Have you ever wondered where the world’s largest ball of twine was and if you might pass it on an upcoming road trip? Or are you perhaps interested in seeing oversized statues of Paul Bunion and his blue ox, Babe, or a mystical metal structure known as Carhenge? Did you ever wonder how Zzyzx Road (between Los Angeles and Las Vegas) got its name and why the heck it’s in the middle of the desert? Or would you like to know the timing of eruptions for Old Faithful before you arrive? Visiting roadside attractions is a time-honored activity for those that find themselves on long-haul trips across the country and in need of a distraction that will allow them to stretch their legs. Enter Roadside America, a publication that began back in the mid-’80s as a handy guide for domestic tourists looking to find some truly incredible stuff right in their own backyard (so to speak). Since then they have started a much more comprehensive website, complete with maps by city and state, featured attractions, landmarks, and oddities, and even a section for users to save a list of their faves. And what’s more, they’ve created an app for the Apple set.
The only unfortunate thing about this app is the cost: it’s $2.99 to download and then you have to pay $5.99 to unlock all seven U.S. regions featured (although they throw Canada into the deal). Otherwise it’s $1.99 per region. So cheap it is not, especially considering you can buy a used print copy on Amazon for a penny (yup, you read that right) plus shipping or you can get the information online for free. So what you’re really paying for is mobility. But according to the majority of users, it’s well worth the cost, especially if you’re on a long road trip with kids, in which case you might consider that it serves as a relatively cheap form of distraction.
So what do you get for the money? If you pay for the whole shebang you get access to more than 8,000 attractions across the U.S. and Canada, for starters. This includes not only sites of the world’s smallest and largest variety, but also historical attractions (museums, statues, and more), mystery spots (caves and other natural oddities), strange architecture, oddball eateries, and classic draws like stops along Route 66. You can browse by geographic area or attraction name and there are over 70 categories to help you match the attractions in your current area to your interests. And once you have selected a roadside attraction to visit you can get all kinds of information like directions, hours, photos, and even commentary from travel gurus.
There are also fun extras like the ability to schedule a call to yourself (from the app) just in case you get stuck in a boring tour group and you need an escape plan. And you can get sunset alerts for your locations so you know when you’re running out of light for photo opps. Plus, you can plot stops along your course ahead of time and then share your fun visits via Facebook and Twitter. This app may not offer you roadside assistance, per se – you’ll have to check in with AAA or Cheapcarinsurance.net for that – but it will definitely clue you in to the many roadside attractions you might have driven past with no knowledge of all the cool stuff you were missing out on. It may be more expensive than pulling over at a rest stop, but it’s bound to be more amusing and you’ll no doubt snap some crazy vacation pics to remind you of how much fun you had on your trip.
Thanks to Evan Fischer for this guest post. He is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.