Top Roadside Attractions in the U.S.
Road trips aren't all fun and games. They can get monotonous at times while driving across long stretches of uninterrupted highways. A good way to break up the monotony is a roadside attraction.
No one needs roadside attractions more than Americans exploring their country by car. It's a good thing the United States has countless roadside stops. Many of them are nothing special, but some have become actual destinations, inspiring people to drive just to see them.
These are America’s best roadside attractions.
25. Museum of American Glass
*Note: Ranking and scores are based on a Money study.
Location: Millville, New Jersey
Score: 62.5 (out of 100)
Bottom line: Established in 1993, the Museum of American Glass is all about glassmaking. The collection has more than 20,000 items and a library with more than 1,500 books on the subject.
Items include a stained glass dollhouse, glass perfume bottles and artistic sculptures made of glass.
Visit the Museum of American Glass
Location: Alliance, Nebraska
Bottom line: Americans no longer have to be jealous of England's mysterious Stonehenge. After all, the U.S. now has Carhenge, which is exactly what it sounds like.
The curious project began in 1987, when artist Jim Reinders brought together family and friends to help him replicate the famous stone structures with cars. The result is a pretty good replica that uses an ambulance, a truck and several cars, all painted gray.
The project was appropriately unveiled in the summer solstice and is now the major (or only) reason people visit Alliance, Nebraska.
23. Prada Marfa
Location: Valentine, Texas
Bottom line: If you live in the city, a Prada store won't make you do a double-take. But if you're on the road in the Texas desert, you may think you're seeing a mirage when you run into this sculpture.
Made by the team Elmgreen and Dragset, the installation is somehow meant to be a commentary on Western consumerism, since the store's location is ridiculous. The building is also made of biodegradable materials that will eventually (and we mean, very eventually) disintegrate.
But maybe the most interesting thing about Prada Marfa are the weird conspiracy theories that have sprung up around it. Some people believe it is an alien trap. Visit at your own risk.
Visit Prada Marfa
21. USS Albacore (Tie)
Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Bottom line: The USS Albacore was once the most advanced submarine the U.S. Navy possessed. While it has since been dethroned, it still is considered the blueprint for the modern submarine. Its importance is commemorated at the USS Albacore Museum in New Hampshire.
What makes this roadside attraction so cool is that you won't just stop and take a picture in front of the submarine. Rather, you can go inside, see what the control group looks like, play with the periscope and even go into the bunk rooms where the crew slept.
Visit the USS Albacore
21. Granite Sculptures of Hope Cemetery (Tie)
Location: Barre, Vermont
Bottom line: Elaborate tombstones have made many cemeteries around the world into attractions, but no cemetery has a story quite like this one. Hope Cemetery is located in Barre, a city known for its granite sources that brought stone carvers to it in the late 19th century.
Granite mining led to the town having an abnormally high death rate. Coupled with the tragic Spanish Flu, this led many stone carvers to carve their own tombstones in preparation for their death.
The tombstones range from classic religious representations and headstones to unique carvings representing the deceased's interest. Knowing that the people resting beneath them are the same people that carved them certainly adds some interest to the cemetery.
Visit the Granite Sculptures of Hope Cemetery
19. Devil’s Rope Museum (Tie)
Location: McLean, Texas
Bottom line: Who knew barbed wire could be so interesting? Most people often overlook it as something that simply exists, like roads and chairs. But this museum urges you to look past that and find the interesting history behind the fencing material.
The devil's rope, as it is also called, is used to keep both animals and humans in and out of places. You can expect a collection that has a lot of range, going from cattle ranching to prisons. The museum is part of the iconic Route 66.
Visit Devil’s Rope Museum
19. Exhibition Coal Mine (Tie)
Location: Beckley, West Virginia
Bottom line: If you've ever wondered what it was like to work in a coal mine in the early 20th century, this is the roadside attraction for you.
You can go deep into the mine and learn about the work from the mouth of retired miners. The tour also takes you through the coal camp, where miners used to live.
Visit Exhibition Coal Mine
18. The Windsor Ruins
Location: Port Gibson, Mississippi
Bottom line: Once the largest antebellum Greek Revival mansion in Mississippi, Windsor Mansion is now completely in ruins. The house burned down in 1890 after a guest dropped ashes from a cigarette on the floor. All that is left now are 23 columns that once kept the house erect.
But don't feel bad about it. The mansion's owner, Smith Coffee Daniell II, was a plantation owner who built his wealth by forcing enslaved people to plant cotton. So this was more karma than anything.
Visit The Windsor Ruins
17. O.K. Corral
Location: Tombstone, Arizona
Bottom line: Any fan of the Wild West has heard of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The standoff is believed to be the era's most famous gunfight. It has been immortalized in many films, most notably in a 1957 film starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas.
Though the fight itself took place near the O.K. Corral, the former horse stable has become the site where the gunfight is commemorated. Live re-enactments of the fight are performed multiple times a day. There also are other photos and exhibitions about life in the Wild West.
Visit the O.K. Corral
16. Enchanted Highway
Location: Regent, North Dakota
Bottom line: Since 1989, the Enchanted Highway has made driving through southwestern North Dakota much more fun. The collection of giant sculptures are placed at intervals, so that drivers can enjoy scenes from nature and life in the state.
Most of the sculptures have their own rest stop. So you can get out and take pictures while stretching your legs.
Visit the Enchanted Highway
15. Snake Alley
Location: Burlington, Iowa
Bottom line: Skip San Francisco's crowded Lombard Street and head to Snake Alley instead. Constructed in 1894, this street crosses a residential area like a slithering, winding snake.
Drivers have fun heading down the street and testing out their skills on its sharp curves.
Visit Snake Alley
14. Showmen's Rest
Location: Hugo, Oklahoma
Bottom line: As the name suggests, Showmen's Rest is the final resting place for many people and animals who worked in circuses. It is part of Mount Olivet Cemetery and attracts people passing through Oklahoma with its circus-inspired tombstones and memorials.
There is also a section specifically for bull riders, though the trapeze artists' tombstones are also a visitor favorite.
Visit Showmen's Rest
13. Beasts of Borrego Springs
Location: Borrego Springs, California
Bottom line: This gigantic sculpture garden in the desert is the result of a collaboration between a happenstance sculpture artist and a prehistoric enthusiast with land in Borrego Springs.
After inheriting three square miles of land in the desert, Dennis Avery commissioned artist Ricardo Breceda to make his signature metal sculptures. In five years, the land was decorated with 133 metal sculptures that depict prehistoric animals native to the region, dinosaurs, modern animal species, humans and magical creatures.
Visitors enjoy going on a scavenger hunt through the desert by car and foot to find as many creatures as they can.
Visit the Beasts of Borrego Springs
11. Hanford Nuclear B Reactor (Tie)
Location: Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Washington
Bottom line: The Hanford Nuclear Reservation was the site used to build the first nuclear reactor in the world. As part of the Manhattan Project, the site played a key role in the development of the atomic bomb that tragically destroyed Nagasaki during the last months of World War II.
Because of its history, the site has been preserved and can be toured by anyone wishing to understand more of the country's history of nuclear arms.
Visit the Hanford Nuclear B Reactor
11. Grotto of the Redemption (Tie)
Location: West Bend, Iowa
Bottom line: Built in what is believed to be the largest grotto on Earth, this site is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein, a German-born priest, offered to build a shrine to the Virgin if she spared him from a dangerous bout of pneumonia. After surviving the episode, the priest began constructing the shrine in 1912.
The site was completed in 1959 and now includes nine grottos decorated with religious sculptures and precious gemstones.
Visit the Grotto of the Redemption
10. Spam Museum
Location: Austin, Minnesota
Bottom line: What Spam is made of is kind of a mystery, but you can learn more about it at a museum dedicated solely to the canned product. You may not be able to figure out how pork meat doesn't go bad, but you'll know how it was invented and how it's become a worldwide phenomenon.
The coolest part of the exhibition shows you the global impact of Spam, which manifests in surprising ways. Did you know that the product is extremely popular in Korea and that there's even a Korean soup made with it? You would if you visited this museum.
Visit the Spam Museum
9. Lizzie Borden Murderabilia
Location: Fall River, Massachusetts
Bottom line: True crime fans visit this house museum to speculate on one of the country's most famous cold cases. Back in 1892, a woman named Lizzie Borden was accused of killing her father and stepmother with an ax. Though later acquitted, the mystery of whether she did or didn't do it remains, almost 130 years later.
The museum-house where the "muderabilia" is held is not the site of the murders, but the Falls River Historical Society. You can also visit the actual house, which is now a bed and breakfast.
Visit the Lizzie Borden Murderabilia
8. Nashville Parthenon
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Bottom line: Don't have the time or money to visit Athens? Head to Nashville instead to see an exact replica of the city's most iconic landmark: the Parthenon.
One of the world's most famous structures, the original Parthenon is largely in ruins (though it's still very much worth a trip). This replica mimics it at the height of its glory.
William Crawford Smith built it in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. It now sits permanently in Nashville's Centennial Park.
Visit the Nashville Parthenon
7. Lucy the Elephant
Location: Margate City, New Jersey
Bottom line: Jumbo the elephant was one of P.T. Barnum's most profitable attractions. He named the poor exploited animal as "the largest elephant on Earth" — a claim that he clearly made up, but that people still believed.
In 1882, a man named James V. Lafferty built a large elephant just outside of Jersey City modeled after Jumbo and called it "Lucy." While it was just a real estate publicity stunt, it worked enough to get the statue National Historic Landmark status. Now, you can actually go in the elephant, climb a spiral staircase and learn about the story of the real Lucy.
Lucy the Elephant is the country's oldest roadside attraction that still stands.
Visit Lucy the Elephant
6. Jolly Green Giant
Location: Blue Earth, Minnesota
Bottom line: This 55.5-foot statue of the iconic Jolly Green Giant was a publicity stunt, but not for the Jolly Green Giant Company. The statue was commissioned by Paul Hedberg, a citizen of Blue Earth who wanted to attract people to his town as the highway was being built through it.
Why the giant? Simply because there was a canning factory for the company in Blue Earth. We know, it's very random. And while the Jolly Green Giant Company probably got money from the publicity, it didn't pay a dime for it.
Blue Earth doesn't mind though, since the statue still brings people into the town.
Visit the Jolly Green Giant
5. World’s Largest Beagle
Location: Cottonwood, Idaho
Bottom line: Unlike other giant sculptures on here, this very random sculpture of two giant beagles was built as a bed and breakfast. Visitors can come and take a picture with the dogs, but true dog fans can spend the night in the larger sculpture, which is 30 feet tall.
The property, Dog Bark Park, also has other sculptures depicting animals like bears and moose. There's also a gift shop for those who like whimsical souvenirs.
Visit the World’s Largest Beagle
4. The Fremont Troll
Location: Seattle, Washington
Bottom line: The troll from your children's books comes alive under Seattle's George Washington Memorial Bridge. The 18-foot-tall troll holds a real car under his hand, to amuse and terrify all those who have driven over the bridge.
The troll is a famous tourist attraction and photo op spot. It was even used as the location for a scene in "10 Things I Hate About You" with Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Visit The Fremont Troll
3. Devil’s Tower
Location: Crook County, Wyoming
Bottom line: The only natural attraction on this list, the Devil's Tower is worth an entire Wyoming road trip. The national monument is 900 feet tall and is sacred to many of the Native American tribes of the area.
The butte is representative of Wyoming's astonishing nature and is very popular with rock climbers.
Visit the Devil’s Tower
2. Seven Magic Mountains
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Bottom line: You won't find a why for this colorful installation. Then again, does anything need a reason to exist in Las Vegas? The art piece is made up of seven stacks, all measuring 30 feet and made from sandstone.
The installation is in the desert, just outside of the city, and is set to be taken down at the end of 2021 — one more reason to go to Vegas soon.
Visit Seven Magic Mountains
1. Salvation Mountain
Location: Calipatria, California
Bottom line: The result of decades of work on two sites by artist Leonard Knight, Salvation Mountain is a world-famous roadside attraction. The mountain rises 50 feet and extends 150 feet, making it a gigantic addition to the Sonoran Desert.
Made with adobe and straw, the mountain is painted with nontoxic paint and decorated with scriptures from the Bible, as well as natural and patriotic motifs. People road-tripping through the desert often make a stop here for a colorful photo session.
Visit Salvation Mountain