The Top Ten U.S. Roadside Attractions - Page 3

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Trees of Mystery
ICONS UNITE!: Paul Bunyan and his faithful ox at Trees of Mystery  (courtesy, Wikimedia Commons)

5. Territorial Prison in Yuma, AZ
It's like walking onto the set of Jesse James' Old West. The prison was first occupied in 1876 and eventually housed some 3,000 desperados—mostly murderers, polygamists, revolutionaries, and robbers, plus a couple of dozen outlaw women. Over 100 inmates died there, mainly of tuberculosis, while 26 prisoners escaped (either by going over or under the wall), and eight later died of gunshot wounds sustained during re-capture. Old walls and a cell block remain, with strap-iron cages built by the prison work crews. Photo ops include putting on a striped suit and having a mug shot taken, complete with prisoner I.D. number. From I-8 follow the signs to Yuma. Park is open daily 8:00 to 5:00 and closed on Christmas Day. Admission is free for 13 and under, and $4 for adults (928.783.4771).

4. Jungle Adventures in Christmas, FL
What first grabs your attention is the 200-foot-long alligator. It's not real, of course, but it makes for fantastically silly photos. The monster-sized reptile serves as the ticket booth and gift shop for Jungle Adventures, a classic old-Florida roadside attraction. Just eight miles west of I-95, near Orlando, the small nature park features a Jungle Swamp Cruise through alligator-infested waters. They also have Florida panthers, native bear, and other exotic pets that needed a good home. There's plenty of excitement during alligator feeding time, and when Jungle Jim wrestles the giant reptiles into submission. Open year round. Adults are $20, children from 3 to 11 cost $11 (877.424.2867).

3. Trees of Mystery in Klamath, CA
In the heart of the mighty Redwoods lives a nearly-50-foot-tall statue of Paul Bunyan and his 35-foot sidekick, Blue Ox. But Bunyan hasn't been busy swinging his axe; rather, he and Blue stand guard over Trees of Mystery, one of the best places to see some of the biggest trees in the world. The park, on California Highway 101, 36 miles from the Oregon border, features a gondola that sweeps you more than 1,500 feet above the canopy. A paved trail winds through the forest, past remarkable old-growth trees that resemble candelabras and cathedrals. Don't miss the giant, 2,000-year-old Sequoia. Trees of Mystery is open every day except Christmas; Adults are $13.50, kids 4 to 10 are $6.50 (800.638.3389).

2. Secret Caverns in Cobleskill, NY
Strict caving buffs might prefer the more traditional spelunking experience of nearby Howe Caverns, but in terms of a glitzy roadside attraction, it's hard to match Secret Caverns. Advertising fanfare aside, the limestone caves really are an underground wonder, with a colorful 100-foot waterfall and prehistoric fossils. Tours at Secret Caverns are all about fun and fantasy with guides spinning wild tales to amuse tourists. Above ground there's a collection of folk art that rivals a Grateful Dead festival. Just down the road, Howe Caverns has an elevator and boat rides in a fantastic underground lake, plus a hotel, restaurant, and candy shop. Both Secret Caverns and Howe Caverns are off I-88, a half dozen miles east of Cobleskill. Secret Caverns is open daily mid-April through November; adult admission is $16, kids 6 to 15 are $8; (518.296.8558; Howe Caverns: 518.296.8900).

1. Maryhill Museum and Stonehenge, Goldendale, WA
This windswept expanse of the Columbia River George, just off I-84 about 100 miles east of Portland, promises scenery, history, and one of the best car-free biking/hiking roads in the country. The 600-acre ranch belonged to turn-of-the-century entrepreneur Sam Hill. He built the museum on a bluff high above the river. Peacocks roam the sculpture gardens (and kids love exploring the grounds in search of feathers). Among the exhibits you'll discover a roomful of Rodin sculptures, a collection of ornate chess sets, and objets d'art from the Queen of Romania's castle. The property includes Loop Road, a 3.6-mile paved road with dizzying switchbacks that's closed to cars, and the magnificent Stonehenge, a life-size replica of the original archeological wonder in England. Admission to Stonehenge, the sculpture gardens, and Loop Road is free; the museum is open daily from March 15 through November 15, cost is $7 for adults and $2 for kids 6 to 16 (509.773.3733).

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2 Comments:

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