Five quirky places to visit if you’re in the neighborhood
I’ve visited places that never started out being destinations. Maybe you have, too. These diamonds in the rough pop up along lonely highways or lurk in the shadows of major attractions. The people who oversee them may not appreciate the label “quirky places”, but it’s intended as a big compliment.
Santa’s Village amusement park — New Hampshire
Once we were driving from Maine to Niagara Falls, simply traveling from point A to point B. The scenery consisted of forest and more forest. And then, it appeared, as if a secret dome of invisibility had been lifted as we drove by. “Santa’s Village,” near Jefferson, New Hampshire. We all perked up, especially my daughter. After a quick family three-way nod and a semi-safe U-turn, we were buying tickets.
It’s no Disney, or Cedar Point, or Six Flags. But that’s what we loved about it. The park and its attractions were nestled among the forest and trees. And who doesn’t like a splash of Christmas in July, with rides like Chimney Drop, Reindeer Carousel, Yule Log Flume Ride, Rudy’s Rapid Transit Coaster and HoHo H2O Water Park. And the theme continues with the shops and eateries – Doe-Nut Factory, the Elf’s Lodge Merry Mess Hall and Polar Expresso. I can’t wait to take the grandkids someday, if they materialize.
Asheville Pizza and Brewing – North Carolina
Let’s first deal with the obvious. Yes, Asheville Pizza & Brewing serves very good pizza, beer and other food and drinks. But what’s in the back of the place really captured our affection and landed them on this list of quirky places: an old-time theater where you can feed your appetite and thirst and enjoy a $3 movie.
Most of the films are mildly new releases, some in 3-D, for both big people and kids. They also routinely show the Rocky Horror Picture Show and sell $5 prop bags on those nights. We’re not groupies of the film, so let your imagination run wild as you think about this experience.
The atmosphere is oh-so Asheville, with interesting wall and bathroom art, along with classic video and pinball games. And as we exited, one of the servers cried out, “We appreciate you!” And I think she really meant it.
Wisconsin Concrete Park
Located near Phillips, Wisconsin Concrete Park contains 237 statues made from, you guessed it, concrete. Local artist Fred Smith, a retired lumberjack, created these masterpieces that now grace the Northwoods landscape. Smith owned a tavern and brilliantly imbedded pieces of glass, mirrors and beer bottles into each of his concrete creations. He crafted replicas of Paul Bunyan, his ox Babe, Sacajawea, Statue of Liberty, Abe Lincoln, soldiers, miners, cowboys, angels, farmers, deer, moose and other assorted legends and wildlife.
There’s no admission into the park, which surprises most tourists since demand for concrete art could certainly command a hefty entrance fee. The grounds also include a half-mile hiking trail, Countryside Artists Gallery & Gifts and onsite art classes. And remember, I did disclose early on during this post that these places are “quirky.” And the Concrete Park delivers.
The Legend of Bigfoot — California
Driving Highway 101 from San Francisco to Eureka, we desperately needed a bathroom break. All of a sudden, in a dense forest section close to Garberville and the Redwoods, we stumbled upon The Legend of Bigfoot. And yes, it qualifies as a tourist trap, but one of the better ones in my opinion. Plus it offered facilities for our bladders.
You won’t learn a lot about the legend (yes, I believe!), but you can shop for plenty of Bigfoot and Sasquatch souvenirs. The open-air store also sells lots of chainsaw carvings of Bigfoot himself, bears, western characters and gnomes. Plus I enjoyed the simple artistry of the Bear Hollow house. We bought a few things, including a driver’s license for Bigfoot – I assumed it was real because, as established above, I believe. Reading from the license, “Bigfoot, aka Skunk Ape, Yeti; Hair, brown and matted; height 8 ‘4” and weight 695; large foot pedal vehicles only, must wear corrective deodorant; hair donor; in case of emergency contact Patty Squatch.
Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage – Utah
We’ve vacationed in Moab, UT five times, hiking in Arches and Canyonlands national parks. What beauty and raw outdoor adventure!
One rainy day we decided to explore the indoors and drove about 15 miles along the Colorado River to the Red Cliffs Lodge area, which includes the Castle Creek Winery. Nothing neutralizes a cloudy, rainy day better than a wine tasting. After that, we walked over to the lodge for a snack and were surprised to find the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage. Not a big place, but plum full of great history and memorabilia from the films and the actors and actresses who worked on location at Red Cliffs, including John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Rock Hudson, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart and Richard Widmark. And the museum is free, which meant we used our extra vacation funds for another wine tasting.
So, these destinations may not fit your definition of “quirky places,” but then your definition probably won’t match anyone else’s. Wandering Rose Travels would love to hear about your favorite diamond (or cubic zirconia) in the rough.