The American Midwest: Our Essential Roadside Stops
Here at La Mesa RV we love road trips. There’s nothing like hitting the open road — and getting to stop on a whim to gawk at the amazing sights you’ll pass. With an agenda that is yours for the making, taking your RV across America offers the ultimate freedom to see attractions you may otherwise miss. And if your dream has always been to take an RV road trip through the open fields and rolling plains of the American Midwest, there’s a lot to see.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 roadside stops from state to state, all of which range from the weird and whimsical to the larger-than-life.
Enchanted Highway – Gladstone, North Dakota
You don’t even need to get out of your RV for this one. The Enchanted Highway is a peculiar 32 mile stretch that boasts the world’s largest collection of scrap metal art. The highway links Gladstone and Regent, two small North Dakota towns. Artist Gary Greff started the project in 1989, and has since been adding to the eclectic collection which includes the “World’s Largest Tin Family,” 40-feet prairie pheasant sculptures, and an intimidatingly large metal grasshopper. Many of the sculptures include their own pull-in picnic spots in case you want to spend a little longer admiring your favorite attraction.
Corn Palace – Mitchell, South Dakota
Not to be outdone by its northern neighbor, roadside South Dakota has an equally quirky claim-to-fame. It’s called the Corn Palace, and yes, the entire Kremlin-style building is covered with bushels of corn, grains, and other farm fixings (don’t worry, there is a concrete structure beneath). The palace pays tribute to the state’s agricultural history, and the exterior corn murals are redesigned each year, meaning each RV road trip will reveal a different artistic harvest.
Jolly Green Giant – Blue Earth, Minnesota
File this one under the larger-than-life category. The 60-foot-tall Jolly Green Giant statue towers along the I-90 and Highway 169. The green giant pays testament to the role Blue Earth’s factories played in canning the Jolly Green Giant’s legumes throughout the 20th century.
The House on the Rock – Spring Green, Wisconsin
The House on the Rock may provide the sensation of visiting multiple places at once. A jumble of architectural rooms, you can stroll through the Victorian era “Streets of Yesterday” and continue to the futuristic “Infinity Room” where brave roadside warriors can walk along the room that juts more than 200 feet out from the edge of the rock. This latter attraction is visible a mile away off Highway 23, so you can’t miss it from the road.
Carhenge – Alliance, Nebraska
A formation of old vehicles arranged along the edge of the Nebraska sandhills casts some odd shadows along the side of Highway 87. Carhenge is this Midwestern state’s answer to England’s stonehenge — only it’s built entirely of 39 grey spray-painted cars. Spoiler alert: no RV’s were included in the creation of Carhenge.
Dorothy’s House & Land of Oz – Liberal, Kansas
Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz are most certainly Kansas’ most famous exports. Visit the original farm house that inspired by L. Frank Baum’s classic tale and continue into an animated Land of Oz building where you can take your very own journey to see the wizard himself.
Backyard Roller Coasters – Bruceville, Indiana
Bruceville resident John Ivers has turned his backyard into a do-it-yourself adrenalin junkie’s dreamland. A little off US Highway 150, this attraction is worth the detour so you can experience the two homemade roller coasters Ivers has built using car parts and farm equipment. Visitors are welcomed on the weekends and are encouraged to make appointments first — the attraction is in Ivers’ backyard, after all.
World’s Largest Catsup Bottle – Collinsville, Illinois
If you visited the Jolly Green Giant in Minnesota, you’re already primed for your next giant food attraction. Take a ride down Illinois Route 159 (just off the historic Route 66) where you can stare up at the world’s largest catsup bottle. The attraction clocks in at 170 feet in height and originally served as a water tower for the local catsup bottling plant.
The Heidelberg Project – Detroit, Michigan
The Heidelberg Project has transformed a down-and-out street in Detroit into an incredible outdoor art community. While driving (or walking) along Heidelberg Street, make sure to take lots of snaps at the brilliantly colorful polka-dotted Dotty-Wotty House, the House of Soul covered in old vinyl records, and the Number House which promises to make mathematics look like a blast.
Big Muskie’s Bucket – McConnelsville, Ohio
Just off State Route 78 you’ll be blown away by the size of the bucket that once scraped away at the valley it now overlooks. The giant bucket now pays tribute to the men and women who helped mine coal and eventually reclaim the Ohio valley. Compare your RV to the size of Big Muskie — a historical photo at the local interpretive center shows a high school band playing within the bucket!
Bonus: U.S. Route 66
Known as the Main Street of America, historic Route 66 is arguably the country’s most famous stretch of road. Starting in Chicago, Route 66 runs through a handful of American Midwest states, all of which have erected roadside attractions and created kitschy town sites to welcome tourists along the ultimate American road trip route.
So there you have it – a highlight of just 10 of the many sights you can see while driving through the American Midwest. We’d love to hear where you’ve visited on your RV road trips – leave us a comment with your top tips.