One of the best things about taking a road-trip is abandoning the endless interstate and hopping on one of America’s two-lane highways. Often times when we traveled these back roads we discovered some really wacky over-sized sculptures. Roadside attractions started popping up in the 1920s with the birth of the U.S. highway system. Travelers needed places to rest and re-fuel, so business owners dreamed up attractions that would lead them to their doorstep. Many of them have their own stories and others are just there for the purpose of making the biggest whatever. As communities expanded many of these wonders of the road were lost, which makes many of the remaining really big things on the side of the road National Landmarks and a piece of American history.
Here are a few that made me apply the brakes!
The Giant Cootie
When I was little, I use to love playing the game of Cootie when visiting my Granny’s house. The nostalgia of playing this childhood game got me out of the car when traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. The oversized cootie was once in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and was also made its home in Washington, D.C. before greeting those who visit the American Celebration On Parade at Shenandoah Caverns, which is a quirky roadside attraction by itself.
Lucy the Elephant
Lucy was built in 1881 and is America’s Oldest Roadside Attraction. You can do a little more than just pose for a picture by this 65 foot tall elephant. Tours run every half hour on the top and bottom of the hour. On the tour you can learn about Lucy’s unique architecture and history. Make sure you climb the spiral staircase all the way up to the howdah on her back to take in the unbelievable of view of the Jersey Shoreline. We visited Lucy this past summer on our road-trip along the east coast, but for the first time ever Lucy is now open in January on Saturdays and Sundays, for families that want to visit the World’s Largest Elephant.
The Big Duck
The Big Duck overlooks Reeves Bay in Flanders on the east end of Long Island, New York. The Big Duck was designed by Broadway set designers and was the vision of duck farmer, Martin Maurer. Maurer sold ducks and eggs from the shop in its belly. The shop still operates as a tourism center for the East End of Long Island and sells ducky souvenirs.
Now days with GPS, it is pretty simple to locate the world’s largest basket, the green giant or the Jimmy Carter Peanut. Dedicated websites like Roadside America and blogs like Go Big or Go Home also make it easy to find these oddball attractions. Even when you know you are about to approach one of the “world’s largest”, the cheap thrill and nostalgia can’t be ruined, so make sure you have your camera next time you hit the highway.