I’m not a big fan of long car trips. I’ve done the drive along the eastern seaboard too many times to count (eight, in fact) and I’ve driven from Canada to New Orleans on a horrible three-day odyssey. I hate being confined to a car, I get totally sick of fast food (by meal three I’m ordering salad and a glass of milk at Dennys just to have some real food in my gut), and all I want is to reach our destination and just be there already. The only silver-lining to long car trips are the strange and obscure roadside attractions you can check out along the way.
Every state has em, every highway has em, and the less popular and touristy ones usually turn out to be the most unique. Checking out these sites is for the spontaneous traveler – although you can research such attractions ahead of time and work them into your route, for the most part, the best landmarks are the ones that suddenly appear on the "at this exit" signs, causing a last-minute detour, and for anyone who is following a map and timing their trip they will not be keen on these unexpected stops.
"Travel + Leisure" just released a list of some of the best roadside attractions in the country – they’re unusual, educational, and some of them are just neat. Here are a few of my favourites:
– Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida – I’ve been there about a dozen times (mostly because I grew up in South Florida and it was a staple field trip every year of school) but it’s great. Visitors can see where the space shuttles launch, experience flight simulators, and explore their museum of interesting artifacts.
– Utah Olympic Park, Park City, Utah – Is coasting down the highway not fulfilling your inner speed-demon? Then take a bobsled ride at The Comet racecourse, where the 2002 Olympics took place, situated along I-80.
– Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee – For the music-lover or the history-buff, Graceland Mansion, owned by the infamous Elvis Presley, is now a unique museum and the second most-visited private home in the United States. It’s definitely worth of a pit-stop.
– Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan – Located just off of I-94, this roadside attraction is a must-see, and features Ford’s extensive collection of historic objects, which date back all the way to 1906.
Jenn Cox is a Montreal-based freelance journalist. Visit her website or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.