The "World's Largest Dinosaur", a roadside attraction in Drumheller, Alberta

A roadside attraction is a feature along the side of a road meant to attract tourists. In general, these are places one might stop on the way to somewhere, rather than being a destination. They are frequently advertised with billboards. The modern tourist-oriented highway attraction originated as a U.S. and Canadian phenomenon in the 1940s to 1960s,[1] and subsequently caught on in Australia.[2]


When long-distance road travel became practical and famous in the 1920s, entrepreneurs began building restaurants, motels, coffee shops, cafes, and unusual businesses to attract travelers.[3][4] Many of the buildings were attractions in themselves in the form of novelty architecture, depicting everyday objects of enormous size, typically relating to the items sold there.[5] Some other types of roadside attractions include monuments and fictionalized-paranormal/illusionary amusements such as the Mystery Spot near Santa Cruz, California,[6] or curiosities such as The Thing? along Interstate 10 in Arizona.[7]

With the construction of the U.S. Interstate Highway System in the mid-1950s, many roadside attractions were bypassed and quickly went out of business.[4] Some remained attractive enough to divert travelers from the interstate for a brief respite and thus remain in business. The best example of this change is along US Route 66, where in the southwest, Interstate 40 provided for non-stop travel.[8][9] In 2017, the publication Best Life listed 33 top roadside attractions in the U.S. Among those listed were Lucy the Elephant, Margate, NJ; Cabazon Dinosaurs, Cabazon, CA; Oregon Vortex, Gold Hill, OR; Jolly Green Giant, Blue Earth, MN; and Secret Caverns, Howes Cave, NY.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Rick Quinn; RoadTrip America (3 April 2018). RoadTrip America Arizona & New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips. Imbrifex Books. pp. 177–. ISBN 978-1-945501-11-1.
  2. ^ Kaye Sung Chon (4 July 2013). Geography and Tourism Marketing. Routledge. pp. 147–. ISBN 978-1-136-37739-6.
  3. ^ Wickman, Forrest (11 August 2015). "A Mini History of Mega Tourist Traps" – via Slate.
  4. ^ a b Weingroff, Richard F. (27 June 2017). "Along the Interstates: Seeing the Roadside". Highway history. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  5. ^ Wickman, Forrest (11 August 2015). "A Mini History of Mega Tourist Traps". Slate. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  6. ^ Stewart M. Green (14 January 2014). Scenic Routes & Byways California's Pacific Coast. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 45–. ISBN 978-1-4930-0475-1.
  7. ^ Wesley Treat; Mark Moran; Mark Sceurman (2007). Weird Arizona: Your Travel Guide to Arizona's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. pp. 95–. ISBN 978-1-4027-3938-5.
  8. ^ edklein69. "Route 66 History Page". Route 66 World. Retrieved 6 April 2018.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ "The History of Route 66". National Historic Route 66 Federation. 5 March 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  10. ^ Crow, Sarah (December 20, 2017). "The 33 Best Roadside Attractions in America". BestLife.

Further reading

  • Berger, Michael L. (2001). The American automobile in the 20th century : a reference guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313245589.</ref>
  • Hollis, Tim (1999). Dixie before Disney: 100 years of roadside fun. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781617033742.
  • Jakle, John A.; Sculle, Keith A. (2011). Remembering Roadside America Preserving the Recent Past as Landscape and Place. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 9781572338333.
  • Kirby, Doug; Smith, Ken; Wilkins, Mike (1992). The new Roadside America: the modern traveler's guide to the wild and wonderful world of America's Tourist attractions. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780671769314.
  • Margolies, John (1998). Fun along the road : American tourist attractions. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0821223512.
  • Marling, Karal Ann (1984). The Colossus of Roads: Myth and Symbol Along the American Highway. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 9781452905013.