I’ve always thought of roadside attractions as a dying art, but maybe that’s not true.
While many of the favorite stops that I grew up with here in Ohio, like Prehistoric Forest and the Blue Hole, are no longer standing or open to visitors, there are plenty of roadside attractions popping up throughout the US in the name of public art.
And I’m a sucker for planning a road trip around these fun, eccentric, sometimes larger-than-life roadside stops.
A few summers ago, I took a road trip to Branson with my mom and dad from our home in Ohio to Missouri. We made a ton of stops and even more memories along the way.
I’m so thankful to have those memories because my dad passed away last year.
I introduced my mom and dad to many free roadside art displays that I’ve grown to love.
Things to do on the way to Branson MO
I hope you find this information helpful as you plan your own memorable drive to Branson, Missouri.
How Far is Branson Missiouri from my location?
If you need more help planning your trip or want to figure out how long of a drive you can expect, the fastest route to Branson Missouri, or the best route to Branson Missouri, you may want to check out my favorite planning tool, Roadtrippers.
Available as an app and for desktop, this tool will calculate the mileage for your trip, tell you how much gas you’re likely to spend and my favorite feature, help you find all the quirky or scenic stops along your route.
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Click here to learn more about Roadtrippers and Roadtrippers Plus.
In this post, I share all the roadside attractions on the way to Branson that we stopped at during our trip.
I even included a few (mainly the ones in Ohio) that we didn’t stop to explore, but ones that I think would make a great addition to your road trip to Branson or anywhere out west if you find yourself passing through Ohio.
Columbus Ohio to Branson
There are a ton of fun stops in Columbus that are just a few minutes off I-71, I-70, and I-270. I’ve included a few of my favorites but if time permits, you may want to plan to spend the night and Explore Historic Dublin or check out our list of Things to do in Columbus with Kids.
Leatherlips in Dublin, Ohio
This giant limestone sculpture isn’t the only draw to this riverside park, but it may be the most impressive. Visitors can read about the monument, dial a number from their cell phone to learn more, and even climb on the monument for a unique photo op.
Time needed: Allow a minimum of 15 minutes at this stop to photograph the statue and to walk or drive down to the lower parking area for a view of the Scioto River. If you have little ones, you may want to allow extra time so they can play at the playground.
Address: 7377 Riverside Dr, Powell, OH 43065
The Field of Corn on Frantz Road in Dublin
Thirteen rows with 109 concrete ears of corn that each stand over six feet tall comprise the Field of Corn (with Osage Oranges) roadside attraction to pay homage to the once rural area’s agricultural background.
Read more about this attraction here: Field of Corn Roadside Attraction
Time needed: You can drive by or hop out to run between the corn, the choice is yours. This is a great spot for a picnic under the Osage trees. Make sure you pack a blanket to spread out on the ground and a picnic basket full of goodies.
Address: 4995 Rings Rd, Dublin, OH 43017
Dancing Hares of Dublin
You don’t need to get out of your car to spot the Giant Dancing Hares in Dublin, Ohio.
Located at the entrance to the luxurious, Irish-inspired Ballantrae community, the bunnies are visible on a hill, or hillock as they like to say in Dublin. The spot overlooks a splash pad and pond situated on 20 acres of land.
Read more about this attraction here: The Giant Dancing Hares of Dublin Roadside Attraction
Time needed: You can drive by this one or park your vehicle in the parking lot and walk up the hill to check it out. This spot deserves a closer look (read my post above to learn why).
Address: 6350 Woerner Temple Road, Dublin, OH 43017
The National Museum of the United States Airforce in Dayton
The National Museum of the United States Airforce has one of the world’s largest collections of aircraft and missiles on display and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Ohio. Well worth the stop if you have time to spare.
The museum features more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles on display, with thousands of personal artifacts, photographs, and documents highlighting the Air Force’s contributions and actions from the beginnings of military flight to today’s war on terrorism.
Another reason to stop? This museum is free.
Time needed: How much time do you have? Seriously, you could spend days at this attraction and never see everything. Allow yourself a one-and-a-half to two-hour minimum for a very condensed tour.
Address: 1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, OH 45431
Check out Free Things to do in Dayton or Find Your Next Adventure Along the Great Miami Riverway for ideas to extend your time in the Dayton area.
The World’s Largest Candle in Centerville, Indiana
The World’s Largest Candle, which is part of the Warm Glow Store, can be seen from I-70 heading towards Indianapolis.
I’ve passed by many times, but the first time I stopped was on our trip to Branson. I wasn’t able to explore the store at that time because we arrived before it was open but have since stopped to check it out.
The huge candle is attached to a candle and home décor store that also sells food products, chocolates, and wine. If you’re hungry, you can grab a bite to eat at their onsite diner. Next door is a store that sells decorations for your yard and patio.
This is a fun stop to stretch your legs, and according to the billboards I saw, they have the cleanest restrooms on I-70. I’ll have to take their word for it, as I didn’t stop to go.
Time needed: A few minutes to stop and look at the candle. 30 minutes to explore the interior of the store.
Address: 2131 N Centerville Rd, Centerville, IN 47330
The Big Things Small Town of Casey, Illinois
The World’s Largest Rocking Chair, Windchime, Mail Box, Golf Tee, Wooden Clogs, Pitchfork, Knitting Needles, and Crochet Hook, Truck Key, Gavel, Swivel Spoon, Golf Driver, Barbershop Pole and Teeter Totter can all be found in Casey, giving it the nickname of the Big Things Small Town.
Casey, Illinois, is a roadside attraction enthusiast’s dream town.
Not only do they hold 12 records for the ‘world’s largest’ items, but they also have a series of “Big” items that can be found around town. During our visit that included a pencil, yardstick, and wooden coin, among other things.
All items are made in the Big Things in a Small-Town Workshop, and during the summer, you can watch artisans at work creating their next big thing.
Time needed: 30-45 minutes to drive through town and see everything. An hour to an hour and a half or more, minimum, to walk through town and check out all the stops.
Address: 110 E Main St, Casey, IL 62420 (to the rocking chair- follow the signs to the others or stop in the cafe for a map)
America’s Largest Cross in Effingham, Illinois
The Cross at the Crossroads in Effingham intersects Highway 57 and 70, easily visible to passersby from the Interstate and the surrounding area.
At 198 feet tall and 113 feet wide, the cross, made of over 180 tons of steel, looms over Effingham, easily visible by day and illuminated at night. It’s worth a stop to get off the highway for a closer look.
You’ll find plenty of parking and a visitor’s center.
Read more about this attraction here: The Cross at the Crossroads of Effingham, Illinois
Time needed: 10 minutes to exit the interstate and drive by the cross, 20 minutes or longer to walk through the stations and into the Visitor Center.
Address: 1207 Network Centre Dr # 3, Effingham, IL 62401
A Fire-Breathing Dragon in Vandalia, Illinois
You’ll find the Kaskaskia Fire-breathing Dragon, Gateway Arch Replica, Madonna of the Road, and Vandalia State House State Historic Site at the Kaskaskia exit off I-70.
You may be tempted to pass right by this small town. I did many times until I discovered what lurked just beyond the interstate.
The Kaskaskia fire-breathing dragon is probably one of my absolute favorite roadside attractions. Stop into the nearby hardware store or liquor store directly across from the dragon for a $1 token to watch the dragon breathe fire. It doesn’t last long, but it is one of those things you won’t forget. So have your camera ready!
Around the corner from the dragon, you’ll find a replica of the Gateway Arch, and if you continue on to Route 40, you’ll see a Madonna of the Road statue, one of 12 located across the US from Maryland to California to pay homage to the pioneer mothers who made the trek with their husband’s.
The statue is located on the Vandalia State House square. This state historic site is the location of the fourth capitol building of Illinois and the only one of the proceeding buildings to survive.
Time needed: 15- 30 minutes to see all sites and to stop in the liquor or hardware store to buy a token for the dragon if you want to watch it breathe fire.
Address: 2401-2599 Progress W Dr, Vandalia, IL 62471
Check out our post on Things to See Along I-70 in EVERY State for more ideas.
Time to Eat Blue Springs Café Highland, Illinois
We stopped at Blue Springs Café to try one of the foot-high pies advertised on billboards all over that region. We left not able to eat another bite without a taste of the pie.
The diner is cute, the service is great, and the portions are huge. In addition to the notorious pies, they have incredible Coleslaw. Note that this small-town diner only accepts cash, but there is an ATM on-site if you’re running low or are used to using your credit cards like I am.
Time needed: How long does it take you to eat? This stop is visible from the highway. Service was fast on the day I was there.
Address: 3505 George St, Highland, IL 62249
Things to do Between St. Louis and Branson
You won’t want to miss these spots when planning a St. Louis to Branson road trip.
St. Louis Gateway Arch in St. Louis
You don’t have to stop at the Gateway Arch to see it. It’s easily visible from the road depending on your route into St. Louis. I’ve stopped before with my family and highly recommend it if you have time.
Time needed: Drive by or spend time exploring the museum and taking a tram to the top of the Arch.
Address: St. Louis, MO
World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle Collinsville, Illinois
The World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle was one of my mom’s favorite stops, even though it wasn’t really a stop. We spotted the ketchup bottle/water tower as we approached on the road but couldn’t stop for a photograph until we’d passed it.
There isn’t really anywhere to stop for a good photo with the water tower, but it’s still worth a drive-by.
Time needed: A minute to drive by.
Address: 800 South Morrison Avenue Collinsville, IL
Traveling along Route 66 to Branson MO
Route 66 is iconic for roadside attractions and if you’re traveling east to west to reach Branson, you’ll have the opportunity to spend some time on this iconic highway.
Route 66 State Park Visitor Center in Eureka, MO
This visitor center is a wealth of information for those traveling through the area or planning to travel along Route 66.
We stopped at this visitor center to gather information for the road ahead and found Route 66 memorabilia and exhibits and a large gift shop. Across from the Visitor Center is a Route 66 sign that is perfect for a photo op on the dead-end street.
Time needed: 5-30 minutes or longer depending if you stop in only to gather information or if you decide to go through the small museum and gift shop.
Address: 97 N Outer Rd, Eureka, MO 63025
The Cuba Murals in Cuba, Missouri
If you love murals, you’ll love Cuba. We spent so much time checking out the murals that we decided to spend the night in Cuba.
The town currently has 14 murals located along Route 66 that tell the history of Cuba from 1857.
Time needed: 1-2 hours to drive through and look at all of the murals, based on interest.
Address: Downtown Cuba, MO
The Route 66 Red Rocker- updated: the Red Rocker is now Orange and under new ownership.
The Route 66 Red Rocker is found just outside Cuba in Fanning. It held the title of the World’s Largest Rocking Chair until the folks in Casey, Illinois introduced their rocker.
Now the 2nd largest in the world, the red rocker is still the largest rocker along Route 66 and a popular stop for those looking for a great photo op.
Read more about this attraction here: The World’s Largest Rocking Chair
Time needed: 2-5 minutes for photos.
Address: 5957 Hwy ZZ Fanning, MO
Stubby Stonehenge in Rolla, Missouri
The only Stonehenge located along Route 66, this roadside attraction wasn’t carved by hand, but rather with a high-pressure water jet lab at the former University of Missouri at Rolla Rock Mechanics.
You can park in the adjacent parking area for a quick look at the marvel that took only a month to complete.
Time needed: 5 minutes to take a photo, a bit longer to read the information presented.
Address: State Street Rolla, MO
Route 66 through Pulaski, Missouri
The Pulaski County Visitor’s Center offers a turn-by-turn drive-it-yourself tour of Route 66 through Pulaski County, which is a wonderful idea.
Unfortunately, by the time you make it to the Visitor Center to pick up the guide, you have to backtrack to reach the starting point and get back on Route 66.
This wasn’t a deal breaker for us but if you’re planning to travel the route, contact the Visitor’s Center so they can send you a copy of the route before your trip or download a copy of the brochure here before you leave home.
I believe the guide could use updated, but we were able to find some neat buildings, an old iron bridge at Devil’s Elbow, and a historic train truss (a detour off Route 66) that made backtracking totally worth it. In fact, one of my mom and dad’s favorite things to see along our trip was that historic train truss.
If you have the time to spend, you may also enjoy the Bizarrre and Unique Shutterbug Tour, which includes a stop at Uranus. Believe me when I say that this roadside attraction complex is truly unforgettable.
Time needed: 1-3 hours to drive the entire route with detours to scenic spots, depending on your interest level.
Address: 137 St Robert Blvd, St Robert, MO 65584 – this address will get you to the visitor’s center.
Fantastic Caverns in Springfield, Missouri
Discovered in 1862, Fantastic Caverns are America’s only ride-through cave.
You’ll learn about the history of the cave and early explorers of the cave on the 55-minute Jeep-drawn narrated tour that is DOG-friendly. This makes me want to return to see how my dog would do.
The tour will lead you past and under stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, cave pearls, flowstones, delicate draperies and more.
Note: While the cave is ride-through, those with mobility issues must make their way to the lower level via a ramp and stairs.
Time needed: 1.5 hours.
Address: 4872 N Farm Rd 125, Springfield, MO 65803
Eat at Lambert’s Cafe in Ozark, Missouri
Home of the throwed rolls (no, that is not a typo they are really called throwed), this restaurant located between Springfield and Branson, Lambert’s Café is a destination in itself.
Fun and lively, with lots of food passing by your table, it’s impossible to leave Lambert’s without a full tummy and, most likely, a to-go bag.
I didn’t know it when we stopped, but this is a restaurant that my dad would talk about for years to come. And when my mom and her sister traveled west after my dad passed away, this was the ONE place my mom wanted to stop. They absolutely loved our Lambert’s Cafe experience.
Time needed: 1-1.5 hours to eat.
Address: 1800 W. State Hwy J Ozark, MO 65721
Arrive in Branson, Missouri
I admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of Branson after my first visit and was only drawn back for Table Rock Lake, the Ozarks, and the Sight and Sound Theater.
But after the trip with my mom and dad, I changed my mind about Branson.
We spent more time in the historic district and not on the strip. This made all the difference. Historic Downtown Branson is small but charming.
Highlights on this trip included Dick’s Five and Dime, Simply Irresistible: Branson Candy, the mural downtown, the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery near Table Rock Lake, and once again, the Sight and Sound Theater.
Time needed: A couple of hours to a few days.
Planning to spend some time here?—->Find deals on hotels in Branson.
Dick’s Five and Dime 103 W Main St, Branson, MO 65616
Simply Irresistible: Branson Candy 116 S Commercial St, Branson, MO 65616
Shepard of the Hills Fish Hatchery 483 Hatchery Rd, Branson, MO 65616
Don’t forget to take pictures on your road trip. You’ll want to remember the experiences you’ve had for years to come, and there’s nothing like a great photo to jog your memory.