Places in America You Never Knew Existed

From a car monument to a misplaced desert, America is weirder than you think

 It's easy to think of America is being a normal country, and not just for those of us who've lived our whole lives here. Our national symbols, after all, include apple pie, the bald eagle and a game that involves men in tight pants throwing around a ball made of pigskin while the entire audience is too drunk to care. OK, maybe that last one is a bit weird.

In any case, America is as weird as any place else on Earth, as the following list will prove. Whether you're looking for strange roadside attractions for your next road trip, or simply need a reminder that you live in the land of the brave, but not the land of the bland, you'll never think of the U.S. the same again.

  • 01 of 05

    Maine's Mysterious Desert

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    Yes, those are sand dunes – and yes, this is Maine. Flickr user Leonora Enking (via Creative Commons)

     I should start off by saying that in a technical sense, the Desert of Maine is not actually a desert, in spite of this being its official name. Rather, the sandy substance on the ground is silt, left in the wake of an ancient glacier. Regardless of semantics, however, Maine's desert-like non-desert is one of the strangest landscapes in America.

  • 02 of 05

    Carhenge

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    If America had druids... Flickr user Kevin Saff (via Creative Commons)

    The intention of the builders of Carhenge, a monolith of cars constructed in rural Nebraska in 1987, is just as mysterious as that of the druids who built the actual Stonehenge, after which Carhenge is modeled. In spite of this, Carhenge is still extremely cool and is definitely among the most interesting roadside attractions in America.

     

  • 03 of 05

    The Wave at Arizona's Vermillion Cliffs

    The Wave at Arizona's Vermillion Cliffs
    The Wave at Arizona's Vermillion Cliffs. © Claire H Cohen Photography

     Just one look at the so-called "Wave" of the Vermillion Cliffs in Arizona tells you how it got its name. Less simple is the story of how it came to be, an eons-long chronicle of sand, wind, and sun that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs, whose fossils are abundant within the sandstone.

  • 04 of 05

    Ave Maria Grotto

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    Why travel through Europe when you can go to Alabama?. Flickr user heydn (via Creative Commons)

     About 50 miles north of Birmingham in the seemingly insignificant town of Cullman, AL is the Ave Maria Grotto, a site worthy of its spiritually evocative name. Home to more than 100 miniature reproductions of world religious sites, from a mockup of Ancient Jerusalem to a scaled-down version of St. Peter's Basilica, Ave Maria Grotto is the next-best thing to a summer in Europe and The Holy Land.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Prada's Desert Boutique

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    You can do everything at the Prada Boutique in Marfa, TX – except shop. Flickr user lifeontheedge (via Creative Commons)

     It's ironic that the Prada Boutique in Marfa, TX put the sleepy desert settlement on the map: You can't shop there! No, although Marfa's Prade did receive the blessing of, well, Prada, it is merely an art installation. One built with the intent of eventually disintegrating, I might add, so get thee to Marfa.

The craziest thing about this list is that it merely scratches the surface when it comes to strange places in America. From a castle made of coral in Florida to about a dozen desert landscapes that would seem more at home on Mars, America is way weirder than we'd all like to believe.