Roadside attraction

A sign adverting a "Convict Robot Exhibition" at a small museum and shop on the side of the highway which links the city of Hobart and the former convict settlement at Port Arthur in Tasmania, Australia

A roadside attraction is a feature along the side of a road meant to attract tourists. In general, these are places one might stop on the way to somewhere else, rather than being a final or primary destination in and of themselves. They are frequently advertised with billboards. The modern tourist-oriented highway attraction originated as a U.S. and Western Canadian phenomenon in the 1940s to 1960s, and subsequently caught on in Australia.


When long-distance road travel became practical and popular in the late 1930s, entrepreneurs began building restaurants, motels, coffee shops, cafes and more unusual businesses to attract travelers. Many of the buildings took the form of common objects of enormous size (see Novelty architecture), often advertising the items sold there, and became attractions in themselves. Some other types of Roadside Attractions include monuments and pseudo-scientific amusements such as the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot.

Remnant of US 66 through small Texas Town

With the building of the U.S. Interstate Highway System in the mid-1950s, most roadside attractions were by-passed and quickly went out of business. But the most famous remained attractive enough to travelers to make them leave the comfort of the interstate highway for a brief time and thus keep the attraction in business. The best example of this is along US Route 66. Certainly in the southwestern United States Interstate 40 has all but taken over this 20th century travel phenomenon.

See also

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