17 Wacky Attractions
If you are interested in seeing something a little less ordinary than the commonly advertised sites, museums or theme parks during your travels in the United States, we’ve got a list of 17 whacky travel attractions that may be just what you’re looking for! From classic American roadside travel stops, to offbeat museums and individually run venues, you’ll discover that from coast to coast there's a quirky place and a unique experience that you can include in your next U.S. vacation.
1. The Flintstones Bedrock City
CUSTER, SOUTH DAKOTA
The Flintstones Bedrock City and Campground in Custer, South Dakota is a fun place to visit for the whole family. The campground brings the fictional setting of Bedrock to life. It is complete with Barney & Wilma's house, a telehorn office, and the KROCK radio station. Visitors can order a brontosaurus burger at the Drive-In just like the characters do in the opening credits of the show. With a swimming pool, theme park, and a gift shop on hand - it's sure to be a “Yabba-Dabba-Doo!” time.
2. Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum
ALAMO HEIGHTS, TEXAS
Location: Barney Smith's Garage. Hours of Operation: Whenever he's around. That information pretty much sums up the wackiness of this attraction. The Toilet Seat Museum (housed in an oversized garage) is made up of Barney Smith's collection of Toilet Seat creations. Smith, who has been appropriately named "The King of Thrones," has decorated over 700 of the porcelain seats with various themes, license plates, military memorabilia, and other miscellaneous objects. The museum draws in around 1,000 visitors annually, proving that not everybody thinks that calling toilet seats 'art' is a load of... well, you know what.
3. Salvation Mountain
Salvation Mountain, located in Imperial County, CA is one man's tribute to God. Leonard Knight created this piece of 'outsider art' to showcase and share his passion for God with passersby. Biblical and religious scripture, flowers, trees, waterfalls, birds, and many other fascinating and colorful objects, flank the mountain's main message, "God Is Love." In 2002, Salvation Mountain was entered into the US Congressional Record as a national treasure. While Knight's intentions are too sincere to be labeled 'wacky,' his creation is truly unique.
4. Wall Drug
WALL, SOUTH DAKOTA
In 1930's South Dakota, Ted Hustead's wife had an idea to help bring traffic into their declining drug store. Dorothy Hustead came up with a jingle and created a sign attracting drivers from the nearby highways - "Get a soda/Get root beer/Turn next corner/Just as near/To Highway 16 and 14/Free Ice Water/Wall Drug." The sign worked, and Wall Drug has become an expansive tourist attraction of international fame, taking in more than $10 million a year and attracting some two million visitors annually to a remote town whose population has never exceeded 800. The silly signs have become their trademark of sorts, and after a time, Mr. Hustead was spending $300,000 a year on billboard advertising, including Wall Drug signs on London buses and in every train station in Kenya. The little store has been expanded into a 75,000-square-foot sprawl of western kitsch, housing an enclosed mall (selling everything from souvenir T-shirts to pricy cowboy boots) a 400-plus- seat restaurant, and a range of free attractions. While it's certainly a sight to be seen when traveling in the West, Wall Drug seems to be famous for its fame - as a sign at the Taj Mahal will prove - "only 10,728 miles to Wall Drug."
5. Museum of Bad Art
Affectionately known as MOBA, the Museum of Bad Art is an awesomely fun place to visit. Founded in 1993, MOBA is located in the basement of the Dedham Square Community Theatre in Massachusetts. The museum is the only one of its kind, priding itself on the collection, preservation, and celebration of bad art in all its forms. MOBA has collected over 400 pieces of unintentionally awful art, but due to limited space, only 30-40 pieces are shown at a time. Dreadful clowns, failed attempts at profound abstract art, and grotesque nudes are some examples of the museum's splendidly frightful collection.
6. The JELL-O Gallery
LE ROY, NEW YORK
There's always room for... a JELL-O Museum? Apparently, in Le Roy, New York there is. A carpenter named Pearle Wait created America's favorite dessert in Le Roy in 1897. The gallery shares the building with the town's historical society and pays homage to the hometown treat. The JELL-O Gallery offers a detailed history of JELL-O, trivia, past recipes, and plenty of vintage advertising memorabilia. If you enjoy JELL-O, or are just interested in seeing something a little fun and different, a stop at this museum is definitely worth considering.
7. Tinkertown Museum
SANDIA PARK, NEW MEXICO
Tinkertown Museum is the result of the tireless efforts and tinkering passions of one man, Ross Ward, who spent more than 40 years gathering glass bottles and carving wooden objects to create a whimsical, folk art museum. Ward began working on the tiny western town in 1962. His motivation to create Tinkertown, stemmed from his desire to keep people’s interest in roadside attractions alive. Ward was successful, as Tinkertown Museum remains a unique addition to New Mexico's roadside stops. Ward created everything in it, right down to its wooden "people." The collection includes an animated miniature circus, old west memorabilia, and an antique 40-foot sailboat that has sailed around the world. While Tinkertown's beloved designer passed away in 2002, Ward's family continues to operate the museum and carry on the tradition of this very special attraction.
8. National Museum of Funeral History
Robert L. Waltrip opened the National Museum of Funeral History (NMFH) to fulfill his dream of educating the public and preserving the rich history of the funeral industry. Among its exhibitions are examples of fantasy coffins, (themes and shapes include fish, cars, and crustaceans), elegant early 20th century hearses, and a diorama illustrating Civil War embalming techniques. NMFH also contains a 1900's Casket Factory, where visitors can witness how caskets were constructed before the advent of modern machines. The Museum even holds private parties and corporate events for those interested in more than just visiting.
9. The Devil’s Rope Museum
McLean, Texas http://www.barbwiremuseum.com/
The Devil’s Rope Museum (once known as The Historical Museum of Barbed Wire and Fencing Tools) is dedicated to preserving the artifacts and history of barbed wire. The museum was created, filled and maintained by collectors or barb wire from the United States, Canada and Australia. Visitors can enjoy many exhibits that showcase thousands of common and rare wire specimens; view 45 barbed wire sculptures; see over 100 pictures of wire fences, check out 58 illustrations created by western artist, Al Martin Napoletano; and even enjoy a demonstration on how to make a barbed wire. The Devil’s Rope Museum is proof that there really is something for everyone, no matter how unique their interests.
10. South of the Border
DILLON, SOUTH CAROLINA http://www.thesouthoftheborder.com/
No Southern road trip is complete without a stop at South of the Border. One of the most famous rest stops/roadside attractions, South of the Border offers shops, six restaurants, gas stations, campground sites, a motel, and an amusement park named Pedroland Park. Poncho-wearing Pedro, a stereotypical Mexican figure, is the attraction's mascot. Pedro is featured on hundreds of highway signs that countdown the number of miles to South of the Border. Among the intentionally foolish items written on the signs are: "You Never Sausage a Place!", "You're Always a Wiener at Pedro's", and "Chile Today, Hot Tamale!" South of the Border and all its 'campy' quirkiness has steadily drawn in the southern flow of traffic, attracting those who are happy to partake in a little silliness and fun.
11. Cooter's Place
If you love "the Dukes of Hazzard", you will love a visit to Cooter's Place. Cooter's Place houses Cooter's Garage and the one-and-only Dukes of Hazzard Museum. This hee haw attraction is operated by none other than ol' "Cooter" himself. Ben Jones, who played the Duke Boys brawny sidekick, is the host at this tribute to life in Hazzard County. Cooter's Place features pictures, props, costumes, and memorabilia from the 1970's sitcom. Ben Jones has been known to hang around and chat with visitors and fans at both of the Cooter's locations in Tennessee. Each year, Ben and his wife host Dukes Fest, which features personal appearances by stars from the show, "Hazzard style" music, and car stunts by the original "Dukes" stunt drivers. More than 100 General Lees (the name of the Duke Boys car) are on display at Dukes Fest.
12. Coral Castle
Coral Castle, in Homestead, Florida, is among the world's most puzzling structures. In terms of accomplishment, Coral Castle has been compared to Stonehenge, ancient Greek temples, and even the great pyramids of Egypt. This is rather astounding, considering that it is believed that the structure was entirely quarried, transported, and constructed by one man. According to the tale of Coral Castle, Edward Leedskalnin, a native of Latvia, created Coral Castle for his ladylove. In true legend fashion, his lover left him high and dry and the heartbreak that ensued drove Leedskalnin to make constructing the castle his life's mission. It is estimated that 1,000 pounds of coral rock were used to build the castle. Because nobody can recall ever seeing Leedskalnin laboring, or any modern machinery, it is believed that he possessed supernatural powers. Whether the story is true or not, the mystery sure makes for a fine story and continues to draw visitors to the remarkably beautiful Coral Castle.
13. Precious Moments Park & Chapel
In the 1980’s, one of the most popular collector’s items were Precious Moments. You may even have had or still have one or more of these tear drop-eyed, sweet little figurines in your possession. Nevertheless, despite what you may or may not have collected, the reality is that there are many people who have been seriously collecting Precious Moments over the years - enough people, in fact - that the founders created a Precious Moments Park & Chapel. Located in Carthage, Missouri, the park includes many gardens, plenty of gift shops, and a chapel. According to the original Precious Moments artist and founder, Sam Butcher, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in Rome, inspired the chapel's design. Murals around the chapel depict Old Testament stories, and images of Precious Moments are used to represent important biblical figures.
14. Lucy the Margate Elephant
MARGATE, NEW JERSEY
Lucy the Margate Elephant has stood tall for over 100 years, and is a colossal wood and tin elephant and beloved tourist attraction in New Jersey. Margate is a southern New Jersey shore community that borders Atlantic City, and Lucy’s popularity is second only to the glitz of the casinos and the folly of the boardwalks. Over the years, Lucy has lived in New York City's Coney Island amusement park, housed a family, a restaurant, and even a bar. In the 1960's, Lucy fell into disrepair, but thanks to the 'Save Lucy Committee,' the 65 foot tall Asian elephant was moved, restored, and declared a National Historic Landmark. Today, visitors can tour the interior of the massive elephant and climb to the open-air "howdah" atop Lucy's back for incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean.
15. The Mütter Museum
PHILADELPHIA, PA http://www.collphyphil.org/Site/mutter_museum.html
Professor of surgery, Thomas Dent Mütter, founded the Mütter Museum, part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, in 1858. What started as a personal collection of unique anatomic and pathological materials, now boasts over 20,000 disturbing objects. Among these objects are fluid-preserved anatomical and pathological specimens; skeletal and dried specimens; and various medical instruments and apparati. Some of the more popular exhibits are the torso plaster cast of world-famous Siamese Twins, a collection of 2,000 objects extracted from people's throats, and a cancerous growth removed from President Grover Cleveland. While the Mütter Museum also offers ever-changing exhibits on a variety of medical and historical topics, it is, without a doubt, the eerie medical specimens that make this the ultimate bizarre attraction.
16. The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle
Heinz may be the world's best selling ketchup, but Brooks old original rich & tangy catsup holds the honor of the World's Largest Catsup bottle. Located in Collinsville, Illinois, the Brooks bottle has stood tall for over 50 years, making it a permanent symbol of roadside architecture at its best. The 70 ft tall bottle is actually a water tower that stands atop 100 ft legs, combining functionality with fun. While Brooks Catsup has conformed and changed its name to Brooks Ketchup, the newly restored tower still remains an original roadside must-see classic.
17. The Dr. Samuel Harris National Museum of Dentistry
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND http://www.dentalmuseum.org/
This unusual museum, complete with a set of George Washington's dentures on display, is located on the Baltimore campus of the University of Maryland, the world's first dental school. Visitors will also find on display a set of gilded dental instruments used on Queen Victoria, and a clever Tooth Jukebox that plays vintage dental commercials. Equally amusing are the names of their traveling and permanent exhibitions, for example, 32 Terrific Teeth, Your Spitting Image, and The Narwhal: A Whale of a Tooth. Informative and fun, the world's only museum dedicated to dentistry is sure to be mildly entertaining and certainly less painful than a visit to the actual dentist.