59 Jaw-Dropping Roadside Attractions: Eastern U.S.
Our top reasons--from giant mazes to outdoor churches to the world's largest ball of twine--to pull off the side of the road and visit a while.
Everyone loves a road trip, and we're no exception. But it's not the driving that makes for great memories, it's the stops. Here are 59 of our favorites.
As the story goes, in 1900 a man requested that the luncheonette's owner make him something to eat on the go--the result was a broiled beef patty in between two slices of bread. Voila! America's first hamburger. Louis' still serves them the same way, and don't even think about ketchup--condiments are forbidden. 261-263 Crown St., New Haven, 203/562-5507, louislunch.com, hamburger $4.25.
Mike's Famous Harley-Davidson
Your hog need a tune-up? Pull into this Harley-Davidson service station, then head into Mike's Warehouse Grill for a bowl of Mike's Famous chili, served with jalapeno corn bread. At I-295 and Rte. 9, south of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, Mike's is also home to the Museum of the American Road. Don't miss the tribute to Dave Barr, a double-leg amputee who rode his Harley around the world. 2160 New Castle Ave., New Castle, 800/326-6874, mikesfamous.com, bowl of chili $4.25.
Desert of Maine
Geologists say that nearly 11,000 years ago, a glacier deposited sand that was only discovered when poor farming techniques led to topsoil erosion. The result is a 44-acre desert with 12-foot dunes--not exactly the standard New England attraction. Guided safaris and gemstone hunts are available--the staff throws semiprecious gems in the sand daily, so the odds are good. Open May-October. 95 Desert Rd., Freeport, 207/865-6962, desertofmaine.com, $7.75, teens $5.25, kids $4.25.
The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum
To save money, founders Elmer and Joanne Martin originally purchased white mannequins and added black heads and hands. Today, over 120 figures are on display, including Dred Scott, Billie Holiday, cowboy Bill Pickett, Osborne Payne, and Harriet Tubman--all now proudly custom-made for the museum. 1601-03 E. North Ave., Baltimore, 410/563-3404, greatblacksinwax.org, $6.80, seniors and college students $6.30, kids $4.80.
Museum of Bad Art
Clashing colors and poor perspective--described in tongue-in-cheek captions--are on display in a museum--"dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition, and celebration of bad art in all its forms." Much like fine art museums, the curator at MOBA--eight miles south of Boston--selects paintings that are original in style and content, like Sunday on the Pot With George, an Impressionist view of an overweight man on a toilet. As the title of the museum's book says, it's Art Too Bad to Be Ignored. 580 High St., Needham, 781/444-6757, museumofbadart.org, donations accepted. Book: $15.
The moose lover in you will want to spend a long time browsing this store. There's a wide selection of moose-related products, such as moose nuggets--balls of moose dung implanted with biennial flower seeds. To see the real thing, the store can tell you how to sign up for a three-hour bus tour organized by the Gorham Parks and Recreation Department. 129 Main St., Gorham, 603/466-9417, strictlymoose.com, tour $15, kids 5-12 $10, kids 4 and under $5. Pet "Moose" Nugget: $2.99.
Lucy the Elephant
Sixty-five feet tall and constructed entirely of wood and tin, Lucy the Elephant is so, well, elephantine that she was once converted into a four-bedroom summer home. Built in 1881, the pachyderm was intended to draw developers to South Atlantic City and has since withstood demolition, hurricanes, and countless visitors poking around the inside of her stomach. 9200 Atlantic Ave., Margate, 609/823-6473, lucytheelephant.org, $4, kids $2. Colorful elephant erasers: $1 each.
Long before Bill Cosby starred in the company's advertisements, Jell-O was paving the way for modern American merchandising. To build his brand, patent owner Orator Woodward advertised in Ladies' Home Journal in the early 1900s, gave free samples to housewives a few years later, and even had it served to immigrants on Ellis Island. Among other items, the gift shop sells boxer shorts ($16) that read "watch it wiggle see it jiggle." 23 E. Main St., LeRoy, 585/768-7433, jellomuseum.com, $3, kids $1.50 (includes box of Jell-O per family). Spoon: $4.50.