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Dole Plantation Pineapple Maze
Photograph: Shutterstock

The weirdest landmarks in the USA that you never knew existed

Skip the usual museums and check out these weird landmarks in the USA, from Hawaii's pineapple maze to Boston's Mapparium

By Annalise Mantz and Sarah Medina
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So you’ve experienced all the most popular attractions in the USA, but what about some of the more offbeat roadside attractions that dot this vast country? From the Seattle gum wall to Nebraska's Carhenge and Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum to L.A.'s La Brea tar pits, you can’t say you’ve explored this whole country until you cross some of these weird landmarks in the USA off your list. We’ve tracked down 17 of the most unusual places from coast to coast, all you have to do is choose a few favorites and create your own road trip or find the roadside attraction nearest to you and take a day trip. Tons of photos are mandatory, of course, and don't forget to wear a mask and stay safe. 

RECOMMENDED: The best outdoor adventure in every state

Weird landmarks in the USA

Carhenge
Carhenge
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Alliance, NE: Carhenge

Carhenge is exactly what it sounds like: a replica of Stonehenge made out of cars. Jim Reinders built this piece of public art in 1987 using 39 broken-down vehicles found in local junkyards and farms. Why cars? The dimensions of autos from the '50s and '60s nearly match the stone monoliths at Stonehenge, and Reinders painted the vehicles matte gray to increase the resemblance. Fittingly, the dedication for Carhenge (Reinders built it as a memorial to his father) was held on the summer solstice in 1987.

Dole Plantation Pineapple Maze
Dole Plantation Pineapple Maze
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Oahu, HI: Dole Plantation Pineapple Maze

The world’s largest plant maze is located on the Dole Pineapple Plantation on the north shore of Oahu. More than two miles of paths wind through the hedges of 14,000 colorful Hawaiian plants such as hibiscus, heliconia and pineapples, of course. The plantation proudly displays the names of the fastest finishers on a sign at the entrance to the labyrinth and the current record stands at 7 minutes!

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Salem witch house
Salem witch house
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Salem, MA: Witch House

Attractions Historic buildings and sites

This New England town’s dark past draws urban witches and history buffs from all over the country. Learn about the infamous Witch Trials of 1692 with a visit to the Witch House. This 17th century home was owned by James Corwin, a local merchant who presided over many of the witchcraft examinations. The self-guided tours offer a great primer on both the country’s largest witch hunt and early colonial life.

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Casey Illinois rocking chair
Casey Illinois rocking chair
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Casey, IL: The world’s largest objects

This small town in Illinois is home to not one, not two, but eight of the world’s largest objects, including a rocking chair, knitting needles, crochet hook, wind chime and golf tee. Resident Jim Bolin installed the first piece—the wind chime—in 2011 and things snowballed from there. Bolin thought a public art installation (titled Big Things in a Small Town) might help bring in some tourists. His theory seems to be working: Though Casey is home to only 2,698 citizens, the town gets up to 500 visitors a day hoping to catch a peek at its supersized attractions.

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Santa Claus Arizona
Santa Claus Arizona
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Santa Claus, AZ: The ghost town

The middle of the Mojave Desert definitely isn’t the first place you’d look for jolly old Saint Nick—and yet, this abandoned town in Arizona is dedicated to all things Christmas. Realtor Nina Talbot and her husband founded the town in 1937 in an attempt to attract buyers to the desert. Santa Claus did become popular with tourists for a while: Families would drive into town to send letters with a festive postmark from the local post office and dine at the Christmas Tree Inn. Sadly, all the Christmas spirit wasn't enough to convince anyone to move there and the town eventually fell into disrepair. Check out the rundown red and white buildings and forlorn tinsel for yourself—it’s not maintained, but free to visit.

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La Brea Tar Pits
La Brea Tar Pits
Photograph: Courtesy Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

6. Los Angeles, CA: La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

Museums Natural history Miracle Mile

Note: The Page Museum is temporarily closed 

Want to see prehistoric L.A? Look no further than the bubbling petroleum lake under what is now Hancock Park. Paleontologists have been able to recover some 3.5 million bones from the tar pit. Walk the outdoor park to sniff the signature sulphuric smell and see pits that are still being excavated, then head into the Page Museum to check out the incredible collection of items found in the pits.

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Santa Cruz Mystery Spot
Santa Cruz Mystery Spot
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Santa Cruz, CA: Mystery Spot

Whether you believe the tour guide’s schtick about the supposed “gravitational anomaly” at work at this roadside attraction or not, the tilted cabin that seemingly defies the laws of physics is still fun to visit. Even skeptics will have a blast exploring the curious shack where balls appear to roll uphill and chairs seem to sit on walls. Not convinced? See if you can puzzle out the reason behind this optical illusion for bonus points. 

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The Mütter Museum
The Mütter Museum
Photograph: Courtesy The Mütter Museum/George Widman

8. Philadelphia, PA: Mutter Museum

Museums Science and technology Center City West

If you’re the squeamish type, you better avoid the Mutter Museum. It’s jampacked with human specimens, stomach-churning medical objects and more bones than you could imagine. Think you can handle it? Don’t miss the slices of Albert Einstein’s brain, the Hyrtl Skull Collection of 139 human heads, the corset skeleton or the exhibit that allows you to experience the feeling of having your arm amputated. Yikes.

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Madonna Inn
Madonna Inn
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. San Luis Obispo, CA: Madonna Inn

The Madonna Inn on the central California coast is the epitome of kitsch. Built by Alex and Phyllis Madonna in 1958, the hotel supposedly has a Swiss Alps theme, but in reality seems dedicated to all things tacky. All 110 rooms are each decorated following a unique theme—the Caveman has faux rock walls and a waterfall while the Pony room has bright red carpets and prominently features several horse statues. You certainly won’t forget a stay here.

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Mapparium, Sights and attractions, Boston
Mapparium, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Mark Thayer

10. Boston, MA: The Mapparium

Attractions Libraries, archives and foundations Fenway/Kenmore

Note: The Mapparium is temporarily closed 

You’ll find another of the world’s largest items inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston: the world’s largest walk-in globe. The Mapparium is a three-story spherical model of a globe built to scale out of brightly hued stained glass. Stand at one edge of the glass bridge that bisects the interior of the globe and whisper something to a friend at the other end. Since the glass walls amplify sound, they’ll be able to hear you loud and clear.

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World Erotic Art Museum in Miami
World Erotic Art Museum in Miami
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Miami, FL: World Erotic Art Museum

Things to do Cultural centers South Beach

Don’t bring the family to this Miami museum devoted to all kinds of X-rated art. Billed as the only institution that exclusively shows fine erotic art in the entire country, the World Erotic Art Museum has a renowned collection of antique sex toys, carved phalluses and nudes by Picasso and Rembrandt. Just thinking about exploring the 12,000-square-foot space is enough to make you blush. 

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Spectre film set on Jackson Lake Island
Spectre film set on Jackson Lake Island
Photograph: Courtesy Lynn Bright

12. Jackson Lake Island, AL: Tim Burton set ruins

Just outside of Montgomery on the Alabama River, you’ll find a Tim Burton wonderland on a privately owned island. The production company behind the movie Big Fish built the fictitious town of Spectre here back in the early 2000s and decided to leave it up after filming. For a small fee, visitors to Jackson Lake Island can follow Ewan McGregor’s footsteps through the town square to the rundown church, to remaining mechanical trees from the haunted forest and even hang a pair of shoes off the clothesline. You might even run into the town’s newest residents: a friendly herd of goats.

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Area 51
Area 51
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. Lincoln County, NV: Area 51

Deep in the middle of the barren Nevada desert, you’ll find Area 51, the top-secret military base that has been shrouded in mystery for decades. Little is known about what goes on inside, except that the military developed and tested spy planes at the base during the Cold War. The secrecy combined with strange aircrafts leaving Area 51 led to countless rumors of UFO sightings, alien abductions and other extraterrestrial activities over the years. Curious visitors and alien enthusiasts should check out the area for themselves. 

Museum of the Weird
Museum of the Weird
Photograph: Courtesy Museum of the Weird LLC

14. Austin, TX: Museum of the Weird

Attractions Libraries, archives and foundations Congress Ave District

In the tradition of old-school curio museums, the Museum of the Weird celebrates oddities like shrunken heads, wax movie monsters and a taxidermied two-headed calf. The price of admission also includes a live sideshow act, if you want to get really freaky. It’s only fitting that such a museum would be in Austin—the city’s unofficial slogan is “Keep Austin Weird,” after all.

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Seattle gum wall
Seattle gum wall
Photograph: Shutterstock

15. Seattle, WA: The Gum Wall

Attractions Pine Market

Cap off a trip to the famed Pike Place Market with a visit to the equally well-known Gum Wall in a nearby alley. In the 1990s, patrons waiting in line for improv shows at Post Alley’s Market Theater started sticking their used gum on the wall. Nearly 30 years later, it’s covered in every type of gum imaginable. The city powerwashed off all traces of the stinky, sticky mess in 2015, but it didn’t take long for residents and tourists to bring the Gum Wall back to life.

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341.ar.ar.cp.BusyBeaver.jpg
341.ar.ar.cp.BusyBeaver.jpg
Photograph: Busy Beaver Button Co.

16. Chicago, IL: Busy Beaver Button Company

Shopping Jewelry Logan Square

The Busy Beaver Button Co. has produced tens of millions of shiny pins and buttons since it opened in 1995. They’ll still gladly make you any design you desire, but shopping isn't the only reason to visit the Chicago store. Art lovers and culture vultures will also want to check out the eponymous museum. Scope out the collection of more than 9,000 historical pin-back buttons, including concert memorabilia and political campaign collateral.

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17. New York City, NY: New York Earth Room

Note: The exhibit is temporarily closed 

Anyone who can’t get behind minimalist modern art probably won’t get this long-term installation by Walter de Maria. Visitors will find the The New York Earth Room inside a 3,600-square-foot gallery space in Soho. Simply put, it’s nothing but dirt—a 22-inch-deep layer spread across the entire space. It’s somehow comforting to stand inside the quiet room inhaling the smell of earth.

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Ready to plan your next trip?

Grand Teton
Photograph: Shutterstock/Alexey Kamenskiy

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