59 Jaw-Dropping Roadside Attractions: Western U.S., Alaska, Hawaii

By David LaHuta
June 5, 2006
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.


Exotic World

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.


UFO Watchtower

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.


Little Ale Inn

Along Highway 375--better known as the Extraterrestrial Highway--this restaurant/bar/gift shop/motel is the only trace of civilization outside the ultrasecretive Area 51, just south of Rachel. Owner Pat Travis will be happy to entertain you with stories of actual alien sightings ("They came in the form of humans..."). Browse the aprons and tote bags in the gift shop, and order Travis's famous Alien Burger. "It's out of this world," she says. 775/729-2515, aleinn.com, burger $3.75. Alien salt and pepper shakers: $8.99.


The House of Mystery and the Oregon Vortex

Self-described as "an area of naturally occurring visual and perceptual phenomena," the Oregon Vortex, near Gold Hill, in southwestern Oregon, has been defying the laws of physics since 1930. Balls roll uphill, brooms stand on end, and the mass of objects--including people--has been known to mysteriously change. Bring a camera. 4303 Sardine Creek Rd., 541/855-1543, oregonvortex.com, $8, seniors $7, kids 6-11 $6.


Hole N' the Rock

Forty-thousand visitors come annually to see this 5,000-square-foot house carved from a huge sandstone rock 12 miles south of Moab. It has 14 rooms, including an art studio and lapidary, where cocreator Albert Christensen once polished his rocks. All that's missing: Fred, Wilma, and Pebbles. 11037 S. Hwy. 191, 877/686-2250, moab-utah.com/holeintherock, $4.25, kids $2.25.


World Famous Bob's Java Jive

This Tacoma dive, where bands play nightly, has a jungle-theme interior--and it once featured live, swinging monkeys. Even stranger, it's shaped like a giant coffeepot: Built in 1927 as a coffee shop, it was once surrounded by other buildings that imitated their purposes (such as a gas station shaped like a pump). It's the only one left. 2102 S. Tacoma Way, 253/475-9843, bipolaraudio.com/bobs_java_jive.html.


The Douglas Jackalope

The town of Douglas--130 miles north of Cheyenne--is absolutely devoted to the rare jackalope, a cross between a rabbit and an antelope. Self-proclaimed as the Home of the Jackalope, Douglas erected an eight-foot statue in what's known as Jackalope Square. To solidify its place in jackalope lore, the town had hoped to build another statue (this one 80 feet tall and made of fiberglass), but the plans fell through. Jackalope hunting licenses are available, but no one has ever bagged one of the wily creatures. Douglas Chamber of Commerce, 307/358-2950, jackalope.org, free.

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59 Jaw-Dropping Roadside Attractions: Southwest

Southwest Arizona Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch Between Tucson and Phoenix, near Picacho Peak, the largest ostrich ranch in the country has more than 1,100 ostriches, and they'll eat the $2 feed right out of your hand. Stock up on infertile eggs, for eating ($15); feather dusters ($7 and up); and ostrich oil (four ounces for $30), said to be good for cracked heels, dry skin, acne, and eczema, or as an aftershave lotion. Exit 219 on Interstate 10, 520/466-3658, roostercogburn.com, free. Empty ostrich egg: $10. The Thing? Along Interstate 10, 40 miles west of Tucson, billboards about every quarter mile will lure you toward The Thing? There's no charge for checking out the taxidermic armadillo holding a beer (it's in the gift shop), but to discover what exactly The Thing? is--we're not telling--you have to fork over a buck. No photos allowed. Exit 322 on I-10, 520/586-2581, $1. New Mexico Trinity Site Now a National Historic Landmark, Trinity Site is where the first atomic bomb was tested in 1945. On the grounds of the White Sands Missile Range, the site is only open for bus tours twice a year--the first Saturday in April and October, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.--and is marked by a triangular stone tower and commemorative plaque. Walk the giant crater, still littered with Trinitite, the green-colored, glassy substance formed by the explosion's heat. Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce, 800/826-0294, alamogordo.com/activites/trinity.html, free. Oklahoma The Blue Whale The 80-foot cement whale, built by Hugh Davis as an anniversary present for his wife, Zelta, has been smiling at motorists on Route 66 for more than 30 years. About 15 miles east of Tulsa, the Blue Whale--with its walk-in mouth (you can't go farther, not that you'd want to)--is beached alongside a small pond right next to the highway. Catoosa Chamber of Commerce, 918/ 266-6042, free. Texas Cadillac Ranch Off I-40, just west of Amarillo, 10 Cadillacs are half buried, tail fins up. Created in 1974 by a collective of artists called Ant Farm, it's a tribute to America's once-most-beloved cruiser. For the true artistic experience, bring spray paint; Ant Farm encourages audience participation. Free.

59 Jaw-Dropping Roadside Attractions: Midwest

Midwest Illinois Bill Shea's Gas Station Museum Back in 1946, when Bill Shea started pumping gas on legendary Route 66, a car would go by every 10 minutes. Now, he says, it takes 10 minutes just to cross the road. Stop in for an earful of stories and a look at Shea's gas station memorabilia from nearly 60 years on the Mother Road. 2075 Peoria Rd., Springfield, 217/522-0475, $2, kids $1. World's Largest Catsup Bottle Once America's best-selling catsup, Brook's Old Original Tangy Catsup was so popular that the company's owners built themselves a massive landmark. The bottle--12 miles east of St. Louis on Route 159--is really a 170-foot-tall water tower, but it's definitely more fun to pretend otherwise. 800 S. Morrison Ave., Collinsville, 618/345-5598, catsupbottle.com. Indiana Bluespring Caverns Living in perpetual darkness, the fish in Bluespring Caverns have evolved to a state of blindness--see for yourself on the one-hour boat tour. In the winter months, Bluespring runs organized caving tours for groups of kids, with an overnight stay in a limestone cave, where hibernating bats also make their home ($23). 1459 Bluespring Caverns Rd., Bedford, 812/279-9471, bluespringcaverns.com, $12, kids $6. Iowa Grotto of the RedemptionFather Paul Dobberstein's geological tribute to God is one of the largest collections of precious stones and gems in the world. The nine grottoes tell the story of redemption through Christ; its curators estimate its value at $4 million to $5 million. In December, if the pond freezes, there's ice-skating. 300 N. Broadway, West Bend, 800/868-3641, westbendgrotto.com, suggested donation $5, kids $2.50. Kansas Dorothy's House and the Land of Oz Tours of the cottage, carefully done up to resemble the one in The Wizard of Oz, are led by one of 18 Dorothy look-alikes--they're dressed in pigtails, blue gingham, and ruby slippers. Strangely enough, the house is on Yellow Brick Road--and you thought that was in Oz! 567 Yellow Brick Rd., Liberal, 620/624-7624, $5, seniors and kids $3.50. Toy ruby slippers: $13. World's Largest Ball of Twine Made from over 7 million feet of sisal twine, the World's Largest Ball of Twine measures 40 feet in circumference and weighs almost nine tons. Housed under a canopy in Cawker City on Highway 24--100 miles northwest of Abilene--the ball is a work in progress, so bring some twine, wrap it around, and consider yourself part of the record books. Cawker City Hall, 785/781-4713, free. The Van Gogh Project Part of an ongoing venture to reproduce all seven of Van Gogh's sunflower paintings in seven countries around the globe, this 768-square-foot reproduction of Three Sunflowers in a Vase is easy to spot. It stands on an 80-foot easel along I-70, in the town of Goodland. Artist Cameron Cross painted the work--the other two completed paintings are in Canada and Australia; thebigeasel.com. Michigan Henry Ford Museum When Thomas Edison was dying in late 1931, Henry Ford decided he wanted to capture the inventor's final gasp--so he had him breathe in a test tube and corked it for posterity. It's now part of the Henry Ford Museum's permanent collection, along with other pieces of American history, including the Rosa Parks bus, Kennedy's presidential limousine, and Lincoln's blood-stained chair. 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, 313/982-6001, hfmgv.org, $14, seniors $13, kids $10. Ford Model A toy: $32. Minnesota Jolly Green Giant Ho, ho, ho! The 55-foot-tall statue of everybody's favorite Jolly Green Giant--at the midpoint of Minnesota along I-90, America's longest interstate--has a smile that's 48 inches wide and a shoe size that's somewhere around 78. He was erected in the town of Blue Earth back in 1979 to celebrate the area's longtime affiliation with canning--Green Giant was once the Blue Earth Canning Company. Intersection of I-90 and Hwy. 169, Blue Earth Area Chamber of Commerce, 507/526-2916. Missouri Lambert's Cafe Beware of flying objects. Raise your hand at this Sikeston restaurant and a server will toss a wheat roll from across the room. Credit the practice to owner Norman Lambert, who was once so busy he couldn't bring the rolls to a table--so he threw them. No injuries have been reported. 2305 E. Malone St., 573/471-4261, throwedrolls.com. Nebraska Carhenge Constructed of 38 cars from the '50s- and '60s--mirroring both the number of boulders and the diameter of the circle at the original in England--this Stonehenge replica was dedicated on the summer solstice in 1987. Just north of Alliance, the structure was conceived by Jim Reinders as a memorial to his father, who once lived on the field where Carhenge now stands. Hwy. 87, Alliance, carhenge.com, free. North Dakota The Enchanted Highway A 32-mile county road connecting Gladstone and Regent, the Enchanted Highway off I-94 is proof that if you build it, they will come. To boost tourism, local artist Gary Greff began erecting weird roadside structures, including a towering family made of tin, the world's largest grasshopper, and a flock of oversize pheasants. His next project: a giant bass. Exit 72, 701/563-6400, enchantedhighway.net, free. Ohio World's largest basket building Weighing 9,000 tons and standing seven stories high, the home office for the Longaberger Company, in Newark, was built to resemble Longaberger's most popular item, the Medium Market Basket. The building houses Longaberger's 500 employees and is visible from State Route 16. Walk in to admire the seven-story atrium; the glass ceiling allows you to see the handles from inside. 1500 E. Main St., 740/322-5588, longaberger.com, free. South Dakota The Corn Palace Covered entirely with thousands of bushels of corn, grasses, and grains, the Corn Palace in Mitchell--with turrets, onion domes, and minarets--is America's answer to the Kremlin. The exterior of the palace is refurbished annually during harvest time (August through September), but its interior features year-round corn murals depicting the history of Native Americans and the white man. 604 N. Main, 866/273-2676, cornpalace.org, free. Key chain: $2.50. Wall Drug Store For more than 70 years this landmark has wooed visitors with countless roadside billboards ("Have You Dug Wall Drug?"). They arrive to find much more: Now an attraction in its own right, the store boasts an 80-foot-tall brontosaurus, an art gallery displaying western art and artifacts, and strange mechanical people like Dr. Feelgood, who for 50¢ will tell you about the benefits of snake oil. 510 Main St., Wall, 605/279-2175, walldrug.com, free. Wisconsin World's Largest Muskie The National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, about 70 miles south of Duluth, Minn., is home to the World's Largest Muskie. It's four stories high and half a city block long. The belly holds freshwater fishing exhibits and the mouth opens up to a 20-person observation deck. 10360 Hall of Fame Dr., Hayward, 715/634-4440, freshwater-fishing.org, $6, under 18 $3.50, under 10 $2.50. Snow globe: $3.25. The House on the Rock Perched precariously atop a tall rock spire, the House on the Rock, in southwest Wisconsin, mixes architectural enthusiasm with an eclectic collection of just about anything you can imagine--suits of armor, model airplanes, pipe organs, and even a pyramid of life-size fiberglass elephants. The most identifiable feature of this attraction is the Infinity Room--a 200-foot-long glass and steel promenade cantilevered over the valley. And for the kids, there's the world's largest carousel, insured for $4.5 million. 5754 Hwy. 23, Spring Green, 608/935-3639, thehouseontherock.com, $19.50, kids 7-12 $11.50, 4-6 $5.50.

59 Jaw-Dropping Roadside Attractions: South

SOUTH Alabama Ave Maria Grotto Built by a Benedictine monk named Joseph Zoettl, the Ave Maria Grotto is four acres of biblical history, with more than 125 miniature replicas of holy sites, such as St. Peter's Basilica and the city of Jerusalem. They're not perfectly set to scale--Brother Joe eyeballed his designs--but historians and architects have marveled at his accuracy just the same. 1600 St. Bernard Dr., Cullman, 256/734-4110, avemariagrotto.com, $5, seniors $4.50, kids 6-12 $3.50. Arkansas Cotham's Mercantile and Restaurant Before it opened as a restaurant in 1984, Cotham's had served (sometimes simultaneously) as a general store, jail, and commissary for nearly 70 years. The Hubcap burgers--big enough to feed four--were a favorite of then governor Bill Clinton; as its website says, Cotham's is "Where the Elite Meet to Eat!!" in Scott, about 15 miles east of Little Rock. FYI: It's pronounced "Cottum's." 5301 Hwy. 161, 501/961-9284, cothams.com, Hubcap burger $8. Florida Coral Castle After his fiancee, Agnes Scuffs, canceled their wedding the day before the ceremony, Ed Leedskalnin began constructing a titanic tribute to his lost love. For over 28 years, Ed dug up nearly 1,100 tons of coral, then placed and carved each block by hand to create Coral Castle. The castle, about 30 miles south of Miami, features a nine-ton swinging gate and the Great Obelisk, 25 feet tall and weighing 28 tons. Agnes never visited. 28655 S. Dixie Hwy., Homestead, 305/248-6345, coralcastle.com, $9.75, seniors $6.50, kids 7-12 $5. Drive-In Christian Church The congregation at Daytona Beach's Drive-In Christian Church has been pulling up for prayer since 1953. Offering two services on Sundays (8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.), the Christian church--it was converted from an old drive-in movie theater--has more than 1,300 members and encourages visitors to join in its unique outdoor worship. Pull up, grab a Communion wafer at the gate, then tune in to 88.5 on your FM dial. No worries about drinking and driving--this church uses juice instead of wine. 3140 S. Atlantic Ave., 386/767-8761, driveinchurch.net, free. Georgia Georgia Guidestones No one knows who erected the 19-foot-tall granite Guidestones--picture the Ten Commandments inscribed on Stonehenge--which list instructions for the preservation of mankind in 12 languages, including Sanskrit and Swahili. Here's one: "Avoid petty laws and useless officials." The folks at the Elbert County Chamber of Commerce say that the best way to find them is to drive on Highway 77, between Elberton and Hartwell, and look for the lady's house that resembles a spaceship. The Guidestones are across the street. Elbert County Chamber of Commerce, 706/283-5651, elbertga.com, free. Kentucky Penn's Store In 1992, America's oldest country store, family owned since 1850, got its first bathroom: an outhouse (before that it just had "plenty of trees"). Now, every fall the store hosts the Great Outhouse Blowout, a festival with music, food, and outhouse races (in 2004, Oct. 2). Contestants head to Gravel Switch--50 miles southwest of Lexington--and race human-powered dragsters, some made to resemble that lovable lavatory. 257 Penn's Store Rd., 859/332-7715, pennsstore.com. Louisiana Bayou Pierre Alligator Park With gator sausage and kebabs in the food court and gator wallets and boots in the gift shop, you'd think the Bayou Pierre Alligator Park was killing off its main attraction. Not so. All of the park's hundreds of gators are for viewing only (the others come from local farms). Watch these thousand-pounders wrestle over chicken parts, or hold a baby gator in your arms for a Cajun-style photo opportunity. It's 75 miles southeast of Shreveport, off Highway 1. 380 Old Bayou Pierre Rd., Natchitoches, 877/354-7001, alligatorshow.com, $6.50, kids $4.75. Baby gator head: $9.99. Mississippi The Crossroads According to the song "Crossroads Blues," by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, this is the spot where he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his skills as a guitar virtuoso. At the intersection of Highways 161 and 49 in the town of Clarksdale, the spot is marked with a guitar-shaped sign. Clarksdale Chamber of Commerce, 662/627-7337. North Carolina Furnitureland South The world's largest highboy--an 85-foot-tall dresser with three foot-wide gold-leaf handles--stands in front of the world's largest home-furnishings showroom. Built in 1999, it towers over its rival (the world's largest bureau, also in High Point) by more than 45 feet. 5635 Riverdale Dr., 336/841-4328, furniturelandsouth.com, free. South Carolina South of the Border With its 200-foot-tall Sombrero Tower and smiling mascot, Pedro, this monument to Mexican kitsch has attracted road-trippers since 1949. What started as a small beer stand has expanded into an amalgamation including 15 shops, an amusement park (called Pedroland), six restaurants, campgrounds, and a hotel. I-95 at Hwy. 301, Hamer, 843/774-2411, pedroland.com. Tennessee The Parthenon In 1897, to commemorate 100 years of statehood, Tennessee built a full-scale replica of the Parthenon just outside downtown Nashville, in Centennial Park. It houses the city's art museum, as well as plaster casts of the Elgin marbles (the real ones, which date from around 440 b.c., are in the British Museum). Like the original in Athens, the Parthenon focuses on a 42-foot statue of the goddess Athena--by all estimates she's wearing size-177 sandals. 2600 West End Ave., 615/862-8431, parthenon.org, $4, seniors and kids $2.50. Virginia Route 11 Potato Chip Factory The Route 11 Potato Chip Factory prepares, cooks, and bags all 13 varieties of its chips by hand. The Chesapeake crab chips are a regional favorite: They're flavored with the same salty, spicy blend fishermen use to season their Chesapeake Blues. 7815 Main St., Middletown, 800/294-7783, rt11.com, 11-oz. bag $4. West Virginia Prabhupada's Palace of Gold Billed as America's Taj Mahal--don't tell Trump--Prabhupada's Palace of Gold, in Moundsville, was constructed by monastic volunteers to be the home of spiritual leader Srila Prabhupada. When he died before its completion, the gilded palace became a pilgrimage center and tourist attraction. The elaborately decorated rooms have marble and onyx floors, crystal chandeliers, and silk tapestries. Palace Rd. Exit off Hwy. 250, 304/843-1812, palaceofgold.com, suggested donation $6, kids $3.

Europe: 'But We Don't Want All Motorcycles, All the Time'

Jordan Henry, an operating-room nurse in Madison, Wis., started riding motorcycles almost 20 years ago at the age of 16. "My great-grandfather built and drove his own motorcycle, and I'm building a chopper," he says. Jordan's wife, Alyssa, who's a nurse anesthetist, tells us she has "acquired a taste for motorcycling" during their nearly four-year marriage. This August, the couple is booked on a 10-day guided motorcycle tour of Germany, Switzerland, France, and Austria. There are two free days--in Obernai, France, and Lucerne, Switzerland--as well as time before and after that the Henrys want us to plot out for them. "Jordan is a true gearhead," says Alyssa. "From high-performance sports cars to muscle cars, he loves them all, and he's the proud owner of a 1988 Porsche 928 S4." At the end of their motorcycle tour, which begins and ends in Munich, the Henrys want to go to Stuttgart to visit the Porsche factory and museum, as well as any other sites for car fanatics. The Henrys arrive in Munich a couple of days before their tour starts, which will give them time to check out their first automobile manufacturer. The futuristic BMW plant is in northern Munich, accessible by subway. Free, three-hour guided tours are offered on weekdays in English and German; it's a good idea to reserve online well in advance. Visitors wear radio headsets so they can hear their guide over the din of the bustling factory floor. Unfortunately, the on-site BMW Museum is under renovation, though a display of historic Beemers has been set up in the nearby Olympia Park, site of the 1972 Summer Games. "For Alyssa's sake, I don't want overkill--all cars, all motorcycles, all the time," says Jordan. Alyssa explains that they prefer historical sites--cathedrals, castles, and ruins--to museums. St. Peter's church, built in 1180, affords fantastic views of the city and, on clear days, the Alps. For a glimpse of how Bavarian royalty summered, the Henrys could head outside the city to Schloss Nymphenburg, a castle with a collection of historic coaches, a landscaped garden, and the Amalienburg, a rococo hunting lodge with a hall of mirrors. "I'm as into food and cooking as Jordan is with cars and motorcycles," says Alyssa. "I love learning about food and who produced it. And we're definitely interested in sampling some great beer and wine." Munich's Viktualienmarkt, just south of Marienplatz, is one of Germany's most famous outdoor markets. The Henrys can stroll through aisles of vegetables, sausages, cheeses, and fish, and put to the test those German classes they took in the spring. Though most locals speak some English, they appreciate it when tourists know a few basics. No visit to Munich is complete without a visit to a beer hall. The Henrys want to see the Hofbräuhaus, and we offer a couple lesser-known options: Augustiner, on the main pedestrian street for shopping; and Paulaner Bräuhaus, southwest of the city center, with picnic tables in its beer garden. Alyssa's grandfather was a professional button-box accordionist, and she grew up listening to polkas and waltzes, so they're certain to have a fun evening at the Alpine-style sing-alongs at Jodlerwirt. The Henrys request basic accommodations. "We don't hang out much in our rooms," says Alyssa, "and we'd rather spend money on other things, like food." The Hotel Jedermann, near the main train station and run by the same family for four decades, should suffice. Next, it's on to the motorcycle tour. Jordan has dreamed about cruising with Edelweiss Bike Travel since reading about the company as a teen. "I'm looking forward to simply riding through the Alps with my wife next to me," says Jordan. On their first free day, in Obernai, a small town in the Alsace region of France, the Henrys could opt to make a short ride to Strasbourg to see its magnificent cathedral and historic quarters. After three long days on motorcycles, however, it might be nicer to take things easy. A few years ago, the Henrys went to Spain, and Alyssa, a self-professed "compulsive planner and doer," was stressed that they were missing something. She pushed her husband to stay on the go the entire time. "It was a great vacation, but exhausting," says Alyssa. (Jordan nicknamed the trip "Sherman's death march.") That's even more reason, this time around, to sit at a café or stroll around Obernai, a walled medieval town with four towers. The Henrys might stop by one of the many wine cellars to sample the aromatic and slightly spicy wine known as gewürztraminer, an Alsatian specialty. For their other free day, in the lakeside city of Lucerne, Switzerland, the Henrys are keen for activity. They can board a Lake Lucerne Navigation Company steamer for a 90-minute ride to Alpnachstad, where passengers board the world's steepest cog railway to reach Mount Pilatus, a mountaintop lookout with hotels, a shop, and plenty of hiking opportunities. To complete the round trip without backtracking, we recommend taking a gondola and cable car to the village of Kriens, followed by a short bus to Lucerne. If it's raining or foggy, the Henrys might instead wander around the picturesque old streets of Lucerne. When their tour ends back in Munich, the Henrys are heading to Stuttgart. The high-speed train is our favorite way to go (2 hours and 20 minutes each way; $99 round trip, second class). "The Porsche Museum and factory are the priorities," says Alyssa. Most of the year, free guided factory tours in English leave at 10 A.M., weekdays; unfortunately, none are offered in late August because of summer holidays. A new museum is being constructed at the plant, and for now there's a room with 20 historic Porsches on display. Greater Stuttgart is also the home of a new Mercedes-Benz Museum. Alyssa and Jordan can inspect some 160 vehicles, including record-breaking speedsters of the 1930s and the luxury cars specially made for royalty, popes, and politicians. "What part of Stuttgart should we stay in?" asks Alyssa. Since they'll be sightseeing all over, it doesn't matter all that much, but a central location probably works best. Centro is an inexpensive hotel less than ten minutes' walk from the train station. When they're feeling hungry or thirsty, the Henrys should make a beeline to the Bohnenviertel (Bean Quarter), an old artisans' district. "The style of restaurant doesn't matter," says Alyssa. "It's the quality of the food that we care about." The neighborhood hosts a fine selection of weinstuben, wine taverns unique to the area that are known for serving local wines and rich food (distinctive pastas, creamy sauces, roasted pork and beef). Weinstube Schellenturm scores extra points for its cool setting in a 16th-century tower. Prost! Operators Edelweiss Bike Travel edelweissbike.com, book via travel agent Transportation Lake Lucerne Navigation Company 011-41/41-367-6767, lakelucerne.ch, Lucerne to Pilatus and back $69 Lodging Hotel Jedermann Bayerstrasse 95, Munich, 011-49/89-543-240, hotel-jedermann.de, from $85 Centro Büchsenstrasse 24, Stuttgart, 011-49/711-585-3315, from $108 Food Hofbräuhaus Platzl 9, Munich, 011-49/89-221-676 Augustiner Neuhauser Strasse 27, Munich, 011-49/89-2318-3257 Paulaner Bräuhaus Kapuzinerplatz 5, Munich, 011-49/89-544-6110 Weinstube Schellenturm Weberstrasse 72, Stuttgart, 011-49/711-236-4888, roast pork $12.50 Activities BMW Petuelring 130, Munich, 011-49/89-3822-3306, bmw-plant-munich.com, free tour Schloss Nymphenburg Munich, 011-49/89-1790-8668, schloesser.bayern.de,from $6.25 Mount Pilatus Alpnachstad, 011-41/41-329-1129, pilatus.ch Porsche Museum Stuttgart, 011-49/711-9112-5685, porsche.com, free viewing Mercedes-Benz Museum Stuttgart, 011-49/711-172-2578, mercedes-benz.com, $10.25 Nightlife Jodlerwirt Altenhofstrasse 4, Munich, 011-49/89-221-249 How was your trip? "St. Lucia was absolutely wonderful," says Heather McKinney (right), with Jenny Meader and two new friends, Felix and Luke, who invited them on a boat ride. "We were blown away by the view from our villa at Stonefield. It seemed like I could reach out and touch the Petit Piton." Jenny particularly loved meeting people in Soufrière. "They were all so happy and they laughed so easily. It was infectious!"