By Anthony St. Clair on June 28, 2021 in Travel
Sure, one reason for a road trip is to get from point A to point B — but the places you encounter along the way add pages to the memory book.
America is home to hundreds of quirky roadside attractions. Rest assured, there’s always something fascinating to see in our Say states — or wherever else the road takes you. Without further ado, here are a few of the quirkiest, strangest roadside attractions in the U.S.
Before You Go
Before we start our visits to some of the best off-kilter, off-the-beaten-path attractions America has to offer, please keep these notes in mind.
- Open times are subject to change without notice.
- Many attractions are outside, so dress and pack for the weather.
- Some features or attractions may be unavailable due to the pandemic or the time of year. When possible, call ahead to verify operating hours.
- Listed prices don’t include taxes.
Our Favorite Quirky American Roadside Attractions
Wild Blueberry Land
Columbia Falls, Maine
Maine’s native blueberries may be small, but every one of the state’s official fruit has plenty of juicy flavor. Perhaps nowhere in the Pine Tree State does more to showcase Maine berries than Wild Blueberry Land.
You can find the 220-acre Wild Wescogus Berries farm run by a research farmer and chef duo in “Downeast Maine” near the Pleasant River and Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain.
Buildings (including a blueberry-themed museum) and landscaping mimic and evoke blueberries. Wild Blueberry Land also features a geodesic bakery and gift shop full of tasty blueberry treats, including sweets, pastries, jams, breads, ice cream, pies, jellies, and sauces.
Visit Wild Blueberry Land on the corner of Routes 1 and 187 during the summer and fall months. Make sure to check their website for exact dates and times.
Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Founded in 1902, Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo in Hot Springs once housed more than 1,500 gators, a reptile native to The Natural State.
Who says alligators can’t be cute and cuddly? At the farm, you can feed and hold baby alligators and watch the pros feed the adult alligators.
After getting your fill of baby gator snuggles, visit the farm’s petting zoo to get up close and personal with miniature goats, emu, and sheep. You can also see and learn about other fascinating animals, including mountain lions, raccoons, monkeys, and wolves.
You can visit Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo May through October. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for kids 12 and under, and free for children 2 and under. The farm also offers discounted military, senior, and group rates.
Skulls (starting at $10!). Bottles of embalming fluid. “Mourning pins” worn to remember deceased loved ones. If it’s peculiar, bizarre, and has at least a touch of death or the macabre, you’ll find it in Delaware’s Oddporium.
Founded in 2015 by Arden natives Beth and Ken Schuler, the Oddporium serves as both a museum and a store chock full of oddities. The Schulers like to say they “offer a peek behind history’s dark curtain, from the early trial and error of modern medicine, to the rituals, practices, and how the living mourn the dead.”
Fair enough. The Oddporium isn’t all human skeletons, electroshock therapy machines, and lamps built from bones. You can also take a look at examples of medical records from the 1800s, as well as works from local artists.
The Oddporium is open 12 to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Should you visit? As the sign says, “Ya Gotta Go Sometime.”
Lucy the Elephant
Atlantic City, New Jersey
In 1881, real estate developer James Lafferty built an elephant. It was no mere sculpture though: Originally known as the “Elephant Bazaar,” the six-story tall elephant was a functioning building with an accessible interior. Visitors could even climb up to the covered seat, or howdah, on the elephant’s back.
Renamed Lucy the Elephant in 1902, "The World's Largest Elephant" originally existed to draw the attention of people who wanted to buy real estate in South Atlantic City, known today as Margate City.
Time, neglect, and the marine environment eventually wore Lucy down. By 1969, after serving as a tourist attraction and a tavern, the empty elephant faced eradication. A volunteer community effort raised funds to move the plucky pachyderm to nearby Josephine Harron Park.
The fully restored elephant reopened to the public in 1974 and was added to the list of National Historic Landmarks in 1976. You can visit the park grounds and gift shop free of charge. Visitors may purchase tickets to a 25-minute guided tour of the interior: $8.50 for 12+, or $4 for children 3 to 12 (under 3 is free). Or, keep your eyes on Airbnb: Sometimes Lucy is available for “an elephant-sized stay on the Jersey Shore.”
Few roads possess the same recognition and nostalgia of the famed Route 66, and few cars top the icon status of the classic Cadillac. As you cruise by on the Mother Road just west of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, ponder the symbolism and mystery of 10 classic Cadillacs, all models from 1948 to 1963, half-buried nose-down in the hard Texas ground.
Legend says eccentric local millionaire Stanley Marsh laid — or rather, stood — his old Caddies to rest at Cadillac Ranch whenever he bought a new model. The truth is, in 1973 Marsh commissioned the Ant Farm, a San Francisco artists’ collective, to create an eye-catching piece of public art.
Cadillac Ranch opened in 1974 and relocated in 1997. In 2019, vandals set fire to one of the cars, but it still stands.
Visit Cadillac Ranch for free any time of day or night. You can find it south of today’s I-40 between exits 60 and 62.
The Paper House
Everyone needs a hobby. Sometimes, your hobby can even become your home. For mechanical engineer Elis Stenman, 1922 saw the start of a lifelong intrigue. While building a house in Rockport, a seaside town north of Boston, Stenman wondered how much of the house he could make from newsprint and other paper. Nearly a century later, the Paper House still stands, from its inch-thick varnished paper siding to the functioning interior furniture (including a desk and clock) made from rolls of paper. While an impressive amount of the house features paper, Stenman used wood framing and covered the roof in shingles for durability and weatherproofing.
Stenman used the house — complete with electricity and running water — during the summers until 1930. While allowing people to tour the house since the 1930s, the family didn’t charge admission until 1942. Today Stenman’s grandniece, Edna Beaudoin, runs the Paper House as a museum.
Admission has increased just a bit from the 10 cents charged in the 1940s: $1 for kids 6 to 14, and $2 for adults. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. spring through fall, the Paper House can be a little tricky to find, so check the directions before visiting.
Cave City, Kentucky
Visiting Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park? Less than 10 minutes’ drive east, off I-65’s exit 53, you can picnic in the land of the dinosaurs.
You, your kids, and even your leashed dog can wander Dinosaur World’s replica prehistoric forest, filled with more than 150 life-size dinosaur models. Indoor exhibits showcase artifacts such as raptor claws and dinosaur eggs. Rest during video presentations in the Movie Cave before heading to the dino-themed playground.
Dinosaur World is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving. Some attractions may be closed due to pandemic restrictions. Before you visit, check to see what’s available. For example, while the Fossil Dig remains closed, the $9.75 admission for kids 3 to 12 includes a bag of three real fossils. Adult admission is $12.75 ($10.75 for seniors). Kids under 2 and Active Duty Military can visit for free.
Doll’s Head Trail
Need to stretch your legs? Fancy a dose of nature, albeit with a side of slightly creepy? Head to the 1.5-mile loop of the Doll’s Head Trail in Constitution Lakes Park just outside Atlanta in Georgia’s DeKalb County. You’ll also find a bunch of doll heads.
When a 19th-century brick factory shut down, the dug-out clay pits eventually filled in with water, forming what’s now called the Constitution Lakes. In 2003, the county declared the 125-acre property an urban nature preserve and began adding boardwalks and paved trails.
During hikes at the Constitution Lakes, carpenter and park regular Joel Slaton kept finding discarded appliance parts, pieces from cars, dolls, and more. In 2011, he started arranging this odd collection into art.
Other hikers crafted their own displays, which continually change. Visitors can make contributions — but only from trash (or treasure) found on the park grounds.
You can visit Doll’s Head Trail for free. Enter at the east side of the intersection of Moreland Avenue and South River Industrial Blvd SE, then follow the trail signs.
Coyote’s Flying Saucer Retrieval and Repair Service
Sooner or later, even UFOs break down. East of San Diego, north of the US-Mexico border, and conveniently located just a mile off I-8’s exit 77, Coyote’s Flying Saucer Retrieval and Repair Service can tend to all otherworldly maintenance.
Some abandoned UFOs have been blinged out Earthling-style with Christmas lights. Visitors can even take a saucer for a spin, either mounted on top of a motorized cart or towed by Coyote’s Chevy Blazer.
Also, keep an eye out for skeletons (not necessarily extraterrestrial) in the backs of trucks, and alien faces painted on anything from rocks to traffic cones. Coyote also screens alien-themed shows and series, such as E.T. or The X-Files, on a massive “asteroid” he claims the aliens left him.
To see Coyote at work, follow his Facebook Page or head to 5 In-Ko-Pah Park Road in Ocotillo. Donations are accepted.
Perk up Your Next Trip with a Touch of Quirk
From sea to shining sea, America’s roadsides abound with quirky attractions. Wherever you plan to drive on your next trip, block out time for some of the serendipitous discoveries, laughs, curiosities, and innovations waiting just beyond your car door.