Once upon a time, society relied on a certain time-tested art of the road. People would pack their cars to capacity and hit the asphalt in search of obscurity, on or off the map. It was the era of the road trip and, no doubt, it was a good time to be alive.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, that art got lost. Exploring took a backseat to watching reality TV. And, for a time, it seemed the wonders of the roadside, or at least our interest in them, were facing extinction. Luckily for Americana though, media was about to go social.
Posting pics and tales from their travels online, certain heroes of the niche were buckling up, heading back out and proving the value of the road along the way. Continuing to seek, search and inspire society’s wanderlust, these people and their journeys pushed others off the couches and out into the world too.
Which brings it all back to the present. Anyone and everyone is looking to create their own epic story, if only to post online. And there’s no more colorful way to do so than by visiting America’s roadside attractions!
Starting where the first installment left off, part two of our state-to-state guide to the country’s roadside attractions makes its way east, toward the Atlantic from the middle of America.
World’s Largest Six-Pack
La Crosse, Wisconsin
When it comes to kitsch, there isn’t a state across this great land that comes close to Wisconsin. So, when passing through the Badger State, head over to the world’s largest six-pack to quickly quench the thirst for quirk before moving on to the next great stop.
Can’t get to Anaheim to visit Mickey and the gang any time soon? Well then, just make it up to Michigan to see Hamtramck Disneyland, a collage of backyard “folk art.” It bears little to no resemblance to the park that Walt built, but it’s still a spectacle nonetheless.
Captured Leg of Santa Anna
There’s no better way to pay back the villain who killed Davy Crockett than to put his wooden leg on display. The attraction splintered from the Alamo long ago, and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s fake appendage now calls Springfield home.
A Town Named Santa Claus
Santa Claus, Indiana
Santa Claus is real all right, though he’s not so much a person as much as a people who collectively decided to name their town after the Christmas icon. Since then, the spirit of the season has taken over every corner, and pulls in thousands of visitors all year long.
Jungle Jim’s International Market
While a visit to the house from A Christmas Story is difficult to turn down, one simple stop at Jungle Jim’s will erase any regret in that decision. Packed with animatronic mascots and displays, it’s the only grocery store that offers tour guides for the shopping experience.
Congressional Bunker (Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
The Congressional Bunker
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Had the Cold War gotten out of hand, and a nuclear war actually broke out, then the leaders of the land would have called this place home for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, that never happened, leaving behind a tax-funded relic for everyone else to tour.
Vent Haven Museum
Fort Mitchell, Kentucky
For a different kind of nightmare than Precious Moments Inspirational Park can provide, visit the place where freaky ventriloquist dummies go to die. Note: visitors who have previously been to the Musee Mecanique in San Francisco need not take the time for this.
Minister’s Tree House
If only the Swiss Family Robinson had listened to God, they likely would have landed in Crossville. The current holder of the “world’s largest tree house” title, landscaper-turned-minister Horace Burgess continues construction of the tree house to this very day.
Oh, Mississippi. Until the day comes when you take your place in the 21st century, the rest of this country’s residents will try to laugh at your Little Rascals-esque view of the world. One such example: Mammy’s Cupboard, a roadside restaurant located in the confines of a politically incorrect archetype’s skirt.
Formerly the World’s Largest Chair
Italian artist Giancarlo Neri owns the record for world’s largest chair. But Anniston had been the titleholder for decades, beating out several other American “destinations” for the honor and throne.
Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum
Forget Disney World. Want a real Florida treat? Then jaunt on over to Jupiter and soak up the experience of the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum! Take a gander at the star’s People’s Choice Award, or snap a pic next to the photos of his aforementioned “Friends.”
Elbert County, Georgia
Not much is known regarding the origin of this cryptic attraction, but it still brings in thousands of interested eyes each year. A manual of sorts for the future, the granite creation was funded by a man with a fake name, and inscribed with messages like “Avoid useless officials.”
Miniature Golf Capital of the World
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Ever gotten to the 18th hole of a miniature golf course and been disappointed that it had come to an end? Then drive over to Myrtle Beach, the mini golf capital of the world with more than 100 courses. Or, for something more eyebrow-raising, go see Eddie, the World’s Largest Child.
Marvin Johnson’s Gourd Museum
Angier, North Carolina
Was Marvin Johnson out of his gourd? Or did he just see something in the vegetables that no one else could? Regardless, everyone can now view his collection of gourd art for themselves inside the municipal building in Angier.
Natural Bridge, Virginia
Completing the Henge Trilogy that includes cars and trucks, Foamhenge offers a more true-to-life rendition, albeit one constructed out of styrofoam. And since it’s not biodegradable, it should actually be around for visits a lot longer than the original.
Geppi’s Entertainment Museum
When passing by Camden Yards, blow off the stadium where the Orioles play and immediately head into Geppi’s. The museum is one of the only physical places in the country to take a comprehensive tour through the last 250 years of pop culture.
Miles the Monster (Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images)
Miles the Monster
No doubt, the Fountain of Youth might sound pretty tempting. But seriously, why would it be located in Delaware, of all places? Rather than spending life’s precious seconds on that, witness the spectacle that is Miles the Monster at Dover International Speedway.
World’s Largest Burgers
While a trip to the Big Mac Museum might seem like something special, it’s nothing compared to Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub, home of the 15-pound burger. To all the meat-eating people passing through Pennsylvania, a taste of the world’s largest burgers is a must.
Lucy the Elephant
Margate City, New Jersey
Standing six stories above Margate City, Lucy the Elephant sucks in bystanders like peanuts from a barrel. Lucy is the sole survivor of a trio of elephant structures. Her owners now offer tours of her interior, each of which starts with the spiral staircase in her leg.
World’s Smallest Church
Oneida, New York
For those looking to be alone with God, there’s probably no better place than the world’s smallest church, which seats only two people. If walking on water isn’t an option, be prepared to take some pictures from the shore, as it’s accessible only by boat.
Though the facility doesn’t offer tours at the current time, the exterior of WWE headquarters in the Stamford area is still a site to behold. Outside of the Roman Colosseum, what other building in the world has churned out more gladiators than this one?
Tree Root That Ate Roger Williams
Providence, Rhode Island
It makes perfect sense that a state as small as Rhode Island would serve as home to the world’s largest bug. For a really obscure, interesting treat, pull in to Providence and learn about the Tree Root That Ate Roger Williams. It’s as creepy as it sounds.
The Ether Dome
First used in the mid-1800s, the Ether Dome has its history as the place where anesthesia was first administered. There isn’t much in terms of memorabilia, or parking, but the faint scent of primitive anesthetics is a souvenir everyone gets to take home.
New England Maple Museum
Everybody owes their most delicious morning memories a visit to the New England Maple Museum. The history of syrup is a fascinating one, showcased through murals of Natives harvesting sap and a near-endless collection of brand-name bottles from the past century.
Clark’s Trading Post
Lincoln, New Hampshire
Ever watched a bear eat ice cream before? There’s only one place to see it happen, and that’s Clark’s Trading Post. Once only a sled dog ranch, this family-run operation began to give more and more focus to its bears back in 1949, and hasn’t stopped since.
Moxie Bottle House
Had the timing been just wee bit different, every McDonalds across the globe might be serving Moxie instead of Coca-Cola. Stop by the bottle house when passing through Union and learn more about the story of a “soft drink” that almost took over a nation.
Need to catch up on the roadside attractions from the western half of the country? Be sure to check out part one! And if there’s a roadside attraction we missed, tell us about it in the comment section below.
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When he’s not pumping out pieces for CBS Local, Elijah Bates provides creative direction for a social media company in Venice Beach. Otherwise, you’ll find him surfing up and down the California coast, evading stingrays like trips to the dentist.