When the world shut down in March of 2020, we stopped traveling.
The last place we visited was Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg with our friends – a chance to get out of the cold and into a “vacation” that involved water and a water park. It was a blast… but also our last bit of excitement.
So, I thought it would be fun to look at a few crazy places around the United States that we’d love to check out when travel becomes a little bit easier.
I wanted to find places that some consider obscure and off-beat. Everyone knows the famous places (and we’ll certainly check them out) but every so often it’s nice to see something weird. Even if it’s just to say you saw it. 🙂
A few caveats: Before anyone gets all worked up over the list – it’s not a “best of” or a “this is the greatest” list – it’s a “places that look really interesting to me and I want to check it out.” I chose more obscure stuff because I find those kinds of places a lot more fun than the major attractions. 🙂
Some of these recommendations are here because they’re weird. Some of them are here because I think they’re cool. And others are here because I think they’re fun but they’re also obscure. Some are both!
One word of pandemic advice: Some of the attractions, especially some of the smaller ones, may be closed because of the pandemic. Most of the websites will say so but you should double-check before you make a visit. And make sure to follow their Covid protocols if they are open.
Table of Contents
- Alabama – Boll Weevil Monument
- Alaska – The Hammer Museum
- Arizona – Biosphere 2
- Arkansas – Flying Fish’s Retired Billy Bass Wall
- California – Wizard of Oz Garden
- Colorado – Museum of Colorado Prisons
- Connecticut – The Barnum Museum
- Delaware – Steampunk Tree House
- Florida – Burger Beast’s Burger Museum
- Georgia – Tank Town USA
- Hawaii – Lanai Cat Sanctuary
- Idaho – Idaho Military Museum
- Illinois – Tiffany Dome in the Chicago Cultural Center
- Indiana – Mid-America Windmill Museum
- Iowa – C.B.& Q. Restored Depot
- Kansas – The Big Well
- Kentucky – Dinosaur World
- Louisiana – Marie Leveau’s House of Voodoo
- Maine – Paul Bunyan Statue
- Maryland – Clark’s Elioak Farm
- Massachusetts – Skinner Museum
- Michigan – Santa Claus School
- Minnesota – Spam Museum
- Mississippi – Birthplace of Kermit the Frog
- Montana – Ringing Rocks
- Nebraska – Pioneer Village
- Nevada – Clown Motel
- New Hampshire – Funspot & American Classic Arcade Museum
- New Jersey – Lucy the Elephant
- New Mexico – House of Eternal Return
- New York – Snug Harbor
- North Carolina – Land of Oz
- North Dakota – Prairie Village Museum
- Ohio – Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magick
- Oklahoma – Pops
- Oregon – Enchanted Forest
- Pennsylvania – The Posner Center
- Rhode Island – Musée Patamécanique
- South Carolina – Angel Oak Tree
- South Dakota – The Corn Palace
- Tennessee – Sewanee
- Texas – Mineral Wells Fossil Park
- Utah – The Up House
- Vermont – Steamboat Ticonderoga
- Virginia – Dinosaurland
- Washington – Benewah Milk Bottles
- West Virginia – Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
- Wyoming – University of Wyoming Art Museum
Alabama – Boll Weevil Monument
If you ever find yourself in Enterprise, Alabama – go visit the only moment (we know of) in the world that’s dedicated to a pest.
Located in downtown Enterprise, it was erected in 1919 to show the town’s appreciation for the lowly boll weevil and its influence on the local economy and agriculture. The boll weevil itself is indigenous to Mexico but arrived in Alabama in 1915 (or at least was discovered there). Farmers were losing a lot of cotton crops to the beetle and pushed some farmers to turn to peanut farming. The weevil, while destroying many a cotton crop, pushed farmers to diversify and is credited with pushing farmers to overcome adversity and move towards their own prosperity.
Now you know where there’s a statue of a woman in a flowing gown holding a boll weevil in downtown Enterprise, Alabama. 🙂
Also worth taking a look at: The Museum of Wonder in Seale, Alabama is self-described by the founder, Butch Anthony, as a folk museum that is “P.T. Barnum on crack.” It’s a drive-thru museum off US Highway 431 and showcases “a rotating display of Butch’s handcrafted designs and curiosities for the wonderment of visitors and passerbys alike.”
This is one such design:
Best of all, it’s paired with Possum Trot, a BBQ joint and junker’s auction. How cool is that?
Alaska – The Hammer Museum
If you find yourself in Haines, Alaska, there’s a place where everything’s a nail –– it’s The Hammer Museum!
It’s the first museum in the world dedicated to hammers and was founded in 2000. It has over 1,400 hammers from all throughout history and is open between May and September.
Admission is a mere $5 while children under 12 are free with an adult.
One of my friends, Maggie Banks of Northern Expenditure, has been to the Hammer Museum and had this to share:
Also, when you’re in Haines, be sure to stop by Haines Brewing Company too for some tasty brews!
Arizona – Biosphere 2
I’m young enough to remember how cool it was that they built a biosphere in Arizona. I am also young enough to remember how stupid that Pauly Shore movie was (though I totally get it, I’d cash those checks too!).
That said, I love the idea of locking scientists into a biosphere to see how researchers would’ve colonized Mars. You can visit the Biosphere 2 as it is a research facility that is part of the University of Arizona.
Arkansas – Flying Fish’s Retired Billy Bass Wall
Remember Big Mouth Billy Bass?
He was a plastic fish mounted on a wooden plaque and he sang two songs – “I will survive” and “Don’t worry be happy.” The product of Gemmy Industries and no longer in production, many units of this little novelty gift have found their way to the Flying Fish restaurant in the River Market of Little Rock, AK. They actually have a Billy Bass adoption center, which is a wall on which retired Billy Bass toys are presented.
(I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Crater of Diamonds State Park as a place I’d like to visit but at this point, I don’t think this is considered obscure or off the beaten path after someone found a 2.12 carat brown diamond in 2019!)
California – Wizard of Oz Garden
In Southern California, in the Hollywood Hills, there’s a private garden set in the theme of the Wizard of Oz. It’s not open to the public but a blogger at Only In Your State took these photos to give you a sense of what’s inside.
There’s a Wall of Toys, A Throne of Your Own, as well as a little mailbox where you can send letters to Oz. It’s visible from the street but since it’s private, it’s not something you can go into.
Whimsical is the best word to describe it and if you’re nearby, stop and check it out.
Colorado – Museum of Colorado Prisons
Located in Canon City, the Museum of Colorado Prisons is in an old women’s prison and shares a stone wall and armed towers with that prison, which has been in use since 1871! opened in 1988, it’s mission is to “collect, preserve, conserve, exhibit, and interpret the historical heritage of the Colorado Prison System, to operate and maintain the Museum, and to encourage and foster historical research, study, education, and scholarly publications in these areas.”
It covers 140+ years of prison history in the state and the cell house has two floors. The upper floor has 30 inmate cells, a hallway, office, and gift shop. The lower level has the dining room, an archival storage area that was once the trustee sleep area, kitchen, isolation cells, and laundry.
In the summer, starting May 14th, it’s open Monday through Sunday from 10AM to 6PM. Starting October 1st, the winter hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 10AM to 6PM. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for children 6-12 and free for those under 5.
Connecticut – The Barnum Museum
The Barnum Museum in Bridgeport isn’t exactly obscure but it’s a curiosity worth investigating. It is the same P.T. Barnum that you know and love and the museum has the types of exhibits you’d expect from its namesake with items owned by P.T. Barnum and Tom Thumb.
The current Barnum’s World of Wonders exhibition has the Fejee Mermaid, Centaur of Rymfi, and General Tom Thumb’s miniature furniture. It’s even organized as a replicate 1930’s circus.
The museum is free and open on Thursdays and Fridays from 11AM to 3PM year round. In the summer, from June 2 to September, it is open on Saturdays as well.
Delaware – Steampunk Tree House
If you’ve ever wondered what happens to the monstrous creations that are featured at Burning Man each year, I can tell you that one such creation has found a home in Delaware at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton.
The Steampunk Tree House started as a creation for Burning Man in 2007. It’s a 40′ “tree” made of welded girders and plates with a small room made of wood and steel. It’s done in a steampunk style, as you’d expect from girders and plates, and now lives in Milton.
It’s not technically open to the public but if you go on a tour, keep an eye out because it’s really cool to check out.
Florida – Burger Beast’s Burger Museum
Florida is home to a lot of attractions but one of the weirdest is the Burger Beast’s Burger Museum located inside Magic City Casino in Miami. They’re closed during the winter but normally they’re open with an entry fee of about ten dollars.
Inside is a collection of a lot of burger-related memorabilia, over three thousand “historical artifacts, collectibles and ephemera.” Much of the collection comes from businesses that have locations in Florida, so many of the large chains like McDonalds.
(Sadly, the Burger Museum closed its doors on 9/29/2019)
Georgia – Tank Town USA
This isn’t really “obscure” or “weird” but I could not NOT include Tank Town USA in Morganton, GA. At Tank Town USA, you can drive a tank and crush cars for a fee. For $599, you can drive one for 25+ minutes and crush a car. Add a second car for $150 (also gets you 10 minutes) so you and four passengers and crush vehicles to your heart’s delight.
If you just want to drive it, it’s $150 for a 10 minute or ½ mile ride. They also have excavators and machine gun shooting if you’d like that sort of thing.
Pew pew pew!
Hawaii – Lanai Cat Sanctuary
Lanai is one of the smallest of the Hawaiian islands and home to the Lanai Cat Sanctuary. It was created in 2009 to rescue the island’s cars and now is home to 500+ cats that play on over 25,000 square feet of land. The sanctuary is located on 1 Kaupili Road in Lanai City on a plot of land with running water and not much else.
According to Atlas Obscura, the sanctuary is open for visitors from 10 AM to 3 PM.
Idaho – Idaho Military Museum
Idaho is home to quite a few natural sights, historic sites, and museums. A quick perusal of TripAdvisor and you’ll see hundreds of reviews for the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise or the World Famous Hot Pools in Lava Hot Springs.
But if you ever find yourself on the south side of the airport in Boise, check out the Idaho Military Museum. It’s a little off the beaten track because the rest of Boise is north of the airport, but it’s worth a look if you appreciate military history.
Opened in 1995, this small museum that is only open Tuesday through Saturdays from 12PM to 4PM and it’s very hands on. You can walk right up to decommissioned military equipment like tanks, cannons, and airplanes with all branches of the military represented. There’s even a small gift shop if you want to pick up a souvenir for the kids.
Illinois – Tiffany Dome in the Chicago Cultural Center
If you want to see what is believed to be the largest Tiffany Dome, head over to the Chicago Cultural Center and marvel at the 38-foot wide translucent dome made of Tiffany Favrile glass. They are shaped as fish scales and the top of the dome is designed with the signs of the zodiac.
(not an obscure or off-the-beaten-path, as it is in Chicago, but probably not one you’ll see on many must-see attractions)
The Chicago Cultural Center is free to enter and the building hours are Monday–Friday, 10 AM – 7PM, and Saturday–Sunday, 10 AM – 5 PM.
Indiana – Mid-America Windmill Museum
If you find yourself in Kendallville, stop by the Mid-America Windmill Museum and its 52 windmills. The museum was first created to showcase the windmills manufactured by Flint and Walling Company, located in Kendallville, and has been showcasing them since 1992.
Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and children, and they are open Tuesday – Friday from 10 AM to 4 PM, Saturdays from 10 Am to 5 PM and Sunday from 1 PM to 4 PM. They are only open April through November though, when it’s a little bit on the warmer side!
Iowa – C.B.& Q. Restored Depot
According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, that are at least 60 restored railroad depots across the great state of Iowa. The one we’d like to highlight for this list is the C. B. & Q. Restored Depot in Creston. The C.B. & Q stand for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad that was most often referred to as the Burlington or the Q, serving much of the midwest United States.
In the late 1800s, Creston was a major railroad hub and the two-story depot was restored with displays of railroad information and artifacts. There is no admissions fee and it’s open Monday – Saturday from 8AM to 5PM and is open year round. It also houses city offices and a senior citizens center.
Kansas – The Big Well
The Big Well, located in Greensburg, is the world’s largest hand-dug well. It was finished in 1888, was the town’s original water supply, and measures 109 feet deep and is 32 feet wide.
You can get a brief taste of the museum from their video.
The museum was built on top of the well and it is open to admission. When you enter, you can descend down a spiral staircase that includes exhibits discussing the well and the history of Greensburg.
Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, children (5-12) and military. Children 4 and under are free.
Kentucky – Dinosaur World
If you like dinosaurs, you’ll probably get a kick out of visiting Dinosaur World in Kentucky. It contains hundreds of lifesized dinosaurs in a natural setting along with a fun playground and interactive exhibits. There’s a 15-minute guided fossil dig, dino gem excavation, and even a boneyard.
Located on 711 Mammoth Cave Road in Cave City, Dinosaur World is open 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM daily and tickets start at $9 for kids and $12 for adults.
Louisiana – Marie Leveau’s House of Voodoo
In New Orleans lore, Marie Leveau was known as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. Marie Leveau II was the daughter of the first Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.
And if voodoo is for you you, you can visit Marie Leveau’s House of Voodoo which is where they once practiced voodoo and now houses a museum and store. There’s an altar, books, and all sorts of wonderful stuff here.
It’s open Sunday to Thursday from 10 AM to 11:30 Pm as well as on Friday and Saturday from 10 AM to 1:30 AM.
If that’s not enough for you, you can visit Marie Leveau’s tomb in St. Louis Cemetary No. 1 in the tomb of her husband’s family, the Glapions. The cemetary is the oldest still standing in the city and is said to be a great place to visit in its own right.
While you’re there, you can check out Nicolas Cage’s Pyramid Tomb. And yes, Nicolas Cage is still alive… but when he does die, he’s going here. Maybe.
Maine – Paul Bunyan Statue
In Bangor, Maine, overlooking Main Street, is a massive 31-foot tall statue of Paul Bunyan. Bunyan said he was from Bangor, Maine, and the city has embraced it and his exceptionally tall stature. There are plenty of Paul Bunyan statues across the United States (the most famous is in Portland, also 31′) but this was the only one that came to life in a book by Stephen King.
Oh, did I mention, Stephen King lives in Bangor… though his house isn’t open for visitors.
Maryland – Clark’s Elioak Farm
This one may be cheating because we live in Maryland but the state is enormous (as many are!) and so there are a variety of places we still haven’t been to that count as “obscure.”
If you are visiting from out of town, especially with little kids, check out Clark’s Elioak Farm in Columbia. It’s a fun farm that has a lot of things to do but its fun claim to fame is that it became the home for all the salvageable structures of the defunct Enchanted Forest theme park.
As an added bonus, for adults (and especially if you’ve been watching little kids all day!), you aren’t too far from Manor Hill Brewing where you can find great beers and a relaxing farm atmosphere. On weekends, there are often food trucks serving up goodies as well.
Massachusetts – Skinner Museum
The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum, also called Skinner’s cabinet of curiosities, is part of the Mount Holyoke’s College Art Museum system and houses almost 7,000 objects. Joseph Allen Skinner lived from 1862 to 1946 and has some of the “most curious” things you’ll have ever seen.
As in you will probably say (or at least quietly mouth) “wow” after looking in every case.
- A taxidermied Key deer that is less than a foot in length – it died shortly after birth at the New Haven Zoo in Connecticut.
- An 18th century mousetrap that works like a mini–guillotine.
- A Hippo skull.
There are a ton of historic objects too including a blunderbuss, gauntlet gloves, a hurdy gurdy, rat tail miquilet lock pistol, and others. So even if like cool historical artifacts, come for that and get a little dose of strange along the way!
This museum is only open on Wednesdays and Sundays from 2–5PM during the months of May and October. It is available by appointment year round.
The Mount Holyoke’s College Art Museum system has a massive number of permanent collections very much worth checking out and it is open every day except Mondays. It is located in South Hadley, MA.
Michigan – Santa Claus School
In Midland, Michigan, you can visit the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School. Just looking at the website warms my heart and I’d be willing to bet our kids would go nuts if they had a chance to see it.
Established in 1937 by Charles W. Howard, a former Macy’s Santa, it is a school (only 3 days a year) that teaches everything you can imagine about Santa Claus from history to proper attire to how to work with reindeer. Their mission:
To uphold the traditions and preserve the history of Santa Claus while providing students with the necessary resources to improve and further define their individual presentations of Santa Claus allowing him(her) to enter the hearts and spread the Christmas spirit to everyone (s)he meets.
There isn’t a tour or anything like that (as far as I know), it’s just a fun little place to see if you’re near Midland.
Minnesota – Spam Museum
This isn’t a museum about junk mail, it’s a museum about the everyone’s favored canned Spiced Ham. Yep, there’s a Spam Museum and you can visit it if you find yourself in Austin, Minnesota.
If you are a fan of spam, or just in the area and want to see something fun and kinda obscure, why not give the Spam Museum a visit?
The museum is free to visit and open all year. The hours will vary based on the time of your but the website will be able to tell you exactly when it’s open and closed.
Mississippi – Birthplace of Kermit the Frog
Jim Henson was born in Greenville, Mississippi but if you want to visit the birthplace of Kermit the Frog then you’ll have to head to Leland. Leland is just 12 miles west of Greenville so it’s not too far at all.
And in Leland, you can visit the Chamber of Commerce to see a two-room exhibit celebrating everyone’s favorite little frog.
Check out the website for their hours and admission is free!
For Missouri, we have two but one is only available during the holiday season.
Birthplace of Route 66
Route 66 is known as the “Mother Road” and made famous in songs, movies, and cultural lore. Springfield, Missouri is officially recognized as the birthplace of Route 66 and you can see its history and legacy on display if you head to Springfield. It all started when John T. Woodruff and Cy Avery proposed that U.S. 66 be the name of the route that would run from Chicago to Los Angeles.
If you’re in the area in August, you should definitely check out the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival. It’s an annual celebration where tens of thousands of people attend a huge festival with all kinds of fun things to do. The dates for 2019 are August 9th and 10th.
Warrensburg during Christmas
If you’re in Missouri near Warrensburg during the Christmas season, you MUST stop by and see how they celebrate their “Dickens Christmas.”
The town is decorated all during that time period but there is a single day in which the whole place shuts down for a celebration and you can get the latest information on the town’s website.
For 2018, the day will be December 1st from 10AM to 4PM.
Montana – Ringing Rocks
Most “points of interest” are not that interesting. But if you are near Butte, MT (more accurately, 18 miles east) and pass by what’s known as the Ringing Rocks – stop. Then check your car for a hammer because when you lightly tap these rocks, they ring.
No one is really sure why they ring but the Bureau of Land Management believes it’s a “combination of the composition of the rock and the way the joining patterns have developed as the rocks have eroded away, if a boulder is removed from the pile, it doesn’t ring.” (do not take a stone!)
Here are the instructions on how to get there, courtesy of the BLM – “TAKE EXIT 241 (PIPESTONE) FROM I-90 AND TRAVEL EAST ON A GRAVEL ROAD (PARALLELS INTERSTATE) FOR ABOUT THREE-FOURTHS OF A MILE, THEN TURN NORTH ON A GRAVEL ROAD, CROSS THE RAILROAD TRACKS AND CONTINUE NORTH FOR APPROXIMATELY 3 MILES. A HIGH CLEARANCE VEHICLE IS RECOMMENDED.”
It’s completely free and really cool!
Nebraska – Pioneer Village
Pioneer Village is located in Minden, NE, and they boast to have the largest private collection of Americana anywhere.
This 28 building complex is on 20 acres of land and they have over 50,000 “irreplaceable” items of historical value.
“There are 12 historic buildings around the circular “green”. There’s a Frontier Fort, a real honest-to-goodness Pony Express Station, an Iron Horse, and a home made of sod. There’s a general store and a toy store, chock full of all the goods from yesteryear. An original art collection including 25 Currier and Ives prints, 23 Jackson paintings, and the largest single collection of Rogers statues.”
They’re open year round and tickets start at just $14 + tax. Kids 6-12 pay $7 + tax and those 5 and under are free.
Nevada – Clown Motel
In Tonopah, Nevada, there’s a Clown Motel.
I’m never going there. But you can.
It’s located at 521 N. Main Street in Tonopah, NV 89049.
That is all.
New Hampshire – Funspot & American Classic Arcade Museum
When I was a kid, my parents would often drop me off at the mall with a few dollars and expected me to entertain myself for a few hours. I can’t imagine doing that now but I spent most of my time in the coin-op arcade Time Out.
Did you know that there is a Guinness World Record for the largest arcade and its Funspot in Laconia, NH? Now you do.
What is also in the same building, on the 3rd floor, is the American Classic Arcade Museum (ACAM) and while they are independent from Funspot, they’re in the same building so you might as well stop by!
That’s where I want to go. Admission is free to check out all the games, 180 of which games are within ACAM itself.
2020 was a rough year for ACAM and 2021 may be similar – they currently have a GoFundMe set up to help raise money to help with operating costs. If you love video games, do consider contributing.
New Jersey – Lucy the Elephant
There’s a lot to see and do in New Jersey but the absolute coolest thing has to be Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ.
OK, if Lucy the Elephant were just a monument or some other strictly visual attraction, that would be interesting enough on its own but Lucy is also a gift shop. She is also a National Historic Landmark and is the oldest surviving roadside tourist attraction in America.
Amazing job Lucy!
New Mexico – House of Eternal Return
If you like art, I found this really cool “mind-bending, interactive, explorable art experience for people of all ages in Santa Fe, New Mexico.” It’s called the House of Eternal Return and it lives in a former bowling alley. The building was purchased by George R.R. Martin (yes, of Game of Thrones fame) and Meow Wolf, an arts and entertainment group, turned it into 70 rooms of interactive art.
It looks so trippy. I want to go so badly!
New York – Snug Harbor
New York, especially New York City, has an overwhelmingly high number of things you can do.
So as a change of pace, I thought it would be fun to share with you a bit of an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of NYC – Snug Harbor. It has a rich history worth learning about but I chose it because it has a cultural center as well as a botanical garden. After a few days of the concrete jungle, a little botany never hurt anyone. 🙂
The main campus is free of charge but they have various attractions that may require tickets.
North Carolina – Land of Oz
Are you a fan of the Wizard of Oz? Just see Wicked recently?
If so, Land of Oz is a privately owned theme park that hosts two events a year – Journey with Dorothy and Autumn at Oz. You can’t just show up and visit, unfortunately, you’ll have to go to one of the two events or schedule a special tour (90 minutes, group rates start at $150).
Journey with Dorothy is a small guided tour while Autumn at Oz is a two-weekend event where you can traverse the park on your own and have photo ops with characters.
If you happen to be in the area when they have these events, seems like a fun way to have a little fun.
North Dakota – Prairie Village Museum
How many people can claim to have visited the geographical center of North America?
If you go to the Prairie Village Museum, not only will you be able to claim that feat but you’ll also be able to enjoy over 20 historic buildings and wander six exhibit halls full of Americana. It was founded by the Pierce County Historical Society and built with donations from around the region.
Its collections start as early as the 1880s with an emphasis on the period of 1900–1950. There are more than 50,000 artifacts in the collection spanning many areas including Native American objects, household items, vintage farm equipment and even antique cars.
One of the fun exhibits is a mannequin of Clifford Thompson who stood 8′ 7″. Born October 18, 1904 in Silva, ND which is about ten miles away, he was a traveling salesman, actor, teacher, circus performer and lawyer.
They’re located in Rugby, ND and open every day during the regular season, which for 2021 is from May 1 through October 30. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children. Overnight RV parking is free with admission but there are no amenities.
Ohio – Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magick
Do you like witchcraft and magick? Are you in Cleveland, Ohio? Then you need to make your way to the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magick because it is one of the most impressive collections you’ll see.
They have a massive permanent collection but a rotating gallery as well. Their website has a lot of information and photos to give you a sense of what they’re about. You’ll know fairly quickly whether this museum is for you – admission is just $8.
Oklahoma – Pops
In Arcadia, OK, there’s a 66-foot tall neon soda bottle outside of POPS, a collection of 700 types of soda and sparkling beverages located on Route 66. Pops is a restaurant where you can get a quick(ish) meal as well as a cold beverage.
This isn’t a gimmick where they say they have 700 types of sodas and they’re all just on a wall for you to see. They’re for sale and you can take it with you to go.
The soda bottle status outside is ringed in LEDs that they turn on at night so make sure you stop by at a time when you can enjoy it!
Oregon – Enchanted Forest
In Maryland, our version of the Enchanted Forest was abandoned many years ago but there’s one in Salem, OR that is still operating (though closed for the season and severe ice damage in February). It’s inspired by Alice in Wonderland and Mother Goose and includes rides such as the Big Timber Log Ride, Ice Mountain Bobsled Roller Coaster, Challenge of Mondor, Haunted House, Carousel, and more.
If you are in Portland and want a great way to keep it weird, check out the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium if it’s open. The photo gallery is the closest you can get to the exhibits now because of Covid but when it’s open, you will be able to experience the weirdness first hand.
Pennsylvania – The Posner Center
The Posner Center at Carnegie Mellon University, my alma mater, is the rare library collection of Henry Posner, Sr. and his wife Ida. It is a collection that “focuses on the history of science and technology and on the fine arts,” according to the dean of university libraries, Gloriana St. Clair.
The collection contains a first printing of the United States Bill of Rights, a letter from Christopher Columbus to the Treasurer of Spain, a 1663 edition of the Third Folio of Shakespeare, as well as any number of other special collections exhibits.
It didn’t exist when I was a student between 1998 and 2002, but being as it was situated just a few steps from my freshman dorm (Donner), it’s something I hope to visit when I return.
Rhode Island – Musée Patamécanique
Are you near Bristol?
Would you be willing to meet a stranger in a park after sunset, put on a headset, and then follow the instructions to a hidden location (the museum) given entirely through those headsets?
If so – that’s how you experience the Musée Patamécanique.
It’s an approximately 100-minute tour in which you enjoy a variety of sensor experiences include strobe lights, odor effects, sudden noises, and smoke effects. (odor effects!)
It looks so cool.
South Carolina – Angel Oak Tree
Many of the places on this list are museums or art exhibits or things that are just big or weird – the Angel Oak Tree is a little different. While it is certainly big, the 400-500 year old tree is free for anyone to see if they are in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s considered one of the oldest living things in the country and the land it sits on is now owned by the City of Charleston.
It’s pretty amazing that something that old (it could be even older) and that big has survived the test of time… and you can see is absolutely free.
South Dakota – The Corn Palace
Billed as The World’s Only Corn Palace, the first thing I said when I saw the smiling ear of corn was “yes!” Located in Mitchell, South Dakota, The Corn Palace has free guided tours that probably are filled to the brim with jokes and puns. (they say their guides have “a-maize-ing” facts!)
What is in The Corn Palace? It’s a venue for a variety of events but people also come to see the corn murals. Yes, the outside of the Corn Palace is decorated with actual corn and arranged in such a way as to create a mural. It’s wild!
Tennessee – Sewanee
Do you like art?
If so, make it a point to stop in Sewanee. It’s the home of The University of the South, common referred to as Sewanee, and as a result the town has taken on the university’s influence.
If you’re there in the summer, check out the Sewanee Writer’s Conference as well as the Sewanee Summer Music Festival.
Texas – Mineral Wells Fossil Park
If you have kids and are near the City of Mineral Wells, you CANNOT miss going to Mineral Wells Fossil Park.
It’s literally a former landfill borrow pit where where you can dig for fossils and take them home with you. The fossils will be from the Pennsylvanian Period, which is about 300 million years ago. You can’t bring anything big, just gardening tools.
The park is free and the hours are from dawn to dusk.
Utah – The Up House
In Utah, you can visit a house that is the exact replica of the Up House. The Real UP House in Herriman, Utah is that house and they had Disney’s permission to do it. You can book photoshoots there (not sure about the status now) and the backyard (really, the whole house) is suuuuper fun.
The video, which goes into the story behind the house and the family living in it, is super sweet.
Another place worth visiting, whenever they open up again, is the Mars Desert Research Station.
What if you wanted to see what life was like on Mars but didn’t want to make the ~7 month space trek just to find out it wasn’t for you? You give it a whirl at the Mars Desert Research Station. The primary purpose of the MDRS is to give crews a 2-3 week “mission” that simulates a Mars mission.
It’s not someplace you can visit now because of Covid (only open to scheduled crews) but I bet it’s fascinating to see when it opens back up.
Vermont – Steamboat Ticonderoga
The Steamboat Ticonderoga was a 220-foot steamboat that operated on Lake Champlain until 1953. It is now residing at the Shelburne Museum where you can see what life was like onboard in 1923.
When you visit, you can wander around the four decks of the ship and see everything from the engine to the pilothouse to the galley and crew’s quarters. Tours are normally available from May 1 to October 31.
Virginia – Dinosaurland
It’s like Pirates of the Caribbean except the pirates eat the tourists. 🙂 (love Jurassic Park!)
Just kidding! Dinosaurland doesn’t have any living dinosaurs but it does have a lot (50!) of fiberglass dinosaurs for kids and adults to marvel at. While they’re not animated, they are colorful and, by the photos, look pretty well maintained given they live outside in the elements.
If you or your kids like dinosaurs and find yourself near White Post, VA – it might be worth a stop!
Washington – Benewah Milk Bottles
There are two massive milk bottles located in Spokane and they’re known as the Benewah Milk Bottles, named and constructed for the Benewah Creamery Company back in the mid–1930s. They were constructed to be both a building and an advertisement for the Benewah Creamery Company, though only two of the planned six were every built. The first is on Garland Avenue and the second on Cedar Street.
They originally acted as concession stands until 1978 when they took on new purposes. The one on Cedar Street is still in operation as a restaurant (the Garland Ave location has been used for other things) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s a cool thing to see if you find yourself in Spokane and visible even from the freeway!
West Virginia – Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
This one is definitely not for me but it might be right up your alley… but the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is an abandoned hospital that once treated people with mental health problems. You can visit the 160-year-old asylum for tours and they have various other special events that really tap into the hair-raising part of your brain.
For example, in April they will have a “light painting workshop” in which they teach you how to use artificial light to “create a unique exposure” that really ups the creepy factor (in a good way!). The photos they share look really cool if you can get over the fact that they were taken IN AN ASYLUM. 🙂
As for tours, they have two-hour night time tours (10:30pm to 12:30 am) where they visit the 4 “hottest spots” in the 242,000 sq. ft. asylum. Two hours isn’t enough? What about an 8-hour ghost hunt that takes places overnight? It goes from 9pm to 5am! Incredible.
Al John’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik
Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant is not obscure or interesting because it’s a Swedish restaurant (though it is!) but because it has a sod roof. And on this sod roof are goats. These goats are just grazing and chilling up there while you eat your Swedish meal inside.
The restaurant itself gets quite good reviews and services breakfast, lunch and dinner as you would expect in Sweden.
If you find yourself in Door County (10698 N. Bay Shore Drive, Sister Bay, Wisconsin 54234) and feeling peckish, you should stop by. If you can’t make it but are interested in checking out the goats – they even have a goat cam!
Fellow personal finance blogger “GovWorker” also recommends Dr. Evermor’s “Forevertron” park. It’s free and open Thursday through Monday – it features an “outdoor garden of steampunk sculptures welded from garbage and it is amazing.”
As I’ve looked and seen photos online, it looks absolutely amazing. These aren’t small structures milling about, these are massive creations that likely took years of work and expertise. Definitely one to put on the list and check out if you find yourself near Sumpter.
Wyoming – University of Wyoming Art Museum
While not obscure, I wouldn’t want to miss if it if I were in the area. Check out the University of Wyoming Art Museum in Laramie and their fantastic collection of exhibitions and collections.
There is no admission fee and there is free parking, you really can’t beat that. I think the structure, designed by Antoine Predock, looks amazing and reminds me of the NASA return capsule from the Apollo missions.
As a runner up, check out the Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone. It’s a hot spring in the Yellowstone Upper Geyser Basin. It has an amazing trippy color because of the bacteria in the water.
As I was putting together this list, it was fun to see all the attractions in each state and try to find something off-beat and obscure to share. It was also fun to see the different eras of attractions. A lot of places along Route 66 had functional stops where you could see something big, get gas, grab a bite to eat, and move along.
Some of the older states had relics of history while others showcased something the area was known for, such as The Corn Palace in South Dakota.
It just goes to show you that you can see quite a bit within these United States and you don’t even need a passport!