Make room for these quirky attractions on your next road trip.
The road trip is an undisputed staple in the American vacation experience. Whether it's a couple of hours or a couple of days, the journey is often just as much of an experience as the intended destination. With more than 4 million miles of roads and highways across the USA, there's plenty to see, ranging from majestic landscapes to an abundance of interesting attractions in between. U.S. News rounded up some of America's most unusual roadside attractions, from the downright cool to the borderline weird. Read on to see which of these oddities is worth the detour.
Salvation Mountain: Niland, California
Situated in the remote desert of Southern California lies one of America's most unique roadside attractions, Salvation Mountain. This labor of love comes from Leonard Knight, a local who wanted to create something that showcased his devotion to his faith that not only he, but everybody, could enjoy. The mountain, located off Highway 111 about 80 miles southeast of Palm Springs, is made of adobe clay and covered in thousands of gallons of colorful paint, featuring murals, messages and imagery depicting Bible verses. Should you choose to visit, avoid summertime, which sees daytime highs of 105 to 120 degrees. Salvation Mountain is open from dawn till dusk.
Hole N" The Rock: Moab, Utah
If you're traveling to Arches or Canyonlands national parks, chances are you'll run into Hole N" The Rock. Located just off of Highway 191 in Moab, Hole N" The Rock was once a 5,000-square-foot, 14-room family home that required 50,000 cubic feet of sandstone excavation. The home's owners, Albert and Gladys Christensen, lived here until Albert's death in 1957. Today, the home is vacant, but available for tours. You'll also find a small zoo, a general store and plenty of southwestern souvenirs on-site. Tours of Hole N" The Rock cost $6 for adults and $3.50 for children ages 5 to 10, and the attraction is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m daily.
Carhenge: Alliance, Nebraska
What's more fitting for a roadside attraction than an homage to automobiles? That's what you'll find at Carhenge, a replica of Stonehenge. The cars featured are all vintage American automobiles, painted gray to imitate the historic English landmark. You'll find this clever adaptation of the famous UNESCO World Heritage site in Alliance, Nebraska, just off of Highway 87. There is also a gift shop on-site, but note it is only open during the summer months. Carhenge is free to visit and it is open 24/7 year-round.
Prada Marfa: Valentine, Texas
Consumers and commuters will be completely thrown off by this unconventional roadside attraction in southwestern Texas. While this may indeed look like a boutique, it is not an official Prada outpost. Rather, the "store" is an art installation that carries a serious message on consumerism and gentrification. The idea was conceived after two New York City-based artists witnessed their community of SoHo transform from an artist enclave to a boutique mecca. The store is meant to inspire a kind of "what if" thinking, though many make the trek down Highway 90 just for photo ops. The "store" is open 24/7 and is free to check out.
Enchanted Highway: North Dakota
Who would have guessed that a collection of art installations could be found scattered along a highway in western North Dakota? Such is the case with the Enchanted Highway, which features metal sculptures depicting local prairie animals, as well as nods to the local culture and history of the region. This includes the Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again installation, complete with a horse-drawn carriage, and the World's Largest Tin Family, made from empty oil drums. This journey starts at Exit 72 on Highway 94 at Gladstone, then ends 32 miles south at Regent, where you'll find a gift shop that sells souvenirs of the sculptures.
(Courtesy of North Dakota Department of Commerce-Tourism Division)
Dinosaur Kingdom II: Natural Bridge, Virginia
Western Virginia's Dinosaur Kingdom II is not your average theme park. Combining history with science fiction, this offbeat attraction features a cast of characters fighting the dinosaurs, including Yankee soldiers, mad scientists and even Abraham Lincoln. It's an unconventional yet entertaining setting that woos those who appreciate roadside kitsch and a wacky tale (be sure to read the park's signs to understand the backstory). You can find Dinosaur Kingdom II off of South Lee Highway from Interstate 81 in Natural Bridge, about 40 miles north of Roanoke. Admission costs $10 for visitors 13 and older and $6 for kids 3 to 12. The attraction is open during the summer months and on select weekends in May, September and November. You can visit from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., except in May when the park is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cadillac Ranch: Amarillo, Texas
This Route 66 roadside attraction truly embodies the belief that one man's trash is another man's treasure. Cadillac Ranch was conceived when a local billionaire sought to create an art installation that would raise eyebrows among locals, so he partnered with a group of alternative, San Francisco-based artists to handle the creative end of the project. If you can believe it, the graffiti on the cars was not part of the original plan, but added by the many visitors that have crossed its paths. You can view Cadillac Ranch 24/7, off of Highway 40 in Amarillo, Texas.
Winchester Mystery House: San Jose, California
Those with a penchant for the spooky should make a detour for San Jose's Winchester Mystery House. Visitors find the attraction a peculiar puzzle, as the property is filled to the brim with stairs and doors that lead to nowhere. There are multiple theories as to why this is, but the most popular is that the owner, Sarah Winchester – the widow of rifle magnate William Winchester – was convinced by a medium that the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles would be confused by the layout of the house and thus not haunt her. Admission costs $39 for adults and $20 for children ages 6 to 12, and the house is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. You can find this wacky house off Interstate 280 (also known as the Junipero Serra Highway) in San Jose.
Pineapple Garden Maze: Wahiawa, Hawaii
If you find yourself traveling from Honolulu to the North Shore down the Kamehameha Highway, plan to make a pit stop at the Dole Plantation. The plantation's Pineapple Garden Maze – declared the largest in the world in 2008 – spans nearly 3 acres and features nearly 2½ miles of pathways. Visitors with the fastest finishing time get to sign their name at the maze's entrance, cementing themselves in Dole Plantation history. After you successfully navigate the maze, reward yourself with some delicious Dole Whip – pineapple-flavored soft serve ice cream. Tickets for the maze cost $8 for adults and $6 for children ages 4 to 12, and it's open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Bubblegum Alley: San Luis Obispo, California
Not to be confused with the Gum Wall in Seattle, Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo is a very literal tribute to one of America's favorite chewy treats. The alley is about 70 feet long and 15 feet high and covered in what could potentially be thousands or even millions of wads of gum (the tradition started in the early 1970s and the amount of gum is currently unknown). Unless you know you’ll be too grossed out by it in person, take a detour from Highway 101 and snap a picture or, if you dare, contribute your own gum. You can find the alley down Higuera Street between the Ambiance Clothing Boutique and the Blast 825 Taproom and it is accessible 24/7.
Wall Drug Store: Wall, South Dakota
This drug store, which started off as a place to get free ice water in 1931, is now a popular, roadside shopping complex. Here, you can get coffee for 5 cents at the lodge-style diner, take a picture with a life-sized jackalope in the backyard or shop for cowboy boots. The Wall Drug Store is country kitsch at its finest, and can be found off Highway 90, about 8 miles north of Badlands National Park. It's open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.
Dog Bark Park Inn: Cottonwood, Idaho
Dog lovers will appreciate this roadside attraction in Cottonwood, Idaho. Located off of Highway 95, the Dog Bark Park Inn is housed in the belly of Sweet Willy, who also happens to enjoy the distinction of being the world's largest beagle. The rooms are appropriately adorned with dog decor and literature. If you don’t want to stay the night, you stop to merely admire the structure, which features a picturesque prairie backdrop. You'll also find an on-site gift shop with replicas of the beagle for sale.
(Courtesy of Dog Bark Park Inn)
Flintstones Bedrock City: Coconino County, Arizona
Childhood dreams of testing out Fred Flintstone's stone car or making a call on the bone phone can come to fruition at Flintstones Bedrock City. This recreation of Bedrock is appropriately located in the barren desert landscape of northern Arizona (off of Highway 64 and about 25 miles south of the Grand Canyon) and features classic Bedrock sites, including Wilma's Laundry and Barney's Grocery. You'll also find Fred's Diner on-site, where you can munch on Bronto Burgers and a slice of Gravelberry Pie. You can even set up camp at the on-site RV park. The attraction charges an entrance fee of $5 per person and it's open from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily.
(Richard Maack Photography/Courtesy of Flintstone Bedrock City)