8 Bizarre Tourist Attractions in North America


People travel for many reasons, whether it’s for work, to see family, or just to inject a little bit of adventure into their lives. While no reason to travel is a bad reason, there are those among us that are searching for only the most bizarre tourist attractions to experience — the type of attractions that would bewilder most people. From peculiar monuments to haunted mansions, here are 8 popular attractions that thousands of people visit every year that will make you say “Wait, what?”

Island of Dolls - Mexico City

Creepy dolls hanging from trees

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The story of La Isla de las Muñecas in Mexico City is truly an unsettling tale. According to legend, a young girl once drowned here after being tangled in the overgrown lilies. The old owner of the island, Don Julián Santana Barrera, claimed to have heard the ghost of the girl asking for her doll, and hung a doll by the area where he heard the voice to appease her. After that, doll after doll started showing up hanging in the trees until the area became completely covered in creepy dolls. So who put the dolls there? Santana claimed to not know. With his death in 2001, the truth of the matter may well be lost forever. 

Market Theater Gum Wall - Seattle, Washington

A wall covered in used gum

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This is a weird one. The Market Theater Gum Wall was started in the 90s when locals started sticking their chewed gum outside of Unexpected Productions, an improv theater company that resides at Pike Place Market in Seattle. The impromptu mural has continued to grow over the last 3 decades with more and more people seeing the collection of discarded gum wads and deciding to add to it. Now it resembles an intentionally crafted art piece with a rich mosaic of vibrant colors. Even though in reality, it’s more like the underside of a high school cafeteria table. Gross.

Fremont Troll - Seattle, Washington

An ugly troll statue under a bridge

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The Fremont Troll, also in Seattle, is a sculpture erected in 1990 under a bridge as a means of deterring people from gathering and sleeping there. It was commissioned after winning a competition held by the Fremont Arts Council. That’s right — this weird, ugly troll made of 13,000 lbs of concrete and steel rebar actually beat the competition and was selected by the community as something they wanted to see in their neighborhood on a regular basis. The Volkswagen-clutching monstrosity is often a target of vandalism by disgruntled homeless people, begging the question “Is a giant ugly troll statue really the solution to a city’s homelessness problem?” Maybe this isn’t worth a trip to Seattle all on its own, but if you’re in town for the disgusting gum wall, this will probably be up your alley.

Carhenge - Alliance, Nebraska

Cars painted gray and arranged like Stonehenge

(Image provided by Adobe Stock)

Everyone knows about Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England that is one of the last standing Wonders of the Ancient World. Well, Carhenge is the same thing, except that it’s in Alliance, Nebraska and it’s made out of cars. The obscure replica was constructed by Jim Reinders as a memorial to his father in 1987 and is made of actual vintage cars that have been spray-painted gray to match the color of the original monument. Since its construction, other art pieces made from discarded automobiles have been added to the area, creating a veritable car park of bizarre artwork in the middle of the Nebraska plains.

Winchester Mystery House - San Jose, California

The Mystery House exterior

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This 160-room mansion in San Jose was once the home of Sarah Winchester, right up until her death in 1922, and is sometimes referred to as the “most haunted place in the world.” Whether or not it is truly haunted cannot be confirmed, but the bizarre architecture throughout the building adds to the creepy vibes, with nonsensical designs like a staircase that doesn’t go anywhere, windows that open to nothing, trap doors in the floors, and strangely shallow stairs. Sarah spent much of her time alone in this massive residence and was constantly adding to the mansion with new rooms, allegedly believing superstitiously that stopping construction would somehow lead to her death.

Nicholas Cage’s Pyramid Tomb - New Orleans, Louisiana

The eventual resting place of one Nicholas Cage

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Back in 2010, famed Hollywood actor and eccentric man-about-town, Nicholas Cage, purchased a 9-foot tall tomb in New Orleans. Presumably the chosen site for his ultimate resting place, the giant stone pyramid is inscribed with the words “omnia ab uno,” which translates to “everything from one.” That inscription sounds deep, but doesn't really tell us much about his motivation for this extravagant purchase. Since it was installed, it has become a popular attraction for fans of the actor, with many people shamelessly leaving red lipstick kisses on its façade, commemorating the death of a man who is still very much alive. 

Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail - Weldon Spring, Missouri

The stairs to the top of a mound of buried nuclear waste

(Image provided by Adobe Stock)

This unassuming mound of rocks in a remote location outside of Weldon Spring, Missouri used to be the site of the largest explosives factory in America, before being converted into a uranium refinery during the cold war. The site was abandoned in the 1960s leaving behind 1.48 million cubic yards of PCBs, mercury, asbestos, TNT, uranium, and radium — a problem inherited by the EPA some 20 years later. With no better place to store it, the solution was simple; cover the whole thing with a bunch of rocks. Today, you can visit this mound of radioactive waste and climb the single staircase that leads to the top. You know, just in case you’ve ever wanted to say that you stood on top of an ungodly pile of radioactive waste and lived to tell the tale.

The Corn Palace - Mitchell, South Dakota

The Corn Palace in Mitchell South Dakota

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The World’s Only Corn Palace has been proving to people that South Dakota has a healthy enough climate for corn for more than 100 years. On their website, they claim to be Mitchell’s premier tourist attraction, which is either a testament to the splendor that this unique establishment offers, or a ringing indictment of Mitchell’s standing as a tourist destination. Half a million people come from all around the world to get tours of this quirky arena, to see the corn murals that are updated annually, and to learn about the history of South Dakota’s rich history. It isn’t just about the corn though. The arena hosts concerts, sports events, exhibits, and other community events, such as the Corn Palace Festival which is put on every year.

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