Who says road trips are boring? If you’re looking for a fun getaway this summer that’s a little off the beaten path and won’t break the bank, consider foregoing expensive airfare and hitting the open road. From Darth Vader lurking atop a cathedral to a museum that boasts a serial killer’s yard dirt, here are some quirky and inexpensive stops to make along the way. After all, half the fun is getting there.
Unclaimed Baggage Center
Known as the “land of the lost luggage,” the Unclaimed Baggage Center covers more than a city block and sees about one million visitors every year. You can view and purchase literally any item that was packed in a suitcase for airplane travel and never claimed by the owner or was left on a plane. It’s the only lost luggage store of its kind in the U.S.
Darth Vader at the Washington National Cathedral
The sixth-largest cathedral in the world, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. is already a popular tourist destination. However, what many don’t know is that the cathedral offers a bit of hidden eye candy for the architecture or Star Wars fan: a carving of Darth Vader’s face mask perched among its spires. During the 1980s, the cathedral underwent renovations and a contest was held for schoolchildren to design a sculpture to be added to its towers. The Vader sculpture was selected for the third place prize, which included addition during the renovation. To see the sculpture, bring binoculars or a high-powered zoom lens.
Chick and Ruth’s Delly
Chick and Ruth Levitt moved to Annapolis with their three children in 1965 and opened a small sandwich ship on Main Street in the city’s historic downtown. Their hope was to re-institute something they felt had diminished through the years: “Ma & Pa” establishments. Over 50 years later, this still-family-run shop has become a regular hotspot and a “must-see” on the list of stops while visiting Maryland’s capital city. Be sure to get there early—every day at 8:30 a.m. employees and diners stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance (9:30 a.m. on weekends). The “delly” offers several food challenges—including a 6-pound milkshake.
International Cryptozoology Museum
This unique museum features artifacts and exhibits related to “Cryptozoology”— the study of hidden or unknown animals. Think Yetis, Bigfoot, lake monsters, and sea serpents, as well as hundreds of other yet-to-be-found animals worldwide. The museum also includes bizarre recent discoveries including the megamouth shark, giant panda, okapi, and mountain gorilla.
Lucy the Elephant
Margate City, NJ
Who wouldn’t love a 134-year-old, 90-ton, 65-foot elephant made of tin and wood? The world’s largest fake elephant, “Lucy” is also a designated National Historic Landmark. Standing six stories tall, Lucy was built in 1881 by a local real estate developer and has served as an office, a summer home and even a pub. Visitors can go inside through a small staircase to explore a museum about her history.
The Largest Burger in the World
Taking the saying “the burger is king” to another level, Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub features the world famous “Beer Barrel Belly Buster.” This behemoth burger boasts 11 pounds of beef, 25 slices of cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, and several jars of pickles on a 17-inch bun. Eat it in less than three hours and get your money back (which you’ll likely need to spend on antacids) plus bragging rights.
Ben & Jerry’s Factory and Flavor Graveyard
Who can turn down Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? Stop in to their factory in Waterbury for a half-hour tour and scoop of your favorite flavor at the Scoop Shop. Cap off your visit with a walk through the “Flavor Graveyard,” which features tombstones of dearly departed past flavors and those that never made it to the grocery shelf.
Archive of the Afterlife
Dubbed the “National Museum of the Paranormal,” this bizarre attraction houses a collection of beyond-death artifacts, including life masks of the departed, dirt from a known serial killer’s yard, a paranormal history of the West Virginia State Penitentiary, and more.
Resources: AtlasObscura, Travel & Leisure, Thrillist.com, Wikipedia, RoadsideAmerica.com