Three Must Visit Destinations on Any Epic American Road Trip

America is the ultimate road trip destination. Combining the weird, the wacky, and the wonderful, it’s a nation famed for its grandeur and its gaudiness, its majesty and its madness. If you’re looking for a place where everything you see will be bigger, better, and more beautiful, you simply have to pay it a visit.

One of the coolest and kitschiest ways to see it is to take a long, long drive through its many striking and zany landscapes, and if you’re searching for a little destination inspiration, then here are three top roadside attractions to add to your list…

1. Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman, Alabama

Ave Maria Grotto Cullman Alabama

For those in search of the eccentric and the ethereal, Alabama’s Ave Maria Grotto is a must visit destination. A dream-like wonderland of the discarded, the out-of-place, and the downright abstract, it is filled with everything from seashells to costume jewellery and plastic animals. The brainchild of Brother Joseph Zoettl, it contains more than 125 pint-sized reproductions of the world’s most famous religious structures and landmarks, and took around 50 years to complete. Walk amongst its acres of forests and flowers, and discover everything from a tiny replica of St. Peter’s Basilica to minute versions of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Wall of China, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Once seen, it’s a place that you’ll never forget.

2. Desert of Maine, Freeport, Maine

Certain parts of America may bring to mind arid deserts and scorching heat, but Maine is not one of them. More commonly associated with freshly caught seafood, breath-taking sunsets, and endless, paradisiacal blue waters, it’s the last place you would expect to find a bare wasteland, but find one you will. A naturally occurring phenomenon, the Desert of Maine appeared in 1797, when bad farming contributed to severe soil erosion and the creation of out-of-place desert-like conditions. Sitting amidst rolling green hills, this strange location covers around 50 acres, and offers an enchanting place to explore for those who want to be wowed.

3. Forbidden Gardens, Katy, Texas

Once you’ve completed your magical tour of America, you’ll probably lack the funds to travel to China, but luckily for you, you get two for the price of one when you visit Texas‘ ethereal Forbidden Gardens. Containing scaled down models of many of China’s most famed landmarks, it offers you the chance to explore everywhere from the breath-taking Forbidden City to the Venice of China, Suzhou, the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, and even the legendary terracotta army, complete with its 6,000 soldiers. If you’re looking for a beautiful portal to another place, it really does deserve a visit.

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Paul Tomaszewski is a science & tech writer as well as a programmer and entrepreneur. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of CosmoBC. He has a degree in computer science from John Abbott College, a bachelor's degree in technology from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and completed some business and economics classes at Concordia University in Montreal. While in college he was the vice-president of the Astronomy Club. In his spare time he is an amateur astronomer and enjoys reading or watching science-fiction. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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