So you’ve experienced all the best attractions in the USA, but what about some of the more bizarre landmarks in the USA? You can’t say you’ve explored this whole country until you cross some of these offbeat attractions off your list. We’ve tracked down 18 of the most unusual places from coast to coast, including the Seattle gum wall, the Mississippi Petrified Forest and Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum. Choose a few favorites and create your own road trip or find the roadside attraction nearest to you and take a day trip. Just make sure you don’t forget the playlist of the best road trip songs for the ride!
Bizarre landmarks in the USA
Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, CA
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.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jon Olav Eikenes
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—mint, sugar-free, bubble, cinnamon, Juicy Fruit. 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.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Mark Fischer
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 guided tours offer a great primer on both the country’s largest witch hunt and early colonial life.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/massmatt
The thought of asphalt in L.A. probably brings to mind the extensive network of freeways, city streets and sidewalks. There’s actually another source, though: the bubbling petroleum lake under what is now Hancock Park. Over the years, animals got stuck in the gooey tar and perished in the pits, eventually turning into exquisitely preserved fossils. So far, 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.
Area 51 in Lincoln County, NV
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. Tour nearby attractions like the Little A’Le’Inn Restaurant and petroglyphs supposedly created by extraterrestrials.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Airwolfhound
Dole Plantation Pineapple Maze in Oahu, HI
The world’s largest plant maze isn’t on some grand estate in England or massive field of corn in the Midwest, but instead 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.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Smart Destinations
You’ll find another of the world’s largest items inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston: This time, it’s 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.
Crazy Horse Memorial in Crazy Horse, SD
How cool would it be to see a massive monument like Mt. Rushmore being carved? You can find out for yourself at Crazy Horse Memorial, a new stone carving in progress not far from those supersized presidents in the Black Hills. Intended to celebrate the history and culture of Native Americans, the memorial was the brainchild of sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear. Construction began in 1948, but it’s still many years from completion. When sculptors finish their work, though, the memorial will stand 563 feet tall and measure 641 feet long.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Rachael Voorhees
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.
Carhenge in Alliance, NE
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.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Chris M Morris