You’ve likely dismissed as “tourist traps” road signs that claim “Don’t Miss the World’s Largest [fill in the blank]! Only 100 Miles Away!” As you get closer and closer, the signs keep appearing, with distance updated: “50 Miles Away!,” “25 Miles Away!,” “5 Miles Away!”
By ignoring the signs and continuing on your merry way, might you be missing out on unusual sights and ways to break up long, monotonous car rides for your family?
Here’s a speedy look at ten unusual U.S. roadside attractions in eight states, including along famous Route 66:
Arizona (Lake Havasu City): London Bridge – Did you know that the London Bridge is actually in Arizona? Well, it is…the original one. When the original structure could no longer support London traffic, it was sold in 1967 to Robert P. McCulloch, who used it as a promotional gimmick to attract tourists to Lake Havasu. Note: London Bridge is not to be confused with Tower Bridge, the famous icon that’s very much alive and well in London.
Arizona (Oracle): Biosphere 2 – For roadside attractions that have an educational element, Biosphere 2 might make a perfect pit stop for your family. Intended to be a self-sustaining biosphere, it has been functioning as a research and teaching facility since its purchase by the University of Arizona in 2011.
California (Cabazon): Cabazon Dinosaurs – When on the road in southern California, consider detouring to this place, to visit giant sculptures of a Tyrannosaurus rex and an Apatosaurus. The beasts, weighing more than 100 tons, will surely amaze the whole family.
California (Sequoia National Park): General Sherman Tree – Named after American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), this massive tree in the Giant Forest is said to be the largest living single stem tree on Earth. Towering 275 feet into the forest canopy a trunk diameter of 25 feet, it is a sight that will truly take your breath away.
Kansas (Cawker City): World’s Largest Ball of Twine – What’s a roadside attractions list that doesn’t include a “World’s Largest” something? If you’re in luck, you’ll stop by during the “twine-a-thon” in August, when anyone can add more thread to the ever-growing ball.
Massachusetts (Rockport): Paper House – Started in 1922, the bungalow-style, one-story Paper House is the creation of engineer Ellis F. Stenman. The house’s framework and floor are made of wood and the roof is shingled, but the rest of the house, including the furniture, is built entirely of paper.
Oklahoma (Catoosa): The Blue Whale – Forever beached by historic Route 66, the “Blue Whale of Catoosa” was constructed as an anniversary gift from a husband to his wife. Nowadays it has evolved into a fun place to take a break from cross-country driving, have a roadside picnic with the family, and perhaps even take a swim in the pond, a local favorite.
South Carolina (Dillon): South of the Border – You may have stopped at a number of highway rest areas, but you’ve likely never seen one like this. Located just south of the North Carolina and South Carolina borders, this rest area features restaurants, shopping, fireworks and a small amusement park.
Tennessee (Sweetwater): The Lost Sea – This natural wonder in the Craighead Caverns is the largest non-subglacial underground lake in the United States. If you choose to visit the Lost Sea, be sure to take a boat tour.
Virginia (Natural Bridge): Foamhenge – Can’t make it across the Atlantic to Wiltshire, England to visit Stonehenge this summer? No problem. You might be able to visit the next best thing: Foamhenge. Created by artist Mark Cline, this exact replica of England’s famed stone monuments is made entirely of Styrofoam.