One of my absolute favorite things about traveling is visiting tourist traps. I love giant dinosaurs, cheesy gift shops, and relics from the not so distant past. I won’t hesitate to take a few hour drive just to see a huge basket shaped building, and massive roadside animals are basically my favorite thing ever.
I think it would be safe to say my obsession with roadside attractions might have started with “big bunny”. Big bunny is exactly what it sounds like, a giant rabbit. This statue sat in someone’s front yard, surrounded by flowers, with it’s hand up to greet everyone who passed by. It was on the way to my grandma’s house and every time my mom and I would pass him she’d say “wave to big bunny!” and I did, with great enthusiasm. Big bunny sparked something in me, something I can’t seem to shake all these years later.
Since this type of thing is something I blog about quite often I thought it would be fun to share my favorite resources for finding strange roadside attractions, be they murals from movies, old bottles turned into art or cemeteries with famous graves. There are tons of sites out there dedicated to these things but I definitely have favorites I prefer to use.
My number one resource is the Roadside America app. It currently costs $2.99 to download and that unlocks one of the regions. After that you can download additional regions for $1.99 each or unlock them all for $5.99 more. I’ll be the first to admit it’s kind of pricey. Is it worth it though? In my opinion, absolutely! This is one of my most used apps (and one of the very few I’ve ever paid for.) All the information is available on their website, for free, but I still think the ease of the app makes it well worth the price.
My main method of using it is just viewing the “near me” category which lists all roadside attractions close to you in order of distance. You can click on each individual place to see a short description, photos of it, and directions to it. You’re also able to search by city or themes such as “animals”, “ghost towns”, “odd buildings”, “UFO”, etc. You can check places off as been there, or save them to check out at another time.
Basically, if I’m anywhere further than an hour away from my house I’m using the Roadside America app! I can’t even begin to list all the weird, wonderful, and just plain fun places I’ve discovered because of this app.
I am also a big fan of the Roadtrippers app (which is free!) This one is really fun because you can plan trips. You simply put in where you’re going and it will show you spots along the way as well as how much gas money will cost, how many miles and how long the trip will take. The great thing about this app is that you can choose tons of different things for it to show you ranging from sleeping accommodations which can be broken down further into categories such as hotels, motels, unique stays, etc to points of interest from which you can highlight abandoned, film & tv, photo ops, public art and so much more.
I’ve found that it seems to have less of the types of attractions I really enjoy compared to Roadside America but I really enjoy being able to search for other items, like parks (although that doesn’t really have anything to do with the theme of this post, does it?) Unlike Roadside America, Roadtrippers is an app you could use much closer to home and probably still find things you don’t really know about it.
My third tip is to find others with the same interests, Instagram is a great resource for this! It does require a little bit of legwork, and obviously isn’t as straight forward as an app that knows where you are and can show you things nearby but there’s the possibility of finding things that may not be listed on websites or apps.
When I knew I’d be visiting New York City I scoured Alexandra’s blog archives. We have incredibly similar tastes so I knew she’d probably blogged about things I’d be interested in checking out while in the area. While I don’t really have tastes quiet as similar to anyone else as much as I do her, browsing the instagram accounts of people who I know live near where I’ll be is always a great way to find fun spots!
Still not satisfied?
▴ Browse Atlas Obscura.
▴ Google “weird things in” + the town or state you’ll be visiting. Make sure to browse the image results too!
▴ When on instagram, use local hashtags to find fun spots only locals know about. Most of the time if you search for a city it will show you in the related tags along the top what people are use. For example if you search “Cleveland”, it will show “#cle, #thisisCLE, and #clevelandgram” Those are the hashtags you should be browsing before visiting a city!
Because of these resources I’ve been able to watch the sunrise in a ghost town in the middle of the desert (which is still one of the most magical mornings I have ever had!), visit one of the world’s largest private displays of insects, seen countless dinosaurs, and slept in the three remaining Wigwam Villages among many other things.
Maybe you already knew to utilize all of the resources above, maybe you don’t give a crap about giant dinosaurs but I hope this at least inspires you to get out and search for something new!