Road Trip Theme Ideas for Your Next RV Adventure

Creating a theme for your RV road trip elevates the fun

If you’ve ever thought road trips were just about long drives and random stops, think again! The open road offers an incredible canvas for themed adventures that cater to every imaginable interest.

Choosing a road trip destination

Many times, the biggest decision that we make when planning a new RV trip is WHERE TO GO. A lot of thought goes into the destinations and on more than a few occasions we have planned out a THEMED road trip. Road trip themes are plentiful and going on a trip that focuses on one main topic is a LOT of fun (The planning process can be ALMOST as enjoyable as the actual trip).

You can put a lot of care and thought into the details of a themed road trip and you can choose themes to match just about any interest or hobby.

Whether you’re a foodie on the hunt for the best diners, a history buff tracing historical trails, or simply someone looking for the road less traveled, themed road trips are your ticket to a more personalized adventure.

The following themes represent the wide variety of interests and inspirations showing how diverse themes can cater to different passions, hobbies, and curiosities. I also include related links to help you start planning.

Perhaps my list will give you some inspiration?

Foodie road trip on the Kolache Trail in central Texas

Plan Road Trips Early

The best tip that I have for planning a successful road trip: plan EARLY. By early, I mean AT LEAST 4-6 months ahead.

Popular attractions, campgrounds and RV parks, and other locations fill up quickly. It is best to book the highly sought-after events and locales as soon as possible.

Road trip themes

I had a fun time putting together the (rather) extensive list below. There are a lot of different themes and each one can be broken down and personalized based on individual preference. Most would work well as family road trips, couples trips, friend’s trips, or even solo trips.

The themes are listed in no particular order below:

  • Foodie Road Trip
  • Famous Authors Road Trip
  • Roadside Attractions Road Trip
  • National Parks Road Trip
  • Music Themed Road Trip
  • Movie or TV Show Themed Road Trip
  • Wine Country Road Trip
  • Bourbon Country Road Trip
  • Historical Road Trip
  • Scenic Byways Road Trip
  • Coastal Highway Road Trip
  • Amish Country Road Trip
  • Wildlife and Nature Road Trip
  • Photography Road Trip
  • Adventure Activities Road Trip
  • Sports Road Trip
  • Wildflowers Road Trip
  • Birdwatching Road Trip
  • Exploring the Arts Road Trip
  • Space Themed Road Trip
  • Science and Tech Themed Road Trip
  • Genealogy Road Trip
Blue Bell Ice Cream tour in Brenham, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Foodie Road Trip

Plan a road trip that’s ALL ABOUT FOOD! You can choose the specific concentration for your trip, but here are some suggestions:

  • Eat at iconic restaurants featured in your favorite TV shows or movies.
  • Visit factories that make your favorite foods (especially if they offer tours, for example Blue Bell Ice Cream.
  • Visit orchards during fall pick-your-own season.
  • Check out some popular food trucks! Head to social media and find amazing trucks that have big followings. Put together an itinerary that will take you to several of these trucks. Another option for food trucks is to find a food truck festival.
  • Focus on a geographical location known for certain foods or dishes and see how many different varieties you can try. Examples include: pizza in Chicago, lobster in Maine, crab in Maryland, BBQ and kolaches in Texas, green chile burger in New Mexico, and boudin and crawfish in Louisiana.
  • Go on a road trip and focus on trying specific foods the whole time: pizza, BBQ, seafood, chocolate, ice cream, donuts, sandwiches, burgers, or wings.

Famous Authors Road Trip

Is there a famous author or a book that really moved you as a kid or adult? Plan a road trip around that author’s life or important milestones.

If the book is set in a particular town (real life town, obviously), visit the town.

World’s Largest Roadrunner in Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roadside Attractions Road Trip

Roadside attractions are silly, kitschy stops that you can check out as you drive from point A to point B. They are places that are fun to see but you won’t spend an entire day there. There are so many cool roadside attractions across the country. A few examples include:

Gather inspiration for these and other roadside attraction with these resources: 

Arches National Park in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Parks Road Trip

Planning a National Parks Road Trip can be an exciting adventure! With over 60 national parks and countless other National Park Service (NPS) sites in the United States, there are numerous routes and itineraries to explore.

Consider the distance and time you have available as well as your interests and preferences. You can focus on a specific region such as the West Coast, East Coast, or the Southwest, or create a loop that covers multiple regions.

Research the national parks you want to visit and plan your itinerary accordingly. Make sure to allow enough time for each park considering factors like driving distances, park hours, and activities you want to do.

Maybe you’ll plan a trip to Utah’s Mighty Five or expand it to a Grand Circle Tour. Or explore Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains in leaf-peeping season.

No matter which parks you choose, there are incredible vistas and wildlife just waiting for you to take them in. National Parks make great family vacations. The kids love participating in the Junior Ranger programs which offer the youngest travelers an array of activities and the opportunity to earn a ranger badge or pin upon program completion.

Note: National Parks are at the top of the list for destinations that require some pre-planning and booking. A number of parks require advanced reservations and timed entry during the peak travel season.

I have a lot of NPS content on the blog. Check these posts to learn more:

Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Music Themed Road Trips

Whether you love rock ‘n roll, country music, or the sounds of smooth jazz, there are some wonderful options for music themed trips in the US!

Head to Memphis and Nashville in Tennessee and hear incredible country tunes at just about every bar plus visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, and Grand Ole Opry. Top off the trip with a tour of Graceland, home of Elvis Presley.

If jazz is your thing, immerse yourself in its roots down in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Love rock ‘n roll? Make a stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

Movie or TV Themed Road Trip

You can find filming locations for most movie and TV film productions with a little bit of research (simple internet search). Sometimes a whole town is used to film various scenes in the show or movie.

Choose a fave flick or two and head to the town where it was filmed.

By the way, I have a series of posts on movie and film locations:

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wine Country Road Trip

This road trip is PERFECT for couples or friend groups. Gather up your fellow wine connoisseurs and head out on a road trip to wine country. Your best bet is to visit an area known for its wineries so that you can visit multiple locations during your trip.

Here are some helpful resources:

Buffalo Trace Distillery bourbon tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bourbon Country Road Trip

Explore the rich tradition of America’s Official Native Spirit on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail featuring a number of signature distilleries nestled among beautiful Bluegrass Region scenery.

In 1999, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association formed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to give visitors a firsthand look at the art and science of crafting Bourbon and to educate them about the rich history and proud tradition of Kentucky’s signature spirit.

If you need ideas, check out these blog posts:

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historical Road Trip

Choose a time period or event in the long past that really interests you and build a road trip around it. There are so many different ideas for things to visit on a historically themed road trip. Choose the historic sites that interest you the most and use that as your starting point.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Early American History
  • Revolutionary War Battlefields
  • Civil War Battlefields
  • Pioneer Life and Travel
  • Native American History

Specific ideas and locations include:

  • Ghost towns
  • Museums
  • Historic parks and sites
  • Presidential libraries
  • Pioneer trails like Lewis & Clark and the Oregon Trail
  • Route 66

Here are some articles to help:

Utah Scenic Byway 12, an All-American Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byways Road Trip

In This Land is Your Land, Woody Guthrie sang the words, “As I went walking that ribbon of highway / I saw above me that endless skyway.” If Guthrie was singing about some of the most beautiful ribbons of highway in the U. S., there’s a good chance he was talking about one of the country’s scenic byways.

Cutting through prairies, grasslands, mountains, forests, and deserts, many of the scenic byways are not only modes of transport but destinations in themselves. While highways are wide traffic-filled roads connecting major cities, byways tend to be narrower, secondary roads in more rural areas.

The National Scenic Byways Program began in 1991 to promote roads of special aesthetic or cultural significance in one of six topics: archaeological, cultural, natural, historic, recreational, or scenic. Those that meet two or more criteria are designated “All-American Roads.”

I’ve written numerous articles on scenic byways and All-American Roads. Here are a few to help you plan a Scenic Byways Road Trip:

Worth Pondering…

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carrol

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

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 Amazing Places to RV in July 2022

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in July

The ultimate luxury in life remains nature.

—Robert Rabensteiner

After spending two decades at L’Uomo Vogue—the menswear counterpart to Vogue Italia—Robert Rabensteiner is now the fashion editor-at-large for Condé Nast’s Italian division. Part of his job is appraising runway collections in New York, Paris, London, and Milan, his primary residence. Yet some of his most cherished trips to a remote chalet near his hometown in the Austrian Alps are far less elaborate. Hidden deep in the forest, the chalet is only accessible by riding a chairlift and then taking a half-hour trek. When his mother died, Rabensteiner sought refuge in the house and, more so, it’s calm setting. With this quote, he speaks to a feeling shared by so many of us: that the connection to nature offers an unparalleled source of wonder, healing, and joy. 

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in May and June. Also, check out my recommendations from July 2021 and August 2021.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Valley

A huge swath of Arizona seems to have been designed by cartoonists from the trippy Dr. Seuss waves of the Vermillion Cliffs to the splaying cacti of Saguaro National Park. But Monument Valley is where nature gets serious. This is a land of monolithic red sandstone bluffs seemingly carved by the gods where enormous spires emerge so far in the distance they’re shrouded by haze even on a clear day. Each crevice tells a story and every ledge is its unforgettable vista.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While Monument Valley is undoubtedly national park-worthy, this is a Navajo Tribal Park and I hope it stays that way. It’s a place rooted in ancient Native religion and new-school Hollywood iconography serving as an expansive gateway to the wondrous desert landscapes of both Utah and Arizona.

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Search for Well Gray’s breathtaking waterfalls

Wells Gray is not as highly acclaimed as Mount Robson or the national parks in the Canadian Rockies. And having been there, I have no idea why. I mean… this place is awesome!

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wells Gray has something to offer every outdoor interest: lush alpine meadows, excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities, hiking, boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Guiding businesses offer horseback riding, canoeing, whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking. The history enthusiast can learn about the early homesteaders, trappers, and prospectors or about the natural forces that produced Wells Gray’s many volcanoes, waterfalls, mineral springs, and glaciers.

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many people head to Wells Gray for the lakes but there are also over 40 named waterfalls in the park. Many of them are in remote corners of the park but eight of them are easy to reach from the Clearwater Valley Road.

So you might be wondering: Why are there so many waterfalls in the same small area? And how did they form? It turns out the waterfalls in Wells Gray use the same secret formula as another favorite waterfall destination, Iceland: volcanoes + glaciers = waterfall magic.

Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Best Place in America to See UFOs

The truth is out there.

For a minute there, it seemed like society’s obsession with aliens had become a thing of the past. Once the source of mass paranoia in the ’50s and ’60s—a glorious, unforgettable time during which houses were even built to look like flying saucers—the craze over little green men briefly disappeared taking with it the kitschy, bizarre, and downright wild urban legends we came to know and love.

Roswell Incident © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Luckily, with the release of the government’s report on Unexplained Aerial Phenomena last year (results “inconclusive” … sure), we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in UFOs—and in the people who never stopped believing the truth was out there.

All this time, a few towns around America have kept hope alive, commemorating, celebrating, and even displaying artifacts from the years when people regularly mistook military aircraft for Martians (or, did they?). In a few spots, you may even see some unexplained phenomena for yourself. One of the best places in the US to search for aliens, UFOs, and all things extraterrestrial is Roswell, New Mexico.

Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the most notable UFO crash in American history went down on the night of June 14, 1947. A farmer named Mac Brazel was driving around about 80 miles outside Roswell when he came across a flaming heap of rubber, foil, and sticks. He contacted local authorities who contacted the military who came to the site and publicly declared that a flying saucer had landed in Roswell.

The country was whipped up into a frenzy and soon after the government changed its tune and redesignated the UFO a “weather balloon.” Many suspect the object was actually a device intended to spy on Russian nuclear development. But, I’m still withholding judgment!

Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though Roswell may not have truly been the land of first contact, the town has since leaned into the notoriety and become the greatest alien-themed town on the planet. It is home to the International UFO Museum and Research Center. It has a McDonald’s shaped like a UFO. The city hosts an annual UFO Festival that’s become a pilgrimage for self-proclaimed “UFOlogists.”

2022 is the 75th anniversary of the Roswell Incident. It all comes down July 1-3. And it’s going to be the biggest, best UFO Festival yet!

Whether you believe in aliens or not, Roswell is an utterly fantastic, highly kitsch slice of Americana.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel back in time to Writing-on-Stone

A sightseeing and historic destination, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is located on the banks of the Milk River in south-central Alberta. The incredible landscape of hoodoos, coulees, and native rock paintings is a photographer’s paradise. The Blackfoot First Nation people used sharp rocks, horns of animals, and wood from trees to carve their drawings into the sandstone cliffs. For colors—like red, orange, and yellow—they would use a mixture of crushed iron ore and animal fat.

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hit All the Roadside Attractions on Arizona Route 66

Originally running from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, Route 66 is easily one of the world’s most recognizable and iconic highways. It has endless cultural references and was a popular way for travelers to get from east to west and back for decades. The route has mostly been taken over by the I-40 but the stretch of Route 66 in Arizona is especially exciting and alluring. Dotted with ghost towns, Route 66 iconography, local diners, and one-of-a-kind shops, you’ll be delighted every inch of the way.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef is home to one of the world’s most unique geological wonders: the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile-long wrinkle in the earth’s crust. Formed millions of years ago when a fault line shifted and exposed thousands of acres of rust-tinted sandstone and slate-gray shale, the resulting rugged cliffs and arch formations are the red rocks Utah is known for.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grab a cinnamon bun or freshly baked mini-pie in the historic village of Fruita located within the park’s borders then stroll through verdant orchards and hunt for petroglyphs near the visitor center. Hikers won’t want to miss the 1-mile jaunt up to Hickman Bridge nor the chance to squeeze through a narrow slot canyon in Cottonwood Wash. Stay in nearby Torrey for the best BBQ and wild-west themed hotels and RV parks.

Some roads in Capitol Reef National Park remain closed due to flash flooding that occurred last Thursday (June 23, 2022). Check with the Park Service as to the current status before visiting the park.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore the Hippie Paradise of Woodstock

Located near the Catskill Mountains, this charming town lives up to its iconic namesake. People from all over the world recognize the name “Woodstock” yet most of them associate it with the crazy, free-spirited music festival. Fun fact: the festival wasn’t actually held in Woodstock but rather more than an hour away in Bethel. Though the name is famous, few people are familiar with the actual small town that boasts loads of personality. Somehow, it’s the perfect place to do a million activities or absolutely nothing.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience the Magic of the Blue Ridge Parkway

There’s something about being on the Blue Ridge Parkway that instills a sense of calm and puts everything into perspective. The parkway, which is nearly 500 miles long, runs through the Appalachian Mountains and valleys of Virginia and North Carolina. The parkway is perfect for families and outdoor enthusiasts since it’s filled with endless trails, camping, and waterfalls. Drive through the winding roads and see for yourself why these rolling hills and lush greenery make the Blue Ridge Parkway “America’s Favorite Drive.”

Newport Cliff Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore Historic Mansions along the Newport Cliff Walk

Come for the jaw-dropping mansions and stay for the scenic walking tour along the Rhode Island shoreline. Newport is best known for its sailing regattas and historic manors that run along the seaside Cliff Walk. The walk is a National Recreation Trail that spans 3.5 miles with multiple scenic overlooks along the way.

The Breakers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a tour of The Breakers mansion along the walk and learn how New York’s elite families used to spend their summers. If you watched HBO’s The Gilded Age, then you’re probably planning your trip to visit the historic summer “cottages” already. 

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel Back in Time at Mesa Verde National Park

Marvel at the Mesa Verde National Park cliff dwellings that were once occupied by the Ancestral Pueblo people. Located in southwestern Colorado, this UNESCO World Heritage Site will transport you back in time almost a thousand years. Many archeological sites can be explored independently but Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America, requires a guided tour. Purchasing a ticket is absolutely worth it, but be aware that Cliff Palace won’t open to the public until July 1st due to road construction. 

Worth Pondering…

It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.

—Walter Winchell

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

11 Must Watch Films Shot on Route 66

Coined the ‘Main Street of America’, driving along this historic road elicits memories of days gone by when a nickel could buy you a bottle of coke and the sweet sounds of Billie Holiday crooned from every radio

No American road is as iconic as Route 66. Starting in Chicago, Illinois, and snaking cross-country to Santa Monica, California, Route 66 originally consisted of 2,418 miles of highway rich with neon-lit motels, quirky roadside attractions, and stretches of deserted landscape.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With such a wealth of inspiration, it’s no surprise that so many filmmakers have used Route 66 as a backdrop for their films. One of the pivotal scenes in the 1988 film Rain Man takes place at Route 66’s Big 8 Motel in El Reno, Oklahoma. Rain Man went on to win numerous accolades and prizes including four Academy Awards. While not every movie filmed on Route 66 goes home with an Oscar, there are many that are worth a watch.

So pop some corn, get yourself comfy, and binge watch these eleven must-see movies on our list.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Easy Rider (1969)

Filmed along Route 66, primarily in Santa Monica, California, and Flagstaff, Arizona, this 1969 film follows two “biker-hippies” (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) as they head to New Orleans, crossing the west and southern United States. Along the way they encounter a host of interesting characters and strange situations. The ultimate biker road-trip film, this movie had a budget under $1 million and yet went on to gross more than $60 million worldwide. This movie is especially interesting because it marked the beginning of a cinematic revolution in Hollywood. Addressing topics such as sexuality, politics, and drugs with unprecedented candor, it marked a new wave of film and was one of the first low budget movies to enjoy such a high level of success.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Based on John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name, this 1940 film tells the story of an Oklahoman family heading to California on Route 66. Taking place during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl period, the poverty stricken Joad family leaves Oklahoma in search of a better life. Interestingly, Steinbeck was the person who first coined the term the “Mother Road” to describe Route 66, and many of its locations are prominently featured in this movie including spots through Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, this movie is also listed 230 on the American Film Institute’s 2007 list of the best movies ever made.

Related: Route 66 across Arizona

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bagdad Cafe (1987)

This 1987 film, also known as Out of Rosenheim, is a German comedy-drama set in a remote truck-stop café and motel in the Mojave Desert in California. The story centers on two women who have recently separated from their husbands and the friendship that grows between them. The setting of this film, Bagdad, California, is a former town on Route 66 which was abandoned and eventually razed after being bypassed by Interstate 40 in 1973. While the town of Bagdad did have a Bagdad Cafe, the film was actually shot 50 miles west in the town of Newberry Springs, California, at the now titled, Bagdad Cafe. This café has since become something of a tourist destination on the route.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No Country for Old Men (2007)

This picture, based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name, is a tension building cat and mouse drama which follows a Texas welder and a Vietnam veteran in the desert landscape of west Texas. Interestingly however, The Desert Sands Motel in the final scene, while depicted as El Paso, Texas, was actually filmed in the Route 66 town of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Critically acclaimed, this film took home four Academy Awards as well as numerous other prizes.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

This 2006 film follows the motley Hoover crew as they pile into a canary yellow Volkswagen bus, embarking cross-country to get the seven-year-old protagonist, Olive, to a beauty pageant in Redondo Beach, California. Portions of the road trip were filmed in Route 66 locations including Chandler, Phoenix, and Flagstaff. Interestingly, this film, while having a relatively small budget of $8 million made a profit exceeding $100 million worldwide. Watch it for the great locations, but stay for the weird family antics.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

In this classic movie, starring funny man Chevy Chase, the Griswold clan drove from Chicago to Los Angeles to visit the theme park Wally World. Downtown Flagstaff, Arizona, and other Arizona highway locations were used in this comedy. Other locations close to Route 66 included Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon which the cast actually visited (unlike the cast of Thelma and Louise). This film was a box-office hit earning more than $60 million and increasing the popularity of the National Lampoon series.

Related: Get Your Kicks (And Burros) On Route 66

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Starman (1984)

Although filmed in numerous locations throughout the United States, this 1984 film featured the Meteor Crater Trading Post, just west of Winslow, Arizona, on Route 66. Telling the story of an alien who has come to Earth in response to the Voyager 2 space probe’s gold phonograph record, this crater location served as the movie’s rendezvous point where the main character (Starman) was to meet and return to his ship. Interestingly, this film represents a rare instance where a film from the science-fiction genre received an Academy Award nomination for acting (Jeff Bridges for Best Actor).

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beneath the Dark (2010)

Located along Route 66 in the heart of the Mojave Desert sits Amboy, California, the backdrop for this 2010 mystery thriller film. Set largely in Roy’s Motel and Cafe (used over the years in many horror films), this movie introduces us to a couple driving through the desert to attend a wedding. When they end up at Roy’s for a roadside rest stop, it proves to be a strange and unsettling place where uncomfortable secrets will be revealed. Once a popular spot to stop along the route, Amboy struggled after the opening of Interstate 40 in 1973 and is now largely abandoned. Turn this movie on to be spooked, but take in a little piece of Route 66 history while you watch and get out and pay a visit to Roy’s for yourself.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wild Hogs (2007)

In this 2007 film, a group of middle-aged suburban bikers hit the open road on a quest for adventure. These “Wild Hogs” soon find they’ve gotten a little more than they bargained for when they encounter a New Mexican biker gang called the Del Fuegos. Filmed in a variety of locations in the Route 66 town of Albuquerque, New Mexico, this comedy flick has led to an influx of recreational bikers to the area. One key spot to visit is The Library Bar & Grill, a Central Avenue (Route 66) location in Albuquerque that was featured as a friendly biker bar in the film.

Natural Born Killers (1994)

One of the darker films on our list, this 1994 satirical film about serial killers on a murder spree was filmed in a variety of locations on Route 66 (Illinois, New Mexico, and Arizona). Following Mickey and Mallory Knox as they drive down the highway in their Dodge Challenger, murdering every few miles, this controversial film focuses on how mass media can irresponsibly glorify individuals. Shot in a unique frenzied and psychedelic style making use of animation, different color schemes, and a variety of camera angles, filters and special effects, this film, while not the archetypal road trip film, is definitely a must-watch.

Related: Route 66: The Road to Adventure

The Outsiders (1983)

Shot on location in Tulsa, Oklahoma (Route 66 runs through the heart of the city), this 1983 coming-of-age drama is an adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel of the same name. In this film a teen gang (the Greasers) are continually at odds with a rival group (the Socials). When a brawl ends in the death of a Social member, the consequences for everyone involved are serious and tragic. A well acted and crafted film that stars some of Hollywood’s biggest names when they were still young and up-and-coming, this movie performed well at the Box Office, and solidified its place on our list.

Read Next: Road Trips Ratings: America’s Classic Routes Analyzed

Worth Pondering…

If you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way
Take the highway that’s the best
Get your kicks on Route 66

—Bobby Troup (1946)

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

Blow Your Mind at the Weirdest Roadside Attractions across America

Roadside attractions exist between major destinations as detours on the way to someplace else

There are numerous variables that make a fantastic road trip but none are more universal than the urge to detour to see something weird on the side of the road less traveled. Our highways are dotted with oddities that are as head-scratching as they are alluring: highly specific museums dedicated to whatever or gigantic versions of everyday items plunked into a field for no particular reason.

Here are six of the weirdest roadside attractions in the US. While road tripping, it’s often the undiscovered path that makes the most memorable moments on and off the road.

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

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This Quirky Motel Is an Iconic Stop

The old Route 66 is the home to American kitsch. There are few places you will find unbelievable sights. One Route 66 icon in particular truly stands out from the rest.

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It was part of a small chain of similarly designed motels strewn across the country, the brain child of Frank Redford. This particular motel was built in 1950 by Chester Lewis, who purchased the design rights and became the sixth one. Since then, it has become an iconic part of Holbrook, Arizona and the old Route 66.

World’s Largest Killer Bee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Killer Bee Capital of the World

In October of 1990, the first colony of Africanized “killer bees” was found just outside Hidalgo, Texas. Though their unwelcome arrival into the U.S. set the media abuzz with panic, the south Texas city had an unusually sweet reaction.

World’s Largest Killer Bee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hidalgo was the only place that honored their arrival with a bit of fanfare. Rather than shy away from the sting of all the bad press, the city’s mayor decided to celebrate its connection with the dreaded insects. The city became known as the “Killer Bee Capital of the World” and the Hidalgo Economic Development Department spent $20,000 to erect a 2,000-pound, lifelike statue of a massive Africanized honey bee. The city even sells posters and postcards that feature the feared bug.

UFO Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dine At a UFO-Shaped McDonalds

Roswell, New Mexico is famous for its connection to the extraterrestrial. Is an alien ship being kept in a government facility? Do UFOs abduct unsuspecting people passing through? Are the aliens themselves being held captive? Does this conspiracy go all the way to the top? Who knows?

UFO Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Regardless, you can explore all things weird in this city that has embraced its alien ties—even the local McDonald’s is shaped like a UFO. And the burgers? Well, they’re out of this world!

The Peachoid © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Peach of a Water Tower

The small town of Gaffney, South Carolina is well known for its peaches. Nicknamed the “Peach Capital of South Carolina,” Gaffney contains thousands of the juicy fruits but it also features one that is abnormally large—a peach that’s 135 feet tall. With a tall pedestal at the bottom supporting a spherical ball at the top, the Gaffney Peachoid is shaped like any conventional water tower but its design is slightly modified. The Peachoid is so big that its leaf alone is 60 feet long.

Goldfield Ghost Town © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goldfield Ghost Town

We’ll say it: Goldfield is a dazzling nugget of desert entertainment. This roadside reconstruction of a gold discovery boom town delivers period characters, a mine tour, a mystery spot, a reptile museum, and legends of a lost treasure.

Goldfield Ghost Town © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The original town sprang up in 1892, peaking at 28 buildings with a community of up to 4,000. Five years later after prospectors had dug out all of the gold, the population deflated and Goldfield went ghost dark. Located on the Apache Trail (Arizona Highway 88), Goldfield booms once again—as a commercial Ghost Town with a sprawling array of recreated buildings and Wild West trappings that tourists crave.

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

Icon of Las Cruces

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 land fill. In early 2001, Olin stripped off the old junk, replaced it with new junk, and moved the roadrunner to a rest area along Interstate 10, just west of the city. Signs around the sculpture warn 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

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

Wall Drug: America’s Favorite Roadside Attraction

Wall Drug is NOT your typical drug store

Ever see one of those weird signs along the side of the road that read “Wall Drug, 3,472 miles,” and been like “I saw a Walgreens like three exits ago!” But, Wall Drug is NOT your typical drug store but rather a landmark shopping extravaganza off I-90 an hour east of Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to four city blocks of every local souvenir imaginable, it has a restaurant with buffalo burgers and fresh doughnuts, life-sized dinosaur replicas, a jackalope that you can ride—and FREE ICE WATER!

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the world’s most well-known tourist stops, it’s hard to believe Wall Drug Store got its start with something we wouldn’t even turn our heads at today—the promise of free ice water. But in fact, Ted and Dorothy Hustead turned free ice water into a million dollar idea with a little determination and quick thinking.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How do you make a living in a town of 230 people that is unanimously described as being “in the middle of nowhere” by residents and tourists alike during the middle of the Great Depression? You work with what you have—even if it’s not much. This is the story of how a tiny little drug store became the world famous Wall Drug. 

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The history of Wall Drug as we know it began back in 1931, when Nebraskan Ted Hustead bought it. He was looking to move to a small town with a Catholic Church and open a pharmacy, and Wall, South Dakota met his requirements.

Business was pretty slow at first—total shocker, right? It was Dorothy who finally dreamed up a brilliant plan to bring in more customers to their establishment: put up billboards offering free cups of refreshing ice water to tourists passing near Wall on their way to Mount Rushmore, about 60 miles west.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The year was 1936. The Great Depression gripped the nation, and the Dust Bowl made things doubly bad on the high plains. It’s doubtful many businesses had worse prospects than Hustead’s small establishment in that small town in the far reaches of western South Dakota.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So remote and drought-stricken was Wall that, when Ted bought the town’s drug store, his father-in-law told him, “You know, Wall is just about as Godforsaken as you can get.”

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ted put the signs up along Route 16A (Interstate 90 would eventually come through Wall, but not until 1969), and the tourists came. They stopped for the free ice water. They bought ice cream. And since then, they’ve bought millions of touristy trinkets and spent countless hours partaking of the free, fun and shopping that is the modern Wall Drug.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Their advertising campaign pretty much set the standard for tourist attractions: you can find billboards advertising Wall Drug lining the highways—especially I-90 between Minnesota and Billings, Montana. You can even find billboards for Wall Drug in the most unexpected of places, like Antarctica.

Over 80 years later the 76,000-square-foot drug store—which now includes restaurants, Western art galleries, shops and children’s activities along with a pharmacy—draws thousands of visitors each summer day.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wall Drug is a rest stop from the era when you really would stop to rest, rather than pull off the interstate, gas up, and go. It’s a rest stop worth taking because once the roads get this long—and the roads here do get long—you really do need more than a few minutes to decompress before facing the next stretch of asphalt.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, Wall Drug more than a tourist trap—it’s an icon. It brings in 2 million visitors each year to a town that people would ordinarily drive right past without a second thought. But the fact that, even though it has grown into a massive complex of kitsch and touristy cliches, they’ll still serve you a free cup of ice water when you pull up, really does say it all.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Free Ice Water. It brought us Husteads a long way and it taught me my greatest lesson, and that’s that there’s absolutely no place on God’s earth that’s Godforsaken. No matter where you live, you can succeed, because wherever you are, you can reach out to other people with something that they need!

—Ted Hustead, founder of Wall Drug