America consists of 4 million miles of road, 50 states and over 313 million people. It’s big, it’s beautiful and it’s sometimes pretty darn weird. From the International UFO Museum & Research Center in Roswell, to the World’s largest Catsup bottle and the far-out Cadillac Ranch in Texas there are so many offbeat attractions to take in on any American Roadtrip. Here are some of our favourites:
15 Corn Palace
The ‘World’s Only’ Corn Palace is located in South Dakota. First established in 1892, and expanded a few times, the present building was completed in 1921 and now attracts more than a half a million visitors very year. The palace is quite beautiful with minarets and kiosks of Moorish design. The exterior decorations are completely stripped down and new murals are created each year. A whopping 275,000+ ears of corn are used to do this!
14 Tulsa’s Golden Driller
The Golden Driller in Oklahoma is a 76-foot-tall, 43,500-pound statue of an oil worker and (according to Wikipedia) the largest free-standing statue in the world. Look upon him. He is mighty.
13 Salvation Mountain
Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain is located in the lower desert of Southern California; about 90 minutes from Palm Springs. The mountain is resplendent with biblical scripture along with flowers, trees, waterfalls, suns, bluebirds, and many other fascinating and colorful objects. Its 50 foot height and 150 foot breadth is made totally of local adobe clay. The official Salvation website proclaims: “From its Sea of Galilee at the bottom, to the big red heart in the middle, to the cross at the very top, the reoccurring theme of “Love” is everywhere at Salvation Mountain.”
12 Lucy the Elephant
Lucy the Elephant is a six-story elephant-shaped example of novelty architecture, constructed of wood and tin sheeting in 1881 by James V. Lafferty in Margate City, New Jersey. Built in an effort to sell real estate and attract tourists, she is now a tourist attraction herself – with visitors entering through a spiral staircase in her left rear leg. Over the years, Lucy had served as a restaurant, business office, cottage, and tavern; the last closed by Prohibition. By the 1960s, Lucy had fallen into disrepair and was scheduled for demolition but with hard-work from the Save Lucy Committee she was refurbished and in 1976 designated a National Historic Landmark. Isn’t she lovely.
11 Drive-thru trees
In Leggett California there’s the 96m tall Chandelier Tree; a Drive-Thru Tree which you can drive your car through. Yep. That’s right! The coast redwood tree has a handy 1.8 m wide x 2.06m high hole cut through its base. The tree is believed to have been carved in the early 1930s by Charlie Underwood. One of the three trees visitors can drive through in The Avenue of the Giants there is also Shrine Drive-Thru Tree near the town of Myers Flat and Klamath Tour Thru Tree. Each tree is privately owned and charges $5 or more to drive through. Weird, but why not?
10 A Prada Store in the desert
A mile or so away from the adorably named ‘Valentine’ in Texas is Prada Marfa – a permanently installed sculpture by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, designed to resemble a fully-stocked Prada store. Located in the in the middle of the West Texas desert. The structure is biodegradable so should slowly melt back into the Earth. On the downside it’s been subjected to vandalism but more positively Beyonce has visited and posed for this cool photo:
9 Giant van Gogh
In Goodland in Kansas there is a huge reproduction of van Gogh’s “3 Sunflowers In A Vase”. And we do mean huge. Part of the Van Gogh Project – a series of Big Easel paintings based on Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower Paintings – each sculpture consists of a colossal hand-painted reproduction of one of the seven Sunflower Paintings, measuring an impressive 7 x 10 metres, and resting on a 25 metre steel easel. The first Easel was erected in Altona, Canada In 1998. The second was finished and erected In 1999 in Emerald, Australia. The Kansas easel is the third one and was completed on 17 August 2001. The Big Easel project hope that eventually, we will have numerous Big Easels around the world” in order to establish a cultural exchange of artists and ideas.”
8 Longaberger Basket
The Longaberger Basket corporate headquarters is quite rightly a local landmark. A great example of novelty architecture it takes the shape of the company’s biggest seller: a Longaberger Medium Market Basket that’s been blown up to 160 times its normal size. The basket includes a seven-story atrium, heated handles that prevent ice formation, and two 725-pound gold leaf Longaberger tags. Originally, Dave Longaberger wanted all of the Longaberger buildings to be shaped like baskets, but sadly only the headquarters was completed at the time of his death.
7 Route 66 Whale
The Blue Whale of Catoosa is a classic roadside attraction on old Route 66. Hugh Davis built the Blue Whale in the early 1970s as a surprise anniversary gift to his wife Zelta, who collected whale figurines. The Blue Whale and its pond became a favored swimming hole for both locals and travelers along Route 66 alike. It’s pretty charming and on twitter!
6 Fremont Troll
The stuff of Scandinavian Folklore, you might not expect to run into a troll in Seattle but beneath Aurora bridge in Fremont, a gnarly-haired giant troll dwells. Sculpted by four Seattle area artists for the Fremont Arts Council in Halloween 1990, in his left hand he crushes an old style Volkswagen Beetle which originally contained a time capsule of Elvis memorabilia. The local community pays tribute to the troll every October 31st with a mobile “Trollaween” party, starting under the bridge and wandering to other funky art sites and events in Fremont which takes in the largest Lenin statue in the USA.
5 Centre of the Universe Oklahoma
Located in downtown Tulsa and consisting of a worn concrete circle, approximately thirty inches in diameter, within the middle of another circle made up of thirteen bricks, the center of the universe is an acoustic anomaly. If you stand in the center of the circle and makes a noise, that noise is echoed back to you several times louder than it was made. Not only that, but whatever noise you make inside the circle it cannot be heard by those standing outside of it. Spooky.
4 Museum of Bad Art
The Museum Of Bad Art (MOBA) is a community-based, private institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms and in all its glory. Founded in 1993 the response was overwhelming and MOBA’s collection and ambitions have grown exponentially. According to their website, “The pieces in the MOBA collection range from the work of talented artists that have gone awry to works of exuberant, although crude, execution by artists barely in control of the brush. What they all have in common is a special quality that sets them apart in one way or another from the merely incompetent.” We love them. Each and every work.
3 Dog Bark Park – the World’s Largest Beagle
In a little town in Idaho you can sleep in a 30-foot-high Beagle (the World’s largest, no less) called ‘Sweet Willy’. Built in 1997, by married chainsaw artists Dennis Sullivan and Frances Conklin and funded through sales of miniature dog carving this ‘noble & absurd undertaking is officially known as Dog Bark Park Inn. It’s one of America’s latest additions to the type of roadside architecture popular in the early days of automobile vacation travel when travelers would often buy gas, eat meals or stay overnight in a building that looked like something else. Guests enter the beagle’s body from a private second story deck, and are treated to dog-shaped biscuits left on their pillows. You’d have to be barking mad not to like it. Fnarr fnarr.
2 Mount Rushmore
The idea, to this British writer, of creating a sculpture upon a mountain of say David Cameron, Tony Blair, John Major and Margaret Thatcher is utterly preposterous if not an incitement to violence. And yet South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore National Memorial – sculptures of the heads of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln carved into the granite – is quite majestic. Attracting over two million people annually it took fourteen years to create by Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers and cost $989,992.32. Geologists have estimated that the granite at Mount Rushmore National Memorial will erode only 1 inch every 10,000 years. So there’s still plenty of time to see it.
1 Paul Bunyan
Paul Bunyan is a giant lumberjack in American folklore. He’s often accompanied by Babe the Blue Ox and was said to be so loud that fellow lumberjacks had to wear earmuffs year round. When he sneezed, legend has it that he blew the roof off the loggers’ bunkhouse. When he was a baby, it took five giant storks to deliver him. You get the idea. There are loads of places you can see him in America. In the middle of Minnesota, the city of Akeley has a 25-foot-tall Bunyan with an outstretched palm low enough for visitors to climb into for a photo op. In Brainerd, there’s a 26-foot tall, 5,000-pound Bunyan statue at the Paul Bunyan Land amusement park with a moving head, arms and eyes and who greets visitors by name. At the Trees of Mystery attraction in Klamath, California, there’s a 49-foot-tall Bunyan leaning on this axe with a 34-foot tall Babe the blue ox by his side. This Bunyan has been winking, swivelling his head and “talking” to passersby via a hidden public-address system since 1961. Have you met Paul Bunyan yet? Did he say hello to you?
Have you been to any of these places? Where’s your favourite quirky spot in the USA? Did we miss any? Join our chat on twitter using #WeirdUSA or leave us a comment. We’ve got 19 more states to visit on our quest so we’d love to see places you recommend!