Great Roadside Attractions in the U.S.

 Great Roadside Attractions in the U.S.

From mermaids and a biscuit museum to whispering giants, a giant leg sundial and a giant paint ball, the RVLifestyle is always looking to bring you the best (or should that be “best”?) in roadside attractions.

That’s why I took note when our friends at Travel Trivia recently published a story called “6 Greatest Roadside Attractions in the U.S.”

We’ve written about a couple of them already, and we’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not the attractions on this list actually are THE “greatest.”

Either way, here’s the list from Travel Trivia (be sure to also check our many Off the Beaten Path reports for a ton more roadside attractions):

Clown Motel (Tonopah, Nev.)

This stop along U.S. Route 95 in Nevada was named “America’s Scariest Motel” due to its clown theme and proximity to the Old Tonopah Cemetery.  Many people are terrified of the Clown Motel, even though, according to owner Bob Perchetti, they only have “happy clowns”. 

People from all over the world send clowns to the Clown Motel, and the collection now numbers over 600. Still, if you suffer from coulrophobia — as many of us do, according to one recent survey — maybe skip this one.

The Clown Motel office is one of the creepiest roadside attractions in the U.S.
Facebook photo via The Clown Motel

Cabazon Dinosaurs (Cabazon, Calif.)

Established in 1975, the Cabazon Dinosaurs have long been regarded as one of the most iconic roadside attractions, according to its website. Featured in cult classic movies such as Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure and The Wizard, the dinosaurs have staked their place in pop culture.

Dinny's gift shop features a wide array of unique dinosaur-themed merchandise and souvenirs. Mr. Rex’s Dinosaur Adventure includes a dinosaur exhibit featuring over 50, ahem, “life-like” dinosaurs, a dinosaur dig, fossil panning, and access to climb inside Mr. Rex all the way up to his mouth.

Enchanted Highway (Exit 72, I-94, Regent, N.D.)

The Enchanted Highway is a collection of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures constructed at intervals along a 32-mile stretch of two-lane highway that cuts south across the prairie off I-94 in western North Dakota.

The road is so rural and remote, it doesn’t even have a real name. Because of the amazing sculptures, locals started calling it the ”Enchanted Highway.”

A local artist named Gary Greff started building the towering sculptures in 1990. His goal is to draw people off the interstate and to small towns like Regent, to keep them from drying up. But the stunning beauty of the prairie is just as much a draw as Greff’s amazing sculptures, which he continues to erect each year.

Here’s a video of the Enchanted Highway that we posted in our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel as we traveled it in our RV.

Wall Drug Store (Wall, S.D.)

It’s unlikely that the tiny town of Wall, S.D. would even exist today were it not for the drug store that bears its name. Thanks to the iconic road signs plastered on every highway around for 650 miles from Minnesota to Montana, Wall Drug has become a landmark in American tourism.

It all started with offers of free ice water, slapped on the signs. That did it.

Today, Wall Drug still offers free ice water, and on a good summer’s day up to 20,000 tourists stop by. The free water was followed by coffee for 5 cents – another tradition that continues through today. 

Next came tourist trinkets, jewelry, holiday decorations, souvenirs, and more. It's all crammed into a 76,000-square-foot store that also has a bakery, a restaurant and, of course, an ice cream soda bar.

Out behind the main Wall Drug is a sort of mini amusement park for the kids, featuring another Wall Drug original– the giant jackalope. A jackalope is a mythical combination of a jackrabbit and antelope that delights both the young and the old.

A bustling town now lines both sides of the street around Wall Drug and there is lots of free parking, with plenty of room for RVs of all sizes. It really is a must-visit! (Check out this blog and our video below for all our favorite South Dakota stops, which include Wall Drug.)

UFO Welcome Center (Bowman, S.C.)

Travel Trivia calls it the epitome of roadside attractions. Atlas Obscura describes it this way: “Built to resemble two silver UFOs stacked behind a scrap metal fence, the welcome center was cobbled together from scrape wood, metal, and random junk.”

If you get lucky and the owner, Jody Pendarvis, is around, you can tour the UFO Welcome Center for a fee. Of course, as we learned way back in 2012, you might just want to head to northern Michigan for a true UFO (or something) experience.

Great Roadside Attractions in the U.S. 1
UFO Welcome Center (Photo by Ed McDonald, Flickr Creative Commons)

UFO Watchtower (San Luis Valley, Colo.)

Judy Messoline of Hooper, Colo. was a big fan of TV shows like “Sightings” and “X-Files” and realized she was hearing things like “Great Sand Dunes” and “San Luis Valley” on many episodes. From there, of course, she created the first UFO WatchTower in the “heart of the mystical San Luis Valley.”

Visitors can check out the watchtower for a couple of bucks each (or $5 per vehicle) or camp year-round for $15.

Obviously, there are a lot more roadside attractions out there. Let us know what your favorites are in the comments below!

Also, be sure to check out these 10 Weird Roadside Attractions.

This bundle is our popular Upper Peninsula RV Adventure Guide PLUS our newest Adventure Guide – The Great Lakes Shoreline Tour! Both ebooks will give you plenty of ideas and resources to enjoy this part of the US.

The Great Lakes Shoreline Tour — One of our favorite RV trips has been driving the United States side of the five Great Lakes. It is a trip of over 4,000 miles and takes you to 8 states! And it’s filled with beautiful vistas, welcoming towns and villages, and fabulous places to camp, hike, and explore.

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

3 Comments

  • […] always looking to deliver great destinations to visit while out there RVing – from quirky roadside attractions, the best places for stargazing, and just about everything in […]

  • too bad that you didn’t continue south and visit Lemmon, SD to see the petrified wood park which comprises and entire city block and a renowned metal sculpture artist. John Lopez is known world wide for his work in creating intricate pieces which can be viewed in the Kokomo Inn gallery. Simply amazing artwork.

  • too bad that you didn’t continue south from Regent and visit Lemmon, SD to see the petrified wood park which comprises and entire city block and a renowned metal sculpture artist. John Lopez is known world wide for his work in creating intricate pieces which can be viewed in the Kokomo Inn gallery. Simply amazing artwork.

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