Mid-Atlantic Roadside Oddities Worth Stopping For
If you’ve got your RV or SUV fueled up and fully loaded, you’re always ready for a road trip – the real question is, where do you want to go? It’s easy to pick a well-worn tourist route, or return to a favorite vacation spot, but if you truly want something off the books, hit the roads of America. The United States is home to more one-of-a-kind roadside oddities than anywhere else.
While Pennsylvania, Virginia, and their neighboring states are known for their rich history, the mid-Atlantic region also offers a plethora of intriguing roadside attractions. Step off the beaten path and keep your eyes peeled to the roadside; you’re sure to spot plenty of strange and wonderful sights. Not to mention that you’ll have a much more interesting photo album to put together when you get home.
Here are our picks for some of the weirdest and most entertaining roadside attractions in the Mid-Atlantic States:
American Visionary Art Museum – Baltimore, Maryland
They say that art is in the eye of the beholder, and nowhere is this truer than at this quirky art museum in Baltimore. Preferring to describe its exhibits as “visionary,” this museum currently displays such oddities as metal robot sculptures, an ocean liner made out of thousands of toothpicks, and according to Roadside America, a bedroom made out of sequins. It may sound like a simple roadside attraction, but the American Visionary Art Museum is actually a well-funded and upstanding institution; it just happens to be full of strange creations. Definitely worth the stop for anyone whose artistic tastes skew more towards the absurd than the mainstream.
Dinosaur Land – White Post, Virginia
Virginia holds a wealth of American history, but for those looking to step a little further back in time, consider visiting Dinosaur Land (located near the town of Winchester). Home to over 50 different dinosaurs, this attraction whisks you back to the Mesozoic era to explore a world before humans drove around in motorhomes! Whether you’ve got dino-obsessed kids, or you yourself have watched Jurassic Park a few too many times, Dinosaur Land is a fun way to get up close and personal with some massive reptile models. As a bonus, they change and add different dinosaurs occasionally, so you might find a new favorite with each visit.
American Military Edged Weaponry Museum – Intercourse, Pennsylvania
If you’ve got a military buff riding in your RV – who is very specific about their weaponry of interest – then the fantastically-named American Military Edged Weaponry Museum is worth your time. Located just outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania, this museum focuses on all sorts of bladed weapons, ranging from swords (such as bayonets and sabers) to Bowie knives, and weaponry used in wars from the Spanish-American War all the way up to Desert Storm. Also featuring a rocket and a BAR & Thompson machine gun on display, this museum will not disappoint the gun nut in your group – even those who aren’t armory fanatics are bound to find the vast array of weaponry fascinating.
Trundle Manor House of Oddities – Swissvale, Pennsylvania
For any Addams Family enthusiasts traveling through Pennsylvania, a stop at Trundle Manor is a must. The house’s curious collection of taxidermied animals, old bones, and a singing tumor might not be for everyone; but the macabre mix of ghoulish delights will tickle the fancy of anyone interested in celebrating Halloween all year round. Roadside America quotes owners and proprietors Mr. Arm and Velda von Minx as saying, “We both like visual overkill” – so prepare to have all your senses stimulated when you step into the Manor. This guarantees to provide a refreshing, and possibly shocking, break from sitting in the RV.
The Haines Shoe House – Hellam, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is clearly one of the hottest Mid-Atlantic States for strange roadside attractions, and The Haines Shoe House in Hellam adds one more showstopper to its roster. Created in 1948 by the self-styled “Shoe Wizard of York County,” this oversized shoe – fashioned to look somewhat like an ankle boot – houses three bedrooms and stands at 25 feet tall. Careful not to exclude man’s best friend, the unique structure also features a shoe-shaped dog house next to it. The Shoe House is currently open for tours, and has been featured on the TV show The Amazing Race. Even if you don’t have time for a tour, it’s worth stopping to at least take a photo; because let’s be honest, how many chances do you get to see a shoe house?
Lucy the Elephant – Margate, New Jersey
Atlantic City has nothing on Lucy. Dubbed “The World’s Greatest Elephant,” this oversized model of a pachyderm is located by the beach in Josephine Harron Park, and is more interactive than most giant roadside oddities. You can actually climb inside Lucy, and go right up to the howdah (the tent on top) for a view from up high. According to Budget Travel Magazine, she was installed in 1881, with hopes of enticing developers to the South Atlantic City area; and she’s been standing strong ever since. Lucy’s official website provides a far more detailed life story, but it’s even better if you stop by and visit her yourself.
Fountain of Youth – Lewes, Delaware
Let it be known that the search is over: the Fountain of Youth resides in Delaware. Who knew? But if you’re hoping to find the magical cure to stop aging in Lewes, you’re out of luck – the Fountain is now completely dry, with its conch shell cup missing. It’s a sad conclusion to a tourist attraction that’s been in place since 1937. The gazebo is still worth a stop, even if only to take note of the nearby sign that designates that the Fountain is “for D.A.R. member use only” (which does indeed sound a tiny bit suspicious). Perhaps the secret of the Fountain of Youth is still out there – so, keep your eyes peeled for an errant shell cup.
The Farnham Colossi – Unger, West Virginia
West Virginia is home to George and Pam Farnham, a married couple that just happens to own a major collection of giant statues. It started with a dinosaur (for George) and a Muffler Man (for Pam), but now their grouping of oversized lawn ornaments – typically the kind of statues you’d see on the top of a business or signage – has become the Farnham Fantasy Farm in Unger. The Farnhams are continuously on the lookout for more giant beings to add to their lawn collection; but in the meantime you can stop by and snap photos with the Muffler Man, Hamburger Man, and more.
The Road Less Traveled
Road trips are all about freedom, exploration, and making the journey just as important as the destination. The beauty of RV travel is that even if you’re heading back to one of your usual vacation spots, you don’t have to take the same old route – try heading down a new street, turning off of the highways for a bit, and looking along the roadside for some unique experiences. They may be referred to colloquially as “tourist traps” by some, but stopping to marvel at roadside oddities not only jazzes up a road trip – it can create some pretty entertaining memories, whether you’re traveling alone, with a partner, or with the whole family in tow.
About The Author: Annie Libby’s passion for RVing and “experiencing life” was inspired early on when her parents packed up the camper every summer in search of the best campgrounds. Today at every opportunity, Annie and her family enjoy hitting the open road in their 2006 Winnebago Sightseer, affectionately named “Isabella.” Annie Libby lives in San Diego, California.