Corn Palace to the Jolly Green Giant: 10 Midwest roadside attractions you must see

America’s heartland is home to plentiful crops, rolling hills and orange sunsets. You can find a Dairy Queen next to a cherry tree and park yourself in front of a drive-in movie on a hot summer night. There’s also the world’s largest bottle of ketchup, and enchanted highway and the Jolly Green Giant…. wait, what?

It’s true, travelers. The Midwest is home to many quirky attractions that might seem downright weird, but make for great roadside fun. Here are 10 that are worthy of your time:

World’s Largest Catsup Bottle – Collinsville, Illinois
Along the Mississippi River in tiny Collinsville, Illinois, stands the world’s largest catsup bottle. It was built in 1949 and used to serve as a water tower for the Catsup factory that once existed there. The Catsup tower is 170 feet tall and located next to Route 159.

Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz – Liberal, Kansas
Whether you’re a fan of The Wizard of Oz or simply appreciate the classic film, dropping by this Land of Oz museum is a must. This roadside attraction is located in Liberal, Kansas and visitors can tour a replica of Dorothy’s house in addition to the actual Land of Oz. Don’t forget to say hello to the Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow.

Jolly Green Giant – Blue Earth, Minnesota

Even those who aren’t a fan of vegetables will be mesmerized by this 60 foot tall replica of the Jolly Green Giant. It rests alongside I-90 and Highway 169 in Blue Earth, Minnesota and was built in 1979 to celebrate the city’s canning business.Enchanted HighwayRegent, North Dakota
This 32 mile stretch off I-94 in North Dakota is appropriately dubbed the Enchanted Highway. It was designed by Gary Greff, a ND inhabitant, who wanted to improve the tourism business in the state. The highway features a variety of quirky sculptures, including a giant family made of tin and massive statues of insect and animals.

World’s Largest Easel / Van Gogh replica – Goodland, Kansas
Located along I-70 in the town of Goodland, Kansas passers by can ooh and ah over a 768-square foot replica of Van Gogh’s Three Sunflowers. In addition to being the world’s largest Van Gogh reproduction, it’s also the world’s largest easel.

The House on the Rock – Spring Green, Wisconsin

It may seem a bit dangerous, but don’t be fooled. the House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin is home to an eclectic collection of armor, pipe organs, the world’s largest carousel, fiberglass elephants and pretty much anything else your brain can think up. The house itself is perched atop a rock (hence the name) and located at 5754 Hwy. 23, Spring Green Wisconsin.

The Corn Palace – Mitchell, South Dakota
If there’s one thing the Midwest is especially known for, it’s got to be its infinite supply of corn. Visit the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota and you’ll have all the proof you need. The entire palace-shaped building is constructed of thousands of bushes of corn, grass and grains and is re-furbished annually.

Precious Moments Chapel – Carthage, Missouri
Collector or not, the Precious Moments Chapel is definitely worth checking out. It’s located in Carthage, Missouri and consists of dozens of Precious Moments statues and paintings in and around the chapel. Visitors can stop by from 9 to 5 p.m. on 4321 S. Chapel Road off I-44.

Villisca Ax Murder House – Villisca, Iowa
The Ax Murder House in Villisca, Iowa is coined one of the scariest places on Earth for a good reason. There, an unknown butcher is said to have crept into the house (owned by Josia Moore) to kill Moore, his wife and their six children. The house, located at 323 East 4th. Street, has since turned into a reportedly haunted museum.

Heidelberg Project – Detroit, Michigan
The Heidelberg Project, located at 3600 Hedelberg Street in Detroit, is just as cool-looking as it is beneficial to the Earth. It’s essentially a giant sculpture made of random trash and debris. The urban junkscape consists of cars painted and filled with trashed stuffed animals, painted pieces of plywood and an entire house decorated with brightly colored rubbish.

Wendy Gould is a writer

Universal Studios will be open and filled with annoying people on Thanksgiving & Christmas

America’s most read and chart-filled newspaper is reporting that Universal Studios Hollywood is going to be open to the public on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It will be the first time since 1964 that the park is open on these holidays and it will now be operating 365 days a year (366 in 2008).

I can think of no better way to work off a stomach full of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce than a scintillating whirl on Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride. Nothing says family togetherness more than a day of height restrictions and warnings about people with heart conditions (poor grandma’s going to have to sit out most of the afternoon).

And it’s just not Christmas without a stop at the Waterworld attraction. According to the Universal Studios Hollywood website, “The hit motion picture comes surging to life in a spectacular tidal wave of death-defying stunts, awesome explosions and an ocean of thrills!” Of course, we use the word “hit” quite loosely here.

You’ll being using the phrase “great holiday vacation” loosely, as well, if you choose to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas at this haven for fanny packs and schlocky souvenirs. But hey, who am I to tell you how to celebrate your holidays? If your Turkey Day just isn’t complete without a ride inspired by Backdraft, the 1991 film of moderate success, then, you know, have at it.

As for me, I’ll be home with my family watching football and avoiding large masses of humanity. I prefer to have no one else around me when I vomit.

5 Non-Tourist Destinations in Beijing

Everyone is looking forward to the Olympics. It is expected that well over half-a-million visitors will descend on Beijing during the Games. While all those people will probably contribute to the excitement and energy of the event, it going to be crowded. Imagine trying to visit The Great Wall of China or the Forbidden City in mid-August. The crowds will make a packed weekend at Disney World look like a trip to one of the monasteries where the monks aren’t allowed to speak.

True, many touristy sites will be engorged with sightseers, but Beijing is a huge and wide-ranging city with plenty of corners that will go unnoticed by the visiting masses.

Here are a few places that are well worth visiting but will most likely end up under the radar of the average Olympic tourist.

1. Dashanzi Art District (a.k.a. 798 Art Zone) is the epicenter of Beijing’s independent arts scene. The area is made up of converted factory buildings that now act as art galleries for some of China’s most noteworthy talents. Not an art fan? Dashanzi is still worth a visit for its cafes, tailors, and restaurants. Though the neighborhood has recently gone through a period of gentrification, the arts scene is alive and well and worth a look.

2. The Golden Resources Shopping Mall is located in Haidian District. Yes, it’s in the guidebooks, so it’s not much of a secret, but it’s easy to get lost in. Or rather, it’s easy to lose the crowds by wandering through the twisting passages and multiple levels. There are surprises and bargains all over the place. Even if you are not a hardcore shopper, this is a great place to browse, snap some pictures, and maybe get a souvenir.

3. If you must visit the Great Wall, know that there are other options besides the popular spots at Badaling and Juyongguan. Though it is a little further afield, Simatai is one of the better Wall sites for more than one reason. Unlike the sections nearer the city, Simatai has not been completely rebuilt, meaning you are actually seeing some of the original structures. It is a bonus that it is much less crowded than other sites and boasts some magnificent scenery.

4. Lianhuachi Park has many of the attractions found in the more popular Beihai Park. The pavilions, ponds, rock gardens, and flowers (including thousands of lotuses) are straight out of a classical Chinese painting. Though it is a popular spot for Beijingers, most tourists will probably opt for the more famous Beihai, leaving you in Lianhuachi to snap photos of the ponds and practice tai chi with the locals.

5. Longfusi Snack Street (Dongcheng District) is the place to go for authentic Beijing eats. Restaurants line both sides of the street and there are plenty of vendors as well. Those who want to wander the city guided by their stomachs might also want to try some of the mom-and-pop joints located in the city’s many (but fast disappearing) alleyways (hutong).

Dashanzi gallery by pmorgan
Simatai Great Wall by +Rachel

St. Lucia There & Back Part 3: Rodney Bay Beach

Rodney Bay Beach is like most beautiful tropical beaches and I did what most people do when vacationing near a beach so you can imagine how tough it is for me to divulge every single minute of my wading in crystal clear cool Caribbean waters between working on becoming a golden honey color on the sand. I’d seriously sound like a spoiled hag to sit here and tell you how I sipped on piña coladas and made jokes with the local guys begging for me to join them on one of their jet ski’s while you were more than likely slaving away in some stiff office environment flirting with deadlines and fire-breathing bosses hanging over your back. Then again this could come as a source of inspiration for all of the many Americans who fail to take a little time off from the office. With that being said I will provide you with some Rodney Bay Beach basics.
Rodney Bay
Rodney Bay doesn’t exactly stretch for miles on end, but for the proximate mile you get you’re bound to be sharing your little piece of paradise with several other vacationing tourists. For the most part the beach isn’t so jam-packed that it can’t accommodate your own beach chair and umbrella, but you can count on making friends. If you happen to be visiting the island single (ladies) all the boys working the beach offering boat rides, parasailing adventures, jet ski rides and the opportunity to see life under water while snorkeling or scuba diving are bound to be a little flirty and offer a discounted rate. If you happen to be a honeymooning couple they’ll offer just the same, but with a little less charm and for full price.
Rodney BayDuring my stay I actually didn’t spend a huge amount of my time at the beach. Two days is enough for me before I start mixing things up and venturing to other parts of the island. Most people found lazing on the soft sand with a deck of cards, building sand castles and munching on a few snacks for five or more days the only way to do it in Saint Lucia. That too is totally cool. Anything goes really. When I got antsy I took off on a beach photo safari and here is just a little of what I happened to capture between my two days spent relaxing and listening to the sounds of my reggae tunes found in my iPod. Feel free to use these as suggested methods to making the most of your stay or create an adventure of your own.
Rodney Bay Beach
Should one choose to spring into action and cruise a couple of waves there are tons of options and ways to go for it!
Rodney Bay Beach
Or you can simply contemplate quitting your job back home and moving to St. Lucia to live peacefully as you walk down the entire stretch of the beach.
Rocky Beach Area
Once you reach one end where the sand disappears and the waves begin crashing against the rocks instead you can sit for a moment before walking down to the other end.
Rodney Bay Beach
When you’ve reached the opposite end you might consider finding a good spot to kick back for a while and drift off for a beach nap.
If you’re too hyped to be in Saint Lucia to sleep you can read the latest and greatest novel on all the book sellers lists.
Fruit Man
But when the Fruit Man comes in you should probably get your EC (local currency) ready to buy fresh fruits and juice.
Fruit Man Delivers
Just be sure you do your part in holding his boat while he slices up your fresh n’ fruity goods or he might just float back into the sea.
Rodney Bay Beach
If you’ve got a camera in tow and a few filters to play with you can alter the look of your destination by attempting to make it look dreamier. I tried to, but it didn’t quite hit the mark.

Rodney Bay Beach is located on the northern part of the island and is a prime tourist area. There are tons of restaurants, bars, shops, hotels and nightlife to keep almost everyone busy for at least three or four days.

Photo of the Day (01/20/07)

Niagara TellyToday’s photo comes from my new collection of photos taken in Niagara earlier today. Since I was so ill prepared for a 6 degree photo shoot near the misty falls, I snapped and snapped what I could as fast as I could and then made a mad dash back to the car. It was beautiful, breath-taking and brrr…