Although summer gets all of the road-trip attention, we happen to believe fall is just as perfect a time to hit the highway. Maybe it’s even better: It’s not so hot that your car’s interior becomes an oven after sitting in the parking lot for less than an hour. The fall colors are unspeakably gorgeous. There are fewer tourists and throngs of vacationing groups — and that last part is a kicker if you’re into stopping at roadside attractions.
Some of the nation's coolest among them can get pretty packed in the summer, but fall? Not so much. And some U.S. roadside attractions are just so gloriously weird that you have to see them to believe them.
If you plan on packing up the car for a trip in the coming months, make a point to stop at one — or several — of these kitschy, funky, strange road-trip favorites. You’ll get a taste of some unusual and beloved Americana while snapping some unforgettable photos simultaneously for that Insta feed.
1. South Of The Border
It would be difficult to miss this South Carolina attraction because there are signs for miles upon miles leading up to it. And then there’s the towering sombrero-wearing statue of the attraction’s mascot, Pedro, who welcomes travelers to the grounds. (And we agree he is not exactly the most PC marketing tactic.) Located on the border of the Carolinas, this roadside stop offers restaurants, gift shops, a motel, gas stations, a no-longer-functional amusement park, and a still-functioning mini golf course. It’s all spectacularly campy and has survived through the decades; it first opened in 1950.
Leave it to the U.S. to try to reinterpret a foreign attraction. (Vegas's global landmarks in casino form comes to mind.) Carhenge is a Stonehenge inspired sculpture made from cars that have been painted gray and arranged in a similar manner to the stones of the famous site. You’ll have to drive through Nebraska to see it, but you won’t want to miss it if you’re in the area.
3. Cabazon Dinosaurs
OK, so we get it that this might not be the most scientifically acceptable destination — there are plaques throughout the grounds with Young Earth theories, which fly in the face of everything we know about dinosaurs. But it’s still a sight to behold. Towering dinosaurs that you can actually climb into... just next door to one of the greatest outlet malls in the world? Yeah, we’ll make a stop in Cabazon.
4. World's Only Corn Palace
What better way to pay serious homage to corn — one of the staples of our modern diet and of many before us — than to build a palace made out of it? Inside, The Corn Palace offers community members and travelers everything from exhibits to concerts. Outside, intricate patterns made of corn adorn the exterior walls. The corn is replaced every single year, costing $130,000 in corn upkeep alone.
5. Cadillac Ranch
If you’re into Cadillacs and you’re in the vicinity of Amarillo, Texas, Cadillac Ranch is an absolute must-do. It was created as a public art installation featuring Cadillacs buried nose-first into the ground, all at the same angle. These days, travelers are encouraged to not only stop by and see the cars, but to paint them too if they want.
6. Unclaimed Baggage Center
Ever wondered what happens to lost luggage that’s never claimed? Well, a lot of things, likely. But winding up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Alabama is one possible destination for stray bags. This center, which has a sprawling retail section, sells items that were once contained in lost luggage. It’s a perfect stop for the curious... and the bargain hunters.
7. Igloo City Hotel
On the route between Anchorage and Fairbanks sits the Igloo City Hotel — and you should see it, should you ever find yourself driving around Alaska. The hotel was never actually finished, and what stands there today is the shell of what would have become the lodging. The unusual look of the building — a giant igloo — is why people stop to snap photos.
8. Salvation Mountain
When in the desert of California, one must see Salvation Mountain. This folk art creation was made in an effort to evangelize to others by its Christian creator, but regardless of your beliefs, the end result is a spectacularly colorful and weird attraction.
9. World's Largest Plant Maze
Hawaii’s Dole Plantation has a Pineapple Garden Maze and it is billed as the world’s largest made of plants. Visitors are encouraged to walk it — even race it if they want — so stop by for an a-maze-ing time. (Zing! Sorry, we couldn't resist.)
10. Hobo Museum
If a person lives without a home and is generally transient, what becomes of the art he or she might make? It goes to a museum in Iowa. The Hobo Museum provides insight into the homeless community at large and is a travel pit stop like no other.
11. Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail
We get it: You probably weren’t planning to get up close and personal with nuclear waste during your upcoming road trip. But maybe the weirdness of the Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail will prove to beckon you. The largest explosives factory in the U.S. once existed in this spot, and when they didn’t know what to do with the insane amount of nuclear waste products they had, well, they built a climbable hill slash tourist attraction out of it. Of course.
12. Ben & Jerry's Flavor Graveyard
At the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, Vermont, which is already a popular stop for people traveling through the area, there’s a physical graveyard for flavors that are now dearly departed. Complete with tombstones with actual dates of the flavor’s lifespan, this quirky spot is a hit, especially for those with a favorite deceased flavor.
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