There are so many oddities, artworks, and interesting places to see when you’re on the road, but which ones are worth stopping at and which ones should you roll on past? Here’s a list of some of the best California roadside attractions to explore when you’re on your next road trip.
33341 Bernard Drive, Kettleman City, CA 93239
Stop into Bravo Farms to check out the petting zoo with cute farm animals, a replica ghost town play area with gold panning, and a seven story treehouse! This is a good stop to grab lunch and snacks as they have a restaurant and a huge store with gifts and goodies. (The treehouse is pictured above).
50770 Seminole Drive, Cabazon, CA 92230
The Cabazon Dinosaurs are a popular stop for those traveling to the Palm Springs Area. They were originally added to get people to stop at a restaurant that is now closed. These dinos have been featured in movies like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and The Wizard. The dinosaurs sometimes get fancy, colorful paint jobs for special occasions. Stop in to check them out and visit the museum and gift shop.
Center Of The World
One Center Of The World Plaza, Felicity, CA 92283
If you’re traveling along Interstate 8, you have to stop here, at the official center of the world. Visit the 21-foot granite and glass pyramid that houses the bronze plaque marking the precise location of the official center of the world and make a wish. Also here, you can see the History Of Humanity Monuments with over 700 engraved panels, over 1,000 illustrations hand-etched in granite, and the 160,000 square foot Maze of Honor, standing six feet tall.
Desert View Tower
Exit at In-Ko-Pah Road, follow signs to the Tower; Jacumba, CA
You can spot this 4-story stone tower off of Interstate 8, about 70 miles east of San Diego. Built in 1922, it was built in memory of early pioneers who travelled across the desert. You can go inside the tower during operating hours and see some unique displays of Desert Americana. Nearby, you can visit the Desert View Tower Boulder Park with caves, walkways, and hand sculpted quartz granite animals.
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch
24266 National Trails Hwy, Oro Grande, CA 92638
Don’t miss this display of junkyard scraps and hundreds of bottles that look like tree-shaped sculptures. The two acre farm is fun for everyone to explore and spot vintage pieces scattered around. If you’re traveling along Route 66, put this one on your must-see list.
Fallen Star Cottage
9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093
There is a little cottage teetering on the corner of a building at the University of San Diego. It was added as a work of art and is fully furnished.
Off Highway 395 between Little Lake and Coso Junction
This turnoff along the 395 is free to explore at your leisure and it is a stunning sight to see! A river used to run here, and there is exposed basaltic lava flows along the now dry river bed. The Owens River once flowed over all this lava, complete with a 40-foot waterfall. In 1913, the Owens River was diverted to supply water to Los Angeles. This is a great spot to get out and stretch your legs for a hike, and there are restrooms.
Borrego Springs, CA near Anza Borrego Desert State Park
If you happen to be road tripping through the desert, you’ve got to take a side trip to see 130 metal sculptures spread out across the desert sand. These giant masses of metal are shaped like dragons, dinosaurs, horses, elephants and other amazing creatures.
Historic Owl Café
93558, 701 US-395, Randsburg, CA 93554
Stop into the Historic Owl Café to learn how the little town of Red Mountain became the biggest producing silver mine in the country. There are exhibits and artifacts on display and there is a small entrance fee. The original Owl Café was built in 1921, but burned down in 1929. It was quickly rebuilt. Up the street, you can also see the old Silver Dollar Saloon, built in 1919.
James Dean Memorial
19215 California 46, Cholame, CA 93461
If you’re traveling on Highway 46, you can stop at the James Dean Memorial. It’s a concrete and stainless steel sculpture surrounding a tree in Cholame, just outside of a very small post office. The site of Dean’s fatal accident is just up the road at the intersection of Highways 41 and 46. You can also visit Blackwell’s Corner General Store in the town of Lost Hills — this was James Dean’s last stop before the crash where he reportedly bought and apple and a Coke.
Kingsburg Jail & Coffee Pot Water Tower
1440 Draper St, Kingsburg, CA 93631
If you’re traveling along Highway 99, stop in Kingsburg to see the small jail built in 1925, with jail-life scenes recreated with furnishings and mannequins. Just outside the jail is the water tower that is decorated like a swedish coffee pot.
The McDonald’s Museum
1398 N. E Street, San Bernardino, CA 92405
If you’re traveling along Route 66, you’ll want to put this one on the list of places to stop. You won’t be able to get a Happy Meal, but you can look at all the McDonald’s memorabilia from over the years. The museum is located on the site of the first McDonald’s location, and while the original restaurant is no longer there, there is plenty of nostalgia.
Muffler Men became popular in the 1960s and 70s and were a way for businesses to get attention from passersby. The 25 foot tall statues spread across the US. There are a few muffler men still standing in California. Here’s where you can spot them:
- Porsche Muffler Man: 19800 S. Main St., Carson, CA – can be seen from the 405 freeway.
- La Salsa Muffler Man: 22800 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA
- Chicken Boy: 5558 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA
- Tuneup Masters Muffler Man: 15237 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, CA
- Cortes Auto Glass Muffler Man: 590 N Mission Rd., Los Angeles, CA
- Mentone’s Paul Bunyan: 1947 Garnet Ave., Mentone, CA
- Tony’s Transmissions Muffler Man: 3900 City Terrace Drive, Los Angeles, CA
- Joor Muffler Man: 302 East Valley Parkway, Escondido, CA
- The Indian On The Circle: 4310 Alfred Harrell Hwy, Bakersfield, CA
- Big Josh: 61943 29 Palms Hwy, Joshua Tree, CA
465 Mystery Spot Road, Santa Cruz, CA 95065
If you want to visit a place where nothing makes sense, check out the Mystery Spot. Tall people look shorter, balls roll uphill, and gravity doesn’t work right in this quirky and mysterious roadside attraction.
Nitt Witt Ridge
881 Hillcrest Drive, Cambria, CA 93428
If you’re taking a road trip through Cambria along Pacific Coast Highway, take a turnoff to see this cool and quirky house. The house was built over the course of 50 years, and the builder used salvaged items and other peoples trash to do so. It is no longer open for tours, but it is a California Historical Landmark.
Old Faithful Geyser of Calistoga
1299 Tubbs Lane, Calistoga, CA
Located in Upper Napa Valley, you can see one of the world’s three old faithful geysers. It’s not as big as Yellowstone’s, but it’s still fun to see. Natural eruptions happen approximately every 15 to 30 minutes. You can also visit a petting zoo and a geology museum here.
Salvation Mountain Beal Road, Niland, CA 92257
Created by Leonard Knight over the course of 26 years, Salvation Mountain is brightly painted tribute to God. It’s a work of art worth checking out.
Trees Of Mystery
15500 US-101, Klamath, CA 95548
This is a cool Nature Attraction to explore the beauty of the redwood forests in the heart of the Redwood State and National Parks. In addition to exploring trails among the redwoods, they’ve got a 49-foot tall Paul Bunyan statue and a 35-foot Babe the Blue Ox statue.
2728 E Foothill Blvd., Rialto, CA 92376
If you need a place to stop for the night on your road trip along Route 66, reserve a room at this quirky motel. Built in 1947, these tipi shaped guest rooms are fully furnished and offer a fun overnight experience. They are also on the National Register of Historic Places. At the very least, stop for an instagram-worthy photo op!
More Quirky Roadside Stops
- 11 Foot Tall Yeti Statue: 37552 Montezuma Valley Rd, Ranchita, CA 92066
- The Auburn Statues: Auburn, CA
- Bubblegum Alley: 733 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo, CA
- Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree: 67402 Drive Thru Tree Road, Leggett, CA
- Chromatic Gate: 721 E Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara, CA 93103
- Cucamonga Service Station c.1915 (Route 66 Museum): 9670 E Foothill Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga, CA
- Dennis The Menace Park: 777 Pearl Street, Monterey, CA 93940
- General George Patton Museum: 62510 Chiriaco Rd, Chiriaco Summit, CA 92201
- Giant Artichoke: 11261 Merritt Street, Castroville, CA
- Fighter Plane Crash Gas Station: 12945 S Elm Avenue, Caruthers, CA
- The Flintstone House: 45 Berryessa Way, Hillsborough, CA 94010
- Ostrichland: 610 E. Highway 246, Solvang, CA
- One Log House: 705 US-101, Garberville, CA
- Pacific Pinball Museum: 1510 Webster St., Alameda, CA 94501
- Roy’s Motel & Cafe: 87520 National Trails Highway, Amboy, California 92304
- Shrine Drive-Thru Tree: 13708 Avenue of the Giants, Myers Flat, CA 95554
- World’s Largest Lemon: 3361 Main Street, Lemon Grove, CA
- World’s Largest Totem Pole: 1500 City Center Road, McKinleyville, CA 95519
- World’s Tallest Thermometer: 72157 Baker Blvd., Baker, CA 92309
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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.