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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.

One of the best parts of any road trip is stopping along the way to see whatever quirky, cool roadside attractions await just off the highway. While most were created mid-century to attract traffic—and tourist dollars—into adjacent towns and businesses, America is now home to a whole range of roadside gems. Some of these landmarks have vintage charm (see the Mitchell Corn Palace), some claim to be the world’s largest something or other (see Swampy), some are true artistic wonders (Nevada’s Seven Magic Mountains), while some are just plain odd (the Cabazon Dinosaurs). But we love them all, and recommend you budget in some time on your next road trip to check out as many as you can. Your Insta will thank you!

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Cabazon Dinosaurs: Cabazon, CA

Cabazon Dinosaurs | Flickr CC: Sillars Class

If these two towering dinos off Interstate 10 outside Palm Springs look familiar, it might be from the 1985 film Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Knott’s Berry Farm theme park artist Claude Bell started building the dinos in 1968 to attract visitors to his adjacent restaurant, the Wheel Inn. Though the eatery shuttered in 2013, you can still visit the two steel-and-concrete dinos known as Dinny and Mr. Rex, though Dinny’s interior now serves as a creationist gift shop and museum.

Prada, Marfa: Marfa, TX

Prada Marfa | Flickr CC courtesy of Mobilus in Mobili

It’s hard to reach because it’s in the literal middle of nowhere, but it also hard to miss given that it’s surrounded by nothing but vast desert expanse. Nevertheless, this Prada store replica right off U.S. Highway 90 is every road tripper’s dream prize thanks to its exacting detail (yes, you will see shoes and handbags through the window), its photo-readiness and its proximity to artsy Marfa which, be forewarned, is still another 26 miles up the road!

World’s Largest Six-Pack: La Crosse, WI

World’s Largest Six Pack | Flickr CC courtesy of Ben Tesch

We don’t care what your tolerance level is, there’s no way you could polish off this many suds. We know this because this replica six-pack initially constructed at the G. Heileman Brewery in La Crosse in 1969, but sold to another beverage manufacturer 30 years later, is large enough to contain 7 million 12-ounce cans! Today the cans promote LaCrosse Lager, but still make for an excellent photo op and worthy detour for motorists trekking between Chicago and Minneapolis.

Christ of the Ozarks: Eureka Springs, AR

Christ of the Ozarks | Flickr CC courtesy of Balaji

Eureka Springs is one of our favorite small towns. Within city limits there are no traffic lights and no two streets intersect at a 90-degree angle. There’s also a hotel built into the side of a mountain (so that every floor is a ground floor), Thorncrown Chapel (made entirely of glass) and much more. But looming large over the entire area is this 20-meter statue of Christ constructed in 1966 as part of a religious campus that also includes the seasonal Great Passion Play.

Salvation Mountain: Niland, CA

Salvation Mountain | Flickr CC courtesy of Kevin Dooley

Located south of I-10 in Southern California near the Salton Sea, this monument to god’s love leans more folk art than roadside attraction, but it’s a must-see nonetheless. Inspired by god, Leonard Knight began creating the visionary mountain environment in 1984, but had to rebuild it completely of haybales and adobe after the first iteration collapsed. While the artist passed away in 2014, the site is still maintained by his friends and makes for an excellent stop on any Palm Springs or Joshua Tree road trip.

Lucy the Elephant: Margate, NJ

Lucy the Elephant, Atlantic City

Lucy the elephant | Flickr photo courtesy of Jim McIntosh

This is the only elephant that we’ll allow to be kept in activity. A Jersey Shore icon, this oversized pachyderm was built in 1881 in the nearby town of Margate (formerly South Atlantic City) and just a few miles south of the famed Boardwalk. Formerly both a private residence and restaurant, she is now a museum and local attraction. Climb the stairs for a panoramic view atop Lucy’s back.

Cadillac Ranch: Amarillo, TX

Cadillac Ranch | Flickr CC courtesy of Mobilus in Mobili

This row of ten mid-century Cadillacs half buried in the ground along the Mother Road is probably the mother of all modern American road side attractions. You’ll find Cadillac Ranch’s line of heavily spray painted vehicles along old Route 66 west of Amarillo, where a group of Bay Area art-hippies called The Ant Farm teamed up with eccentric local millionaire Stanley Marsh III to create the baffling—and highly Insta-worthy—art installation in 1974.

World’s Largest Picnic Basket: Newark, OH

Photo courtesy of Jason Heidemann

This roadside attraction in Newark, about 40 minutes outside of Columbus, will beg you to utter the phrase, “Nice basket!” Constructed in 1997, Ohio’s “Big Basket” is the onetime headquarters of the Longaberger Basket Company, which moved its last employees out of the building and into a nearby manufacturing plant in 2016. The building’s future is uncertain, but for now it remains a cool photo op (maybe a trick shot where it looks like you’re holding the basket?).

Seven Magic Mountains: Jean, NV

Seven Magic Mountains | Flickr CC courtesy of Thomas

These neon stacked boulders near I-15 just ten miles south of Las Vegas are by far one of the newest attractions on this list, having been created in 2016 by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. The seven painted towers, which create a beautiful contrast to their drab desert backdrop, were meant to be a temporary art installation, but they proved so popular that the exhibit was extended indefinitely. Make this your escape from the lights and action of the Strip on your next Vegas trip!

Blue Whale of Catoosa: Catoosa, OK

Photo courtesy of Jason Heidemann

Route 66  is a thrilling rush of a road trip from downtown Chicago to the Santa Monica Pier, but it gets slightly dull right around eastern Oklahoma, that is until you come upon this partially submerged beast constructed in the early ’70s as an anniversary gift from husband to wife. Now a bona fide attraction featuring a picnic area, it makes for a nice photo op en route to another Route 66 icon—Pops Arcadia, a soda ranch just outside Oklahoma City.

Mitchell Corn Palace: Mitchell, SD

Mitchell Corn Palace | Flickr CC courtesy of Scott Robinson

The many signs along Interstate 90 in South Dakota touting the “World’s Only Corn Palace” may have tempted you on road trips past, and if you haven’t indulged before, plan on indulging next time. First built in 1892, this kitschy but classic Midwest roadside attraction was built to show off the town of Mitchell’s agricultural offerings. While the Moorish Revival building isn’t actually built of corn, its exterior is adorned with impressive murals made of grains that are redesigned and reconstructed every year.

“Swampy” the World’s Largest Alligator: Christmas, FL

Swampy’s World’s Largest Alligator | Flickr CC courtesy of Jared

When it comes to roadside attractions, they’re often preceded by the phrase “world’s largest.” Well, Swampy the Alligator in Christmas, Florida, right along Highway 192, is no exception. The 200-foot-long attraction actually houses the offices, gift shop and ticket counter of Jungle Adventures Nature Animal Park, a gator farm attraction. If Swampy is your kind of thing and you happen to be in this part of Central Florida, you’re in luck—Highway 192 is also home to other quirky roadside attractions like Merlin the wizard, mermaids, giant golf balls and the self-proclaimed “world’s largest gift shop.”

Tagged: California, Cheap City, USA, Cheap Tips, Destinations, Florida, Texas, Top 10 list, Types of Travel

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Jason Heidemann and Martina Sheehan

Jason Heidemann and Martina Sheehan

2 thoughts on “12 great American roadside attractions”

  1. Folks, the address on your last item is incorrect. This place with the giant Swampy is on State Road 50 east of Orlando (Christmas is a small crossroads community in east Orange County, almost to the east coast of Florida.
    Highway 192, with also runs east and west, is quite a few miles south of 50 — you are correct that it is the locale for the Merlin statue, a giant orange, etc. Highway 192 is featured in the movie “The Florida Story,” about a single mom and daughter’s lives in hard-luck motels along this tourist strip. But Swampy is farther north.

  2. This is great info for road trips. I’m already planning on going to see swampy n check out the parks up that way. Thanks!

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