Top 10 Must-See Roadside Attractions
Summer is the time for road trips and family vacations. And I believe it is the law in most states that families must make a pilgrimage at least once across a large expanse of this wonderful country we call America. And during these travels you will see many roadside attractions and like some siren’s song they invite us to pull of the highway and take a look, sit a spell and remember when driving was part of the fun of traveling. While we haven’t ranked these in any order, you’ll find 10 of the top roadside attractions below. Would you add any? Please leave comments with your own memories or suggestions for a roadside attraction you enjoyed.
Sometimes known as “The Superman Hall of Trophies,” this museum is devoted to Superman and located in the heart of Metropolis, Illinois. The Superman Museum features trophies, statuaries, and artifacts of the man of steel. The museum is the work of Jim Hambrick who has been collecting Superman memorabilia since 1959 and owns over 100,000 Superman items and showcases some 20,000 in the museum. It features, among other things, a statue of Superman holding aloft a globe of Krypton and George Reeves’ original torso-molded special effects device that allowed Superman to fly on TV. Outside the museum, a huge monument to the Superman is the perfect backdrop for a family photo — you can even immortalize your visit by buying a brick in the pathway being constructed for the Lois Lane statue
Address: 611 Market St., Metropolis, IL
Hours: 9 am – 5 pm
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
The plaid-shirted, 18-foot tall, 2.5-ton Paul Bunyan statue was built in January 1937 by the townsfolk of Bemidji, Minnesota. Paul’s faithful companion Babe the Blue Ox, was moved as an attraction to Minnesota carnivals for a few years before joining Paul permanently in 1939. The shores of Lake Bemidji are said to be the birthplace of Paul Bunyan. Nearby Paul and Babe you can find other over-sized objects such as a toothbrush, playing cards and a flyswatter.
The statues have been hailed by the Kodak Company as the “second most photographed statues in the United States”, behind only Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
Address: 300 Bemidji Ave., Bemidji, MN
While you thought it was merely a Bruce Springsteen song, there really is a Cadillac Ranch. The San Francisco art group Ant Farm successfully proposed the idea to Stanley Marsh III, and in 1974, part of Marsh’s ranch became the Cadillac Ranch. Ten graffiti-covered Cadillacs representing the “Golden Age” of American Automobiles (1949 through 1963) are half-buried, nose-down, “at the same angle as the Cheops’ pyramids.
In 2005, the Cadillacs were painted pink in a tribute to breast cancer victims. Visitors are allowed to add their own graffiti.
Address: I-40, Amarillo, TX
Directions: In a cow pasture along eastbound I-40 between exits 60 and 62. Exit onto the frontage road, then enter the pasture through an unlocked gate.
South of the Border aka Pedroland
Dillon, South Carolina
Any traveler heading for Disney or the Sunshine State from the north will recall the roadside attraction, South of the Border. There are approximately 120 billboards announcing the roadside stop, some only a few hundred feet apart on I-95. It is a amalgam of hotels, souvenir shops, a theme park and rest stop; South of the Border has it all. It’s a little bit funky and a lot kitschy.
South of the Border was developed by Al Schafer (1914-2001), who founded a beer stand at the location in 1950 and steadily expanded it with Mexican trinkets and numerous kitsch items. And no stop would be complete without a visit Sombrero Room Restaurant, serving the best Mexican food in northern South Carolina.
Address: I-95 – US 301/501, Dillon, SC
Hours: All the time
World’s Largest Ball of Twine
Cawker City, Kansas
Made from over 7 million feet of sisal twine, the World’s Largest Ball of Twine measures 40 feet in circumference and weighs almost nine tons. The ball “started rolling” in 1953 when Frank Stoeber started saving bits of sisal twine and adding them to a small ball in his barn. Four years later his twine ball weighed over 2 ½ tons and stood 8-feet tall. Housed under a canopy in Cawker City on Highway 24, the ball is a work in progress, so bring some twine, wrap it around, and consider yourself part of the record books.
The town of Cawker began an annual Twine-A-Thon, where anyone can add twine, and in 2003 the total length was recorded at over 7-million feet!
Address: Wisconsin St., Cawker City, KS
Hours: Always visible
Constructed of 38 cars from the ’50s- and ’60s and mimicking both the number of rocks and the diameter of the circle at the original Stonehenge in England, this Carhenge was dedicated on the summer solstice in 1987. Just north of Alliance, the structure was conceived by Jim Reinders as a memorial to his father, who once lived on the field where Carhenge now stands.
The heelstone is a 1962 Cadillac. Three cars were buried at Carhenge after domestic cars replaced the original three foreign automobiles. Their “gravestone” is a car that reads: “Here lie three bones of foreign cars. They served our purpose while Detroit slept. Now Detroit is awake and America’s great!
Address: ND 87, Alliance, NE
Lake Havasu City, AZ
The London Bridge, currently located in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, USA, was originally constructed in London in 1831. By 1962, the bridge was not structurally sound enough to support the increased load created by the level traffic crossing it, and it was sold by the City of London for $2.5 million dollars.
The purchaser, Robert McCulloch, was the founder of Lake Havasu and the chairman of McCulloch Oil Corporation. The bridge was carefully disassembled and each piece was numbered. These were shipped to the bridges present location and re-assembly began in 1968, and was completed in late 1971. The bridge is 950 feet long and weighs 33,000 tons and it serves as a popular tourist attraction for the city
Address: Lake Havasu City, AZ
Rapid City, S.D.
Your own personal Jurassic Park can be found just outside of Rapid City, South Dakota. On a hill overlooking the city, dinosaurs made out of brightly painted green concrete stand ready to spring to life. The dinosaur park was built as a work project to be a tourist attraction in 1936, during the Depression. The five dinos, which include a Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex, are life size and can be seen from miles away. While they will not eat any on-lookers they are sure to entertain.
And because I’m from Virginia, here is our own Dinosaur land, with an Octopus, located near Winchester, VA and my hometown of Front Royal, VA.
Address: 940 Skyline Drive, Rapid City, SD
Rockport – Pigeon Cove, MA
Ellis Stenman, a Swedish immigrant, started to build a two-room cottage almost entirely out of newspaper in 1922. The house is framed with wood, the walls consisting of 215 layers of newspaper. Stenman made his own glue, out of flour, water and apple peels. If you visit, take a close look at the furniture and curtains you’ll see they are also made from newspaper. Stenman wrapped paper around wire to build chairs, desks and lamps. In all, he used about 100,000 newspapers. Visitor can take time to read the walls and find newspaper headlines from years bygone. This house of paper certainly gives new meaning to the term “wallpaper”.
Photo by: Misterbisson
Address: 52 Pigeon Hill St., Rockport – Pigeon Cove, MA
Hours: Daily 10 am – 5 pm, Apr – Oct.
Admission: $1.50 adults, 1.00 children
Lucy the Elephant
Margate City, New Jersey
She was constructed in 1881 by James Lafferty. The idea of an animal-shaped building was innovative, and in 1882 the U.S. Patent Office granted Lafferty a patent giving him the exclusive right to make, use or sell animal-shaped buildings for seventeen years. Lucy is the oldest example of zoomorphic architecture, and the largest elephant in the world and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Standing six stories tall, 60-feet long, and 18-feet wide, she weighs about 90 tons, and is made of nearly one million pieces of wood. Lucy was more than a roadside attraction and was a functioning building, serving first as a real estate office and briefly as a tavern, until drunks nearly burned her down. Jim Laffertywent on to build other elephants in Cape May and Coney Island, but only Lucy has survived.
Address: 9200 Atlantic Ave, Margate City, NJ
Hours: Closed Jan-Mar.