Back in 2001, a man named Bernard Weber decided that since only one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World still existed (the Great Pyramid at Giza, in case you were curious) humanity needed new symbols showcasing our current cultural diversity and incredible artifacts.
Not one of the following made it onto the list of the New 7 Wonders.
Thus, we created our own. Presenting the 7 Wonders of the RV World: a tribute to the most eye-catching, show-stopping, heart-warming monuments of Roadside America (and one in Canada).
Airstream Ranch, Dover, Florida
Airstream Ranch: art or eye-sore? The answer is in the eye of the beholder. From the imagination of RV salesman Frank Bates comes this wall of eight classic Airstream trailers buried nose down in a strip of land off exit 14 in Dover, Florida. Inspired by the illustrious Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, (you will remember it as #72 in our RV bucket list) Bates explains, “We consider it art.”
Bates has faced backlash from residential neighbors since he created the installation in early 2010. They consider it distasteful, and are annoyed by the increase of tourist traffic in the area. County officials have deemed it legal, though, and Airstream Ranch is here to stay – and to expand. Bates hopes to turn it into a park, with lighted walkways, picnic tables, and gazebos. As of now, the roadside attraction has drawn tourists from as far as Japan, hosted a fashion photo-shoot, and was incorporated into a music video.
How to get there: Exit 14 off I-4 in Dover, Florida. Park in the Bate’s RV lot, and then follow the golf cart path from the back out to Airstream Ranch.
Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota
Corn Palace is more than one of the biggest tourist attractions in South Dakota – although it does host an impressive 500,000 visitors each year. Corn Palace also is a community hot spot, home to concerts, exhibits, events such as the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo and Polka Festival, and the Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers and Mitchell High School Kernels basket ball teams.
Corn Palace was constructed in the late 19th century to demonstrate the fertile soil of South Dakota, rebuilt in the early 1900s in a competition with the city of Pierre, and rebuilt again in 1921. The Moorish domes and minarets were added in 1937 – no one is quite sure why. The exterior of the building is decorated with murals of native South Dakotan grasses, grains, and of course, corn. No, not depicting them – of them. The design changes yearly (except for 2006, when a drought prevented the building’s redecoration), but popular themes include South Dakota birds and a salute to agriculture.
The end of South Dakota harvest season is commemorated by Corn Palace Week; afterwards, the exterior is used as food by local animals preparing for winter.
How to get there: At the corner at 6th and Main in Mitchell, South Dakota. Take I-90 to Mitchell, then north on Highway 37 into town.
Largest Beaver Dam in the World, Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta, Canada
At 2,790 feet, the largest beaver dam in the world is certainly a wonder. It’s more than twice the length of the Hoover Dam. For those who still can’t comprehend the sheer magnitude, that’s more than 8 football fields long. For those who still are having trouble, consider this: you can see it from space!
According to an interview conducted by the BBC, construction is thought to have been started in the 1970s and more than one beaver family participated in the structure of mud, stone, and thousands of trees. Canadian ecologist Jean Thie discovered the beaver dam in 2007 when he was researching the rate of melting permafrost in the northern regions of Canada.
How to get there: Wear good walking shoes and bring plenty of provisions. It’s a long hike through the deep woods of northern Alberta.
McDonald’s Museum, Des Plaines, Illinois
Crazy to think that the original McDonald’s mascot Speedee claims to have sold over 1 million hamburgers – yet that is what the original sign for the first McDonald’s franchise reads. These days, old Ronald can’t even count the number of Happy Meals he doles out daily. The McDonald’s museum, housed in a replica of the first franchise building at the original site, is open during the summer, albeit at irregular hours.
The museum is replete with original fry vats, milkshake multi-mixers, soda barrels and grills – all attended by chiseled male mannequins in 1950s Mickie D’s uniforms. The basement boasts vintage ads, photographs from when the original building was still standing, and a video about McDonald’s history. Pay tribute to every late-night McFlurry you got while on the road.
How to get there: Take a drive down North Lee Street in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Official Center of the World, Felicity, California
The Official Center of the World is located in one of the hottest, driest places in the U.S.: The Sonoran Desert, on the border of Arizona and Southern California. After purchasing thousands of acres of desert land and incorporating the town of Felicity, Jacques Andre Instel became mayor in a landslide 2-0 vote, and requested Imperial County, California to recognize one spot in this land as the official Center of the World. They agreed. So did the Institut Geographique National de France.
The Center of the World consists of a small bronze disk housed inside a pyramid (the official “center”), a church styled after the chapel on Mt. Saint Michel in France, a relic spiral staircase from the Eiffel Tour in the parking lot, a 15-foot sundial with a bronze depiction of Michelangelo’s Arm of God as the gnomon, and the beginning of the Museum of History in Granite where Instel is inscribing everything he think is worth commemorating for future generations on wedge slabs of granite. Currently consisting of only 18 granite monuments, the plan is to eventually enclose the church and surrounding land with monuments in a fish-shaped outline.
Visitors to the Center of the World receive a certificate signed by Felicity’s mayor. The Center of the World is open daily December through March.
How to get there: Take the North I-8 Sidewinder exit 164. Follow signs to Felicity. The Official Center of the World is located at 1 Center of the World Drive.
Salem Sue, New Salem, North Dakota
Sure she’s the symbol of New Salem’s prosperity, but did they have to make Salem Sue’s udder so anatomically correct? Brought to you by the dairymen, farmers, business people and New Salem residents, this 12,000 pound heifer resides on School Hill, off exit 127 South. She’s so hefty (standing 38 feet high and 50 feet long) commuters several miles away can witness Sue’s towering silhouette on clear days.
Erected in 1974 for $40,000, Sue represents (according to her plaque) the “hardworking, persistent and informed dairyman who is an asset to his community, church, the economy and his family.” Who knows how Sue feels about the dairywomen of New Salem. Sue is claimed to be the largest cow in the world and is most assuredly the largest of North Dakota’s numerous “Large Animal Attractions.”
How to get there: About 34 miles west of Bismark, Salem Sue is located on 8th Ave. North in New Salem, North Dakota. Take the New Salem exit 127 off I-94.
Shady Dell, Bisbee, Arizona
Shady Dell is the 1950s as you’ve never experienced them before – unless you have actually experienced the 1950s. In that case, power up the flux capacitor and time travel back to a world of sleek aluminum travel trailers, mid-century kitsch, and wholesome entertainment. Fully furnished with restored 1950s paraphernalia, each of Shady Dell’s nine trailers is available for rental. Shady Dell’s trailers are themed. Very themed. Be it Tiki Bus Polynesian Palace or the Royal Mansion, you experience everything in Technicolor.
Shady Dell started in 1927 as an overnight resting place for weary travelers along the popular Highway 80, stretching from Georgia to California. Today the park is the fruition of excellent location and vintage fun: enjoy a home-cooked meal at Dot’s Diner, explore the historic copper-mining town of Bisbee next door, or use it as home base to explore Arizona’s high desert areas.
How to get there: Take 1 Douglas Road off of Highway 80. Travelling through? Shady Dell also has campground hookups for RVs.
Trailer Park Taj Mahal, Zeba, Michigan
This monument is not widely recognized– possibly because the Taj Mahal of trailers is not an attraction per se, but real people’s homes. Each trailer is a different unit. Internet rumor has it that a “couple of old guys thought it up and decided to make it happen,” but this remains unconfirmed.
How to get there: Word on the road is that if you loop around Trailer Court Road in Zeba, Michigan, it can’t be missed.
Travel on, fellow RVers, and make sure to document all the wonders you come across in your journeys. We’ll see you on the road.