Strange American Roadside Attractions You Have to See to Believe
Anyone who has ever hit the open road in America has likely seen billboards promising all sorts of bizarre and fun wonders to behold. Depending on where you end up, you may greet a chocolate moose, stand beside a friendly alien statue, explore a house carved out of rock, or marvel at an oddity claiming to be the “world’s largest” something.
Part of the fun of any road trip is the spontaneity of checking out hidden gems along the way. These are some of the weirdest, wackiest – and most delightful – roadside attractions the U.S. has to offer.
Hole N” The Rock - Moab, Utah
Not to be confused with a “hole in the wall,” this home carved out of rock is as impressive as it is utterly random. Over a 10-year period, 50,000 cubic feet of sandstone were excavated to create the site, which features a 65-foot chimney, 14 rooms and a giant built-in bathtub. As an additional creepy touch, the interior of the structure also includes an extensive collection of dolls. Oh, and for good measure, there's an exterior carving of Franklin D. Roosevelt's head.
Outside the attraction, you can snap photos of a Jeep covered in license plates and greet a zebra, pygmy goat, donkey, peacocks and other animals at a petting zoo the owners claim is “exotic.”
And of course, you can't leave without buying something at the gift shop; goods include Native American artwork and pottery.
Confusion Hill - Piercy, California
Confusion Hill is, as its name implies, thoroughly confusing – a complex of oddball attractions in the middle of the Northern California redwoods.
The playful and mysterious site claims all sorts of fun curiosities, including its star attraction, the Gravity House. Construction began on the house when the owner, George Hudson, wanted to create something as unique and special as the beautiful nature that surrounded it. So he designed this house filled with optical illusions that make visitors feel like they’re defying gravity.
Nearby, you’ll find a mountain train and the "World's Tallest Free Standing Redwood Chainsaw Carving," a dubious distinction if there ever was one.
For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Confusion Hill also boasts of being the home of the “elusive and rare” (and definitely not real) chipalope, a cross-breed between a chipmunk and an antelope. You can purchase a stuffed chipalope from the gift shop as a keepsake.
In 2010, the site was recognized as a California State Point of Historical Interest. Between the fun mysteries you’ll inevitably experience at the house, the quirkiness of the surrounding attractions, and the beauty of the area, it’s definitely worth a trip.
The World’s Largest Pistachio - Almogordo, New Mexico
You’ll go absolutely nuts – pun very much intended – for this huge pistachio in New Mexico, which claims to be the “largest pistachio nut in the world.” (It’s unclear how many competitors for this distinction exist.)
Constructed to draw people to the area’s pistachio farms, the 30-foot-tall sculpture was unveiled in 2008. It’s not only a goofy tourist attraction, it’s also a tribute to Tom McGinn of the McGinn Pistachio Tree Ranch, who died the year before it was created and was a big fan of whimsical roadside attractions.
Sadly, this nut cannot be eaten, as it’s made out of concrete. But you can try real pistachios at the neighboring farm.
Salvation Mountain - Niland, California
Late visionary and area local Leonard Knight built this remarkable man-made mountain adorned with hand-painted oddities (using non-toxic paints) from scratch. It not only touts bright colors and gorgeous patterns, but Bible verses and Christian sayings, all inspired from and attributed to the “Sinner’s Prayer” of repentance.
This is actually the second Salvation Mountain that Knight constructed. He began the first one in 1984, but it wasn’t stable and caved in. Undeterred, he constructed the still-standing structure you can visit today.
Knight passed away in 2014, leaving the future of the mountain unknown, since the intense conditions of the surrounding desert make maintenance difficult. But so far, local residents and admirers who come to pay homage have repainted the site and taken care of its basic upkeep.
The Fremont Troll - Seattle, Washington
Inspired by Scandinavian folk tales about trolls living under bridges, this public-art sculpture can be found in the Fremont village of Seattle (hence the name) under the George Washington Memorial Bridge.
The troll was built in an effort to rehab the area, and that mission has been accomplished. Standing 18 feet tall, and clutching an actual VW beetle covered in cement (because why not?), the troll has become a popular attraction.
Climb to the top for a photo-op to remember.
Market Theater Gum Wall - Seattle, Washington
If you’ve ever stuck a piece of gum on a wall or under a desk and tried to get away with it without anyone noticing, this is just the attraction for you.
The Market Theater Gum Wall (which is similar to but not the same as Gum Alley in San Luis Obispo in California) can be found in downtown Seattle. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a giant wall, measuring 15 feet high and 50 feet wide, that’s covered in pieces of chewed gum several inches thick.
The tradition began in the early ‘90s when patrons of the theater started leaving chewed gum on the wall and including little coins in it. After attempting to scrub it away a couple times, theater workers decided to just let it be. Soon tourists and locals alike were adding their sticky contributions to the wall.
Some of the gum is shaped like works of art, making for excellent photos. (It should probably go without saying, but as this is one of the least hygienic tourist attractions around, you probably shouldn't test out old gum you see on the wall...)
Lucy the Elephant - Margate City, New Jersey
Fans of “Moulin Rouge” and the giant elephant featured in it will love this New Jersey attraction. Lucy the Elephant (who, alas, has nothing to do with the movie musical) is a huge and beautiful elephant structure that beckons you to come closer and say hello.
Created from wood in 1881 by James V. Lafferty, she stands six stories tall and is the oldest roadside tourist attraction in America. She was originally constructed with the explicit mission of attracting tourists, and has been doing her job faithfully for almost 140 years.
Though she now stands mostly to pose for pictures, she has served as a restaurant and hotel, and was even a private residence for a while. Beloved by locals, she was refurbished and saved in the 1960s thanks to a grassroots campaign after she fell into disrepair.
Carhenge - Alliance, Nebraska
Carhenge is a modernized American version of its ancient namesake, Stonehenge in England.
When its creator, Jim Reinders, began constructing Carhenge in a Nebraska field in the late ‘80s, he decided to copy the style and circular orientation of the original Stonehenge, which he'd visited and studied in England. Only this version would come with a twist: Instead of stones, the monument was built using classic American cars.
Vehicles were spray-painted gray to look like stones and stacked on top of each other, creating a surprisingly uncanny (well, kind of) replica of the real thing.
The site was officially dedicated in 1987 and has been a tourist attraction ever since. Now owned by the Citizens of Alliance, it has gained in popularity and notoriety and is featured in all sorts of documentaries, books, movies and commercials.
Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, Texas
If Carhenge tickles your fancy, don’t miss out on this similarly themed site in Texas.
Created as an art installation in the ‘70s, Cadillac Ranch features 10 up-ended Cadillacs with their noses buried in the sand. They stand next to each other in chronological order based on age (spanning from the late ‘40s to early ‘60s) so you can see how cars have evolved while marveling at the strangeness of it all.
Unlike Carhenge, which was spray-painted to resemble stones, Cadillac Ranch is all about bright, bold color. Vehicles are often repainted for various reasons – in honor of gay pride, for example. But they often end up showcasing the multi-colored stylings of local graffiti artists, whose work is encouraged by creators to foster an interactive experience.
Dog Bark Park Inn - Cottonwood, Idaho
Fans of dogs will howl at the opportunity to stay inside a giant beagle structure next time they’re in Idaho. The hotel (which is also listed on Airbnb) was constructed in 2003 and is officially the world’s biggest beagle. (Again, we’re unsure how many other massive fake beagles are clamoring for that title.)
Standing next to the giant beagle is a baby beagle, who is also larger-than-life. The two structures together attract looky-loo tourists and dog-lovers drawn to the site’s canine-themed goodies.
The husband-and-wife artist team behind the structure specialize in creating wood carvings of different dog breeds, which can be found throughout the property. They got their break selling their carvings on QVC in the ‘90s, which is where they got the money to build the Dog Bark Park Inn.
The Inn was awarded the certificate of excellence on Trip Advisor in 2016, and its popularity continues to grow. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the hotel is indeed pet-friendly.
World's Largest Brick Made of Bricks - Montgomery, Alabama
Unfortunately, this is not the world’s largest brick. That honor belongs to a brick made by a manufacturing company in Texas.
But this is, as the name so helpfully states, the World’s Largest Brick Made of Bricks. And because the actual-largest brick is trucked around to trade shows, this is also the world’s largest stationary brick.
At once odd and imposing, this structure composed of small bricks is more impressive that it might sound, and makes for a delightful photo-op. Plus, the attraction is open to the public and interaction is highly encouraged.
The Thing - Dragoon, Arizona
If you’ve ever driven near Dragoon, Arizona (located between El Paso, Texas and Tucson, Arizona), you’ve undoubtedly seen myriad playful and bright billboards advertising “The Thing.”
Kept in a box on its own, the top-secret “thing” is a major tourist draw – but there’s plenty of other fun delights to enjoy at this roadside curiosity. A museum, located inside painted metal sheds, features a Rolls-Royce used by Hitler (or so the owners claim), a World War I-era photo of actual alien spacecraft (again, according to the owners) and, um, a pistol-wielding alien perched on the back of a dinosaur.
And what exactly is the “thing” itself, you ask? The internet has pictures and likely explanations to answer that very question. But why spoil the fun? Instead, make this a pit stop on your next road trip, to unlock the mystery first-hand.
UFO Watchtower - Hooper, Colorado
After hearing for years that her area was a popular spot for UFO sightings and otherworldly activities, Judy Messoline decided in the year 2000 to take advantage of the tales and create an official area to spot and see UFOs on her property.
She appropriately named it the UFO Watchtower and created a website (that still screams early internet) with more information for curious customers. Today, the area is popular among people who earnestly want to see an alien – and people who simply want to take a picture with a goofy statue of one.
The attraction allows you to wander through and learn about some of the more famous sightings in the area. If you’re really feeling adventures, camping is allowed and encouraged year-round on the property for a minimal fee.
The Enchanted Highway - Regent, North Dakota
If you drive along this magical highway, you’ll be awed by the large, beautiful metal structures scattered along it. Created in part to help save struggling small towns in the area by drawing in tourists and their money, these scrap-metal structures are truly a sight to behold.
The sculptures are inspired by rural life in the area, and include farmers, grasshoppers and pheasants. There’s even a structure of Teddy Roosevelt, who once hunted in the area. Each of the seven giant installations includes a surrounding hang-out area, and pictures and picnics are encouraged.
More recently, the Enchanted Castle Hotel was built near the highway to capitalize on the popularity of the sites. The property includes a medieval-themed tavern and a restaurant decorated with suits of armor.
Lenny the Chocolate Moose - Scarborough, Maine
Perhaps the most delicious of all roadside attractions, this yummy chocolate moose can be found just south of Portland, Maine.
To be fair, Lenny isn’t pure chocolate, as he’s mounted on a structure made of steel slabs. And also, you can’t actually attempt to eat him – he’s guarded by a wooden fence to prevent licking. But you can fill up on confections at Len Libby Candies, the ice cream parlor/candy shop that he calls home.
The largest animal chocolate structure in existence, Lenny is downright impressive. He’s been standing tall since 1997; unlike other food-based attractions that have fallen apart, he’s managed to survive thanks to the coldness of the ice-cream shop.
No wonder so many road-trippers are sweet on his charms.