For me there is a difference between “Offbeat” and “Quirky.” I like to look at things that are offbeat as being similar to something conventional or recognizable, but just somewhat off. On the other hand, quirky is closer to non-conventional and sometimes even absurd (my Q post will focus on Quirky).
When I am traveling I love looking at the beauty and nature around me, but I also seek out the offbeat and quirky. One source I always use to help me find these locations is the Roadside America app. This app covers all 50 states and most of Canada and includes almost anything offbeat, odd, quirky and even downright outlandish and ridiculous. There are literally 1000s of sites and things to find and this makes for something fun on a roadtrip.
So, what do I mean by offbeat? Let’s take houses for instance. The normal home is brick and mortar, or a trailer home. But how about a flying saucer or a house that looks like mushrooms? A trip to the Cincinnati area offers up both of these.
First, there is a house in Cincinnati literally referred to as the “Mushroom House.” It is built almost completely out of either natural materials or recycled materials.
It is like a house…it is a house. But it certainly looks different than the “normal” human abode.
Then there are the homes that look like flying saucers. Called “Futuro” homes, there were many built in the 1960s by a company in Finland.
Across the river from Cincinnati, on a hill in Covington, KY overlooking the Ohio River and US Interstate 75, sits a Futuro House. It is in a regular neighborhood and stands out like a sore thumb. If you look carefully off to your right from the Interstate driving south out of Cincinnati right after crossing the Ohio River, you will see it.
Finally, take a tripdown to Houston for another Offbeat house…the house built totally out of Beer Cans!
Basically done as an art project, this house is also lived in and is built out of 1000s of aluminum beer cans.
I think the owner’s name must be Bud Weiser??
But houses aren’t the only offbeat places. If one looks hard the discovery of offbeat eateries can also come to the fore. Like the houses, these are normal in most respects, but there is just something a tad different.
For instance, there is a great place in Portland, Oregon called Voodoo Doughnut. The main shop (yes, there are now a few of them) is located downtown and there are lines there 24/7. They make a great variety of doughnuts and even a few offbeat ones, such as the actual Voodoo Doughnut, which is a person shaped doughnut, covered with chocolate and filled with raspberry filling. It is stabbed with a pretzel stick…yes, like a Voodoo Doll!
Then there is the other offbeat thing…the original shop also has a chapel and some of the bakers are ALSO ordained ministers. You can be married at Voodoo Doughnut legally and be surrounded by chapel-esque stained glass and everything!
Head on over to Missouri for another unique treat. There is a restaurant in Ozark, Missouri (and another near Branson) called Lambert’s Cafe. These huge facilities cater to tourists and buses. They offer a variety of yummy meals and have a few things served “home style” – wheeled in on carts and served out of pots at the table (including black-eyed peas, potatoes, tomato stew and more).
But what really makes them famous are their “Throwed Rolls.” And this is where they fit into the Offbeat category. Literally, they come to the middle of an area in the restaurant, ask who wants rolls and then throw them across the room to you. You miss them, too bad…
Then there is the offbeat looking restaurant in Mississippi with amazing lunch offerings…
Convention gets thrown out the door when visiting a facility just outside of Nekoma, ND. There is a huge cement pyramid in the middle of nowhere. Seemingly deserted (but fenced off), this used to be an old military facility.
The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system. The pyramid included radar and other defense systems. Now unused, it sits in the middle of nowhere in North Dakota and is an imposing offbeat site.
And a bank is a bank is a bank…right? What about one for tightwads?
Next are museums. There are hundreds of museums in the United States, but some are more offbeat and unique than others. Take the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, WI. Chock full of mustards from around the world, one can buy a lifetime supply of mustards and never have the same flavor twice.
The original Mustard Museum was located in Mt. Horeb, WI, but later moved to Middleton, to be in a much larger facility. A condiment lover’s dream.
There are also other fun museums out there. How about these?
And then there is the actual Oddity Place of all Oddity Places… a museum of Oddities in Seattle, WA called “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.”
Finally, what’s in a town? There are some offbeat towns out there. Many towns have unique names, but some of these are really offbeat and odd.
Some are totally Uncertain….
And lastly, a town that actually changed its name to a major sponsor…also in Texas.
Indeed, there is much offbeat in America and this is just a small sampling of the savory and unsavory offbeat oddities of our wonderful country. Is there anything Normal?
During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The P Towns
There are a few towns claiming some Dutch heritage, but not many like Pella, Iowa. Home of the largest working Dutch windmill in the United States (and a few smaller ones as well), a couple of authentic Dutch bakeries and a Dutch bologna deli, etc., the town is a great place to visit. It is also home to the Pella Window Factory! See a more complete post about Pella HERE.
In some of my earlier A to Z Challenge posts, I included the towns of Boring, Oregon, Normal, Illinois and Odd, West Virginia. Now I add to these, the town of Peculiar, Missouri. Unlike Boring, which was named after a man named Boring, the town of Peculiar came about their town name in a peculiar way. The community’s first postmaster, Edgar Thomson submitted as his first choice for a town name, “Excelsior,” but it was rejected because it already existed in Atchison County. Several other choices were also rejected. The story goes that the annoyed Thomson wrote to the Postmaster General himself to complain saying, among other things, “We don’t care what name you give us so long as it is sort of ‘peculiar’.” Thomson submitted the name “Peculiar” and the name was approved. The post office was established on June 22, 1868. See my original 2012 post HERE.
Pierre Part, Louisiana
Back in August 2010 a new TV Series began on the History Channel that got me hooked, literally. Called “Swamp People,” the series focuses on various teams of alligator hunters. Some episodes also feature other aspects of the social and sporting life of the swamp, including fishing and hunting for other animals. I was thoroughly engaged. In fact, I distinctly recall while watching one of the early broadcasts in 2010, telling my wife “One day I am going to Louisiana on a road trip and meet Troy Landry in Pierre Part.” It was one of my “bucket list” dream trips, though I figured the reality would never materialize. But it did come true, and you can see that I actually met Troy Landry and got to “Choot Him.”. You can read the whole story HERE.
Point Pleasant, West Virginia
A drive along the Ohio River on either the Ohio or West Virginia sides provides many unique places to visit. Perhaps the MOST unusual place is Point Pleasant, WV, which is on WV Highway 2. The town is home to an impressive set of Flood Wall Murals depicting the history of the area and is also home to the Mothman Museum, which features displays about the mythical and mysterious Mothman. The town is also full of history, including Fort Randolph. See more about my visit in 2008 HERE.
A Tale of Three Towns Named Paris
I have actually been to SIX places named Paris in my travels, including the three below in Ontario, Texas and Tennessee. Paris, Kentucky is also a neat place and is home to some of the world’s finest thoroughbred farms. Then there is Paris, Idaho, which is where my mother in law grew up. Full of Mormon history and the lovely scenery of Bear Lake and the Snake River . I have also driven through Paris, Missouri a couple of times. There are apparently 23 towns in the United States named Paris (see this link). The three below have a great deal to offer, so I mention them in more detail.
During my stint working in Ontario in 2008, I lived in a flat in Paris, Ontario for a good part of that time. Paris is a beautiful town that is cut in half by the scenic Grand River, which I lived a stone’s throw away from. Some actually refer to it as the prettiest town in Canada. Many of the buildings are built with Cobblestones, which adds to the beauty. There are some great places to eat there as well, especially the Camp 31 BBQ place. Honestly, it is the best BBQ place I have ever eaten at. See my detailed 2008 post about Paris, ON HERE.
I have been to Paris, Texas three times. There is always something unique there, but perhaps the most unique thing is the Eiffel Tower replica with a cowboy hat on top. It stands 65 feet tall and was built in 1993. For many years now, this Paris ans battled Paris in Tennessee for the tallest Eiffel Tower in the U.S. See my post about this battle HERE. It is also home to the fairly famous “Jesus in Cowboy Boots” monument at the Evergreen Cemetery. (Check out the great book by my author friend Tui Snider called Unexpected Texas for more cool things in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.) called You can read more about the town of Paris, Texas in my post HERE.
On the same trip as noted above for Paris, Texas, I made my way into Paris, Tennessee, the acclaimed Catfish Capital of the World and the home to the other “Tallest Eiffel Tower” in the U.S. Technically, it claims now to be the taller of the two towers. Read more HERE.
Port Orchard, Washington
In 2015 we visited our daughter in Port Orchard, Washington for about ten days. We toured all over the state, but Port Orchard has its own offerings and is indeed a lovely little town on the other side of the Puget Sound, across from Seattle. There are seaside scenes, beautiful painted murals, and even a funky mattress place with a farmyard full of painted cows. You can see more photos and read more about this town in my blog post HERE.
Powder River, Wyoming
On one of my many cross country trips, I made my way across Wyoming and on this particular trip in 2014, I decided that I wanted to see the geologic wonder known as Hell’s Half Acre. It was there that I met and befriended another travel photographer from Wisconsin named Derek Ace. See more about my trip to Powder River and other areas in Wyoming HERE.
Paducah, Kentucky sits along the Ohio River and is a scenic river town. Paducah was originally settled around 1815 and was known as Pekin. There were Native Americans, most likely Chickasaw, living there and they traded peacefully with white settlers and traders that came down the river. Their chief was named Paduke. This arrangement stayed peaceful, but in 1827, William Clark, the famed leader of the the Lewis and Clark expedition, and then superintendent for Native American affairs along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, brought a legal deed for the land the town sat on. He asked both Chief Paduke and the settlers to leave, which they did. Paduke and his clan moved to Mississippi. Clark named the town Paducah in his honor. In 1830 it was incorporated and then chartered as a city in 1856. It was a dry dock for barges and also became a major rail hub. Today it is home to the National Quilt Museum. See more about my trip in 2010 HERE.
Port Gibson, Mississippi
As part of my 2014 trip to Galveston, I drove along the Mississippi Blues Highway (US Highway 61 – see my posts in A Towns and N Towns). One of the stops I made was in the scenic little town of Port Gibson, MS. The town has some lavish 19th century homes and some unique places as well. Many of the town’s historic buildings survived the Civil War because Grant proclaimed the city to be “too beautiful to burn.” These words appear on the town’s welcome signs, as shown above. Historic buildings in the city include the Windsor Ruins, which have been shown in several motion pictures. And, my main interest in coming here was Perhaps one of the most unique things I saw in Port Gibson was the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church. It is definitely a one of a kind steeple! See the complete history of this church and more about Port Gibson in my 2014 post about the Blues Highway HERE.
Palmyra, New York
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), there are few places in the country with church history like Palmyra, New York. To the Mormon faithful, this is where the Sacred Grove that Joseph Smith saw his First Vision and this was also the location of Hill Cumorah, the location of the Golden Plates that were translated to become the Book of Mormon. Today it is home to the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant…a spectacular outdoor performance depicting stories from the Book of Mormon. Thousands flock to this small town every July for one week as hundreds of volunteers perform nightly for totally free viewing. My wife and I attended the pageant in 2013. You can see my full writeup HERE.
Not too far from our home in Lexington is the historic Civil War Battlefield town of Perryville, home of an annual Civil War Reenactment. The battle took place on October 8, 1862 and is considered the bloodiest battle of Kentucky’s Civil War battlefields. The area includes a State Park, Battlefield Tours, a Museum and the the Downtown area has many unique shops and souvenir places.
Paxton, Nebraska (Honorable Mention)
On a huge cross country trip in 2007 with my son Solomon, we stopped for an overnight in the town of Paxton, Nebraska. The chief objective was to have dinner at one of America’s unique and quirky restaurants. Known as Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse, this rustic restaurant is filled with trophies from safaris around the world, including a full size polar bear, a giraffe head, an elephant head and dozens of other large animals that stare down at you while you indulge in their splendid steak meals. You can see more about this leg of my long cross country trip HERE.
Pembroke, New York (Honorable Mention)
On the above mentioned trip to Palmyra, New York, we made our way into Pembroke, NY. I had to stop and get a photo of Kutter’s Cheese. There are some nice murals, but the name of the shop is what got me. And yes, they will gladly cut the cheese for you.
Penn Yan, New York (Honorable Mention)
On a 2008 trip back to Ontario, I made my way to the beautiful Finger Lakes of New York. One of the towns on the lakes is Penn Yan, which is home to Birkett Mills, manufacturers of a variety of buckwheat products such as flour, etc. They are also famed for the world’s largest buckwheat pancake and you can see the giant griddle in downtown Penn Yan.
Ponder, Texas (Honorable Mention)
And finally, how about a drive through Ponder, Texas, a bit northwest of the Dallas/Fort Worth area? Think about it ok?
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
Just as there is a Normal in Illinois, there is a Peculiar in Missouri. Yes, this is more than a strange name for a town, it is a Peculiar name. On a trip to Kansas City in January 2011, I made my way to Peculiar.
I love hitting places like this. According to legend, Peculiar received its name when the first postmaster, Edgar Thomson, had his first choice, Excelsior, rejected because it already existed in Atchison County, MO. Apparently, a number of other choices were also rejected. So, the annoyed Thomson wrote to the Postmaster General to complain saying, among other things, “We don’t care what name you give us so long as it is sort of ‘peculiar’.” Thomson submitted the name “Peculiar” and the name was approved. The post officewas established on June 22, 1868. Peculiar was later incorporated in 1953.
It is fun to drive around a town like Peculiar and notice all of the peculiar things. Here are a few.
Getting to Peculiar is actually quite easy if you are on the freeway heading to Kansas City from St. Louis. Here is a map: