If you’re planning a road trip across America, don’t miss out on these peculiar roadside attractions that are worth a stop. The journey is often just as enjoyable as the destination, and with over 4 million miles of roads and highways in the USA, there’s plenty to explore. From breathtaking landscapes to unusual oddities, UnusualPlaces.org has rounded up some of the most unique and bizarre roadside attractions that will make your trip unforgettable.
Salvation Mountain in California
One of the most extraordinary attractions is Salvation Mountain, located in Niland, California. This attraction is a labor of love from Leonard Knight, a local artist who created a colorful mountain that displays his faith and beliefs through murals, messages, and Bible verses. The mountain is made of adobe clay and painted with thousands of gallons of vibrant colors. It’s an 80-mile drive southeast of Palm Springs and can be accessed via Highway 111. However, it’s best to avoid visiting during summertime when temperatures soar between 105 to 120 degrees. Salvation Mountain is open from dawn till dusk, and it’s an experience you don’t want to miss.
Hole ‘N’ The Rock in Utah
Hole ‘N’ The Rock, located near Moab, Utah, is an attraction that you may come across if you’re visiting Arches or Canyonlands National Parks. Originally a 14-room family home spanning 5,000 square feet, this unique house required 50,000 cubic feet of sandstone excavation to create. It was built by Albert and Gladys Christensen, who lived in the home until Albert’s passing in 1957. Although the house is now vacant, you can take a tour of the premises, which also includes a small zoo, a general store, and a variety of southwestern souvenirs. Adult tours cost $6, and children aged 5 to 10 can enter for $3.50. The attraction is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Carhenge in Nebraska
In Alliance, Nebraska, you’ll discover Carhenge, an unusual roadside attraction paying homage to automobiles. This replica of Stonehenge comprises vintage American cars that have been painted gray, mimicking the iconic English landmark. Located off Highway 87, you can visit this quirky adaptation of the famous UNESCO World Heritage site for free, 24/7, year-round. There’s also a gift shop available, but please note that it’s only open during summer months.
Prada Marfa in Texas
Meanwhile, in Valentine, Texas, Prada Marfa is an art installation that challenges the notions of consumerism and gentrification. Although it looks like a boutique, it’s not an official Prada store. Two New York City-based artists created the idea after their artist enclave community in SoHo transformed into a boutique hub. The installation is meant to provoke thought and inspire “what-if” scenarios. While many visit Prada Marfa for photo opportunities, it carries a serious message. You can see it for free, 24/7, on Highway 90.
The Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
The Enchanted Highway in western North Dakota offers a unique collection of art installations showcasing local prairie animals and the region’s culture and history. From the Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again installation, which includes a horse-drawn carriage, to the World’s Largest Tin Family made from empty oil drums, there’s plenty to explore. The journey begins at Exit 72 on Highway 94 at Gladstone and ends 32 miles south at Regent, where you can buy souvenirs of the sculptures at a gift shop.
Lucy the Elephant in New Jersey
Lucy the Elephant has been captivating visitors for over 140 years. Real estate developer James Lafferty built Lucy in 1881 to lure potential buyers to his land in South Atlantic City (now Margate). Despite weathering many challenges, such as hurricanes, ocean floods, and even a fire started by drunken party-goers, Lucy endured. Neglect in the 1960s became her greatest threat until the Save Lucy Committee intervened and raised enough funds to relocate the decaying structure to a new location owned by the city.
Over the next 30 years and with a budget of 1.5 million dollars, Lucy was fully restored to her former glory. In 1976, she was recognized as a National Historic Landmark by the US government, as the oldest surviving example of “zoomorphic” architecture and America’s oldest “roadside” attraction. Today, Lucy is the most popular non-gaming attraction in the Atlantic City area and is renowned worldwide as “The World’s Largest Elephant.”
Cadillac Ranch in Texas
Located off of Highway 40 in Amarillo, Texas, Cadillac Ranch is a Route 66 roadside attraction that embodies the concept of one man’s trash being another man’s treasure. Conceived by a local billionaire who wanted to create an art installation that would raise eyebrows among locals, the project was entrusted to a group of alternative San Francisco-based artists for the creative process. Interestingly, the graffiti that now adorns the cars was not part of the original plan but was added by the many visitors that have encountered this unique installation. Cadillac Ranch is available for viewing 24/7 and is a must-see if you’re in the area.
Winchester Mystery House in California
For those who enjoy spooky experiences, a stop at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, is a must. The property is filled with stairs and doors that lead to nowhere, leaving visitors puzzled and intrigued. There are multiple theories surrounding the unusual layout, but the most popular one is that the owner, Sarah Winchester, widow of rifle magnate William Winchester, was advised by a medium that the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles would be confused by the design of the house and would not haunt her. If you’re curious to explore this mysterious property, admission costs $39 for adults and $20 for children aged 6 to 12. The house is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it’s located off Interstate 280 (also known as the Junipero Serra Highway) in San Jose.
Pineapple Garden Maze in Hawaii
The Dole Plantation’s Pineapple Garden Maze in Wahiawa, Hawaii, is a must-visit pit stop if you’re traveling from Honolulu to the North Shore via the Kamehameha Highway. Covering almost 3 acres, the maze boasts almost 2.5 miles of pathways and was declared the largest maze in the world in 2008. Visitors who finish the maze the quickest can sign their name at the entrance, making their mark in Dole Plantation history. After navigating the maze, treat yourself to some delicious Dole Whip, a pineapple-flavored soft-serve ice cream. Admission tickets for the maze cost $8 for adults and $6 for children aged 4 to 12. The attraction is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Bubblegum Alley in California
Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, California, is a unique attraction that pays homage to one of America’s favorite chewy treats. It shouldn’t be confused with Seattle’s Gum Wall. The alley, which is about 70 feet long and 15 feet high, is entirely covered in what could be thousands, or even millions, of gum wads (the tradition began in the early 1970s, and the number of gum wads is unknown). If you’re not grossed out by the idea, make a detour from Highway 101, snap a picture, or even contribute your own gum. You can find Bubblegum Alley down Higuera Street, located between the Ambiance Clothing Boutique and the Blast 825 Taproom. The attraction is accessible 24/7.
Wall Drug Store in South Dakota
Wall Drug Store in Wall, South Dakota, began as a place to get free ice water in 1931 and has since transformed into a popular roadside shopping complex. At this location, you can enjoy a cup of coffee for just 5 cents at the lodge-style diner, take a photo with a life-sized jackalope in the backyard, or shop for cowboy boots. The Wall Drug Store is a great example of country kitsch and is located off Highway 90, approximately 8 miles north of Badlands National Park. It’s open daily from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Dog Bark Park Inn in Idaho
Located in Cottonwood, Idaho, the Dog Bark Park Inn is a roadside attraction that dog lovers will adore. It can be found off Highway 95 and is housed inside the belly of Sweet Willy, the world’s largest beagle. The rooms are decorated with canine-themed decor and literature, making it a unique and memorable lodging experience. However, if you don’t want to spend the night, you can still stop by to admire the picturesque prairie backdrop and check out the on-site gift shop, which sells replicas of the giant beagle.
Raptor Ranch in Arizona
Flintstones Bedrock City (Raptor Ranch), located in Coconino County, Arizona, offers visitors the chance to fulfill their childhood dreams of driving Fred Flintstone’s stone car or using the bone phone. This recreation of Bedrock is located in the barren desert landscape of northern Arizona, off Highway 64 and around 25 miles south of the Grand Canyon. The attraction features classic Bedrock sites, such as Wilma’s Laundry and Barney’s Grocery, as well as Fred’s Diner, where you can enjoy Bronto Burgers and a slice of Gravelberry Pie. You can even camp at the on-site RV park. Admission to the attraction costs $5 per person, and it’s open daily from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
From the quirky Carhenge in Nebraska to the mysterious Winchester Mystery House in California, America is home to some truly unusual and fascinating roadside attractions. Whether you’re a history buff, architecture enthusiast, or just looking for a unique and memorable experience, these attractions are definitely worth a stop on your next road trip. So hit the open road and explore all that America has to offer!