ONLY IN AMERICA
Millions of people have been to bucket list museums like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, and the Smithsonian. Far fewer have had the privilege of visiting an inn shaped like a giant beagle. The United States offers offbeat attractions, some amusing, some inspiring, and some disturbing. Here are 90 quirky places to keep in mind for your next family road trip.
MONUMENT TO THE HOG | ALABAMA
AVE MARIA GROTTO | ALABAMA
The Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman is also known as "Jerusalem in Miniature." Handmade by a Benedictine monk, the grotto is home to 125 miniature replicas of historic buildings, events, and shrines from around the world. Many of the pieces were made with donated materials -- everything from colored glass and pieces of marble to bathroom tiles. Visitors marvel at the detail.
NATURAL ROCK FACE | ALASKA
AUNT CLAUDIA'S DOLL MUSEUM | ALASKA
Dolls of all sizes and kinds populate the free Aunt Claudia's Doll Museum in Juneau, the state capital, a few doors from the Alaskan Hotel, the oldest operating hotel in the state.
CASA GRANDE RUINS NATIONAL MONUMENT | ARIZONA
At Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, about an hour's drive southeast of Phoenix, visitors can see the remains of one of the largest prehistoric structures in North America. The Casa Grande and surrounding buildings and walls date back to about 1350. Children 15 and under are free; adults must purchase a $5 ticket that's valid for seven days.
FLINTSTONES BEDROCK CITY | ARIZONA
CHRIST OF THE OZARKS | ARKANSAS
In Eureka Springs, a small theme park draws large crowds of Christians. The main feature is "The Great Passion Play," a nearly two-hour re-enactment of the last week in the life of Jesus Christ. Special effects and live animals complement the 150-person cast. There is also a 67-foot, 2 million-pound Christ of the Ozarks statue and, somewhat inexplicably, a section of the Berlin Wall.
THE BRIDGE TO NOWHERE | CALIFORNIA
SEA GLASS MUSEUM | CALIFORNIA
THE TRAIL OF THE WHISPERING GIANTS | COLORADO
TINY TOWN AND RAILROAD | COLORADO
Tiny Town and Railroad, outside Denver, isn't just a few miniature houses; it's a complete model town shrunk down. This stop is a hit with young children, who can enjoy riding the train, exploring the miniature buildings, and playing on the playground. Consider bringing a picnic lunch, as the food offerings are limited and overpriced, visitors say.
THE FROG BRIDGE | CONNECTICUT
The nearly 500-foot Thread City Crossing spanning the Willimantic River would be unremarkable if not for its four 11-foot frog sculptures. The Frog Bridge commemorates a night in 1754 when everyone thought French troops were attacking the town -- but the horrible racket was drought-panicked frogs fighting to the death over pond water.
JOHNSON VICTROLA MUSEUM | DELAWARE
Maybe it's no Nashville, but Dover is where recorded music came to be: Eldridge Reeves Johnson created the Victrola here. The free Johnson Victrola Museum has some spectacular talking machines, along with an exhibit devoted to Nipper, the RCA mascot, and a recreated record shop circa 1910.
MONKEY ISLAND | FLORIDA
Aptly named, Monkey Island in Homosassa is inhabited by five monkeys: Ralph, Sassy, Ebony, Eve, and Emily. Homosassa Riverside Resort, which owns the island and takes care of the animals, offers boat tours and dinner cruises that promise an up-close look at the monkeys.
DANVILLE B&B | FLORIDA
The Danville B&B in Geneva is a whole tiny town, including a pub and theater, self-contained in an airplane hangar. It's a popular wedding rental and also a single-occupancy bed and breakfast. The nightly rate varies but is often under $80 a night.
EXPEDITION: BIGFOOT | GEORGIA
For those who think Bigfoot is out there somewhere, a trip to The Sasquatch Museum in Cherry Log ($8 for adults, $6 for kids) will delight, with food allegedly seen being eaten by Bigfoot, his butt-print on a bed, up-to-date sighting maps, and more.
GEORGIA GUIDESTONE | GEORGIA
In Elbert County stand the Georgia Guidestones, five massive granite blocks that were erected in 1980. Sometimes referred to as the "American Stonehenge," the stones are inscribed with instructions that urge humanity to live in tune with nature. These "commandments" appear in multiple languages, including Sanskrit and Egyptian hieroglyphics.
PALA'AU STATE PARK | HAWAII
Hawaii's Pala'au State Park in Molokai features Phallic Rock (its Hawaiian name, Kaule o Nanahoa, means "the penis of Nanahoa"). It has stood erect for generations overlooking Kalaupapa, a former leper colony.
GREEN SAND BEACH | HAWAII
Near the southern tip of the Big Island, another natural wonder, Papakolea Beach, stuns visitors with its blue waters and green sand. It takes about 90 minutes to drive to the beach from the Kahaluu-Keauhou area, followed by a lengthy trek. The sand takes its coloring from olivine sand eroded from the nearby volcanic cone.
DOG BARK PARK INN | IDAHO
Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood promises patrons a chance to stay in the belly of a beagle: Chainsaw artists built the inn to resemble the canine species. Media outlets have declared the structure one of the world's wackiest hotels. Although lodging costs about $132 a night, visits and gawking are free.
THE MUSEUM OF CLEAN | IDAHO
MUSEUM OF SURGICAL SCIENCE | ILLINOIS
LEANING TOWER OF NILES | ILLINOIS
The Leaning Tower of Niles doesn't have the same cachet as its inspiration in the village's sister city of Pisa, but it certainly is an odd attraction to find outside Chicago. At half the size of the original, Niles' tower isn't overly impressive, according to reviews on TripAdvisor, but it's worth a quick stop and photo.
SANTA CLAUS CENTRAL | INDIANA
FIELD OF DREAMS | IOWA
DOROTHY'S HOUSE & LAND OF OZ | KANSAS
CASTLE POST | KENTUCKY
The Castle Post is a medieval-style inn on scenic grounds (in Versailles, of course) built in 1969 and used as a bed and breakfast with 10 luxury rooms and suites, a library, game room, music room, grand dining hall, ballroom, swimming pool, and more, starting at $295 a night.
APPLE VALLEY HILLBILLY GARDEN AND TOYLAND | KENTUCKY
At the Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden and Toyland visitors fondly remember their childhoods while perusing a museum chockablock with toys. Visual puns on the grounds (such as an outdoor living room for old tires -- a "retirement home") are groaning good fun. Although entrance to this Calvert City attraction is free, donations keep the place running.
HANGING JAIL | LOUISIANA
DeRidder's historic buildings include a "Gothic Jail" immortalized in song as "The Hangman's Jail" for the two condemned men hanged there in 1928, leading to stories that the jail's old cells, spiral staircase (and hanging site), and tunnel are haunted. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children.
NICOLAS CAGE PLOT | LOUISIANA
The actor Nicolas Cage may be alive and well, but a 9-foot stone pyramid holds his spot in New Orleans' famous St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It is inscribed with "Omnia Ab Uno" (Latin for "Everything From One") and adorned with lipstick kisses from visitors. The cemetery is a stop on the Hop-On-Hop-Off tour bus route.
CRYPTOZOOLOGY MUSEUM | MAINE
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF DENTISTRY | MARYLAND
SHIP GRAVEYARD | MARYLAND
ROPES COURSE| MASSACHUSETTS
People don't usually expect to climb high while shopping for furniture, but Jordan's Furniture in Reading has a challenging ropes course that invites visitors to tackle zig-zag beams and spaghetti hand lines for $7 ($14 if they want to try the additional zip line) and even walk a plank 24 feet above ground.
HISTORICAL SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENTS | MASSACHUSETTS
MYSTERY SPOT | MICHIGAN
Said to have been discovered in the 1950s by surveyors who became lightheaded and couldn't get equipment to operate there, the Mystery Spot in St. Ignace seems to mess with gravity, make tall people seem smaller, and cause plenty of other confusing phenomena. A maze, zip line, and other attractions have been added nearby.
HEIDELBERG PROJECT | MICHIGAN
Artist Tyree Guyton began decorating blighted houses on Heidelberg Street in Detroit in 1986. Today the Heidelberg Project is a nonprofit focused on arts, education, and community development, as well as an outdoor art project visited by hundreds of thousands each year.
HOUSE OF BALLS | MINNESOTA
TWINE BALL MUSEUM | MINNESOTA
Darwin, west of Minneapolis, is host to the world's largest ball of twine made by a single person.The massive ball weighs 17,400 pounds and took 29 years to complete. It's housed in the town gazebo, and it's free to view any day of the year.
JOHNNIE'S DRIVE-IN | MISSISSIPPI
Eat like a king -- the King -- at Johnnie's Drive-In, the restaurant in Tupelo where Elvis Presley spent much of his time after school. Get lucky and you'll be seated in his booth (just look for the picture).
WINDSOR RUINS | MISSISSIPPI
Near Port Gibson and Alcorn State University, 23 barren columns mark the site of a mansion built in the mid-19th century and burned to the ground by a cigar-smoking guest. The Windsor Ruins are on the National Register of Historic Places and a favorite backdrop for local photographers.
'AWAKENING' SCULPTURE | MISSOURI
WORLD'S LARGEST FORK | MISSOURI
Here's one fork that will never get lost. In fact, it's fit for a giant. A full 35 feet tall and weighing 11 tons, the world's largest fork is in Springfield, leaning toward a three-story ad agency building after being rescued from a failed restaurant, according to Roadside America.
LARGEST VIRGIN MARY STATUE | MONTANA
Our Lady of the Rockies, the largest Virgin Mary statue in North America, is 90 feet tall, weighs 80 tons, and sits on a 425-ton base along the Continental Divide some 3,000 feet above Butte. Bus tours from the Butte Plaza Mall are $18 for adults and $10 to $14 for kids.
MERRY WIDOW HEALTH MINE | MONTANA
LARGEST TIME CAPSULE | NEBRASKA
WORLD'S LARGEST BALL OF STAMPS | NEBRASKA
Stamp collectors still have a place to call their own at the Boys Town Visitor Center, home to the world's largest ball of stamps (free). The 4.6 million canceled stamps are 32 inches in diameter and weigh 600 pounds -- the same since 1955, when the ball appeared in "Ripley's Believe It or Not."
MOB MUSEUM | NEVADA
The National Museum of Organized Crime and Enforcement, better known as the Mob Museum, has three stories of exhibits, from Dick Tracy comics merchandise to a look-alike of an electric chair from Sing Sing. Buy tickets online for $27 for adults ($2 off) and $17 for kids (those 10 and under are free). Not planning to be in Vegas? Try an online nickname generator anytime.
LONGEST CANDY COUNTER | NEW HAMPSHIRE
CLASSIC ARCADE MUSEUM | NEW HAMPSHIRE
Long before Pokemon Go there were Pac-Man, Frogger, and Donkey Kong. The American Classic Arcade Museum in Laconia has more than 300 classic arcade games to play across 10,000 square feet. It's located in the even vaster Funspot Family Fun Center, which is free to enter.
LUCY THE ELEPHANT | NEW JERSEY
Lucy the Elephant, six stories of tin and wood, stands on the New Jersey coast in Josephine Harron Park in the town of Margate. On July 18, the town will celebrate the 137th birthday of the elephant, built in 1881 as a scheme to attract land buyers to the area. The structure has been used as a hotel, private mansion, and tavern. Guided tours are available.
NORTHLANDZ MINIATURE RAILWAY | NEW JERSEY
UFO MUSEUM | NEW MEXICO
HARRELL HOUSE BUG MUSEUM | NEW MEXICO
AN ETERNAL FLAME (MOSTLY) | NEW YORK
In Chestnut Ridge Park in upstate New York, a natural eternal flame burns behind a waterfall, fueled by a stream of natural gas (although it does need to be relit occasionally). One reviewer who visited in winter described the experience on Roadtrippers and compares the setting to Narnia. The falls were frozen, he says, but the flame continued to burn.
COLEMAN'S AUTHENTIC IRISH PUB | NEW YORK
CAMERA OBSCURA | NORTH CAROLINA
"Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky," on the grounds of the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, has been likened to a hobbit's house. It's a camera obscura created by the artist Chris Drury. Visitors can sit inside and see the trees and sky outside projected onto the walls.
HILLS OF SNOW | NORTH CAROLINA
Hills of Snow in Smithfield is serious about snow cones, which cost $1 to $6 depending on size. The place has 101 flavors to mix and match and a secret family recipe for perfect snow-like ice. The stand is hard to miss: It's shaped like a giant snow cone.
ENCHANTED HIGHWAY | NORTH DAKOTA
The 32-mile Enchanted Highway in western North Dakota offers travelers eight larger-than-life roadside sculptures. Located every few miles on a two-lane highway between Gladstone and Regent, Gary Greff's sculptures include giant grasshoppers, "The World's Largest Tin Family," and "Geese in Flight," named the world's largest metal sculpture by Guinness in 2000.
AMERICAN SIGN MUSEUM | OHIO
SPIRO MOUNDS | OKLAHOMA
Oklahoma's only prehistoric Native American site that allows visitors, Spiro Mounds comprises 12 earthen dwellings. The 150-acre area also houses an archeological center and small gift shop.
AMERICAN PIGEON MUSEUM AND LIBRARY | OKLAHOMA
THOR'S WELL | OREGON
SHANGHAI TUNNELS | OREGON
Bar and hotel basements are linked by a Portland Underground network called the Shanghai Tunnels, supposedly because that's how people were taken to the docks and forced to work on seafaring ships. Tours are $13 for adults, $8 for kids.
GHOST TOWN | PENNSYLVANIA
MÜTTER MUSEUM | PENNSYLVANIA
The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia ($18 for adults, $13 for kids) is a storehouse of 20,000 medical "wonders" -- abnormal body parts preserved in fluid or oak frames, an 1889 electrometer donated by Marie Curie, even the death cast of "Siamese Twins" Chang and Eng, whose autopsies were performed there.
VIKING TOWER | RHODE ISLAND
FIGHTING SEABEE STATUE | RHODE ISLAND
BUSTED PLUG PLAZA | SOUTH CAROLINA
Four stories high and weighing a tornado-proof 675,000 pounds, "Busted Plug Plaza" is billed as the world's largest fire hydrant. It's actually a sculpture, and formerly a fountain, in a parking lot in Columbia. Visitors can take snapshots with the same artist's trippy "Tunnelvision" mural in the background.
GIANT PRAIRIE DOG | SOUTH DAKOTA
GRAFFITI ON DISPLAY | SOUTH DAKOTA
Many cities commission murals, and almost every major city has its fair share of graffiti. Rapid City takes this a step further, making Art Alley fair game for local artists, who cover the walls, stairs, and telephone pole with cartoons, quotes, portraits, and tags.
THE LOST SEA | TENNESSEE
The Lost Sea in Sweetwater is America's largest underground body of water. The extent of this freshwater lake is unknown, but its upper chamber covers nearly 5 acres at depths of 70 feet. Admission, including a glass-bottom-boat tour, is $20 for adults, $11 for kids.
'THE MINDFIELD' | TENNESSEE
"The Mindfield" is an outdoor sculpture made of salvaged steel that stretches to cover about an acre and reaches more than 125 feet into the air. It's the work of Billy Tripp, a local Brownsville artist who began construction in 1989 and has said he will continue to add to the sculpture until he dies.
CADILLAC RANCH | TEXAS
Cadillac Ranch was formed in 1974 when Stanley Marsh, an eccentric millionaire, planted 10 vintage Cadillacs, nose down, into a deserted stretch of dirt outside Amarillo. They sit off Interstate 40, between exits 60 and 62. Common practice is for visitors to bring spray paint, or use a can left there, and leave their mark on the cars.
BEER CAN HOUSE | TEXAS
HOLE N' THE ROCK | UTAH
The Hole N' the Rock in Moab ($6 for adults, $3.50 for kids) is more than a hole; it's a 5,000-square foot home with 14 rooms, excavated out of sandstone over 12 years starting in the 1940s. The owners have added a petting zoo and other attractions.
ICE CREAM CEMETERY | VERMONT
The Flavor Graveyard in Waterbury marks something a little different: the resting place of ice cream flavors no longer made by Ben & Jerry's. It's part of the ice cream brand's factory tour ($4 for adults, free for kids 12 and under).
BREAD AND PUPPET MUSEUM | VERMONT
Some of the puppets in the Bread and Puppet Museum in Glover -- a crammed storage barn for the Bread and Puppet Theater troupe -- are impressive, others creepy. The sign on the door says "Enter at Your Own Risk," and puppeteers ask off-season visitors to "turn out the lights when you are through." Donations are welcome.
MARKEL BUILDING | VIRGINIA
Considered by some to be one of the ugliest buildings in the world, the Markel Building in Richmond was inspired by a baked potato. Commissioned in 1962, the round building looks a bit like New York's Guggenheim Museum wrapped in foil.
NATURAL BRIDGE | VIRGINIA
CHEWING GUM WALL | WASHINGTON
The Market Theater Gum Wall is a 15-by-50-foot wall in Post Alley covered with globs of chewing gum. The wall was given a thorough degumming and cleaning in November 2015, but visitors are back to work adding pieces to the mix. (Tip: Bring a bottle of hand sanitizer.)
TOWN OF METAL PEOPLE | WASHINGTON
GEORGE WASHINGTON TUB | WEST VIRGINIA
Berkeley Springs State Park is a beautiful place to stroll, but one offbeat attraction sets it apart. On the west side of the park, a spring-fed stone tub has been dubbed George Washington's Bathtub, to recognize the way the first president likely bathed during his visits in the 1700s.
MOTHMAN MUSEUM | WEST VIRGINIA
The Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant ($3 for adults, $1 for kids 10 and under) is dedicated to the legend of the mysterious winged creature first spotted in the 1960s. It tracks the mythos from original handwritten accounts to Hollywood's versions.
THE BEER SAINT | WISCONSIN
A statue of King Gambrinus, called "the patron saint of beer," stands watch over the former Pabst Brewing corporate offices in downtown Milwaukee, now home to Best Place Tavern. The statue is on permanent loan from Pabst.
FRESHWATER FISHING HALL OF FAME | WISCONSIN
Hayward has a giant muskie 4.5 stories tall and as long as a Boeing 757. Of course, it's not a real fish, but rather the fiberglass shell of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. ($8 for adults, $6 for kids). Visitors enter through the tail to see exhibits (including a real 69-pound muskie caught in 1949) and stop at an observation platform in the building's "jaw."
DEVILS TOWER | WYOMING
GIANT LINCOLN BUST | WYOMING
Westbound travelers on Interstate 80 will find an odd monument to Abraham Lincoln at the Summit Rest Area east of Laramie. A bust more than 13 feet tall towers over visitors from its perch atop a 30-foot granite pedestal. The bust is a nod to the fact Interstate 80 closely tracks the route of the old Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to-coast road built for cars.