A road trip across the U.S. is a right of passage for some, and it's easier to do so here than in many other countries. Gas stations, food, and sleeping accommodations are usually only an exit away, no matter where you're traveling. Many small towns know this and have carved out their niches to attract visitors. Then there are the places that accidentally became famous (or infamous). From bizarre to cute, small-town America's got it all. But don't take our word for it; see for yourself.
Casey, Illinois, was established in 1834. However, it wasn't until much later that the town began carving out its own niche as a place that houses comically large items. The town is home to a 56-foot-tall rocking chair and a 32-foot-tall pencil, among other things. If there's ever been a really large object you've wanted to see in person, then we have a feeling you can find it in Casey.
The attractions were started by a man named Jim Bolin, who wanted to bring in tourists and help the local economy after the Great Recession, and it seems to have worked.
San Luis Obispo, California, has the distinction of being known as the home of what's probably the largest bubble gum alley in the world. While no one knows for sure how the alley started, there are some theories out there, including that it started out as a graduating class event or that it started as a school rivalry. The alley stretches back at least to the 1950s, but it has and still does divide local opinions.
Some see it as an eyesore, while others consider it a work of art. Either way, it's not likely to come down anytime soon, and the 70-foot-long and 15-feet-high wall continues to attract visitors.
Slab City, California, is known for being one of the last lawless places in the U.S., or so the slogan goes. The town is a collection of misfits, hippies, the homeless, and just regular people looking to get away from civilization. The town, which is actually unincorporated, charges $30 a night to stay there, or visitors can bring their own RV. Apparently, police also occasionally patrol the area, meaning it's not entirely lawless.
The community in Slab City also regularly gets together for social gatherings and things like karaoke. If you plan on stopping by during your next road trip, then be prepared to embrace your inner free spirit.
Cottonwood, Idaho, might just be one of the only places in the world where you can stay the night inside a giant dog-shaped hotel. The Dog Park Inn is a hit with children and canines alike, and it was built to pay tribute to some of the weird roadside attractions you can find across the U.S. and on this list. However, visitors will have to book well ahead as the inn is quite busy.
Aside from the Dog Park Inn, this small town also hosts its own monastery. The Benedictine monastery says that it welcomes people of all faiths, and road trippers can also find accommodation here.
Probably home to one of America's most unusual events, Clark, South Dakota's claim to fame is that it hosts yearly mashed potato wrestling matches. Wrestlers dress up in costumes and face off with rivals in what must be some riveting storylines. The best part is that travelers can partake in the antics as well, which are usually held in a small pool filled with mashed potatoes.
There are also more "traditional" festivities at each event if wrestling in a giant container filled with mashed potatoes isn't your thing. However, to truly get the experience, it wouldn't hurt to sign up for a friendly match.
Legend has it that Scottsboro, Alabama, was actually created out of the frustration of every traveler that has used an airline over the last half-century. Not really. In truth, Scottsboro is known for being the place where the world's unclaimed luggage ends up. Travelers can even visit the town and bid on lost luggage sight unseen. While we're pretty sure that most of the lost luggage only contains things like clothes, there have been some notable finds here.
The museum that houses some of the more rare finds claims that in addition to finding the guidance system of an F-16 fighter jet, people have found expensive paintings and an Egyptian artifact.
Fall River, Massachusetts, is home to probably one of the more notorious murders in American history. This is the town where a woman named Lizzie Borden allegedly murdered her parents inside their home. The story is long, but we'll give you the gist of it. Borden's parents were murdered with an ax in broad daylight while their Irish maid was still in the home. And despite the evidence against Borden, she was never formally convicted of the crime, which was thought to be a way of getting her parents' wealth.
Anyway, today you can stay in the same home where the murders took place. Sounds like fun, right? They say the Borden's ghost still haunts the place, but we're a bit skeptical.
The small town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, started out with a population of about 1,000 people before the 1980s, and that number has been shrinking ever since. The reason for this is because the town, or at least the ground underneath it, is literally on fire and has been since a disaster in 1962. That's when coal reserves buried underneath the town ignited in a mine explosion, killing some 111 miners.
Today, the town's population sits at less than a dozen, and officials have restricted anyone new from moving in. Scientists also predict that the fire and subsequent sinkholes and toxic fumes could continue for 250 years. Centralia is kind of like America's Chornobyl in that sense. You can still drive through and visit the town.
It doesn't get much more small-town than Monowi, Nebraska. The town is home to only one resident named Elsie Eiler. The town was home to around 150 people during the 1930s, but that number shrank as people moved out in search of jobs. Eiler's husband passed away in 2004, making her the town's sole resident. She now runs the town library and tavern, and she also serves as the town's mayor. As such, she must pay herself taxes every year, according to Atlas Obscura.
Next time you happen to be traveling through Nebraska, think about giving Monowi and Eiler a visit; there's no telling how long the town has left. It's also not every day you have the opportunity to be served drinks by a town's mayor.
Seward, Nebraska, claims to contain the world's largest time capsule. The capsule was started by a man named Harold Davisson, who apparently really liked the year 1975 because he had a 45-ton vault built to house all of the era's memorabilia. The collection contains around 5,000 objects, including a car built the same year, and it sits below a pyramid structure. However, the town is also known for something else.
It's been named America's Fourth of July city, and every year the small town of around 7,000 attracts 40,000 visitors for its annual Fourth of July celebrations.
While there's nothing particularly strange about the town itself, Adams, Tennessee, is home to Bell Witch Cave. You can probably see where we're going with this. Legend has it that a woman named Kate Batts was part of a land deal gone awry. She eventually cursed the Bell family she had entered into the deal with, and the family claimed to begin seeing strange apparitions near their home after her Batts' death.
The story eventually gained national notoriety, and the folklore and legend went on to inspire others beyond the Southeastern U.S. Legend has it that even former president Andrew Jackson had a run-in with the apparition.
Whittier, Alaska, is perhaps one of the only (official) towns in the world where all of the residents live together under one roof. Yes, everyone in Whittier lives together in a large cinderblock building that used to be an army barracks. The town is situated at the foot of some mountains and on the shores of Prince William Sound, meaning it endures some pretty intense winter weather. The 14-story tower has an inn, a church, a police station, and a small clinic.
There is a small tunnel leading into the town if you want to road trip there, but it can be out of service for long stretches, meaning you might be better off taking a boat to Whittier. If you do travel there, the inn is supposed to have the best interior decor in the entire tower. It even comes with binoculars, according to NPR.
The small town of Colma, California, has been called the "city of soul," and for a good reason. Despite only having a population of around 1,200 people, the town can claim to have around 2 million burials and 17 cemeteries. During the 1880s, nearby San Fransisco started to run out of room to bury their dead and eventually decided to hold funerals in Colma, giving the two-square-mile town its huge number of cemeteries.
Travelers can also check out the graves of some pretty famous American icons while in Colma. Wild West sheriff Wyatt Earp is buried there, as are Levi Strauss and William Randolph Hearst.
Tangier, Virginia, is actually located on Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay. It's here you'll find one of the oddest accents in America. Due to its isolation, locals sound more like they're from the U.K. than the continental United States. Linguists who have traveled there to study the accent say that it's actually a long-forgotten American accent, and they suspect that maybe early colonists and the founding fathers actually sounded similar.
However, like many small towns, young people are moving out in droves, and some are worried that the accent will eventually die out over time. So, if you've ever wondered what early American English sounded like, or you just want to take an island vacation, consider giving Tangier a visit.
It might be hard to limit Florida to being known for only one thing, but its senior population would definitely be in contention. However, The Villages aren't just any retirement home. They have some of the highest rates of STDs in the entire state. That's right, visitors have spotted the elderly making love on one of its 34 golf courses and probably in a bunch of other places, too.
The area is known for its debauchery. And residents, who number around 70,000, don't seem to mind too much. Honestly, it doesn't sound like the worst place to live out the rest of your life.
This might come as a complete surprise to many, but a canning factory in the town of Alma, Arkansas, could once boast that it produced around 65% of the world's spinach. Today, the town still celebrates this achievement with a statue and water tower depicting Popeye, the sailor. The town also holds an annual spinach festival, where you can channel your inner Popeye and take part in a spinach-eating contest.
Of course, there are other events, such as bull riding, rock climbing, and a petting zoo. The town also has a waterpark and a number of different museums.
It was only a matter of time before a town in Florida made it to this list. The town of Miracle Village was founded by a minister named Richard Witherow, and the town is really more of a community. It was established as a place where registered sex offenders could find refuge after they get out of prison. Florida, and many other states, have laws preventing said offenders from living within a certain radius of things like schools, bus stops, libraries, and playgrounds.
This means that for a lot of Miracle Village's residents (about half are registered offenders), this is one of the only places they can legally live. Most residents who lived here before it gained its distinction say that the town is quiet and peaceful.
Homosassa island in Florida is actually the result of a scientific experiment. Actually, the entire story of Homosassa island is a bit crazy. The island, situated in the town of Homosassa, used to be nothing more than a small rock outcropping that used to take out unsuspecting boats. Fed up with the rocks, a local developer instructed crew members to "throw some dirt on it." However, by the time he returned from a trip, they had built up the small outcropping into its own little island.
Oh, and then there are the monkeys. They were originally brought to the town in order to study a potential polio vaccine. However, they were banished to the island after becoming a nuisance. Now, tourists can observe them from a safe distance while they live out their lives on the island.
No, these mummies didn't come from ancient Egypt. Instead, they were originally two women who were diagnosed with mental disorders and who lived at an asylum in West Virginia. After their deaths, they were embalmed and traveled around the country with P.T. Barnum's traveling circus. Today, they reside at the Barbour County Historical Museum, where visitors can still view them. If that's not your thing, then the town is also known for being the site of the U.S. Civil War's first land battle.
The Union victory would eventually inspire the area to break away from greater Virginia in favor of remaining in the Union. The town still hosts reenactments to this day.
Another abandoned town, the legend surrounding Dudleytown, Connecticut, reads like something out of a horror story. The town was originally settled in 1738, but it wouldn't be until 1747 that the town's namesake family arrived. The stories go that the Dudleys had some run-ins with the plague and royalty back in England, with a member of the family even having his head chopped off. Untimely deaths and people going mad caused residents to leave the town until there was nobody left.
Or at least that's how the story goes. Today, the site is a nature park that travelers can visit, according to The New York Times. There are also a couple of private homes still left in the area.
Kentucky is known for its bourbon and its horses. However, in 2016, Williamstown, Kentucky, became known for having the world's largest reconstruction of Noah's Ark. Yes, that Noah's Ark from the Bible. The giant ark serves as a museum for anyone interested in the flood event described in the Bible. The boat is around 510 feet long and seven stories tall, but we're not sure if it actually floats or not.
We are sure it's probably one of the largest roadside attractions in the U.S., though, and the people behind it claim that it's the "largest timber-framed structure in the world."
Hell, Michigan got its start as a mining town that was established in the 1840s. Though it was a popular bootlegging town, it didn't get its name from any kind of nefarious act. Instead, legend has it that one of the original inhabitants paid local farmers with his own homemade whiskey. This led wives to respond, "he's gone to hell again," when asked where their husbands were, which eventually stuck, according to the town's official website.
However, there are a couple of other unofficial stories as to how the town got its name. Visitors to Hell can get married, have a drink at the local tavern, called Hell Hole Bar and Grill, and even become the mayor, though the website says that elections are only held when Hell freezes over.
The town of Ferndale, California, is on the U.S. list of historical monuments, and for a good reason. All of the town's buildings reflect the Victorian-era architecture of the 19th century. The town's official website boasts that it's the prettiest small town in the Redwoods region, and it's hard to argue with that claim. It was founded in 1852 by two brothers and quickly drew in residents looking to strike it rich during the Gold Rush.
Many of these settlers brought agricultural techniques from Europe, which quickly made the town quite wealthy, resulting in all of the ornate buildings. The town has also been billed as a photographer's paradise.
Center, North Dakota, is exactly what it sounds like. The town claims to be located in the exact center of North America. However, amazingly enough, the name Center doesn't have anything to do with being the center of North America. The town was originally named Center because it was thought to be at the center of its local county. It was only years later that it would be discovered the town was the center of the entire continent.
The center of the continent was originally thought to be a town called Rugby in North Dakota. However, a 2015 study found that was not the case.
Even carnival workers need to take a break sometime. And where else better to take a vacation than in Florida, Gibsonton, Florida, to be exact. A large portion of this town's residents have or still do work as performers at circuses and carnivals. Though the "human oddities," as they were once called, are all but gone with the golden age of the American traveling carnivals, this town was founded by a "giant" and his wife.
He served as the local sheriff and made the town a haven for others who worked in the industry. At the town's peak, it had factories that produced Ferris wheels and special laws that allowed residents to train exotic animals.
Hildale, Utah, is home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or a denomination of Mormonism as they used to be called. The town is actually their headquarters, and as such, it's one of the only places in the U.S. where polygamy is still allowed, at least in practice. The church has tried to distance itself from the practice in recent years, and it's no longer a common practice.
Much of this small town's land was once held by the church, but it has tried to rebrand as a tourist town in recent years with quite a bit of success.
No list of weird American towns would be complete without mentioning Roswell, New Mexico. This is the sight where an alien was allegedly discovered in 1947. Even though the event has been proven false time and time again, that hasn't stopped travelers from flocking to the town, and now aliens are big business in the area. The original story made headlines around the country at the time, and it didn't help that the military played along in an effort to hide that it was just a weather balloon that was conducting experiments.
Either way, this town now holds a special place in American folklore, and you can visit and stock up on extraterrestrial souvenirs while in town.
It may just be a genius marketing stunt, but the flavor graveyard at Ben & Jerry's in Waterbury, Vermont, is also a sort of outdoor museum for the company's discontinued flavors. Each tombstone features a short epithet and the years each flavor was in production. Visitors can also visit the local factory for a small taste of the flavors that still live on to this day.
However, it never hurts to pay your respects while you're there. Especially if there's a particular flavor, you grew up with during your childhood that suddenly went missing one day.
The town of Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa, has around 250 residents, all of which must follow a strict building code so that all of their homes look identical. This is because the town is home to a large number of yogis, who voted in 2001 to instate the law. The style of architecture originates from Hindu yogis and is meant to protect the residents of each building.
As might be expected, the town's residents and government put an emphasis on healthy living. They also have a hotel for anybody wanting to visit the town and immerse themselves in the lifestyle.
When you think of Santa Claus, the last thing that might come to your mind is a desert town situated in Arizona, but that's what Santa Clause is. The town was established to take advantage of all the road trippers making their way down the famous Route 66. However, after the interstate was built, tourist dollars quickly dried up, and so did the town's quirky businesses.
Travelers were once able to send their kids to the local post office where they could write Santa letters and receive responses marked Saint Nick. There was also the Santa Clause Inn.
Nameless, Tennessee is what you get when you just can't be bothered to think up a new name for your town. The legend goes that when the town applied to get a post office, they left the name section on the application blank, causing the department to give the town the name, Nameless. However, nobody truly knows for certain how the town got its name. Either way, it is unincorporated now, and it has few stores left and no post office.
Though, like most small towns in Tennesse, it does offer some gorgeous views for anyone who wants to get off the beaten track. The town's general store also opens throughout the year to throw a party.
There are plenty of ghost towns scattered throughout the U.S., but most are found in the American West. Igloo City is a bit further up north in the state of Alaska. The abandoned town was meant to be a tourist destination, and it hosts a four-story hotel shaped like an igloo. However, the building, which was built in the 1970s, never actually opened to the public because it couldn't meet the standard building codes at the time.
The building has been sold many times over the years, but nobody was ever able to make it operational. Today, anyone taking a road trip from Fairbanks to Anchorage can stop by and visit as it's the halfway point between the two cities.
What better name for a place that hosts something called Cornhenge than Dublin, Ohio. Okay, maybe naming the place after a town from the U.K. would've been better, but it kind of works anyway. These massive corn sculptures were the work of Michael Cochran to honor Sam Frantz. Frantz worked at the University of Ohio and ended up developing seven different types of hybrid corn.
Frantz actually used this site for his work at one point, and travelers can still see a row of orange trees leftover from when the site was a farm. It's a nod to the past and a continuation of the area's love of public art spaces.
Yes, you read that town's name correctly. Burnt Corn is the name of a town in Alabama. The small community got its name after an event during the Creek War of 1813. However, no one is sure if the Native Americans burnt the settlers' corn or if it was the other way around. Either way, tourists can visit the small town today and take photos of some of the area's historic buildings.
These include things like an old general store, churches, and a Coca-Cola mural from the 1930s. The town's census hasn't been recorded since 1880, but the population is pretty small.
Mississippi is known for its musical heritage. The state was home to Elvis Presley and was the birthplace of the blues. However, Clarksdale, Mississippi, can claim to be the town where blues legend Robert Johnson made a pact with the devil. Legend has it that Johnson went to the crossroads of 49 and 61 with an instrument that gave him his otherworldly talent. We'll let you be the judge of that.
However, what's a fact is the town still has plenty of live music venues and some pretty good BBQ joints for any travelers out there interested in the history of blues.
Another small town that dwindled down to only one resident, PhinDeli Town Buford, Wyoming, was bought by a man named Don Sammons in 1992. However, after his children moved out and his wife passed away, Sammons sold the town to a Vietnamese man who made his fortune in the coffee business. The town was sold for around $900,000, and the coffee magnate now serves his coffee at the local gas station.
The man renamed the town, and today it's the only place you can buy his coffee in the U.S. He still lives in Vietnam, but travelers can visit the town and sip down some of his famous coffee.
America's pastime has a long history. However, the little league version of the sport had its first game in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The game took place on June 6, 1939, and saw a team sponsored by Lundy-Lumber take on a team sponsored by Lycoming Dairy. They sure knew how to name something back then, didn't they? The team sponsored by Lundy-Lumber won 28-8. The town now has a little league museum travelers can visit to learn about the history of the sport.
Today, the Little League World Series is played in a nearby town. And just about most of the small towns in the U.S. have a baseball park that hosts little league games during the season.
This might come as a surprise to some, but the attack on Pearl Harbor wasn't the only time the Japanese attacked American soil. It was what drew the U.S. into the war, but a balloon attack was launched by Japan shortly after the Doolittle raid on Tokyo. The Japanese launched some 9,000 balloons packed with explosives and hoped that they would drift towards the continental U.S. Around 1,000 eventually reached the country.
Some were found as far away as Michigan, but only one managed to take any lives. A balloon that landed in Lakeview, Oregon, killed a woman named Elyse Mitchell and her five children. Today, travelers can visit a memorial marking the spot of the only U.S. casualties to be killed on American soil after the war started.
Another relatively large city, Houston, Texas, is home to the National Museum of Funeral History. This peculiar attraction documents the history of funeral services in the U.S. Visitors can learn about the different practices and how they've changed over time. The museum also has an extensive collection of coffins and hearses. The museum's website says that visitors can also learn about presidential funerals, memorials across the country, and the history of mourning photography.
So, while it might be a bit peculiar, it certainly sounds like it's worth a detour. The museum has even been named among the city's top attractions.
Yes, Salt Lake City, Utah, isn't exactly a small town, and we're sure it's known for plenty of different things. However, among its many distinctions, it's also the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken's first franchise location. The same KFC that can now be found around the world first branched out in this town many states away from Kentucky. Though the original restaurant was demolished, the new one still contains a bunch of memorabilia.
Travelers can see things like the colonel's original suit and old advertisements. The reason for this is that the colonel sold the recipe and a pressure cooker to a man named Pete Harman, who lived in the city and founded the first franchise location.