Alabama: Ave Maria Grotto
Located in Cullman, Alabama, the Ave Maria Grotto is what you get when you take a monk, a lot of scraps and odds-and-ends, and give him 50 years of crushing boredom. Featuring scale models of everything from the Tower of Babel to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Ave Maria Grotto is as impressive as it is bizarre.
Alaska: Giant Santa and his House
I finally found the North Pole, and it’s in Alaska. Seriously. In North Pole, Alaska is “Santa’s house,” where every day has been Kitschmas for the last 60-something years. When visiting, you’ll know you found the right place when you’re greeted by a 42 foot tall, 900 lb giant statue of the ol’ jolly man himself
Arizona: The Thing?
What is it? That’s the question that earned this famous attraction along Interstate 10 a spot in the history books. And though anyone who’s ever watched a Discovery Channel special on mummies knows exactly what “The Thing” is, that still hasn’t stopped generations of curious travelers from paying $1 to take a peek at The Thing for these last 64 years.
Arkansas: Christ of the Ozarks
Your own little slice of Rio, this guy is affectionately referred to by locals as “Our milk carton with arms”. Standing an impressive 65.5 feet tall, the unusually proportioned statue created by Gerald L.K. Smith has watched over Eureka Springs, AK since 1966.
California: Cabazon Dinosaurs
It was tough to choose just one attraction for California, but skipping past Battles in Fake Iraq, a pyramid built over the “official center of the World,” Salvation Mountain, Sanchez’s Beer Bottle Chapel, the World’s largest thermometer, and a tree you can drive through, I finally found the most epic Californian roadside attraction. Cabazon, California is home to some of the most famous fake dinosaurs in the world, namely several-hundred-ton buildings mocked up to look like a T-Rex and an Apatosaurus.
Colorado: Swetsville Zoo
Part animal, part art, this sculpture “zoo” in northern Colorado is home to some of the most fantastical fusions of nature and machine.
Connecticut: Paul Bunyan Muffler Man
In Cheshire, CT, on the front lawn of the House of Doors, stands a 26-foot tall statue of everyone’s favorite lumberjack. Fun Fact: Today he holds an American flag, but originally he was installed with an ax. The town, in an effort to have the whole statue removed, cited legislature that requires all signs to be no higher than 7 feet tall. As a response, the owners turned Paul into a “flagpole,” freeing him from local jurisdiction.
Delaware: Miles the Monster
At the entrance to the Dover International Speedway Delaware looms Miles the Monster, like a giant rock golem or cement Hulk. They’re pretty proud of the 46 foot tall behemoth, featuring his likeness on the trophy for victory on the track, on the tickets to the track, and on all of the racing paraphernalia at the track. The beast gets his name from the Speedway’s nickname “The Monster Mile.”
You know, it just wouldn’t be a trip through Florida without some gators. At Gatorland in Orlando, thousands of alligators and other kinds of reptiles are on display (many of which were purchased or rescued locally and would have otherwise been killed. The park features albino alligators, daily gator wrestles, a petting zoo, and a breeding swamp that served as the backdrop for parts of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
Georgia: Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue
Made for Jimmy Carter’s 1976 visit to the area, this smiling 13 foot peanut is possibly the biggest pull to Plains, Georgia.
Hawaii: World’s Largest Hedge Maze
Boasting the largest hedge maze in the world (and recognized as such by the Guinness Book of World Records), the Dole pineapple plantation on Oahu is a great way to kill an afternoon while pondering the majesty of the world’s greatest fruit.
Idaho: World’s Largest Beagle
Perhaps you’re driving on Highway 95 headed across Idaho. Field after field passes outside your windows, and around you’re growing weary. At Cottonwood, you stop to think to yourself, “Hey, I should really take a break, and perhaps find a place to crash for the night. Nothing would help me unwind from a full day of driving like lying down on a nice bed...inside of a beagle.” Fortunately, if you were thinking that, Idaho’s got you covered. At Dog Bark Park Inn, that giant building shaped like a dog doubles as a B & B (just like the sign says!), and is practically a historic landmark in the area.
Illinois: Leaning Tower of Niles
An exact, one-half size reproduction of the Leaning Tower in Pisa, just in Niles, Illinois. Made in 1934 by Robert Ilg as part of a park for his employees, it would be an awkward 60 years before Niles and Pisa became sister cities.
Indiana: Giant Lady’s Leg Sundial
The story behind this almost more intriguing than the actual object. What started as the Sun Aura Nudist Resort in 1933 transformed when the owner’s son Dick decided to update both the image and the name of the establishment, to Naked City (which ultimately closed in ‘86, and is now under new management). During the Naked City era, Dick had a 63 foot long leg installed and positioned to properly tell time as a sundial. Today, you can visit both the resort, and the leg, clothing optional.
Iowa: Grotto of Redemption
With a name like “Grotto of Redemption,” there’s no way this wasn’t going to be awesome. This incredible series of 9 grottos is a proper religious monument, depicting moments in the life of Jesus, and constructed out of a dazzling array of shells, fossils, gems, and stones from around the world (estimated at a total value of $4,308,000).
Kansas: The World’s Largest Ball of Twine
It’s a big ball of string, and represents the epic twine-ball-victory of Frank Stoeber of Cawker City, KS, over Francis A. Johnson of Darwin, Minnesota.
Kentucky: Wigwam Village Motel #2
Built during the 1930’s-1940’s, this chain of motels once dotted the nation, but today only 3 remain (one in Arizona, one in California, and this one in Kentucky). Located in Cave City, the band of tipis (incorrectly referred to as wigwams) sits in a semicircle, and gets remarkably good reviews given their age and dorm-like size.
Louisiana: Tabasco Factory
What’s the best part about visiting the birthplace of Tabasco sauce at Avery Island? Is it the rich history and riveting tour through the process of making hot sauce? Is it large novelty sized Tabasco bottle that appears in various locations throughout the property? My money is on the 170-acre jungle gardens on the property, complete with several century old giant buddha. At the Tabasco Factory.
Maine: Desert of Maine
A desert unlike most found in the entire United States, the dunes of the Desert of Maine are actually a deposit of glacial silt, exposed when the land was improperly farmed and irrigated.
Maryland: Giant Crash Test Dummy
Installed originally as a promotional photo-op stunt, the 34-foot crash test dummy outside the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration HQ in Glen Burnie stands tall as a big yellow beacon of driving safely.
Massachusetts: The (Giant) Fork in the Road
Whoever made this has a sense of humor that is completely aligned with my own. At the fork between Old Harbor and River Roads in Westport, is a 12 foot piece of silverware standing proudly in its punny glory.
What’s better than a 52 foot tall native American statue in Ironwood, Michigan? It may be the fact that it is anachronistically dressed in the garb of tribes that would never have populated that area, or it may be the fact that all 18,000 lbs of it was once stolen, before being recovered 24 hours later. Turns out it’s awfully hard to hide a giant statue.
Minnesota: Jolly Green Giant
One of the most iconic and recognizable roadside attractions in the country, Blue Earth’s 55 foot Jolly Green Giant set the town back about $43,000 in 1978. The attraction sees tens of thousands of visitors annually.
Mississippi: Graceland Too
One of Time’s “Top 50 American Roadside Attractions”, Graceland Too demonstrates that “fan” truly is short for “fanatic.” At this spot in Holly Springs, Paul MacLeod spent his life amassing a collection and transforming his two-story home into the ultimate shrine to Elvis Presley. He even claimed to have carpeted a portion of it from carpeting taken from Elvis’ former home. Sadly, Paul MacLeod passed away on July 17th of this year, but Graceland Too has since reopened to visitors.
Missouri: The Route 66 Rocker
Just outside Cuba (Missouri), in Fanning, is a 42-foot tall, 23-foot wide rocking chair that has held the Guinness Record as “Largest Rocking Chair in the World” since 2008. One day a year, the caretakers hire an industrial lift to allow people to sit on the chair for photo ops.
Montana: Freeze, The Talking Penguin
Out in Cut Bank stands a mammoth statue of a penguin that greets passersby, and welcomes them to the town known for being “the coldest spot in the nation,” given its proximity to Glacier National Park. The 27 foot tall, 10,000lb concrete likeness of a flightless bird is apparently quite chatty when it actually works, which is rarely.
Our country loves cars, and apparently stonehenge. Combine the two, and you have Alliance, Nebraska’s most popular roadside attraction. Composed of 38 cars, Carhenge was built in 1987 by Jim Reinders who was inspired after visiting the real Stonehenge, and patterned his replica after Stonehenge’s exact dimensions and proportions.
Nevada: The International Car Forest of the Last Church
As the state that’s home to Las Vegas, Reno, Area 51, and Burning Man, the whole of Nevada is practically a roadside attraction. But this attraction takes the cake. In the eerie deserts of Goldfield, NV 40+ cars erupt from the earth at extreme angles in the largest car “forest” in the world. In Burning Man fashion, most of the cars are artistically modified and painted, and some of them are then burned.
New Hampshire: Clark’s Trading Post
One of the original roadside attractions, Clark’s has been doing things the same for just about a century. It’s an amusement park, a bear show, a museum, food court, and gift shop of yesteryear. Plus, where else in the world do you get to see bears go crazy for a little vanilla ice cream?
New Jersey: Lucy the Elephant
It’s a six story building (complete with spiral staircase) inside a giant Elephant. Better still, it was made in 1881 by James Lafferty, who held the patent at the time for the exclusive production of animal-shaped buildings. Naturally, the building has been restored several times since 1881, as it continues to be one of the most popular attractions in Margate City, New Jersey.
New Mexico: Roadrunner in the Desert
Near Interstate-10 stands a 20-foot tall, 40-foot long roadrunner made completely out of trash (and white shoes) from the dump at La Cruces, NM. The famous roadside attraction disappeared in 2011, but has returned in June of this year with a whole new batch of shoes for people to leave messages on, as they have for decades.
North Carolina: The World’s Largest Hammock
It is legendary. On Route 158 in North Carolina lies the 42 foot long hammock, strung with 10,000 feet of rope and can almost support the weight of a car, making it the greatest road-trip stop for a car full of people ever conceived.
North Dakota: Enchanted Highway
Home to not one giant sculpture but a whole host of them scattered along a 32-mile stretch of numberless interstate, the Enchanted Highway is Gary Greff’s art baby. All of the pieces have pull-outs and shade structures, and Gary operates the Enchanted Castle motel in nearby Regent while planning the next big sculpture to add to his collection.
Ohio: Longaberger Basket
Nestled inside this giant unassuming basket in Newark, OH, is the headquarters for the Longaberger Basket Company, a company that makes baskets.
Oklahoma: The Blue Whale of Catoosa
Though it crops up regularly on “creepy abandoned places” roundups, the Blue Whale of Catoosa, OK was recently restored, repainted, and remains a popular stop on Historic Route 66.
Oregon: Harvey, The Giant Rabbit
Only in a place whose largest city’s motto is “Keep Portland Weird” could a giant and borderline creepy half-human half-rabbit statue be revered, but then again, welcome to Oregon. The 26 foot tall abomination in Aloha Oregon receives something close to 2,500 pieces of fan mail daily, because again, welcome to Oregon.
Pennsylvania: Roadside America
This one even has “Roadside” in the name! The 8,000 square feet of painstakingly detailed miniature village is the 60 year life legacy of Laurence Gieringer. Located in Shartlesville off I 78, the attraction still pulls regular visitors, and has been the exact same since Gieringer’s death 50 years ago.
Rhode Island: Big Blue Bug
AKA Nibbles Woodaway, this large termite sculpture has it’s own Wikipedia page, as the mascot for Big Blue Bug Solutions Pest Control and one of Providence’s most popular roadside attractions. A serious contender for “the world’s largest artificial bug,” Nibbles is 58 feet long, 9 feet tall, and was built in just 4 days.
South Carolina: South of the Border
On I-95, the aptly named “South of the Border” rest stop and Mexican-themed attraction in Dillon,SC is just south of the border between South Carolina and North Carolina. It comes complete with restaurants, amusement park “sombrero tower,” and its official mascot is “Pedro the Bandido.”
South Dakota: Mitchell Corn Palace
Billed as “The World’s Only Corn Palace,” I have a sneaking suspicion that the title goes uncontested. Located in Mitchell, SD, the Corn Palace was originally constructed in celebration of the rich and fertile soils of South Dakota, in an effort to convince more people to move to the area. Each year, adorned in a brand new set of murals made from corn, the Corn Palace hosts a variety of events and festivals (including the citywide Corn Palace Festival), and sees 500,000 + visitors.
Tennessee: Minister’s Treehouse
“If you build it, they will come” is pretty much what Minister Horace Burgess claims God told him before embarking on the 14-year project of building the monstrous treehouse in Crossville, TN. Though it is temporarily closed by the Tennessee Fire Marshall, the 90-foot-tall, 5-story, 80 room treehouse was constructed with the neverending supply of materials promised to Minister Burgess by the big guy, and remained relatively pristine while it was freely open to the public.
Texas: Cadillac Ranch
People seem to love making art in the deserts of Texas, but none scream roadside attraction quite like Cadillac Ranch in Armadillo. Part icon of public art, part snapshot in the evolution of the Cadillac, Cadillac Ranch is a must-see if you’re anywhere near the site.
Utah: Hole n” The Rock
All 50,000 cubic feet (and 14 rooms) of this house were excavated out of a massive sandstone boulder in Utah’s Canyonlands. Bonus: There’s also a petting zoo featuring Camels, Ostriches, and a Mini Donkey.
Vermont: Gorilla Holding up a Bug
Another of Time’s top 50 American Roadside Attractions, this pretty much showcases the American attitude of “If we can do it, we will...because, why not?” Apparently the entire conversation that lead to the creation of this statue was more or less: “Let’s make a gorilla so we can have him hold up a car, with another hand people can sit in.” Awesome.
It’s a full-size replica of the famous henge, just made of styrofoam. Seated in the rolling hills of Natural Bridge, the artist Mark Cline views the work as one of his greatest accomplishments.
Washington: The Fremont Troll
Living appropriately under the George Washington Memorial Bridge in Seattle, the Troll is one part industrial sculpture (made of 13,000 pounds of concrete and rebar) to one part local landmark. The street running alongside the Troll was renamed “Troll Avenue” in its honor in 2005.
West Virginia: Mothman
One of the most awesome statues in the whole country, the 12 foot tall stainless steel demon in Point Pleasant was unleashed on the city in 2003, though lore of the creature has existed in the area since 1966.
Wisconsin: World’s Largest Fiberglass Fish
So, why do hundreds of thousands of people flock to this giant Muskellunge every year? It probably has something to do with the fact that this big fish houses the entirety of the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, WI. Apparently, you enter through the tail, and ascend four stories in the belly of the beast, before catching a view of the area from an observatory in its mouth.
Wyoming: Giant Head of Abraham Lincoln
Staring ever southward, the steely gaze of this 13.5 foot tall, two-ton bronze bust of our nation’s 16th president greets travellers heading west on I-80 near Laramie. Originally placed on the highest point of the cross-country Lincoln Highway, the head and its 30-foot pedestal were moved to their current location when the I-80 was completed (1969).