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Unusual things to see & do in the USA

Guest Blogger

Cadillac Ranch.jpg

 

 

The United States is a really big place, filled with people from a myriad of backgrounds and cultures. So it comes as no surprise that there are a lot of unusual, unexpected, and just downright strange things to see and do across America.

 

Read on for nine things to help you get your weird on during your next cross-country road trip.

 

Strange things to do

 

Mermaid show in Weeki Wachee

 

Back in 1947, a small natural spring with a funny-sounding name began offering a quirky kind of show: Mermaid shows, where women wearing mermaid tails performed tricks and acrobatics underwater. The mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs (now a Florida State Park) are still a famous attraction in north central Florida, performing two different shows every day.

 

Weeki Wachee's mermaids were the brainchild of Newton Perry, a U.S. Navy veteran who trained men to swim underwater during World War II. He brought his ideas to Florida after the war, and invented a method for people to breathe underwater from an air hose instead of by wearing a tank on their backs. This how the Weeki Wachee Mermaids came to life, and how they still perform their underwater shows today.

 

Wall Drug in South Dakota

 

 

 

 

If you've ever driven through South Dakota, chances are you've seen billboards for Wall Drug.

 

Begun in 1931 as a small-town drugstore in Wall, South Dakota, Wall Drug today is a massive 76,000-square-foot complex of kitschy gift shops, eateries, and, yes, a drug store. Wall Drug has gained all its fame through self-promotion (e.g. all those billboards) and for things like its free ice water and 5-cent coffee – both of which you can still get at Wall Drug.

 

You can also take a photo on a jackalope, visit a Western art museum, eat some homemade donuts, and even dodge a dinosaur. It makes a nice pit stop between Badlands National Park and Rapid City/the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.

 

Roswell, New Mexico

 

No list of weird spots in the US would be complete without mention of Roswell, site of the infamous “Roswell UFO incident” of 1947. Conspiracy theorists made Roswell famous in the 1970s, and it's still a popular destination for tourists because of its many alien-themed attractions.

 

In Roswell, you can visit the UFO Museum, take photos with aliens at the Alien Zone, see the UFO-shaped McDonald's, and of course visit all the alien-themed shops.

 

Weird roadside attractions

 

The United States is really second-to-none when it comes to weird and random roadside attractions. The nostalgia of Route 66 still exists in many parts of the country, even if the old historic highway itself doesn't. Here are three of my favorite roadside attractions in America:

 

Lucy the Elephant in Margate (City), New Jersey

 

Lucy the Elephant isn't your average elephant. In fact, this “elephant” isn't a real elephant at all – she's a six-story elephant-shaped building that dates all the way back to 1881. Lucy the Elephant was originally built to promote local real estate sales and attract tourists, making Lucy one of the oldest roadside attractions in America. She's also on the National Register of Historic Places and a National Historic Landmark. Today, you can still climb up into the building for views of the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Cadillac Ranch in Texas

 

 

Created in 1974 essentially as an art installation, Cadillac Ranch is located in a field just off Interstate 40 in Amarillo, Texas. The “ranch” is made up of 10 old Cadillac cars half-buried nose-down in the field. People from all over the world come to spray paint the cars every day. (If you, too, choose to leave your mark, just be sure to be responsible and dispose of your spray-paint cans!)

 

Carhenge in Nebraska

 

Forget going all the way to England to see Stonehenge – you can see a similar formation in Alliance, Nebraska. But, instead of an ancient circle of mysteriously stacked stones, Carhenge is made from 38 old American cars painted gray, stacked exactly like the stones at Stonehenge. You can't spray paint these cars, but it's still a funky roadside attraction worth visiting.

 

Weird museums

 

International Cryptozoology Museum in Maine

 

In case you're not familiar with it, “cryptozoology” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the search for and study of animals whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated, such as the Loch Ness monster and the yeti.” The International  Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, then, is dedicated to these mysterious creatures. It's equal parts weird and wonderful.

 

Leila's Hair Museum in Missouri

 

If anything deserves a spot on this list of weird museums, it has to be Leila's Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri. The “hair art” museum is the only one of its kind in the world, displaying more than 600 hair wreaths and over 2000 pieces of jewelry made of human hair. Some pieces date all the way back to the 17th century, when creating artwork out of the hair of loved ones was very popular.

 

Unclaimed Baggage Center in Alabama

 

Okay, so this one isn't technically a museum, but it's still quite a weird spot. The Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, is a 40,000-square-foot store of sorts, selling things that people have left behind at airports. You'll find literally anything and everything at this thrift-store-esque spot, from clothes to electronics to full suits of armor. The Unclaimed Baggage Center is one of Alabama's top tourist attractions, seeing upwards of one million visitors each year.

 

 

This is of course only a small taste of all the weird and unusual things to see and do in the United States. A full list would require far more than just one blog post!

 

What other off-the-beaten-path spots do you recommend visiting in the US?

 

 

 All content provided in this blog is supplied by Amanda Williams and is for informational purposes only. Barclays makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog. 

 

Image credit: Amanda Williams 

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