Whether traveling the US as a full-timer or taking a road trip, many of us hit the road looking for new experiences in new places. From time to time we find ourselves sticking to the route set on the GPS or map. This often leads to finding ourselves having meals at well-known chain restaurants and stopping only at scheduled sites right off of the interstate.
Whether it is out of convenience or familiarity, this tendency can be at the detriment of adventure. So the next time you’re on the road and looking for something new, remember a few of these odd, roadside attractions.
Unique Roadside Attractions Across the United States
World’s Largest Ball of Twine (Cawker City, KS)
Free, Open 24 hours. Back in 1953 a man by the name of Frank Stoeber started winding this ball of twine with the goal of outshining the 12-foot-wide Johnson Twine Ball on display in Darwin, MN. Stoeber worked until his death in 1974 – just one foot short of his goal. Since then, residents and visitors of Cawker City have been adding to Stoeber’s ball every August during the annual “twine-a-thon.” At last count, the twine roadside attraction had reached 19,198 pounds with a circumference of 40 feet!
Beer Can House (Houston, TX)
General Admission $2/Guided Tours $5, Open Saturdays and Sundays 12-5PM. John Milkovisch was just a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad when he began his now famous home improvement project which has become one of the more interesting roadside attractions in the US. Back in 1968 and after getting tired of the typical mundane yard work and home maintenance, Milkovisch took it upon himself to install new siding on his Houston home – with aluminum beer cans! Over the course of eighteen years, an estimated 50,000 cans were added to the outside of this home adding wacky decoration and surprisingly lower energy bills. It is now owned by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art and the house and its grounds are available to the public.
World’s Largest Ball of Stamps (Boys Town, NE)
Free/Donations Accepted, Open Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm; Sat, 9am-4pm; Sun, 11am-4pm. Roadside attractions need not make any sense. The Boys Town Stamp Collecting Club sure had an interesting way to display their less valuable stamps! Using a golf ball as a base, members of the club began building the world’s largest ball of stamps in 1953. By 1955 they had caught the attention of the writers at Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a syndicated newspaper column at the time. The ball had grown to 32 inches in diameter and weighed a whopping 600 pounds. Just as the boys got their claim to fame, they stopped adding to the ball ending at a total of 4,655,000 stamps. The ball now sits in the Leon Myers Stamp Center in Boys Town.
The Enchanted Highway (Dickinson, ND)
Free, Open 24 hours. Think of The Enchanted Highway as a fun alternative route to the Black Hills of South Dakota. The Enchanted Highway is a collection of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures along a 32 mile stretch of highway. The road has no highway number, but the northern portion is known as 100½ th Avenue Southwest. Along with some volunteers, Gary Greff, a metal sculptor and retired school teacher, began the project in 1989. The highway includes 7 sculptures and there are plans for more. These roadside attractions are certainly worth the detour!
Mindfield (Brownsville, TN)
Free, Open 24 hours. Constructed mainly from steel girder and scrap metal, the Mindfield is the creation and life’s work of Brownsville artist Billy Tripp. Tripp began work in 1989 and plans to continue adding to it through his lifetime. One of the largest additions to the sculpture is a water tower salvaged from a factory in western Kentucky. Tripp has written that the Mindfield represents significant moments in his life, and while we might not understand it, we can certainly revel in its glory. This is one of the largest roadside attractions as the sculpture covers an acre and at its tallest point stands 125 feet tall!
Lenny, The Life-Size Chocolate Moose (Scarborough, ME)
Free, Shop open Monday-Saturday 9AM-5PM, Sunday 10AM-5PM. Chocolate roadside attractions? Len Libby, a renowned chocolate shop in Maine, is the home of the world’s only life-size chocolate moose. Yes, you heard it right, the chocolatiers at Len Libby created a full-size chocolate replica of North America’s largest antlered animal. Why? Because they can. The 1,700 pound milk chocolate moose is named Lenny, and he stands in his white chocolate pond for visitors from all around to see. Just hope that Lenny never suffers warm weather; he begins to melt around 70 degrees!
Foamhenge (Natural Bridge, VA)
Free. Open 24 hours. Any roadside attractions that are made from foam? As the name implies, Foamhenge is a full-size replica of England’s legendary Stonehenge made entirely out of Styrofoam. It appeared on April Fool’s day in 2004 after creator Mark Cline was contracted by the owners of the Natural Bridge of Virginia. Cline took this project very seriously, ensuring that it truly was an exact replica – from the original shape of the stone to their astronomical positions. Cline has described Foamhenge as his greatest achievement, and because it is non-biodegradable, Cline wonders if it might outlast the original! Only time will tell.
Hole n’ the Rock (Moab, UT)
Adult Tours $5/Children $3.50, Open 7 days a week. Hole n’ the Rock is a home carved out of a huge rock in Utah’s Glen Canyon. What began as a small alcove grew into a man-made, engineering marvel. Albert Christensen began his hand-carving and excavation for the home in the 1940s. The home has 14 rooms, a fireplace with a 65 foot chimney, and a deep bathtub built directly into the rock. The 5,000 square foot home is not the only attraction on site, the grounds now include a gift shop, trading post, general store, and even an exotic petting zoo! Needless to say there multiple roadside attractions at the Hole n’ the Rock!
Cadillac Ranch (Amarillo, TX)
Free. Open 24 Hours. This installation includes ten Cadillacs dating from 1949-1963 that appear half buried in a Texas cow pasture. Cadillac Ranch is visible from Interstate 40, and while it is technically located on private land, visitors are still welcome at this roadside attraction – you’ll just have to drive along the frontage road and enter the pasture on foot through an unlocked gate. This is perhaps the one of the only roadside attractions where trespassing is encouraged as well vandalism! It has become tradition for visitors to add to the graffiti on each of the cars making the installation a living work of community art.
Largest Ball of Paint (Alexandra, IN)
Available by appointment. Michael Carmichael is the owner of the world’s largest ball of paint. Back when Carmichael’s son was just three years old, the two began to paint a baseball watching it grow as new layers of paint were added. Over the years, the ball of paint became so large and heavy that Carmichael eventually built a barn beside his family’s home for the ball to reside. There are over 22,000 layers of paint on the ball making it weigh over 1,300 pounds! Carmichael continues to apply up to 10 layers of paint a day himself and keeps a guestbook detailing the color of each new layer. These days, Carmichael even allows visitors to leave their own acrylic paint mark on the ball.
Do you have other favorite roadside attractions that did not make our collection? Please share them in the comment below!