Must-See Roadside Attractions in Every State

Must-See Roadside Attractions in Every State

In May 1903, Horatio Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker set out from San Francisco headed to New York City in what is considered the first ever cross-country road trip. Although the pair met with countless disasters, including getting stranded in the desert for eight days, modern amenities all but eliminate the possibility of such unfortunate occurrences, and car trips remain a popular way to travel.

Road trips can be one of the best ways to experience the diversity of American landscapes and cultures, whether thousands of miles cross country or down a few hundred miles of coastline. While sticking to the Interstate may get someone to their destination faster, opting to cruise down state highways and backroads can offer a rich experience that never happens at 65 miles per hour — namely, the roadside attraction.

From towering dinosaur statues that break the monotony of cornfield country, or a live tree you can drive your car through, to a coral castle built mysteriously in the dark by a reclusive old man, these classic hallmarks of America are what make road trips memorable when driving in the middle of nowhere.

24/7 Tempo reviewed hundreds of roadside attractions across the country, selecting for popularity, novelty, and visual appeal. We excluded national parks and unadorned natural wonders (e.g. the Grand Canyon and the Great Lakes), favoring sites that reflect some aspect of human creation. Many are rusted, abandoned, or handmade out of junk; while some of them may not be among the best museums in the country or the most beautiful attractions in America, they are worth a break and a few weird photos to remember them by.

Source: AlabamaSouthern / Wikimedia Commons

Alabama: Ave Maria Grotto

Joseph Zoettl, a Benedictine monk at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, used reclaimed building supplies and donated objects to build miniature versions of world attractions like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Great Wall of China. Over nearly 70 years, he even built replicas of whole cities, including Jerusalem and Rome. These works and countless more are spread out across the Abbey’s grounds and are open to the public.

Source: Diego Delso / Wikimedia Commons

Alaska: Igloo City

Half-way between Fairbanks and Anchorage, this concrete igloo-shaped hotel is a popular tourist stop, though it never actually opened because it didn’t meet building code requirements. Built in the ’70’s, the building has gone through many owners, none of whom were able to complete up-to-code renovations.

Source: Frogman1484 / Getty Images

Arizona: Biosphere II

At the foot of the Santa Catalina mountains north of Tucson is a glass compound straight out of the future. Biosphere II is a science research facility where over 20 years ago, seven scientists attempted to survive in a sealed mini-ecosystem for two years. While the greenhouses are a sight to behold for those who opt to drive by, the facility also serves as a science museum, offering tours and exhibits.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Arkansas: Christ of the Ozarks

This 67-foot Jesus statue, built for a religious theme park called Great Passion Play, was constructed with two million pounds of steel and mortar. It was designed by sculptor Emmet Sullivan, who was hired by political organizer Gerald LK Smith to complete the building project. Smith and his wife are buried near the base of the statue.

Source: Dougall_Photography / Getty Images

California: Salvation Mountain

Over 100,000 gallons of paint cover this 50-foot hillside in the desert of southern California. Artist Leonard Knight, who spent 30 years painting colorful biblical messages on the hill before he died in 2014, moved to the nearby squatter village called Slab City in the 80’s. He lived there in his truck with multiple cats for decades while he painted Salvation Mountain.

Source: chriswaits / Flickr

Colorado: Bishop Castle

Jim Bishop, the owner of this hand-built castle in Rye Colorado, started constructing the building in 1969 at the age of 15. Every year since, he has single-handedly collected and set the tons of stone that make up his fortress. He calls it a “monument to hard-working people.”

Source: Courtesy of Grdyn K. via Yelp

Connecticut: World’s Largest Jack-in-the-Box

The mascot for Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Center — a sprawling curio shop that closed in 2018 — is a 600-pound motorized clown head that rises out of the top of a 33-foot grain silo. Though the mechanism no longer works, the clown head is still a popular attraction for Connecticut’s tourists.

Source: Patrick Smith / Getty Images

Delaware: Miles the Monster

Visible from Highway 1, this car-crushing red-eyed monster rises up 46 feet from the site of the Dover International Speedway. With the nickname “the Monster Mile,” it’s fitting that the race-track would have a mascot named Miles the Monster, who was unveiled holding a real race car in 2008.

Source: Courtesy of Rachel M. via Yelp

Florida: Whimzeyland

A private residence in Safety Harbor, Florida, Whimzeyland — also known as the Bowling Ball House — is the colorful art project of childhood friends Kiaralinda and Todd Ramquist. They’ve spent over 20 years using painted bowling balls, tiles, and other recycled materials to create a flamboyant sculpture garden where visitors are welcome to explore the grounds.

Source: ajmexico / Flickr

Georgia: Georgia Guidestones

Completed in 1980, the Georgia Guidestones are a granite monument contracted and funded by a mysterious man who represented a “A Small Group of Americans Who Seek The Age Of Reason” (from an engraving on the monument). The stones are an astronomical calendar and are engraved in eight languages with 10 guidelines for living.

Source: Medioimages/Photodisc / Getty Images

Hawaii: World’s Longest Plant Maze

On the island of Oahu, the Dole pineapple plantation is home to one of the longest plant mazes in the world. The maze is made of 14,000 tropical plants, covers over two acres, and has three miles of footpaths. While 45 minutes to an hour is the average time it takes to complete the maze, the record time is around seven minutes.

Source: 68469322@N03 / Flickr

Idaho: Soda Springs Geyser

The only geyser in the world that’s controlled by humans, the Soda Springs Geyser was created in 1937 when a drilling operation for a hot-spring pool struck an underground chamber of carbonated water, releasing a continual spray. The geyser is now capped and programmed to go off once an hour on the hour, when it shoots as high as 150 feet.

Source: Courtesy of Bob S. via Yelp

Illinois: Dungeons and Dragons Park

After his son Jeremy — an avid Dungeons and Dragons fan — died in a car accident, Barrett Rochman built a memorial park across the street from his house with a D&D theme. Barrett hired local art students as well as sculptors and painters to create the sculptures in the park, some of which are modeled after the miniature D&D figurines found in his son’s possessions. Among the wizards and battle scenes is a castle built of tunnels, bridges, and small passageways that children and other limber people can traverse.

Source: Courtesy of Mischita H. via Yelp

Indiana: World’s Largest Sycamore Stump

After a storm felled a huge sycamore tree in Kokomo, Indiana, the city park commissioner had it moved to the city park. That was in 1916. In 1938 the stump got its own pavilion, and now it’s completely enclosed in the park’s visitors center, along with Old Ben, a 16 -foot-long taxidermied steer who weighed almost 5,000 pounds at his death. The stump is 57 feet around and 18 feet wide.

Source: Ben Franske / Wikimedia Commons

Iowa: Grotto of the Redemption

Built entirely from semi-precious stones and geodes, the Grotto of the Redemption is a shrine to the Virgin Mary worth $4 million. It was built by a pastor who attributed his healing from pneumonia to the Saint. The Grotto is as long as a football field and took over 50 years to build.

Source: drewtarvin / Flickr

Kansas: Giant Van Gogh Painting on the World’s Largest Easel

Atop an 80 foot easel in a field in Goodland, Kansas is a reproduction of Van Gogh’s “Three Sunflowers in a Vase.” While it may not actually be the world’s largest easel, it is the largest easel alongside a U.S. interstate. The 768 sq. foot painting was completed by Canadian artist Cameron Cross and dedicated during the town’s Sunflower Festival.

Source: benimoto / Flickr

Kentucky: Dinosaur World

No roadside attraction compilation would be complete without the sudden appearance of giant dinosaurs on the side of the highway. For those who would rather not pay to walk down trails lined with the life-sized dinosaur statues, there’s a T-Rex off exit 53 on I-65.

Source: glueandglitter / Flickr

Louisiana: Abita Mystery House

The brainchild of Louisiana painter John Preble, this rambling museum of folk art contains collections of found objects such as combs and license plates, homemade inventions and contraptions, mini towns with button-activated displays, and taxidermied franken-beasts like Darrell, a half-dog half-alligator.

Source: Courtesy of S K. via Yelp

Maine: International Cryptozoology Museum

This museum is dedicated to animals whose existence is yet to be verified by science, such as the Loch Ness Monster, Yeti, and the Feejee Mermaid. Curated by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, the museum features replicas, footprint casts, hair samples, and other artifacts related to cryptids from around the world.

Source: 55229469@N07 / Flickr

Maryland: Enchanted Forest at Clark’s Elioak Farm

A great attraction for children, this farm features a fantasy maze, hay rides, a petting zoo, and an enchanted forest train ride. After an old fairy tale amusement park shut down, Martha Clark took on the castles, gingerbread houses, and other fantasy props like a huge concrete shoe, to recreate the Enchanted Forest park at her farm.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Massachusetts: The Paper House

In 1922, after attempting to insulate his summer home with newspapers, mechanical engineer Elis Stenman took his experiment a step further and built nearly his entire house out of them. Besides the floor, ceilings, and frame, everything in the house, including furniture, walls, and doors, is made of newspapers — a total of 100,000.

Source: designsbykari / Flickr

Michigan: Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland

Open 361 days a year, Bronner’s is one of the largest Christmas stores in the world. The sales floor spans over 2 acres, and holds over 350 decorated Christmas trees. About 100,000 Christmas lights are lit every evening on the grounds, contributing to a $1,250 daily electric bill.

Source: matthewstinar / Flickr

Minnesota: Paul Bunyan and Babe

From Maine to Oregon, many Paul Bunyan statues dot the U.S. landscape. The Bemidji Paul Bunyan went up in 1937 and his ox Babe joined him in 1939. An American legend and lumberjack hero, Paul Bunyan’s origins are claimed by many towns across the U.S. but this 18-foot, two-and-a-half ton statue is possibly the oldest roadside Bunyan.

Source: Thomas R Machnitzki / Wikimedia Commons

Mississippi: Devil’s Crossroads

The intersection of Highways 61 and 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi is rumored to be the spot where famous blues musician Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his guitar prowess. The location is now marked with a pole displaying three huge blue guitars and a sign designating it “The Crossroads.”

Source: rstinnett / Flickr

Missouri: Billion Gallon Lake

An old lead mine active from the 1870’s to the 1960’s under the town of Bonne Terre, Missouri is now the world’s largest man-made underground cavern and freshwater diving location, with over 17 miles of subterranean caves and chambers. For those who prefer to stay above water, there are boat tours through the caverns’ incredibly clear waters, which are illuminated over 100 feet down.

Source: number7cloud / Flickr

Montana: Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

An international center for peace, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is located on the Flathead Reservation near Glacier National Park. The monument is in the shape of an eight-spoked wheel. The white concrete statues represent 1,000 actual Buddhas who will be born, according to Buddhist texts.

Source: 37603091@N02 / Flickr

Nebraska: Carhenge

Built with a 96-foot diameter to match the original Stonehenge, this car sculpture in a field in Nebraska is a memorial to the artist’s father. Jim Reinders built the monument out of 38 cars salvaged from neighboring farms and dumps, eventually spray painting them gray and replacing any foreign cars with American-made brands.

Source: gsec / Flickr

Nevada: Goldwell Open Air Museum

When a group of Belgian artists decided that the Mojave Desert was the perfect backdrop for their art installation, the Goldwell Open Air Museum was born. Seven huge sculptures dot the landscape, and from there tourists can easily check out the nearby ghost town of Rhyolite.

Source: Chipstata / Wikimedia Commons

New Hampshire: Redstone Rocket

Installed to honor Mercury Seven astronaut Alan Shepard, the Redstone Rocket sits in a public park in Warren, New Hampshire. Part of a line of U.S. missiles that were the first to carry nuclear warheads during testing over the Pacific Ocean, the upright missile is 66 feet long.

Source: ggustin / Getty Images

New Jersey: Lucy the Elephant

A designated National Historic Landmark, Lucy the Elephant is a six-story building built in 1881 that has served as an office, a pub, and a summer home. Visitors can now enter Lucy’s leg and ascend a spiral staircase into the 90-ton structure.

Source: lisgirl / Flickr

New Mexico: Tinkertown

A hobby wood carver and travelling carnival backdrop painter, Ross Ward was the creative talent behind Tinkertown, a 22-room museum of folk art, carvings, and American antiques and ephemera. The museum is made of 50,000 glass bottles and took Ross over 40 years to stock with collected items.

Source: vwcampin / Flickr

New York: Secret Caverns

Just outside Albany, New York is the town of Howes Cave — home of the Secret Caverns. Hand-painted billboards from every direction point the way to the caverns, which contain an impressive underground 100-foot waterfall.

Source: Courtesy of Daniel B. via Yelp

North Carolina: World’s Largest Chest of Drawers

Originally built in 1926 by the High Point Chamber of Commerce to serve as the “bureau of information,” the chest of drawers has been rebuilt multiple times. The 38-foot dresser has two socks dangling out of one drawer and is proudly displayed in the middle of High Point, nicknamed the Furniture Capital of the World.

Source: russellstreet / Flickr

North Dakota: Enchanted Highway Sculptures

Highway 21 outside the town of Regent, North Dakota is now known as the Enchanted Highway thanks to Gary Gref, a school principal turned sculpture artist. In 1989, with no prior experience, he began creating massive sculptures and placing them on the roadsides as a way to draw people to the area and stimulate the economy of his small farming town. So far, he’s created sculptures of Theodore Roosevelt, giant grasshoppers, and a flock of geese in flight, among others.

Source: shari111263 / Getty Images

Ohio: Loveland Castle

Chateau Laroche, or Loveland Castle, is a medieval-style fortress single-handedly built by a former World Wwar I medic who was obsessed with the idea of knighthood, and with the notion that a group of young boys he taught at Sunday School, whom he called the Knights of the Golden Trail, could grow up with a castle to play in. Though it took over 50 years to build, the castle eventually had a triple-layered wooden door studded with nails, a moat, and a secure dungeon.

Source: openroadscom / Flickr

Oklahoma: The Blue Whale

A relic from a 1970’s tourist attraction called Nature Acres, this 80-foot long sperm whale with a slide and diving platform attached was originally the centerpiece in a pond open to swimming. Dedicated fans maintain the concrete sculpture and paint it every few years.

Source: Courtesy of Liz L. via Yelp

Oregon: Oregon Vortex

Opened in the 1930, the Oregon Vortex and House of Mystery is one of the oldest “gravitational hill” (also called mystery spots) where slanted buildings create gravity-defying illusions, such as balls that roll uphill.

Source: CrazyLegsKC / Wikimedia Commons

Pennsylvania: Shoe House

Built in 1948 by the millionaire owner of Haines Shoe Company, the Shoe House was originally an advertising platform and very expensive billboard. Haines let honeymooning couples from nearby towns stay in the house for free, and even gave them a maid, cook, and chauffeur. The shoe is now a museum dedicated to Mahlon Haines.

Source: tunnelbug / Flickr

Rhode Island: Abandoned Milk Can

Though local sources differ as to when this giant milk can was built (some say as early as 1807, while others claim it wasn’t around until the 1930’s) all agree that it used to be an ice cream shop and that it’s been through various owners and even hauled to new locations. Now it sits unoccupied on Route 146, visible to motorists who wish to ogle at the 32-foot-tall relic.

Source: 43436168@N00 / Flickr

South Carolina: Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden

Starting in 1981, Pearl Fryar began collecting plants from the compost pile at the local nursery and planting them in his yard, using an electric hand saw to trim them into whimsical shapes. Now, the topiary garden contains over 300 plants that Pearl tends daily, as well as his homemade sculptures.

Source: elisfanclub / Flickr

South Dakota: Porter Sculpture Park

Sheep farmer Wayne Porter began welding scrap metal sculptures in 1983. Now, the Porter Sculpture park contains over 50 sculptures with a macabre slant. A bull’s head guarded by minotaurs, a jack-in-the-box crying blood, and a dissected frog are some of the pieces in the collection.

Source: madisonberndt / Flickr

Tennessee: Titanic Replica

This 30,000-square-foot Titanic replica and museum is worth a drive by alone, but inside, tourists can dip their hands into 28-degree water to feel how cold the ocean was when unfortunate people fell in, enter a recreation of the first class dining room, and view hundreds of real artifacts from the ship.

Source: Ralf Kiepert / Wikimedia Commons

Texas: Cadillac Ranch

What is Cadillac Ranch? It’s ten Cadillacs, covered in colorful graffiti and half-buried nose first in the desert sands of Texas. The installation is a collaboration between a San Francisco art collective called The Ant Farm and an eccentric millionaire named Stanley Marsh 3, and is open to visitors who wish to add their own touch of paint to the cars.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Utah: Hole N The Rock

Far from a natural geologic formation, the Hole N The Rock is a 14-room, 5,000-square-foot house carved out of stone that now serves as an odd museum and trading post containing a zoo, antique tools and mining equipment, Native American pottery, and a metal sculpture exhibit.

Source: alan48 / Flickr

Vermont: Bread and Puppet Museum

Housed in a large vintage barn in Glover, Vermont is a collection of puppets dating as far back as 1963. The collection spans two floors and many dark hallways, all packed with puppets of various sizes — some massive and angelically white, others elaborately painted with menacing faces, and some wearing suits with no faces. The Bread and Puppet theatre is the brainchild of political activist and performance artist Peter Schumann.

Source: cabeel / Flickr

Virginia: Foamhenge

Foamhenge is a full-size replica of Stonehenge created by sculptor Mark Cline, who painstakingly carved each foam block to look exactly like the original and placed it in the same position as in the real Stonehenge. He even ensured that the angles of the stones would be astronomically correct.

Source: Ingram Publishing / Getty Images

Washington: Wild Horses Monument

This unfinished art installation by David Govedare is called Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies. Currently composed of 15 steel horses along a high ridge, each weighing about 1,000 pounds, the sculpture was initially supposed to include a tipped over 36-foot-tall basket, from which the horses would be emerging. According to the artist, the basket represents Grandfather, the Great Spirit.

Source: mokaiwen / Flickr

West Virginia: Farnham Fantasy Farm

After moving to West Virginia from Washington D.C. and New York, respectively, George and Pam Farhman began ordering giant collectible statues to decorate their yard with. Their collection includes a 25-foot-tall fiberglass Muffler Man, a Santa Claus, and a man in swim trunks holding a soda.

Source: bogdanstepniak / Wikimedia Commons

Wisconsin: House on the Rock

Originally built in the 1940’s by Alex Jordan as a weekend country home, the House on the Rock has become a sprawling outpost of collections, exhibits, and gardens. Inside are hundreds of mannequin angels suspended from the ceiling, a carousel with 269 animals, and hours worth of other artistically displayed collections curated by Jordan until his death in 1989.

Source: bobchap / Getty Images

Wyoming: Ames Brothers Pyramid

The Ames Brothers were two classic swindlers — a railroad president and his congressman brother — who got rich selling shovels to gold-miners, then inflated railroad construction costs to make another $50 million off of taxpayers. In the 1880’s, after their deaths, Union Pacific Railroad built the 60-foot-tall pyramid as a monument to the brothers. Since then, the nearby railroad was pulled up and the pyramid now stands crumbling, miles away from any paved roads.

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