Nevada is a state that takes its bizarre roadside attractions seriously. When Middlegate’s landmark Giant Shoe Tree was cut down in 2011, Nevadans united to start a new shoe tree. That’s just how we roll.
From a motel that may scare young children to bold public art installations, here are some of Nevada’s most bizarre roadside attractions.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. The New Shoe Tree – Middlegate
It was a sad day for bizarre roadside attractions when the Giant Shoe Tree was chopped down. An unknown vandal toppled the beloved cottonwood (clearly a vandal with no “sole”). Fortunately for those driving along U.S. 50, the “Loneliest Road in America,” a new tree has become the keeper of footwear. It's located about 60 feet from the original.
2. Clown Motel – Tonopah
Eeek. The name “Clown Motel” alone sends a cold chill down our spines. Located off Highway 95 in Tonopah, next to a cemetery (naturally), this clown-themed motel actually gets good reviews. But due to its cornucopia of clown paraphernalia, those with a Bozo phobia should keep on driving.
3. Lonnie Hammargren’s House - Las Vegas
An American politician and retired neurosurgeon, Lonnie Hammargren owns an eclectic collection of artifacts, on display at his home near Sandhill and Flamingo roads. His collection includes Bugsy Siegel's toilet, a 1960s Apollo space capsule and the Stratosphere Hotel’s former High Roller roller coaster. That’s just the tip of his life-sized T-Rex. He typically opens his home to visitors once a year on Nevada Day.
4. 7 Magic Mountains – Jean
One part nature and six parts artificial, 7 Magic Mountains is a colorful art exhibition from Swiss Artist Ugo Rondinone. Set in the desert of Jean, the seven 30 to 35-foot-high dayglow totems are made with painted, locally-sourced boulders. The 2016 installation is visible along I-15, but you better hurry. It can only be seen for the next two years.
5. Love locks – Lovelock
You’ve probably heard about the love locks of Paris (which were removed from the famed Pont des Arts bridge) but did you know know that Lovelock, Nev. also adopted this ancient Chinese custom? Couples have placed their locks along the green metal chains at Lovers Lock Plaza since 2006. They would love for you to join them.
6. The Goldwell Open Air Museum - Rhyolite
The bizarre roadside attractions in this 15-acre outdoor sculpture park have perplexed and captivated visitors since 1984. Located just outside the Rhyolite ghost town on the eastern edge of Death Valley National Park, the free museum features large head-scratching public art installations by Belgian and American artists. Open 24 hours a day, it’s eerily beautiful, sometimes confusing, and definitely photo-worthy.
7. International Car Forest of the Last Church – Goldfield
Flickr / odonata98
More than 40 curiously painted cars, trucks and vans nosediving into the sand; that’s the easiest way to describe this bizarre roadside attraction created by artists Chad Sorg and Mark Rippie. The strangely beautiful forest of junkers is located just past Goldfield.
8. Alien Research Center – Hiko
Flickr / Travel Nevada
Billing itself as the first stop on you alien hunt, The Alien Research Center, 100 Extraterrestrial Hwy, Hiko, catches your eye due to the gigantic silver alien standing out front of its silver shed-like structure. Located along the Extraterrestrial Highway, the gift shop sells alien merchandise including alien Tequila.
9. Little A’le’Inn – Rachel
A restaurant, gift shop and motel, the Little A’le’Inn, 9631 Old Mill St, pokes fun at itself with a humorous homage to little green men. There’s a UFO getting towed out front and a parking spot reserved for aliens. Located near Area 51—the epicenter of alien conspiracy theories— the restaurant sells alien-themed merchandise and serves tasty “alien burgers” to those seeking "close encounters."
10. Fly Geyser - Gerlach
This brightly colored man-made geothermal geyser regularly spews scalding hot water up to 5 feet in the air. It is located on private gated property about a third of a mile from State Route 34, but is large enough to see from the road.
11. Tom Kelly’s Bottle House – Rhyolite
Standing out among the other bizarre roadside attractions in the ghost town of Rhyolite (good work, Tom Kelly), this three-room house was finished in 1906. Built from 50,000 bottles, the quaint L-shaped home is one of the few Rhyolite structures that isn’t in ruins.
12. Thunder Mountain Monument - Imlay
A Nevada State Historical Monument, the Thunder Mountain Monument includes more than 200 concrete sculptures depicting Native American historical and cultural scenes. Located off I-80 in Imlay, they were assembled by the late Frank Van Zant, starting in 1969.
13. Typewriter Eraser – CityCenter, Las Vegas Strip
Flickr / David Stanley
Typewriters, let alone typewriter erasers, aren’t exactly a common sight these days. But in Vegas, everything is possible so a 19-foot writing aide is just more of the usual fare. Located between Crystals and the Mandarin Oriental, the quirky piece is part of CityCenter's public art program.
14. VW Beetle Spider - Carson City
With a creep factor close to that of Tonopah’s Clown Motel, the VW Beetle Spider in Carson City will spin intricate nightmares in aracnophobes' heads. The spider by artist David Fambrough awaits its prey on U.S. 50, about five miles east of Carson City.