Tuesday, September 13, 2011

America's Kitschiest Roadside Attractions Of The Day

A great piece from Travel+Leisure, except for the baffling exclusion of Rock City.


Established in 1892 and existing at its current location since 1921, this showstopper—the only building of its kind—celebrates the harvest of king corn. The building exterior is redecorated annually with 275,000 ears of colored corn, other grains, and grasses.


All eyes are on you at the world’s only ventriloquist (“vent” for short) museum, home to more than 750 googly-eyed dummies. Figures are as varied as Miss Piggy and a carved head that a POW performed with to earn extra food. Open by appointment only, May through September, so plan ahead.


This Western-themed mall/amusement park near Mount Rushmore and the Badlands has signs posted throughout the world that count down the remaining miles to go; there’s even a sign for Wall Drug posted in Antarctica (for the record, only about 9,300 miles away). Wall Drug started as a humble pharmacy that doled out free ice water to weary travelers. Today, 2.2 million people a year pull over to see the animatronic T. rex, piano-playing gorilla, a giant jackalope statue and more.


If the Three Amigos had their own theme park, it might resemble South of the Border. With roughly 175 highway billboards (one promises, “You’re always a weiner [sic] at Pedro’s!”) and a 97-foot marquee of mascot Pedro at the entrance, SOB is impossible to miss. Fourteen gift shops carry schlock like a Fabio cardboard cutout and enough fireworks to blow the world over.


Shortly after midnight on June 10, 1912, a vicious murderer bludgeoned Josiah Moore’s family of six and two guests as they slept. The crime remains unsolved, but visitors say the house is trying to communicate, if you dare venture inside. Tours have been cut short by flying objects and eerie children’s voices.


Sam Butcher, the artist who created the doe-eyed Precious Moments figurines, opened this church in 1989. Nearly 5,000 square feet of Butcher’s hand-painted murals show the Precious Moments characters in scenes from Noah’s Ark and The Second Coming. The Hallelujah Square painting is based on real children who died young and are making their way into heaven.


Since the late 1980s, Michael Bohdan has run The Pest Shop, Inc, a pest control company that also operates the free Cockroach Hall of Fame Museum in a Plano, Texas, strip mall. Visitors can gawk at display after display of dead cockroaches dressed up like celebrities, for instance, “Liberoachi” and “Marilyn Monroach.”


A throwback to the 1950s, Weeki Wachee Springs still puts on its famous, campy mermaid shows performed underwater by swimmers in elaborate costumes. There’s an old-school charm to the park, where you can take a river cruise (look out for manatees and turtles), go diving or just hang out at the tiki bar.

FOAMHENGE (Natural Bridge, VA)

It started, naturally, as an April Fool’s joke in 2004. But local artist Mark Cline’s Foamhenge has staying power. It’s an exact replica of the England’s ancient man-made wonder—even the pieces are arranged in their astronomically correct positions. Snap some photos and play your own April Fool’s joke trying to pass it off as the real thing.


Natural wonder, elaborate hoax, or paranormal zone? At the Oregon Vortex, it’s up to visitors to decide. For $9.75, you get to experience the Vortex’s “spherical field of force,” which results in a world in which brooms supposedly stand up by themselves and two people can become a different height just by switching places.

See the rest here, including a hot-dog bun museum, the world's largest ball of twine, an ice-cream flavor graveyard and more.


  1. So did the Oregon Vortex rip off Cosmos in SD? or vice versa?

  2. I absolutely LOVE the idea of Foamhenge. That's beyond wicked bad. And I bet it's way more fun than the actual Stonehenge (I went there with great anticipation on my way down to France, and you know what?? BORING).

    And South of the Border is a mere 45 minutes from me. Hubby refuses to stop every single time. It's pretty run-down now and looks like there are about 10 people there at any given time. Pretty sad, but you see signs for it for MILES. If they'd open up a roadside porn shop, that'd be something...

  3. I've passed SOTB many times and never had enough interest or a full enough bladder to want to stop there. I wouldn't set foot in the place without a dust mask.

  4. I clearly need to travel more. I have not visited a single one of these fine establishments. :-D

    The ventriloquist museum would creep me out big time.

  5. Praire Girl said ...

    Actually, I love North Pole. I lived in Fairbanks as a kid (right next door) so it hold special memories for me. Actually visited it in 2009.

    One I think is missing is Hershey World. Not the amusement park but the gift shop with the "ride". They pipe in the smell of chocolate and you ride a cart through a barrage of singing cows and other wierdness. Shudder. (heh, heh, udder with a sh).

  6. I've been to Hershey World. What a tragic place. All that brouha for chocolate that tastes like wax. The boat ride is like a hellish chocolate-y version of It's A Small World.

  7. Foamhenge! Where a man's a man, and the children dance to the pipes of Pan.

  8. I live about a mile from the cockroach museum. The guy that runs it is a hoot. I went in to get some rat traps and his eyes glazed over when he began telling me how to bait it. He loves his work.

  9. I have been to Wall Drug and the Spud Drive In. They usually host a family friendly summer movie festival, The Spud Film Festival, put on my Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island but since her marijuana bust here a few years ago it hasn't happened. Go figure. They left off the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho. Free taters for out of staters is their slogan.

  10. No midwestern kid's childhood is complete without a visit to the corn king palace and wall drug. Yes. I have been to both. I think that was the same vacation that we saw the world's largest ball of twine.

  11. You could not pay me to go to the Vent Museum. Ugh.

  12. I've been to the Corn Palace and Wall Drugs. That Vent Museum would scare the bejeebers out of me.

    The Vortex reminds me of The Mystery Spot in St. Ignace, MI. I can't believe I've never seen the Yooper thing in Ishpeming, I went to college near there.

  13. I have to admit, that ball o'twine is on my bucket list. I would easily trade our regrettable visit to South of the Border for the chance to see the Twine!!



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