We all have them. The stories of road trips when we were kids. The random roadside attractions that mom and dad just had to see. As kids, they were either so magical or lame. Our readers’ favorite roadside attractions are not lame — not in the slightest. Read on for some fun finds around the country and maybe add one or two of them to your next adventure!
1. World’s Largest Belt Buckle
Abilene, Kansas, is home to quite possibly the newest roadside attraction. The World’s Largest Belt Buckle, nestled in Eisenhower Park, was unveiled on December 21, 2022. It measures 19 feet and 10.5 inches wide, and 13 feet and 11.25 inches tall. The buckle was funded by 100 people and businesses throughout Abilene, as well as the Kansas Tourism Attraction Development Grant.
“Whether you enjoy Cowboy history, art, fun photo opportunities, or the world’s largest things, make sure to add the World’s Largest Belt Buckle to your Kansas I-70 road trip,” said Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Julie Roller Weeks.
Fun Tip: The second largest boot spur is also located in Abilene at Riddel’s Western Wear and is a must-see on your way to the many other attractions that Abilene has to offer.
2. Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard
Waterbury Village, Vermont
Ben and Jerry’s began in a renovated gas station in 1978. After a few moves and upgrades to production, their flavors can be found all over the United States, and around the world. While at the factory, you can watch a 30-minute “moo-vie” while overlooking the production room floor and sampling their chunks and euphoric flavors.
The factory tour is every bit as yummy as it should be. But the next best thing here is the Flavor Graveyard where they pay homage to flavors of days gone by. Spend some time reading about their legen-dairy lives and how long they graced the freezer shelves of stores near you. If you feel so inclined, you can chat with them about a flavor or two to resurrect.
3. The Keeper Of The Plains
The land between the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers in downtown Wichita is sacred to Native Americans. This is where The Keeper of the Plains resides. It was created by Blackbear Bosin to celebrate the United States Bi-centennial and has kept a watchful eye on the city ever since. On the grounds, you’ll find the Mid-American All-Indian Museum, where you can learn about the peoples of the land, their histories, and their influence on modern aviation. Every night, weather permitting, the groundskeepers will manually light the Ring of Fire and let it burn for 15 minutes.
Located 150 miles from Cheyenne, Wyoming, is this wacky marvel known as Carhenge. You ask, why Carhenge? Creator Jim Reinders responds to that question simply with one of his own: “Why Not?” Reinders has experimented with unusual mediums and others can be found on the same property. Carhenge was originally built as a memorial to his father who lived on the farm where the sculpture now stands. Thirty-nine automobiles make up the Stonehenge replica, which has the same proportions as Stonehenge. It came together during a family reunion and was dedicated on the Summer Solstice in June of 1987.
5. Cadillac Ranch
There must be something about our readers and cars, as this is the second vehicle attraction: Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. It was installed in 1974 as an homage to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin from 1949–1963. Millions of visitors have stopped off I-40 to make the 100-yard walk out to the installation. While the original cars were not painted or marked up in any way, vandals soon took to the site. But it took off as acceptable and now guests are encouraged to leave their personal mark on the cars. Weather permitting, there is a souvenir trailer that will make an appearance or you can shop online.
Fun Fact: The Cadillacs are nose first in the ground at the same angle as the Pyramids of Giza.
6. Fremont Troll
One of the creepier stops on our journey is the Fremont Troll in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. Its creators, University of Washington architecture students, won a contest in 1990 seeking to improve this particular freeway underpass. The troll was installed in October of that year. His birthday is celebrated every year on Halloween, known to locals as Troll-o-Ween. The troll is 18 feet tall and clutches a Volkswagen Beetle with California plates.
7. World’s Largest Ball Of Twine
Cawker City, Kansas
The World’s Largest Ball of Sisal Twine can be found in Cawker City, Kansas. What started as a way to get rid of the wasted twine on the barn floor in 1953 became quite the project for Frank Stoeber. After only a few years, it was 7 feet high and weighed about 2 tons. After the ball outgrew the barn, Frank had it moved to the place where it stands today. The current caretaker of the ball, Londa Clover, has full records of who gave and how much they gave. She will meet people at the ball and give them twine to add to it, keeping track along the way.
If you make the time to visit, make sure you observe two rules: first, connect with Linda and she will give you the proper twine to add, and second, no climbing.
8. ‘Forever Marilyn’ Monroe Statue
Palm Springs, California
Of all the attractions on our list, this 26-foot-tall shrine to Marilin Monroe is the most contentious. Sculptor Seward Johnson depicts Marilyn Monroe in the iconic stance from the film The Seven Year Itch. The sculpture first lived on Michigan Avenue in Chicago (in 2011) and was moved to Palm Springs in 2012. She will soon have a permanent home in front of the Palm Springs Art Museum in the Coachella Valley, with her backside facing the entrance to the museum. Just like the statue, Marilyn is a Palm Springs transplant, which makes the statue’s final resting place perfectly fitting.
9. Corn Palace
Mitchell, South Dakota
Located near I-90 in southeast South Dakota sits the world famous Corn Palace. This agricultural marvel is redecorated each year in a new theme, with naturally colored ears of corn in 12 different colors nailed to the structure and murals redesigned by local university students to match the theme. This folk-art wonder can be home to dances, stage shows, conferences, basketball tournaments, graduation ceremonies, proms, and various other events.
10. World’s Largest Basket — Longaberger Company Headquarters
The Longaberger family was known for their American-made hand-woven maplewood baskets and home décor. The World’s Largest Basket is modeled after the Medium Market Basket by Longaberger. It’s a seven-story office building that served as the company headquarters for Longaberger. Funnily enough, there’s another largest basket in nearby Frazeysburg, the world’s largest apple basket that stands at the old family homestead. Even better, a third large basket exists — the house-sized wicker basket — at the old company headquarters in Dresden, Ohio. While the company has closed, and been purchased and reopened under new management from Xcel Brands, these baskets are still standing and are excellent photo stops.
11. Big Brutus
Big Brutus, the tallest attraction on this list, was once the largest electric shovel in the world. It stands at 16 stories tall and weighs 11 million pounds. It was built in 1962, operated for 10 years, and was fully retired in 1974. In 1085, Big Brutus became a museum and memorial to the robust mining industry in southeastern Kansas.
The museum does have a cost but is worth the entry to discover more about this large mining shovel. Renting space for events and camping are also available by reservation.
12. Superman Statue
Truth. Justice. The American Way. The caped Clark Kent stands a regal 15 feet tall in Metropolis, Illinois, where just about everything in town revolves around Superman. The town has seen many mishaps in its journey to capitalize on Superman, with big plans for a $50 million dollar theme park that didn’t pan out. Mishaps aside, Metropolis is filled with photo ops, museums, and a whole lot of town spirit, including a statue to honor Noel Neill who played Lois Lane in The Adventures of Superman.
13. World’s Tallest Thermometer
Sitting at the gateway to Death Valley in Baker, California, is the World’s Tallest Thermometer. It stands at 134 feet tall and marks the world’s hottest day on record on July 10, 1913. Can you guess what the temperature was? It was 134 degrees. Ownership of the attraction has changed hands several times in its lifetime and it has seen its fair share of problems. Not long after it was erected, a very strong wind knocked it over. After the first time it was sold, the new owners turned it off because of the poor economy. Then in 2014, after “The Big Fix” was completed, it was restored to its full function and has been going strong ever since.
14. Lucy The Elephant
Margate City, New Jersey
James Lafferty built the Elephant Bazaar in 1881 and soon after applied and received a patent to “build in the form of any animal.” While there were two more built, they were destroyed not long after. New owners changed the name to Lucy the Elephant and turned it into a tavern. Lucy was dismantled and moved to her current location in Margate City. She was restored in 2000 and is open for tours daily. This unique National Historic Landmark turns 142 years old this year and a big celebration is planned as well as phase three of the renovations later this fall.
15. McGinn’s PistachioLand-World’s Largest Pistachio
Alamogordo, New Mexico
McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch is home to the World’s Largest Pistachio, where the local desert climate is perfect for growing this tasty green-stone nut. Standing at 30 feet tall, the pistachio started out as a tribute from Tim McGinn to his father Tom, who originally owned the pistachio and grape farm. There are many pistachio-based products to sample and enjoy from ice cream to wine and candied nuts to brittles. They also offer a motorized farm tour that runs multiple times a day.
Read more from our 2023 Best Of Travel Awards.