World’s Largest: Making Use of Roadside Attractions

On longer trips, sometimes the hours of travel time can feel like a waste.

The thought of explaining to the school board why spending an entire day on a bus to visit an attraction in another town is educationally beneficial may seem impossible. Not to fear, we know just the way to turn that boring drive into a great educational experience by making use of all those seemingly random roadside attractions along the way.

While many of the largest roadside attractions have to do with increasing tourism in a town, they can also offer a glimpse of history and culture of the town where it resides.

For instance, if you are driving through Alabama consider taking a pit stop in Coffee County past the World’s Largest Boll Weevil Monument. While to most it might seem random, if not for the boll weevil citizens of this town would be leading very different lives today. The story this bug tells is of the Cotton Boll and serves as a huge testament to the town’s ability to adapt to its changing environment. What would have had a devastating effect on a massive scale for the area actually turned out for good due to the farmer's ability to diversify, making this stop a great ecology lesson for students.

Credit: Pixabay

Boll Weevil

Maybe your route is more northern. If that's the case consider driving through Sac City, Iowa. Sac City is known for the world’s largest popcorn ball. For over 2 decades the community has come together to keep their title in hopes to build tourism. While it may not be something to find in textbooks, it does teach students the value of teamwork, creativity, and community. It could even become the inspiration for a future project in your own community.

Credit: Dave Morice and Jim Glasgow

World's Largest Wooden Nickel

Also in Iowa, you will find the World’s Largest Wooden Nickel. This roadside attraction was actually built in protest of Johnson County’s decision to raise the speed limit, which is made clear by its engraving “to vote for common sense”. This stop can easily be tied into a quick history or government lesson.

In Grants Pass, Oregon, road trippers can the World’s Largest Caveman. In the 1800’s a cave was found in the town, which some of the men in the community used to form the Caveman Club. Nearly 50 years later, the club held a cryptic event where they mimicked the cavemen, which translated into more public visits to local community events. Today, the club is gone, but in place, they left an 18-foot caveman, allowing guests the chance to immerse themselves into both local history and humankind history in general. 

In Kansas, what started as a convenient way for Frank Stoeber to store twine, ended up becoming a world record as the World's Largest Twine Ball. After he passed away, the Cawker City decided to continue his legacy by holding an annual event where anyone can add twine to the ball. Unfortunately, the town is facing preservation issues, as the twine begins to deteriorate due to its large size. Consider this to be an opportunity for extra credit where your students come up with ways to preserve the ball.

From raisins to paper airplanes, there are more roadside attractions than you might think, so keep an eye out, and get to know your travel route. See if there are any cool stories or lessons to be learned along the way, and tell your students to look out for them. You never know what tidbits of information might stick with them.