod will be more than happy to give you a 11/2 personal tour of his collection.
More information on Graceland Too.
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13. Carhenge (Alliance, Nebraska)
On a 10-acre plot of land in Alliance, Nebraska stands Carhenge, a monument made out of 38 different cars fashioned and arranged by artist Jim Reinders back in 1987 as an artistic version of the mystical Stonehenge in England. In 2009, it was ranked by TripAdvisor as the second wackiest roadside attraction in America. And just like in Stonehenge, visitors here are discouraged from leaving a mark that they've visited or take anything away as a souvenir or else they will be fined.
More information on Carhenge.
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14. Lucy the Elephant (Margate City, New Jersey)
Constructing an elephant building right smack in a beachfront may seem to be a crazy idea. But, that was exactly what James V. Lafferty did back in the 1800s. The interesting thing is that Lucy the Elephant is not just a statue. Back in the day, it was a working building. Her stomach housed first a restaurant, then a summer home, and finally a speakeasy. Even though Lucy fell into disrepair in the 60s, the locals love her so much that they made it a point to save her from being totally destroyed. Today, she is now considered as a National Historic Landmark and continues to draw locals and visitors alike.
More information on Lucy the Elephant.
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15. Cross Island Chapel (Syracuse, New York)
If you're planning to head out on a road trip to get married or celebrate your wedding anniversary, this is one roadside attraction you shouldn't miss! Built in 1989, this church has been dubbed as the smallest church in the world, with room only for three people: the couple and the minister. Because of its size, no regular services are held here. But you can rent this church out for a few hours for a special occasion or if you just simply want to get away and spend some quiet moments relaxing and meditating before hitting the road once more.
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16. Shoe Tree (Middlegate, Nevada)
Highway 50 has long been known as the "Loneliest Road in America", but part of this highway, near the city of Middlegate is now considered to be a sociable spot in weird sort of way. That's because this is where you'll find the Shoe Tree. No, it's not a tree that is shaped like a shoe. It got its name because this tree is filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of pairs of shoes hanging on its branches. It's not really clear who or what started this, or when did this practice start. But for those that travel here while on a camping road trip are encouraged to stop, hang a pair of shoes or two, and even take a picture. If you're lucky, you might even find a few others doing the same thing here and get a chance to strike up a conversation.
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17. The Enchanted Highway (Regent, North Dakota)
The Enchanted Highway really lives up to its name because as you get the feeling that you're driving into a completely different world. Towering above the highway located in southwest North Dakota are seven awe-inspiring scrap metal sculptures. Among these are the huge "Geese in Flight" sculpture made by artist Gary Greff, which was recognized by the Guinness World Records as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world.
More information on The Enchanted Highway.
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18. Longaberger Basket Headquarters (Newark, Ohio)
There's not a shred of doubt as to what is the main product of this company. Noted as the largest basket in the world, Longaberger Basket Headquarters, a seven-story building sitting on 25 acres of land offers visitors tour and vacation packages of the entire building. Thankfully, the employees have reported no ant problems since the building opened in 1997.
More information on Longaberger Basket Headquarters.
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19. The Blue Whale (Catoosa, Oklahoma)
If your road trip is taking you down Route 66, keep an eye out for this wacky roadside attraction. Built in the 1970s, this grinning whale spans 80 feet long and is beached in a pond with a picnic area, making this a popular roadside attraction especially during the summer time.
More information on The Blue Whale.
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20. Porter Sculpture Park (Montrose, South Dakota)
Located just 25 minutes west of Sioux Falls, Porter Sculpture Park was the result of Wayne Porter's fascination and love for sculptures. Once a grazing ground, Porter sold all of his sheep to pay for these larger-than-life sculptures, all made from recycled materials. Today, you can find over 40 different sculptures here, and Porter himself gives a personal tour to visitors stopping by to visit his park during the summer season.
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Montrose, South Dakota.
21. The Lost Sea (Sweetwater, Tennessee)
What makes the Lost Sea roadside attraction really unique is that it is found below the surface. This is where you can explore several magnificent caves located 140 feet underground and then hop onto a boat that will take you across the largest underground lake in America according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It's also a great place to go and take refuge from the sweltering heat of the sun while during your summer road trip because the temperature down here is consistently about 58 degrees.
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22. Cadillac Ranch (Amarillo, Texas)
Situated just west of the city of Amarillo, Cadillac Ranch is one of the most popular wacky roadside attractions in the Texas panhandle. Developed by millionaire Stanley Marsh III and the architect group Ant Farm, Cadillac Ranch features 10 classic cars half buried in the ground. Unlike other roadside attractions in the US, visitors to this attraction are actually encouraged to bring their own cans of spray paint and leave their mark here.
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23. The Beer Can House (Houston, Texas)
When John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, got sick and tired of mowing the grass in his home, he began remodeling his home in Houston, Texas. At first, it started with the garden, replacing the annoying grass with marble, rock and wood. Soon after, he got this rather interesting idea. Instead of repainting the sides of his house, he decided to give it an aluminum siding facelift using nothing but flattened beer cans. This part of his home remodeling project took Milkovisch over 18 years and over 50,000 beer cans to finish. Now, that is definitely taking the idea of recycling to a whole new level with the Beer Can House!
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24. The Farnham Colossi (Unger, West Virginia)
Located just two hours outside Baltimore is the perhaps one of the wackiest roadside attractions you'll find on the East Coast. More popularly known as the Land of the Giants, the Farnham Colossi is home to countless huge whimsical statues that are at least 20 feet high, all of which were purchased by George and Pam Farnham in different sites over the Internet. Although there is no fee to enter this wacky roadside attraction, it is located inside a private property so make it a point to knock first and ask their permission. The couple would be more than happy to let you explore their yard, and would even be glad to give you a personal tour themselves.
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25. Gorilla Holding a VW Bug (Leicester, Vermont)
Last, but certainly not the least, in our list of the wackiest roadside attractions in the US is this statue of a Gorilla holding a VW Bug located south of Leicester. Instead of creating a sign for their dealership, the owners of Pioneer Auto Sales decided to talk to local artist T. J. Neil to create a statue that would catch the attention of people driving by the dealership and get them to stop by and take a look of what they got to offer. Neil suggested creating a gorilla holding up a car on one hand. The owners' interest peaked, and suggested to Neil to make the other hand to be a place where people can sit on, and the rest, shall we say, is history. Today, the dealership welcomes people who regularly stop by whether they are looking to buy a car or just want to sit on the gorilla's hand and have their picture taken.
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