10 Kitschy Things You Must Road Trip to Before You Die

by - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer is the season for Road Trips, and they really are worth doing, because even if you can't go too far, you can see something truly bizarre and wonderful. It is genuinely wonderful that volunteers come every day to tend the world's largest Jolly Green Giant. It is truly great that you can taste cheddar cheese at 10 AM at the Tillamook Factory in Oregon. America, among its many great qualities, is truly wonderful because it isn't taking itself too seriously. There is always something just fun and weird to see. If you want to see what kitschy craziness is in driving distance for you, I highly recommend Roadside America, which is usually one of my first stops when planning any road trip. Some of these things announce themselves, but sometimes if you don't plan ahead, you can miss hanging off a giant bull's balls.

10. The Entire City of Las Vegas- Everything on the Strip basically qualifies. I am not so much into the drinking or the gambling, but I respect a city that commits, and no one commits as fully as Las Vegas. If you are doing a road trip through the American West, want to see the Grand Canyon, and also collect cards for strippers, you basically cannot miss this American gem.

9. The Corn Palace- Mitchell, SD- In my humble opinion, South Dakota is one of the best states for road tripping. It has the scenic splendor of the Badlands (a greatly underrated and truly breathtaking National Park), the high speed limits of a state with basically nothing in it, and some of the kitschiest attractions in the United States. The Corn Palace is a giant building decorated with corn, and every year it has a new (often patriotic) theme. There isn't much to see inside, but the whole street has lots of kitschy fun.

8. The Future Birthplace of Captain Kirk- Riverside, Iowa has fully embraced its place in (future history) with a Star Trek Museum, a monument, and "Trekfest." The place also became the setting for a television show in which WIlliam Shatner showed up and had local residents star in a Science fiction movie. I 

7. Precious Moments Park in Carthage Montana- This is the first one on the list that we haven't been to yet, but it is high on my list. When you look up pictures of this place, it actually blows your mind because this church turned into a monument to the little porcelain figures is so bizarre (and 80's- you can almost always guess when these things were made).

6. Trees of Mystery- Klameth, California- The true measure of a tourist trap is the owner's desire to just have it get bigger and more elaborate in a way that mostly makes no sense. The Trees of Mystery boasts a Giant Paul Bunyan, a (surprisingly rich) Native American Museum, Redwood Carvings, and a Gondola through the trees. These things sort of have something to do with each other, but they mostly don't. Somebody has just had a bunch of good ideas over the 50 years this place has been open. When they grow into these strange kitsch complexes, the American will to just keep striving really shines.

5. The Thing? Dragoon Arizona-It's just a weird thing in the middle of Arizona that you pay like a dollar to see and then spend a bunch of time in a gift shop. I need to see what it is!

4. The Hot Dog Museum in Toledo Ohio- This goes out to the Pennsylvania readers, so you know there is one (sort of) close. The owner has celebrities sign hot dog buns, so it is a museum of signatures on bread. A+.

3. The Madonna Inn-San Luis Obispo- I love this hotel, smack dab in the middle of the drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles (it's not too far out of your way if you take 5, and it is right on the drive if you take Highway 1, which everyone should do at least once in their life. Each room of the Madonna Inn has its own theme, and it feels a bit like a different Grandma designed each one (this is the racist grandma room, this is the pervert grandma room, etc). This hotel features some of the best and most hilarious decor I have ever seen (even if you can't stay there, stop and get some cake so you can see the pink, cupid-strewn dining room), but most importantly, it commits. It commits like no other hotel in the world I have ever seen commits. Just the right amount of weird.

2. The Spam Museum- Austin Minnesota- It isn't enough that a Spam Museum exists (I know there is also a Kool Aid Museum, and some cheese factories open for tourists), what makes the Spam Museum so hilarious and wonderful is that the space is so well done. Somebodies worked really hard on this museum, so it is both fascinating (there is a Monty Python area and a Hawaiian area) and gorgeous. All for mystery meat in a can. You can also buy strange and special varieties of Spam in the gift shop.

1. Wall Drug- Wall, SD- Wall Drug started out as a small pharmacy where weary travelers could stop for free cups of water. Now, it is like the Disneyland of kitschy random wonder- there is an animatronic T-Rex, store after store of dreamcatchers, John Wayne memorabilia, and every random thing to exist, there is a chapel, a miniature Mount Rushmore (the only one we saw, but the real one is relatively nearby), and they still give away free water (in cute little cones!). The other truly awesome part of Wall Drug is their committed advertising campaign- you know it is coming for 100's of miles in every direction. They have signs for Wall Drug in Kenya and Antarctica. If you can resist their silliness after hours of signs, you are a strong and truly silly person, because Wall Drug is an American gem.

 I have so many of these that I love, or that I am dying to see, so narrowing it down was a challenge, but I want to hear from all of you- what are some of the most delightfully cheesy roadside attractions you have seen?

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