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Want to see seven midwest awesome quirky attractions? Of course, there are more, but these are the ones I visited. Follow along as I tour through the “Eastern 26” states. And, I’d appreciate hearing about your favorites! Here’s a link to the overview of the trip. And, need I repeat myself that many people love to see quirky attractions!
Wisconsin Dells continues to be a great vacation spot for families. Of course, it does contain its share of quirky places. The Haunted Mansion is one of them. It’s not really an old mansion, just built to look like one and to scare kids! The “downtown” area contains several others as well, but I’m only sharing this one. Unless you are from the Midwest and have young kids, I don’t recommend it very highly. (My grandkids really enjoyed their time there!)
By the way, I thought Elvis had left the building!
For family enjoyment, there are water parks, water skiing shows, lakes, etc. There are even a couple more weird tourist attractions like the Wizard Quest and Witches Gulch. Even an “Upside down White House” exists here, but I’ll let you find that out for yourself! (A link to Wisconsin Dells.) Several Midwest Awesome Quirky Attractions!
Meanwhile, in Milwaukee – Another of the Midwest Awesome Quirky Attractions
To “honor” The Fonz, played by Henry Winkler in the Happy Days TV sitcom in the 70s. The series is set in Milwaukee. The statue is one of many sights and attractions in Milwaukee’s downtown Riverfront area. Actually, the Milwaukee Riverwalk area is an excellent use of a downtown river. Blocks of shops, restaurants, bars, and, of course, the Bronz Fonz! But, the sitcom, based in the 1950s and early 60s, featured Milwaukee and “Midwestern values.”
While the show nearly got canceled after the first year, it was number one ranked in Season Three and ran for 11 years! And spinoffs such as Laverne and Shirley; and Mork and Mindy had their own successes.
Now, things get a bit more strange in Indiana.
The Guinness-certified world record ball of paint “hangs around” in rural Alexandria, Indiana. The ball hangs from an industrial strength hook in a specially constructed building. The bottom right picture (above) shows the original baseball. Mike Carmichael, the father, encouraged his toddler son to paint the baseball with blue house paint on January 1, 1977. Initially, Mike planned to paint 1,000 coats and then cut it in half to see what it looked like. Of course, it’s just another of the Midwest Awesome Quirky Attractions
Each coat of paint is a different color, so cutting it drew his curiosity, but then he just wanted to keep it going. The picture (top, right) shows the current count of the number of coats and a folding chair to give the ball a sense of scale. As the ball grew, visitors poured in, and many wanted to paint a coat themselves. Mike, in his soft-spoken way, encourages visitors to add a coat. He keeps 5-gallon buckets of paint handy for that purpose.
More about the ball of paint
If you want more information, here’s a link to Roadside America, a website that documents many, many attractions along roads all over America. The site also mentions celebrity visitors, explicitly naming the Oak Ridge Boys. By the way, the location lies about 50 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Worth a visit if you are in the area. (The Carmichael’s request that you call for an appointment, although I hadn’t seen that request! But, if you visit, please call 765-724-4088 to schedule a time.)
Maybe Elvis also visited here since he’s no longer “In the Building”!
Still in Indiana
And this one is truly unique!
Indiana also provides a home to the Grave in the Middle of the Road. Apparently, many people believe this is one of the stranger places to visit. As is typical, the gravesite has innocent, logical reasons for being where it is. For example, when Nancy Kerlin Barnett died in 1831 at the age of 38, she requested burial on a quiet hillside near their home.
All was fine until the early 1900s, when the county decided to build a road directly over the gravesite. County highway officials planned to relocate the grave to a nearby location. Her grandson took exception and stood watch over the grave with a shotgun! Eventually, the county gave in and built the road on each side of the grave. Back then, the grave existed as a burial mound. After several accidents that damaged the mound, the county negotiated with the remaining family members to rebuild the road, bury the remains deeper, including a plaque at curb height level, and mark the location with a sign on the side of the road.
Shockingly, when exhuming the remains, six other remains were found! Apparently, the grave became a family graveyard. As the road rebuilding completed, all the remains were buried deeper, with the plaque and sign staying in place.
Kentucky – More of the Midwest Awesome Quirky Attractions
My trip took me into northern Kentucky for several stops. (More on the other Kentucky stops later in The Driveby Tourist blog.)
Several road-tripping sites ranked Bone Lick State Park as a quirky place to visit. Although the second and third pictures on the top can convey that impression, the Park contains an archeological site. Those two pictures playfully display how these extinct species could have appeared in prehistoric times. Inside, the museum displays some of the actual findings and explains the site’s purpose.
The National Park Service designated the area a Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail Site. William Clark visited the area in 1807 as part of the Lewis and Clark expedition ordered by President Thomas Jefferson. Because of that visit, the area bills itself as the birthplace of American paleontology.
Call it quirky, historical, or an archeological treasure, but it’s an excellent place to visit. There is something for everyone, as the area includes a nature trail to many of the excavated areas as well as a picnic area and a 62-site campground. And it’s located about 25 miles from Cincinnati, OH.
Here are a couple of quirky attractions in Ohio.
I’m sure you’ve always wanted to see the world’s largest cuckoo clock! Here it is in Sugarcreek, OH, a town of just over 2,000 people. The town claims the name of “Little Switzerland.” In 1977, a 23 feet tall by 24 feet wide cuckoo clock received the Guinness Book of Records certification as the world’s largest. The bird pops out on the hour and the half-hour and “does its thing.” Then, wooden figures of people come out on a conveyor. Two people twirl around dancing while five wooden figures play Switzerland polka music.
Construction of the clock completed in 1972, and it sat in the nearby town of Wilmot. In 2010 when the restaurant that owned it permanently closed, a Sugarcreek businessman bought it, moved it to Sugarcreek, and donated it to the city. Therefore, the clock resumed its cuckooing duties in November 2012!
It’s right on Main Street and open to the public for no charge. Of course, people gather every half hour to see the show. It’s a great little town located about 30 miles southeast of Canton, OH.
Next Ohio Attraction – Another Midwest Awesome Quirky Attractions
The Longaberger Basket company failed in 2018. Revenue peaked in 2000 at $1 billion. Sales decreased slowly until 2015, when business operations took a more drastic turn. The company sold the building to an investor. Eventually, the company ceased operations. Another company bought the rights to the product and is selling them online (like everything else these days!)
In 1997, the founder met with architects to discuss design for the company’s new headquarters. After initial discussions, the CEO left the conference room and returned with the basket that became the pattern for the new building. He placed the basket on the table and said, “This is what I want; if you can’t do it, I’ll find someone who can!”
By the end of 1997, 500 headquarters employees moved into the building. But, all was great until sales started to decrease in 2000. It was a slow, crushing death for the company. After Dave Longaberger, the founder, died of cancer in 1999, management decisions, some of his and some of his daughters who took over the company came back to “bite” them.
The building sold in 2017 to a developer with plans to build a luxury hotel or an exclusive private club, or maybe even another corporate headquarters. Overall, several plans fell through, and the building is now on the market again, with an uncertain future.
Newark, OH, where the building is located, is only 30 miles from Columbus. The town has a population of about 50,000 and now houses an Amazon distribution center, and Facebook is planning a large data center. So, maybe Amazon should buy the building and start selling the baskets from the new company!
Classic Rock Recollection
“Graveyard Train” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
For the graveyard, thirty boxes made of bone.
For the graveyard, thirty boxes made of bone.
Mister undertaker, take this coffin from my home.
In the midnight, hear me cryin’ out her name.
In the midnight, hear me cryin’ out her name.
I’m standin’ on the railroad, waitin’ for the graveyard train.
Written by: John Fogerty