Strange Americana: The Best Roadside Attractions in the Southeastern States
From flavorful, regional cuisine to gorgeous, sun-drenched beaches, there’s plenty to love about the Southeast. With a mix of beautiful natural sites and thrilling indoor attractions, there are plenty of reasons to pack up your car and explore the region.
Looking to explore some lesser-known gems? Well, there are plenty of them scattered throughout the Southeast. Here, we’ve rounded up the strangest of the strange when it comes to the Southeast’s roadside attractions.
Editor’s Note: For information on the latest pandemic-related travel requirements and advisories, be sure to check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and official local and state websites. Due to the surge in Delta variant-related cases, all travelers should check into destination requirements regarding mask wearing, quarantine, and COVID-19 testing, even when traveling by car.
The Mothman Museum | Point Pleasant, West Virginia
This West Virginia-based attraction is focuses on the myth of the Mothman. Not familiar? We’ll bring you up to speed. In 1966, Point Pleasant began to experience eerie phenomena, including strange lights overhead. This led to reported sightings of the Mothman — a red-eyed beast with giant wings — sailing over the West Virginia town.
The Mothman Museum is a testament to the being’s terror, showcasing everything from newspaper testimonies to props from the 2002 film The Mothman Prophecies. Admission to the museum is $4.50 for adults, but kids get in for just $1.50. With an affordable entry fee, this strange slice of American lore is well worth checking out.
Minister’s Treehouse | Crossville, Tennessee
This fabulous treehouse is the product of Minister Horace Burgess, who says he was instructed by a higher power to construct a rather unique treehouse. It’s safe to say he went above and beyond.
The Minister’s Treehouse in Crossville, Tennessee underwent early construction in 1993, and has since evolved into a mammoth wooden home, towering 97 feet above the earth. Its main support beam is an 80-foot tall white oak tree. The grandiose structure includes approximately 80 rooms, as well as 250,000 nails. Unfortunately, the building breaks fire code, so no visitors are allowed indoors. Still, it’s impressive from the ground, too.
Terra Studios | Fayetteville, Arkansas
Described as a “wonderland of art,” this collection of gardens and studios is occupied by pieces from over 100 artists. Terra Studios is chock full of sculptures, blown glass, murals, and more, all available for public viewing.
In addition, the galleries host a number of art classes, events, and fundraisers, including the chance to watch art being made in real-time. The six-acre art park serves as a nonprofit, giving back to artists within the Fayetteville community.
Margaret’s Grocery | Near Vicksburg, Mississippi
Margaret’s Grocery on Old Highway 61 isn’t your typical stop-and-shop. North of Vicksburg, this little store was turned into an art phenomenon by Reverend H.D. “Preacher” Dennis.
In 1985, he promised his wife that he would turn her shop into a place adored by people worldwide. With plenty of red and pink paint, he kept his promise, transforming the store into a shrine of art. Though he and his wife have passed on, the store remains an eccentric part of the local landscape.
Dinosaur World | Cave City, Kentucky
Ah, Kentucky — a state known for its caves, bourbon, bluegrass, and dinosaurs. While there are plenty of dino-themed attractions across the United States, Dinosaur World in Cave City, Kentucky is hailed as one of the best.
This stirring outdoor attraction is filled to the brim with life-size dinosaurs, interactive exhibits, and playgrounds. Moreover, kids can help uncover a 27-foot skeleton from the sand; mine gems, minerals and arrowheads; and excavate fossils. The attraction is open daily from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, and a full day of dino hunting will run you about $12.75.
Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky | Raleigh, North Carolina
This gem in Raleigh, North Carolina allows visitors to accomplish the impossible: to walk amongst the clouds. The Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky is a stone dome constructed by artist Chris Drury, serving as a camera obscura that projects the surrounding area onto the internal walls.
This optical trick, which is made possible by the sunlight, allows viewers to “walk” through the treetops, ensuring that visitors of all ages have a fun, entrancing experience. Although it appears to be set off in the woods, you can find the chamber behind the North Carolina Museum of Art on the institution’s campus.
Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky | Jeff Myers/CC BY-NC 2.0
Rock Zoo | Hollywood, Alabama
Did you ever keep pet rocks as a kid? The front yard of a local farmer in Hollywood, Alabama has become a hilarious zoo of painted rocks.
Years back, a creative farmer took it upon himself to paint the rocks around his property to look like the animals that matched the rocks’ shapes. A few cows, roosters, and turtles later, his yard is filled with a scramble of inanimate creatures. This attraction is completely free, so come on by and pet these unique animals — they don’t bite!
Rock Zoo Cow & Calf | Jimmy Emerson, DVM/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Mount Trashmore Park | Virginia Beach, Virginia
In 1974, a 640,000-ton landfill in Virginia Beach, Virginia was deemed Mount Trashmore Park. Today, it’s recognized as a feat of environmental genius. The mountain is 60 feet tall and 180 feet wide, formed by compacted soil and waste.
The eco-friendly landmark hosts a variety of attractions, including two “mountains,” fitness equipment, playgrounds, and, of course, the freshwater Lake Trashmore. Though it may have an unfavorable name, this 165-acre location is treasured by locals — even though there are reports that it’s not the best-smelling park on hot days.
Edisto Mystery Tree | South Carolina
Where Highway 174 intersects with Botany Bay Road sits the Edisto Mystery Tree, a fabulous sight for the locals of South Carolina. Though its bare bark and scrawny stature make it resemble the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, this little guy is beloved by the neighborhood.
Locals decorate the branches for each season with everything from summer pool floaties to wintertime tinsel. This teeny tree may not look substantial, but it’s one of the most festive spots in the state.
Mystery Tree | IllinoisHorseSoldier/CC BY-SA 2.0
Doll’s Head Trail | Near Atlanta, Georgia
Yes, this place is as creepy as it sounds. Nestled away in the wetlands of Constitution Lakes Park in Atlanta is a series of found-object art pieces along the spooky Doll’s Head Trail. This short loop is littered with toys found at the park — including many, many unearthed dolls.
“Scenic, artistic, and a bit unusual: it’s one of Atlanta’s most unique hiking adventures,” notes Atlanta Trails. “This multi-trail adventure at Constitution Lakes Park crosses paved paths, unpaved trails, and boardwalks through scenic, wildlife-filled wetlands, catching views of several small, marshy lakes.” Needless to say, if you’re a fan of the beauty of nature and the excitement of horror, Doll’s Head Trail might just be your dream attraction.
Chauvin Sculpture Garden | Chauvin, Louisiana
You’ll never want to leave this eclectic sculpture garden in Chauvin, Louisiana. With dozens of vibrant sculptures to investigate, the Chauvin Sculpture Garden is a whimsical display of authentic folk art.
Construction on the gardens began in 1990, when artist Kenny Hill began to transform his humble property into a fantastical web of color. Now, the setting is filled with a sprawl of pieces, including a colorful 45-foot-tall lighthouse and various sculptures of Kenny himself.
Whimzeyland | Safety Harbor, Florida
Move over, Disney. This magical location in Safety Harbor, Florida is one of the most distinctive art galleries in the country. Also known as “The Bowling Ball House,” Whimzeyland was decorated with bright bowling balls and other recycled objects by artists (and homeowners) Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda
While you can’t go inside the house, there are plenty of outdoor pieces on display. Not to mention, the artists have also inspired their neighbors to decorate a bit eccentrically, too. Without a doubt, Whimzeyland is classic strange Americana at its best.