1 . Ave Maria Grotto Cullman Ala
With discarded building supplies, marbles, bricks, tiles, pipes, seashells, costume jewelry and plastic animals, Brother Joseph Zoettl constructed more than 125 miniature reproductions of many of the worlds most famous religious structures and landmarks. The Benedictine monk of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Ala., devoted some 50 years to the project. To pass the time, I started hobbies, he once said. After he made 5,000 small grottoes, which were sold to support the abbeys work, Zoettl began work on his magnum opus, the Ave Maria Grotto. Today, spread out across three acres of the abbeys forested grounds, stand tiny replicas of St. Peters Basilica, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the grotto of St. Theresa, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, an Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine, the Great Wall of China and miniature versions of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Rome, among others. He even crafted a mini St. Bernards Abbey, complete with the abbeys power station where he once worked shoveling coal.
2 . The Beer Can House Houston
In 1968, John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, decided he got sick of mowing the grass, at his Houston home. So he laid marble, rock and wood into landscaping features. Not wanting to stop there, Milkovisch then covered his house with aluminum siding made entirely of flattened beer cans. Over 18 years, he attached an estimated 50,000 beer cans, including beer can garlands that hang from the roof and sing in the wind. Why? Were not entirely sure, but Milkovisch said on the houses website, I guess I just thought it was a good idea. And its easier than painting. He said hes tickled with people who drive around the block a few times, then return with a carload of friends. Take a group to Houston and pay him a visit.
3 . Benewah Milk Bottles Spokane Wash
All thats left of the once booming Benewah Dairy Company in Spokane, Wash., are two bottles of milk: two giant milk bottle buildings, that is. Veer off westbound Interstate 90 and youll see one bottle just off the freeway. The other, on Garland, is home to Mary Lous Milk Bottle, a caf? famous for award winning milkshakes. (The huckleberry and lemon custard milkshakes come highly recommended.) Dairy owner Paul Newport hoped the uniquely shaped storefronts, built in the 1930s, would help draw customers into the retail outlets. While Newport, of course, wanted to sell milk, he also hoped the bottles would help build better men and women by making dairy products attractive to boys and girls. One bottle had a role in the 1993 Johnny Depp movie Benny and Joon.
4 . Biosphere 2 Oracle Ariz
Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Ariz., is a spaceship like glass facility, elevated on a ridge nearly 4,000 feet above sea level at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains. You can learn about the past and future of our planet there, and be sure to visit the Phoenix Mars Lander exhibit, which holds the spacecraft that landed on Mars in 2008. TIME LIFE Books named the site a scenic drive north of Tucson one of the 50 wonders of the world.
5 . The Blue Whale Catoosa Okla
Drive along Route 66 through a pair of side by side bridges and youre bound to come across an even more bizarre sight: a famous beached whale. Built in the 1970s as an anniversary gift from one man to his wife, Oklahomas grinning Blue Whale is 80 feet long, and rests in a pond that has since become a favorite watering hole for locals and passing travelers. Although the original park which once featured an animal reptile kingdom closed in 1988, the toothy whale has since been refurbished and tourists can stop and enjoy the picnic area before getting back on the road.
6 . Cabazon Dinosaurs Cabazon Calif
Towering 30 feet above the I 10 heading south to Palm Springs, Calif., a T. rex and an Apatosaurus are part of the Worlds Biggest Dinosaurs museum in Cabazon. More than 12 million drivers pass by the dinos annually, and tourists are invited to stop and wander through a museum, located within the T. rex, or participate in a fossil dig. The dinosaurs have been featured in various media, from Coke commercials to bad 1980s films (see Fred Savage in The Wizard), but the new Creationist owner is hoping to transform the park into a place of worship. How do dinosaurs fit in with the Bible? It might just be worth stopping there to find out.
7 . Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo Texas
Just west of Amarillo, Texas, 10 sets of graffiti covered tail fins stand as a tribute to the American dream. The art installation, known as Cadillac Ranch, features 10 classic cars, half buried nose first at the same angle as the Great Pyramid in Egypt. Although originally intended as a temporary display, the monument developed by millionaire Stanley Marsh III and an architect trio from a group known as the Ant Farm has been an iconic tourist attraction in the Lone Star States panhandle since 1974. In 1997, however, the cars were unearthed from their original location and moved two miles west to escape city growth. Now located in a cow pasture not far from the I 40 and the historic Route 66, visitors are encouraged to visit, spray paint in hand, to tag the cars.
8 . Carhenge Alliance Neb
If you cant make a trip across the pond, your next best option may be the Cornhusker State. On a 10 acre plot in Alliance, Neb., stands Carhenge a monument that looks like the artistic offspring of Stonehenge and Cadillac Ranch. Envisioned by artist Jim Reinders in 1987, Carhenge is an arrangement of 38 autos, painted slate gray and placed in a formation mimicking Englands medieval wonder. In 2009, TripAdvisor gave it the No. 2 spot on its list of the wackiest attractions in America. Unlike at Cadillac Ranch which placed third on TripAdvisors list visitors should leave spray paint behind: those that dont can expect to be fined.
9 . Desert of Maine Freeport Maine
When you think of Maine, you think of fresh seafood, idyllic sunsets and endless blue water. So a desert is probably the farthest thing from your mind. But if youre around the Freeport area, this natural wonder is a must see. Bad farming after 1797 led to soil erosion and the creation of natural desert like conditions. Surrounded by green hills, this unlikely wonder covers nearly 50 acres and can be explored with 30 minute coach tours or on foot. Stop by the new butterfly park if its a flying visit, or set up camp by the pine forest adjacent to the desert. Think of it as a reverse oasis: a sandy haven in waterlogged Maine.
10 . Devils Rope Museum McLean Texas
Unless they are incarcerated criminals, most people probably dont spend a lot of time thinking about barbed wire. However, those who do have a clear vacation destination in the Texas panhandle: the Devils Rope Museum, which commemorates the thorny strands contributions to the fields of ranching, warfare and security. Located in a former bra factory, the museum has thousands of strands of barbed wire on display, and demonstrations of how to make your own devils rope. Theres even a collection of sculptures made from barbed wire including a cowboy hat. Ouch!