The following was produced in partnership with our friends at CBS and the new comedy ‘Man With A Plan‘, airing Mondays at 8:30/7:30c.
Family road trips are rites of passage for both you and your kids — vacations that are all fun and games before things get weird. Rather than wait for things to devolve to that point, you might consider the “Daddy Fun Times” approach: make it wacky from the jump. The miles of highways and byways that crisscross this great nation are loaded with natural wonders and civic monuments, sure, but they’re also chock full of oddball attractions from alien landing zones to mystery spots to those giant metal dinosaurs from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure to, of course, tourist traps. No matter where you live in the country, you can always spend 4-5 days driving through America The Absurd — here are 5 trips that prove it.
North Carolina To Florida Via South Of The Border
Count the signs en route to one of America’s quintessential roadside tourist traps (true story: I-95 was designed to pass through it). Pose with giant peanuts without fear of allergic reaction; one even smiles for the photo. See one of the surprisingly large number of American Stonehenges; it’s not made of cars like the one in Nebraska, but you can scratch that itch with a field of half-buried Airstream trailers. Finally, you’ll visit a famous (as far as he knows) sculptor’s castle where you can actually get a cranky guided tour of the place from its namesake creator and owner. Highlights include the toilet plunger gun, punny salvage sculptures, and a 60-foot Portuguese galleon that houses a restaurant. #RichDadToys.
The Route: Vollis Simpson’s Whirligig Park, Wilson, NC — South Of The Border, Dillon, SC — Georgia Guidestones, Elbert, GA — Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue, Plains, GA — World’s Largest Peanut, Ashburn, GA — Airstream Ranch, Dover, FL — Solomon’s Castle, Ona, FL
What They’ll Learn: Insensitive mascot design, why RVs used to be cool, that money can’t buy happiness but it can buy lots of useless, super rad stuff.
Traditional Road Trip Stop On Your Path: Technically out of the way, but it’ll be tough getting home without visiting the Mouse, less than an hour from Solomon’s Castle.
Best Time To Go: Fall
Arizona To Oregon Starring Planes, Trees, And Dinosaurs
Skip 250 miles of billboards on I-10 and cut to
the chase The Thing. What is it? Exactly. Nearly 5,000 decommissioned warplanes await at the world’s largest aircraft graveyard; no need to point out the rocks. Hunt ghosts at “The Domes” then save your soul at Salvation Mountain, one of the nation’s most revered roadside attractions. At the Cabazon Dinosaurs, tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya! Stay a night at one of the last Wigwam Motels from Route 66’s heyday, tour an underground orchard, and go full Lorax with a tree circus, tree drive-through, and “treesort.” Finish at The Vortex, which bills itself as America’s premier mystery spot — a big claim that you’ll have to investigate yourself to prove or disprove.
The Route: The Thing, Dragoon, AZ — Davis-Monthan Air Force Base & AMARG Boneyard, Tucson, AZ — The Domes, Casa Grande, AZ — Salvation Mountain, Niland, CA — Cabazon Dinosaurs, Cabazon, CA — Wigwam Motel, San Bernadino, CA — Circus Trees At Gilroy Gardens, Gilroy, CA — Forestiere Underground Gardens, Fresno, CA — Out ‘N’ About Treehouse, Cave Junction, OR — Oregon Vortex, Gold Hill, OR
What They’ll Learn: Warplane model numbers, ghostbusting, your favorite pop culture references, not what “The Thing” actually is.
Traditional Road Trip Stop On Your Path: Avenue Of Giants. And you don’t even have to go out of your way.
Best Time To Go: Fall
Nebraska To Wisconsin Via Wall Drug
Pray to the road trip gods at an automobile Stonehenge before shopping the legendary Wall Drug, which is neither a wall nor a drug store. Thirty miles of giant sculptures along and above I-94 entertain the kids en route to a creepy pyramid in a North Dakota field, the final vestige of a $6 billion missile complex that lasted 24 hours (“Look, kids, Cold War budget misappropriation!”). See Weird Al’s favorite Weird America spot, America’s largest indoor sideshow, and The Dells, 3 miles of nothing but goofy roadside attractions. Sure, you spent 4 days touring exactly that, but did you see the world’s largest flamingo, one of 3 Russian MIR space stations ever built, or an upside-down White House? You didn’t … until you got The Dells.
The Route: Carhenge, Alliance, NE — Dinosaur Park, Rapid City, SD — Wall Drug Store, Wall, SD — Enchanted Highway, Regent, ND — Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, Nekoma, ND — World’s Largest Twine Ball, Darwin, MN — House On The Rock, Spring Green, WI — The Dells, Wisconsin Dells, WI
What They’ll Learn: Tourist-baiting, junk sculpture, protectionism, Weird Al deep cuts.
Traditional Road Trip Stop On Your Path: Mount Rushmore, although this trip is as good an answer as any to, “Why else would I ever go to South Dakota?”
Best Time To Go: Summer
Casa Bonita To Cadillac Ranch Via Weird New Mexico Stuff
Start with family dinner at the most absurd family restaurant ever, then pay homage to the headless chicken and help your kids appreciate why you feel like one. In New Mexico, which is one of the weirder states in the union, period, listen for alien noise, stay in a hotel in a cave, and wander among fiberglass giants (and grab a bangin’ green chile cheeseburger because all this driving is making you hungry). In Texas, visit a Prada store that’s not a store and a giant paper airplane that doesn’t fly before stopping at the roadside attraction to end them all, Cadillac Ranch. It’s a fitting finale if by now you’re ready to drive your car straight into the ground.
The Route: Casa Bonita, Lakewood, CO — Mike The Headless Chicken Statue, Fruita, CO — 4 Corners Monument — Kokopelli’s Cave, Farmington, NM — The Very Large Array, Socorro, NM — Teako’s Giants Of Hatch, Hatch, NM — Prada Marfa, Valentine, TX — World’s Largest Paper Airplane, Abilene, TX — Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX
What They’ll Learn: Why Cartman was so hype, idioms, what a green chile is, Springsteen lyrics.
Traditional Road Trip Stop On Your Path: The 4 Corners Monument, a great way to cheat your way to claiming you also stopped in Utah and Arizona since this trip is already long enough.
Best Time To Go: Spring
Trip 5: Weird, Wonderful West Virginia To Kentucky
Celebrate everything that makes America’s heartland the heart of America: baseball, hillbillies, roadside giants, secret government facilities, and corn. You’ll start at a good old-fashioned West Virginia mystery hole and make your way through Ohio and Kentucky to a roadside attraction celebrating roadside attractions run by a man with a spectacular mullet, complete with a lawnmower homage to aforementioned Cadillac Ranch. This trip is loaded with puns from the world’s largest bats (baseball and, uh, cave-dwelling) to junk sculptures like a car jack nailed to a beanstalk, because you can take the family on vacation but dad jokes never take a day off.
The Route: The Mystery Hole, Ansted, WV — Declassified Congressional Bunker, White Sulphur Springs, WV — The Farnham Colossi, Unger, WV — World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock, Sugarcreek, OH — Field Of Corn, Dublin, OH — Jerry’s Junk, Louisville, KY — World’s Largest Bat … and Bat, Louisville, KY — Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden and Toyland, Calvert City, KY
What They’ll Learn: How to defy gravity, disaster preparedness, hoarding, puns, that America is already great
Traditional Road Trip Stop On Your Path: A quick detour between the bunker and the colossi is Charlottesville, Virginia and Monticello, home of some dude named Jefferson who did some stuff for America.
Best Time To Go: Summer
The preceding was produced in partnership with our friends at CBS and the new comedy ‘Man With A Plan‘, airing Mondays at 8:30/7:30c.