Where else would you find 30-foot tall arrows, a 20-foot duck, or a series of Cadillac cars half buried nose down in the soil? Only in a country as new and brash as the USA. Come on, it's time for a round-up of roadside Americana.
If you'd like to plan a trip to visit some of these one-of-a-kind attractions, here are some that have been restored.
North Pole, Alaska
Yep, it's the home of Santa Claus. Actually, it may be the world's largest Santa Claus at 48-feet tall and 33-feet wide. Originally built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (and we have no clue why) it has found a home next to the Santa Claus House. Of course.
El Camino Real Bells mark the way along California's famous El Camino Real, a 1,700-mile road connecting 39 missions, four presidios and several pueblos. Two of the original bells markers have been refurbished and you can see them at the Aliso Creek rest stop in Oceanside.
The Rain of Arrows, located off Highway 160, this unusual bit of Navajo Americana consists of seven 30-foot-tall arrows towering over three 25-foot tall teepees. Created and built by Wilma Brimhall in 1959, with the help of local Navajos, to entice travelers to visit the area's trading post. It's quite a sight and quite an attraction.
It's pretty quirky looking for a monument with serious history. The Monument of States Statue was began following the attack on Pearl Harbor to stand as a symbol of America's unity. The 50-foot tall pyramid-shaped structure is made of stones donated from around the world. The signed rocks are embedded in concrete and topped by an American flag. It's at Lakefront Park for all to see.
Odell Standard Oil Gas Station was once a stop on the famous Route 66, one of the first roads to span the country. It dates back to 1932 and has found new life as a roadside attraction.
Ellicott City, Maryland
Clark's Elioak Farm - Enchanted Forest first opened in 1955 as a storybook park featuring large fairytale figures. Today, it's recognized as the East Coast's first theme parks and credited as the third oldest U.S. theme park. New owner Martha Clark is saving these whimsical figures by moving them to her nearby 540-acre farm to ensure generations to come will be able to enjoy the life-sized stories. There's Jack and the Beanstalk, The Old Lady's Shoe, Little Boy Blue, Gingerbread Men and other storybook figures.
Ottawa Lake, Michigan
Uncle Sam Statue has done a good bit of traveling before reaching Ottawa Lake. The 42-foot statue started out in California in the 1960s, then moved to Ohio as a draw for a fast food restaurant in Toledo. Now you can visit it on US 233 in Ottawa Lake, Michigan.
Hamburg, New Jersey
The Gingerbread Castle was one of America’s first theme parks – a larger than life fairy-tale shrine inspired by the Brothers Grimm’s classic story Hansel and Gretel. It was built in 1930 by F.H. Bennett in conjunction with the famous set designer and architect Joe Urban, who created the whimsical gingerbread walls, candy cane towers, cake icing turrets and frosted sugar roof. Like many old attractions across the US, the years took their toll. But now, the grime has been removed, and side towers repainted.
Long Island, New York
The Big Duck is a 20-foot tall, 40-foot-wide duck masquerading as a gift shop (or perhaps vice versa) built in 1931. Located on Route 24 in Flanders, this beloved Long Island landmark is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built in the early 1970s, the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma was originally a wedding anniversary gift to Hugh Davis’ wife, Zelta. A Route 66 attraction, the 80-foot structure that stretched over a swimming pond – a welcome play area and rest stop. The site boasts a Route 66 Roadside Attraction sign to mark its historical significance.
Yet another Oklahoma attraction is the Admiral Twin Drive-In theater that epitomizes the nostalgic drive-ins of yesteryear … so much so that it was featured in Frances Ford Coppola’s 1983 film “The Outsiders” as the ultimate 1950’s hangout. Located on historic Route 66, the Admiral Twin is one of only eight drive-ins remaining in Oklahoma and the state’s largest drive-in with a capacity for more than 1,200 cars. America voted Tulsa’s most famous landmark as the lucky recipient of a $20,000 award from Hampton during a two-month online voting campaign. As the winner it now boasts newly painted radio boxes, the sides of the 80-feet tall screen; updated marquee signs, ticket booth and concession stand; and landscaping on the 38-acre site.
Did you know that you can raise Cadillacs? Apparently you can if you have the right conditions. At Cadillac Ranch, created in 1974, you can see 10 of these oldies but goodies buried nose down in a Texas wheat field. Or perhaps they're growing out of the dust. You'd have to ask the artists - Ant Farm, the collective group who originally created this unique roadside attraction, now a landmark on the famous Route 66.
Painting the sides of barns was one of the country's first forms of roadside advertising. The See Rock City barn was erected in the early 1940s and remains one of the examples of a disappearing art form.