Going cross-country this summer? Get your motor running and head out on the highway. Family road trips rock, especially when you stop and take in the amazing (and sometimes oddball!) roadside attractions along the way. Keep reading to discover places that are Insta-gold; then fasten your seat belts—it’s going to be a wild ride!
Unclaimed Baggage Center - Scottsboro, AL
Lose something on your last cross-country flight? Head to the Unclaimed Baggage Center, where you can browse through and purchase an assortment of things people have accidentally left behind on airplanes. There are the usual things— laptops, headphones, books. But keep on digging and you'll find the weird stuff: A showgirl costume? Maybe! Moose antlers? Sure! The best part: This stuff can all be yours.
Center of the World - Felicity, CA
If you ever wondered where the center of the world is, exactly, it's in Felicity, California. This is where, in the 1950s, French-born Jacques-Andre Istel purchased 2,600 acres of empty land, declared himself the mayor, and erected a hodgepodge of monuments including a spiral staircase supposedly salvaged from the Eiffel Tower, a hilltop church, and a "History of Humanity" wall that starts with the Big Bang and is still unfinished.
For $3, you can step inside a peach granite pyramid, place your feet on the metal plaque that says, "Official Center of the World," and check this one off your bucket list.
Dog Bark Park Inn - Cottonwood, ID
Dog-lover? Have a thing for beagles? Put this offbeat bed and breakfast on your list of stops if you're traveling anywhere near Cottonwood, Idaho. Why? Because the giant brown-black-and-white pooch at the Dog Bark Park Inn is officially the World's Biggest Beagle! And you can sleep inside of it! Well-behaved pets are, of course, also welcome.
Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, TX
A legend on historic Route 66, these 10 Cadillacs were half-buried in the dirt by San Francisco artists in 1974. Road ramblers have spray painted and deconstructed them since, but it doesn't take away from their allure.
A Christmas Story House and Museum - Cleveland, OH
Fans of the 1983 comedy, A Christmas Story, will be in stiletto-lamp heaven at the Christmas Story House and Museum— the real-life home that served as Ralphie's house in the famed film. Walk the halls and check out a slew of original props, costumes and memorabilia from the film, as well as hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos. If you're so inclined, you can even stop into the gift shop and buy your very own FRAGILE (Frah-Jee-lay) red-stocking lamp.
Cabazon Dinosaurs - Cabazon, CA
Pee-Wee Herman might have made them famous in the eighties, but these giant concrete dinosaurs are still worth a stop if you need a place to stretch your legs on the way to Palm Springs (or if you need a diversion before a day of shopping at the Cabazon Outlets). Climb inside the three-story T-Rex that towers over the park, as well as inside the 150-foot long Apatosaurus, which was the first of the dinos to make an appearance here in the 1960s.
The Thing - Dragoon, AZ
Thanks to the can't-miss signage that pops up every few miles (247 times, to be exact) on the long stretch of I-10 between El Paso, Tx., and Tucson, Az., you'll be wondering what what "The Thing" is hours before you reach the massive roadside trading post that houses its mysterious remains. So what is it? Only those who have seen it can speculate (and we're not telling).
Four Corners - Utah, New Mexico, Arizona & Colorado
Sit—and get your photo taken—in four states at one time. Four Corners is the only place in the U.S. where four states meet. It's managed by the Navajo Nation, and there's a small admission fee. Mask mandates are in place, so be sure to check the website before you go.
James Dean Memorial Junction - Cholame, CA
If you're headed by car between Northern and Southern California, drive off the beaten path via Route 46, a lonely stretch of highway between Lost Hills and Paso Robles. About halfway between the two towns is the fated intersection (Route 46 and Route 41) where, in 1955, iconic film star James Dean fatally crashed head-on into another car. A memorial stone now marks the spot, beside the surprisingly good Jack Ranch Cafe. Step inside, enjoy classic diner food and check out the James Dean memorabilia dotting the walls. Then, drive safely home.
Hole N" The Rock - Moab, UT
Knock, knock. Visitors are welcome to enter and tour this historic 5,000-square-foot home and trading post in Utah's Canyonlands Country. It began as a little alcove for a family's children to sleep at night and now is a full-blown tourist destination that has even added a petting zoo.
Leaning Tower - Niles, IL
See a piece of Pisa in a northern suburb of Chicago. The Leaning Tower is located in the Village of Niles and was originally built as a creative way to house water tanks. Since its completion in 1934, the city has added a reflecting pool and fountain. While the YMCA nearby has recently closed, it's still possible to take a peek at the replica of the famous tower. Faux Italy, here you come.
The Mystery Spot - Santa Cruz, CA
You won't know which way is up, down, or sideways when you visit this strange tourist destination located in the woods about 20 minutes northeast of downtown Santa Cruz. Watch water (seemingly) roll uphill; stand crooked inside a tilted log cabin; get taller or shorter than your fellow visitors, depending on where you stand. Find out more here.
Fremont Troll - Seattle, WA
Rumored troll sightings underneath the Aurora bridge led to the carving of this huge troll statue. One of his eyes is a hubcap and he's clutching a Volkswagen Beetle. Look out, drivers!
Wall Drug - Badlands, SD
Welcome to the Badlands— and all the kitschy fun that comes along with it. Wall Drug is a 76,000 square-foot destination packed with free attractions and photo opportunities. A big fave is posing with the jackalope statue outside the drug store.
North Pole, CO
Sure, you could go to Santa Claus, Ind. or Christmas Cove, Me., but why not take your kids to Saint Nick's hometown itself? Go to the North Pole! OK, so it's in Colorado. And it's an amusement park. But who cares? Located just west of Colorado Springs in the town of (shhh) Cascade, this North Pole is home to Santa's Workshop, a Christmas-themed amusement park that's open year-round. Soar on the sleigh-themed zip-line; hop on the Candy Cane Coaster; chug along on Santa's train, and see the white-bearded man of honor himself. Your kids will be seeing sugarplums all day long. Find out more here.
Pssst: Stuck on the East Coast? There's a North Pole there, too!
—Melissa Heckscher & Kelly Aiglon