Weird tourist stops and roadside attractions – Pt. 1

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Bunyan of Bangor

The Paul Bunyan statue in Bangor, Maine. Image: Archer 10 (Dennis)/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Are you planning a road trip this summer, maybe with the family? But you’ve done the mountains and the theme parks and the beach before. This year, maybe it’s time for something different. All of the bizarre tourist stops surveyed below certainly qualify.

East coast

The story behind the Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida reads like the plot of an opera. When Latvian Edward Leedskalninwas was rejected by his fiancee the day before the planned nuptials, he left the country, determined to build a monument to his unrequited love. The resulting structure was constructed of more than 1,100 tons of hand-carved coral. A unique thing of dark beauty, the castle outlasts the memory of its jilting inspiration.

The first of many over-sized animals in this survey, Lucy the Elephant stands 65 feet high on the beach at Margate, N.J. An example of “zoomorphic architecture,” she has stairs running up her legs to a series of rooms inside her abdomen. Lucy was built in 1881 to advertise a real estate property. In the intervening years, the versatile pachyderm has been a hotel, a tavern and a summer home.

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New Vrindaban, W.V.’s Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold was once a temple to the Hare Krishna guru, Srila Prabhupada. Now, the magnificently ornate Asian-styled structure greets the public.

The Boston Wharf is the home to one of the nation’s many giant milk bottle structures. Currently used as an ice cream stand for the adjoining Children’s Museum, it is said to be able to hold 50,000 gallon milk bottles inside.

Other giant milk bottles can be found in Richmond, Va. and Oklahoma City. There are two in the city of Spokane, Wash.,
one of which was badly burned in 2011, but has been refurbished and now serves as a restaurant and ice cream stand.

The Bangor Bunyan

The nation is dotted with Paul Bunyan statues, but perhaps the most important is the one in Bangor, Maine, where, legend has it, the enormous lumberjack was birthed. He is accompanied by his cold-weather friend, Babe the giant blue ox. Other Bunyan and Babe attractions can be found in Klamath, Calif. and Bemidji, Minn.

And there are literally hundreds of nearly-identical Bunyans, mass produced from the same fiberglass molds, across the nations. Many, however, have been redressed to hawk a variety of items.

More on them in part two of this piece.

The South

Here is a place where Bunyan might have sat if he got weary on his travels. A 33-foot tall chair sits atop a furniture store in Anniston, Ala.

The Georgia Guidestones, sometimes called the “American Stonehenge,” is a large monument of granite in Elbert County, Georgia. The structure contains ten messages to guide humanity in eight modern languages. Four ancient languages are
also represented on the monument; Babylonian, Classical Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphs and Sanskrit.


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