The 9 Strangest Roadside Attractions in the U.S.
They're all worth pulling over for.
No road trip long or short is complete without dropping by at least one weird roadside attraction. It's the perfect way to break up the monotony, stretch your legs, and marvel at the absolute unparalleled skill humans have for creating some truly strange stuff. Not to mention, roadside attractions lend themselves to some pretty epic photo opps you'll look back on fondly in the years to come. Eager to learn about some of the strangest roadside attractions the U.S. has to offer? We've rounded up nine of our favorites below.
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The Strangest Roadside Attractions
1. Enchanted Highway – Regent, North Dakota
North Dakota's "Enchanted Highway" stretches on for an entire 32 miles along I-92 starting at Exit 72 just outside of Regent. Conceptualized by local artist Gary Greff, the project began in 1989 and features a series of giant metal sculptures, some reaching as high as 45 feet tall, that press against the stark sky of the North Dakota plains. Regent sells miniatures of each sculpture and even has an Enchanted Castle motel you can stay at if you need a longer rest.
2. Emerson Kaleidoscope – Mt. Tremper, New York
It's easy to miss Emerson Kaleidoscope while driving through the backcountry roads of the Catskills, but this 60-foot unassuming silo is absolutely worth pulling over for. Hiding inside you'll find the world's largest kaleidoscope.
"It's a permanent fractal art installation designed by Charles Karadimos, and [features a] surround sound score that you can take in while sprawled out on the floor or leaning against the wall," says Carly Fisher, a food and travel journalist and author of Easy Weekend Getaways in the Hudson Valley & Catskills. "Cementing its legacy in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1997, it's among the numerous Catskills psychedelia attractions worth stopping by on a road trip adventure."
3. Cathedral of Junk – Austin, Texas
Located in a quiet neighborhood south of Highway 290 you'll find The Cathedral of Junk, a literal pile of rubbish that doubles as a piece of wacky art. The towering structure was created by local artist Vince Hannemann in 1988 and is considered "a living sculpture," which means it's ever-changing as the artist adds to it as he sees fit.
This strange roadside attraction is located in Hannemann's backyard and requires a $10 group fee to help him maintain the piece. It's best to call ahead for an appointment (512- 299-7413).
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4. Hole N" The Rock – Moab, Utah
If you're digging more of an earthy roadside attraction, swing by Maob's Hole N" The Rock. Carved out of a rock in Utah's vast canyonlands, it's a bizarre, monumental home built in 1945 by Albert and Gladys Christensen. The roadside attraction is located off Highway 191 in Southern Utah, and visitors can take a tour through the home, visit the exotic on-site zoo, and explore a collection of antiques, souvenirs, and locally made Native American crafts.
5. Philadelphia's Magic Gardens – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Created by Isaiah Zagar in the 1960s, Philadelphia's Magic Gardens is a vibrant outdoor art exhibit and sculpture garden-meets-labyrinth. It features thousands of colorful mosaics created from handmade tiles, bottles, mirrors, and other random objects.
As gorgeous as the art is, the story behind this roadside attraction lends even more to the appeal. Along with his wife Julia, Zagar and other local artists created the space as a way to protest against the construction of a new highway that would have destroyed the local area and South Street. This movement became known as the "South Street Renaissance."
6. Wing's Castle – Millbrook, New York
"It's not every day you can stay in a castle with a moat pool, bathe in a cauldron, sleep in a Game of Thrones-esque dungeon, and wake up with coffee overlooking a vineyard and the Hudson Valley from a mini Stonehenge—unless if you're a guest at Wing's Castle," says Fisher. She says that for more than five decades, artists Peter and Toni Ann Wing dedicated their lives to building their dream castle (until Peter passed away in 2014).
"They salvaged materials from across the Valley to create a completely original bed and breakfast and fairy tale cottage bucket list attraction," adds Fisher. The property is conveniently situated just above the Millbrook Winery for easy access to an afternoon of wine tasting.
7. Leaning Tower of Niles – Niles, Illinois
Erected in 1934, the Leaning Tower of Niles is a miniature replica of that other famous leaning tower located in Pisa, Italy. This one's about half the size of the original at 94 feet tall, and the tower bells ring periodically throughout the day playing tunes such as "On Top of Old Smokey" and "My Favorite Things." It was specifically built to draw visitors into the 22-acre park, and it clearly worked. Interestingly, the town of Pisa and Niles became sister cities in 1991 as a direct result of the replica being built!
8. The Secret Caverns – Howes Cave, New York
Dubbed a mystical experience by some who drop by, the Secret Caverns off of I-88 in New York are natural caverns with waterfalls that sit 100 feet below the Earth's surface. Not only do visitors get to enjoy the riveting beauty of underground waterfalls, but they also get to see various geological rock formations and fossils. A handful of local breweries and eateries are located nearby, making this a great stop to also grab a bite and stretch your legs.
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9. Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch – Oro Grande, California
Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch is situated just off Route 66 in California's high desert. The off-road sculpture garden features over 200 trees made from glass bottles, as well as a spectacle of other carefully curated junkyard art. Elmer Long created the exhibit in 2002, contributing to it consistently through 2019. If you find yourself there on a particularly windy day, you may be able to hear the bottles sing a pretty tune.