Summer means road trips: hopping in the car and driving from point A to point B with stops at X, Y, and Z in between. While on the road you’ll surely pass some weird and wacky examples of roadside icons, often big things created by small towns beckoning you away from the highway. There are big animals and big food items and big people and art projects made from what anyone else would just consider junk. Next time you’re taking a drive consider veering off your path to check out some of America’s weirdest roadside attractions.
World’s Largest Catsup Bottle – Collinsville , Illinois
At one time the catsup industry was booming in Collinsville, Illinois as the Brooks Foods plant was churning out a bestselling condiment. So, when the town needed a new water tower, there was really only one choice for how it would be decorated. In 1949 the 70 foot tall world’s largest catsup bottle was unveiled. Even though the company left the area in the 1970s the giant bottle still stands today, but after all these years the real question still remains: is the tower actually filled with ketchup?
World’s Biggest Beagle – Cottonwood , Idaho
Toby and Sweet Willy, two large wood-carved dogs in Cottonwood, Idaho, are the world’s biggest beagles. At 12 and 30 feet tall respectively they tower above most others. But these canines aren’t just there for looks – the larger of the two is also a bed and breakfast! Visitors to the Dog Bark Park Inn can spend the night in a Sweet Willy’s belly and muzzle. It’s any dog-lovers dream.
Albert the Bull – Audubon, Iowa
Albert the Bull in Audubon, Iowa is the world’s largest bull. He stands 30 feet tall, has a horn span of 15 feet, and weighs in at 45 tons, making that a distinction that’s hard to beat. Albert was erected by the town’s Junior Chamber of Commerce in the 1960s to celebrate the booming Iowa beef industry.
World’s Largest Ball of Sisal Twine – Cawker City, Kansas
There are several attractions vying to be named the world’s biggest ball of twine. In Darwin, Minnesota there’s a large contender that had been built by one man. But the one in Cawker City, Kansas has the advantage of being continually added to by the community and visitors, making this constantly changing twine ball land the title of largest. Currently the Cawker City twine ball weighs over 19,000 pounds with over 7 million feet of sisal!
Carhenge – Alliance, Nebraska
There are many mysteries surrounding England’s Stonehenge. There are fewer behind Alliance, Nebraska’s Carhenge. Built in 1987 by farmer Jim Reinders, Carhenge replicates Stonehenge with the stones replaced with 38 gray painted cars. When it was first built the residents of Alliance were none too pleased with this junkyard attraction, but now have embraced it and celebrate it as their own wonder of Nebraska.
World’s Largest Egg – Winlock, Washington
The people of Winlock, Washington love their eggs, and each June the town comes together for an Egg Day festival. But every day is egg day when you’re home to the World’s Largest Egg. Through the years, there have been four versions, made from everything from canvas to plastic. The newest version, a 12-foot fiberglass egg, weighs 1,200 pounds and was completed in 1990.
Jolly Green Giant – Blue Earth, Minnesota
Many roadside attractions were born out of the necessity to advertise a small business. This one was made to celebrate a large one. The Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota is a behemoth at 55 feet tall. It was constructed in 1978 to celebrate the completion of nearby I-90. Over 10,000 visitors each year flock to see the actual valley of the Jolly Green Giant .
World’s Largest Pecan – Brunswick , Missouri
Driving down Hwy 24 you’d certainly realize why Brunswick is considered the “Pecan Capital of Missouri.” Everywhere you look there are signs for pecan stands and pecan festivals amongst the bustling farmland. And then, as you come to the James Pecan Farm, you’ll see the world’s largest pecan. The giant nut was constructed around 1982 by George and Elizabeth James as a replica of the signature Starking Hardy Giant pecan that they discovered in 1955. This version is 7 feet in diameter by 12 feet long, weighs in at around 12,000 pounds, and is made entirely out of concrete.
World’s Largest Chest of Drawers – High Point, North Carolina
High Point, North Carolina is known as the “Home Furnishing Capital of the World.” So it’s only appropriate to celebrate the title with a giant dresser. Originally built in the 1920s, the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers was 20 feet tall. When renovated in 1996 it was expanded to 38 feet. Two giant mismatched socks that fall from one of the drawers pay homage to the city’s hosiery industry and give it an extra push of roadside charm.
World’s Largest Buffalo – Jamestown, North Dakota
The World’s Largest Buffalo was built in 1959 as a way to lure passersby off the interstate and into Jamestown, North Carolina. This concrete beast is 26 feet tall, 46 feet long, and weighs 60 tons. Until 2010 the World’s Largest Buffalo remained nameless, so a contest was held that bestowed the animal with a new moniker: “Dakota Thunder.”
Basket-shaped Building – Newark, Ohio
The Longaberger Company in Newark, Ohio doesn’t just manufacture a fine range of handcrafted baskets, they work in one too. The company’s founder, Dave Longaberger, envisioned the gigantic replica and they moved in for business in 1997. The world’s largest basket-shaped building, which is 160 times as big as their Medium Market Basket, is 192 feet by 126 feet at the bottom and broadens to 208 by 142 feet at the top.
Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas
Cadillac Ranch, a Route 66 attraction in Amarillo, Texas, features ten Cadillacs, ranging in model year from 1949 to 1963, half buried in a row. The artistic installation was created in 1973 by millionaire Stanley Marsh 3 and an artist collective called Ant Farm. In 1997 the structures were moved two miles west but the integrity of the piece was kept intact. Each car is covered in spray paint graffiti, a practice that isn’t just allowed, it’s encouraged. In fact, any time the cars have been repainted the blank slate hasn’t lasted long as visitors are eager to leave their mark on the attraction.
Mars Spaceship – Mars, Pennsylvania
You don’t have to join NASA to get to find your way to Mars, you just have to head to Pennsylvania. The residents of a town called Mars embrace the celestial name with a tribute to the little green men that might reside there. A small park in the borough is home to a flying saucer and a marker that declares, in several languages, “May peace prevail on Earth.”
Chatty Belle, the World’s Largest Talking Cow – Neillsville, Wisconsin
Cows are a popular choice for roadside attractions (especially in Wisconsin), but Neillsville’s Chatty Belle is a step above the rest. While not the biggest cow in the land, as the world’s largest talking cow this holstein has one thing the others don’t: a voice. Although rumor has it that she often gets laryngitis so her voice box won’t always work.
Lucy the Elephant – Margate City, New Jersey
Lucy the Elephant is a six-story animal-shaped building in Margate City, New Jersey, just outside of Atlantic City. Built in 1882 out of wood and tin, Lucy is the only one of her kind to survive (though developer James V. Lafferty had built several other elephant buildings around the country). In the 1960s the 90-ton elephant fell into disrepair and almost was destroyed herself. Luckily a campaign was launched to “Save Lucy” and she was refurbished, moved, and was even made a National Historic Landmark.
Read more about seeing the odd and unusual around the world:
- Seven Classic and/or Weird Summer Food Festivals
- 13 of the Weirdest Bars in the World
- 9 Unusual Food Museums that Amuse and Educate
- 10 Weird Food Delicacies from Around the World
- New Ideas for Summer Road Trips