Road trips are meant to be fun, meaningful, and inspire some reflection as you set out for the great open roads. When the driving gets a little dull, though, there’s plenty to see on the side of the road.
The eastern portion of the United States is home to many world-recognized sites, but many of these grandiose tourist destinations overshadow the lesser-known, roadside attractions that are just as worthy of your time. Here’s a round up of some of the best off-the-beaten path attractions along the east and west coasts that are worthy of a break on your next road trip:
Museum of Bad Art – Dedham, Massachusetts
The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) in Massachusetts boasts a collection of art so bad, it’s good. Visitors to this museum can peruse the various galleries, which contains an impressive (or is it non-impressive?) 400 pieces as part of its permanent collection. Popular pieces include their “Mana Lisa” — a painting that looks like the he-version of da Vinci’s famous smiling woman, among others.
Lucy the Elephant - Margate, New Jersey
At over 120 years old, New Jersey’s Lucy the Elephant boasts the title of America’s oldest roadside attraction. She’s constructed of entirely wood and tin, stands 65 feet tall and weighs in at a whopping 90 tons. For $4 a person ($2 kids), visitors can walk inside Lucy’s belly.
The Shoe House – York, Pennsylvania
Ever heard of the old lady who lived in a shoe? Turns out, that old tale may have actually been true. Located off the Hellam exit on U.S. 30 stands an actual, livable house in the shape of a shoe. It was constructed in 1948 by Colonel Mahlon N. Haines as part of an advertising gimmick.
Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard – South Burlington, Vermont
Every time a flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream gets the boot, it makes a final resting place in their Waterbury cemetery. Each flavor gets a proper headstone so that visitors can walk by and pay their respects (free of cost). May Hunka Burnin’ Fudge and Economic Crunch rest in piece.
If there’s one thing Nackawic, New Brunswick in New Jersey is known for, it’s the gigantic ax that rests along the banks of the Saint John River. The ax represents the small town’s major impact in the world of forestry.
Miles the Monster – Dover, Delaware
Towering above the Dover International Speedway in Delaware you can find Miles the Monster, the mascot with menacing red eyes who watches over the NASCAR track. With a race car clutched in one had and a giant, muscular figure made of stone, Miles can be quite intimidating.
Yankee Siege Trebuchet – Greenfield, New Hampshire
You don’t have to know a lot about medieval warfare to appreciate the Yankee Siege Trebuchet in Greenfield, New Hampshire. This giant, 25,000 pound trebuchet (a chucking device) is most famous for its ability to hurl pumpkins incredibly long distances. In fact, in 2009 it set a world record by throwing a pumpkin 2,034 feet.
Secret Caverns – Cobleskill, New York
The secret caverns just outside Albany, New York were discovered in the late 1920s when a few cows had an unfortunate fall into an 85 foot deep hole. Explorers decided to check out what was down the hole and happened upon a magnificent 100 foot waterfall. To check out this natural phenomenon yourself, Take I-88 to exit 22 and follow the hand-painted road signs.
The Thing - Tuscon, Arizona
Located off exit 322 on Interstate 10 exists something that travelers refer to as, “The Thing.” So what is this thing, exactly? Supposedly, it’s a mummified mother with her dear child. If that weren’t enough, the museum also features a car rumored to be owned by Hitler himself and a stuffed Armadillo clutching a beer.
Trinity Site – Whites Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
On July 16, 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated in New Mexico, an area now referred to as the Trinity Site. Tourists are able to visit the site twice a year — the first Saturday in April and October, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. There, you can view the 12-foot obelisk that marks the explosions hypocenter and walk around the huge crater, which is still littered with green, glassy pieces formed by the explosion.
Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas
This free roadside attraction is one of Texas’ most famous. It’s located in Amarillo along old Route 66 (Interstate 40) and was created in 1974 by artists who referred to themselves as Ant Farm. The art consists of 10 Cadillac cars halfway buried into the ground and covered in paint. Visitors can add to the artwork by painting their names or a picture.
World’s Tallest Thermometer – Death Valley, California
This 134-foot working thermometer is easily the world’s largest. It’s home is in Death Valley, California at 72155 Baker Blvd. Passers by can stop for pictures or simply determine what the current outside temperature is.
Giant Cabazan Dinosaurs – Cabazon, California
Nestled between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California, tourists and locals alike can walk –or drive– amongst the world’s largest dinosaur statues. These life-sized dinos are part of a museum that’s open year round (excluding holidays) to adults and children. Visit this Western roadside attraction and you may feel like you’re living in prehistoric times.
Metaphor: Tree of Utah – Wendover, Utah
If you’re already in Utah to visit the state’s famous salt flats, you may as well take a gander at this quirky tourist attraction. It’s nicknamed the “Tree of Utah,” and is a tree-like statue created in the early ’80s by Karl Momen, a Swedish artist. It’s located on the north side of I-80 approximately 95 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Antler Arches – Jackson, Wyoming
The Antler Arches of Jackson, Wyoming are precisely what they sound like: arches that is constructed out of dozens of antlers. The arches themselves are pretty massive and rest at each of the four corners of Jackon’s town square.
Shoe Tree – Shaniko, Oregon
If you have an old pair of shoes to spare, you may as well chuck them onto the famous shoe tree in Alfafa, Oregon. After all, the tree houses hundreds of random shoes, tied together and swung over branches. You can find this quirky tree on Highway 26, east of Mitchell, Oregon near mile marker 89.
TV Simpsons’ House Replica – Las Vegas, Nevada
Even if you’re not an avid fan of television’s The Simpson family, chances are you’re at least familiar with the long-running series. In 1997, a house was constructed to look exactly like the Simpsons’ humble abode in Las Vegas, Nevada right off exit 64 on Interstate 515. The house is 2,200 square feet and part of a new subdivision appropriately titled, “Springfield.”