You’ve heard of one-horse towns, but a one-person town? That’s the distinction held by Buford, Wyoming — or at least it was. The 10-acre town off I-80 was sold at a 2013 auction for $900,000 to two men who run a Vietnamese coffee company. Fulfilling the town’s destiny of becoming a bonafide tourist trap, the duo added “PhinDeli Town” onto the name.
Photo by Max F. via Yelp
Interested in aliens? Curious about military technology? A staunch conspiracy theorist? The Area 51 Alien Travel Center is only 80 minutes (88 miles) from Las Vegas at the intersection of US-95 and NV-373. It offers plenty of souvenirs, corny photo ops, a restaurant, and even a legal, alien-themed brothel (owned by Dennis Hof of the famous Bunny Ranch).
Of course, the real Area 51 is out in the desert as well, but you should not, under any circumstances, attempt to visit or get anywhere near it. The base is still a 100-percent restricted area, with no trespassing or photography allowed. Guards have a license to use deadly force to protect and defend the location. (Editor’s Note: It gives “tourist trap” a whole new meaning!)
If you’re curious to witness the construction of a full-scale Noah’s Ark replica, pull off I-68 in Maryland at Exit 34 and check out God’s Ark of Safety. Once completed, it will measure 450 feet by 75 feet by 45 feet — or about the length of one-and-a-half football fields. Better hurry though; the project was started in 1976 and they’ve already got the frame up!
Despite the slow progress, visitors from all over the world have stopped by, and the project has been featured in People Magazine, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, along with appearances on the BBC and NBC News.
This might be the only attraction on this list that won’t disappoint visitors. After all, if you were interested enough to stop at something called “Hole N” The Rock” in the first place, you’ll probably be tickled pink to find out that the attraction off US-191 in southwestern Utah also includes an “exotic” zoo (featuring zebras, bison, and a camel); a collection of antique tools, vintage neon signs, mining equipment, metal sculptures, and unusual time era pieces; a trading post offering locally made Native America gifts; a general store; and, of course, a souvenir shop. And this is in addition to the 12-minute guided tours of the world-famous Hole N” the Rock House!
When people want to hike a trail, it’s generally because they want to enjoy undisturbed and scenic natural landscapes. When the trail is a bunch of stones thrown on top of 1.48 million cubic yards of U.S. government nuclear waste, it kind of leaves a sour taste in your mouth… and radiation in your entire body. OK, to be fair, in 2002, the government deemed the radiation levels low enough for the site (officially called “Weldon Spring”) to open to the public, but that doesn’t change the weirdness of this attraction — which also includes an informative visitor center. In fact, allowing civilian tourists to visit it makes the whole thing even weirder.
When I was a kid, every year my family made the trip from New York down south via I-95. My brother and I eagerly counted down the miles to South of the Border resort and tourist attraction with help from the endless number of billboards that marked the remaining distance. “Only one more mile!” my father would say as we saw the park emerging in the distance, giant sombrero tower and all. Then, just as we got to the off-ramp, my father would gun the engine and fly by, continuing on to Florida, our true destination. As much as my brother and I wanted to stop each and every year, it turns out Dad was doing us a favor. South of the Border, despite its flashy signs, is the ultimate definition of a tourist trap. This 350-acre resort is devoid of anything that could actually qualify as “amusement” (save for the two mini-golf courses, perhaps), instead featuring some dinky rides at “Pedroland Park,” a mediocre “reptile lagoon,” a sketchy-looking motel, and a whole bunch of souvenir shops and empty parking spaces. South of the Border has made some strides in recent years to attain some sort of legitimacy with numerous updates, but we (and most Yelp reviewers) still feel like Pedro, the Mexican man mascot, is deceiving us all.
Photo by Karla M. via Yelp
“The Thing” is the roadside tourist trap equivalent of clickbait. The 247 signs and billboards along I-10 between El Paso, Texas, and Tucson, Arizona, don’t even attempt to tell you what The Thing actually is, instead choosing to string you (or, more likely, your kids) along until curiosity takes control and you find yourself pulling into the parking lot. We won’t spill the beans on the exact identity of The Thing (you’ll have to fork over $2 like the rest of us!) but we’ll at least note that it was made by the “King of Gaffes,” Homer Tate, back in the mid-twentieth century, and thus is likely not authentic in any way. But hey, at least there’s a Shell station and a Dairy Queen flanking the attraction. After driving through the desert for several hours, you could probably use some gas and a Blizzard.
Off WI-29 (which is off of I-43) just outside of Green Bay, you’ll see signs for Bob Tohak’s “UFO Landing Port.” Considering the fact that U.S. law apparently prohibits contact with extraterrestrials (suspicious, to say the least), it’s probably best that we have some sort of welcome mat laid out for possible visitors. In fact, Tohak says people have suggested he petition the president to make him our spokesman to the arriving aliens. Not a bad idea, considering the fact that his Landing Port project could use a little funding. If travelers from another world stop by and have to land their ultra-advanced, intergalactic spaceships on a questionable-looking piece of scaffolding atop a 42-foot-long fuel tank, we’ll all be a bit red in the face. It’s also probably insulting to our new friends that we pompously assume they look like humanoid creatures — but that’s not old Bob’s fault (even though he’s displaying the signs). Considering the lack of other landing site options, we’ll still give him an “A” for effort.
Ever want to see a baseball covered in paint? What if it was covered in more than 25,000 coats of paint? Yeah, we’re not that interested either, but that hasn’t stopped people from all over the country and world from stopping by the World’s Largest Ball of Paint off I-69 in Indiana. To the owner’s credit, they actually have a neat little gimmick going, where visitors can paint a layer on the giant ball (which, after 40 years, looks to be about 5 feet in diameter) and receive a certificate specifying which layer they painted. Some celebrities have even stopped by!
Facebook/ Boys Town
If you happen to find yourself rumbling through Omaha, you can take a detour off I-680 and check out the World’s Largest Ball of Stamps. Comprising more than 4,655,000 stamps, the 32-inch-wide, 600-pound ball was assembled by the Boys Town Stamp Collecting Club in 1953. Interestingly, the ball only took about two years to reach its current size (probably because the club’s members weren’t distracted with spouses or dating), with nothing added since. Unlike most attractions, visitors are free to touch the rare, record-setting object — just don’t try to remove or add any stamps.