7 of the USA’s Quirkiest Roadside Attractions

From a Midwest replica of Pisa's Leaning Tower to the World's Largest Chest of Drawers in North Carolina, here are seven wonderfully unique American roadside attractions to check out this year.
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There’s a real joy in driving hundreds of miles and scanning the same dull scenery for hours before stumbling across a wacky landmark that both raises your eyebrows and takes your breath away. I'm a Brit who loves nothing more than an all-American road trip, and it’s the USA’s weird and wonderful roadside attractions that keep me coming back. 

There's arguably never been a better time to hop in the car and check out the United State's off-the-beaten-path destinations, what with Covid and the need for social distancing. Here are seven unbeatable highway stop-offs you can safely explore this year while traversing the country—just be sure to bring a mask and maintain social distancing! 

Rock City, Georgia

With a stunning single-drop waterfall, antique gnome garden, miniature golf course, and a viewpoint where you can, it's said, see up to seven states at once, Rock City is a four-in-one tourist attraction. Come for the kitsch Enchanted Trail; stay for the modern art exhibition and Southern kitchen with a glorious vista. It makes for a memorable detour or a day's visit in itself. 

Website: seerockcity.com 

Nearby: About 1 hour 30 minutes northwest of Chattahoochee National Forest and 2 hours northwest of Atlanta and southeast of Nashville 

Entry fee: Adults from $21.95, children from $12.95

Opening hours: 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Wall Drug, South Dakota

Located in the town of Wall, South Dakota, this drug store is perhaps one of the original tourist traps. The secret to its Great Depression success was its far-reaching advertising campaign—commercials painted on barns and billboards hundreds of miles away from Wall itself lured in thirsty travelers with the promise of a free glass of iced water and homemade donuts and coffee for 5 cents. The drug store is now bordered by various eateries and niche shops, so stop by the strip for your complimentary refreshment and check out the cowboy-themed stores, dinosaur animatronics, and giant figurines. And yes, donuts and coffee are still 5 cents! 

Website: walldrug.com 

Nearby: About 15 minutes north of Badlands National Park and 1 hour 30 minutes east of Mount Rushmore in Black Hills National Forest

Entry fee: Free

Opening hours: 8 am to 8 p.m.

La Brea Tar Pits, California

This phenomenon is so unique that Los Angeles built a park around it. Here, naturally occurring asphalt seeps up to the Earth’s surface. These bubbling pits have preserved the skeletons of prehistoric animals that had the misfortune of falling into them—mammoths, horses, and even saber-toothed cats have been excavated. Observe their remains in the museum (temporary closed as of July 16, 2020) before heading outside to be wowed by their fiberglass lookalikes.

Website: tarpits.org 

Nearby: About 30 minutes northwest of Los Angeles and 1 hour 30 minutes southwest of Mt. San Antonio

Entry fee: Adults from $14, children from $6

Opening hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

World’s Largest Chest of Drawers, North Carolina

At first glance, this I-74 photo opportunity located in High Point, North Carolina, might not seem like much—just a really big chest of drawers with two socks hanging out of it. But the 36-foot-tall chest is a tribute to local history: It was built in 1926 to emphasize High Point’s role as the "furniture-making capital of the world." Better still, the odd socks hanging from one of the drawers are a charming ode to the hosiery manufacturers of the area. 

Website: visitnc.com 

Nearby: About 1 hour 20 minutes northeast of Charlotte and 2 hours 30 minutes east of Asheville and Cherokee National Forest

Entry fee: Free

Opening hours: 24/7

Wild Blueberry Land, Maine

Like blueberries? Love driving along Maine's picturesque Route 1? Then Wild Blueberry Land in Columbia Falls is a dream come true. Run by a family of farmers, this cobalt-colored world boasts a crisp mountain backdrop, fruity gift shop, and an educational program all about—you guessed it—delicious blueberries. The star attraction, however, is the blueberry-shaped bakery that sells pies, muffins, and more, lovingly homemade by owner Marie Emerson.

Website: wildblueberryland.com 

Nearby: About 1 hour 10 minutes northeast of Acadia National Park and 2 hours 30 minutes northeast of Augusta

Entry fee: Free

Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Leaning Tower of Niles, Illinois

About 30 minutes northwest of Chicago, drivers are greeted with a bizarre sight: a half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Constructed as a water storage unit in 1934 by an eccentric industrialist, this tilted tower is a good domestic alternative to the Italian original. The interior isn’t open to the public, but there’s talk of that happening soon. In the meantime, it’s the perfect place to get that iconic selfie of you holding up the structure.

Website: vniles.com 

Nearby: About 30 minutes northwest of Chicago and 1 hour 20 minutes south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Entry fee: Free

Opening hours: 24/7

London Bridge, Arizona

Never has a landmark seemed more out of place than the world-famous London Bridge—yes, the OG one!—straddling the center of scorching Lake Havasu City. The story of how it ended up in the Arizona desert is equally mind-boggling. To raise funds for a new London Bridge, my home country sold this Victorian one in the 1960s to Arizona millionaire Robert P. McCulloch. He used it as a ploy to attract folks to his new retirement community, and it it worked: Lake Havasu City was basically built around the bridge. Today, it makes for a pretty place to snap a pic and pretend you're making a call in an old-fashioned London phone booth. 

Website: londonbridgetour.com 

Nearby: About 2 hours 30 minutes northeast of Joshua Tree National Park, southwest of the Grand Canyon, and southeast of Las Vegas and 3 hours 15 minutes northwest of Phoenix

Entry fee: Free

Opening hours: 24/7