5. Carhenge, NE
An example now of not one genre of roadside attraction but two. Along with the Cadillac Ranch, it forms the very specific genre of “art installations made of entire cars”, but it also sits within the “recreation of European historical monuments” genre. The monument in question is Stonehenge in Wiltshire, UK, which was constructed somewhere between 2500 and 2000 BC, out of standing stones. Carhenge, by contrast, was constructed around 1987 AD, out of old cars.
It stands next to Highway 87, near Alliance, and was designed and built by Jim Reinders, as a tribute to his father Herman Reinders. It was almost never built, as a message went out to the police while Carhenge was being built, asking them to intervene in someone “planting cars in their field”.Sherry Garrett who picked up the message over police radio decided to help save the memorial and later set up “Friends of Carhenge”. It has now been visited by 80,000 people.
4. Oyotunji African Village, SC
Here’s a question for you – what is ensconced in the middle of America but yet isn’t part of America? The Oyotunji African Village. It’s in South Carolina, but is actually an independent Kingdom founded by Oba Efuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunm (born Walter Eugene King) in 1970.
It’s a community that is built along Yoruba lines and upholds West African values. The village holds a number of events and festivals that anyone can visit, and there are around 5-9 families that live there permanently. It’s also open every day for passing visitors and is located just off the Trask Parkway. A slice of African culture in the South of America.
3. Mystery spot, MI
Of course, if you fancy something even stranger, why not visit a place where the laws of physics apparently don’t apply? You can find a few such places dotted about America, but an interesting one is the Mystery spot in Michigan. Their website claims that it’s “world famous” and has been visited by millions since opening in the 1950s.
The St Ignace Mystery Spot was discovered by three surveyors, who suddenly found that their equipment wasn’t working properly – plum-bobs refused to stay straight and kept being drawn to the east. This strangeness, combined with a feeling of queasiness led them to believe it was a mystic hotspot, and the attraction has built up from there. Now, you can see tall and small people mystically becoming the same size, and chairs clinging to walls. Of course, it may all be optical illusions but it’s a fascinating place to visit.
2. Leaning Tower of Niles, IL
Going back to the genre of “recreation of European historical monuments”, here’s another fine example. In Niles, Illinois, a local industrialist created a half-size version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, sadly not out of used cars. It was built in 1934 by Robert Ilg, and now sits within its own plaza with a 30-foot pool and four fountains. Until a few years ago, concerts were held around the tower and it has led to Niles being twinned with Pisa.
As to why it was built in the first place? Accounts vary – some say it was to mark the 600th anniversary of the original tower, others say it was used to store water. But now it stands next to a Target and the YMCA as a piece of random roadside Americana.
1. Babyland General Hospital, GA
Remember the Cabbage Patch Kids that were popular in the 1980s? Well, there’s a place in Georgia where they never stopped being popular. It’s the Babyland General Hospital near the Helen Highway, where the dolls are made and sold. But hold on, because things are about to get weird…
It’s not just a factory where you can see the process of making a doll. Oh no. It’s a hospital. There are Cabbage Patch doctors and nurses and every hour a new doll is “born”. The Magic Crystal Tree produces the kids, assisted by a nurse. The intercom announces that a Mother Cabbage is in labor and a nurse goes to help, accompanied by pink and blue Bunnybees, who determine the gender of the new child. Meanwhile, the audience is kept informed of how far the mother is dilated and whether she’s had any “Imagicillin” yet. Sometimes, they perform Cabbage-sections and sadly, some new Cabbage Patch babies need to go to the Intensive Care Unit.
If you don’t believe me, have a look here. Definitely the most surreal roadside attraction in America.