Roadside Attractions

Roadside attractions abound in the United States. It’s part of the reason why road trips have long been a popular American pastime. It seems wherever you go in this big country there are things to see and do, and so many roadways offer easy access to numerous attractions of interest. Some of these attractions are natural and others man-made, and since there are some pretty odd things to see along some of America’s roads, it can be fun to get creative when planning your next great drive.

Route 66 Roadside Attractions

Route 66 Roadside Attractions
Route 66 Roadside Attractions  Image: ChrisYunker (flickr)

Perhaps no other road in the United States is as tied to the road trip ideal as Route 66. This historic roadway basically gave birth to the American road trip notion. Established in 1926, the famous highway originally ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, covering a total distance of 2,448 miles. Helping to make it popular were a 1940s hit song and a television show from the 1960s. Unfortunately for traditionalists, Route 66 underwent many changes over the years and was affected to great degree by the implementation of a new highway system, though stretches of the roadway still exist. Many towns and cities along these stretches are keen to market their pieces of the famous roadway, and Route 66 nostalgia is embraced by numerous motorists. As for roadside attractions that can be found along Route 66, renowned examples include the Chain of Rocks Bridge that spans the Mississippi River, the rather quirky Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo (main article picture above), and Northern Arizona’s astonishing Meteor Crater. The list certainly doesn’t end there, with the curious Wigwam Village Hotel and Petrified Forest National Park being just two more popular Route 66 attractions. Both the Wigwam Hotel and Petrified Forest National Park are found in the Holbrook, Arizona area.

Trading Posts & Stores

Trading Posts & Stores
Trading Posts & Stores  Image: veritasnoctis (flickr)

In the 1900s, the United States developed into a driving country. With each decade, an increasing amount of cars took to the growing number of US roadways. Also increasing in number over the decades were the amount of roadside business that catered to the motoring crowds. Among these business were trading posts and other kinds of stores. Examples of roadside trading posts in the United States are the Fort Cody Trading Post and the Hubbell Trading Post. You can find the Fort Cody Trading Post at the intersection of US Highway 83 and Interstate 80 in North Platte, Nebraska. It hails itself as "Nebraska’s Largest Souvenir and Western Gift Store." The Hubbell Trading Post is found in Ganado, Arizona and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960. It was built in the 1800s and originated as a place where the Navajo could trade with settlers from the United States and Mexico. Other examples of interesting stores that are often added to American road trip agendas are the Wall Drug Store in Wall, South Dakota and the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama.

Museums

Museums
Spam Museum  Image: rayb777 (flickr)

While treating yourself to a road trip in the United States, you can consider stopping at any number of museums. There are scores of these cultural institutions across the country, and they cover a wide ranging array of topics and subjects. Examples of some of the more curious museums that are found along American roads are the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota and the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. The Spam Museum offers insight into one of America’s most highly recognizable food items, while the Vent Haven Museum is the only institution of its kind in the world that is dedicated to ventriloquism. Should you need more ideas for museums to visit while on an American road trip, you can stop at the Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, Texas and learn all about barbed wire, delve into the extraterrestrial side of things at the UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico or learn about a fan’s undying devotion to Elvis at the Graceland Too museum in Holly Springs, Mississippi.

Zoos & Animals

Zoos & Animals
Zoos & Animals  Image: Justin Brockie (flickr)

Families with kids or people who simply love animals can find plenty of zoos and other animal-related attractions along America’s roadways. They can also go to national parks or other protected areas and view animals in the wild. Examples of renowned zoos in the United States include the San Diego Zoo and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Examples of other animal-related attractions are the Eagles Landing Flying J rest stop in Scipio Utah, which has a petting zoo, and the rather curious Prairie Dog Town in Oakley, Kansas, which offers a vast array of curious sights to see, including the supposed largest prairie dog in the world. As for the national parks and other protected areas in the US, take your pick, as there are tons to choose from across the country.

Just Weird

Zoos & Animals
Jimmy Carter Peanut  Image: Richard Elzey (flickr)

Prairie Dog Town and Cadillac Ranch figure among the weirdest attractions that you can visit while exploring the United States by way of car or truck. Other examples include the rather strange "World’s Largest Ball of Twine" in Cawker City, Kansas and the 13-foot-tall statue of a smiling peanut in Plains, Georgia that goes by the name of the Jimmy Carter Peanut. There’s also the London Bridge in Lake Havasu, Arizona and the Beer Can House in Houston, Texas. The London Bridge was built in 1831 and once spanned the River Thames in London. The Beer Can House displays just how devoted one man was to distinguishing his previously undistinguished residence. Plenty of other strange attractions are out there if you want to include such things on your next US road trip. Keep an eye out, and you never know what you might come across when touring this vast land.

Top image: waxhawian (flickr)

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