The itinerary for a typical sightseeing trip to North America typically includes a few of the same old hot spots: Canada’s National Parks, the United States’ historical landmarks, and Mexico’s beaches. But scattered throughout the continent are some unusual sights even you won’t find in a travel guide!
Some of them are attractions worth planning entire trips or excursions around; others are simple places, monuments, and sights worth keeping an eye out for as part of a longer trip. But all 31 of these travel destinations have one thing in common: they’re some of the strangest—and coolest—North American landmarks!
1. Carhenge (Alliance, Nebraska): Who needs to travel to the United Kingdom to see the mysteriously stacked stones of Stonehenge when you can take a drive through the Great Plains and see cars spray-painted to look like sandstone?
Brian W. Schaller / Wikimedia
2. The Wave (Coconino County, Arizona): Nestled between Arizona and Utah, the sandstone formation allures hikers and photographers from all over the planet. Because of its fragility, however, hikers must be granted a permit to access it.
3. Republic of Molossia (Dayton, Nevada): Though declared a micronation by founder Kevin Baugh, the republic isn’t recognized by the United Nations. Still, Supreme Leader Kevin gives the United States “foreign aid” (otherwise known as property taxes).
Franco Sacchi / YouTube
4. Joyxee Island (Isla Mujeres, Mexico): An island made up of about 100,000 bottles floats just off the coast of Cancún, and for just $25 per night, you can rent it out on AirBnB. The Mexican government recognizes the 82-foot island as an Eco Boat.
Soul de Isla Mujeres
5. Winchester Mystery House (San Jose, California): Those killed by Winchester rifles allegedly haunt the mansion once owned by the widow of firearm’s magnate William Winchester. Architectural anomalies, like staircases to nowhere, fill the house.
6. Centralia (Centralia, Pennsylvania): A 1962 coal mine fire cleared out this town, pushing the population to just seven people by 2013. Today, a graffiti-covered PA Route-61 cuts through the heart of the ghost town.
7. Thor’s Well (Cape Perpetua, Oregon): Often referred to as the Drainpipe of the Pacific, the 20-foot sinkhole located just off the Oregon coast looks like it’s draining the sea. (Don’t worry—it’s not!) Still, it provides perfect photo opportunities for those brave enough to venture near it.
8. Prada Art Installation (Marfa, Texas): Does anything say Texas quite like a $120,000 “pop architectural land art project” of a designer Italian shoe store? Maybe. But you won’t find anything like this anywhere else in North America.
9. The Desert of Maine (Freeport, Maine): The flat sands of America’s northeastern-most state beckon those who’ve already stuffed themselves to bursting with lobster. Though not a true desert, the 40 acres of glacial silt is close to the real thing.
Patty Wight / MPBN
10. Cadillac Ranch (Amarillo, Texas): Ten Cadillacs half-buried off Route 66 comprise this Texas art project. It not only welcomes vandalism and drive-by paint jobs from visitors, but it encourages anyone to add a touch of paint.
11. Devils Tower (Crook County, Wyoming): President Theodore Roosevelt declared this Bear Lodge Mountains butte a national monument in 1906. According to the Kiowa and Lakota tribes, the strange structure formed to save two girls from a bear attack.
Chuck Sutherland / Flickr
12. Mill Ends Park (Portland, Oregon): Officially recognized as the smallest park in the world, Mill Ends sits in a median once intended to house a light pole. When bureaucrats nixed the pole, a local journalist planted flowers and dubbed it a park.
13. M-185 (Mackinac Island, Michigan): Michigan banned motor vehicles from this eight-mile stretch of road that wraps around the popular tourist island in Lake Huron. The law was passed in 1898 after a doctor’s car scared some horses and people complained.
14. Eiffel Tower (Paris, Texas): If you want to see the Eiffel Tower, the City of Lights might be calling your name—but a city two hours outside Dallas might be calling out, too. And this Eiffel Tower has a cowboy hat on top!
15. Monowi (Monowi, Nebraska): As of the 2010 census, just one person called the .21-square-mile city home. The lone occupant? A 76-and-a-half-year-old woman living alone. The village peaked in 1930 with a population of 150.
Ghosts of North America
16. The World’s Tallest Thermometer (Baker, California): A town most people only pass through on their way to Las Vegas, Baker boasts a 134-foot functioning thermometer built to commemorate 1913’s record-breaking 134 degree Fahrenheit day in Death Valley.
Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times
17. U Thant Island (New York, New York): A group called Peace Meditation at the United Nations named Manhattan’s smallest island (2,000-square feet) after the Burmese former United Nations Secretary General. It acts as a sanctuary for migrating birds.
18. Newby-McMahon Building (Wichita Falls, Texas): After a nearby oil boom, J.D. McMahon collected investments for a skyscraper to house the influx of people. He swindled the investors, however, when he built the world’s tiniest skyscraper—just 480 inches (40 feet) tall—and pocketed the rest of the money.
Michael Barera / Wikimedia
19. Musical Roads (Tijeras, New Mexico): Musical roads scattered throughout America utilize rumble strips to produce audible vibrations—songs! Roll down your window on this road in Tijeras, and you’ll hear “America the Beautiful.”
20. Fenelon Place Elevator (Dubuque, Iowa): Claimed as the shortest and steepest railroad on the planet, this 189-foot incline railway brings travelers to observation decks where they can glimpse stunning views of downtown Dubuque.
21. Skinny House (Boston, Massachusetts): Just 10 feet at its widest, Boston’s Skinny House was born out of spite. One report suggests the city’s narrowest house was built to cut off light to a building with a “hostile neighbor.”
22. Gregson Street Overpass (Durham, North Carolina): Trucks, SUVs, and tall people wearing tall hats, beware: the tiny, 11-foot, eight-inch bridge nicknamed “The Can Opener” collects—on average—one truck scalp per month.
Washuotaku / Wikimedia
23. Point Roberts (Point Roberts, Washington): You have to travel through 25 miles of Canada to get to this United States city, which was created when the U.K. and the U.S. determined the 49th parallel would form the border between the countries. But they overlooked the southernmost tip of the Tsawwassen Peninsula!
24. Sam Kee Building (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada): Too stubborn to sell his lot of land after the city expropriated 24 feet of his property, Sam Kee built the world’s shallowest commercial building—just five feet deep on the bottom floor.
Can Pac Swire / Flickr
25. Grave of Mary Ellis (New Brunswick, New Jersey): A local spinster died in 1828 and was buried in a site that eventually became the parking lot for an AMC movie theater. The grave is probably more interesting than most movies playing at the theater, to be honest.
Find a Grave
26. Moonlight Towers (Austin, Texas): Before the streetlight boom of the 20th century, cities posted arc-lamps way up in these towers to illuminate multiple blocks at once. Though all but eliminated from North America, Austin still boasts a few 165-foot towers.
27. Bubblegum Alley (San Luis Obispo, California): A piece of chewed gum stuck to a wall may not be your interpretation of sightseeing, but what about thousands of pieces of chewed gum stuck to over 2,000-square-feet of alleyway walls?
Jets Like Taxis
28. Jerimoth Hill (Foster, Rhode Island): At 812 feet high, this rock slab is the highest peak in all of Rhode Island. Hikers who “braved” the .3-mile trail with a 10-foot elevation gain to reach the peak often stack stones on top to make the point that much higher.
29. Magentic Hill (Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada): Thanks to the rising and falling terrain and an obstructed horizon, this road produces an optical illusion making it appear as though cars traveling downhill are actually going uphill.
30. Republic of Indian Stream (Pittsburg, New Hampshire): From 1832 to 1835, elected government officials of this unrecognized constitutional republic served 300 citizens. The republic formed due to an ambiguous boundary between the U.S. and Canada.
New Hampshire Public Radio
31. Clinton Road (West Milford, New Jersey): Besides being home to the country’s longest traffic light—a horrendous burden, really—this infamous road has been the setting for numerous alleged ghost sightings, witches, and creatures.
There’s so much more to North America than even the most frequent flyers might know. What are your favorite unusual North American landmarks?
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