If you’ve ever done a road trip, you know that one of the best parts is the quirky, cheesy and always unexpected tourist attractions you might come across. From giant statues to unique houses, here is our list of the top 10 roadside attractions in the United States.
Henry’s Ra66it Ranch
If you’ve been traveling the long and lonely road along Route 66 and are in need of some companionship, stop by Henry’s Ra66it Ranch. Just look for the signs exclaiming “Hare It Is!” Owned by Rich and Linda Henry, the pair of Route 66 enthusiasts opened this cuddly roadside attraction after noticing the lack of official Route 66 visitor’s centers. As for the rabbits, well, the old adage rings true, as the couple’s daughter got a pair of rabbits and didn’t anticipate the resulting population boom. In any case, these days the ranch holds hundreds of rabbits, as well as a fiberglass jackrabbit that’s perfect for photo-opps and a graveyard complete with tiny tombstones for the ranch’s former residents.
Where: 1107 Historic Old Route 66, Staunton, IL 62088
Driving along Route 66, you’re bound to come by a number of strange sights. This one in Catoosa, Okla., a grinning Blue Whale measuring 80 feet long, was built in the 1970s as an anniversary gift from one man to his wife. The large, refurbished statue sits in a pond dotted by picnic tables, where weary travelers can stop and enjoy a picnic before hitting the road.
Where: Route 66, Catoosa, OK 74015
If you can’t afford a trip across the pond to see the actual Stonehenge, this wacky roadside attraction in the Cornhusker State might just do. Set on a 10-acre plot in Alliance, Neb., Carhenge was created by artist Jim Reinders in 1987 as an arrangement of 38 automobiles painted slate gray and placed in a formation that recalls the famous ruin in England. The cheeky attraction was placed at number two on TripAdvisor’s list of the wackiest attractions in America in 2009.
Where: Alliance, NE
The Oregon Vortex
Off the scenic I-5 highway in Oregon sits one of the weirdest attractions in the country. Open to the public since 1930, this nondescript shack in the woods is claimed to be a whirlpool of force. Round items appear to roll uphill instead of down, objects in the room seem to defy gravity, hanging at abnormal angles and visitors shrink and grow with every step. Paranormal activity, or just an optical illusion? You be the judge.
Where: 4303 Left Fork Sardine Creek Road, Gold Hill, OR 97525
Dinosaur Kingdom Park
Often described as Jurassic Park meets the Civil War, Dinosaur Kingdom Park is the alternative history project of artist Mark Cline, who tells the story of a group of Union soldiers who discover a lost valley of dinosaurs in Virginia through his fiberglass creations. Hint: the story doesn’t end well.
Where: 4942 S. Lee Highway, Natural Bridge, VA 24578
Hole N” The Rock
Utah resident Albert Christensen wasn’t content to build just any home; he hand-carved the house of his dreams out of a natural sandstone cliff face in the 1940s and called it Hole N” The Rock. Taking 12 years to complete, what exists now is a 5,000-square-foot home with 14 furnished rooms, packed full of antique tools, quirky knick-knacks and Christensen’s bizarre taxidermy collection. There’s even an exotic petting zoo on the grounds.
Where: 11037 S. Highway 191, Moab, UT 84532
Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue
Located not far from Route 65 outside Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains, Ga., this monument to the 39th President of the United States has much loftier origins. First built in 1976 by members of the Indiana Democratic Party to commemorate Carter’s journey through the state, the 13-foot-tall grinning peanut pays homage to his early career as a peanut farmer. A reckless driver crashed into the statue in 2000, but it has since been restored to its former glory.
Where: Highway 45 N., Plains, GA 31780
Jolly Green Giant
At the midpoint of I-90 in Minnesota, the 55-foot Jolly Green Giant welcomes visitors to Blue Earth. This statue commemorates the town’s link to the Green Giant Company, which got its start here and was formerly called the Blue Earth Canning Company. Once you grow tired of craning your neck upward, there’s a comfortable park surrounding the statue where you can take a load off and relax in the shade and grassy space, as well as a rest area.
Where: 1130 Giant Dr., Blue Earth, MN 56013
Chances are you’ve never seen anything like the Paper House. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a house made entirely of paper. In 1922, engineer Ellis F. Stenman began work on a summer home using newspapers as insulation when he had the bright idea to make the entire house out of paper, holding it together with glue and covering it with heavy layers of varnish to protect it from the elements. The framework of the house and floor are made of wood, and the roof is shingled. He eventually even made paper furniture for the house. Now, his great-niece operates the house as a tourist attraction.
Where: 52 Pigeon Hill St., Rockport, MA 01966
If you’re driving along Arizona’s desert I-10 highway, you’ll see billboards asking you “What is The Thing?” If unanswered questions haunt you in your sleep, pull off exit 322 to check out this site, one of the cheesiest roadside attractions in the United States. Although it probably doesn’t live up to the hype, the good thing is that it will only cost you a dollar to walk through a freaky door, follow the yellow footprints on the floor and reveal the Mystery of the Desert.
Where: 2631 N. Johnson Road, Dragoon, AZ
Photo credit: iStockphoto/tbd