On a cross-country trek through the northern states of the USA, we saw a range of unforgettable sights in some equally impressive locations. On our journey from place to place we were lucky enough to stumble upon some of the more quirky attractions in the states we sped through. After hours of cramped van driving these fun areas of interest gave us an opportunity to explore whilst stretching our legs. For me, this was a hidden bonus element to the tour. Each state had something very different to offer and every location taught us something about the history and culture of the area. It is this that makes a USA road trip life changing, you see so much. Here I share some of the lesser known attractions that stuck in my memory from a trip through 24 of America’s states.
We start with the fantastical place that is Wall Drug Store. This extraordinary set of buildings started in 1931 as a normal store. Today the store is crammed full of unusual exhibits to look around and get involved in, while you shop your heart out. In the short time spent here we sat at a saloon bar, snuck up on a T-Rex, had our fortunes told by Zoltar (that’s right, the fortune telling machine from the movie Big), gazed at Indian tribal photo originals, took a ride on a Jackalope and snapped each other in jail. These are but a few of the treasures of the menagerie to uncover. Did I also mention that this place is free to visit?
The Jolly Green Giant is one of those all-American icons we all know. Recognised around the world as the ambassador of Green Giant sweetcorn since 1925, the Jolly Green Giant got his name in ode to a large variety of pea. In my world growing up, this happy chappy was someone that appeared on tins and occasional TV adverts, so imagine my surprise as we pulled into a Minnesota parking lot to see a green smiling head above the trees ahead.
The Corn Palace is an additional attraction in Minnesota, located in the town of Mitchell. This unusual museum serves as both an educational centre and community venue and is full of corn-related art and exhibits. The outside of the Palace is decorated with corn designs and grain murals, replaced each year with a new theme.
The life-size museum of Old Trail Town in Cody, Wyoming is the outcome of one man’s lifetime collection of all things connected to the Wild West. As the site established itself other donated items, big and small, began to appear. This along with the dedication of the staff here create a unique environment for us all to enjoy. Pay only a few dollars to explore the houses, shops, saloon bar and the site’s very own cowboy graveyard at your leisure. The staff are so friendly and have some great stories from their years of work. Ask them what their favourite part of the town is….
Devils Tower, Wyoming is so named due to it’s unusual shape. Composed of mostly igneous rock, this iconic tower was the first United States National Monument. Sacred to native Indian tribes and shrouded in mystery, there are many tales circulated today which only add to it’s legendary status. A popular campsite sits near the foot of the tower with daily outdoor screenings of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, (the tower was used as one of the filming locations). This was a charming location to visit. I liked the folktales shared and the combination of the natural surrounding and screening with the tower itself looming above is a one of a kind treat.
Crazy Horse Memorial found in South Dakota is an important work in progress. Located on private land, the memorial is dedicated to the legendary Native American leader. The memorial is joined by a Native American visitor centre and museum, where a figure of the completed statue can be found. The funding of this project is special in that the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation will not accept federal funding and raises money through the visitor centre and donations. The statue stands for more than a representation of Crazy Horse himself, it stand for the hardships suffered and the determination shown by all the Native American people. Contribute to the Crazy Horse Memorial here – https://crazyhorsememorial.org/
Cadillac ranch, Amarillo is an original art installation constructed in 1974 to represent the evolution of the Cadillac car line. Today the collection of half-buried automobiles are a must see for anyone passing through Texas. Take your Walmart spray paint and have fun making your mark on one of the 10 beauties at this colourful site.
Russell’s Route 66 Cafe located in Glen Rio, New Mexico is a museum and American diner. This welcoming travel centre gives you a real taste of some authentic American classics and the food is pretty awesome too. Here you’ll find cab driver Yoda, Marilyn Monroe montages and a Coca-cola collection. The display of cars is equally impressive, I only wish I’d had time to see more!
The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden In Washington DC is a constantly evolving park, giving artists the opportunity to showcase some stunning collection pieces to a public audience. Located on the National Mall, this outside space is perfect for a more leisurely stroll away from the bustle of the city.
So there you have it. These are just a taste of many, many visitor locations throughout the USA. No matter what you are into I guarantee there is something out there for you. So keep your peepers open and stop by at some of these roadside destinations.