Road Scholar

by Country Inns & Suites
Thursday, July 30, 2009


You can learn a lot about America from these vintage roadside attractions. There’s something for everyone, from the world’s largest ball of paint to the smallest recreation of Elvis’ Graceland home, from bats and alligators to Western shootouts and the world’s largest six-pack of beer.

By Jeff Faust and Sheri Masters
Illustrations by Albert Lorenz

From the historic to the unusual, these oddly popular sites are a great way to discover America.

1. Fresno, California

Forestiere Underground Gardens: Surrounding a home built in the early 1900s is a complex of caverns, grottos, patios and garden courts with intricate architecture, rare trees and skylights to let in sunlight.

 2. Tombstone, Arizona

O.K. Corral: Visit the famous site that was almost the location of a notorious shootout between the Earps and the Clantons. The fight actually took place in an alley nearby. Witness a re-enactment of the battle each day at 2 p.m.

 3. Mitchell, South Dakota

Corn Palace: The first Corn Palace was built in 1892 to demonstrate the fertility of the South Dakota soil, and its present-day descendant is equally a testament to the state’s culture and sense of fun.

 4. Tulsa, Oklahoma

Golden Driller: Standing guard over Oklahoma oil country since 1966, the world’s largest freestanding statue boasts a shoe size of 393DDD.

 5. Austin, Texas

The World’s Largest Urban Bat Colony: Join the visitors who gather at the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch 1.5 million bats leave on their nighttime travels.

6. La Crosse, Wisconsin

The World’s Largest Six-Pack: Beer lovers and college students alike were dismayed when the Heileman Brewery in La Crosse was sold and the famous lager cans were painted a plain white, but in 2003 the six-pack made a comeback.

 7. Alexandria, Indiana

World’s Largest Ball of Paint: Visitors to the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home Museum can see the certified Guinness World Record holder and even add a layer of paint themselves.

 8. Roanoke, Virginia

Mini Graceland: Also known as Elvis City, this tiny town of Elvis landmarks is a Roanoke treasure and has recently undergone restoration to make it fit for the King.

 9. Plymouth, Massachusetts

Plymouth Rock: The United States of America’s oldest tourist attraction, the rock is allegedly a piece of the original rock where the Pilgrims reputedly landed.

 10. St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park: Since 1893, the Alligator Farm and its scaly inhabitants—including the famous Maximo—have welcomed visitors to this Florida mainstay.

For more Americana, visit