12 Cool and Quirky Wisconsin Roadside Attractions to Visit this Summer

Kensie Kiesow

Image: James St. John | CC BY 2.0
Crystal Cave • Image: James St. John | CC BY 2.0

For your entertainment and driving convenience, I have put together a route containing some of the weirdest and quirkiest roadside attractions this great state of Wisconsin has to offer, and believe me, it was very difficult to narrow it down to just four ...

1. Crystal Cave

W965 WI-29, Spring Valley, WI 54767 | 50.6 Miles from Eau Claire

The first attraction on this list is Crystal Cave, a family-friendly cave in Spring Valley that was discovered in 1881 by two, young brothers George and William Vanasse. Since 1942, Crystal Cave has offered tours through its dark, dank depths featuring interesting and mysterious rock formations, a black-out chamber, and unexpected life thriving in the underground. Besides the thrill of exploring a rich world beneath our own, there’s a cute, little gift shop, too!

2.  Railroad Memories Museum

424 N. Front St, Spooner, WI 54801 | 81.9 Miles from Eau Claire

Spooner, and the area around it, is filled with interesting things to look at and visit such as the Railroad Memories Museum. The development of railroads in Western Wisconsin began in the late 1800’s in Hudson, WI with the North Wisconsin Railroad Co. and connected most of the Midwest. By 1882, the Division Headquarters had moved to Spooner, and with time, this town became an extremely important hub for railway transportation in the Midwest as well as an economic center by employing roughly 600 people in its heyday. Railroad Memories Museum was constructed in honor of the impact shipping and commuter trains made on the region, and the vintage trains and various other items are well worth a look.

3. Big Dick’s Buckhorn Inn

105 Walnut St, Spooner, WI 54801 | 84.5 Miles from Eau Claire

Within Spooner also lies Big Dick’s Buckhorn Inn and three weird surprises. Mixed in among the many stuffed mounts, you will notice a stuffed calf with two heads and a stuffed saber-toothed tiger! Not only that, but the men’s restroom was once visited by President John F. Kennedy! I can’t guarantee that either of those unique animals were once living, but when I called the inn to confirm whether or not it was graced by JFK, Jacob Wahleichner, an employee at Big Dick’s Buckhorn Inn, says “it’s true, he was here sometime on March 18th 1960. [He] stopped in while campaigning.” So, if you love taxidermy, or history, or you’re just in the mood for a good beer, stop into Big Dick’s Buckhorn Inn on your way to the next attraction on this list!

4. Giant Ax and Arrow

US Hwy 2, Brule, WI (on the south side by the intersection of Anderson/Wills Rd) | 150 Miles from Eau Claire

If you’re looking for some interesting and potentially hilarious photo opportunities, drive over to Brule for a giant arrow sticking out of the ground and a giant ax stuck in a log on the roadside. These two enormous statues provide great inspiration for illusions such as a tiny lumberjack and a warrior struck down in battle. Or, if you’re not interested in lying down in the roadside grass, these beauties can be seen clearly from the road, too.

5. Chainsaw Totem Pole Forest

County Hwy M, Medford, WI (on the corner of Division Drive) | 72. 8 Miles from Eau Claire

The last stop on our tour of under-appreciated, roadside attractions lands us in Medford, just over an hour outside of Eau Claire. Off of county highway M, to the right if you’ve been looping around counter clockwise, is a small forest of 21 poles with roughly 400 chainsaws sticking out of them. Gordy Lekies, the man who created this quirky piece of art, stuck these chainsaws into bare, wooden poles in all sorts of different angles and heights like branches on actual trees, so if you’re not too tired after driving all day, I would certainly suggest stopping by. Wisconsin certainly is something to behold.


Here's some more cool places!

1. Jurustic Park

Image: Jim | CC BY-SA 2.0

M222 Sugar Bush Ln Marshfield, WI 54449 | 87.7 Miles from Eau Claire

Home to several extinct, iron-made creatures that inhabited McMillan Marsh, Jurustic Park is a beast of a sculpture garden. Explore the park and view the sculptures all made from repurposed antique objects as well as a cute, little Hobbit Hole because why not? You can even take the kids and leave your tranquilizer gun at home because, unlike Jurassic Park, these creatures aren’t harmful.

2. Dr. Evermore’s Sculpture Park – Forevertron

S7703 US-12, North Freedom, WI 53951 | 143 Miles from Eau Claire

Fashioned by Dr. Evermor (alias of Tom Every, the sculptor) the Forevertron is an enormous, 320-foot-tall scrap metal sculpture that looks like a repair station for steampunk airships. Surrounded by a collection of gun turrets, huge insectoid robots, and fanciful, science-fiction Victorian architecture, the Forevertron has inspired many scrap metal artists around the country.

3. Viking Church

Town Line Rd, Washington, WI 54246 | 289 Miles from Eau Claire (includes a ferry ride)

Known as Stave Churches, these multi-gabled, pagan-architecture-inspired churches were common in Scandinavia during the medieval ages. The Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Washington Island built this authentic replica in 1993 and it’s currently used for weddings, ceremonies and other gatherings. If you visit, just be sure not to trip on Mjollnir stuck in the ground out back.

4. Moccasin Bar

15820 US Hwy 63, Hayward, WI 54843 | 107 Miles from Eau Claire

If you haven’t had enough of taxidermy from Big Dick’s Buckhorn Inn, Hayward’s Moccasin Bar is a treasure-trove of taxidermy. It proudly displays the world’s third largest muskie as its crowning piece, and it also includes fun scenes depicted by animals, such as a rabbit cheating at a game of poker, a raccoon as the victor of a boxing match, and a courtroom with a wolf presiding as judge.

5. The Pink Elephant

4995 Co Rd V, DeForest, WI 53532 | 163 Miles from Eau Claire

Pink and proud in front of a variety of gas stations since the early '60s, this elephant has become quite the icon. Now known as Andy’s Pink Elephant, or just “Pinkie” for short, this adorable, pink animal has stood by the roadside welcoming guests to his gas station with a big smile beneath his trunk. The gas station even sells pink elephant souvenirs to show off back home!

6. Lawn Ornament Extravaganza

4531 S Lake Dr, Cudahy, WI 53110 | 252 Miles from Eau Claire

So far, this list has consisted of locales with one large ... thing, but a Cudahy resident decided one wasn’t nearly enough. Their attraction is complete with a skull, Hamburglar, and, of course, the casual Cadillac sinking into a gravel pit.

7. Chalet of the Golden Fleece

 

618 2nd St, New Glarus, WI 53574 | 191 Miles from Eau Claire

Home to the worldly collection of Edwin Barlow, this museum displays a jeweled watch once owned by King Louis XVI, Gregorian chants on parchment dating from 1485, and plenty of Swiss related collectables, like a fancy 300-year-old Swiss table.

8. House on the Rock

5754 WI-23, Spring Green, WI 53588 | 165 Miles from Eau Claire

Last but certainly not least is one of the most famous roadside attractions in the entire Midwest, and darn near too obvious to list. The House on the Rock is so bizarre, magical, and mysterious that fantasy/horror writer Neil Gaiman included a description of this attraction in his novel “American Gods,” but found that he had to “tone down [his] description of it and leave things out…to make it believable.” Between the phantom orchestra, the carousel, and the Infinity Room, this is so much more than a “house.”

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