To minimize the "Are we there yets," smart road-tripping parents plan fun stops along the way. Roadside attractions -- those quirky, often oversized icons -- are entertaining places to stop, stretch your legs and take a photo. And even though you'll find roadside America attractions in every state, not all of them have true kid-friendly appeal.
These 15 roadside attractions are perfect for kids who love sports, superheroes, space travel and more. These road trip stops also offer a little extra, with museums, theme parks and other nearby attractions.
Written by Traci L. Suppa
Eartha - Yarmouth, Mass.
Just inside the DeLorme Map Company's glass-enclosed lobby stands Eartha, a 41-foot-tall rotating globe. Designed as a three-dimensional scale model with mountains and landforms, it revolves at 23.5 degrees, just as the earth does, on a cantilever arm. For an eye-level view of the northern hemisphere, head up to the second and third floor observation balconies. The gift shop carries an extensive selection of travel toys, globes, atlases and maps. Add another oversized roadside attraction to your itinerary in neighboring Freeport
, and see the 17-foot boot in front of the L.L. Bean Factory Store
Hood Milk Bottle - Boston
With endearing vintage appeal, this 40-foot milk bottle serves as both a road trip stop and snack stand outside the Boston Children's Museum
. Weighing 15,000 pounds, the bottle was one of America's first fast-food drive-in restaurants when it was built in 1934. From April through October, you still order lunch and ice cream at the window. Inside the Children"s Museum, the family-focused exhibits and programs center around science, culture, environmental awareness, health and fitness, and the arts.
Chomsky the Garden Gnome - Kerhonkson, N.Y.
Chomsky is the jolly, bearded fellow who welcomes you to Kelder's Farm in the Hudson River Valley
. He's also a garden gnome, and he's 13 feet, 6 inches tall. Formerly the titleholder of World's Largest Garden Gnome, Chomsky is nicknamed Gnome on the Range, because he stands over the miniature Homegrown Mini-Golf course, with its unique agricultural theme. Kelder's Farm also offers a playground and petting zoo. In season, you can pick your own fruit or pumpkins, walk through a corn maze and take a hayride.
The Turkey Hill Experience Cow - Columbia, Pa.
One of our favorite roadside oddities, this big bovine welcomes ice cream fans to the Turkey Hill Experience. More of a children's museum than a factory tour, this year-round indoor attraction shows how the company produces its ice cream and beverage products in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
. There are several more mechanical cows inside, which you can milk. Other interactive activities represent production stages, such as homogenization and pasteurization. You can stand in the blast freezer, create your own flavor and enjoy free samples.
Man of Steel - Metropolis, Ill.
Superman fans know the caped crusader made his home in the fictional city of Metropolis. The residents of the real Metropolis, a small town in southern Illinois, keep his legend alive with a 15-foot bronze "Man of Steel" statue in front of the county courthouse. Steps away, you can visit the Super Museum, home of the world's largest Superman memorabilia collection of costumes, movie props, artwork and posters, stills, toys, games, and action figures.
Cheese Haus Mouse - Frankenmuth, Mich.
Frankenmuth, known as Michigan's little Bavaria, oozes with the charm of German-themed attractions, shops, restaurants promising world famous chicken dinners, and events like Oktoberfest polka parties. In front of Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, a cheerful grey mouse peeks his head out of a 6-foot wedge of Swiss. It"s actually made of cement, but inside, you'll find real Swiss, along with 140 other varieties, including cheese spreads and even a homemade chocolate cheese.
World's Largest Baseball Bat - Louisville, Ky.
This 120-foot-tall scale replica of the bat that was custom made for Babe Ruth in the early 1920's identifies the entrance of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
, located in Louisville
's historic West Main district. As the official bat producer for Major League Baseball, the company has been crafting bats since 1884. The museum shows how the sport has changed over the past 130 years. Guests of this road trip attraction can also visit a replica dugout and face down a 90-mph fastball, climb through a giant ball glove, watch bats being made and hold bats used by their favorite players.
Dinosaur World - Glen Rose, Texas
You'll see the giant orange T-Rex long before you drive up to the entrance of Dinosaur World in Glen Rose, the official Dinosaur Capital of Texas. Dinosaur Valley State Park -- where dinosaurs actually did roam -- is located next door. Families can walk the forest trail, filled with more than 100 life-sized beasts and fact-filled signs. Kids can get their hands dirty at the Fossil Dig while they uncover bone fragments, shark teeth and shells. You can also visit the indoor Prehistoric Museum, gift shop, picnic area and playgrounds at this roadside America attraction. There are also Dinosaur World locations in Cave City, Kentucky and Plant City, Florida.
Hugh Mongous - Virginia Beach
Hugh Mongous is the grinning, 45-foot-tall mascot standing in front of the Ocean Breeze Waterpark
in Virginia Beach
. Since his arrival in 1977, he's survived a blaze and has been re-painted several times. He now dons a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and sunglasses, as he greets visitors to this seasonal water park. Walking through the seaside village-themed setting, you'll find the 1-million-gallon Runaway Bay wave pool and 16 waterslides. Preschool play includes the Buccaneer Bay Water Playground and the Little Amazon lazy river.
Gatorland - Orlando
Immense alligator jaws at the entrance of Gatorland
have yet to deter visitors from stopping in to this historic, 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve. What was once a small alligator pond in 1949 has evolved into the Alligator Capital of the World, and is now home to thousands of alligators, crocodiles, an aviary, petting zoo and breeding marsh with an observation tower -- making it one of the best roadside attractions in America. Guests can participate in nature walks or educational programs, or watch the gator wrestling shows. Modern rides and attractions include the Gator Gully Splash Park and the 287-foot-high Screamin' Gator Zip Line.
Saturn V Rocket - Huntsville, Ala.
From Highway I-565 in Huntsville, Alabama
, a replica of the 363-foot-tall Saturn V moon rocket will make you crane your neck toward the sky. Stop at this roadside attraction to get a better look inside the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
, where the real Saturn V, now a National Historic Landmark, is also displayed. Home of the SPACE CAMP program, the USSRC is the largest museum in the world devoted to space artifacts. Fun attractions let you land a shuttle, jump 30 feet in the air in a space walker, manipulate a robot arm and view a real Moon rock. Kids can experience G-force and weightlessness on "Space Shot;" scale the Mars Climbing Wall or sit inside the Apollo Cockpit Trainer simulator.
World's Largest Whale Skeleton - Santa Cruz, Calif.
Another one of our favorite roadside oddities, this is the world's largest whale skeleton, arching 18 feet high and stretching 87 feet alongside the exterior of the Seymour Marine Discovery Center
in Santa Cruz, California
. This female blue whale, affectionately now known as Ms. Blue, washed up on a beach 30 miles north of the facility in 1979. Inside the Discovery Center, you can visit several exhibit halls, an aquarium and touch tanks, including the shark pool, which contains friendly Swell Sharks. Thirty-minute guided family tours are geared for younger visitors. Add it to your road trip planner attractions list!
Giant Coca-Cola Bottle - Las Vegas
Yes, there are family-friendly attractions -- including fantastic road trip stops -- in Las Vegas
. On the Strip, the Showcase Mall offers a mix of retail and entertainment suitable for all ages. To find the mall, just look for the 100-foot glass Coca-Cola bottle, and ride the elevator inside it to the Outback Steakhouse restaurant. The Coca-Cola store itself is chock-full of merchandise, along with a soda fountain where you can create your own Taste of The World, from a selection of 130 different flavors. The Mall also houses a four-story M&M's World store, a Hard Rock Cafe and a movie theater.
World's Largest Buffalo - Jamestown, N.D.
This North Dakota town's claim to fame is the world's largest buffalo, a cement sculpture that weighs 60 tons and measures 26 feet tall by 46 feet long. Dakota Thunder greets visitors to the National Buffalo Museum, where the exhibits focus on the history of bison in the plains culture, with displays of Plains Indian artifacts, prehistoric bison remains and a children's room of North Dakota wildlife. The museum also maintains a live bison herd with White Cloud, a rare albino. The complex includes Frontier Village, a collection of historic buildings that includes a post office, trading post, saloon, firehouse and jail. Stagecoach and pony rides are offered in the summer.
World's Largest Santa Claus - North Pole, Alaska
You can find this sizable St. Nick at the Santa Claus House in the Alaska town of North Pole (yes, that's its real name), 13 miles south of Fairbanks, Alaska. The 42-foot, 900-pound fiberglass statue/road trip attraction has stood here since 1983, although he was originally built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. There's a live Santa here, too, as well as some of his reindeer, all year long. You can also have a letter delivered from the North Pole zip code, shop the Christmas merchandise and grab a snack at Santa's Coffee Cache.