Top 10 Roadside Attractions
Every state's got 'em — some cool, some historic and some downright weird. Monuments to local heroes are a noteworthy deal (Kentucky's got Colonel Sanders), as are statues of big things (the world's biggest bat — again, Kentucky). Roadside attractions can be natural (the 177-foot cedar tree in Perkins Cedar Grove, Idaho) or manmade (bushes shaped like the people and animals from paintings in Columbus, Ohio). Either way, it's usually these types of side trips that add the balance of kitsch and education that every road trip requires. Here are 10 to pull over for and check out.
Old Route 66 is fertile ground for roadside attractions, and Cadillac Ranch is among its best known, even though its 1974 installation happened well after the Mother Road's peak era. The Ant Farm art collective interred 10 vintage Caddies — ranging from a 1949 Club coupe to a 1963 sedan — as an homage to the prestigious automobile and to celebrate their outrageous tail fins. Visitors are encouraged to travel up the private road and add to the artwork by decorating the aging hulks with spray paint.
Location: I-40 west of Amarillo, Texas, between exits 60 and 62
As the people of Bangor, Maine, say, a photo taken with the mythical lumberjack is a must when visiting what was the epicenter of the timbering and logging industry in the 19th century. The 35-foot-tall Bunyan was donated in 1959 and weighing in at about 3,700 pounds, it can sustain 110-mph winds, making it hurricane-proof. Bonus for Stephen King fans: This Bunyan came to life in It, "in order to commit murder with an axe roughly the size of a deluxe motor home." The time capsule in its base will be opened in 2084. This isn't the largest Paul Bunyan statue, though. A 49-foot-tall Bunyan along with a similarly jumbo Babe the blue ox can be found in Klamath, California.
Location: 519 Main Street, Bangor, Maine
3. Old Faithful
If there is a celebrity geyser, this is it. Located in Yellowstone National Park — already an attraction for being the first national park in the United States — Old Faithful is the most popular of the many geysers and hot springs in the Upper Geyser Basin. While it doesn't offer the biggest eruptions in the area, it erupts more frequently than other geysers in the park — hence the faithful bit. Each outburst lasts as long as five minutes and climbs as high as 184 feet. It refuels (is that what it does?) every 45 to 110 minutes, spurting up to 8,400 gallons of water.
Location: Yellowstone National Park — Wyoming, Idaho and Montana
Admission: $25 per vehicle/$12 on foot
What drives sculptors to bury cars in the dirt? Is it the juxtaposition of objects being mired in a surface that they would normally glide over? A desire to immortalize a vehicle long after its traveling days are finished? In the case of Carhenge, artist Jim Reinders and members of his family replicated the ancient British landmark with 38 cars in a 96-foot circle as a tribute to his father (perhaps he was a druid). The site is now home to other works of art, including Reinders' "Ford Seasons," inspired by Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" and built entirely of — you guessed it — Fords.
Location: 2141 County Road 59, Alliance, Nebraska
Unless you make the trip at night to stay cool, you can't miss this towering monument to Mojave Desert heat, located along the I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The thermometer stands 134 feet tall, commemorating the hottest temperature ever recorded in the United States: 134 degrees at nearby Death Valley, a record set in 1913. Savvy travelers to and from Vegas know the Baker exit is a far easier on/off for gas and supplies than the more crowded Barstow, and there's a Bob's Big Boy (formerly Bun Boy) restaurant right at the foot of the thermometer.
Location: 72155 Baker Boulevard, Baker, California
6. Mystery Spot
Called a "gravitational anomaly" — engineerspeak for "OMG!" — this spot is where physics and gravity go out the window. Located in the redwood forests outside of Santa Cruz and about 20 miles from San Francisco, it's worth checking out if you're in Northern California. The land was discovered in 1939 by surveyors, and many theories exist as to what makes it happen — "it" being visual illusions, body tilting and disorientation. Possible causes include a hole in the ozone layer, a magma vortex, a spacecraft buried in the ground and carbon dioxide. In other words, it's a mystery.
Location: 465 Mystery Spot Road, Santa Cruz, California
Admission: $5, plus $5 to park. Kids 3 and under are free
Kennecott's Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah can actually be seen from the space shuttle. That's big. It's 2.75 miles across and three-quarters of a mile deep, although by 2015, you can expect it to be another 500 feet deep. The open pit has produced more copper than any other mine in the world — 18.1 million tons — and some of the shovels used for the task cost $8 million each. In fact, the mine's spot also is home to the highest structure in Utah, a 1,215-foot-tall smokestack. The giant pit lures close to 160,000 people each year.
Location: 8362 W. 10200 S. Bingham Canyon, Murray, Utah, at the Oquirrah Mountains, 25 miles southwest of Salt Lake City
Admission: $5 per passenger vehicle
8. Four Corners
For road-trippers who get a kick out of standing on a border to have a foot in two states at once, the Four Corners monument doubles your pleasure. This is the only place in North America where four state borders — Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona — join at a single point. If the pleasure of standing in four states is short-lived, spend some time perusing the offerings of Native American vendors who sell at the site. (The marker is on Navajo land.) A short drive west on Highway 160 will take you to majestic Monument Valley.
Location: Off Highway 160, about 33 miles northwest of Shiprock, Colorado
There are plenty of "biggest" objects in this vast country of ours, but not many allow you to help keep them that way. This northern Kansas town is not only home to the biggest ball of sisal twine — 7.8 million feet of it, weighing nearly 18,000 pounds — but it also holds an annual "twine-a-thon" in late August so that folks can wind their own contribution to the ball. If you miss the annual shindig, we've heard that you can contact the Cawker City Community Club and they'll have twine waiting for your visit. Sounds awesome.
Location: Wisconsin St. west of Lake Dr., Cawker City, Kansas
10. Giant Dinosaurs
You're cruising on the I-10 freeway near Palm Springs, California, when suddenly you spot two dinosaurs. But merely driving by these landmarks isn't enough for most people — millions find themselves making detours to take some snapshots in front of the massive concrete prehistoric beasts, built about 30 years ago. Even Pee-Wee Herman found himself there on his big adventure, and the famous dinos have appeared in numerous TV shows, movies and advertisements. And as you'd expect, where there are dinosaurs, you'll find a gift shop, museum and science center, too.
Location: 50800 Seminole Drive in Cabazon, at Highway 10 and Main Street exit