Have you ever wanted to take a 48 state road trip and drive through every one of the contiguous US states in one go? It might sound like a daunting undertaking, with so many things to see in each state and so many different possible routes. But what if I told you there was a scientifically perfect road trip that would take you on an optimized route that hits a top tourist spot in every locale?
It was American PhD student Randy Olson (now Dr. Randal S. Olson) who conceived this perfect road trip itinerary. The goal was to come up with the most efficient route while adhering to these three rules:
- The trip must make at least one stop in all 48 states in the contiguous U.S.
- The trip would only make stops at National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks, or National Monuments.
- The trip must be taken by car and never leave the U.S.
You can see his maps and learn all about his process, tools, and machine-learning algorithms on his blog post, “Computing the optimal road trip across the U.S.“
If you’ve always wanted to travel to 48 states at once, this road trip is for you. It would take about 224 hours of driving (9.33 days) to complete the whole thing. So you could probably do this entire drive in around three weeks…but you should probably take more time to enjoy the drive (and make a few extra detours). There are 50 stops on this 48 state road trip, one in each contiguous state, with the exception of California, that has two, plus a stop in Washington DC.
Of course, our 48 state road trip would probably look a little different. Here at Silly America we love one big thing: roadside attractions. So I’ve compiled his itinerary of 50 road trip stops and added our own below it. Of course, we didn’t use data to plan an optimal road trip route between our roadside attractions, so you’re on your own there.
Ready to hit the road and explore 48 states at once? Let’s explore what you would see on this perfect road trip itinerary.
- 48 State Road Trip
- Grand Canyon, Arizona
- Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
- Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho
- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
- Pikes Peak, Colorado
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
- The Alamo, Texas
- The Platt Historic District (Chickasaw National Recreation Area), Oklahoma
- Toltec Mounds (Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park), Arkansas
- Elvis Presley's Graceland, Tennessee
- Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
- French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
- USS Alabama, Alabama
- Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
- Okefenokee Swamp Park, Georgia
- Fort Sumter National Monument, South Carolina
- Lost World Caverns, West Virginia
- Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, North Carolina
- Mount Vernon, Virginia
- White House, Washington DC
- Colonial Annapolis Historic District, Maryland
- New Castle Historic District, Delaware
- Cape May Historic District, New Jersey
- Liberty Bell, Pennsylvania
- Statue of Liberty, New York
- The Mark Twain House & Museum, Connecticut
- The Breakers, Rhode Island
- USS Constitution, Massachusetts
- Acadia National Park, Maine
- Mount Washington Hotel, New Hampshire
- Shelburne Farms, Vermont
- Fox Theater, Detroit, Michigan
- Spring Grove Cemetery, Ohio
- Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
- West Baden Springs Hotel, Indiana
- Abraham Lincoln's Home, Illinois
- Gateway Arch, Missouri
- C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, Kansas
- Terrace Hill Governor's Mansion, Iowa
- Taliesin, Wisconsin
- Fort Snelling, Minnesota
- Ashfall Fossil Bed, Nebraska
- Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
- Fort Union Trading Post, North Dakota
- Glacier National Park, Montana
- Hanford Site, Washington
- Columbia River Highway, Oregon
- San Francisco Cable Cars, California
- San Andreas Fault, California
- Hoover Dam, Nevada
- 48 State Road Trip to Major Cities
48 State Road Trip
Grand Canyon, Arizona
President Theodore Roosevelt called the Grand Canyon, “the one great sight every American should see.” And who are we to argue? Declared a national monument in 1908, this natural landform is a popular destination for day trippers wanting to take in the glorious expanse or adventurers wanting to hike, ride a mule, or go whitewater rafting.
Where we’d go in Arizona
The Grand Canyon is certainly the must-see attraction in Arizona. Conveniently, it is also a short detour from Route 66, where you’ll find such roadside attractions as Giganticus Headicus, the Rainbow Rock Shop Dinosaurs, Standin’ on the Corner, and Wigwam Village Motel No. 6.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its red, orange, and pink hoodoos: irregular shire-shaped columns of rock that jut out from the landscape. It has the largest concentration of these landforms anywhere on Earth. Take in the glorious Bryce Amphitheater and enjoy the prime overlooks at sunset and sunrise.
Where we’d go in Utah
Utah is also home to two more of the best national parks in America: Zion National Park and Arches National Park. But you’ll probably find us at Hole N” The Rock, a unique, 5,000 square-foot home carved out of a huge rock in Utah’s Canyonlands Country.
Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a U.S. national monument and national preserve in central Idaho. Walk (and drive) among desolate lava fields that date back millions of years ago. The lava field spans for over 750,000 acres (1,100 square miles) and 53,500 acres are preserved within the monument. Among the bleak backdrop you’ll find volcanic rifts, lava rivers, lava tube caves, cinder cones, tree molds, spatter cones, shield volcanoes, and lava beds.
Where we’d go in Idaho
For us, Idaho is about one thing: the potato. Catch us at the Idaho Potato Museum (taking photos with the world’s largest styrofoam potato, learning about the history of the potato, and exploring the unique displays), staying at the Big Idaho Potato Hotel, and chowing down on an ice cream potato (and probably a big bowl of mashed potatoes too).
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park, America’s first National Park, features 3,500 square miles of wilderness: hundreds of animal species, dramatic canyons, scenic hiking trails, flowing rivers, lush forests, hot springs, and more than half the world’s geysers. The most popular and recognizable of Yellowstone’s features is Old Faithful, a geyser that shoots water 100 feet in the air.
Where we’d go in Wyoming
Sure Yellowstone is great, but we’re heading to Douglas to see some wildlife you probably won’t see in Yellowstone: the Jackalope, a mystical creature that has the body of a jack rabbit with the horns of an antelope. Here you’ll find the World’s Largest Jackalope, the Former World’s Largest Jackalope, and a Jackalope Hilltop Silhouette.
Pikes Peak, Colorado
Purple Mountains Majesty: Pikes Peak is such a glorious site that it came to inspire the song “America the Beautiful.” Explore the breathtaking scenery of the Rocky Mountsins at the top of the 14,115 foot summit and all the way there.
Where we’d go in Colorado
Pikes Peak is located just west of Colorado Springs, which also happens to be home to Herkimer, the World’s Largest Beetle.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Hidden beneath the surface of the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico are the more than 100 caves that make up Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The natural wonders were formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone, leaving behind caverns of all sizes. Look for Lechuguilla Cave: at 1,567 feet it is the nation’s deepest and fourth longest limestone cave.
Where we’d go in New Mexico
After exploring what is happening beneath the surface of New Mexico, explore what is happening above in Roswell. Roswell, New Mexico, is known for being the site of an alleged 1947 UFO crash and the town embraces their extraterrestrial ties. Everywhere you turn in Roswell you’ll find alien murals, alien streetlamps, and alien and flying saucer statues. Even the chain restaurants, like KFC, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, get in on the theme with alien-centered decor. And don’t forget to stop at the Area 51 Museum, the International UFO Museum, and the space-age Roswell Welcome Sign.
The Alamo, Texas
Remember the Alamo. This Texas landmark and UNESCO World Heritage site was originally known as Misión San Antonio de Valero Alamo and served as a way station between East Texas and Mexico. But it is probably best known as being the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, where American folk heroes James Bowie and Davy Crockett died. Today you can take an interactive tour, explore exhibits, and experience frontier life in a Living History encampment.
Where we’d go in Texas
They everything is bigger in Texas, and they are right! There are so many weird roadside attractions to choose from. But if you are in San Antonio visiting the Alamo, make a detour to see the World’s Largest Cowboy Boots.
The Platt Historic District (Chickasaw National Recreation Area), Oklahoma
The Chickasaw National Recreation Area in the Platt Historic District (formerly Platt National Park) provides scenic hikes with waterfalls, wildlife viewing, creeks, ponds, lakes, camping, and the historic Sulphur Springs. It is located in the foothills of the Arbuckle Mountains in Oklahoma, near the town of Sulphur. Platt National Park was combined with the Arbuckle Recreation Area in 1976 and became Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Where we’d go in Oklahoma
Oklahoma contains the largest stretch of Route 66, so you can find us there, exploring the larger than life roadside attractions like the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park, Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios, and Pops 66 Soda Ranch.
Toltec Mounds (Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park), Arkansas
Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park (formerly Toltec Mounds) is an archaeological site from the Late Woodland period. the park protects and preserves an 18-mound complex with Arkansas’s tallest remaining, prehistoric Native American mounds. Both a state park and an archeological research station, visitors can explore a visitor center with exhibits, an audiovisual theater, and an educational pavilion that overlooks the mounds. Self-guided and guided tours are offered along two trails.
Where we’d go in Arkansas
We’re probably heading to Fouke, Arkansas, which is home of the Fouke Monster Mart, which is home of the legendary Boggy Creek Monster. The Boggy Creek Monster is Fouke’s answer to bigfoot. The 8-foot-tall, 300-pound, hairy monster has been stalking the area since at least 1834 and had even inspired a series of horror films. Stop in to learn more about this local legend, pick up some souvenirs, and snap your picture with a Boggy Creek Monster photo op.
Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Tennessee
Elvis Presley might just be the most famous resident of Memphis, if not all of Tennessee. There is no Elvis tourist attraction as popular as Graceland: Elvis’s breathtaking mansion. Take a tour of the grounds, walk the gardens where he found peace, view the aircraft that took him from show to show, and experience Elvis Presley’s Memphis entertainment complex to see costumes, artifacts, and mementos.
Where we’d go in Tennessee
Honestly, Graceland is at the top of our list too. But we’d also probably take a trip to celebrate another famous recording artist: Dolly Parton. Visit the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge and the bronze Dolly Parton statue in Sevierville.
Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
Vicksburg National Military Park commemorates the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg during the Civil War. Today you can visit the battlefield to see 1,400 historical monuments, tablets, and markers; 20 miles of reconstructed trenches and earthworks; a 16 mile tour road, emplaced cannons, the USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum, and the Vicksburg National Cemetery.
Where we’d go in Mississippi
If we’re in Mississippi, we’re visiting the remains of an entirely different historic relic. At Smitty’s Super Service in Sandy Hook you can experience a full 3-stage The Rock-afire Explosion band from the now defunct ShowBiz Pizza Place restaurant and arcade.
French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
The French Quarter is the heart and “Crown Jewel” of New Orleans. Lined with colorful buildings with cast-iron balconies, you’ll find history, nightlife, and gourmet food at every turn. From the jazz blasting through Bourbon Street to authentic Cajun eats at small restaurants to the gourmet food and crafts of the French Market to the beautiful and historic St. Louis Cathedral, there is something for everyone.
Where we’d go in Louisiana
We’re visiting the French Quarter too, and, while we’re there, we’ve visiting Mari Gras World to explore the workshop where Mardi Gras floats are made. Blaine Kern Studios has created parade floats for events across the country since 1947, but they are most famous for creating 80% of the giant moving sculptures you see at Mardi Gras. Take a tour of Mardi Gras World to get a glimpse into what it takes to make the annual parade a success. You’ll learn the history, see costumes, explore floats in progress, and get Instagram worthy photos of some of the most elaborate parade floats in the world.
USS Alabama, Alabama
Find the WWII battleship USS ALABAMA at USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. Visit the ship, which is a National Historic Landmark, along with more than 25 historic planes and military vehicles.
Where we’d go in Alabama
Our 48 state road trip to Alabama would take us to a different attraction on water: Lady in the Lake & Bamahenge at Barber Marina in Elberta. George W. Barber’s marina is located on 800 acres on a peninsula between Wolf Bay and Ingram Bayou and it is covered in kooky, weird, and giant works of art. Two of the best finds here are Lady in the Lake (a fiberglass 50-foot woman whose head and knees can be seen floating in the bay) and Bamahenge (a 21-foot tall by 104-foot wide fiberglass Stonehenge replica). Sadly, in 2020, Lady in the Lake was damaged by Hurricane Sally, but it sounds like she’ll be returning to the water soon.
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Florida’s Cape Canaveral is a site home to several launchpads and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. See where the US space program began and explore historic spacecrafts and memorabilia.
Where we’d go in Florida
The Kennedy Space Center is right up our alley, but, when in Florida, we’re more interested in things that come from the ocean over space.That’s why we’re visiting Big Betsy (the giant lobster in Islamorada), Swampy (the World’s Largest Alligator in Christmas), or the Weeki Wachee Mermaids in Spring Hill.
Okefenokee Swamp Park, Georgia
Located in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, the Okefenokee Swamp Park is a natural wonderland and swamp ecosystem. Spread over nearly half a million acres, you’ll experience islands, lakes, jungles, forest, prairies, and all the foliage and animals that come with them.
Where we’d go in Georgia
Nature makes me work up an appetite so we’re heading to KFC. But not just any KFC. We’re going to The Big Chicken in Marietta. The 56-foot tall chicken on Cobb Parkway in Marietta was originally built for Johnny Reb’s Chick-Chuck-‘N’-Shake in 1963. Known as “The Big Chicken,” this giant red bird-shaped building had rolling eyes and a moving yellow beak. In 1974, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) took over the spot and still occupies the (since renovated) spot today. Inside you can get a friend chicken dinner and peruse historical displays.
Fort Sumter National Monument, South Carolina
Located on an artificial island off Charleston, South Carolina (take a ferry to get there), Fort Sumter is a sea fort built to protect the city. It is recognized for being the site of the first battle of the American Civil War.
Where we’d go in South Carolina
When your 48 state road trip takes you through South Carolina, you just have to go South of the Border. Just south of the border between North Carolina and South Carolina you’ll find South of the Border: a campy village worth of shops, restaurants, motel rooms, and amusement rides. It’s hard to miss the over-the-top grounds decorated with a fiesta of flashing lights and fiberglass mascots.
Lost World Caverns, West Virginia
Discovered in 1942, Lost World Caverns is a series of underground natural caverns 120 feet below the Earth’s surface. See a vast display of stalactites, stalagmites, and other rock formations, including The Snowy Chandelier, a 30-ton compound stalactite — one of the largest in the nation!
Where we’d go in West Virginia
Trade in going underground for something you might see flying through the air. There is no greater monument in West Virginia that the Mothman Statue in Point Pleasant. The legend of Mothman has been popular in the Point Pleasant area since 1966 when locals started reporting sightings of a strange flying humanoid monster with red eyes, a 10-foot wingspan, and the face of an insect. A 12-foot tall polished steel Mothman statue was erected to celebrate its legacy.
Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, North Carolina
Visit the place where Wilbur and Orville Wright worked on and took their first flight. See the flight boulder & flight line (the spot of their first flight and landings), reconstructed 1903 camp buildings (to see a glimpse of what their life at the time was like), interactive exhibits at the Visitor Center, and monuments and sculptures devoted to the pair.
Where we’d go in North Carolina
The miracle of flight is one thing, but have you ever seen a 38-foot tall dresser? The World’s Largest Chest of Drawers in High Point was first built in the 1920s by the High Point Chamber of Commerce to pay homage to the town’s status as the “Home Furnishing Capital of the World.” The huge cartoon-like structure, complete with oversized drawers, golden pulls and a pair of mismatched socks, towers over tourists, the traffic lights, and the nearby buildings.
Mount Vernon, Virginia
George Washington’s Mount Vernon is the first president’s former estate where he lived before and after his time as a Revolutionary War General. Visit the preserved grounds, take a tour of the Mansion, stroll through the gardens, take in views of the Potomac River from the East Porch and Grounds, and learn more about American history.
Where we’d go in Virginia
When in Virginia, we’re visiting another historic site. Or, at least, a site that is based on a historic site. Foamhenge in Centreville is Virginia’s Stonehenge made of foam.
White House, Washington DC
You can’t take a 48 state road trip and not also visit Washington DC. And, when in Washington DC, you have to see the White House. The White House serves as the home and workplace of the President of the United States and his or her family, and as a living museum of American history.
Where we’d go in Washington DC
We’re definitely taking in all the sites in DC, White House included. But the National Mall is full of monuments (like the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument) that we’d be occupied for a while. We’re also looking for weird things at the Smithsonian, like a giant squid, a presidential hair collection, and a folding bathtub.
Colonial Annapolis Historic District, Maryland
The Colonial Annapolis Historic District is a historic district in the City of Annapolis, the state capital of Maryland. Designed in a European fashion and designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1965, the historic district feels like a blast from the past. Visit 18th-century buildings like St. Anne’s Episcopal Church and the Maryland State House (the oldest capital building in continuous use).
Where we’d go in Maryland
In Maryland we might head to a different sort of historical building. The Maryland Center for History and Culture in Baltimore features a giant 18-foot-tall statue of Nipper the Dog (a terrier tilting his head and staring into a phonograph, used to promote record company RCA) on its roof.
New Castle Historic District, Delaware
The riverside community of New Castle was founded by Dutch settlers in the 1650s and its Colonial-era historic district was designated as a National Landmark in 1967. Walk the cobblestone streets and visit historical properties and homes like the Old New Castle Courthouse, the Delaware Historical Society’s Read House and Gardens, the Dutch House ,and the Amstel House.
Where we’d go in Delaware
For a more modern architecture experience, were going to the Dover International Speedway to see Miles the Monster. Miles the Monster has served as the mascot for the Dover International Speedway since 2000. In 2008, a giant, 46-foot tall, 20-ton Miles the Monster was erected outside the complex, bursting from the roof.
Cape May Historic District, New Jersey
“The Nation’s Oldest Seashore Resort,” Cape May is located at the southern tip of New Jersey. The Cape May Historical District is designated a National Historic Landmark and is home to the second-largest collection of Victorian houses in the US. Visit beautiful preserved buildings from the 1800s like the Christopher Gallagher House, The Colonial, and The Southern Mansion. Also make a stop at the Cape May Lighthouse in Cape May Point State Park, the country’s second oldest continually operating lighthouse.
Where we’d go in New Jersey
In New Jersey, we’re staying close to the water but heading about an hour north to see a different : LuNational Historic Landmark: Lucy the Elephant in Margate City. Standing at six-stories tall and weighing over 90 tons, Lucy the Elephant is the world’s largest elephant. Lucy was built in 1881 by real estate developer James V. Lafferty.
Liberty Bell, Pennsylvania
The Liberty Bell is best known for being one of the most iconic symbols on American independence and for its wide crack. It rang in the tower of the Pennsylvania State House (now, Independence Hall) and is believed to be one of the bells rung when the Declaration of Independence was signed. See the Liberty Bell in person at the Liberty Bell Visitor center in Philadelphia and learn more about its historic journey.
Where we’d go in Pennsylvania
Driving through 48 states is probably pretty exhausting. So at this point in the journey we think it’s time for some caffeine. The Coffee Pot in Bedford is one of the best roadside attractions in Pennsylvania. David Berton Koontz built the big, 18-foot tall by 22-foot wide coffee pot in 1927 to attract customers to his adjacent service station.
Statue of Liberty, New York
The Statue of Liberty was a gift of friendship from France to the United States. Dedicated on October 28, 1886 and designated as a National Monument in 1924, it has become to be recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The giant neoclassical copper sculpture resides on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City. Admire from afar or take a ferry to see Lady Liberty up close.
Where we’d go in New York
The Statue of Liberty might be one of the most recognizable monuments in New York…but dod you know that there is a giant duck just a couple hours away? The Big Duck is a classic Long Island New York roadside attraction. The giant fowl was originally built in 1931 to serve as a duck-shaped poultry store. The 10-ton, 20-foot tall, 30-foot long, 18-foot wide bird is made of concrete and has the headlights of a Model T Ford for eyes.
The Mark Twain House & Museum, Connecticut
Tour The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, a 25-room Victorian mansion where Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) lived and wrote from 1874 to1891. It was here where the author wrote some of his most important works, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
Where we’d go in Connecticut
Mark Twain is a celebrated American author. And PEZ is a celebrated American candy. On our 48-state road trip we are heading to the PEZ Visitor Center in Orange. We all know PEZ, the delicious mini-candies that are best eaten from a cartoon-headed dispenser. At the PEZ Visitor Center you can learn the history of the popular candy, explore a huge selection of memorabilia and new, vintage, and rare dispensers, and watch the packing factory in action.
The Breakers, Rhode Island
The Breakers is a Gilded Age mansion located in Newport, Rhode Island. The opulent home was built between 1893 and 1895, and served as a summer “cottage” and status symbol for Cornelius Vanderbilt II, a member of the wealthy Vanderbilt family.
Where we’d go in Rhode Island
We probably wouldn’t see any bugs in the well-maintained The Breakers, so let’s go check out the Big Blue Bug in Providence. The 58-foot long giant termite lives on top of Big Blue Bug Solutions in Providence. The business was originally called New England Pest Control but they renamed themselves in 2012 to honor their ever-popular mascot.
USS Constitution, Massachusetts
USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy. Still manned, it operates to promote the Navy and America’s naval heritage through educational outreach, public access (you can take a free tour!), and historic demonstrations. Across the pier from the ship you can also visit the USS Constitution Museum full of hands-on experiences that educate on how the shop was built, sailed, and preserved.
Where we’d go in Massachusetts
You’ll find us just a couple miles away at grabbing some ice cream at the Hood Milk Bottle Building. The giant milk bottle was one of the first examples of novelty architecture in the United States. Built in 1930, ice cream maker Arthur Gagner had it built next to his shop to entice customers in to buy a sweet treat.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. Open year round, the 47,000-acre park features stunning landscapes, rocky beaches, woodland hiking trails, and diverse wildlife (including moose, bear, whales and seabirds) on the coast of Maine. Nearby Bar Harbor is a quaint stop for restaurants, hotels, and shops.
Where we’d go in Maine
It’s hard to pick just one spot we’d go to in Maine. We’d probably do a road trip to eat lobster rolls everywhere and check out Wild Blueberry Land, Eartha (The World’s Largest Rotating Globe), and the Bangor Paul Bunyan.
Mount Washington Hotel, New Hampshire
It’s good that there’s a hotel on this list because after all that driving on this 48 state road trip, it’s time for a good night’s sleep. The glorious Mount Washington Hotel opened in 1902. The white Renaissance Revival hotel features a distinctive red roof and a grand colonnaded veranda. Built by local industrialist Joseph Stickney it was immediately successful and considered the most luxurious hotel of its day. Today the hotel operates as a our-diamond resort with opportunities for skiing, golfing, or taking a spa day.
Where we’d go in New Hampshire
As lovely as that sounds, it might be a little out of our road trip budget here. Luckily, Chutters World’s Largest Candy Counter is only half an hour away. Let’s go spend our money on sweets!
Shelburne Farms, Vermont
Shelburne Farms is a working non-profit working with waling trails, produce, farm-to-table dining, local products (like farmstead cheddar and maple syrup), and educational workshops on everything from historic preservation to cheesemaking.
Where we’d go in Vermont
If you’re heading to Shelburne, Vermont stop at the Shelburne Museum to see the Landlocked Ship. The Shelburne Museum celebrates founder and eccentric spender Electra Havemeyer Webb who, after coming into an inheritance at 18, spent the rest of her life purchasing stuff. Stuff that is now on display for museum visitors. The Shelburne Museum features her 80,000 items (and more) spread across 39 buildings across 45 acres. One of the highlights to see is the Ticonderoga: a vertical beam sidewheel steamship that is 220-feet long and weighs 892 tons.
Fox Theater, Detroit, Michigan
When Detroit’s Fox Theatre opened in 1928 it was the largest of the original Fox Theatres built by film pioneer William Fox. Today, it is the largest surviving movie palace of the 1920s. The theatre currently serves as a 5,000+ seat performing arts center that presents a variety of live performances.
Where we’d go in Michigan
We might take in a show, but we’re also going to go in search of the World’s Largest Cherry Pie(s). Two towns in Michigan claim to have the world’s largest cherry pie: Charlevoix and Traverse City. Charlevoix’s was built 1976, when the town baked the World’s Largest Cherry Pie as part of the their annual cherry festival. In 1987, Traverse City stepped up to the pie plate to outdo their neighbor. At their local cherry festival they made a 28,350 pound cherry pie. Both towns display oversized pie pans in rememberence.
Spring Grove Cemetery, Ohio
Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio is the third largest cemetery in the United States (behind Calverton National Cemetery and Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery). The US National Historic Landmark was established in 1845 the 700-acre plot features lakes, island, footbridges, and wooded areas. Spend a peaceful day and visit the graves of historical figures buried there.
Where we’d go in Ohio
If we’re looking for stones buried in the ground in Ohio, it’s probably going to be in the shape of corn. A Field of Giant Corn Cobs can be found off the highway in Dublin, where stand 109 human-sized ears of corn each standing at 6 feet 3 inches (1.9 m) tall and each weighing in at a whopping 1500 pounds (680 kg.).
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
With more that 400 miles of explored caves, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is the world’s longest known cave system. Mammoth Cave was officially dedicated as a national park by 194, became a World Heritage Site in 1981, and was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1990. 10 miles of the cave is available for tours along with other opportunities for hiking, camping, kayaking, horseback riding, and fishing.
Where we’d go in Kentucky
Mammoth Cave is accessible through Cave City, Kentucky. And Cave City, Kentucky is home to a plethora is weird and wonderful stops. Here you can visit Big Mike’s Mystery House, Crystal Onyx Cave, Dinosaur World, Guntown Mountain, Treasure Trove Park, and Wigwam Village Motel No. 2.
West Baden Springs Hotel, Indiana
West Baden Springs Hotel is the most historic and luxurious hotel in Indiana. Considered by some to be the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the luxury hotel hosts special events, entertainment, and historic tours (even non guests can take part). The turn-of-the-century National Historic Landmark features 243 guest rooms and suites over six circular stories plus numerous other amenities. The focal point of the property is the glorious 200-foot atrium.
Where we’d go in Indiana
West Baden Springs Hotel has a fireplace so big it takes 14-logs to burn. We know another place that could cause a whole lot of fire. We’re heading to the Warm Glow Candle Outlet in Centerville, Indiana to see the World’s Largest Candle!
Abraham Lincoln’s Home, Illinois
Before becoming the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln lived in his home in Springfield, Illinois from 1844 to 1861. Lincoln Home National Historic Site has restored and preserved this house and the surrounding areas to what they would have been in 1860.
Where we’d go in Illinois
There are other Abraham Lincoln roadside attractions to see in or near Springfield, like Abraham Lincoln’s Lucky Nose, the Abraham Lincoln The Railsplitter Statue, and the Giant Lincoln on the World’s Largest Covered Wagon. But if I’m going to see the best of the best roadside attractions in all of Illinois (regarless of presidential status), I’m heading to Big Things in a Small Town Casey, Illinois, home to 12 world’s largest things and a whole slew of other larger than life objects!
Gateway Arch, Missouri
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri is the tallest monument in the US and the world’s tallest arch. The 630-foot-tall stainless-steel monument is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s and St. Louis’s role in the Westward Expansion of the United States during the nineteenth century.
Where we’d go in Missouri
We love the Gateway Arch too, but would probably also set our sights on another tall, silver object: the (former) world’s largest fork. Located in a Springfield parking lot, this 35-foot tall, 11-ton utensil was once the biggest fork in the world (but it is still impressive even since losing the title)!
C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, Kansas
Through the years, Charles Wallace Parker and his company produced around 1,000 carousels. Only 16 of those are known to to still be in operation and two of them can be found at the C. W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth, Kansas. See those and more carousels (like the oldest primitive carousel in the United States and a 1950s aluminum Paul Parker Carousel) and learn about C.W. Parker at this fun museum.
Where we’d go in Kansas
This Carousel museum would be at the top of our list too. But, when in Kansas, there’s, “no place like home.” and so we’d just have to visit Dorothy Gale, the character who wanted nothing more than to return to her farm there in the book and film The Wizard of Oz. In 1981 the town of Liberal declared itself to be the home of Dorothy and imported a house from a nearby town that resembled the one in the movie. You can visit Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz and follow the yellow brick road to the house, take a tour through an animate retelling of the story.
Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, Iowa
Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion (also known as Hubbell Mansion, Benjamin F. Allen House or the Iowa Governor’s Mansion), is the official residence of the governor of Iowa. The 18,000 square foot home was built in a Second Empire architecture style in 1869.
Where we’d go in Iowa
Terrace Hill might be the governor’s home, but another place in Iowa is home to someone even more well known. Or, at least, someone who will be even more well known. We’re heading to Riverside, Iowa: the Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk.
Taliesin was the 37,000-square-foot home, studio, school, and estate of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The National Historic Landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site features buildings that span Wright’s career from the 1890s to the 1950s. Guests can enjoy tours, special programming, a gift shop, and a cafe.
Where we’d go in Wisconsin
While Taliesin is an impressive home, it is certainly not the most eccentric house in WIsconsin. That’s while you’d find us at House on the Rock. Alex Jordan built a house on a 60-foot chimney of rock in Wisconsin in the 1940s. Today, House on the Rock is perhaps the most well-known tourist attraction in Wisconsin. Filled to the brim with collections of lanterns, musical instruments, lights, dollhouses, and more, the 14-room house will take you hours to explore. Be sure to visit the world’s largest indoor carousel and its 269 carousel animals, a highlight of the kooky attraction.
Fort Snelling, Minnesota
Fort Snelling is a former military fortification in Minnesota. Located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, this National Historic Landmark features fort tours and reenactments. The fort doesn’t shy away from its painful history of the Native people original to the lade, trade, soldiers, immigrants, and enslaved people.
Where we’d go in Minnesota
There’s one site every roadside attraction love should see on this 48 state road trip: the Paul Bunyan & Babe the Blue Ox Statues in Bemidji. Minnesota legend says that its 10,000 lakes were formed when Paul Bunyan’s footprints were filled with water. So it’s not wonder that at least two of Minnesota’ best roadside attractions revolve around this folklore giant.
Ashfall Fossil Bed, Nebraska
This unique Nebraska park is situated on 360 acres of land that was once covered from a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. Left behind were the fossil skeletons of animals of the time. The fossil bed is being excavated and fossil skeletons are left in place for public viewing
Where we’d go in Nebraska
There is one place you can’t miss in Nebraska: Carhenge. Carhenge is a replica of England’s Stonehenge… but made from cars. Standing at 96 feet in diameter and made up of thirty eight gray-painted cars, the roadside attraction was created in 1987 by experimental artist Jim Reinders.
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Find four presidential busts carved into the side of a mountain in Keystone, South Dakota. The 60-foot-high granite faces depict U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln and represent the birth, growth, development and preservation of this country.
Where we’d go in South Dakota
No road trip to Mount Rushmore would be complete without a stop at Wall Drug. Trust me, you can’t miss the barrage of road signs leading the way. The Western-themed shopping mall features a drug store, gift shop, restaurants, travelers church, taxidermy, a giant Jackalope, an 80-foot brontosaurus, and free ice water for all.
Fort Union Trading Post, North Dakota
Fort Union served as an important fur trading post between 1829 and 1867. Here, Assiniboine, Crow, Cree, Ojibway, Blackfeet, Hidatsa, and other tribes exchanged buffalo robes and small furs for goods from around the world. Today, the site has been partially reconstructed and operates as a National Historic Site.
Where we’d go in North Dakota
We’d go see a buffalo that would have produced one mighty large robe to trade: The World’s Largest Buffalo Monument in Jamestown. The World’s Largest Buffalo Monument (nicknamed Dakota Thunder) is a must-see road trip stop for any roadside attraction lover! At 26 feet tall, 46 feet long, and weighing in at 60 tons, this big bison is certainly a site to behold!
Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park is a 1,583 square mile wilderness area in Montana’s Rocky Mountains. Established as a National Park in 1910, you can explore a range of majestic landforms: alpine meadows, waterfalls, deep forests, carved valleys, spectacular lakes, and about 25 glistening glaciers. With over 700 miles of trails, there is a wonderment of beauty to take in.
Where we’d go in Montana
There is plenty of wildlife to see at Glacier National Park (like grizzly bears, mountain goats, and beavers), but, above all else, you have to look for this penguin. Near Glacier National Park, Cut Bank, Montana claims to be the “Coldest Spot in the Nation” (or at least in the lower 48). The town celebrates their moniker with 27-foot tall, 10,000 pound giant penguin statue (Penguin Colossus). The friendly penguin was constructed by Ron Gustafson in 1989 and (at least in theory) talks!
Hanford Site, Washington
The Hanford Site is a decommissioned nuclear production complex operated by the United States federal government. For nearly 30 years at this site, The U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Energy produced plutonium for the atomic weapon program. In doing so, they produced large quantities of waste containing hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials, some of which leaked into the land and water. The site is now open for tours.
Where we’d go in Washington
If exploring a former nuclear testing site is a little too dystopian for you, head to Seattle’s most quirky neighborhood instead: Fremont. There are plenty of weird, wacky, and peculiar things to see in Fremont, a weird wacky and peculiar neighborhood in Seattle, Washington. Look for the Fremont Troll, the Fremont Rocket, and a statue of Lenin, among others.
Columbia River Highway, Oregon
The historic Columbia River Highway is a 75-mile long scenic highway that stretches between Troutdale and The Dalles in Oregon. It was the first scenic highway in America to be named a National Historic Landmark. The drive isn’t long, but it is picturesque, with plenty of things to see along the way. Visit majestic waterfalls (including Multnomah Falls, the most visited natural site in Oregon), temperate rainforests, and 900-foot cliffs.
Where we’d go in Oregon
We love a good scenic highway, but we want to explore a different type of forest in Oregon, an Enchanted Forest. Oregon’s Enchanted Forest is a fairy-tale-themed theme park that’s been open since 1971. You can ride bumper cars or walk through a haunted house, but the real star of this attraction is Storybook Lane, where you can explore Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole, visit Humpty Dumpty, and slide down a giant witch’s hair.
San Francisco Cable Cars, California
When you 48 state road trip takes you through San Francisco, you have to ride a cable car. The San Francisco cable car system is the world’s last manually operated cable car system. Take in scenic views of the city as the iconic cars take you up and down the hills.
San Andreas Fault, California
The San Andreas Fault forms the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. It spans around 745 miles through California and is more accessible than any other fault in the world. Though some viewing spots require a hike, others are accessible by car. Look for fault sites near Palm Springs, Frazier Park, Pinnacles National Park, and San Francisco.
Where we’d go in California
This 48-state road trip chose two locations in California, so we’re going to choose two California roadside attractions as well! First is Trees Of Mystery in Klamath. Trees of Mystery opened in 1931 and is one of California’s oldest roadside attractions. The mountainside park offers panoramic scenic views of California redwoods with a side of kitsch. But we are here for the 49-foot tall Paul Bunyan statue and 35-foot companion Babe the Blue Ox.
Next is the Cabazon Dinosaurs in Cabazon. The Cabazon Dinosaurs feature two giant dinosaurs (a 150-foot-long Brontosaurus and a 65-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus Rex) that are visible from Interstate 10. They were constructed in 1964 to bring in business to the adjacent, now closed, Wheel Inn.
Hoover Dam, Nevada
The Hoover Dam spans over the Colorado River between the border of Nevada and Arizona. The concrete arch-gravity dam was constructed during the Great Depression, from 1931 to 1936, and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Nearly seven million visitors a year come to see and walk across this great engineering marvel.
Where we’d go in Nevada
We’re going to end this 48 state road trip with a good night’s sleep in Nevada. Or, maybe not. A night at Tonopah’s Clown Motel might be too much for anyone with even a bit of coulrophobia. It isn’t just the iconic sign out front that features a clown: clowns are everywhere in this motel! There are shelves full of figurines in the lobby and paintings in the rooms. If that isn’t creepy enough, this motel was built right next to a closed cemetery.
48 State Road Trip to Major Cities
If cities are more your thing, Olson also developed another route that stops at the TripAdvisor-rated Best City to Visit in every contiguous US state. It contains an extra stop in Ohio to force the route around Canada and omits stops in North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia, which contain no top-rated cities. View his route here and see the list of stops below.
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Wichita, Kansas
- Denver, Colorado
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- San Francisco, California
- Portland, Oregon
- Seattle, Washington
- Boise, Idaho
- Park City, Utah
- Jackson, Wyoming
- Billings, Montana
- Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- Omaha, Nebraska
- Des Moines, Iowa
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Chicago, Illinois
- Indianapolis, Indiana
- Louisville, Kentucky
- Columbus, Ohio
- Detroit, Michigan
- Cleveland, Ohio
- Manchester, New Hampshire
- Portland, Maine
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Providence, Rhode Island
- New Haven, Connecticut
- New York City, New York
- Ocean City, New Jersey
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Wilmington, Delaware
- Baltimore, Maryland
- Washington, D.C.
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Orlando, Florida
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Birmingham, Alabama
- Jackson, Mississippi
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Houston, Texas
- Little Rock, Arkansas
- Branson, Missouri