USA is a vast country and a roadtrip is one of the best ways to explore everything it has to offer. From great cities to stunning national parks, there is something for everyone to enjoy. There are also loads of weird and wonderful places to discover beyond the familiar favourites. So hit the open road and check out some of the unusual places that America has to offer.
1. Amish Town – Shipshewana, Indiana
The Amish lifestyle and philosophy stems from the Church’s origins in late 17th century Europe and, amazingly, has remained little changed since. A visit to Shipshewana offers a fascinating look into the lives of this small community (there are less than 700 residents in the town). Visit the Menno-Hof information centre for a glimpse into the history of the Amish and Mennonites or check out the twice-weekly Flea Market, the largest in the Midwest (Tues-Wed, May-Oct, http://shipshewanatradingplace.com/flea-market). Make sure you took a ride in a traditional horse-drawn buggy accompanied by a unique commentary by one of the residents.
Where: Shipshewana, LaGrange County, Indiana. The town is about halfway between Toledo, OH and Chicago, IL near the I-90 interstate highway.
2. Corn Palace
South Dakota is well worth visiting for the incredible Mount Rushmore sculptures, the Crazy Horse memorial and the striking Badlands National Park. For something a little more off the beaten track, head to the town of Mitchell, which is home to “The World’s Only Corn Palace”. The multi-purpose arena is famous for the incredible corn murals that adorn the outside walls of the venue and are changed annually. There are guided tours and exhibits about the history of the 126 year old building. And a lot of corn!
Where: Mitchell, South Dakota. The town is about 75 miles (121 kilometres) west of Sioux Falls just off the I-90. http://cornpalace.com/
3. 1880 Town
Continue another 160 miles west on the I-90 and step back in time at 1880 Town which is home to over 30 buildings from the end of the 19th and the beginning of 20h centuries, moved here from all over the States. There is a saloon, town hall, a post office and even a church, all authentically decked out with furniture, items and photos from the time. It really does feel like you’re stepping into something out of a Western and you can even hire period costume to explore the town in. Movie buffs will enjoy a number of props from Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves and a memorial to one of the horses from the movie, that lived in the town.
Where: 1880 Town is located about 22 miles (35 kilometres) west of Murdo, right by Exit 170.
4. Wall Drug Store
South Dakota has a ton of cool and unusual things to do! Drive another 60 miles and you will find yourself in the town of Wall, home to a Drug Store since 1931. It had very humble beginnings but has grown into a sizeable complex and now draws up to 20,000 visitors a day who check out the shops for souvenirs like cowboy boots, belts and jewellery. You can also grab a bite at the café famous for its donuts, sandwiches and 5c coffee. This is a perfect place to relax for a while after experiencing the stunning natural beauty of Badlands National Park south of the town.
Where: Wall is easily accessible from Badlands National Park (8 miles) and Mount Rushmore National Memorial (77 miles). http://www.walldrug.com/
5. Bubblegum Alley – San Luis Obispo, California
Either really cool or really gross (depending on your perspective), the entire length of this otherwise nondescript alleyway is covered in used chewing gum. While no one is sure how the practice started, it’s been a part of San Luis Obispo’s downtown for over 50 years. Check out the sticky walls of the alley before exploring the city’s boutique shops, cool bars and an 18th century Spanish mission. Blackhorse Espresso & Bakery (1065 Higuera St) is a great place to chill out with a coffee and people watch.
Where: San Luis Obispo is about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and Highway 1 runs straight through the city.
6. Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner
For me, visiting a diner was one of the quintessential American experiences, almost on par with seeing Statue of Liberty and driving along Route 66. Peggy Sue’s is a restored 1950s diner that is decked out in TV and film memorabilia, sports jukeboxes playing music of the era and, of course, features a classic menu. You can tuck into burgers, fried chicken, root beer floats and homemade pie. The owners’ love of music and film is evident with dishes like King Kong Monster Burger and Patti Page Patty Melt.
Where: Peggy Sue’s is located just off the I-15 Freeway, 10 miles from Barstow. It’s a little less than halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
7. Cadillac Ranch
As unusual as it can get, Cadillac Ranch is an art installation on the outskirts of Amarillo, Texas, featuring 10 classic Caddies half-buried in the ground. While it’s as weird as it sounds, the space has been popular with visitors since the cars popped up in a field back in 1974, commissioned by a local millionaire. The classic way to experience Cadillac Ranch is to stock up on a few cans of paint and spray the cars to your heart’s content – it’s legal and fun too! Just remember to bring your used cans with you at the end.
Where: Cadillac Ranch is a 15 minute/10 mile drive west from Downtown Amarillo. For more info check out http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2220
There are hundreds of cool and quirky things places to see on your USA roadtrip. What are your favourites?