The Most Unique Experiences in the United States

Museum of Neon Art (MONA)
Museum of Neon Art (MONA) | © Passion Leica / Flickr
Leena Kollar

Wacky, weird, strange, and odd are just a few of the words one could use to describe these U.S. attractions. For visitors with an interest in the unusual, these experiences will create memories worth talking about for years.

1. The Wave Organ


Wave Organ | © Atlant / Wikimedia Commons
© Atlant / Wikimedia Commons

Created by artist Peter Richards and stonemason George Gonzales, The Wave Organ is a wave-activated sound sculpture made from cemetery stones from the Laurel Hill Cemetery, located at the end of a jetty in the San Francisco Bay. The Organ, completed in 1986, uses 25 PVC organ pipes to interact with waves of the bay; the effects depend on the level of tide, and the Wave Organ sounds best at high tide. The inspiration behind the Wave Organ came from sound recordings made by Bill Fontana, who used a vent pipe from a floating concrete dock in Sydney, Australia to make sounds.
The Wave Organ, 83 Marina Green Dr, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 528 4444

Wave Organ | © Atlant / Wikimedia Commons

2. The Crash Pad

Boutique Hotel, Hostel, Hotel

Part hostel, part boutique hotel, The Crash Pad in Chattanooga, Tennessee, offers four types of accommodations to guests, all of which feature handcrafted beds, privacy curtains, sinks, and furniture. There are separate men’s and women’s restrooms, each with private toilet and shower stalls, and a fully-equipped communal kitchen open 24 hours a day. The living area encourages guests to make new friends by sharing their travel adventures with one another.
The Crash Pad, 29 Johnson St, Chattanooga, TN, USA, +1 423 648 8393

3. Museum of Neon Art

Art Gallery, Museum, School

Founded in 1981 by artists Lil Lakich and Richard Jenkins, the Museum of Neon Art (MONA) in Glendale, California, encourages learning and expression through neon, electric, and kinetic artwork. The original idea was to create an for historic neon sign preservation, and MONA is the only museum in the world exclusively devoted to art in electric media with an incredible collection of neon signs. The museum offers classes and events throughout the year, including the Saturday night Neon Cruise, a nighttime bus tour of neon signs and movie marquees found through the downtown Los Angeles area and Hollywood.

4. Forest Gully Farms


Ever wanted to experience life as a hobbit? Do so at Forest Gully Farms in Tennessee. Rent the three huts and bathhouse, which can accommodate up to eight people, for a private travel experience on a family’s 15-acre farm; the red and yellow huts have bedrooms, and the green hut is a small kitchen and dining room. Guests are only provided with what can be picked on the farm, and there is no running water except for at the bathhouse. The owners encourage visitors to gather their own eggs, blueberries, and vegetables from the garden.

5. Hole N


5. Hole N

In southwestern Utah is a 5,000-sq-ft home known as Hole N” The Rock, carved out of a huge rock almost a century ago by Albert Christensen. It started as a small alcove for his sons to sleep in and is now a tourist attraction that offers tours, complete with a gift shop and trading post. Inside are 14 rooms, a fireplace with a 65-foot chimney, a bathtub built into the rock, as well as Albert’s paintings and his wife’s doll collection. There’s also a sculpture done by Albert of Franklin D. Roosevelt on the face of the rock above the home. Both Albert and his wife, Gladys, were buried in a small cove within the rock.
Hole N” The Rock, 11037 US-191, Moab, UT, USA, +1 435 686 2250

Hole N” the Rock | © penjelly / Flickr

6. h Avenue Tiled Steps

16th Avenue Tiled Step | © fabola / Flickr
© fabola / Flickr

Inspired by Jorge Selaron’s staircase in Rio de Janeiro, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps in San Francisco’s Sunset District was completed in 2005 by artists Collette Crutcher and Aileen Barr with the help of local volunteers. The staircase has 163 steps made from mosaic tiles donated by people in the community and ascends from ‘sea level’ to ‘the moon,’ with a garden at the bottom.
16th Avenue Tiled Steps, 16th Ave, San Francisco, CA, USA

16th Avenue Tiled Step | © fabola / Flickr

7. Cross Island Chapel


Cross Island Chapel is the world’s smallest church with just under 30 square feet of space inside. It sits in the middle of a pond on a floating jetty in New York and can only accommodate the couple getting married and wedding officiant. The tiny white clapboard chapel was built in 1989, though there is no Cross Island in the vicinity; the source of the chapel’s name is likely a small cross jutting out of exposed rocks in the pond.
Cross Island Chapel, Mason Pond, Mason Rd, Oneida, NY, USA, +1 315 363 4488

Area 51

Within the Nevada Test and Training Range is a top secret United States Air Force facility known as Area 51. The current purpose of the base is not known to the public, but historical evidence suggests it is for the development and testing of experimental air crafts. Because of the high level of secrecy surrounding Area 51, there have been frequent conspiracy theories about the base and discussion of UFO activity taking place on the premises. There is even an “Extraterrestrial Highway.” The area is permanently off-limits to civilians and normal military air traffic, and security clearances are checked regularly. There are no cameras or weapons allowed in the area, and even military pilots-in-training can be disciplined for crossing into certain parts of the space.

Area 51 gate


Sometime in 2010, a plastic hobby horse was found along Old Sudbury Road near Lincoln, Massachusetts. Since then, more horses have been appearing at the site, everything from broken wooden rocking horses to horse figurines. This open pasture has come to be known as Ponyhenge. Nobody knows how or why the original hobby horse appeared, though there are stories going around about the origins of Ponyhenge. The horses found at the site continue to grow in number and are sometimes rearranged or knocked around but never taken away.

8. Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Art Museum


© juliegomell/Flickr |
Retired plumber Barney Smith has an ever-growing collection of toilet seats that he’s turned into an art museum. Smith soon started collecting the used toilet seats, painting or decorating them. Soon, he filled up his garage with his creations, which today make up Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum in Texas. Everything from the walls to the rafters of the museum are covered in toilet seats. Smith is so proud of his collection that he conducts all the tours of his museum himself, using a bamboo stick as a pointing aid. He logs visitors in with a guest book and even encourages them to bring in their own toilet seats. If he ends up using theirs, he will engrave their name on the seat for all guests to see.

9. Bubblegum Alley

9. Bubblegum Alley

Tucked away in a small alley in San Luis Obispo, California, is the quirky Bubblegum Alley. As its name suggests, the alleyway walls are covered in chewed bubblegum. The 15-foot-high walls are covered with millions of pieces of gum, creating a work of art that started in the 1970s and that germophobes across the globe cringe just thinking about. Next to Bubblegum Alley is Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, where visitors can grab a fresh gumball and make their own mark on the walls of the communal art piece.
Bubblegum Alley, 733.5 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA, +1 805 781 7222

Bubblegum Alley | © ars5017 / Flickr

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