Thursday, October 20, 2011

10 Most Bizarre Roadside Attractions

Road trips are a great way to see the best America has to offer. Of course, due to the sheer size of the country, the distance between those awesome sites is often huge. So when you're on long stretches of boring roads, you might be drawn in by billboards advertising strange attractions on your route. Small towns across the nation have been using all kinds of ploys to draw weary tourists into their neck of the woods, but here are the 10 most bizarre attractions that are totally worth your time.
  1. Lucy the Elephant

    While taking a road trip through New Jersey, you may be on the lookout for the ridiculous cast of Jersey Shore orReal Housewives of New Jersey, but what you're more likely to see is Lucy the Elephant. The 65-foot-tall creature stands in Margate City, just a couple miles from Atlantic City, and she's been there since 1881. Throughout the years, the rooms inside Lucy's body have been used for a variety of purposes: restaurant, offices, house, and tavern. Visitors can now tour Lucy and see the beach from her observation deck for less than $10.
  2. Museum of Bad Art

    There are millions of places you can go to see good art, but how many museums can boast that they have really bad art? The Museum of Bad Art, with branches in Dedham, Mass. and Somerville, Mass., houses the most inspired artistic failures of all time. An antique fanatic started the collection and founded the museum in 1993, and there are now 600 pieces that rotate through the display areas. There are genres here for every kind of art lover (besides those who like well executed art), from portraiture to nudes to landscapes. At least, those are the curators best guesses as to what the pieces are.
  3. Haines Shoe House

    There is a nice couple who lives in a shoe in Hallam, Pa. but they seem to have a manageable number of children, if any. The Haines Shoe House, off the Lincoln Highway, was built by a shoe salesman, who liked to think of himself as a "shoe wizard" as indicated by one of the stained glass windows in the house. The house was an advertising gimmick, and the man only lived in it briefly but it has since become a tourist attraction. For many years, it welcomed elderly couples and honeymooners to stay for a weekend, but it now belongs to Carleen and Ronald Farabaugh. During the summer months when the house is open for visitors, it would be a perfect road trip pitstop with charm to boot.
  4. World's Largest Ball of Twine

    This roadside attraction is highly debated because both Cawker City, Kan. and Darwin, Minn. claim to have the world's largest ball of twine. Cawker City's is actually the largest built by a community and is located off U.S. Route 24. One man started it in 1953 and the community pitched in. It's now located underneath a gazebo and the town gathers to add to it each year. The largest twine ball made by a single person was created in Darwin by Francis A. Johnson. He spent four hours on it every day for almost six months, and the town now celebrates "Twine Ball Day" each year.
  5. Cadillac Ranch

    Don't show up to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas without a can of spray paint. Graffiti is strongly encouraged and is really the only thing to do in the otherwise empty field where 10 cars are buried with their tail ends high up in the air. Located along Route 66, the installation is the work of a group of artists in the 1970s commissioned by an Amarillo millionaire, and the Cadillacs have since been stripped to their frames and covered in layers upon layers of paint. Even if you don't have any artistic talent, you should add some color to the cars; it'll be covered up soon enough anyway.
  6. The Paper House

    Boston has plenty of tourist attractions of its own, but if you take a short trip north to Rockport, Mass., stop in at the Paper House. Just don't take a smoke break near the building. The whole house (minus the frame, shingles, and floor) is made of newspapers. The idea originally began as a way to insulate the house, but the creator, Elis Stenman, was curious to see what would happen if the whole house was made of the paper. That was 1922, and the structure is still standing and in pretty good shape. Even the furniture inside is made of rolled-up newspaper. That sounds like a good use for bad news.
  7. Prada Marfa

    When you see a high-end boutique in the middle of the West Texas desert, you might think it's a mirage. But the Prada store near Marfa, Texas is actually a piece of art. On Route 90, with a backdrop of open skies and dry grass, Prada Marfa is out of place, to say the least. The installation looks like a real Prada store, but doesn't even have functional doors. Inside, six handbags and 14 unmatched shoes are displayed but not for sale. The "store" won't be fixed up when it starts to fall into disrepair and is intended to blend back into the scenery as the elements break it down.
  8. Weeki Wachee mermaids

    In the Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida, mermaids perform for guests — or at least as close to real mermaids as you can get. From a viewing room with a window into the springs, women don mermaid tails and perform routines and plays, like The Little Mermaid for guests. Rather than wearing tanks or going back up to the surface for air, the Weeki Wachee mermaids use hoses under the water to take breaths when they need them, so they can perform shows without being obstructed or interrupting scenes.
  9. Foamhenge

    If you don't have the time or money to go see Stonehenge in England, you can see Foamhenge in Natural Bridge, Va. A life-size replica of the famous, mysterious rock arrangement, Foamhenge was an April Fool's prank that has become a great side trip for people in the Virginia area. The creator, Mark Cline, went as far as to arrange the massive Styrofoam blocks in the same astronomical places as its British counterpart. The monument is open to visitors year-round, but Cline warns that if you scratch his structure, he'll do the same to your car.
  10. The Oregon Vortex

    The draw of this mysterious area of land in Oregon is that there is supposed to be some force there that distorts the realities of physics. Balls roll uphill, people's heights change, and it all happens in a strange area where Native Americans refused to go, according to legend. Skeptics are invited to check out the phenomena for themselves, but of course, if you're not convinced after seeing it, you still won't get your $9.75 admission back. There's no mystery over how they make their money.

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