There are roadside stores and attractions that are worth driving to. In some cases towns wouldn’t exist unless it wasn’t for the store. With the bounties of kitsch, confections, food, and often an array of items that offer endless possibilities of items to buy–or wonder who in his or her right mind would buy such a thing, some places are hard to resist.
According to the reader survey conducted by USA Today recently, these are the top five favorite roadside stores in the United States. I’m wondering why the term “store” was used because in two cases stores aren’t involved at all. Bessie the Cow stands where she used to grace the front of a store called Oasis. Oasis was bulldozed under and a Menards was built on the land. If Oasis was great, why was it bulldozed under?
Still, it’s an intriguing collection that offers ideas for places to head, either on their own, or when you’re on the way to somewhere else. You’ll see Bessie is number 4.
- South of the Border – Dillon, South Carolina, 33%
The first time we drove to Hilton Head Island, we stopped at a small roadside stand that sold fireworks. Unlike that stand which was a one trick pony, South of Border, is a store and more. Fireworks is only a fraction of the bounty. You can’t miss it if you’re on
I-75 I-95. Pedro, a 97-feet-tall statue of a Mexican man in a sombrero, stands by the store’s sign.
Back in 1936 when no one was stopping at the drugstore in Wall as they drove by after seeing the newly finished Mt. Rushmore, owners Ted and Dorothy Huestead began passing out free glasses of ice water to attract customers and be nice. The result is that the store has grown to be an over-the-top, you have to stop to see it type of place.
- Rock City-Tennessee, 15%
There is a store at Rock City, but the main attraction, from what I gather is the landscape. Located on top of Lookout Mountain, six miles from Chattanooga, there is a mix of fabricated attractions and ones that nature did on its own. Here you can see 7 states, tour a cavern and wander among rock formations that astound. Plus, buy stuff. Lots of it.
This 20 foot-long, one-ton bovine made out of fiberglass, stands where she used to stand after being refurbished. Here’s an idea. There needs to be a Bessie, the Cow ice-cream stand to highlight Wisconsin’s dairy hertiage. It could be next to Bessie. Here’s an article about Bessie’s return.
The Thing-Dragoon, Arizona, 9%
The Thing is a tourist attraction that is hard to explain, although there are 247 billboards that over a 200 mile stretch of highway between Deming, New Mexico and Mountain View, Arizona.
One you get to the Mystery of the Desert, you pay a small admission to enter for the chance to solve the mystery. According to the description on Roadside America, there are more than one thing to look at, each as unusual as the next. There are also The Thing related memorabilia to buy. Considering this place has been around since 1950, in today’s economy, that’s a reason to drive there. If you head to Deming, New Mexico, you won’t be far from Silver City, a very cool New Mexican town that is worth a stop as well.
I’ve driven by Wall Drug three times at least and have never stopped. I haven’t been able to talk my husband into it–yet. Next time. I’m determined. I want the cheap coffee at least. I’ve seen a sign advertising it.