Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said that “life is a journey, not a destination.” And when it comes to the great American road trip, there are no truer words. Hitting the open road offers the chance to explore the whimsical and underrated points of interest that you pass along your route, and often travelers find that it’s these charming roadside locales that were the true destination all along.
From colorful enchanted trails and brightly-hued parade floats to mythical creatures and larger-than-life icons, these fun and funky destinations are well worth a stop on your next journey through the American South.
South Midas locations
Midas wants to help you get ready for your summer road trip, starting with your vehicle. Our techs can run a completely free Closer Look Vehicle Check. This in-depth visual inspection lets you know what needs fixing now and what can wait, so you can hit the road with confidence.
Make the trip before the trip to Midas and get $20 off a full-synthetic oil change. Request your appointment at Midas.com.
Mothman Museum, West Virginia
In 1966, residents of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, saw what they described as a “man-sized bird creature.” At that moment, the legendary Mothman entered the nation’s folklore. Since then, the small town has embraced the macabre mythology, and inquisitive travelers visiting the area today can delve into the lore of this supernatural sighting at the Mothman Museum. Here you’ll find a curious collection of beastly items, including a variety of props and memorabilia from the 2002 movie The Mothman Prophecies, which was inspired by this tall tale.
Rock City, Georgia
Roadtrippers driving through the Chattanooga area would be hard-pressed not to pass a sign encouraging them to “See Rock City.” This tourist attraction atop Northern Georgia’s Lookout Mountain is widely advertised thanks to paintings on barn roofs, billboards, and other landmarks—its biggest draw is the chance to view seven states from the scenic Lover’s Leap. Rock City is full of visual delights, including flower-strewn pathways, cobblestone bridges, giant rock formations, and whimsical Fairyland Caverns featuring themed gnome vignettes.
Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, Louisiana
New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebration is best known for its extravagant parade floats, technicolor costumes, and festive party atmosphere. While the debaucherous event down Bourbon Street on each Fat Tuesday isn’t generally considered a family-friendly affair, travelers of all ages can get an inside look at this famous “Big Easy” spectacle at the city’s Mardi Gras World at any time during the year. Take a tour of the 300,000-square-foot working warehouse to see where floats are made and enjoy displays of thousands of props used in this lavish celebration.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Kentucky
Kentucky’s climate and water supply make for ideal Bourbon whiskey distilling conditions, and the region between Louisville and Lexington is renowned for being home to many of the top distillers in the U.S. On the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, visitors can responsibly tour and taste their way through 18 distilleries. The area also features many smaller craft distilleries, which are equally worth a stop and a sip (or two).
Unclaimed Baggage Center, Alabama
Every year, more than 1.5 million airline bags go missing. But what happens to those that are never reunited with their owners? At Alabama’s Unclaimed Baggage Center, these orphaned items are given a second life. The massive facility works to repurpose and recycle these lost objects and resells any treasures they find in the mix. The result is a second-hand shopper’s paradise, as bargain hunters can comb through the shop’s 7,000 unique, highly discounted items. You can even buy the luggage itself to help haul home the rediscovered loot from your thrifting road trip.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Florida
At one of Florida’s most unique destinations, you can get up close with a mermaid. Underwater performances by these legendary creatures are a daily occurrence at Weeki Wachee Springs, though, like sightings of most mythological beings, the illusion is provided by humans. It’s the park’s highly trained swimmers who perform aquarium acrobatics for eager audiences, and the fantastic show compliments Weeki Wachee’s other attractions, such as swimming, boat rides, and kayak tours where you might just see the mermaids from ancient lore: manatees.
The Farnham Colossi, West Virginia
When it comes to larger-than-life roadside attractions, The Farnham Colossi in West Virginia towers above the rest. Known as “The Land of the Giants,” George Farnham’s personal collection of fiberglass goliaths includes two Muffler Men, a Uniroyal Gal, a Santa Claus, and more than a dozen behemoth statues to behold. A journey to see these classic icons will take you off the beaten path, but there’s nowhere else you can spy a massive five-car roller coaster with The Simpsons riding onboard, making this stop well worth the quirky detour.