What do Hiawatha, Paul Bunyan and the famed Snowshoe Priest Bishop Baraga have in common? They all are part of Michigan’s roadside attractions that draw thousands of tourists off the main highway to explore wild, wacky, solemn tributes and man-made spectacles.
From Detroit to the far reaches of the Upper Peninsula, roadside attractions are a great way to inject some fun in vacation itineraries. And only in Michigan can visitors see the World’s Largest Tire (I-94 east of Detroit Metro Airport), The World’s Largest Cherry Pie Pan (Traverse City), and the World’s Largest Stove (Detroit). Some of the most popular road side attractions include:
• You don’t have to go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. Just make a stop in Paris, Michigan, north of Big Rapids, to see a 20 foot tall replica of the European landmark. Crafted by welding steel, this monument sits among the tall trees and was made by industrial arts high school students.
• ‘Bottoms up’ was the engineering route that John Makinen took in 1941 when he built his house with 60,000 soft drink bottles. The bottles lay on their side with the bottoms forming the outside wall. Visit the Bottle House in Kaleva, ten miles from Lake Michigan in Manistee County.
• When visiting the Upper Peninsula stop by to see Big Gus, the world’s largest working chainsaw. Gus is 23 feet long and is powered by a V-8 engine and is the star of Da Yooper’s Tourist Trap in Ishpeming.
• Mystery Spot -- Real or contrived? You be the judge when someone tall is suddenly small, or when you climb a wall into the air and you don’t fall. You can’t miss it, just 5 miles west of St. Ignace and the Mackinac Bridge on Highway US-2.
• Craving for some good Polish food in a unique location? The Leg’s Inn is the place in Cross Village following a short drive through the ‘Tunnel of Trees’ that begins in Harbor Springs. Upside-down stove legs decorate the roof of the inn and the interior is decorated with imaginative shapes crafted from polished twining tree roots.
• Looking for a ‘little night music’? Grand Haven on Lake Michigan offers up its Musical Fountain Memorial Day through Labor Day on Friday and Saturday evenings. The sound and lighting masterpiece pumps out 4,000 gallons of water a minute and sprays 125 feet in the air. Grand Haven had the idea in 1963, way before Las Vegas built the Bellagio.
• Want big? See the 15 feet tall Paul Bunyan in Manistique, or visit the 35 foot bronze Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest Bishop Baraga high atop US-41 in L’Anse. The good Bishop founded 5 missions after he first came to the Upper Peninsula in 1830 from Slovenia.
• Want really big? Go to Ironwood to visit Hiawatha - 50 feet high, weighs 16, 000 pounds and can withstand 140 mph winds.
There are more roadside attractions throughout Michigan that have been visited and captured as favorite vacation photos. Visit michigan.org to seek out other fun destinations or tell us about your favorite by becoming a guest blogger at Pure Michigan Connect.