Monday, June 13, 2011

15 of America's Strangest Roadside Attractions

1. World's Largest Baseball Bat, Louisville, Kentucky
The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in Louisville, Ky., includes a bat used by Joe DiMaggio during his 56-game hitting streak of 1941 along with a special area where visitors can hold game-used bats from superstars - past and present. There's even one of the bats used by Babe Ruth during his 60-home-run season of 1927. But the fun starts outside with a 68,000-pound, 120-foot tall steel bat that's a replica - a very large replica - of Babe Ruth's 34-inch Louisville Slugger.

2. The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Hayward, Wisconsin
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The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Hayward, Wis., is a great site for any fisherman, but the real highlight of this museum is the "Shrine to the Anglers." The shrine sits inside the world's largest fish - a fearsome muskie. It is more than four stories tall and as long as a Boeing 757. In the head, an observation platform offers up to 20 people at a time a view out over the whole complex.

3. World's Largest Thermometer, Baker, California
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Drive to Baker, California and read the temperature on the world's largest thermometer. The 134-foot tall gauge is housed near the gateway to Death Valley, where temperatures soared to 134 degrees in 1913. While it's an electronic sign rather than an actual thermometer, it's known as the biggest on the planet. Next time you're in the area, it might be fun to keep a frying pan and some eggs handy.

4. World's Smallest Church, near Syracuse, New York
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The precariously named Cross Island Chapel actually sits on a dock in the middle of a pond near Syracuse, New York. Built in 1989, the nondenominational church is only about three feet by six feet and has only two seats. For a 1990 wedding, there was only enough room in the chapel for the minister and the betrothed, leaving the guests to sit in boats outside. Although there are no regular services, the church is "available for special occasions and meditation," just don't expect to be able to stretch out too much during your contemplation.

5. World's Largest Light Bulb, Edison, New Jersey
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If you're ever taking a scenic drive across New Jersey (it is called the Garden State after all) look for the 134-foot tower in Edison, New Jersey housing the world's largest light bulb. The Thomas Alva Edison Memorial Tower stands on the site of Edison's Menlo Park laboratory where he perfected the first commercially practical incandescent light bulb. The 13-foot tall bulb at the top of the tower is meant to represent Edison's most famous invention, and a museum tells the story of Edison's work.

6. World’s Largest Chest of Drawers, High Point, North Carolina
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High Point, North Carolina is known as the “Home Furnishing Capital of the World.” So it’s only appropriate to celebrate the title with a giant dresser.  Originally built in the 1920s, the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers was 20 feet tall. When renovated in 1996 it was expanded to 38 feet. Two giant mismatched socks that fall from one of the drawers pay homage to the city’s hosiery industry and give it an extra push of roadside charm.

7. Shoe Tree, US Route 50, Middlegate, Nevada
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Unlike most roadside attractions the Shoe Tree isn’t some sort of gimmick or money making scheme. Instead of flashy signs and entrance fees, this is simply a lonesome and mysterious tree laden with hundreds, if not thousands, of shoes located on a deserted stretch of highway between the cities of Ely and Reno. Although no one makes a profit off the bizarre beauty of this tree, many people have contributed their shoes to the tree over the years and it has amassed a kind of cult following. Although there is no “official” story as to why people began knotting up their laces and throwing last season’s kicks into this particular tree, a certain urban legend prevails among the shoe-tree-aficionados.
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Since more shoes appear daily, the grandeur of the tree continues to grow year after year. When visiting, make sure not to miss looking down to see the immense “shoe graveyard” that has amassed bellow the tree itself consisting of old shoes that have fallen off (and a few shoes from people with bad aim). Some of the best times to view the tree are in winter, when a blanket of snow makes it look especially cool.

8. General Sherman Tree, Sequoia National Park, California
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A trip here is sure to be more pleasant than General William Tecumseh Sherman's 1864 march through the South that devastated the Confederacy. James Wolverton, a naturalist who had served among Sherman's troops, named the tree after the Civil War general in 1879. It stands as the world's largest tree by volume, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, measuring 275 feet off the ground and coming in at over 52,000 cubic feet. That park, famed for its vast expanses of roadless wilderness, is operated by the National Park Service at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. Accessed by the Generals Highway, located off U.S. Highways 180 and 198 in southeastern California, the duo of parks also provides a lesson in rank and humility. Even when you reach the apex, you can never stray too far from the boss — also found in the parks is the no-less-imposing General Grant Tree.

9. World's Largest Shoe House, Hellam, Pennsylvania
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The world's largest shoe house (who knew there were such categories) in Hellam, Pa., was originally built in 1948 as an extravagant advertising gimmick by a shoe salesman. This 25-foot-tall, 48-foot-long oversized footwear got a rehab the other year thanks to Hampton Hotels' Save-A-Landmark program. The hotel chain contributed a grant of almost $20,000 and nearly 30 volunteers from local hotel properties worked to repair the boot's stained glass windows and clean, prime and paint the house from heel to toe.

10.  Jolly Green Giant, Blue Earth, Minnesota
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Many roadside attractions were born out of the necessity to advertise a small business. This one was made to celebrate a large one. The Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota is a behemoth at 55 feet tall. It was constructed in 1978 to celebrate the completion of nearby I-90. Over 10,000 visitors each year flock to see the actual valley of the Jolly Green Giant.

11. World’s Largest Egg, Winlock, Washington
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The people of Winlock, Washington love their eggs, and each June the town comes together for an Egg Day festival. But every day is egg day when you’re home to the World’s Largest Egg. Through the years, there have been four versions, made from everything from canvas to plastic. The newest version, a 12-foot fiberglass egg, weighs 1,200 pounds and was completed in 1990.

12. World's Only Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota
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The world's only Corn Palace is in Mitchell, S.D. What else do you need to know? This building's exterior is decorated in murals completely constructed out of local corn, grains and grasses.

13. Blue Whale, Catoosa, Oklahoma
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Route 66 used to embody the cross-country trip. Today it is far from its glory days but there are still plenty of landmarks along the route. Catoosa, Oklhoma, is home to the Blue Whale, part of a former water park that now remains as a popular landmark and a place to stop and at least stretch your legs. 

14. World’s Largest Pecan, Brunswick , Missouri
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Driving down Hwy 24 you’d certainly realize why Brunswick is considered the “Pecan Capital of Missouri.” Everywhere you look there are signs for pecan stands and pecan festivals amongst the bustling farmland.  And then, as you come to the James Pecan Farm, you’ll see the world’s largest pecan. The giant nut was constructed around 1982 by George and Elizabeth James as a replica of the signature Starking Hardy Giant pecan that they discovered in 1955. This version is 7 feet in diameter by 12 feet long, weighs in at around 12,000 pounds, and is made entirely out of concrete.

15. The Beer Can House, Malone St., Houston, Texas
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John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, started his project now known as the Beer Can House in 1968 when he began inlaying thousands of marbles, rocks, and metal pieces into concrete and redwood to form unique landscaping features. The house in Houston is now open to the public. Admission is $1 with tours costing $5.
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