Explore the Fun and Quirky
The summertime is one of the best time for getting away from it all. It's also the perfect time to travel before beginning the school year. There are some fun-filled, quirky destinations to visit that will educate, entertain and inspire!
Historic Route 66 captivates travelers from around the world. It runs between between Chicago and Los Angeles, and allows you to “get your kicks on Route 66.” This fabled road winds its way through the heart of the United States on a trip that guarantees picturesque roadside scenes with everything from neon signs, middle-of-nowhere truck stops, and lore of Americana. Since 1926, driving down Route 66 has been the experience of a lifetime.
Before it was named Route 66, the unpaved version of this road was traversed by the National Old Trails Highway, one of the first transcontinental highways. As well, Route 66 earned the moniker “Main Street of America,” as it was lined by hundreds of cafés, motels, gas stations, and tourist attractions. During the Great Depression, many farm families made their way west along Route 66 to California, along what John Steinbeck called “The Mother Road.”
Route 66 was officially decommissioned in 1985. Though it no longer officially exists, a great deal of Route 66 remains to be driven and enjoyed and today, thousands delight in the vintage peeks along the old highway. This main thoroughfare offers up an aura of historical mystique. After all, Route 66 is the sight of the Meramec Caverns, who gave the world the first bumper sticker. It is also the birthplace of the road trip, with billboards and giant statues dotting the highway with a menagerie of roadside attractions, diners and motels. Driving along Route 66, you will pass by the Grand Canyon, Native American communities of the desert, small-town Oklahoma and the Ozarks, major cities of St. Louis and Chicago and much, much more. Some of the California attractions along Route 66 include The Figueroa Street Tunnels which once carried Route 66 traffic, the Colorado Street Bridge, otherwise known as the “Suicide Bridge,” Bottle Tree Ranch, Roys Motel, an iconic desert gas stop in Amboy, the 22-foot fiberglass Chicken Boy statue, the “Welcome to Needles” covered wagon sign, the Bagdad cafe in Newberry Springs, the Wigwam Motel in San Bernadino and of course the Santa Monica Pier – the symbolic end of the historic highway.
Other fabled spots include The Hackberry General Store in Arizona, The Blues Brothers greeting you at the Polk-A-Dot Drive-in in Braidwood, Illinois, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, the faded “Palace Drug Store” mural ghost sign in Galena, Kansas, the giant Braum's milk bottle in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, The “Big Texan” restaurant in Amarillo, Texas, Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, and the “Blue Swallow” motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico.
As Route 66 doesn't appear on modern maps anymore the best way to traverse it is through the turn by turn descriptions on www.historic66.com. However, the portion of Route 66 that runs through the Mojave Desert just east of Amboy, California, will be closed through mid-September because of bridge construction. You can still check it out, but you’ll have to backtrack onto Interstate 40 to Kelbaker Road to get through to Amboy.
There are many more quirky and fun trips all over the United States. What could be better than the excitement of climbing into the car, riding on a ferry, or simply checking out a new place you've never been before? Get ready for an adventure because the expectation of what lies ahead makes it all worthwhile!
Gorgeous Mendocino County, California is awash in natural beauty. But there's an even more stunning stop that you have to make called Glass Beach. True to its name, the sand is awash in shining glass pieces in all sizes and colors. Formerly a garbage dump, the broken bottles and glass shards that lined the shoreline were pounded by unrelenting waves over the years and now, beautiful colored pebbles mingle with the sand.
More fun things to do in Mendocino include the Skunk Train, forty miles of railroad which has been rolling for 129 years. Your trip will take you through stunning redwood forests, scenic flowers, and pristine mountain waterviews. For a more spiritual sense, visit the Jeweled Hall of 10,000 Buddhas, which features a diverse group of Buddha images lining the walls along with a vegetarian restaurant. And if you want to walk on the wild side, check out B Bryan Preserve, a piece of African savannah on the Mendocino coast. You can roam with the animals, including Roan, Sable and Greater Kudu Antelope, and endangered Grevy’s and Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra and Rothschild’s Giraffe. Continue your road trip to Mendocino with the Highway 128 Wine Road, a 75-mile drive studded with family-run wineries, vineyards, and towering redwoods.
If you are looking for a quiet space to visit and clear your head, the unique experience of Bandon, Oregon is the perfect fit. This ethereal coastal city is located five hours south of Portland and is best known for its beaches marked by boulders that jut from water, the most well-known being Face Rock. And if you are a golfer, look no further. With the ocean along one side of the course, beautiful firs on the other, Bandon Dunes offers a Scottish-inspired design with four 18-hole courses, a 13-hole par 3 course, a 2,000-acre putting green.
Have you ever want to climb inside of an elephant? Well you can! Meet Lucy, an iconic example of zoomorphic architecture – in other words, animal-shaped buildings. Built in 1881, she’s America’s oldest surviving roadside attraction. That means she's older than the Statue of Liberty!
Lucy is 65 feet tall and 60 feet long, and she weighs 90 tons. Her bones are made of steel and her skin of tin and for $8, you get to climb inside her. She's located in the city of Margate, New Jersey which is just outside of Atlantic City. Lucy features a gift shop, as well as a covered balcony, offering sweeping views of the adjacent beach. And speaking of beaches, Margate also is a prime destination for fishers who want to get out on the ocean. You can book a half-day, full day or overnight trip on a charter, take sailing lessons and guided kayak nature tours, or even rent a boat. Take a walk down Ventnor Avenue to check out quaint clothing boutiques, surf shops and beauty salons. Browse the goods at Margate Farmers’ Market, which includes locally grown produce, baked goods, specialty herbs, fresh flowers, roasted coffee and fresh seafood.
Who doesn't love the sweet taste of fudge? When you get off the ferry at Mackinac Island, a majestic spot near Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the delicious smell with greet your senses. Over a dozen fudge shops can be found downtown. Flavors include French Vanilla, Amaretto Chocolate Chip, Butter Pecan, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Nut, English toffee, Monsters, Pecan Rolls and Clusters among many others. There are no cars allowed on the island, which have been banned since 1896, so you have to walk, cycle or take a horse-drawn taxi. Stroll among the grand Victorian houses and inns, lighthouses, colonial forts and untouched forests. Visit the island’s grand dame, the romantic 390-room Grand Hotel, with its gorgeous Grand Dining Room and the world’s longest porch, but dress to impress – evening wear is required after 6:30 p.m. Non-guests of the hotel can pay $10 to explore. During August, you can enjoy the annual Mackinac Island Fudge Festival. It’s an unforgettable explosion of taste.
Redwood trees will dwarf you at Humboldt Redwoods State Park in California. Take a drive along Avenue of the Giants: a 30-plus-mile scenic highway that powers through the Northern California redwood forest. It's the perfect place to appreciate Mother Nature's bounty. There are eight viewpoints along the road, many containing fishing and swimming holes. But the best part of the drive is the gentle giants – the trees. Many redwoods reach heights beyond 250 feet — and a few tower above 375 feet. Don't miss visiting The Giant, the biggest redwood in the world.
You can stay at one of the nearby campgrounds – Burlington and Hidden Springs – and there are 100 miles of hiking trails. There are also several lodges, historic inns and roadhouses. Keep an eye out, you may spot Bigfoot!
For a view and a vibe of some truly inspiring art you should head to upstate New York. Ithaca, Hudson, Oneonta and Rochester all have a thriving arts scene.
Ithaca is a city that believes in decorating itself with unique pieces. Walk around town and you'll see painted daisies embellishing walls alongside real vines, stainless-steel sculptures, wild dinosaurs and lave-spilling volcanoes, and murals of figures fighting their way in the snow. As well there is a plethora of theaters, and galleries to see.
The Victorian-styled town of Hudson is located a mere two-hours from New York City. You will be treated to 19 art galleries, two museums and 45(!) antique shops. Other local attractions include the Pleshakov Piano Museum, where there are several different instrument displays, including early and modern keyboard instruments from the days of Michelangelo to Mozart and Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt.
In Oneonta, a small city nestled in the hills of the Catskill Region, you'll find museums featuring anything and everything from art to farming to animals. Head over to check out the butterflies, reptiles and sloths at the Popp Butterfly Conservatory. If you're into sports, you'll love the Baseball Hall of Fame in nearby Cooperstown. Or simply travel down Main Street, which is lined with delicious locally owned restaurants for you to try.
Options abound in Rochester, with everything from the contemporary Art Center to the Flower City Arts Center, where locals take classes on subjects like book arts, ceramics and photography. There are also more than two dozen theatrical companies in town. And the standout showcase is the Memorial Art Gallery, which is truly funky – but in a good way.
Beaches, beaches, beaches. After all it's in the name right? Get enthralled in the unique island of Palm Beach in Florida. Palm Beach is filled to the brim with local attractions, distinctive architecture, superb restaurants, world-class shopping, happenings, and more. It's also home to legendary resorts, elegant mansions, dining and notable landmarks. It is truly an luxe destination that can be compared to New York’s Madison Avenue and Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive.
Palm Beach is home to a castle – yep, a castle. Whitehall was built by Henry Morrison Flagler and is now known as Flagler Museum. It's a National Historic Landmark and well worth a visit. As well, a trip to the isle would not be a trip without mentioning The Breakers at Palm Beach. Founded in 1896, the resort is situated on 140 acres of oceanfront property, with 538 rooms; 4 pools; 9 acclaimed restaurants; 11 shops; an indoor-outdoor fitness facility; and a stunning spa. So scoot over to Florida and get pampered at this unique destination!
Tarzan and The Jungle Book have nothing on the “Secluded Intown Treehouse.” This private tree house is not in the jungle...unless you count the urban jungle in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia. The house is divided into three tree houses connected by rope bridges and tastefully furnished with reclaimed wood, antiques and beautiful butterfly-encrusted windows. The three houses are named Spirit, a platform twisted around a 165-year-old Southern pine; Mind, the spot to chow down and relax on a comfy couch and armchairs with snack baskets that carry wine, cold water, and fruit; and Body, the bedroom, with a heated mattress that rolls out to the porch, so you can sleep under the stars.
There are some more unique activities to do in Atlanta besides sleeping in a tree. Constitution Lakes Park is a nature preserve, offering thriving wetlands and wildlife refuge. But that isn't what's unusual. That goes to the short hike running through it known as Doll’s Head Trail – created for and dedicated to “found art.” The Doll’s Head Trail is the brainchild of a local carpenter named Joel Slaton, who envisioned art created from discarded doll parts and other trash. The trail is dominated by doll heads, bottle creations, collages, decorated bricks, and truck part tableaus. The key to the collection is the idea that everything must being “found” – within the Park itself. Talk about recycling!
You can be a secret agent in the windy city! In Chicago, an unusual spot called the Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co. is the place for all things spy! Inside the store you can find anything a secret agent could want: disguises, carrier pigeons, voice modulators and more. Yet The Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co. is much more than just a fun-filled space. It supports 826Chicago, a children’s writing workshop and tutoring center.
For incredible views of Chicago head over to the Sears Tower Glass Platform. The Sears Tower is the third tallest building in the world – 110 stories! In the building’s 103rd floor observation room, the Skydeck, you can step above the city in a completely transparent three sides, top, and bottom extension designed to create the sensation of hovering over Chicago in mid air. No fear of heights allowed!
There may be no place like home and Oz Park is the proof of that! It's one of Chicago's hidden gems and is completely Wizard of Oz-themed, with statues of all the characters – except the Wicked Witch! Better keep some water on hand in case she shows up! You can even check out Dorothy's ruby slippers!
Voodoo and New Orleans go hand in hand, which makes the city a super fun place to visit. Of course, strolling along Bourbon Street and rocking out to the jazz music is a must, but if you really want to get into the nitty gritty visit the New Orleans' Historic Voodoo Museum. Founded in 1972 by Charles Massicot Gandolfo, an artist who was into all things Voodoo, the museum shows off everything mystical and occult. The museum concentrates on Louisiana Voodoo or New Orleans Voodoo. You can get your future told, and the museum’s gift shop sells interesting fare like chicken feet and snake skins along with the infamous Voodoo Love potion and the New Orleans Voodoo Coffin Kits. Walking tours of St. Louis Cemetery are also offered, where you can visit the tomb of one of the most famous practitioners of New Orleans Voodoo, Marie Laveau.
The mansion at 1239 First Street in New Orleans is known as The Rosegate House because of the rosette pattern in its fence. Built in 1857 it takes a nod to every architectural style. It features Greek revival colonnades, Italianate flourishes and a hexagonal window and is a beautiful addition to the Gardens District. The neighborhood – and the house – is famous for its paranormal activity. But the most popular occult manifestation of the Rosegate House is that it was once owned by author Anne Rice, who based her home as a setting for her Louisianan occult novels.
Take a road trip up to the gorgeous city of Seattle. Most definitely a bucket list item for any visit is the Space Needle, Seattle’s most iconic structure. At a height of 605 feet, at the Space Needle you get fabulous 360 degree views including Mt. Rainier, Puget Sound, the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, and of course the beautiful city.
In Seattle Center is the Museum of Pop Culture. Dedicated to contemporary popular culture, MoPOP offers exhibits like history of Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix’s Seattle roots, and the state-of-the-art interactive Sound Lab where you can discover your own Seattle sound.
Thirsty? In the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood is an extremely mysterious soda vending machine. Nobody knows who runs it, or its history – it looks like it was plunked down in the 70s – but locals continue to drop in their change and the machine is always full! Push the “mystery” button and you'll a get a random soda from selections like Cherry Coke, Cherry Zero, Orange Crush, Mountain Dew and more!
You only have a few weeks before school begins! Get out there and explore the fun and funky attractions from all over the U.S.A.!