The Weirdest Roadside Attractions

The stories behind these American road trip pit stops are as curious as the attractions themselves

America is dotted with random nonsense but not all roadside attractions are created equal. For every Mystery Spot or trippy theme park, there are hundreds of oversized things and fossil farms waiting to lure you off the beaten path. These are the true gems, the paragons of off-highway kitsch and wonder. Point the GPS in their direction, and your road trip automatically becomes more interesting. Or at least your photography will. 

With wanderlust and weirdness in mind, we road-tripped across the country and found the oddest, most wonderful, and most puzzling roadside attractions where least expected. Better stock up on boudin and pork cracklins, kolache and doughnuts, and other snack foods: there are going to be many, many detours in your future.

You’ll also want to read my articles on roadside attractions:

INSIDER TIP: For the deepest dive, jump off the interstate and wander the local or back roads instead.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mother of All Roadside Attractions

One of (if not the) the most prominent tourist traps has to be Wall Drug. The first time you see one of the charming, hand-painted Wall Drug signs on the highway leading to South Dakota, you’ll be charmed. By the 100th time, you’ll be confused, maybe swearing off visiting out of principle. But Wall Drug cannot be avoided if you’re on I-90, largely because it’s the last stop for fuel before/after the Badlands.

Spotted Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spotted Lake

The natural world has many wonders. One of the most remarkable is that of Spotted Lake near Osoyoos in the southern interior of British Columbia. It is a polka-dotted body of water that looks so bizarre you could be forgiven for thinking you were on an alien planet. During the summer the lake undergoes a remarkable transformation becoming spotted with different colors and the waters that resemble a polka-dot design. This lake is also an important spiritual site for the local First Nation Peoples.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

World’s Only Corn Palace

This corn crazed prairie town in South Dakota is home to the high school sports teams the Kernels, local radio station KORN, and the architectural showplace of the world known as the Mitchell Corn Palace. Its czarist-Russia exterior and intricate murals are made entirely out of local corn and grains (it’s refurbished annually), and the onion domes and minarets make it the world’s only corn palace, but would the world really need more than one of these?

Mundare Sausage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

World’s Largest Sausage

Mundare, Alberta, is known for its Ukrainian Home-Made Style Sausage produced by Stawnichy’s Meat Processing, a sausage factory famous for its kobasa. It is also the home of the world’s largest sausage replica (42 feet high and 6 tons) built by the Stawnichy family.

Started in 1959, the Stawnichy family, father and son, started smoking meat. Edward took over from his father in 1971 and now his daughter, Cheryl Zeleny, mixes all the spices. This immense Ukrainian sausage is the tallest piece of meat anywhere in the world.

The Peachoid © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Peach of a Water Tower

You can’t miss it as you drive down I-85 in South Carolina. The Peachoid, as it’s called, is a massive peach-shaped water tower. In Gaffney, the Peachoid is more than a water tower. According to official literature, the Peachoid boldly “sets the record straight about which state is the biggest peach producer in the South. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT Georgia.”

Without a doubt, the best known, most photographed water tank in America. It is painted to match the kind of peaches grown in the area using 20 colors and 50 gallons of paint.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Town Too Tough To Die

Live out all of your Wild West dreams in Tombstone, Arizona, the location of the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Cowboys, cowgirls, and wannabes fill up the town’s saloons and the O.K. Corral museum puts on reenactments of Wyatt Earp’s 1881 shootout. The buildings are so well maintained and the townsfolk so authentic that at times it’s easy to think you’ve landed on a John Wayne movie set.

Paisano Pete © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paisano Pete

There’s a really big roadrunner in Texas. His name is Paisano Pete and he wants to welcome you to the town of Fort Stockton (he is their mascot, after all). An off-beat roadside attraction, Paisano Pete has been a fixture in this West Texas town since 1979.

Paisano Pete was for many years the World’s Largest Roadrunner. In 1993, Pete lost his world’s largest title to an enormous statue in Las Cruces, New Mexico, but this hasn’t dimmed his appeal nor stopped him from becoming Fort Stockton’s most photographed resident. And at 22 feet long and 11 feet tall, he’s still pretty big.

World’s Largest Roadrunner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An Encounter with the World’s Largest Roadrunner

The Roadrunner is the official state bird of New Mexico. A giant recycled roadrunner—20 feet tall and 40 feet long—has been an icon of Las Cruces ever since artist Olin Calk built it in 1993. It was made exclusively of items salvaged from the landfill. In early 2001, Olin stripped off the old junk, replaced it with new junk, and moved the roadrunner to a rest stop along Interstate 10, just west of the city.

Signs around the sculpture warned of rattlesnakes, but when we stopped by to visit people were blissfully trudging out to the big bird anyway, to pose for snapshots or examine the junk (We did, too).

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Nestled in the scenic hills of Desert Hot Springs, a Hopi-inspired pueblo sits against a hillside. Not just any pueblo but one built with natural materials collected throughout the desert. Yerxa’s Pueblo is a four-story, 5,000-square-foot structure. It has 160 windows, 65 doors, 30 rooflines, and 35 rooms. When homesteader Yerxa Cabot settled in Desert Hot Springs, he used re-purposed materials and a little ingenuity to build a home so unique it remains a preserved museum to this day.

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sleep in a Wigwam

Have you slept in a wigwam lately? In the arid Arizona desert, the Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook still provides Route 66 aficionados the opportunity to “Sleep in a Wigwam!”

Fifteen concrete and steel freestanding teepees are arranged in a semi-circle around the motel office.

Each teepee is 21 feet wide at the base and 28 feet high. The teepees are painted white with a red zigzag above the doorway. If you were to focus on the front door, ignoring the quirky architecture that drew you here in the first place, you might think you’re entering a Hobbit hole. Vintage automobiles are permanently parked throughout the property, including a Studebaker.

Worth Pondering…

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.

—Emma Chase

10 Unusual and Unique Places to Visit in Your RV This Summer

Don’t just retreat to major tourist spots; spend your summer travel days in a unique, crowd-free locale

Have you thought about where the road will lead you this camping season?

Popular destinations such as the Grand Canyon, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Arches National Park top the must-see list for many RVers. But if you’re on the hunt for hidden gems to add an interesting twist to your travels this year, RVing with Rex has compiled a list of 10 unusual attractions that may fit the bill.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Helen, Georgia

The South holds its own in terms of small towns packing more than their weight in charm—but Helen, Georgia, really hammers that point home. With around 550 residents and only 2.1 square miles, it’s undoubtedly tiny. But the steeply pitched roofs, quaint cross-gables, and colorful half-timbering make the authentic Bavarian village enchanting. It looks straight out of our fairytale dreams and sits in the mountains of northern Georgia.

The Bavarian options go beyond golden German brews and bratwurst. (Though, that duo never disappoints.) You’ll find the most noticeable among the many cultural spots in the center of town.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though reborn into its German style in the late 1960s, Helen was originally the home of the Cherokee Native Americans before its time as a gold rush town, then logging town.

Camping around Helen means you’re close to the best spots. Just a few minutes away you might find yourself hiking to the top of Yonah Mountain, tubing down the Chattahoochee River, or witnessing the geographical peculiarity of Raven Cliff Falls.

Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Roswell, New Mexico

Roswell, New Mexico, is famous for being the location of an alleged UFO crash in 1947. There are many things to do in Roswell including the International UFO Museum & Research Center, the Roswell UFO Spacewalk and Gallery, and the annual UFO Festival (June 30-July2, 2013). If alien-themed activities aren’t your jam, check out attractions like the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art, Roswell Museum and Arts Center, Pecos Flavors Winery, and Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Be prepared for hot weather in the summer while winters tend to be short, snowy, windy, and chilly. There are several RV parks to choose from in the area.

>> Get more tips for visiting Roswell

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Tombstone, Arizona

A visit to Tombstone, Arizona is like stepping back into history. Otherwise known as the Town Too Tough to Die, Tombstone is the home of the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral, Bird Cage Theater, Boothill Graveyard, Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Site, and the World’s Largest Rose Bush. Tombstone boasts a mild year-round climate, many wonderful shops, gunfight shows, re-enactments, and museums. 

Tombstone is a living town with a colorful past that is celebrated throughout the year with many different events that bring Tombstone’s unique history to life. There are several RV parks in the area and boondocking is also popular in this region.

>> Get more tips for visiting Tombstone

Woodford Reserve Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Bourbon Trail, Kentucky

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a collection of bourbon whiskey distilleries located in Kentucky. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail began in 1999 as a way to bring tourism to Kentucky. Touring the Bourbon Trail gives visitors an up-close look at how bourbon is distilled, the history behind the crafting of bourbon, and the art behind the perfect bourbon tasting.

Currently, there are eighteen bourbon labels that are a part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Each of these bourbon distilleries must be a member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association which requires paying a fee. Our favorite bourbon distillers include Woodford Reserve, Makers Mark, Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, and Heaven Hill.

Wild Turkey Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are many more distilleries you can visit in Kentucky that are not part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. One of these is the famous Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, the state capital.

Whispering Hills RV Park in Georgetown and My Old Kentucky Home State Park campground will position you at either end of the trail and give you easy day trip access.

>> Get more tips for visiting Bourbon Country

Castle in the Clouds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Castle in the Clouds, Moultonborough, New Hampshire

Castle in the Clouds is home to Lucknow, an Arts and Crafts-style 16-room mansion built in the Ossipee Mountains in 1914. The 135-acre estate provides one of the most stunning views of Lake Winnipesauke, surrounding mountains, and over 5,500 acres of conserved land.

Enjoy self-guided tours of the mansion and guided tours of its basement. The on-site Carriage House offers dining in its highly-acclaimed restaurant in vintage horse stalls and amidst panoramic lakeside views on the terrace. You can also spend time walking or hiking along 28 miles of trail managed by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust taking in the beauty while weaving along brooks and streams and exploring seven different waterfalls. For those that prefer horseback, Riding in the Clouds offers trail rides, carriage rides, and pony rides.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, Desert Hot Springs, California

Nestled in the scenic hills of Desert Hot Springs, a Hopi-inspired pueblo sits against a hillside. Not just any pueblo but one built with natural materials collected throughout the desert. Yerxa’s pueblo is a four-story, 5,000 square foot structure. It has 160 windows, 65 doors, 30 rooflines, and 35 rooms. When homesteader Yerxa Cabot settled in Desert Hot Springs, he used re-purposed materials and a little ingenuity to build a home so unique it remains a preserved museum to this day.

>> Get more tips for visiting Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Carlsbad Caverns © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Carlsbad Caverns, Carlsbad, New Mexico

New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns welcomes visitors with a unique spectacle: the Bat Flight Program where thousands of bats swarm the night sky. The free event begins in the evening with ranger-led narration about the science behind the spectacle. During the program, visitors watch the park’s large colony of Brazilian free-tailed bats exit the caverns to hunt for insects.

No reservations are required for this program that occurs every evening from Memorial Day weekend through October. The program takes place at the Bat Flight Amphitheater located at the Natural Entrance to Carlsbad Cavern. The start time for the program changes as the summer progresses and sunset times change.

To explore the cavern visitors can choose between the steep paved trail making its way down into the cave or the elevator directly down to the Big Room Trail. The 1.25-mile long Natural Entrance Trail is steep (it gains or loses) around 750 feet in elevation. This is equivalent to walking up a 75-story building. It takes about an hour to complete. Once down in the caves, the Big Room Trail is leading to the popular Big Room.

>> Get more tips for visiting Carlsbad Caverns

Museum of Appalachia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Museum of Appalachia, Clinton, Tennessee

The Museum of Appalachia is a living history museum, a unique collection of historic pioneer buildings and artifacts assembled for over a half-century. The Museum portrays an authentic mountain farm and pioneer village with some three dozen historic log structures, several exhibit buildings filled with thousands of authentic Appalachian artifacts, multiple gardens, and free-range farm animals, all set in a picturesque venue and surrounded by split-rail fences.

Strolling through the village, it’s easy to imagine we’re living in Appalachia of yesteryear cutting firewood, tending livestock, mending a quilt, or simply rocking on the porch, enjoying the glorious views.

>> Get more tips for visiting Museum of Appalachia

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota

Looking for something corny to do? The Corn Palace’s multi-purpose building in Mitchell, South Dakota is redecorated every year with fresh murals made of corn, native grasses, and other grains.

Mitchell built its first Corn Palace in 1892, then a replacement in 1905. The current Palace opened in 1921. Onion domes and cone-topped castle turrets were added in 1937 then updated to sleeker, LED-enhanced towers in 2015. Through all of its iterations, pennants and flags have fluttered from multiple poles on the roof.

Don’t miss the Corn Palace Festival from August 23-27, 2023. This annual event celebrates the redecorating of the building and features a carnival, musical entertainment, specialty vendors, and more. There are over half a dozen RV parks in the area including Dakota Campground.

>> Get more tips for visiting the Corn Palace

Texas Quilt Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Quilt Museum, La Grande, Texas

In downtown La Grange, quilts are doing what quilts have always done. They’re bringing people together. But instead of women huddling for a quilting bee or gathering at a quilt guild or children snuggling under a grandmother’s creation, visitors—quilters and non-quilters alike—come to the Texas Quilt Museum to view the common and uncommon artistry of handmade quilts from around the world.

The museum opened in November 2011 in adjacent 19th-century buildings that had been extensively renovated into three galleries totaling more than 10,000 square feet. Rotating displays are assembled every several months.

Texas Quilt Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you take in the sights in your RV this summer, consider adding one or more of these unusual—and sometimes quirky—attractions to your itinerary. 

Worth Pondering…

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

—Miriam Beard

Show Me the Weird

Say goodbye to boring road trips

One of the reasons people travel in RVs is to see things. They see epic places like The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. On the way to the big stuff, there are plenty of small sites that capture the public’s attention, too, like the World’s Largest Roadrunner, historical markers, and that corny attraction in Mitchell, South Dakota.

With wanderlust and weirdness in mind, we road-tripped across the country and found the oddest, most wonderful, and most puzzling roadside attractions where we least expected. Better stock up on boudin and pork cracklins, kolache and doughnuts, and other snack foods: there are going to be many, many detours in your future.

Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Basically Everything in Roswell

Is it fair to call an entire town a roadside attraction? Probably not! But the sheer number of alien-related stuff populating the streets of Roswell makes it unavoidable. There are makeshift spaceships you can tour. Straight-up UFO “museums.” A fake-ass alien autopsy site. Gift shops galore. If there are actual aliens tucked away in Roswell, they pulled the ingenious move of hiding in plain sight, surrounded by every kind of gaudy, over-the-top kitsch as possible. Well played Martians.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mother of All Tourist Traps

One of (if not the) the most prominent tourist traps has to be Wall Drug. You can’t miss it: Not only because it’s massive, but because you’ll see hundreds of hand-painted signs across multiple states, luring tourists in with the promise of free ice water and $.05 coffee (the ice water’s great, the coffee not so much).

Related article: 10 Unusual Roadside Attractions to Stop For

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And even if you wish to avoid it, you kind of can’t: At the intersection of East and West, North and South, it’s one of the last places to get gas for a while, regardless of where you’re going. Just grab a “where the heck is Wall Drug” bumper sticker, eat a donut, and soak in the Americana.

Prehistoric sculpture © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monsters in the Desert

Something prehistoric. Something mythical. Something otherworldly. Here, in the middle of the desert, is a magical array of free-standing sculptures that will astound you. Imagine driving along Borrego Springs Road and something catches your attention—a dark form in the desert landscape. You spy a horse as it rears off to the side of the road. You look again and it is big, but it doesn’t seem to be moving. Then you look again and you realize it is a huge sculpture that has captured your attention.

Prehistoric sculptors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Then, rising out of the flat desert landscape, an elephant appears. Alarmingly close by, a T-Rex bears its maw chasing a saber-tooth tiger. From the corners of your eyes, these large structures can be deceptively realistic. This is not a mirage but the gifts of visionary benefactor Dennis Avery (now deceased) and the craft of artist/welder Ricardo Breceda.

Related article: 12 Must-See Roadside Attractions for the Perfect Road Trip

Hole N” The Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hole N” The Rock

You’re driving down US Highway 191 south of Moab, thinking vaguely of finding a place to pull over and stretch, maybe get some snacks, when you see, in the distance: a massive red rock face with blazing white detailing. You drive closer. “HOLE N” THE ROCK”.

Hole N” The Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Is it … literally a hole in the rock? It is, kinda, yes. Hole N” The Rock is a 5,000-square-foot home carved into the rock where you’ll also find a trading post, general store, art collection, and petting zoo—camels, zebras, albino raccoons. You are wondering whether you can feed them, yes you can.

“WE ARE NOT YOUR DESTINATION:” explains/yells the Hole N” The Rock website, “WE ARE AN AMAZING STOP ALONG THE WAY.”

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Nestled in the scenic hills of Desert Hot Springs, a Hopi-inspired pueblo sits against a hillside. Not just any pueblo but one built with natural materials collected throughout the desert. Yerxa’s pueblo is a four-story, 5,000-square-foot structure. It has 160 windows, 65 doors, 30 rooflines, and 35 rooms. When homesteader Yerxa Cabot settled in Desert Hot Springs, he used re-purposed materials and a little ingenuity to build a home so unique it remains a preserved museum to this day.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

World’s Only Corn Palace

This corn crazed prairie town in South Dakota is home to the high school sports teams the Kernels, local radio station KORN, and the “architectural showplace of the world” known as the Mitchell Corn Palace. Its czarist-Russia exterior and intricate murals are made entirely out of local corn and grains (it’s refurbished annually), and the onion domes and minarets make it the world’s only corn palace, but would the world really need more than one of these?

Related article: Blow Your Mind at the Weirdest Roadside Attractions across America

World’s Largest Pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One Really Big Nut

One of the largest pistachio tree grooves in New Mexico, PistachioLand is a destination that can be enjoyed by all ages. Located in the Tularosa Basin outside of Alamogordo it’s an easy day trips from Las Cruces and can be combined with a visit to White Sands National Park.

PistachioLand is the home of the World’s Largest Pistachio, Pistachio Tree Ranch, McGinn’s Country Store, and Arena Blanca Winery.

Superstition Mountain Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Lost Dutchman

Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum is the keeper and purveyor of the colorful tales of bygone days, both true and mythical. Located on the Apache Trail (Arizona Highway 88), the museum is comprised of numerous outdoor structures including the Apacheland Barn and the Elvis Chapel, the last surviving structures from Apacheland Movie Ranch, a huge working 20-stamp gold mill, a historical model railroad, Western storefronts, an exhibit hall and gift shop/bookstore, and nature trail.

World’s Largest Roadrunner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An Encounter with the World’s Largest Roadrunner

The Roadrunner is the official state bird of New Mexico. A giant recycled roadrunner—20 feet tall and 40 feet long—has been an icon of Las Cruces ever since artist Olin Calk built it in 1993. It was made exclusively of items salvaged from the landfill.

Related article: Wacky and Fun Roadside Attractions across America

In early 2001, Olin stripped off the old junk, replaced it with new junk, and moved the roadrunner to a rest stop along Interstate 10, just west of the city. Signs around the sculpture warned of rattlesnakes, but when we stopped by to visit people were blissfully trudging out to the big bird anyway, to pose for snapshots or examine the junk (We did, too).

Worth Pondering…

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.

—Emma Chase

10 Unusual Roadside Attractions to Stop For

Fun for every age!

Instead of a road trip to visit all the US national parks or one that will take you to the best leaf-peeping spots in the country, why not get in the RV and see some of America’s coolest roadside attractions?

There are so many fun and quirky roadside attractions in the US—like Wall Drug in South Dakota or the Peachoid in South Carolina—that building an entire road trip around them is a breeze.

Wigwam Motel, Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer is the perfect time for a road trip and America has no shortage of epic roadside attractions to keep travelers excited, even along some of the most mundane stretches of highway. We rounded up 10 of the most compelling landmarks across the country that should be locked into any traveler’s GPS.

INSIDER TIP: For the deepest dive, jump off the interstate and wander the local or back roads instead.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corny Attraction

Remember the story of the Three Little Pigs, specifically the portly porker who made his house out of straw? Perhaps he’d have been better protected if he’d used a stronger material, maybe something along the lines of corn and grain. Or maybe he should have just hired the architectural crew that built the “World’s Only Corn Palace.”

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Mitchell Corn Palace, in Mitchell, South Dakota, is truly a spectacle. The massive building is comprised entirely of corn and local grains. This includes the structure, decorations, and even some impressive corn murals. The palace is so famous in the area that it plays host to a variety of events. You can even book and host your event.

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sleep in a Wigwam

Have you slept in a wigwam lately? In the arid Arizona desert, the Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook still provides Route 66 aficionados the opportunity to “Sleep in a Wigwam!”

Related Article: Blow Your Mind at the Weirdest Roadside Attractions across America

Fifteen concrete and steel freestanding teepees are arranged in a semi-circle around the motel office.

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each teepee is 21 feet wide at the base and 28 feet high. The teepees are painted white with a red zigzag above the doorway. If you were to focus on the front door, ignoring the quirky architecture that drew you here in the first place, you might think you’re entering a Hobbit-hole. Vintage automobiles are permanently parked throughout the property, including a Studebaker.

Roswell UFO Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Basically Everything in Roswell

Is it fair to call an entire town a roadside attraction? Probably not! But the sheer number of alien-related stuff populating the streets of Roswell makes it unavoidable. There are makeshift spaceships you can tour. Straight-up UFO “museums.” A fake-ass alien autopsy site. Gift shops galore. If there are actual aliens tucked away in Roswell, they pulled the ingenious move of hiding in plain sight, surrounded by every kind of gaudy, over-the-top kitsch as possible. Well played Martians.

Hole N” The Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hole N” The Rock

You’re driving down US Highway 191 south of Moab, thinking vaguely of finding a place to pull over and stretch, maybe get some snacks, when you see, in the distance: a massive red rock face with blazing white detailing. You drive closer. “HOLE N” THE ROCK”. Is it … literally a hole in the rock? It is, kinda, yes.

Hole N” The Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hole N” The Rock is a 5,000-square-foot home carved into the rock where you’ll also find a trading post, general store, art collection, and petting zoo—camels, zebras, albino raccoons. You are wondering whether you can feed them, yes you can.

Related Article: Wacky and Fun Roadside Attractions across America

“WE ARE NOT YOUR DESTINATION:” explains/yells the Hole N” The Rock website, “WE ARE AN AMAZING STOP ALONG THE WAY.”

World’s Largest Pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One Really Big Nut

The World’s Largest Pistachio was built in honor of PistachioLand’s founder, Thomas McGinn. After his passing in 2008, his son, Timothy McGinn erected the 30-foot sculpture in memory of his father. Tim wanted everyone who passed by PistachioLand to take note of what his dad created, a 111-acre pistachio orchard and vineyard started from bare desert land in 1980. From the first trees planted to today, PistachioLand now is home to over 12,000 pistachio trees and 14 acres of wine grapes. 

A bronze plaque at the base of the nut states that, “Tom dreamed big, expected big, and accomplished big things. He would have said the monument is not big enough!”

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Town Too Tough To Die

Live out all of your Wild West dreams in Tombstone, Arizona, the location of the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Cowboys, cowgirls, and wannabes fill up the town’s saloons and the O.K. Corral museum puts on reenactments of Wyatt Earp’s 1881 shootout. The buildings are so well maintained and the townsfolk so authentic that at times it’s easy to think you’ve landed on a John Wayne movie set.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wall Drug

Wall Drug is the roadside attraction to end all roadside attractions rising out of the prehistoric landscape preceding the Badlands. It’s a city-sized paragon of Western kitsch, a necessary pit stop in the middle of capital-N Nowhere. An actual drug store where you can get a prescription filled and also see a gigantic animatronic dinosaur or cowboy band, peruse Native American art, eat an open-face turkey sandwich, play in a shooting gallery, or snap a photo with a jackalope.

The Peachoid © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Peach of a Water Tower

You can’t miss it as you drive down I-85 in South Carolina. The Peachoid, as it’s called, is a massive peach-shape water tower. In Gaffney, the Peachoid is more than a water tower. According to official literature, the Peachoid boldly “sets the record straight about which state is the biggest peach producer in the South. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT Georgia.”

Related Article: 12 Must-See Roadside Attractions for the Perfect Road Trip

Without a doubt, the best known, most photographed water tank in America. It is painted to match the kind of peaches grown in the area using 20 colors and 50 gallons of paint.

Paisano Pete © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paisano Pete

There’s a really big roadrunner in Texas. His name is Paisano Pete and he wants to welcome you to the town of Fort Stockton (he is their mascot, after all). An off-beat roadside attraction, Paisano Pete has been a fixture in this West Texas town since 1979.

Paisano Pete was for many years the World’s Largest Roadrunner. In 1993, Pete lost his world’s largest title to an enormous statue in Las Cruces, New Mexico, but this hasn’t dimmed his appeal nor stopped him from becoming Fort Stockton’s most photographed resident. And at 22 feet long and 11 feet tall, he’s still pretty big.

World’s Largest Sausage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

World’s Largest Sausage

Mundare, Alberta, is known for its Ukrainian Home-Made Style Sausage produced by Stawnichy’s Meat Processing, a sausage factory famous for its kobasa.. It is also the home of the world’s largest sausage replica (42 feet high and 6 tons) built by the Stawnichy family.

World’s Largest Sausage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Started in 1959, the Stawnichy family, father and son, started smoking meat. Edward took over from his father in 1971 and now his daughter, Cheryl Zeleny, mixes all the spices. This immense Ukrainian sausage is the tallest piece of meat anywhere in the world.

Read Next: Life Is a Highway: Taking the Great American Road Trip

Worth Pondering…

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.

—Emma Chase

10 Cool Buildings for a Cross-country Road Trip

Consider this list your reason for an epic cross-country road trip

As we travel around the United States, we observe fantastic buildings that adorn the country’s cities and towns. These incredible structures all have a story to tell and have been built to honor culture, challenge mankind’s abilities, and represent a time and place that is meaningful to its residents.

The Breakers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You learn a lot about a society from its buildings. Are they beautiful? Do they serve the people who live in them? Do they last? You could ask the same questions of civilization.

Vanderbilt Mansion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By those measures, the British Empire fares well. The English, like them or not, planted pretty buildings around the world. It may be the most unusual thing they did. Certainly, no one has done it since. Not only are these buildings interesting to look at, but they’re also full of fascinating history. Most cities (including Washington) haven’t constructed a graceful building in over 50 years. It makes me wonder about our civilization.

We’ve rounded up the most interesting structures in a variety of states. Let’s take a cross-country road trip as we explore nine of the coolest buildings in America.

Chapel of the Holy Cross © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona – Chapel of the Holy Cross

This cool chapel was designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s students—Marguerite Brunswig Staude. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is 4 miles south of Sedona. It juts out from the colorful red cliffs and the large stained-glass windows overlook the Verde Valley.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia – Jekyll Island Club

The Club officially opened in 1888, quickly becoming a retreat for families that represented one-sixth of the world’s wealth including the Vanderbilts, Morgans, Pulitzers, and Rockefellers. Over time the Clubhouse with its elegant spire expanded to include the Annex and accommodations for the Member’s Guests, or “Strangers” as they were affectionately called, and a few Members even built their own Cottage.

Related: 8 U.S. Towns Stuck in Time

Boone Tavern Hotel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kentucky – Boone Tavern Hotel

A historic Berea hotel, Boone Tavern was built in 1909 at the suggestion of Nellie Frost, the wife of the College president, William G. Frost. Boone Tavern Hotel—named for Appalachian hero Daniel Boone—has been hosting visitors of Berea ever since including the Dalai Lama, Henry Ford, President Calvin Coolidge, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, and Robert Frost.

Cathedral of St. Helena © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Montana – Cathedral of St. Helena

The Cathedral of Saint Helena was modeled by architect A.O. Von Herbulis after Vienna’s neo-Gothic church, Votivkirche. Construction began in 1908 and the church held its first mass in 1914. The impressive spires rise 230 feet above the street and can be seen from all parts of Helena. The stained-glass windows were made in Bavaria and shipped to Helena.

Loretto Chapel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Mexico – Loretto Chapel

The visitor is drawn to Loretto Chapel to see the spiral staircase that leads to the choir loft. The chapel’s small-sized made access to the loft possible only by ladder. When none of the local carpenters could build a staircase that wouldn’t encroach on the limited floor space, the Sisters prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.

Loretto Chapel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Soon a mysterious stranger arrived, looking for work, and built an elegant spiral staircase. The staircase—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase.

Vanderbilt Mansion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New York – Vanderbilt Mansion

By any standard, past or present, this property—with a magnificent view of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains—would be considered prime real estate. A series of fine homes have stood on the tract since about 1764, and in 1847 the estate was called “one of the finest specimens of the modern style of Landscape Gardening in America.”

Related: 7 of the Most Visited National Historic Sites (NHS) in America

Vanderbilt Mansion gardens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Such superlatives attracted the attention of Frederick Vanderbilt, the grandson of Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, who had built a fortune from shipping, ferries, and the New York Central Railroad. One of Frederick’s brothers, George Washington Vanderbilt, is perhaps best-known for his Biltmore Estate near Ashville, North Carolina. The Vanderbilts were known as the richest—and the most powerful—family in America in the late 1800s.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Dakota – The World’s Only Corn Palace

The World’s Only Corn Palace or the Mitchell Corn Palace is a quirky, but cool multi-purpose arena in Mitchell. It was built in the Moorish Revival style and is adorned with crop art made from corn and other grain that features a constantly-evolving design.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Corn Palace hosts concerts, sports events, exhibits, and other community events like the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo in July and the Corn Palace Polka Festival in September.

Mission San Jose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas – Mission San Jose

If you visit Texas, expect to see a lot of missions. But if you want to see the coolest one, check out the “queen” of all the San Antonio missions—Mission San Jose. Once the heart of a vibrant Spanish community founded in the early 18th century, San Jose attracted people from all over the area. The church, which still stands, was built in 1768.

Related: Exploring What Is Old and Discovering What’s New along San Antonio Missions Trail

Castle in the Clouds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Hampshire – Castle in the Clouds

Built on a mountainside overlooking New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, the Moultonborough mansion originally named Lucknow has aptly been called Castle in the Clouds since it opened to the public in 1957. The beautiful Arts and Crafts–style home was built in 1913 as the luxury Ossipee Mountain retreat of Thomas Plant, a millionaire shoe-manufacturing mogul.

The Breakers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rhode Island – The Breakers

There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of mega-mansions in Newport. The coolest of the over-the-top palatial “summer cottages” is the Breakers. This home symbolizes the social and financial preeminence of the Vanderbilt family who built the mansion.

Related: Jacksonville: The Historic Small Town That Never Gets Old

The Breakers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Architects were tasked with designing an Italian Renaissance-style palace inspired by the 16th-century palazzos of Genoa and Turin. The manor was completed in 1895 and after the death of the last remaining Vanderbilt associated with the Breakers, it’s now in the hands of the Preservation Society and is the most visited attraction in Rhode Island.

Worth Pondering…

Traveling is almost like talking with men of other centuries.

—René Descartes

12 Must-See Roadside Attractions for the Perfect Road Trip

All manner of strange and interesting roadside attractions are found across the country

Road trips are an unpredictable and intimate method of exploring a place. Foregoing the long-distance leaps between airports, traveling via RV presents an opportunity to view the world on a micro-level by exploring the well-traveled and off-the-beaten-path attractions.

With wanderlust and weirdness in mind, we road-tripped across the country and found the oddest, most wonderful, and puzzling roadside attractions where least expected. Better stock up on boudin and pork cracklins, kolache and doughnuts, and other snack foods: there are going to be many, many detours in your future.

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sleep in a Wigwam

Have you slept in a wigwam lately? In the arid Arizona desert, the Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook still provides Route 66 aficionados the opportunity to “Sleep in a Wigwam!”

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fifteen concrete and steel freestanding teepees are arranged in a semi-circle around the motel office. Each teepee is 21 feet wide at the base and 28 feet high. The teepees are painted white with a red zigzag above the doorway. If you were to focus on the front door, ignoring the quirky architecture that drew you here in the first place, you might think you’re entering a Hobbit-hole. Vintage automobiles are permanently parked throughout the property, including a Studebaker.

Related: Blow Your Mind at the Weirdest Roadside Attractions across America

Anza-Borrego sculptors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pre-historic Creatures Stalk the Desert

The landscape of the Anga-Borrego Desert has been changed forever by the appearance of prehistoric creatures that pop up alongside the roadside: Prehistoric elephants. A saber-tooth cat. An ancient camel.

Anza-Borrego sculptors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A T. rex and a giant bird of prey. Not the flesh-and-blood kind, but remarkable art pieces—sometimes whimsical, sometimes haunting—are the one-of-a-kind works of sculptor Ricardo Breceda whose creations delight and surprise drivers near the town of Borrego Springs in southeastern California.

World’s Largest Pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One Really Big Nut

One of the largest pistachio tree grooves in New Mexico, PistachioLand is the home of the World’s Largest Pistachio, Pistachio Tree Ranch, McGinn’s Country Store, and Arena Blanca Winery.

World’s Largest Pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The World’s Largest Pistachio was built in honor of PistachioLand’s founder, Thomas McGinn. After his passing in 2008, his son, Timothy McGinn erected the 30-foot sculpture in memory of his father. Tim wanted everyone who passed by PistachioLand to take note of what his dad created, a 111-acre pistachio orchard and vineyard started from bare desert land in 1980. From the first trees planted to today, PistachioLand now is home to over 12,000 pistachio trees and 14 acres of wine grapes. 

Related: What You Need to Know to Have a Perfect Road Trip

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ghosts and Gravestones

Restless spirits have plenty of reasons to stalk the living, and regardless of personal beliefs about the afterlife, people out there are convinced they’ve seen these ghostly apparitions with their own eyes. No matter your destination, there’s bound to be someplace haunted along the way. Board the Trolley of the Doomed and hear about Savannah’s most haunted venues.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wall Drug

One of (if not the) the most prominent tourist traps has to be Wall Drug. The first time you see one of the charming, hand-painted Wall Drug signs on the highway leading to South Dakota, you’ll be charmed. By the 100th time, you’ll be confused, maybe swearing off visiting out of principle. But Wall Drug cannot be avoided if you’re on I-90, largely because it’s the last stop for fuel before/after the Badlands.

World’s Largest Roadrunner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An Encounter with the World’s Largest Roadrunner

The roadrunner is the official state bird of New Mexico. A giant recycled roadrunner—20 feet tall and 40 feet long—has been an icon of Las Cruces ever since artist Olin Calk built it in 1993. It was made exclusively of items salvaged from the landfill.

World’s Largest Roadrunner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In early 2001, Olin stripped off the old junk, replaced it with new junk, and moved the roadrunner to a rest stop along Interstate 10, just west of the city. Signs around the sculpture warned of rattlesnakes, but when we stopped by to visit people were blissfully trudging out to the big bird anyway, to pose for snapshots or examine the junk (We did, too).

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Nestled in the scenic hills of Desert Hot Springs, a Hopi-inspired pueblo sits against a hillside. Not just any pueblo but one built with natural materials collected throughout the desert. Yerxa’s pueblo is a four-story, 5,000 square foot structure. It has 160 windows, 65 doors, 30 rooflines, and 35 rooms. When homesteader Yerxa Cabot settled in Desert Hot Springs, he used re-purposed materials and a little ingenuity to build a home so unique it remains a preserved museum to this day.

Related: Wacky and Fun Roadside Attractions across America

Sundial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sundial Bridge

Designed by Santiago Calatrava the Sundial Bridge is an architectural marvel. The glass decked, cable-stayed cantilever suspension bridge reaches 217 feet into the sky and, spans 710 feet across the Sacramento River, and is one of the world’s largest working sundials.

Sundial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As an environmentally-conscious structure, Sundial Bridge was intentionally constructed without river footings to leave the salmon-spawning habitat below undisturbed. The deck is surfaced with translucent glass which is illuminated from beneath and glows aquamarine at night. Sundial Bridge also inspires onlookers with its “bird in flight” design, symbolizing overcoming adversity.

Hole N’ The Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More Than a Potty Stop

You’re driving down US Highway 191 (south of Moab, Utah) thinking vaguely of finding a place to pull over and stretch, maybe get some snacks, when you see, in the distance: a massive red rock face with blazing white detailing. Then you drive closer. “HOLE N” THE ROCK”. Is it literally a hole in the rock? Kinda, like yes!

Hole N’ The Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hole N” The Rock is a 5,000-square-foot home carved into the rock where you’ll also find a trading post, general store, art collection, and petting zoo—camels, zebras, albino raccoons.  You are wondering whether you can feed them, yes you can.

Related: 8 Weird and Wacky Destinations for a Family Road Trip

“WE ARE NOT YOUR DESTINATION:” explains/yells the Hole N” The Rock website, “WE ARE AN AMAZING STOP ALONG THE WAY.”

Superstition Mountain Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Lost Dutchman

Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum is the keeper and purveyor of the colorful tales of bygone days, both true and mythical, regarding the area. Located on the Apache Trail (Arizona Highway 88), the museum is comprised of numerous outdoor structures including the Apacheland Barn and the Elvis Chapel, the last surviving structures from Apacheland Movie Ranch, a huge working 20-stamp gold mill, a historical model railroad, Western storefronts, an exhibit hall and gift shop/bookstore, and nature trail.

Peachoid © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Giant Peach

You can’t miss it as you drive down I-85 in South Carolina. The Peachoid, as it’s called, is a massive peach-shaped water tower. In Gaffney, the Peachoid is more than a water tower. According to official literature, the Peachoid boldly “sets the record straight about which state is the biggest peach producer in the South. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT Georgia.”

Peachoid © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Without a doubt, the best known, most photographed water tank in America. It is painted to resemble a giant peach.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corny Attraction

Remember the story of the Three Little Pigs, specifically the portly porker who made his house out of straw? Perhaps he’d have been better protected if he’d used a stronger material, maybe something along the lines of corn and grain. Or maybe he should have just hired the architectural crew that built the “World’s Only Corn Palace.”

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Mitchell Corn Palace, in Mitchell, South Dakota, is truly a spectacle. The massive building is comprised entirely of corn and local grains. This includes the structure, decorations, and even some impressive corn murals. The palace is so famous in the area that it plays host to a variety of events. You can even book and host your own event.

Worth Pondering…

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.

—Emma Chase

The Ultimate South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary

Discover Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Sioux Falls, and more on a road trip through South Dakota

South Dakota was made for road trips: There are scenic, paved roads that lead to national treasures, natural anomalies, perfectly preserved Wild West towns, and quirky attractions. Whether you’re a history buff, foodie, or nature lover, this Midwest state delivers. Read on for the ultimate South Dakota road trip itinerary including where to stop, what to do, and more.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mitchell Corn Palace

Any drive through the Midwest will bring you face-to-face with cornstalks taller than you can imagine. The Mitchell Corn Palace in South Dakota celebrates all things corn—starting with this prairie town in the middle of nowhere. A pair of rounded turrets and two massive domes thrust into the sky capping off walls adorned in six different types of native grass and multi-story murals depicting famous South Dakota sights. A marquee reading “South Dakota Home Grown” stands over the main entrance. All of it is made from multi-colored ears of corn.

Wall Drug Store © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wall Drug Store

Nestled in the town of Wall in the western part of the state, Wall Drug has grown from its humble beginnings in 1931 to a thriving oasis. Wall Drug offers dining, activities, gifts and souvenirs, visitor information and, of course, free ice water. Many road-worn travelers stop at Wall Drug and leave awake and refreshed just like they did more than 80 years ago. 

Wall Drug Store © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it wasn’t always a thriving business attracting 2 million visitors each year to the small town of Wall. Ted and Dorothy Hustead struggled to make Wall Drug successful in the early days. But the story of Wall Drug was a story of success because one simple idea took root: Offering travelers free ice water. Soon travelers would make a point to stop at Wall Drug to enjoy a refreshing break and they haven’t stopped coming to Wall Drug since. Stop at Wall Drug and see what the excitement is all about.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park

At first blush, it doesn’t sound like the best place to go. After all, it’s called Badlands! But it’s gorgeous with towering, striated red-and-gray rock formations. Not to mention all the wildlife visitors can see here—big-horned sheep, bison, pronghorns, burrowing owls, and whole towns of adorable prairie dogs. Native Lakota people named this 400-square-mile maze of buttes, canyons, pinnacles, and spires “Mako Sica” or “Bad Land.” Nowadays, it is usually tagged as “surreal” or “otherworldly.” State Route 240—also known as the Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway—leads visitors on a 38-mile odyssey through the center of the park. The route features 16 scenic overlooks and eight trails, ranging from handicapped-accessible quarter-mile boardwalks to a 10-mile-long trek.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Custer State Park

Nearly 1,300 magnificent bison wander the park’s 71,000 acres which they share with the swift pronghorn, shy elk, sure-footed mountain goats, and a band of curious burros. Visitors often enjoy close encounters with these permanent residents along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road that winds around the southern edge of the park. Slender granite formations nicknamed “the needles” dominate the skyline, and grassy meadows fill the valleys. Visitors can explore the park via trail rides, scenic drives, mountain bikes, paddle-boats, hay rides, and even safari tours.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Needles Highway

The Needles Highway is more than a 14-mile road—it’s a spectacular drive through pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and aspen, and rugged granite mountains. The road’s name comes from the needlelike granite formations that seem to pierce the horizon along the highway. Visitors traveling the highway pass Sylvan Lake and a unique rock formation called the Needle’s Eye, so named for the opening created by wind, rain, freezing, and thawing.

Sylvan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Midway along this route, a turnout called The Cathedral Spires offers stunning views of the rocky outcroppings juxtaposed with Harney Peak, the highest point between the Rockies and the Alps.

Mount Rushmore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Rushmore

It’s finally time to see the Founding Fathers’ faces carved into the mountain—the enormity of the sculpture is truly a sight to see. Each year, approximately three million tourists from all over the world visit Mount Rushmore to experience this patriotic site. Today, the wonder of the mountain reverberates through every visitor. The four “great faces” of the Presidents tower 5,725 feet above sea level and are scaled to men who would stand 465 feet tall. The park includes a half-mile walking trail, museum, gift shop and dining room. 

Worth Pondering…

Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and rain alone shall wear them away.

—Gutzon Borglum, Mount Rushmore Sculptor, 1930

a-MAIZ-ing Corn-fused Roadside Attraction

The Corn Palace is an a-maiz-ing marvel of agricultural innovation

A two-story mural of Willie Nelson is made completely of corn. The high school team is called the Kernels. Their mascot is Cornelius. You gotta embrace it! Mitchell may well be the corniest city in America. No city is as singularly associated with a building as Mitchell is with its iconic arena/community center’s 43,000-square-foot piece of folk art known as the Corn Palace. And the people lean into it. Hard!

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paris has the Eiffel Tower and Mitchell has the icon of innovation­—the amazing Corn Palace. The Mitchell Corn Palace is the only corn palace in the world, a fact you’ll see on varied billboards lining Interstate 90 as you speed through South Dakota. As curiosity lures you off the highway, you’ll pull onto Mitchell’s small-town Main Street and find a bright-gold behemoth that looks like a tornado hit Moscow and dropped part of the Kremlin on the prairie.  

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A pair of rounded turrets and two massive domes thrust into the sky capping off walls adorned in six different types of native grass and multi-story murals depicting famous South Dakota sights. A marquee reading “South Dakota Home Grown” stands over the main entrance. All of it is made from multi-colored ears of corn.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Any drive through the Midwest will bring you face-to-face with cornstalks taller than you can imagine. The Mitchell Corn Palace in South Dakota celebrates all things corn—starting with this prairie town in the middle of nowhere. This “palace” looks like something straight out of Russia, built in 1892 to showcase South Dakota’s bountiful harvests.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And though it might be tempting to write off the Corn Palace as yet another kitschy South Dakota roadside attraction, its origins far predate the interstate. Or even the automobile.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first corn palace was built in 1892, but back then it wasn’t the only one in the world. Or even in the state. There were several of them throughout South Dakota and into Nebraska and Iowa. Stroll past the Corn-cession stand in the main concourse. Everything around us smells like popcorn. It was a celebration for the farmers, for all their hard work on the harvest. They wanted to pay homage to agriculture. And over time for whatever reason those communities did not maintain their corn palace and Mitchell thought, ‘hey, this is a cool thing. We’re going to keep going’.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And keep going they did: Through 128 years and three different locations until settling on the current one at 604 North Main Street in 1920. Though the building’s longevity is impressive, what’s perhaps most astounding is that Mitchell redoes the entire thing every year. Before spring planting, the city decides on the theme for the murals that will adorn the Corn Palace for the coming year. This year’s, for example, is “South Dakota Home Grown.” Once the theme is established, a team of students from Dakota Wesleyan University designs the murals. Based on the color scheme, a single local farmer then grows over 375,000 ears of corn in 12 different varieties to match the motif.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once harvest comes—typically in late September—the corn is soaked in giant water buckets to make it pliable. Giant tar paper outlines are plastered on the Corn Palace walls with color coded sections determining which corn goes where. Workers then air-nail the corn to the tar paper in a sort of paint-by-numbers game until the entire palace is covered. Typically it’s ready by the beginning of December but all of that is weather-dependent. They’re not going to have people decorating when it’s 20 below and a blizzard is blowing.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The grass is generally replaced in June or July when it shines the brightest green. So if you want to see the Corn Palace in its full Technicolor glory early summer is probably the best time to visit. The entire project costs about $175,000 which is a small investment for something that draws half a million visitors annually.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, droughts or floods can affect the crop. So some years there’s not enough corn to redo the whole thing and murals stay up for two years or more. Though the corn doesn’t rot, it fades, and birds pick off parts of the building.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though you’ll never find a shortage of roadside gawkers wandering the corn-cob concourses of the Corn Palace and the gift shop that occupies the arena floor, it has practical uses too. It hosts 335 events a year including high school and Dakota Wesleyan athletics, concerts, and festivals.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Corn is not just corn―there are many different types. The kind people eat on the cob is known as sweet corn (Zea mays convar. saccharata var. rugosa). The corn that dominates most American farms is known as field corn (Zea mays indentata). And if you’re looking for popcorn, that’s a whole different kind of corn, too. This kind of corn is simply called popcorn (Zea mays everta). Corn is not just corn.

8 Weird and Wacky Destinations for a Family Road Trip

America is home to some weird and wacky attractions that may not be in your typical travel guide, but would be sure to blow any Happy RVer’s mind!

There’s nothing more American than a road trip. So this summer, why not pack up the car and veer off the beaten track to explore something a little bit different?

This list of destinations, from a palace made of corn to a UFO crash site, provides plenty of inspiration and enough surprises for the whole family.

Be prepared for a natural wonderland. underground marvels, and a few horse-drawn buggies along the way.

Mitchell Corn Palace in South Dakota

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Any drive through the Midwest will bring you face-to-face with cornstalks taller than you can imagine. The Mitchell Corn Palace in South Dakota celebrates all things corn—starting with this prairie town in the middle of nowhere. This “palace” looks like something straight out of Russia, built in 1892 to showcase South Dakota’s bountiful harvests.

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Step out of your car and into a natural wonderland. The vibrant colors of the Petrified Forest will keep your eyes engaged, while these fascinating ancient fossils will engross your mind. Check out the Rainbow Forest Museum first, so you can orient yourself and determine your trail route.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a break from being a road warrior and go caving instead. Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 caves—formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes. Experience the Big Room and Natural Entrance trails at your own pace. Ranger-guided tours include King’s Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, Hall of the White Giant, Lower, Spider, and Slaughter Canyon cave.

Amish Farm Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re determined to unplug and unwind, find your way to Lancaster County for a truly old-fashioned time. From buggy rides to dinner theater, there’s plenty to see and do—including traditional “mud sales,” or outdoor auctions, that specialize in handcrafted products and support the local fire department.

Lassen Volcanic National Park in California

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Peak is the southernmost of the Cascade Mountains’ 15 volcanoes. The mountain famously erupted from 1914 until 1921 and largely changed the landscape to what you see today around the Cinder Cone. But the park is more than just a volcano. It’s a set of peaks surrounded by a lush wilderness. This park is a laid-back spot with great camping and volcanic landscapes right next to verdant forests.

Wall Drug in South Dakota

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wall Drug has grown from its humble beginnings in 1931 to a thriving oasis. Wall Drug offers dining, activities, gifts and souvenirs, visitor information and, of course, free ice water. Many road-worn travelers stop at Wall Drug and leave awake and refreshed, just like they did more than 80 years ago. Attracting 2 million visitors each year, Wall Drug is a story of success because one simple idea took root: Offering road weary travelers free ice water.

Peachoid Water Tower in Gaffney, South Carolina

The Peachoid © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Peachoid (known locally as The Peach) was commissioned to be built in 1980-81 by the Gaffney Board of Public Works. A seven ton, 60-feet long leaf was applied to one side. A New Jersey artist, Peter Freudenberg, painted the sphere after studying local peaches for many hours. It took fifty gallons of paint in twenty colors. According to official literature, the Peachoid boldly “sets the record straight about which state is the biggest peach producer in the South. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT Georgia.”

Roswell in New Mexico

UFO Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If UFOs and cosmic mysteries intrigue you, plan a pit stop in Roswell, New Mexico. Roswell’s rise to fame began in 1947, when a local rancher claimed to have found debris from a flying saucer. The myths and facts have become stranger over the years, cementing this town’s place in national history. Today, you can also enjoy fine cuisine, art museums, and Bottomless Lakes State Park, which is perfect for camping and hiking.

Worth Pondering…

If you do nothing unexpected, nothing unexpected happens.

—Fay Weldon

South Dakota: Fly Over State? Not a Chance!

South Dakota gets a bad rap as a flyover state

An often overlooked travel destination, South Dakota is a land of breathtaking scenic beauty.

Here’s the thing, visit South Dakota once and the place SELLS ITSELF. Much more than just the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Badlands, SoDak is the most scenic places you knew nothing about. Until now!

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lewis and Clark passed through, Crazy Horse fought for freedom, and an 1876 gold rush in the Lakota-owned Black Hills created a miner’s camp known as Deadwood that lured frontiers’ woman Calamity Jane and gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After a rather long, prairie-flat preamble in the east, western South Dakota abruptly changes into two beautiful but distinct landscapes, the striated, fossil-rich sedimentary buttes of the Badlands and the nearby mountains so thick in evergreens that the native Lakota called them paha sapa—hills that are black.

Ironically, the defining feature of Western South Dakota’s breathtaking nature is that it is indefinable. Exceptionally varied, yet incredibly geographically close, you’ll witness the diversity of the natural world while also experiencing how the landscape can change over time.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start in Badlands National Park which is truly a natural anomaly. This rather off-putting nickname was first coined by the Lakota people, who called it “mako sica” (“land bad’), due to its extremity of temperatures, mixed prairie, and the exposed rugged and eroded sedimentary rock.

Badlands Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Badlands Scenic Byway drops immediately beside the parks serrated sandstone spires, which are banded in layers of purple, red, and orange rock that indicate their age. It is these very characteristics, however, that make it an ideal location for captivating vistas and off-beat serene beauty.  

Mount Rushmore National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A must-see road trip destination, Mount Rushmore is visited by 3 million people a year.

The construction in its entirety took over 400 workers more than 14 years to sculpt, and will forever remain a testament to American patriotism. There is something rather overwhelming about it, as if it is a giant projection of a proud past on the rugged landscape of the indelible natural land.

Mount Rushmore National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another powerful and impressive monument in the works, yet open to visitation is the Crazy Horse Memorial, a depiction of the fascinating Oglala Lakota warrior. The privately-funded project began construction in 1948, yet is still quite far from completion. Once completed, however, the statue, carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, will be the world’s largest sculpture at 641 feet wide and 563 feet tall. Witness history in the making by adding this stop to your itinerary!

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Dakota is also about those quirky roadside attractions. A necessary pit stop is Wall Drug in the town of Wall (the gateway to The Badlands), an establishment that embraces its quirkiness and welcomes 15,000 to 20,000 tourists a day. A stop at Wall Drug may include a cup of five cent coffee, a buffalo sandwich in a restaurant that can seat 520 tourists at a time, homemade pumpkin praline fudge, and a traveler’s chapel.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here corniness is key and despite your best efforts, you will more than likely leave with a Wall Drug tee shirt. Don’t say, I didn’t warn you.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And to the east along I-90, the famous Corn Palace in Mitchell which as the name might imply is AN ENTIRE ARENA MADE OF CORN!

The corny Willie Nelson at the Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life really is the journey and these words cannot reach higher truth than referring to South Dakota. Driving through Custer State Park, you will see nearly 1,300 buffalo roaming alongside burros, prairie dog, and pronghorn antelopes.

Needles Highway, Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Or, if you ever want to feel confounded by Mother Nature’s capabilities, Needles Highway is the drive for you with fourteen miles of steep turns, stunning vistas, and granite spires.

Buffalo Roundup, Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic highways make the journey just as spectacular as the destination. Fly over state? Not a chance!

Worth Pondering…

Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam
Where the Deer and the Antelope play;
Where never is heard a discouraging word,
And the sky is not clouded all day.

—Dr. Brewster Higley (1876)