Berkeley, California (EastBayDaily) — Traveling along the great American highway offers unique opportunities to stop and explore. The U.S. is home to some of the strangest, and most memorable, roadside attractions in the world. Just in time for road trip season, Jamie Jensen, author of Road Trip USA, offers his selections for the top 10 not-to-be missed pit stops.
1. Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX Built in the 1970s, and celebrated in an eponymous 1980s hit by Bruce Springsteen, Cadillac Ranch consists of 11 classic 1950s Cadillacs buried nose-down in the southern Great Plains, right along old Route 66 outside Amarillo, Texas.
2. Wall Drug, Wall, SD Photo opportunities abound at this famous roadside business, founded in 1931, thanks to the 80-foot-long dinosaur, a replica of nearby Mt. Rushmore, a 520-seat cafe, and shops for everything from postcards to cowboy boots.
3. Lucy the Elephant, Margate, NJ Immediately south of Atlantic City, there stands a classic remnant of the Jersey Shore's glory days: Lucy the Elephant, a six-story wood-and-tin pachyderm. Built by a Philadelphia real-estate speculator in the 1880’s to draw customers to his newly laid-out community, this landmark was used around the turn of the 20th century as a tavern and now holds a small museum of local history.
4. Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo, CA The town of San Luis Obispo is home to one of California's most noteworthy pop culture landmarks, the Madonna Inn, which offers more than 100 unique rooms, each decorated in a wild barrage of fantasy motifs. There are the bright pink honeymoon suites known as "Just Heaven" and "Love Nest," and an Elvis-worthy "Safari Room" covered in fake zebra skins with a jungle-green shag carpet.
5. Carhenge, Alliance, NE At the edge of Nebraska’s rolling Sand Hills, the small town of Alliance presents you with Carhenge. Built in 1987 as part of a local family reunion, Carhenge is a giant-sized replica of the famous Druid ruin, Stonehenge; this one, however, is built entirely out of three dozen late-model American cars, stacked on top of one another to form a semi-circular temple.
6. Clark's Trading Post, Lincoln, NH For nearly a century the main draw at Clark's Trading Post has been the chance to “See Live Bears!” as they perform a series of entertaining tricks—rolling barrels, shooting basketballs through hoops, and riding scooters. Don’t miss Clark’s gift shop, which is stocked with all the wonderfully tacky stuff retro-minded road-trippers drive miles to find.
7. Collinsville Catsup Bottle, Collinsville, IL Across the Mississippi from St Louis, the town of Collinsville has become nearly-world-famous for the World's Largest Catsup Bottle which rises south of Main Street. Constructed in 1949 on the grounds of what used to be the Brooks Catsup Company, this decorated water tower was restored by the people of Collinsville as a super-size symbol of local pride and perseverance.
8. South of the Border, South Carolina Located just south of the North Carolina state line at I-95 exit 1, South of the Border is a 135-acre assembly of sombrero-shaped fast-food stands, giant video arcades, souvenir shops, a sombrero-clad concrete brontosaurus and 20-story Sombrero Tower giving a panoramic view of the Interstate.
9. Paul Bunyan, Bemidji, MN Standing along a lakeshore in the Great North Woods of Minnesota, brightly painted statues of legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his sidekick Babe the Blue Ox have been drawing visitors to the town of Bemidji since 1937. Next to Paul and Babe, the Bemidji visitors center boasts a fireplace made with stones from every U.S. state (apart from Alaska and Hawaii, which weren't states when the fireplace was built), and shares space with a small museum of taxidermied wildlife and odd historical items, including Paul Bunyan's ax and his oversized underwear.
10. World's Largest Six Pack, La Crosse, WI The Mississippi River town of La Crosse Wisconsin is host to the World's Largest Six-Pack, which stands right along the Great River Road. Used as a fermentation tank for a local brewery, when full the Six Pack holds enough beer to fill seven million real-life cans.
For more information on planning a road trip, or to learn more about the top roadside attractions in the U.S., listen to Jamie Jensen’s podcasts, or check out his blog posts on the Moon Travel Guides website.
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