Offbeat Travel — Roadside Attractions

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Photo: Codex99.com

Photo: Codex99.com

Oh summer, the season of road trips. Does anything go better than snacks, friends, warm weather and sight-seeing? When you’re planning your next road trip, in between the rest areas and fast-food joints you should find a place to stretch your legs and provide some entertainment. Whether these are your final destinations for a day trip or a fun stop en route, they’re all guaranteed to be memorable!

House On The Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin

Photo: Slate.com

Photo: Slate.com

If you were planning on just stopping into the House On the Rock for a quick peek, you’re in for a big surprise. Opened in 1959 by eccentric collector Alex Jordan, the House On the Rock is a mind-blowing collection of antiques, collectibles, and crazy spectacles for you to explore. Nearly one million people each year come to get lost in this massive house perched on a cliff, who’s 14 rooms contain the world’s largest carousel, a mini-circus, the infamous Infinity Room, and so much more. Please note that no single photo can sum up the visual awesomeness of the home. See what I mean by enjoying a self-guided tour, and good luck with wanting to continue your road trip!

Crystal Cave in Kurtztown, Pennsylvania

Photo: Worldturndupsidedown.blogspot.com

Photo: Worldturndupsidedown.blogspot.com

Discovered in 1861, Pennsylvania’s Crystal Cave has become the state’s most popular natural attraction. Before entering the cave, a quick informational film gives you some background (and gets you excited to explore). Look at giant rock formations (some around half-a million years old), explore the tunnels on a tour down to the Devil’s den, and remember to keep an eye out for bats. Since the cave maintains a consistent temperature around 54 degrees, you’re also getting a solid break from the summer heat. After you’ve refreshed with some ice cream or a round of miniature golf, you’ll be set to drive away satisfied.

Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln, New Hampshire

Photo: Pinterest.com

Photo: Pinterest.com

What began as a gimmick to get cars to stop by has evolved into a full family-owned amusement park of sorts near the woods in New Hampshire. From acrobats and water blaster boats to train rides through the woods, Clark’s Trading Post isn’t just a one-activity stop. But the main reason people swing by is for the black bear show. Since 1949, members of the Clark family have trained the wild bears to perform (as best as anyone could). Many of the black bears are rescued orphans, and are “retired” from performing after a while to an open enclosure where they can relax and play together. So come for the bear show, stick around for a train ride, and try not to be traumatized by the Wolfman.

Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut

Photo: Wikipedia.com

Photo: Wikipedia.com

Let’s be honest, most road trip pit-stops are focused around refueling or snacks. If you’re driving through New Haven, why not grab a bite to eat at the birthplace of the hamburger? Though the restaurant has been operating since 1895, Louis’ Lunch invented the all-American sandwich at the request of a hurried customer in 1900. The burger is served between two slices of toast, and still cooked in the same iron grills from 1898 and antique toaster from the 1920s. It’s cheap, delicious (voted Travel Channel’s “Tastiest Place to Chow Down” in the country), and offers a great historical experience served with your meal. Just remember: do NOT ask for ketchup.

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch in Oro Grande, California

Photo: Wildbirdscollective.com

Photo: Wildbirdscollective.com

A folk-art forest made of glass bottles and scrap metal has become a mecca in the Mojave desert along Route 66. The brainchild of Elmer Long, the gate is open sunrise to sunset and you’re free to explore for as long as you’d like. The bottle trees are often topped with old signage and memorabilia from the area, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. And if you’re lucky enough to stop by when Elmer’s around, take advantage of his knowledge of the area to get a quick history lesson. Every review I could find online couldn’t stop gushing about how nice it was to meet Elmer and experience the bottle forest with sunlight shining through it. If you’re a fan of antiques and a truly unique experience, this is worth stopping for.

Playland-Not-At-The-Beach in El Cerrito, California

Photo: Playland-not-at-the-beach.org

Photo: Playland-not-at-the-beach.org

Are your kids itching to be entertained? Here’s one Northern California pit stop sure to stop their complaints. Playland-Not-At-The-Beach is a volunteer-run organization started  to house memorabilia and relics from San Francisco’s late amusement park, Playland at the Beach. You can enjoy 9,000 square feet of carnival games, memorabilia, miniatures, freak show displays and more. The best part? All but 5 of Playland’s arcade and carnival games are free to play, meaning no whining kids or quickly depleting quarter stashes. Nothing guarantees a peaceful car ride more than children who are fast asleep from too much fun.

Now your next road trip can have some fun stops planned along the way. If you have a favorite stop you’ve taken on past trips, let us know in the comments!