10 Of The Best Roadside Attractions In The US

The United States is littered with tourist attractions but between them are classic roadside attractions. Here are some of the best in the US

As someone who's been to about 44 states, I can say I've learned a lot and have seen some weird stuff on the road. The US is littered with tourist traps and oddball roadside attractions. People will travel hours just to see some of the really random ones, like the classic Largest Ball of Twine or the entire town of Roswell, New Mexico.

Here are some of my personal favorite roadside attractions that I've been to in the US. 

1. Wall’s Drug Store - South Dakota

Wall Drug
Image from TravelSouthDakota.com

After you pass the border into South Dakota, you will immediately see signs for Wall Drugs. The signs start about 200 miles away, with a countdown to the exit to get to this place. The signs announce “Wall’s Drugs, Fresh Coffee, 195 Miles Ahead”, or “Wall’s Drugs, Homemade Pies, 75 Miles Ahead”. Every sign says something different, and when you finally get there they all hold true to form. This is a huge tourist trap. It features a restaurant, several gift shops, several photo ops, and, of course, a drug store. It’s a nice pit stop on your way to Mount Rushmore.

2. Farmers Museum - New York

Image from Newyorkupstate.com

Located in Cooperstown (Home to the Baseball Hall of Fame), is this oddball museum. It's history on upstate New York, an example of an old farm, and houses some weird memorabilia from New Yorks's past. One of the oddest things on the grounds is the Cardiff Giant; a Barnum-esque sideshow attraction. It’s a giant piece of rock carved into the shape of a person. There’s also a lot of Jelll-o and Lifesaver memorabilia, two candies from the area. 

3. South of the Border - South Carolina

South of the Border
Image from Postandcourier.com

If you've ever driven down the East Coast to Disney World, you've definitely passed South of the Border. When you cross from North to South Carolina, you'll see a giant man with a sombrero straddling a gift shop. There’s also a restaurant, motor lodge, and a reptile park. It's a fun spot to stop and take pictures. 

4. Reading Pagoda - Pennsylvania

Reading Pagoda
Image from Courtney White

Someone literally thought to slap a full-sized Chinese-style pagoda on the top of a hill in Reading, PA. It was meant to be a restaurant or hotel, but the roadway up to the top made it too dangerous for nighttime travel and now rests as a tourist stop. It’s a great ride for motorcyclists because the road to the top of the mountain is very windy. There’s also a great view from the top.

5. Cape Cod Potato Chip Tour - Massachusetts

Cape Cod Chip Factory
Image from CapeCodChip.com

Cape Cod is known for beaches and the original landing point of the pilgrims, but there's also a potato chip company that produces products right on the cape. The lovely little chip factory is a great rainy day activity for anyone. You can enter the factory, see how the chips are made, and leave with a free bag of chips. It’s a quick little tour but still fun.

6. Corn Palace - South Dakota

Corn Palace
Image from CornPalace.com

Another random stop on the road to nowhere in South Dakota. In the town of Mitchell, there sits a giant building with the exterior entirely decorated with multicolored corn husks. They have an annual summer festival around the palace. There’s a gift shop inside the palace and the area is full of corn-related restaurants and shops. It’s truly a-maize-ing.

7. Herkimer Diamond Mine - New York

Diamond Mine
Image from Localsyr.com

Just outside Utica, Herkimer is a tiny town famous for its diamonds. Herkimer diamonds aren't actually diamonds, instead, they are very hard forms of quartz. The town hosts a diamond mine. For a small fee, you can get a hammer and daily access to the mine. Whatever you find, you can either keep or sell to the shop. They also offer the possibility of making it into a necklace, earrings, or a ring. They have a lovely campground, restaurant, gift shop, and education center on-site.

8. Our Lady of The Pines- West Virginia

Smallest Church
Image from Nohomejustroam.com

West Virginia is one of those places where there isn't much to see. However, Our Lady of the Pines is an adorable little pitstop. Nestled off a quiet street is a teeny tiny little church. It has only six teeny pews. Next door is an equally tiny post office that only has the window open on Friday the 13th.   Postcards boast it as “the smallest church in the lower 48” but the claim is controversial. Regardless, it's still adorable. 

9. One Log Home - California

One Log Home
Image from Courtney White

While my family was driving around lost on the Avenue of the Giants,  trying to find Redwood National Forest, we stumbled upon many tree-themed roadside stops. This one was super fun. Basically, one man cut down a big tree and carved the inside into a house. It was even on wheels, touring the country for a while.  You can walk through it, sit down at the table, and then of course enjoy a gift shop or a snack from the cafe.

10. Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour - Pennsylvania

Coal Mine
Image from VisitNEPA.com

Pennsylvania was once a huge coal mining state and remnants of that golden age of industrialism are still present all over the place. One of the best, and one that has turned into a tourist attraction. Nestled just outside Scranton in the mountains, the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour is in a state park dedicated to the coal mining history. You can board a cart and be lowered deep into the mines where a guide will tell you the history, how coal was mined, and even a story or two about the locals. It makes you grateful for not having to be a coal miner!

The United States has hundreds of oddball attractions worthy of a stop or two. Some are historical, some are comical, some are just flat-out tourist traps. Regardless, don't be afraid to explore!

Courtney is a junior at Montclair State University and is from a small town in Pennsylvania. She loves fashion, reading, art, and history.

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