The Traveling Praters presents Travel Inspired Living.
I guess I’ve always thought of roadside attractions as a dying art but maybe that’s not true. There are plenty of roadside attractions popping up throughout the US in the name of public art. Last summer, I took a road trip with my mom and dad from our home in Ohio to Branson, Missouri and back. We made plenty of stops along the way as I introduced them to the free roadside art displays that I’ve grown to love.
In this post, I share all the stops we made as well as a few (mainly the ones in Ohio) that we didn’t stop to explore but stops that would make a great addition to your road trip to Branson.
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.
Time needed: Allow 15 minutes at this stop to photograph the statue and then 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
Field of Corn
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.
Address: 4995 Rings Rd, Dublin, OH 43017
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, overlooking 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 Air Force has one of the world’s largest collections of aircraft’s 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 to highlight 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 an hour- two minimum for a very condensed tour.
Address: 1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, OH 45431
The World’s Largest Candle
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’ve 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
World’s Largest Rocking Chair, Windchime, Mail Box, Golf Tee, Wooden Clogs, Pitchfork, Knitting Needles, and Crochet Hook
Casey, Illinois is a roadside attraction enthusiast’s dream town. Not only do they hold 8 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 was a pencil, yardstick and wooden coin among other things. All items are made right there 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 minutes to drive through town and see everything. An hour to an hour and a half 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
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
Kaskaskia Fire-breathing Dragon, Gateway Arch Replica, Madonna of the Road, Vandalia State House State Historic Site
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 located directly across from the dragon for a $1 token to watch the dragon breathe fire. It doesn’t last long so have your camera ready, but it is one of those things you won’t forget. 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- 20 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
Time to Eat
Blue Springs Café Highland, Illinois
We stopped at Blue Springs Café to try one of the foot-high pies that are 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, service is great and portions are huge. In addition to the notorious pies, they have incredible Coleslaw.
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 but I’ve only been at the Blue Springs Cafe once.
Address: 3505 George St, Highland, IL 62249
St. Louis Gateway Arch
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
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 photography until we’d passed it. There isn’t anywhere to stop to check this one out but it’s still worth a drive-by.
Time needed: A minute to drive by.
Address: 800 South Morrison Avenue Collinsville, IL
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
If you love murals, you’ll love Cuba. We spent so much time checking out the murals that we decided we’d stop for the night in Cuba. The town has 12 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
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 around 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
The Pulaski County Visitor’s Center offers a turn-by-turn drive it yourself a 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. 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.
Time needed: 1-2 hours to drive the entire route with detours to scenic spots.
Address: 137 St Robert Blvd, St Robert, MO 65584 – this address will get you to the visitor’s center.
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 narrated tour. The tour will lead you past and under, stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, cave pearls, flowstones, delicate draperies and more.
Time needed: 1.5 hours.
Address: 4872 N Farm Rd 125, Springfield, MO 65803
Home of the throwed rolls, 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.
Time needed: 1-1.5 hours to eat.
Address: 1800 W. State Hwy J Ozark, MO 65721
Dick’s Five and Dime
Simply Irresistible: Branson Candy
Shepard of the Hills Fish Hatchery
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 this trip, I may have to change my mind. 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.
Address: 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
Read more about Branson:
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