America is filled with fabulous museums, memorable historic sites and amazing restaurants. And when you’re on a good old-fashioned U.S. road trip, you should sample some of them.
But there’s another not-to-be-missed tradition involved with traveling America’s highways and byways: Slow down long enough to visit the nation’s sometimes humorous, often bizarre and always worth-a-photo roadside attractions.
We’re talking about doughnut shops shaped like doughnuts, or the world’s largest vacuum cleaner, or a bronze statue of Mary Tyler Moore on the spot where she tossed her hat in the sitcom’s opening credits.
These spots — usually silly, but sometimes quite serious — offer perfect chances to snap a selfie, or a potential family holiday card. They’re fun to spot and make great places to pull off the road, park the car and stretch your legs, all while examining just how giant that giant Adirondack chair really is up close. And even better, they’re all free.
The next time you’re off on a road trip, be sure to check out a few of these all-American gems.
Alabama: Statue of Vulcan, Birmingham
Gaze on the 56-foot-tall statue of the Roman god Vulcan, who overlooks the city of Birmingham, and you’re looking at history: He’s the largest cast-iron statue in the world.
Vulcan was created in 1904 for the St. Louis World’s Fair, and despite a rocky past (he lost his spear for a while and was used to advertise pickles, among other things), he still stands proudly atop Red Mountain.
Alaska: Igloo City, Cantwell
Alaska is filled with spectacular sights. Igloo City may not compete with the mountains and glaciers, but it fills the roadside attraction bill perfectly. This four-story structure, which looks to us like something from “Star Wars,” was intended as a hotel but never opened.
Arizona: Standin’ on the Corner statue, Winslow
Start humming the Eagles’ 1972 hit “Take It Easy,” and you’ll know why Winslow, Arizona, sounds familiar. One of the lyrics goes, “Standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, I’m such a fine sight to see.” And there, on that small-town corner, is a statue of a guy and his guitar. (The “girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford” of the lyrics is represented in the realistic mural behind it.) Eagles fans and pop culture buffs will want to take it easy here.
Arkansas: Guitar Walk, Walnut Ridge
This 115-foot-long-by-40-foot-wide guitar will strike a chord with musicians and music lovers. It’s based on an instrument played by John Lennon, and as you wander its path, you’ll find plaques dedicated to such musical legends as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
California: Hollywood sign, Los Angeles
California has so many attractions, from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to San Diego’s amazing beaches.
But if you’re in the Los Angeles area, you need to sneak a peek at the famous Hollywood sign. The sign originally read “Hollywoodland” to promote a housing development. Until you can arrange a trip to the Golden State, check out the live webcams. Lights, camera, action!
Colorado: Herkimer, the giant Hercules beetle, Colorado Springs
If you’ve ever wanted to star in one of those cheesy giant animal movies, get yourself to the May Natural History Museum in Colorado Springs. Not only does it boast the world’s largest private insect collection, but you can bug out and snap a selfie with Herkimer, the monster-sized beetle that greets visitors, in the background. Don’t worry, he won’t bug you.
Connecticut: P.T. Barnum statue, Bethel
The 2017 film “The Greatest Showman” introduced a whole new generation to circus legend and historic huckster P.T. Barnum, who was born in Bethel, Connecticut. Visit his hometown and you’ll find this statue waving his top hat in front of the town’s public library.
It doesn’t look anything like movie star Hugh Jackman. Still, P.T. himself will proudly pose with you for a three-ring selfie.
Delaware: Miles the Monster, Dover
Dover International Speedway in Delaware is dubbed “the Monster Mile.” To live up to its name, the track features Miles the Monster, an Incredible Hulk-like mascot who appears to be smashing his way up from the pavement and snatching up a race car for a snack.
The car is real, if that gives you a sense of Miles’ size.
District of Columbia: Einstein Memorial
Few parts of the country have as many cherished monuments as Washington, D.C. But if you’ve already seen the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, think like a genius and find your way to the Albert Einstein Memorial at the National Academy of Sciences.
Three memorable Einstein quotes are engraved on his bench in a shady grove on the academy grounds, and the paper he holds shows three of his most important scientific contributions (including, yes, the theory of relativity).
Heading to the nation’s capital? Check out: “The 12 Best Bargains for a Trip to Washington, D.C.”
Florida: Publix birthday cake water tower, Lakeland
Most water towers are real drips. They do their job and are content to be ignored.
But in Lakeland, Florida, headquarters of the Publix grocery-store chain, this water tower is a treat. It’s not only shaped like a multi-layered birthday cake, but the candles on top also light up at night.
Georgia: Ray Charles Plaza revolving statue, Albany
Are you about to hit the road, Jack, for Ray Charles’ hometown of Albany, Georgia?
Be sure to visit this awesome revolving statue of the legendary musician at his piano, which sits in a downtown park named for him. While the statue revolves, Charles’ music plays, and water flows down the statue’s sides.
Because Charles lost his sight as a young boy, a smaller version of the statue with markings in braille is also present. In the manner of Charles’ beloved hit, both of them will help keep Georgia on your mind.
Hawaii: King Kamehameha the Great, Hilo
Five kings named Kamehameha reigned over Hawaii, but the best known is Kamehameha I, or Kamehameha the Great, first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
He’s memorialized in many statues, but the tallest is this 14-foot-tall monument in Hilo, with its spectacular flowing gold cloak.
Nearby, at the Hilo Public Library, is the famed 7,000-pound Naha Stone, which King Kamehameha was said to have lifted.
Idaho: Giant baked potato, Blackfoot
The Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot has a-peel, especially with an enormous baked potato outside for your posing pleasure.
The museum’s cafe features a potato-centric menu that includes everything from simple baked potatoes to potato ice cream and potato cupcakes.
Illinois: Roger Ebert statue, Champaign-Urbana
Now you can sit in a movie-theater seat next to legendary Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert, the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for criticism.
Ebert, who died in 2013, was captured in a lifelike statue giving his famed thumbs-up right out in front of the Virginia Theatre.
Indiana: Martini-drinking pink elephant, Fortville
It’s an early 20th-century drinking hallucination come to life: a pink elephant (in glasses, no less) guzzling a martini. Fittingly, it’s in front of a local liquor store, Elite Beverages.
Iowa: Field of Dreams, Dyersville
“If you build it, they will come” — to take selfies, and to remember the beloved 1989 Kevin Costner baseball film “Field of Dreams.”
A family farm in Dyersville, Iowa, is where the movie was filmed for 14 weeks in the summer of 1988, and at the site, you can learn about the movie, buy a souvenir and even toss a baseball around.
Kansas: World’s largest ball of twine, Cawker City
Other places might claim to have the largest ball of twine, but Cawker City is still adding to its ball.
Frank Stoeber started the ball in 1953 and donated it to the city in 1961 when it was 5,000 pounds and 8 feet high. These days, it weighs four times that and is more than 10 feet high.
Kentucky: World’s largest baseball bat, Louisville
Batter up! The world’s largest baseball bat leans against the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.
It’s 120 feet tall, weighs 34 tons and is a giant-size copy of Babe Ruth’s own bat (though the Bambino’s bat was only about 36 inches long).
Louisiana: ART the Dalmatian, Shreveport
No one tell Cruella De Vil, but there’s a 19-foot-tall Dalmatian wagging his tail in Shreveport, Louisiana.
ART the Dalmatian, designed by artist William Joyce, sits outside Central ARTSTATION, home of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council.
Donors to the art council can “buy” a dot on ART, and his spots light up at night.
Maine: Easternmost point in the U.S., Lubec
If you are traveling east in the U.S., you might as well keep going until you’ve gone as far as you can go. That would bring you to this marker in Lubec, Maine.
Once you’ve arrived, visit the stunning West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, the red-and-white striped icon depicted on the stone.
Maryland: Nipper the RCA dog statue, Baltimore
Nipper, the dog listening to a gramophone in the famed RCA logo from the painting “His Master’s Voice,” was a real dog.
A 1,700-pound likeness of the terrier and his gramophone, once perching atop the RCA building in the 1950s, now has a happy home at the Maryland Historical Society Museum in Baltimore.
Massachusetts: “Bewitched” statue, Salem
When you think of witches, you might think of the grim 1690s witch trials that resulted in 19 executions in Salem, Massachusetts.
Or maybe you’re of a happier mindset and think of the classic 60s sitcom “Bewitched,” starring Elizabeth Montgomery as suburban nose-twitching witch Samantha Stephens.
TV Land thought to bring the two together, donating this statue of the late actress in her iconic role for a spot in Salem’s Lappin Park.
Michigan: Monument to Joe Louis, Detroit
Michigan’s Motor City has seen good times and bad, but now it’s forever guarded by The Fist, a 24-foot-long monument to legendary boxer and former Detroiter Joe Louis. The Fist is located at Hart Plaza downtown, and it seems to be punching toward… Canada?
Minnesota: Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, Bemidji
Minnesota has plenty of selfie-ready statues, including hat-tossing Mary Tyler Moore in downtown Minneapolis’ Nicollet Mall, and the iconic “Spoonbridge and Cherry” sculpture at the Walker Art Center. But nothing is quite as Minnesotan as legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe.
There are plenty of tributes to the North American folk hero in the Gopher State — many Minnesota children likely hold fond memories or still have horrible nightmares about visiting the big talking Paul at Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd.
But Paul and Babe go together like lutefisk and lefse, and this boxy pair in Bemidji is a selfie-ready set. It’s also Minnesota’s oldest Paul, built in 1937.
Mississippi: Birthplace of Elvis Presley, Tupelo
Hum a little “Hound Dog” or “Heartbreak Hotel” as you marvel at the musician’s all-American, rags-to-riches story. It’s bound to leave you all shook up.
Missouri: World’s largest chess piece, St. Louis
If chess is your game, make your move to the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, where the world’s largest chess piece (a king, naturally) stands guard in front.
The king is 20 feet tall and overlooks a full playable outdoor chess set. Checkmate!
Montana: Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, Arlee
The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas lies in a public botanical garden in Jocko Valley, a short trip from Glacier National Park. It was designed to bring “positive transformation” to visitors, according to its Tibetan Buddhist overseers.
The garden plays host to an annual Tibetan cultural festival featuring “traditional ceremonial dancing, monk debate, ritual instruments, costumes and songs.”
Nebraska: Carhenge, Alliance
You may have learned about, or even visited, England’s Stonehenge, the mysterious prehistoric stone monument that’s been spoofed and cited in so much pop culture.
Alliance, Nebraska, boasts its own version: Carhenge, a Stonehenge send-up using real vintage cars painted gray.
Like its English cousin, it’s a bit of a trek to get there, but every pilgrimage requires a little sacrifice.
Nevada: Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas
If a roadside attraction is something that stops you in your tracks and forces you to pull out a camera, there are simply too many on the Las Vegas Strip for us to nominate just one.
Pyramids and pirate ships, fountains and freakish art, it’s all here amid the neon lights and the whir of the gaming machines.
New Hampshire: Outdoor picture frame, New Castle
Searching for the perfect selfie? Here’s your dream location.
This metal rectangle propped on an easel in the Great Island Common, New Castle, sets up a photo your Instagram filters could only dream of. The sculpture is titled “Beauty, The ‘Common’ Denominator.”
Bring your own props, and the New Hampshire sky and surf will paint you a perfect background.
New Jersey: Lucy the Elephant, Margate
Indiana’s martini-drinking elephant should get together with Lucy, the gigantic elephant who is the pride of Margate, New Jersey. They could have a few drinks and discuss what life is like for popular roadside-attraction pachyderms.
Lucy is as tall as a six-story building. While you can snap ha photo for free, a small fee gets you an interior tour, starting at a spiral staircase in the hind leg and ending at the howdah, the canopied seating area atop her back, which offers an ele-phantastic view.
New Mexico: World’s largest pistachio nut, Alamogordo
If you’re nutty about pistachios, head to McGinn’s Pistachio Land outside of Alamogordo, New Mexico.
You can take a photo with the world’s largest pistachio nut, which soars 30 feet high, and pick up plenty of nuts of your own to snack on as you continue the road trip. There’s pistachio ice cream, too.
New York: Woodstock festival marker, Bethel
Perhaps no other U.S. music festival has the iconic status of the original Woodstock, held in 1969.
Even if you weren’t there rolling in the mud and rocking out to Jimi Hendrix in the fields at Max Yasgur’s farm, you can pay homage to those famous three days. A marker in Bethel, New York, sits just up the hill from where the concert stage was, according to NewYorkUpstate.com.
North Carolina: World’s largest chest of drawers, High Point
High Point, North Carolina, advertises itself as the home-furnishings capital of the world. To mark that distinction, the town boasts a 36-foot-high chest of drawers.
The 19th-century style bureau is marked by two dangling socks, homage to the city’s hosiery industry. (There’s a rival chest of drawers that’s even taller, but this one’s freestanding, while the other is attached to a furniture store.)
North Dakota: Wood chipper, Fargo
Much of the Coen brothers’ 1996 hit movie “Fargo” didn’t actually take place in Fargo, North Dakota, but in neighboring Minnesota.
Still, that doesn’t stop the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors’ Center from showcasing props from the film — including the infamous wood chipper, complete with severed mannequin leg for extra creepiness.
The center employees might even loan you an earflap hat (an ushanka) to wear in your savage selfie.
Ohio: World’s largest picnic basket, Newark
A-tisket, a-tasket, a seven-story basket.
The Longaberger Basket Co.’s former headquarters in Newark, Ohio, may soon become a luxury hotel, but for now it’s a photo opportunity.
The handles on the roof weigh almost 150 tons and can be heated during cold weather to prevent ice damage.
Oklahoma: Blue Whale, Catoosa
Whale, whale, whale, what do we have here?
The 80-foot-long blue whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma was built by zoologist Hugh Davis over two years and finished in 1972. A small ladder leads to a secret compartment in the whale’s head.
Oregon: ‘Simpsons’ mural, Springfield
For years, “The Simpsons” was secretive about where its goofy animated television family lived.
Springfield, sure, but there are plenty of states boasting a town called Springfield, and many of them want to claim Homer, Bart and crew as native sons.
It turned out the title belonged to Springfield, Oregon, since series creator Matt Groening grew up in Portland.
This striking 15-by-30-foot “Simpsons” mural decorates one side of the Emerald Art Center there.
Pennsylvania: Hershey Kiss street lamps, Hershey
Chocoholics, unite, and make a pilgrimage to Hershey, Pennsylvania, the home of the Hershey Chocolate Co.
You can take a free tour and see how chocolate is made (with samples), or visit the Hersheypark theme park for rides and a zoo. But don’t miss a sweet selfie with the Hershey Kiss-shaped street lamps, which look good enough to eat.
While we’re on the subject, check out “The Story Behind the Hershey’s Kiss.”
Rhode Island: World’s largest termite, Providence
On the roof of pest-control company Big Blue Bug Solutions in Providence, Rhode Island, a 58-foot-long bright blue termite gazes down on the puny humans below.
The bug, Nibbles Woodaway, is even a movie star — you may remember him from brief appearances in “Dumb & Dumber.”
South Carolina: The Peachoid, Gaffney
The water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina, the “peach capital of South Carolina,” is awfully cheeky.
Yes, the tower dubbed “The Peachoid” is painted like a juicy peach, but to many viewers, it looks an awful lot like a big ol’ backside.
South Carolina’s tourism site brags that it’s “without a doubt, the best-known, most-photographed water tank in the USA.” That might be due in part to being featured in Netflix’s critically acclaimed series “House of Cards.”
South Dakota: Corn Palace, Mitchell
Pretty corny, or a-maizing? Whatever you think of the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, it’s definitely worth a snapshot or two as you pass by.
The building is actually concrete, but its exterior is covered with murals made from naturally colored corn and other grains and native grasses. It’s decorated in a new theme every year (2020’s theme is “South Dakota Homegrown”).
August is traditionally the time for the Corn Palace Festival, which includes carnival rides, live entertainment and more.
Tennessee: The Titanic Museum, Pigeon Forge
Here’s some sightseeing you can sink your teeth into. The Titanic Museum claims its model of the ill-fated ship is the world’s largest museum attraction, and it houses more than 400 relics from the actual ship and its passengers.
Visitors are given a “boarding pass” of an actual Titanic passenger, and given the opportunity to emulate some of their experience, including touching an iceberg and 28-degree water, and sitting in an actual-size lifeboat.
Texas: Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo
Colorful and crazy, Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, Texas, “auto” grab your attention.
It features 10 Cadillacs half-buried, nose-down, reportedly at the same angle as Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza.
Stop by 24-7 to see the paint-splattered art installation, which was memorialized in the 1980 Bruce Springsteen song “Cadillac Ranch.”
Utah: Molar Rock, Moab
Canyonlands National Park in Utah is a breathtaking destination, but one of its natural features fits right in with the oddball roadside attractions highlighted here.
Molar Rock looks a lot like a gigantic tooth, complete with visible root. Snap a shot here for your favorite dentist.
Vermont: Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard, Waterbury
Ben & Jerry’s makes some mouthwatering ice cream, but sometimes, the varieties the Vermont company produces don’t make us all scream for ice cream.
Discontinued flavors, such as Peanut Butter and Jelly, all get witty rhyming epitaphs on their gravestones in a light-hearted burial ground at the company’s Waterbury headquarters.
You can pay your respects for free, but scoop up a few bucks to take the guided tour of the factory. There’s free ice cream at the end of it.
Virginia: King Neptune statue, Virginia Beach
A 34-foot-tall statue of King Neptune, Roman god of the sea, keeps a close watch over the waters and boardwalk of Virginia Beach. The impressively buff Neptune holds a turtle and a trident, and is rising out of a school of fish.
Washington: Fremont Troll, Seattle
As a Washingtonian for nearly two decades, I still love to visit Seattle’s Fremont Troll.
The 18-foot-tall manifestation of local monster lore lurks beneath the north end of the Aurora Avenue bridge, clasping a real Volkswagen Beetle in one gigantic hand. (His eye is a Beetle’s hubcap.)
West Virginia: Mothman statue, Point Pleasant
All the world loves a mystery, and the Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, is a good one.
Half a century ago, residents began reporting sightings of a man-sized bird creature who quickly was dubbed the “Mothman.”
Wisconsin: Bronze Fonz, Milwaukee
Ayyy! No question, the coolest dude of the 1970s was Fonzie from the TV sitcom “Happy Days,” which was set in Milwaukee.
Now, that Wisconsin city boasts the Bronze Fonz, a slightly-bigger-than-life-size homage to Henry Winkler’s leather-jacketed iconic character.
Wyoming: Elk Antler Arch, Afton
The small town of Afton boasts a street-spanning arch made up of more than 3,000 elk antlers that extend across four lanes of traffic. Constructed in 1958, the city claims it’s the largest of its kind in the world.