When road-tripping through any part of the country, the journey is often just as exciting and dynamic as finally reaching the destination. If you really want to spice up your journey on wheels, arrange for a pit stop at these … very specific attractions along the way.
Cadillac Ranch: Amarillo, Texas
Along the famous Route 66 just south of Amarillo is a rather striking sight: ten half-buried, nose-down Cadillacs line a stretch of the desert terrain. The Caddies are painted in vibrant, brightly colored patterns, the work of a group of San Francisco hippies who called themselves the Art Farm.
Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh 3 helped fund the project, craving a piece of art that would cause people to stop and ask questions. Cadillac Ranch certainly does just that.
Winchester Mystery House: San Jose, California
This historic landmark in Southern California was once home to Sarah Winchester, widow to the firearms mogul William Wirt Winchester.
According to legend, Sarah moved to California after the spirit of her late husband instructed her via a medium. He apparently urged that she use her inherited fortune to build a house for the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles (where she herself would also live).
Because she continued to build incessantly for the rest of her life, the house features windows that overlook other rooms, distorted staircases, and doors that open onto solid walls. The house has been fodder for plenty of ghost stories, including tales that Sarah Winchester’s spirit still roams the halls today.
Bubblegum Alley: San Luis Obispo, California
Close to the central California coast, San Luis Obispo is known for its wineries, hiking, and … wall of bubblegum? Located in the downtown shopping area, Bubblegum Alley is just that — a small alleyway covered in pieces of chewed gum (though not all of it is of the bubble variety).
Objectively, the whole idea is a little gross, and some shop owners certainly thought so, petitioning to have it removed in the ’70s. It was cleaned back then, but the gum quickly returned, and it’s become a protected landmark since then.
Forgot your gum? Don’t worry: There’s a handy bubblegum machine nearby for anyone who has $0.25 and wishes to contribute.
Salvation Mountain: Niland, California
Nestled in the California desert an hour and a half from Palm Springs, Salvation Mountain is artist Leonard Knight’s dedication to god, the words “God is Love” welcoming visitors at the top of the small peak.
The painted landscape features waterfalls, trees, and inscriptions of various prayers and bible verses. The mountain is an attraction for both religious folks and art appreciators alike, and slows down many a vehicle that passes its grandeur.
Hole N” The Rock: Moab, Utah
Southern Utah’s Highway 191 is home to Hole N’’ The Rock, a 50,000-square-foot hole carved into the canyonside and used as a living quarters for the Christensen family about a hundred years ago.
Gladys Christensen, who died in 1974, was the last living inhabitant of the Hole and resided there when the tours started. She was apparently famous for offering visitors tea, or napping in plain view on the couch during their stays.
Carhenge: Alliance, Nebraska
As the name might give away, Carhenge is a replica of Stonehenge made out of — you guessed it — cars. The vintage American cars that make up the circle were painted gray to replicate their inspirational attraction as closely as possible, and the art piece was created by Jim Reinders as a memorial to his father.
But what exactly is Carhenge? As the official website puts it, “Is it a socio-economic statement? Is it art? A car lover’s passion? Is it a photographer’s delight? Is it quirky? Do you get a mystical, magical feeling by standing within the Henge? … ummmm … Could be. …
“Is it fun???? YES!”
Prada Marfa: Valentine, Texas
Along the desert road near Valentine, Texas, travelers will find a surprising sight — a lone Prada store sitting just off the highway. You can’t actually purchase goods at this high-end outpost; rather, it’s an art installation by Berlin artists Elmgreen and Dragset meant as a commentary on Western capitalism.
The structure is built out of biodegradable materials and will literally melt into the earth over time, but while it’s still standing it serves as a very popular photo destination.
Dog Bark Park Inn: Cottonwood, Idaho
If you’ve ever dreamed of sleeping in (or at least passing by) a beagle-shaped bed and breakfast, you’re in luck.
Sweet Willy, the 30-foot-tall pup, houses a single room built by married chainsaw artists Frances Conklin and Dennis J. Sullivan (conveniently marked by a sign on its collar declaring “I’m a B&B”). The actual room is usually booked for months in advance, but visitors can stop by and even purchase some of the owners’ other carvings at the gift shop.
There are plenty more gems for travelers to take in along America’s roadsides, but these attractions are a must-visit for anyone passing through who’d like to make their rest stops a little more interesting than long bathroom lines and gas-station food.