Sure, national parks, popular landmarks, and other major attractions are cool and all, but have you ever taken your picture next to a bridge troll or stayed the night in a haunted hotel? If you’re into oddities, paranormal activity, and peculiar places, then this itinerary is for you. California, Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington are just a few states where you can explore fun, funky destinations you won’t find anywhere else.
Take a walk on the West’s weird side at these extraordinary, must-see attractions.
Western Midas locations
Midas wants to help you get ready for your 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.
Fremont Troll, Washington
While Seattle’s tallest and most famous attraction—the Space Needle—towers more than 600 feet in the air, one of the city’s weirdest residents lurks under the George Washington Memorial Bridge (also called the Aurora Bridge) in the city’s Fremont neighborhood. Stories of bridge trolls from Norwegian folklore are said to be the inspiration behind the giant sculpture. Seattle’s Fremont Arts Council launched a design competition for ideas to clean up the underpass from littering and rodents, and the 18-foot troll sculpture was the winning choice.
The Fremont Troll was constructed in 1990 by artist Steve Badanes and a few of his friends. The sculpture features an actual Volkswagen Beetle being gripped by the massive creature. Kids and adults alike enjoy this attraction, often climbing on the Troll’s arms and shoulders. There’s no admission for this site, but you can donate to help upkeep the popular piece of art.
Hearst Castle, California
For an extravagant roadtripping experience, it doesn’t get much more luxurious than California’s Hearst Castle. Tucked away just off Highway 1, the estate was built by publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst and his architect Julia Morgan. The construction spanned nearly 30 years, beginning in 1919 and ending in 1947.
Take a guided tour through the mansion to see Hearst’s extensive art collections, lavish pools, sophisticated decor, and more. The 165-room estate sits on a 127-acre property overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Nearly 4 hours from Los Angeles and San Francisco, this is an absolute must when roadtripping along the winding Highway 1.
Salvation Mountain, California
This bizarre, remote art installation keeps the desert weird in the best way possible. Created from the visions of Leonard Knight, Salvation Mountain took nearly 30 years to complete. The display consists of thousands of gallons of latex paint, cement, bales of hay, vehicles, and other salvaged materials Knight brought out to the desert with him. Though inspired by the artist’s religious awakening, visitors of all beliefs come to the Colorado Desert to see this fascinating installation.
The Folk Art Society of America even declared Knight’s work worthy of protection and preservation. The site is open year round from sunrise to sunset, and while this is a free attraction, donations are used to help keep Knight’s creation preserved for years to come.
Neon Museum Las Vegas, Nevada
What happens to once-iconic neon signs after they’ve served their purpose on the Las Vegas Strip? They head to the Neon Museum for a second chance at life. This museum preserves, studies, and exhibits some of the city’s most well-known signs of yesterday for their artistic and historic importance. Visitors can tour the museum’s famed Neon Boneyard for a spectacular glimpse at Vegas’s glowing past.
More than 250 signs are on display at the Main Boneyard, while other areas of the museum house smaller sign collections. The best time to visit is after dark when the signs can show off their neon glory, however, the museum is also open during the day for tours. This is a great way to learn about Sin City’s history and take a break from the crowds on the Strip.
Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
You don’t have to compete for the next land speed racing record to visit this otherworldly landform. The Bonneville Salt Flats span nearly 30,000 acres and consist of mostly sodium chloride (table salt). This odd, barren landscape can be found nearly 120 miles outside of Salt Lake City on the western edge of Utah’s Great Salt Lake Basin. The area was once home to Lake Bonneville until it evaporated more than 14,000 years ago.
Today, the 12-mile-long and 5-mile-wide recreational area is used for speed racing, endurance races, archery tournaments, photography shoots, scientific research, and more. It’s also been used as a filming location for movies like Independence Day, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, and The World’s Fastest Indian. The Salt Flats are managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the area is generally open to the public with the exception of special events and inclement weather.
Stanley Hotel, Colorado
With luxurious accommodations, fine dining, and stunning architecture, on paper, the Stanley Hotel looks and sounds like any other upscale hotel with views of the Rocky Mountains. But its high-end rooms and amenities aren’t the only reasons why guests come from all over to tour and stay at this posh resort. Rated as one of the most haunted hotels in the U.S., the Stanley is known for its paranormal activities and is the inspiration behind Stephen King’s chilling novel, and subsequent movie, The Shining.
Visitors can take tours of the property, including an after-dark Spirited Tour and The Shining Tour. If you’re brave enough, you can even stay the night in one of the hotel’s reportedly haunted rooms, like the Stephen King Suite, and popular rooms 401, 407, and 428. Besides having a hauntingly good time at this mountainside hotel, the Stanley is also minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park and other outdoor activities.
Kaūmana Caves County Park, Hawai’i
Walk inside of a cave completely formed by lava flow at Kaūmana Caves County Park in Hawaii. The cave is part of a lava tube created after the Mauna Loa Volcano erupted in the 1880s. Visitors will need to traverse down a ladder to find the skylight opening of the lava tube. Inside, you can explore the various unique volcanic formations and terrains created by the cooling and hardening of the once powerfully-flowing lava. Just be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp as these caves grow darker the further you venture inside.
While there are several locations on the Big Island where you can see lava tubes, Kaūmana offers a less-crowded, more adventurous experience for those looking to get off the beaten path. Not to mention, entrance to the park is free.