90 Weird Tourist Attractions Across 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 distinct privilege of visiting an inn shaped like a giant beagle. The United States offers a wide twilight zone of offbeat attractions, some amusing, some inspiring, and some quite disturbing. Here are 90 quirky places to keep in mind for your next family road trip.
Better at art than the family feed mill business, Larry Godwin used steel sheets welded to solid round rods to make this 26-foot-long, 13-foot-high pig mounted on a trailer in 1967. Find it in Dothan, outside a scrap metal yard at the Ross Clark Circle on U.S. Highway 431.
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.
Deep in the Petersburg Census Area is Natural Rock Face, an unusual stone formation in the Alaskan wilderness that resembles a face in profile. The rocky outcrop is not the easiest destination to reach, but it's completely free if you happen to be passing through southern Alaska. It's perhaps best viewed from a boat, which affords a stunning vista of the rock face with a glacier backdrop.
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.
For a fictional dose of prehistory, hop on the Fredmobile tram and ride through volcano Mount St. Wilma on the way to cartoons screening at the Bedrock Theatre. Admission to Flintstones Bedrock City in Williams is $5. (Fishasaurus sandwiches and Gravelberry Pie are extra at Fred's Diner.)
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.
After a bridge in the San Gabriel Mountains was completed, a flood wiped out the road leading to it. With the road never replaced, it's now the "The Bridge to Nowhere" -- only two hours from Los Angeles but accessible only by a 5-mile hike (with a free permit).
Beaches near Fort Bragg were once used as garbage dumps, until cleanup programs commenced in 1967. Although most of the trash was removed, small pieces of broken glass remained on the beaches, and the ocean smoothed their edges over time. Removing sea glass from the beaches is against the law, but the International Sea Glass Museum offers free admission and sells sea glass jewelry.
Sculptor Peter Toth has one of these 20- to 40-foot giants in each state, but Colorado's stop on the Trail of the Whispering Giants in Loveland -- "Redman," carved in 1979 from a 100-year-old fallen cottonwood tree -- gets special attention because it's on the path to Rocky Mountain National Park.
At the other end of the spectrum, 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 nearly 500-foot Thread City Crossing spanning the Willimantic River would be fairly unremarkable if not for its four 11-foot frog sculptures. The Frog Bridge of Willimantic commemorates a night in 1754 when everyone thought it was Judgment Day -- but the ominous noise was just drought-panicked frogs fighting to the death over pond water.
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 ones, along with an exhibit devoted to Nipper, the RCA mascot, and a recreated record shop circa 1910.
In Elbert County stand the Georgia Guidestones, five massive granite blocks that are astronomically aligned. Sometimes referred to as the "American Stonehenge," the guidestones are inscribed with instructions that urge humanity to live in tune with nature. These "commandments" appear in multiple languages, including Sanskrit and Egyptian hieroglyphics.
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. Then, expect a 2.5-mile walk to the beach, plus a climb down a steep cliff. The trek may be worth it to see one of only four green sand beaches in the world.
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 $120 a night, visits and gawking are free.
Chicago's International Museum of Surgical Science, in a historic, four-floor lakeside mansion, has more than 7,000 medical artifacts, including an Austrian amputation saw with reversible blade from 1500 and X-rays taken by radiology pioneer Emil Grubbe from 1910, as well as paintings and sculptures depicting healing practices. Admission is $15 for adults, $8 for kids.
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.
Not all Hoosier boys have been on Santa's “nice” list. Learn more about an original "bad boy” at the John Dillinger Museum in the former Lake County Courthouse in downtown Crown Point, going back in time to when the notorious gangster and other Depression-era thugs were hunted by the newly formed FBI.
To break up a cross-country road trip, retrace the path of Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones to the Field of Dreams (yes, that one), a free attraction in Dyersville. School groups sometimes claim the field for games, but when it's open, everyone can take a turn running the bases or playing catch. Watch for ghost players to join the fun.
Dorothy's House & Land of Oz in Liberal ($7 for adults, $4.50 for kids) is in a preserved 1907 farmhouse like Dorothy's. It includes plenty of homemade charm and at least one item from the 1939 movie. The tour starts in a Tornado Simulation Room. (Movie buffs might also enjoy a look at these film and TV locations.)
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 $195 a night.
Quite a different experience awaits at the Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden and Toyland, where 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") elicit laughter and an occasional eye roll. Although entrance to this Calvert City attraction is free, donations keep the place running.
DeRidder's historic buildings include a 1914 Gothic Revival "Hanging Jail" -- so-called after two condemned men were 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.
Also in Louisiana: An Academy Award winner's future haunts. 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.
Portland's International Cryptozoology Museum ($10 for adults, $5 for kids) is allegedly the only one of its kind -- appropriate for the study of unknown or mysterious animals, including monsters such as Bigfoot, Nessie, the Montauk Monster, and the Jersey Devil, which are well represented in displays.
Cringe at terrifying instruments once used as dental tools and check out a tooth jukebox playing old Pepsodent and Ultra Brite TV commercials, one of George Washington's teeth and his dentures, and more at Baltimore's National Museum of Dentistry ($7 for adults, $5 for kids).
Mallows Bay in Charles County is a ship graveyard that's home to hundreds of abandoned vessels, many of them former wooden steamships intended for battle during World War I. Visitors enjoy canoeing or kayaking between the wrecks and fishing for bass and snakehead that call the ships home.
People don't usually expect to see an animatronic Louis Armstrong while furniture shopping, but Jordan's Furniture in Natick has replicated New Orleans' Bourbon Street outside Boston. There's a Mardi Gras FX show Friday through Sunday nights and a trolley-car-turned-ice-cream-stand dubbed "Streetcar Named Dessert."
The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments at the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture in Cambridge includes a compass that belonged to Galileo, early telescopes, clocks and nautical equipment, and even the first computers. The museum, with 20,000 objects dating back to about 1400, is free.
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 and other attractions have been added nearby.
Artist Tyree Guyton began decorating blighted houses on Heidelberg Street in Detroit in 1986, drawing attention to an issue facing cities around the country. 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.
Minneapolis artist Allen Christian has used bowling balls (and other stuff) as art at his House of Balls for more than a quarter-century, and might let people in to see it at any hour. Even if you can't get in, there's interactive art accessible 24 hours a day. Donations are appreciated.
In a similar sphere, Darwin, west of Minneapolis, is host to the world's largest ball of twine made by a single person (that would be Francis Johnson). The massive ball weighs 17,400 pounds and took 29 years to complete. It's housed in the town gazebo, and the gift shop in the Darwin Twine Ball Museum sells twine-ball starter kits.
A giant is stirring in Chesterfield. The 70-foot-long, 17-foot-high "Awakening" sculpture is made up of several aluminum pieces depicting a giant digging himself out of the ground. Near the city's Central Park, the sculpture is a replica of an original outside Washington, D.C.
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.
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 $16 for adults and $8 to $12 for kids.
The Merry Widow Health Mine near Basin has been helping people with pain for more than 50 years, according to its website. Relief from hay fever, asthma, eczema, migraines, arthritis, and other ailments have been recorded by visitors who have breathed the radon gas and sipped the mineral water inside the mine.
Buried in Seward County is the world's largest time capsule (certified by Guinness in 1977). Its contents include a car and thousands of other items collected by an eccentric resident. The vault isn't supposed to be opened until July 4, 2025, 50 years after it was sealed, but those passing by in the meantime can see the large monuments that mark the site.
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."
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 $21 for adults ($3 off) and $14 for kids. Not planning to be in Vegas? Try an online nickname generator anytime.
Chutters has been in the candy business in Littleton for more than 100 years and boasts the world's longest candy counter (112 feet). Locals and tourists enjoy stopping by to fill up a bag with just about any type of candy or buy some of the store's famous fudge.
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, 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 136th birthday of the elephant, built in 1881 as a scheme to attract land buyers to the area. The structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been used as a hotel, private mansion, and tavern. Guided tours are available.
Also big but on a small scale, the world's largest miniature railway, Northlandz ($14 for adults, $10 for kids) in Flemington has 8 miles of tracks, 400 bridges and trestles (up to 40 feet), and a half-million lichen trees. Its massive substructure uses enough lumber to build about 40 houses.
Ever since a UFO allegedly crashed in the area in 1947, Roswell has been filled with oddities. The town itself is something of an offbeat attraction. It's home to the International UFO Museum and Research Center, and most everything is UFO-themed -- even the local McDonald's.
Eternal flames burn around the world to commemorate notable people and events. 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.
Syracuse's Tipperary Hill feels like a visit to Ireland -- even a local traffic light puts green on top -- but Coleman's Authentic Irish Pub is the real corker. Leprechauns have their own booth, separate entrance, and taxi stand. (And don't miss the tiny park.) Inside are two clocks, one giving the time in Syracuse, the other in Dublin.
"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.
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.
Cincinnati's American Sign Museum ($15 for adults, free for kids 12 and under) showcases late-1800s pre-electric signs and iconic American symbols such as the McDonald's arches. It takes 19,000-plus square feet of space and 28-foot ceilings to accommodate the large exhibits.
Whatever you think of pigeons, at the American Pigeon Museum & Library in Oklahoma City (free), they're "man's oldest feathered friend." Along with the books, artifacts, and memorabilia are exhibits on homing pigeons and their use in wartime. There are live pigeons, too.
On the coast in Cape Perpetua, Thor's Well appears to be a bottomless sinkhole in the ocean, although speculation says it's only about 20 feet deep in reality. It can be dangerous to get close and mesmerizing to gaze inside.
The inspiration behind many a creepy movie, Centralia was once home to more than 2,000 people. Nearby coal mines caught fire in 1962 and continue to burn. Today Centralia is one of America's ghost towns, with sulfurous steam spewing out of the ground. It's best to visit in the fall and winter, when low temperatures make it easier to see the steam.
Another creepy Keystone State attraction, 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.
Folks in Newport have asked for ages who built the mysterious, 28-foot fieldstone tower in town. Some suspect it was the base of a former colonial windmill, or maybe put up by Vikings, or Knights Templar from medieval Scotland. It's free to visit and puzzle over.
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.
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 completely fair game for local artists, who cover the walls, stairs, and telephone pole with cartoons, quotes, portraits, and tags.
"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 at points. 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 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, apparently as a salute to Route 66 and what Marsh considered the golden age of car travel. Common practice is for visitors to bring spray paint, or use a can left there, and leave their mark on the cars.
Another Texan who made his mark in metal, John Mikovisch began some home improvements to his place in Houston in 1968, much of it aluminum siding -- made of beer cans, which is why it's called the Beer Can House ($5 for adults, free for kids under 12). Ripley's estimates more than 50,000 cans were added over 18 years.
Tourists visit graveyards around the world to pay their respects and honor the memory of historical leaders, celebrities, and unknown soldiers. The Flavor Graveyard in Waterbury marks something a little different: the resting place of ice cream flavors no longer made by Ben & Jerry's.
Some of the puppets in the Bread and Puppet Museum in Glover -- a crammed storage barn for the Bread and Puppet Theater troupe -- are downright 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.
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.
Recently made a state park ($8 for adults, $6 for kids), this 215-foot tall limestone Natural Bridge (backdrop for a nightly Biblical light show since the 1920s) is among six miles of hiking trails and the 30-foot Lace Falls. It was once surveyed by George Washington and owned by Thomas Jefferson.
Many tourists visiting Seattle make a point to stop by Pike Place Market to watch mongers throw fish or to sip coffee from the original Starbucks. Take a short detour to the Market Theater Gum Wall, a 15-by-50-foot wall in Post Alley covered with chewing gum inches deep at some points. 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.)
About 200 metal people and animals reside in downtown Raymond and along State Route 6 and Highway 101. They were put up by artists starting in 1993, bulking up a town with only about 3,000 real people.
A statue of King Gambrinus, called "the patron saint of beer," stands watch over the former Pabst Brewing corporate offices in downtown Milwaukee. Raising a pint in the air and wearing a blue tunic and white cape, he looks like a cross between Captain America and King Arthur.
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."
This was the first site named a National Monument -- by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 -- and is instantly recognizable from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." How it got its mysterious shape isn't fully understood, which has led some to supernatural explanations. But others just come to climb it.
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. What is this giant head of the 16th president doing in Wyoming? I-80 closely tracks the route of the old Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to-coast road built for cars.