Millions of people travel across the world to experience the beauty, grandeur, and heritage of some of the planet’s most popular landmarks. However, there is often more than meets the eye to many historic attractions, things most tourists will never realize are there. For example, many famous landmarks house hidden spaces you may not notice at first glance.
Here are ten secret places inside the world’s most famous landmarks. Some of them can be visited by those with sufficient funds or the right connections. Others are entirely off-limits.
10 Mount Rushmore
South Dakota, US
Mount Rushmore is easily one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States, as it depicts four of the arguably most famous presidents in US history: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Yet, many people might not be aware that behind the chiseled sculpture of Abraham Lincoln is a hidden room, which is known as the Hall of Records. The secret room is roughly lined up with Lincoln’s forehead, and it contains text from some of America’s most important documents.
The designer of the famous political monument, Gutzon Borglum, originally wanted the room to serve as a vault for a selection of US documents. In fact, his vision was to install an 240-meter (800 ft) stairway that would lead to the grand hall, which would measure 24 meters by 30 meters (80 ft x 100 ft) and would be directly behind the US presidents’ sculpted faces. Inside the hall would be busts of great Americans from history, as well as a list of US contributions to industry, science, and the arts. Tragically, Borglum’s vision was halted due to his death in 1941. However, in 1998, monument officials chose to make Borglum’s dream a reality by maintaining records from American history in the secret hall.
9 The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most famous landmarks in the world, which is why the city of Paris welcomes millions of tourists year after year. You might, however, be surprised to learn that the historic landmark features a secret apartment. Those who are lucky enough to visit the top of the structure will not only absorb the mesmerizing views of the French capital, but they might also enjoy a glimpse inside the secret apartment and office, which has only recently been opened to the public.
Gustave Eiffel, the structure’s engineer, built a private apartment for himself inside the landmark in 1889, and only he had access to this hidden room throughout his lifetime. In fact, many Parisians offered to rent the apartment for one night only, but he always refused, wanting to keep the space all to himself and the occasional guest. Visitors can now finally take a step inside the private apartment, which has been restored to its original condition. They can also view mannequins of Gustave, his daughter, and Thomas Edison, who he regularly entertained at the apartment.
8 Waldorf Astoria
New York City, US
The Waldorf Astoria is deemed one of the most luxurious hotels in New York. While many more modern hotels have emerged over the ensuing decades, it has continued to welcome every sitting US president, from Hoover to Obama. Many people might, however, be unaware that there is a secret train station located below the hotel, as the secluded platform was introduced to help President Franklin D. Roosevelt to inconspicuously travel from the presidential suite to Hyde Park, which was his childhood home. Track 61 was an integral mode of transportation during World War II, as the president’s private railway car could pull up inside the station, and he could take an elevator to gain direct access to the hotel. It is also believed that FDR used the train to hide his paralysis from the public.
The platform remains in use today, and it can be reached within minutes from JFK Airport. The Secret Service has been sworn to secrecy regarding some of its features. While the platform is still in working order, FDR’s custom locomotive now sits abandoned under the hotel.
7 The Statue Of Liberty
New York City, US
Millions of people visit the Statue of Liberty every year, with many tourists stepping inside the structure’s crown to enjoy beautiful views of New York City. Yet, many people might be unaware that it is possible to climb higher within the structure. Until June 30, 1916, tourists were able to enter a room located inside the Statue of Liberty’s torch, which offered breathtaking panoramic views of the city.
However, access was denied to the public when the pier between Jersey City and Black Tom Island was blown up by German agents. Sadly, the explosion ripped through various buildings nearby, which caused serious or fatal injuries for hundreds of people. Debris from the explosion became embedded within the Statue of Liberty’s arm, which made the route to the panoramic room unsafe for the public. The arm was repaired, but only National Park Service staff can enter the torch, and they must climb a narrow 12-meter (40 ft) ladder to gain access to the torch and maintain the floodlights.
6 Leonardo Da Vinci Statue
Travelers are welcomed into Rome by the Leonardo da Vinci statue located at Fiumicino-Leonardo da Vinci Airport. Yet, there is more to the structure than you might realize at first glance. Despite the 18-meter (60 ft) bronze statue being unveiled in 1960, the hidden hatch located halfway up the structure was not found until its renovation in 2006.
Workers found two parchments inside the statue. One parchment detailed the area’s history in classical Latin, while the other listed the attendees from the opening ceremony. It is believed both the hatch and parchments were the brainchild of Assen Peikov, the Bulgarian artist who won the competition to design the work of art.
Anaheim, California, US
You will not find a drop of alcohol in Disneyland unless you step inside the exclusive Club 33. It would be easy to walk past the club, as it sits behind an unmarked door in New Orleans Square. It was originally created as a place for Walt Disney to entertain his guests and business associates. Unfortunately, he died five months before Club 33 was officially opened.
Only those who become a member can now step inside the club, which offers both a restaurant and jazz lounge, known as Le Salon Nouveau, as well as access to the 1901 Lounge in California Adventure. Membership is not cheap; depending on the level of membership, the initiation fee reportedly costs between $25,000 and $100,000, followed by a $12,500 to $30,000 annual fee. The waiting list is reportedly years long.
4 Niagara Falls
New York, US
Niagara Falls is the umbrella name of the three waterfalls located along the international border between the state of New York and the province Ontario. Located a stone’s throw away from Niagara Falls is Devil’s Hole State Park, which many people visit to experience the beauty of the waterfalls. A cave inside the park was given the nickname “the Cave of the Evil Spirit” by the Seneca due to their belief that an evil spirit was trapped inside. It was believed that only warriors who were ready for battle would enter the cave.
The Devil’s Hole Massacre was a battle that took place between the Seneca and British soldiers in 1763. After the Seneca won the battle, they warned the British of the cave to prevent them from trespassing on the land. There is also a superstition that anyone who steals a rock from the cave will experience bad luck.
3 Empire State Building
New York City, US
The Empire State Building has been a tourist hot spot for nearly a century, as visitors have been enjoying the New York skyline since 1931. While most people can view the city from the observation deck on the 86th floor and the top deck on the 102nd floor, you might be surprised to learn that some visitors can experience an even better view on the private 103rd floor.
The secret deck offers only a knee-high ledge with a low railing, and visitors need to take a series of escalators to reach it. The elevator ride alone will be a unique experience, as visitors will pass the inner workings of the building on their journey up to the secret floor. It is an experience often only available to VIP guests, such as celebrities and dignitaries. For example, Taylor Swift had the pleasure of experiencing the VIP observation deck back in 2014.
The Colosseum welcomes four million tourists annually, who visit the landmark to view the Flavian Amphitheatre, which dates back to AD 80. Yet, many people might not realize that there is a network of (now exposed) underground tunnels below street level, called the Hypogeum, which were used to house various animals, such as lions and bears, which were then lifted into the gladiator arena via a pulley.
The maze was hailed as a superb archaeological discovery when it was initially uncovered. The Hypogeum is now open to the public, but tours are limited to a maximum of 25 people each time. Archaeologists have, however, criticized the tours, as they believe they could put the structure at risk.
1 Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square might be well-regarded for its remarkable architecture and beautiful fountains, but it also features a hidden room you could easily miss. The public square is the home of Britain’s smallest police station, which is located on the southeast corner of Trafalgar Square.
The tiny station was built in 1926 to serve as a watch post, as the square was often the location of many protests, riots, and marches. It therefore only offers enough space for one police officer or two prisoners. The box is no longer in use by the police and is now simply used as a broom closet for Westminster Council cleaners.
Elisabeth Sedgwick is An English freelance writer. You can view her growing portfolio at clippings.me/elisabethsedgwick.
10 Small Towns In The United States Known For Weird Things
Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who has set your eyes on the world’s largest ball of twine, located in Kansas. Maybe you’ve even seen aliens on the highway as you’ve passed through Roswell, New Mexico, at night. Could it be that you can even brag to your friends about attending the world’s largest spinach festival in Alma, Arkansas? Or perhaps it’s always been your dream to see the world’s largest ketchup (catsup?) bottle in Illinois.
Whatever strange, silly, or (in)famous things you have seen on your travels throughout the United States, you cannot possibly see every wacky thing in every wacky town across this wacky country often simply referred to as “America.” That’s why this list of small towns famous for weird things is here for you. From the weird to the spooky, from the pointless to the dangerous, from the historic to the futuristic, this list of ten strange towns below might just make you want to go on a road trip in search of them all!
10 The Flavor Graveyard
Everybody loves ice cream, especially Ben Jerry’s ice cream. If you stop in Waterbury, Vermont, and take a tour of the Ben Jerry’s Ice Cream factory, you’re sure to get a sweet and fun experience. However, a more gruesome part of the tour leads you to a hill in the back of the factory surrounded by white picket fencing and some ghostly trees. But don’t worry, it’s just the Ben Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard, where ice cream flavors go to die!
The Flavor Graveyard is there because of the company’s constant experimentation with weird and wacky ice cream flavors. However, some flavors are just too strange, which ultimately means they did not turn a profit. Every year, around ten or so flavors are eliminated due to low sales and become unfortunate inductees into the Flavor Graveyard. While the sweet cemetery makes for a serene setting for some of the oddest ice cream flavors to rest, only 34 graves have been dug so far out of the over 200 flavors that have been killed off as of this writing. If you can’t find your favorite ice cream flavor in your local supermarket, maybe it’s time to pay your respects at the Flavor Graveyard in Vermont.
9 The Lost Luggage Capital
Alabama may be famous for college football, Southern food, and Forrest Gump, but if you’ve ever wondered where unclaimed airline baggage ends up, and you happen to be in the northeastern part of the state, make a stop in Scottsboro. When an airline cannot track down the owner of a lost item or piece of luggage, it is sent to the Unclaimed Baggage Center there. At the center, you can browse through and purchase a myriad of lost luggage items.
Strange items have been found in this bizarre retirement community for suitcases. Ancient Egyptian artifacts, secret documents, and even a 5.8-carat diamond ring have been reportedly been discovered. The Unclaimed Baggage Center has even been given awards for retailer of the year.
8 Birthplace Of Captain Kirk
Riverside, a small town in Central Iowa, once had a town slogan saying “Where the best begins,” honoring its laid-back lifestyle and small-town Midwestern values. However, the town’s slogan is now “Where the trek begins,” as it is the self-described future birthplace of James T. Kirk, captain of Star Trek ‘s USS Enterprise.
While Kirk has not yet been born, the town celebrates his future birth date of March 22, 2228, with a festival called Trek Fest (formerly River Fest). Note that Kirk’s birth year was established as 2233 in the Star Trek series. The 2228 date is from a book, The Making of Star Trek, published in 1968. While no Star Trek novels, television series, or movies have made clear what Iowa town Kirk was (will be?) born in, Riverside, during the mid-1980s, said, “Why not us?” Perhaps this small town truly has gone where no small town in Iowa has gone before!
7 The Devil’s Crossroads
According to lore, when blues legend Robert Johnson was a young man, he sold his soul to the Devil himself in the small town of Clarksdale, Mississippi. As the pioneering state of American blues music, Mississippi has been the home of blues greats such as B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters, to name but a few. However, Robert Johnson was said, in exchange for playing wicked blues, to have made a wicked deal with the Devil himself at what is now known as the Crossroads, where US highways 61 and 49 converge in Clarksdale.
As a young man, Johnson wanted desperately to be a blues guitarist. “Voices” told Johnson to take a guitar to nearby Dockery Plantation at midnight and wait. He did, and a tall, dark man emerged, took Johnson’s guitar, played it, and then handed it back to Johnson. Immediately, Johnson was able to play blues guitar like no other ever had. If you desperately need to make a pact with the Devil anytime soon, perhaps a trip to the small town in Central Mississippi is what you need.
6 World’s Largest Time Capsule
In the small town of Seward, Nebraska, a man named Harold Davisson liked the year 1975 so much that he made sure to preserve everything he could in the world’s largest time capsule. Today, his time capsule, which is largely underground, is a tourist attraction for those passing through. With a pyramid built on top, the 45-ton vault holds more than 5,000 items from the 1970s!
The large vault made Davisson somewhat of a local celebrity in Seward, and his time capsule was sealed on July 4, 1975. Two years later, The Guinness Book of World Records certified that his time capsule was the largest in the world. However, Seward’s most famous resident received backlash from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, which argued that their “Crypt of Civilization,” sealed in 1940, was the world’s largest time capsule. Controversy followed, but Davisson was granted the title. His capsule is due to be opened on July 4, 2025.
5 The Last Sideshow Town
Gibsonton, Florida, with a population of around 14,000, is America’s one true “Carny Town.” During the early 20th century, when roaming carnivals traveled the land, many carnival workers, also known as carnies, took the summer holiday in the small town of Gibsonton, about 19 kilometers (12 mi) north of Tampa. Gibsonton is fabled for a large portion of its population having been former carnival workers and so-called “sideshow” human attractions. Gibsonton was known as a place for many such people to retire or spend the off season in a warm locale.
Many “carnies” called the place town Gibtown. In the past, the local police chief was a dwarf, and the fire chief was a 244-centimeter-tall (8′) carnival performer. As one can imagine, the carnie population in Gibtown was a closely connected community, and over time, the former carnival workers even developed their own secret language called (yes, you guessed it) carny. Additionally, the International Independent Showmen’s Association runs a very specific welfare system for retired and out-of-work carnies. These days, however, the number of former carnies in Gibsonton has greatly dwindled, and the town is more or less like any other.
4 On Fire for Decades
Centralia, Pennsylvania, has been on fire since the 1960s. In the early 1980s, around 1,000 people lived in this small Pennsylvanian town about 100 kilometers (60 mi) north of Harrisburg. Centralia is more of a ghost town now; by 2010, less than a dozen inhabitants called it home.
Why is Centralia on fire, you might ask? Since 1962, there has been an intense coal mine fire burning not above but below the tiny town. Toxic smoke venting from the cracked ground, sinkholes, and underground gas explosions are pretty good reasons to avoid living in Centralia at all costs. Nevertheless, a few (brave?) residents still hang on.
In 1992, the Pennsylvania government seized all properties in Centralia and condemned them. However, the handful of inhabitants in and around the town are currently allowed to stay. However, once they pass, the town of Centralia will officially be no more. In fact, some scientists believe the fire underground will go on for at least another 250 years!
3 Meet ‘The Slabs’
Residents of Slab City, California, are creatively known as “the Slabs.” This tiny town is popular for recreational vehicling in the Sonoran Desert, but, situated 240 kilometers (150 mi) northeast of San Diego, the bizarre Slab City remains a self-described city without laws. The residents, or “Slabs” as we should refer to them, share one communal shower in this dusty part of the California badlands. As many as 4,000 people may live there in the winter, when it’s cooler, but it gets quite hot in the summer.
Often occupied by hippies, the homeless, drifters, drug addicts, artists, adventurers, and local weirdos, Slab City’s residents brag about their “town” being “the last free place in America.” In this lawless land, a city with no rules, some arguments have resulted in absolute chaos, with tents and RVs set ablaze and even shoot-outs and duels.
Today, Slab City is managed by the state of California, but in the past, the site was known as Camp Dunlap, a former World War II base. But why is it called Slab City? The name comes from the large concrete slabs that remained after the Army abandoned the area. The site was returned to the state of California in 1961. The state eventually destroyed the remaining slabs.
2 The Bell Witch Cave
What makes this small town of Adams, Tennessee, so scary? Well, during the 19th century, the area was said to be haunted by a demon-like witch!
The legend goes that the Bell Witch’s original name was Kate Bates (or Batts). As rumor has it, Kate entered a poorly planned land deal with the neighboring family, whose name was the Bells. Kate promised to haunt the Bell family after learning she had been tricked. She seemed to keep her scary promise after one of the Bells’ daughters appeared to show signs of possession and strange aggression toward spirituality during the time. Some rumors hold that even former US president Andrew Jackson encountered the Bell Witch after investigating the cave that Kate’s spirit now seems to inhabit as she terrifies all who go near.
For roughly two centuries, people in the area have told of experiencing strange feelings when they go anywhere near the cave. Despite her being known locally as a not very kind spirit, a major dare is to repeat the Bell Witch’s original name in a mirror three times. No thanks!
1 A Town Under One Roof
In Whittier, Alaska, nearly the entire population of 218 people resides in a single building! This 14-story condominium was originally designed as an Army barracks during the 1950s and was made a residence in 1969, about five years after the Army moved out. The building, now known as Begich Towers, doesn’t just have people living in it but is nearly a fully functional tiny town under one roof. The building also serves as a church, the police station, a convenience store, and the post office for the town, 100 kilometers (60 mi) south of Anchorage.
In this so-called “town under one roof,” keeping secrets is much more difficult than in other small towns. However, since Whittier is situated between mountains and the sea, the town, or rather building, can mostly only be accessed by boat from long distances. Or, you can take a very long one-lane tunnel that runs one way underneath the mountains for certain portions of the day. While this setup might look strange, isolated, and perhaps even uncomfortable, Whittier’s residents seem to get along quite well and are a very close-knit community.
Top 10 Unexpected Things About Denmark
In August 2018, Trish Regan, who hosts The Intelligence Report with Trish Regan on Fox Business Network, created quite a stir when she disparaged Venezuela and Denmark in a searing commentary about socialism. In the US, a rising socialist movement, spearheaded by politicians such as Independent Bernie Sanders and Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, points to Denmark as a potential model for the US economy. But Regan vehemently disagreed.
“There’s something rotten in Denmark,” she said.
Regan argued that the country’s taxes are too high. Worse yet, just 3 of their 98 municipalities had more than half of the residents employed in 2013. She also ranted that “nobody graduates from school” in Denmark because they’re paid to go to educational institutions. You can see her commentary here.
No matter how you feel about socialism, we can admit that we all have preconceived notions of places where we don’t live, especially when we plan to travel to those areas. Americans are now paying more attention to Denmark and what to expect there after Regan’s dismissal of socialism in Denmark on television.
We thought it might be interesting to talk about the realities of life in Denmark and not just theories of government. Here’s what I personally did not expect when I traveled to the country.
10 Bicycle Structure And Where You Can Take Your Bike
Many people understand that Danes often use bikes to get around. This heavy reliance on bicycles sparks many differences between the ways in which Americans and Danes use them.
Danish people like to ride high on their bikes, and the bicycle structure is mostly very thin. My bike back home is a thick, mint green, average-size bicycle that a person can ride leisurely and plant her butt on easily. When I tried to purchase a similar bicycle in Denmark, I was told that I was not allowed to buy it because the bike was so short that it was child-size. I was told that it would hurt my knees. The seat was 1 centimeter (0.4 in) below my hip!
Additionally, when you live in America and want to travel to a city but you live too far into the suburbs to bring your bike with you, you have to find a place to squeeze your bike and yourself on a train or bus. Or you end up just abandoning your bike at home and settling for walking.
However, the S-tog (S-train) system in Denmark has designated cars where you can bring your bike as well as spaces to park the bike for the duration of your train ride. There are marked places where you bring the bike in and out the door so that no one struggles with transporting these vehicles in different directions.
You have to pay an extra fee to bring your bike on the Metro, but there is space for your bicycle if you purchase that pass.
Finally, even in suburban or rural areas of Denmark, bike paths are carved out for cyclists to get from place to place. I’ve been told by some Danes that there are groups of people in Denmark who want to get rid of the use of cars in the country altogether.
9 Bicycling Rules And Regulations
In the US, we are theoretically supposed to use hand signals to inform pedestrians and drivers of our directions. However, Americans rarely use them. We’re also supposed to wear helmets and refrain from texting while riding. However, little more than negative verbal reactions ensue if Americans do not follow these expectations.
If someone is found texting while riding or failing to use proper hand signals in Denmark, that person can be fined 100–700 Danish kroner. Danes also ride their bikes no matter what time it is, so it is expected that you will have bike lights. If you do not, people will panic about your safety and that of others during the nighttime.
To allow for the transportation of children, there are child seats that attach to the back of a bike and bicycles that have wagons in the front. While these are also offered in America, they are used much more often in Denmark.
Many pregnant women in the US know about the surgeon general’s long-standing warning: You should not drink while you are pregnant if you do not wish to inflict birth defects on your child.
However, in Denmark, studies have found that it’s okay to drink a standard serving of alcohol per day when you are pregnant. According to social norms, not only is it okay, it is expected.
7 Child Care
If you leave your stroller with your child inside even a few yards away from you in America, it is expected that you will have a fair number of people verbally armed and ready to chastise and scorn you as a parent or caregiver.
I have been a guilty party at one point, although I did not say anything directly to the mother (which may be just as bad). However, in Denmark, it’s normal to leave your child in his stroller one grocery aisle over or at the edge of a public room.
6 Water And Energy Conservation
Whether for tax purposes or in the spirit of ecological concern, Danes can be quite conscious of the ways and amounts they use their water and energy resources. Thirty-minute showers would probably not fly. Although laundry dryers can be in households, drying racks are preferred except in a laundry emergency. It is also expected that you turn off lights when you leave a room unless you plan to return to that room very soon.
Like any city, it is hard for people in Copenhagen to take care of their pets outside their apartments other than walking them in the city. However, if you step outside Copenhagen, people will let their pets run free.
I’ve seen cats roaming the neighborhoods. At first, I felt bad for the little strays. Then I learned that they were not strays, just cats that were let out to be free for the day. Their owners knew they would return for food and quality time with the family.
Depending on the individual person, Danes may be more lax on leashes for their dogs during walks as well. However, that’s not the case too often.
Gap years are common for students who are at or near college age in Denmark. These students are not stigmatized or ashamed of their choice. Sometimes, it is natural for kids to take a year off between high school and college in Denmark.
I don’t know why, but people do not always consider Denmark or Copenhagen when they think of technologically advanced countries or cities, respectively. In America, we do not hear much about companies like Cisco anymore, but this firm is on the cutting edge of collaborative business technology.
Cisco has partnered with Copenhagen to build groundbreaking digital infrastructures. There’s also Khora, a virtual reality lab in the meatpacking district of Copenhagen, where people can try different virtual reality systems and games for a low price.
Copenhagen hosts a yearly Techfestival (motto: where humans and technology meet) and boasts the location of many other tech startups and well-established tech companies.
If you are invited to a dinner party in Denmark, you’d better set aside the whole night, starting at around 5:00 PM. It is not typically encouraged to jump from party to party if you have been invited to more than one on the same day. You eat dinner, drink, have dessert, and talk for nearly six hours.
Normally, the host has a seating plan and you should not arrive late or early. If you arrive late, it is rude. If you arrive early, it is worrisome to the host, who may not be fully prepared yet. It’s not necessarily about partying but more about having a good time together and catching up.
1 Going Out
Okay, so Danes are a lot more fun and adventurous than Americans. At least this American. People don’t start hitting the bars until 11:00 PM, and sometimes, they won’t start leaving until 3:00–5:00 the next morning. When Danes want to party, they party hard.
+ Perception Of Safety
In the US, women are often told to either go out in large groups or make sure they have a man around them if they go out after dark. However, people in Denmark, including women, don’t seem to be afraid to go out on their own.
I’m not about to say that Denmark is a utopia because no place is. I’ve biked home at 1:00 AM here, taken trains at midnight, and felt completely safe. Back home, if I’m waiting outside the catering hall where I work in my town and I hear a sound behind me—even at 9:00 PM—it would be enough to make me curl up into a ball and picture the worst possible scenario.
I’ve talked about this to other young women who are studying abroad with me. They have had no problems going home with Danish men. One even said that any time she felt harassed or in danger in Denmark, it was a foreigner, not a Dane, who made her feel threatened.
++ Danes Are Blunt, And That Is Okay
Danes will tell you their honest opinions—whether it’s believing that certain activities or customs are silly or telling you that you’re wrong about something and exactly why or correcting a social behavior that they believe is rude.
Or maybe they just laugh at you when you mispronounce a street name. The Danes understand that it’s okay to be up-front and honest and there’s a way you can do that without being straight-up mean. In fact, most times, you get a good laugh out of the interaction.
+++ Function In Fashion
Remember in 2008 when Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato wore high-top sneakers with their dresses? We thought it looked cute for a few years and then realized that it was just odd.
Danes don’t care. In fact, I’ve seen professors and women on my commute who wear the cutest dresses or outfits with the most beat-up sneakers either because they have to walk long distances or because they have to ride their bikes.
It’s actually made me reframe the idea of cute outfits with athletic sneakers to be wholly cute outfits. Danes also like to be warm. I’ve heard some Danish people tell me that it’s almost like Americans don’t care about the weather—they’ll wear what they think is good-looking in any type of weather and risk their comfort.
However, Danes will wear sweaters and parkas and scarves and make them look cute when they think it’s going to be cold. I’ve seen that even toward the end of summer. However, other American girls and I are wearing skirts and freezing our legs off here when we go out. We dream of how to wear jeans and leather jackets to be warm and cute like the Danish girls.
I’ve continued to learn that changes or differences in the ways that various people live are not bad. Most of the time, our “comfort zone” is really more of a barrier to how we could be experiencing life than an actual comfort.
For me while living in Denmark, that lesson certainly applies. Danes live differently than what I’m used to, but I’m not upset about it at all. In fact, I find myself constantly enthusiastic about this new way of living.
Maher is in her fourth and last year of undergraduate studies at American University in Washington, DC. She studies journalism and health promotion and is currently studying in Scandinavia to understand herself and the world around her more. Maher’s dream is to be an investigative journalist or to work for NPR. Honestly, what journalism student doesn’t have that dream, though?
10 Strangest US Roadside Attractions
Roadside attractions have been a staple of American culture since the first mile of Route 66 was laid down. Fodder for postcards, novelty-seekers, and Instagram shots, these various noteworthy stopping points are often quite unique and bizarre.
While classics such as the World’s Largest Ball of Twine seem weird enough, an in-depth look reveals much stranger sights. Here are ten of the strangest US roadside attractions. (For those curious, the ball of twine is in Cawker City, Kansas.)
10 Unclaimed Baggage Center
Born from the mind of a man named Doyle Owens in 1970, Unclaimed Baggage Center (UCB) is a secondhand store with a unique supply chain: US airline companies. As of today, it is the only store in the country which sells lost luggage. The size of a city block, UCB has forged alliances with most major airlines, not only selling lost luggage but also random carry-on items which get left behind.
Originally sold on card tables in a rented house in Washington, DC, the nearly 7,000 new daily items were moved to their current home of Scottsboro, Alabama, by Bryan Owens in 1995. Thanks to the exclusive contracts signed with the major airlines of the US, UCB boasts more than a million visitors per year. In addition to their storefront, they also have a museum of oddities and curios, items which are not for sale. (An African djembe is one of the more unique exhibits.)
9 Lucy The Margate Elephant
Located just a short distance south of Atlantic City, a 20-meter (65 ft) building rises from the Margate sands. This isn’t your ordinary building, though; it’s in the shape of a large elephant, and its name is Lucy. Since its construction in 1881, news of a giant elephant appearing to sailors began to trickle into various parts of the East Coast. Determined to uncover the truth, visitors began to flock to Absecon Island, shocked when they realized it was no mirage.
The brainchild of a man named James V. Lafferty, Jr., Lucy was eventually patented in 1882, with Lafferty receiving one for the invention of a “building in the form of an animal.” Later owners of the building eventually began guided tours, with such visiting luminaries as President Woodrow Wilson. At various times through its history, Lucy has been a summer home for an English doctor and his family, a tavern (which nearly resulted in it burning to the ground), and a tourist attraction, which it remains to this day.
8 Wall Drug
Perhaps the most famous tourist trap in the entire country, Wall Drug got its start in 1931 on the edge of the South Dakota Badlands. Using his last $3,000, Ted Hustead brought his wife and child to the small town of Wall and purchased a small pharmacy. Business was tough, and they struggled to make ends meet for years while the Great Depression rolled on.
However, to this day, their biggest draw might still be one of their first: free water. Hustead’s wife, Dorothy, had the idea come to her while she tried to sleep one hot July afternoon. Due to her idea, and a number of ingeniously placed billboards, people flocked to the store, filling up on ice water as well as the occasional ice cream cone. Today, more than two million people visit each year, bringing more than $10 million with them.
7 Nicolas Cage’s Tomb
In a move which seems to solidify his eccentric reputation, Nicolas Cage purchased a tomb in an infamous New Orleans graveyard in 2010. Thanks to its below-sea-level elevation and numerous outbreaks of disease throughout its history, the city has strict rules about where cemeteries can be located, unless they’re aboveground. Those rules are what led Cage to purchase a 2.7-meter-tall (9 ft) stone pyramid in the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
However, the exact reasoning behind the tomb’s purchase has been kept secret, though some locals are angry he was able to even get into the cemetery in the first place, going so far as to accuse the actor of knocking down much older burials in order to make room for the pyramid tomb. The first New Orleans graveyard with aboveground burials, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is also the final resting place of Marie Laveau, the infamous voodoo queen of New Orleans.
6 Airstream Ranch
An homage to Cadillac Ranch, an art installation using junked Cadillac automobiles, Airstream Ranch was located not far from Tampa, Florida, and used old RVs as its medium. It was the pet project of Frank Bates, a man who, coincidentally, happens to run an RV dealership nearby. Controversial for much of its existence (such is the life of modern art), state courts reversed local orders to tear it down after Bates fought for nearly two years.
Created in 2007 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Airstream company, the ranch was originally intended to be built using brand-new RVs, but Bates ended up deciding to get one from every decade of the company’s existence (though he only managed five decades’ worth). Bates had hoped to add to the ranch, envisioning a future where his installation would have become a park, as well as a home for weddings. In the end, however, Airstream Ranch was torn down to make room for a new Airstream dealership in 2017.
Another roadside attraction reminiscent of Airstream Ranch is Carhenge, located in Alliance, Nebraska. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Stonehenge, made of cars.
5 Cross Island Chapel
Otherwise known as The World’s Smallest Church, the Cross Island Chapel was built in 1989 in the small town of Oneida, New York. In addition to having been certified by Guinness World Records, it also sits on a small dock in the middle of a pond. Only big enough for three standing people (or two seated), the church has nevertheless served as the location for a number of weddings. On one such occasion, wedding guests had to anchor their boats nearby.
Though it lost its title of World’s Smallest Church only a few months after its certification (a Swiss church holds the record), the Cross Island Chapel still attracts its fair share of visitors, most of whom come to pray or just take a look. Built to honor God, the building no longer sits on “Cross Island,” as the water level has risen, forcing a dock to be built to house the 2.7-square-meter (28.7 ft2) chapel.
4 The Hobo Museum
Located in Britt, Iowa, the home of the National Hobo Convention, an annual event which began in 1900, is the Hobo Museum, a building dedicated to the memory of hobos and their history. Housed in an old theater, the museum began its life with nothing more than a single box of random items. Today, the building is full, and exhibits extolling the origins and virtues of the hobo lifestyle are abundant. (To be clear, a hobo is a traveling migrant worker, whereas a tramp is a traveler who avoids work. A bum neither works nor travels.)
In 2008, students of various classes at nearby Iowa State University began work on getting the building onto the National Registry of Historic Places, as well as plans to remodel/restore the former glory of the theater. Other sites throughout the city honor hobos, such as the Hobo Jungle and the Hobo Cemetery, a section of a larger graveyard reserved specifically for hobos.
3 Ben Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard
Have you ever wondered what happens to discontinued ice creams, such as Festivus or Dublin Mudslide? Fear not, for they have gone to a better place: the Ben Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard. A tongue-in-cheek place for a tongue-in-cheek company, the graveyard is not only a page on their website but a physical place, located at their factory in Waterbury, Vermont.
Originally opened in 1997, the graveyard only consisted of four flavors, with many more added over the years (35 at last count). Most of the graves are empty, with the exception being What A Cluster, for which they held an actual funeral. (Whether or not the pint of ice cream actually made it underground is anybody’s guess.) While it isn’t the most popular attraction on this list, Sean Greenwood, Ben Jerry’s head of publicity, says people do come to pay their respects to their favorite discontinued flavors, going so far as to leave flowers near the elaborate granite headstones erected there.
2 The Octopus Tree
Bearing no relation to the mythical Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, the Octopus Tree of Oregon is an enormous spruce tree, notable for its branches, which resemble the tentacles of an octopus. Believed to be the largest Sitka spruce in the state, debate continues on the story of its origins, with Native American activity being the most likely. Coastal tribes, such as the Tillamook tribe, were said to shape the trees as part of their ceremonial rites.
The idea behind the Native American theory is that the tree was used to hold cedar canoes, as well as other objects of ritual importance. As far as the Octopus Tree goes, it has been estimated to be hundreds of years old and has often gone by the name “The Council Tree,” as it was said that elders also congregated at it in order to make decisions.
1 World’s Largest Collection Of World’s Smallest Versions Of World’s Largest Things
This one is going to take a little explaining. Intrigued by the great American pastime of creating the largest versions of things, artist Erika Nelson decided to riff on that idea. What sprung from her thought was a traveling attraction containing miniature replicas of said things. Extensive research on each and every exhibit is performed before construction, with precise measurements done on the originals.
Appropriate materials are used whenever possible; for example, the World’s Smallest Version of the World’s Largest Ball of Rubber Bands was made using miniature rubber bands. In addition, a photo is taken of each exhibit sat in front of its original. While it is normally on the road, and best seen there, when the attraction is not traveling, it calls Lucas, Kansas, its home.
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