After having your travel options limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic of the last two years, you — like many other adventure-starved Americans — may have heard the siren song of our fair country’s open roads.
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Happily for the intrepid road-tripper, the United States abounds with soaring skyscrapers, winding mountain hiking trails, sandy beaches, bubbling geysers, awe-inspiring natural wonders, and rolling waves of grain — all waiting to be explored. Even better: the roads to these destinations are lined with unusual tourist attractions that awe, delight, and just-plain weird-out those who gaze upon them.
To add to your North America adventure bucket list, we’ve rounded up a few USA tourist attractions for travelers seeking something a little more weird than a trip to Walt Disney World, less kitschy than Niagara Falls, less noisy than the Las Vegas Strip, less hyped than the Grand Canyon, less crowded than Times Square (but also, just as American as the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore).
Keep in mind: Some tourist destinations and businesses may be closed or operating with limited hours due to the pandemic, so be sure to call ahead to confirm hours.
The Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Not for the squeamish or faint of heart, the Mütter houses a macabre and extensive collection of medical specimens and oddities. The guided tours through this collection can be horrifying, amazing, and sometimes shocking, but are always informative.
The Sip N’ Dip (Great Falls, Montana)
To many Montana represents the American west and beautiful landscapes and national parks, and while Yellowstone National Park is a can’t miss destination, when you tire of the sweeping vistas, head on over to Great Falls Montana. At this colorful waterpark, you can have a drink, and watch mermaids swim in a tank behind the bar and enjoy a tropical anomaly in the middle of the untamed American wilderness.
The Clown Motel (Tonapah, Nevada)
Coulrophobes beware: While most Americans think of Las Vegas or Reno when planning a road trip through Nevada. Real adventurers will head to Tonapah to check out the Clown Motel. Situated next to a graveyard, and filled with a collection of dolls, paintings, and ephemera it is a one-of-a-kind collection.
Seattle Underground (Seattle, Washington)
When visiting Seattle make a point to see the secret city. After a fire-ravaged Seattle in the late 1880s the city recovered by starting over, above the ruins. So before settling in for a visit at the hectic Pike Place market, book a tour through the hidden city lurking below the high tech metropolis.
Fort Quadrangle (San Antonio, Texas)
Granted, this is an active military base rife with American History, but the real reason to visit, is the tranquil grounds resemble a pleasant scene one may expect in any Disney movie. Rabbits, deer, and birds frolic and nest on the grounds as if they were waiting for a princess to stroll through singing.
PimpProv (Chicago, Illinois)
Navy Pier, Shmavy Shmeer. Instead of this somewhat touristy amusement park overlooking Lake Michigan, your first stop should be the CiC Theater to catch a show of PimpRov Improv. The hilarious, albeit highly unfriendly show features, as the website states, “Pimps that improvise”.
Museum of Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company (Boston, Massachusetts)
The Museum of Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company has sat in Boston’s Faneuil Hall since 1746. The honors every war America has been a part of since George Washington became our first president, with uniforms, firearms, swords, and more.
Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, Tenessee)
Graceland is the more famous home and theme park dedicated to Tennessee musical royalty. And the king may have lived at Graceland, but tucked away in Pigeon Forge hides another magic kingdom ruled over by the fun-loving and mega-talented queen. Dollywood is a can’t miss for any fan of Dolly Parton’s famous larger than life personality.
The Museum of Sex (New York City, New York)
Take the kids to a Broadway musical or the Empire State Building. But if it’s just you adults, The Museum of Sex is a can’t-miss. The unique museum showcases everything from naughty artifacts to a bounce house made of inflatable breasts.
Wall Drug (Wall, South Dakota)
This tourist stop is a must-visit for those trekking across South Dakota. From the iconic dinosaur statues to the world-famous jackalope collection, there is a quirky surprise around every corner and should bring a smile to any traveler. Oh, and don’t forget to grab your cup of Wall Drug’s famous free ice water.
Cape Romano Dome Home (Cape Romano, Florida)
Once upon a time in 1980, super-rich couple Bob and Margaret Lee dreamed of building a vacation home for their family. But instead of your usual cottage or houseboat, the Cape Romano home would be a futuristic six-dome structure in the middle of the ocean, about 5 miles south of Marco Island (though it looks like belongs on planet Tatooine). The ill-fated domes, however, were ravaged over the years by Hurricanes Andrew, Wilma, and Irma, and only their granite structures remain for the tourists, fishermen, and birds.
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum (New Orleans, Louisiana)
If you’re feeling a little partied out, take a break from hopping bars around the French Quarter by visiting the quiet, air-conditioned New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum. The tiny museum is packed with Voodoo dolls, skulls, altars to notorious priests and priestesses, and more.
San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park (San Diego, California)
A road trip through California usually includes San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz and past Los Angeles’ Hollywood before heading west. But whenever possible, we want to urge you not to miss San Diego. There city has a lot going on for it, but our favorite spot might have to be the San-Diego La Jolla, Underwater Park. We’ll tell you why: just about anyone with lungs can visit Yosemite National Park or Central Park or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but you’ll need gills — or at the very least, scuba gear — to explore the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park. The man-made park-under-the-sea has artificial reefs frequented by colorful fish, leopard shakes, seals, and more.