RV and Road Trip Fans: Put These Quirky Roadside Attractions On Your Travel Bucket List
To make the journey even more fun.
Road trips are so much fun, and they allow you to see the world from the comfort of your carseat. Queue up a good audiobook or playlist, grab your favorite snacks, and you’re set. After driving for several hours, though, you might find the road more monotonous than scenic. Making stops can help to break that monotony (and, thankfully, the U.S. is home to a ton of quirky roadside attractions that make great memories, photos, and party tricks — as in, “Did you know there’s a four-story fire hydrant in South Carolina?”)
Here are a few roadside attractions that — in my humble opinion — are destinations in their own right. They might even have your family forgetting to ask, “are we there yet?”
Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood, ID
If you’ve ever laid awake at night wondering, “where is the world’s largest beagle?” you can finally rest, knowing it’s on U.S. Highway 95 in Cottonwood, Idaho — and it has a guest house inside it. The Dog Bark Park Inn is home to Sweet Willy, a 30-foot-tall beagle statue, and his not-so-little brother Toby, a 12-foot-tall beagle statue. They were both created by chainsaw artists and husband and wife duo, Dennis Sullivan and Frances Conklin. They got started by selling wooden dog carvings (which you can still buy at their gift shop) on home shopping network QVC in the mid-90’s, and invested that money into creating the Dog Bark Park. Want to stay in Sweet Willy’s guesthouse? Check availability on their website.
World’s Largest Fire Hydrant in Columbia, SC
You can’t have a giant dog without also having a giant fire hydrant, right? In Columbia, South Carolina on Busted Plug Plaza, you’ll find just that — and not only is this fire hydrant giant, it’s also the world’s largest fire hydrant, measuring in at four stories tall, and weighing 675,000 pounds. The idea belongs to an artist named Blue Sky, who came up with it in 2000 — he initially called the project “Y2K,” and hid it beneath a giant tarp while building it, much to the confusion and fear of local onlookers. Allegedly, Beaumont, Texas and Elm Creek, Manitoba both claim to have larger fire hydrants — but Columbia’s is both taller and heavier. There’s no water connected to this hydrant, but it still makes quite the splash.
The World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things in Lucas, KS
No, your screen isn’t glitching — that’s really the title of this roadside attraction. Researcher, scholar, curator, and artist Erika Nelson is the creator of this one, and she’s an expert on roadside attractions, having visited and written about several of the “World’s Largest” things. She even gives speeches nationwide about these attractions and their impact, and is a consultant to other cities hoping to establish their own “world’s largest thing” to boost tourism. She began creating small versions of these world’s largest things and showcasing them as part of a traveling museum and roadside attraction — which has since expanded into a storefront location in Lucas, Kansas. To see all of her creations, you need to catch her traveling circus or make a stop in Lucas; but to get a sample of her work, you can check out her miniature sculpture of the World’s Largest Wren in Topeka, Kansas.
The Official Center of the World in Felicity, CA
If you find yourself in California’s Sonoran Desert, and you see a pink granite pyramid claiming to be the center of the world, it’s not a mirage. Eccentric Mayor Jacques-André Istel founded the first parachuting school in the country after gaining notoriety for his parachutist skills in the Korean War; he then purchased almost 3,000 ares of land in the Sonoran Desert, and in the 80’s, built a town with the intent of it being recognized as the center of the world. He wrote a children’s book about it, then appealed to the local government to officially recognize it as the world’s center (even though in strictly geographic terms, it is not). Once they did, he named the town “Felicity” after his wife, Felicia Lee. Its main structure is a 21-foot-tall pink granite pyramid with a metal plaque on the floor (make a wish when you stand on it!) marking the world’s center. Now recognized as the “official” center of the world by France and some other nations, it has expanded into a destination of its own — it even houses an original staircase from the Eiffel Tower, a Korean War memorial, a church, and a gift shop with its own brands of beer and chocolate. Make a visit and receive your certificate saying that you have stood at the center of the world (signed by the mayor himself).
Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ
Elephants are already pretty big — but have you ever wondered which is the largest? Wonder no longer. Lucy the Elephant is a 90-ton, six-story-tall elephant covered in 12,000 square feet of tin. She’s also one of the oldest roadside attractions, having been built in 1881 by real estate developer James Lafferty in order to bring attention to the New Jersey area. He would bring potential buys up through the staircase in her left leg and give them a 360-degree view of the then-undeveloped town to show them its great potential. The town grew up around Lucy, and she has since been designated a National Historic Landmark. Since her inception, Lucy has survived natural disasters and even a fire when she housed a tavern, and has been visited by celebrities and royalty from around the world. She was restored in 2000, but is still in need of maintenance. Check out her website to learn more and contribute.
So, next time you’re buckled in for a long road trip, don’t forget to schedule out some fun stops. No matter where you’re headed, your trip will be more memorable with a certificate from the center of the world or a stay inside the world’s largest beagle.