59 Jaw-Dropping Roadside Attractions: Western U.S., Alaska, Hawaii
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
Santa Claus House
Every day is Christmas at the Santa Claus House, just south of Fairbanks in the town of North Pole. Stop in for a look at Dasher and Blitzen--the two on-site reindeer--or a visit with Santa himself (Wed.-Sun.). For $7.50, you can purchase a square inch of land in North Pole or send a pre-written letter from Santa--with a North Pole postmark--to anywhere in the world. 101 St. Nicholas Dr., 800/588-4078, santaclaushouse.com.
Once the home of dirty dancer Jennie Lee--known in her heyday as the Bazoom Girl--this burlesque museum houses a collection of pasties, lip prints, and bejeweled G-strings. Curator Dixie Evans leads tours through the Striptease Hall of Fame, where she is also proudly enshrined. The Striptease Reunion and Miss Exotic World Pageant--the best in burlesque, past and present--is held annually on the first Saturday of June here in Helendale, 15 miles southwest of Barstow. 29053 Wild Rd., 760/243-5261, exoticworldusa.org, suggested donation $5. Sticker: $3.
The World's Tallest Thermometer
Standing 134 feet tall--a tribute to the hottest temperature ever recorded in North America, on the floor of nearby Death Valley--the World's Tallest Thermometer displays bright digital readings to motorists going in both directions on I-15. Willis Herron, former owner of the Bun Boy Restaurant, also in Baker, had the Popsicle-stick-shaped tower built in the hope that folks would pull over for a slice of Bun Boy's famous strawberry pie ($4). 72155 Baker Blvd., 760/733-4660.
Calico Ghost Town
Ten miles north of Barstow is a throwback to the Old West, complete with Lil's swinging-door saloon and a sheriff who regularly rounds up "lawbreakers." If you're lucky, you may see a real western-style wedding held at the one-room schoolhouse; there are also nighttime ghost tours through spots where spooks have been sighted. Be alert: Gunfights can break out at any time--or, actually, every hour on the half hour from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Exit Ghost Town Rd. on I-15, Yermo, 800/862-2542, calicotown.com, $6, kids $3.
No abductions have been reported--yet--at the UFO Watchtower, a man-made lookout for anything and everything extraterrestrial. After hearing countless references to the San Luis Valley in The X-Files and on the SciFi Channel--the area is well known for having very little light pollution--founder Judy Messoline created the watchtower, about 200 miles south of Denver. Bring a tent and stay the night or head straight to the gift shop, where you can buy Judy's favorite bumper sticker ($2): "Buckle up! it makes it harder for the aliens to suck you out of your car." 2502 County Rd. 61, Hooper, 719/378-2271, ufowatchtower.com, free.
The World's Largest Maze
The two-acre garden maze at the Dole Plantation in Oahu was recognized in 2001 by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's biggest. The hibiscus hedges are seven feet high, and at its center the maze resembles a giant pineapple. There are guides to help those who get lost. 64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy., 808/621-8408, dole-plantation.com, $5, kids $3.
Idaho Potato Expo
Off I-15, 25 miles southwest of Idaho Falls, is the Idaho Potato Expo, a museum filled with a two-foot Pringle (the world's largest), potato hand lotion, and even a spud signed by grammatically challenged former vice president--and good sport--Dan Quayle. Bonus: Each pair of visitors gets a free box of dehydrated hash browns. 130 Northwest Main St., Blackfoot, 208/ 785-2517, potatoexpo.com, $3, seniors $2.50, kids $1.
Lincoln's World Famous 10,000 Silver $ Bar and Casino
Actually, it's more like the 43,000-and-Counting Silver $ Bar and Casino: In 1952, Rex Lincoln cut a round hole in his bar, pounded in a silver dollar, and inscribed his name below it. Patrons have wanted in on the fun ever since. Each year visitors to this I-90 landmark, halfway between Missoula, Mont., and Spokane, Wash., donate nearly 1,500 coins to be mounted on the walls. Bring your own or buy one at the bar, then come back next year: Coins are mounted in January. Exit 16, Haugan, 406/678-4242.