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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Weird Midwest Roadside Attractions by Sarah J. McNeal #WeirdRoadsideAttractions

If you’ve ever taken a long road trip somewhere then you know what a drag it can be, especially on an interstate highway where everything looks the same and the only entertainment is the radio. What most of us do on these monotonous excursions is to get off the featureless interstate and take a secondary road into an adventure.

I know it sounds a little like entering the “Twilight Zone,” but it’s where the real road trip begins. It’s where you meet your neighbors and get a taste of the culture and interests of that part of the country.

When I began doing the research for this blog I found such numerous amounts of roadside attractions in the Midwest that I couldn’t cram in every state, let alone every attraction. So, if I missed your state or an attraction you know about, I encourage you to include the information in your comment so you can share it with me and others.
So,here we go:

The Enchanted Highway

North Dakota
The Enchanted Highway
The Enchanted Highway is a 32-mile county road connecting Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota off I-94. It is proof that, if you build something unique, people will come to see it. Local artist, Gary Greff wanted to boost tourism so he began erecting weird roadside structures which includes a towering family made of tin, the world's largest grasshopper, and a flock of oversize pheasants. His next project is a giant bass. To see his work just take Exit 72 off I-94.
For information, call 701/563400, or go to It’s free 

World's Largest Man-Made Turtle

Dunseith, ND

Erected as a novelty in 1982, the titan turtle (naturally, it’s located in the Turtle Mountains) was welded together from over 2,000 steel wheel rims by George Gottbreht, the owner of Dale's Thrifty Barn next door. Its head alone weighs over a ton, and is mounted on a pivot so you can move it up and down.

South Dakota

Chief Crazy Horse Memorial (work in progress)

Crazy Horse, SD

Crazy Horse's head is bigger than the four heads of Mount Rushmore combined, and eventually it will include much more than a head. Chosen by a group of Lakota elders, Polish-American Korczak Ziolkowski began work on the super-sized monument in 1948, and now his family is continuing his life's work through jack hammering and dynamite. Visitors get 30 minutes notice before part of the mountain explodes and elaborately choreographed night blasts mark Korczak and his wife's birthdays. Tourists can walk the six miles to the mountaintop and back on the first full weekend in June for up-close looks at his currently 88ft-tall face, but the foot of the mountain is the closest you'll get any other time of the year.


World's Only Corn Palace

Mitchell, SD

The Corn Palace
Covered entirely with thousands of bushels of corn, grasses, and grains, the Corn Palace in Mitchell with its turrets, onion domes, and minarets,is America's answer to the Kremlin. The exterior of the palace is refurbished annually during harvest time (August through September), but its interior features year-round corn murals depicting the history of Native Americans and the white man.
It is located at 604 N. Main, 866/273-2676,, free. You can buy a Key chain for $2.50.


Constructed of 38 cars from the '50s- and '60s--mirroring both the number of boulders and the diameter of the circle at the original in England--this Stonehenge replica was dedicated on the summer solstice in 1987. It is located just north of Alliance. Jim Reinders built the structure as a memorial to his father, who once lived on the field where Carhenge now stands.
Hwy. 87, Alliance,, free.

World's Largest Ball of Stamps

Boys Town, NE

The Ball of Stamps is comprised of 4,655,000 stamps which are wrapped around a pencil stub or a golf ball at its core (no one can really knows for certain), the 32in diameter ball, weighing in at 600lbs, is an amazing display of some seriously dedicated tongues and fingers of the Boys Town Stamp Collecting Club.


Largest ball of twine
There are wonders of the world, and then there are wonders of Kansas. If you’ve ever driven through Kansas, you may feel there’s nothing much to do but get from point A to point B, but guess again! Ask anybody who lives in Kansas about the ball of twine, and they’ll talk your ear off. Frank Stoeber and his family started the ball of twine in 1953 and the ball of twine has continued to grow over the years. Neighbors, visitors, and others around town have helped to contribute to its girth, and the tradition of adding to the twine ball has continued throughout the years. At 17,400+ pounds and 40 feet in circumference, you won’t see twine the same after stopping to see this wonder of The Sunflower State.

World’s Largest Easel Along A US Interstate

You don't even have to get out of your car to check this giant replica of Van Gogh's Three Sunflowers in a Vase (a good choice for the "Sunflower State," right?) painting off your list of "World's Largest Things to See." Passersby on I-70 won't miss the 768sqft reproduction on an 80ft-tall steel easel from about a half mile away. The big easel was actually part of a larger effort to reproduce all seven of Van Gogh's sunflower paintings in different countries. They raised $150k to build the thing. The other two completed works are in Canada and Australia.


Groom's Cross

Crosses are found across the US, and you’ll come across them in the oddest places. (For us Carolinians driving in the Appalachian Mountains, that would mean a cross for every terrifying curve, just sayin’.) Drive along Texas long enough (and that’s a dang long drive), and you’ll come across the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ or The Groom Cross as the locals call it. At nineteen stories high, you’ll see this on a bright day from up to 20 miles away. Created from 2.5 million pounds of steel by an anonymous Texas millionaire, it’s free to the public to look up at from the road, pray at the base of, or just drive past it. It’s lit up at night, so you’ll never miss this when road tripping. Groom, Texas


Henry Ford Museum
When Thomas Edison was dying in late 1931, Henry Ford decided he wanted to capture the inventor's final gasp--so he had him breathe in a test tube and corked it for posterity. It's now part of the Henry Ford Museum's permanent collection, along with other pieces of American history, including the Rosa Parks bus, Kennedy's presidential limousine, and Lincoln's blood-stained chair.
20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, 313/982-6001,, $14, seniors $13, kids $10. You can buy a Ford Model A toy for $32.

The (Former) World's Largest Cherry Pie Pan 

Charlevoix, MI

Two "World's Largest Cherry Pie Pans" reside a mere 50 miles apart in Michigan (apparently, you can't have a giant cherry pie pan without a neighboring opponent). While Charlevoix boasted the first biggest pan, which was used by local businesses to actually bake the "World's Largest Cherry Pie" in 1976, the 17,420lb pan was outdone in 1987 when Traverse City created an even bigger pie pan.

Bill Shea's Gas Station Museum
Back in 1946, when Bill Shea started pumping gas on the legendary Route 66, a car would go by every 10 minutes. But now, he says, it takes 10 minutes just to cross the road. Stop in for an earful of stories and a look at Shea's gas station memorabilia from nearly 60 years on the Mother Road. 2075 Peoria Rd., Springfield, Ill. 217/522-0475, $2, kids $1.

World's Largest Catsup Bottle
Once America's best-selling catsup, Brook's Old Original Tangy Catsup was so popular that the company's owners built themselves a massive landmark. The bottle is really a 170 foot tall water tower just 12 miles east of St. Louis on Route 159.
800 S. Morrison Ave., Collinsville, 618/345-5598,


Santa Claus Museum & Village

Santa Claus, IN

If Christmas in July sounds appealing, then there's a special place for you in Indiana. "America's Christmas Hometown" is riddled with holiday attractions like the only post office with the Santa Claus name, Santa's Candy Castle is a fully restored 22ft-tall Santa Statue from 1935 and deemed the world's oldest, but with plenty of younger replicas around town for “selfies” with Santa. You could also visit Christmas, MI or Noel, MO, but definitely send your letters to Santa here.

Bluespring Caverns
The fish in Bluespring Caverns have lived in perpetual darkness for so long they have evolved into a state of eternal blindness. You can take the one hour boat tour and see them for yourself. In the winter months, Bluespring runs organized caving tours for groups of kids, with an overnight stay in a limestone cave, where hibernating bats also make their home ($23).
1459 Bluespring Caverns Rd., Bedford, 812/279-9471,, $12, kids $6.


Iowa's Largest Frying Pan

Brandon, IA

A state with the world's largest truck stop would naturally also lay claim to the largest frying pan internationally. Apparently there are six big ol’ frying pans with the "world's largest" claim elsewhere in the US alone. But the one that weighs 1,020lbs, stretches 14ft-tall, and could potentially cook up to 528 eggs and/or 88lbs of bacon wins and that would be the frying pan in Brandon.

Star Trek Voyage Home Museum

Riverside, IA

Did you know this Iowa town is the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk? His 23rd century DOB (March 22, 2228) is engraved in a stone monument located behind a hair salon. While they first claimed the Starship Enterprise captain in 1985, the museum didn't open its doors until 2008. It's since become a hub for Star Trek collectibles, home-built exhibits, and alternate history disputes.


Jolly Green Giant
The 55-foot-tall statue of everybody's favorite Jolly Green Giant is located at the midpoint of Minnesota along I-90, America's longest interstate. The statue has a smile that's 48 inches wide and a shoe size that's somewhere around 78. He was erected in the town of Blue Earth back in 1979 to celebrate the area's longtime affiliation with canning. Green Giant was once the Blue Earth Canning Company.
Intersection of I-90 and Hwy. 169, Blue Earth Area Chamber of Commerce, 507/526-2916.

SPAM Museum

Austin, MN

Okay, this one is among my favorites. You can uncover the historical intricacies of the undisputed king of mystery meat through Hormel's collection of spiced pork artifacts across the street from the meat plant. "Spambassadors" will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the iconic product, like how 44,000 cans per hour roll off the assembly lines for the masses (aka Hawaiians) to consume.


Upside-Down White House

Wisconsin Dells, WI

Just like the real White House, you'll need a guide to take you through the Top Secret Inc. house resting on its roof in the Wisconsin Dells. And only then will you begin to uncover the mysterious conspiracy, which will just be the start of explaining why the world stands on its head. Personally, I thought this was one of the weirdest of the crazy roadside attractions.

The House on the Rock
Perched precariously atop a tall rock spire, the House on the Rock, in southwest Wisconsin, mixes architectural enthusiasm with an eclectic collection of just about anything you can imagine--suits of armor, model airplanes, pipe organs, and even a pyramid of life-size fiberglass elephants. The most identifiable feature of this attraction is the Infinity Room—a 200 foot long glass and steel promenade cantilevered over the valley. And for the kids, there's the world's largest carousel, insured for $4.5 million.
5754 Hwy. 23, Spring Green, 608/935-3639,, $19.50, kids 7-12 $11.50, 4-6 $5.50.

U.F.O. Landing Port

Poland, WI

Aliens from any nebula are welcome to land their spaceships on welder, Bob Tohak's, 42 foot tall platform. Designed to encourage those possible close encounters, it's made from an empty fuel tank and now has a satellite up top. Bob Tohak is even planning on creating a big aluminum spaceship. I’m certain the CIA is keeping an eye on this place.


Lambert's Cafe
Look out for flying objects. All you have to do is raise your hand at this Sikeston restaurant and a server will toss a wheat roll to you from across the room. Credit this practice to owner Norman Lambert, who was once so busy he couldn't bring the rolls to a table—so he threw them. No injuries have been reported.
2305 E. Malone St., 573/471-4261,

Leila's Hair Museum

Independence, MO

I think this museum is tops on the weirdness scale. There are collectors of Precious Moments dolls, and then there are collectors of human hair. Former hairdresser and friend of Ronald Reagan, Leila Cohoon, displays an impressive collection of hair art, which includes hair samples from Abe Lincoln and Marilyn Monroe. You won't find your average hairballs here, but you'll discover plenty of intricate wreaths of hair in frames, which were often used to decorate Victorian homes. Okay, maybe it’s just me, but this seems a bit gross.

Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail and Museum

Weldon Spring, MO

You can now stroll across 54-acres of remnants from the largest explosives factory in the US as well as a Cold War-era uranium refinery, which was on the site until it was abandoned in 1966. Twenty years later, the U.S. Department of Energy covered the hazardous waste with rocks. The 75ft-tall pile consists of 1.5 million cubic yards of covered-up TNT, mercury, asbestos, radioactive uranium, and radium for all to enjoy. Am I crazy? I kinda have concerns about all that radioactive stuff under those rocks.


World's largest basket building
I love this building! Weighing 9,000 tons and standing seven stories high, the home office for the Longaberger Company, in Newark, was built to resemble Longaberger's most popular item, the Medium Market Basket. (Looks like a picnic basket to me.) The building houses Longaberger's 500 employees and is visible from State Route 16. Walk in to admire the seven-story atrium; the glass ceiling allows you to see the handles from inside.
1500 E. Main St., 740/322-5588,, free.

Giant Horseshoe Crab

Blanchester, OH

A massive crustacean beside a Baptist church in the middle of Ohio doesn't make a lot of sense, but yet, there it is like a fish out of water. After its initial creation for the Baltimore Maritime Museum, the 68ft-long and 24ft-tall transplant ended up at the Freedom Worship Baptist Church after a random stint at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Don’t exactly know why, but there it is.

So, do you know a cool roadside attraction you’ve seen in your travels? I know I didn’t get all the Midwestern states and their attractions in, so I would be happy if you come from a state I missed and can add a roadside attraction there, feel free to add it in your comment.

Diverse stories filled with heart


  1. Amazing, Sarah! Love the upside-down house, am grossed a bit about the hair museum, adore the alien landing pad! My hubby would like the cherry pie place. Really fascinating. Thanks for sharing

    1. Hard to believe some of these strange attractions, isn't it? I agree about the hair museum...ICK! I guess it beats the monotony of the interstate though.
      I agree with your husband about that cherry pie. LOL
      Thank you so much for coming by, Lindsay.

  2. What a fun post! I've only been to a couple of these attractions, but many are within a day's drive for me. I think maybe I'll be taking a few road trips this summer. Thanks.

    1. Ann, if you get a chance to see any of these attractions, let us know what you think of them.
      When my sister and I were kids we took a long road trip from Charlotte, NC to Numidia, PA about twice a year--before there was an interstate. My sister and I used to beg Pop to stop and let us see the Natural Bridge in VA. But Pop, like most guys I guess, wanted to make time and get to our destination ASAP, so we never got to see the Natural Bridge. You'd think Pop, a scientist, would be all over that roadside attraction, but nope.
      So I say, get those attractions in. See as many as you can. Enjoy them. Take pictures and write in your journal about them because these crazy things make life fun.
      Thank you so much for coming over and commenting on my blog today.

  3. WOW! Sarah, I so enjoyed the trip through the west with all the various attractions. Being a northern girl, born in RI then from age four, I was and still am from NYS,I had been longing to visit Crazy Horse and finally went last year. It was even better than I had anticipated. Toured WY, MT as well as SD with friends from MT who showed us so much more. Loved it all and must go back, and now I'll know to look for other gigantic novelties in so many states as well. By the way, I live in the Finger Lakes region of NYS just outside PennYan, and on the side of the Birkett Mills Buckwheat Plant in PennYan on Main Street hangs The Largest pancake pan (a number of years ago it was recorded in the world record book for making the world's largest panckae. Thanks for doing such an excellant blog for all of us to see just what is out there for our enjoyment. Just delightful.

    1. Beverly, I'm so glad you got a chance to go out west and see some of these wonderful attractions. New England is like a gold mine of roadside attractions.
      My maternal grandfather lived in Buffalo, NY and every time we visited him, we went to Niagara Falls. I never got tired of looking at it. Of course that's a bit more than a roadside attraction. LOL We also went over to Canada and saw the wax museum and a bunch of other phantasmagorical attractions there, too.
      I love Nova Scotia. Now there is a place where every five miles there is some kind of roadside attraction to see and gobs of yard art and whirligigs. Just thinking about it makes my heart sing.
      Of course I stuck to just Midwest attractions here since it's for Prairie Rose Publications. Could you imagine cataloguing all the roadside attractions there are in the entire northern continent? Wow!
      Thank you so much for dropping in Beverly. I always enjiy what you have to say.

  4. What fun! I do remember the days when long road trips by car meant going through small towns and seeing roadside attractions like the ones you mention. Now I hate hours spent speeding down expressways where everything looks the same. Many fond memories of quirky roadside attractions we'd use as landmarks on repeat trips. And they're so much fun to come across. A couple of years ago my husband and I were on a trip and while driving in SD we saw something that made us stop to investigate. A giant sculpture made out of bicycles outside this tiny town of Pringle. You could even walk through it like a maze but explanation of who or why it was made.

    1. Oh goodness, I did love traveling through small towns on a two lane road. It was like an adventure. Like you, we knew most of the landmarks along the way even though we could never get Pop to stop and see anything up close and personal. Shoot, Mom even packed a big ol' basket of food so we didn't have to stop except for gas and restroom brakes. I agree, Patti, now with interstates traveling may be faster, but it's a big snore.
      I appreciate you coming over and adding some of your travel thoughts. You should google that Pringle bicycle thing and see if you can find out who and why--and get back to us if you do. I'm curious!

  5. Very Interesting. some of my favorite vacations have been-- get in the car and just drive vacations. Santa Clause Land is not far from me, but I never knew about the Star Trek Voyage Home Museum. I want to see that. Thanks for all the great info.

  6. C.A., so you're an experience road tripper. My nephew and I used to just drive in the country drinking Cheerwine and eating Moon Pies as our special travel food. LOL Mostly all we saw were roadside stands with apple cider and fruit and an occasional whirligig place. Still, it was fun.

    I hope you get a chance to see the Star Trek Museum. I'd like to hear about that if you do.

    Thank you so much for coming and sharing your adventures, C.A.

  7. These are loads of fun! Imagine going to work in a picnic basket every day.

    1. Well C.A., I think it would be great fun to go to work with a picnic basket. Road trips with picnic baskets are a must. Thank you so much for your comment.

  8. How lucky for you, Sarah, to have had such a fabulous adventures. Makes me want to jump....okay, climb into my van and go hunt them down. Fantastic photographs, too.

    1. Elizabeth, actually I mostly did research and "borrowed" these pictures for this post. I've had quite a few adventures, just not these. LOL I hope you do climb into your van (and I wish I had a van) and see if you can find these midwestern roadside attractions. If you do, I hope you post your thoughts about them from your perspective. I'd love to hear about them.
      Thank you so much for visiting my blog.