From the wacky, to the weird, to the just-plain wonderful, each state offers some of the most fantastically unique roadside attractions just off the beaten path. These attractions are worth the detour and can offer some of the best photo opportunities (and stories for the kids to share with their friends). If you’re planning a summer road trip, buckle up and add these sites to your travel itinerary.
Can’t Miss Roadside Attractions
While Arizona is home to an oversized lumberjack (named Louie) and the original Roadkill Café, the most interesting roadside attraction isn’t something you see, but rather someplace you can stay. The Wigwam Hotel, located in Holbrook, AZ is a series of 15 teepees arranged in a semi-circle around the office/museum. Each teepee is 21 feet wide and 28 feet tall, and is equipped with a full bathroom, air conditioning and cable TV – all the amenities you would expect from a modern wigwam, right? The village was designed to look like a Native American village and allow travelers to experience a taste of the Old West (before modern structures took over).
While the state can boast the largest strawberry, the largest frying pan, and the world’s largest gnome, Iowa is also home to Notre Dame, Hogwarts, the International Space Station and more … all made out of matchsticks. That’s right, the Matchstick Marvels museum is home to over 7 million ordinary matchsticks, painstakingly glued together to build replicas of some of the world’s greatest architectural and mechanical feats. Visitors come from all over the world to stop at this roadside attraction and view over 70 intricate models.
While in Kansas, you might expect to find an homage to the Wizard of Oz movie (and you won’t be disappointed). What you might not expect to find is a replica of the Liberty Bell made of wheat. The Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum is home to all things agriculture, with several exhibits devoted to the state’s chief export: wheat. The life-sized replica of the Liberty Bell is made from Turkey Red Wheat straw. Kansans are proud of their wheat production … and it shows with this fun roadside exhibit!
In a state that plays home to several larger-than-life Paul Bunyan statues (like the ones in Bemidji, Akeley and Brainerd), you know that Minnesotans clearly think he has big shoes to fill. Minnesota’s love of Paul Bunyan and walleye fishing is well documented. What you may not realize is that it is also the birthplace of Spam! In the Spam Museum, you can learn more about the history of this cubed ham, check out Monty Python’s movie rendition, and see an interactive timeline of this meat through the ages. It’s a trip for the history books AND the cookbooks. If you are lucky, you might even end up a Spam-bassador by the end of your trip.
If you’ve been to Nebraska, you know that the pace of life is a little slower. You may think natives spend a lot of time on their porch swings drinking lemonade. Time has stopped in parts of Nebraska, just waiting for your visit. As you are traveling through the state, it’s hard to miss the monument that stretches over interstate 80. At the Archway, visitors have an opportunity to get out of their cars, stretch their legs, and experience the gateway to the great west, from the start of the Oregon trail to present day, bringing history to life. Don’t think of it as a rest stop; it’s a chance to recharge for your road trip.
When you think of New Mexico, you might assume you would be surrounded by little green men during your visit. Many people believe a UFO touched down there during a thunderstorm – and they want to welcome the aliens that might have landed. But if you really want to get a feel for New Mexico, visit Artesia. Their collection shares the rich history of New Mexico (and the Wild West) cleverly with bronze statues. Each piece tells a unique story and can be found walking through the parks downtown.
Traveling through South Dakota might give you the impression that Wall Drug is the only thing the state has to offer … But you would be wrong. South Dakota is home to famous landmarks such as Mount Rushmore and the Badlands. But, if you look a little closer, you will also find landmarks like the world’s only Corn Palace in Mitchell. Originally built as a place for residents to gather and trade, this has evolved into a must-see roadside attraction. Why? The murals on the outside of the palace – made entirely of corn – are changed yearly according to the annual theme. There is always something new and unique to see when visiting the palace on the prairie.
When you visit a state like Utah, you may expect to find a lot of hole-in-the-rock sorts of stops, steeped in Native American history. But, if you look closer, you will find that Utah natives use the mountainous terrain for more than food and shelter – they use the rock to preserve their heritage. The “Newspaper Rock” can be found on the Indian Creek Corridor and displays “news” scribed over 2,000 years ago. The rock formation is one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in the country, and acts as a living museum.
One thing is certain – no matter where you travel, our states are full of history, life (and a lot of laughter). Not sure where to take your family this summer? Consider a road trip to a “unique” destination – you never know what you will find along the way! Before your trip, take a moment to contact your local Farm Bureau agent and ensure you have the right auto insurance for your trip. Be sure your coverage includes Roadside Assistance, protection available from coast to coast, no matter which roadside attraction you find yourself next to on your road trip.