Nothing to see here?
By ASHLEE STALLINGA
Mt. Pleasant News
On the Fourth of July weekend, I went to Burlington for the first time. My parents were visiting, so they took me and my fiancé to a Bees’ game — something new for us, and something we’ll probably do again.
It was perfect. I absolutely love baseball, and couldn’t ask for anything much more festive for the holiday than a baseball game and a fireworks show afterwards.
But before we could go to the game, we had to make a stop. Burlington boasts the street that “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” has dubbed “the crookedest street in the world,” Snake Alley.
My family found this claim to fame is in the Iowa Division of Tourism book. After debating whether or not “crookedest” is even a word, we decided to go check it out.
We opted to walk down it, not trusting our big van to make the narrow, twisting trip very smoothly. When we made it back to the top, we went to the baseball game; and now, we can say we’ve seen the crookedest (or most crooked — we never really settled that debate) street in the world.
I can add that to a long list of “world records” I’ve seen. In fact, it is the small and seemingly insignificant side trips like the stop in Burlington that made all my family vacations growing up so much more memorable. Those trips have made me believe that no matter where I go, there’s always something interesting to see. So if you’re as easily amused as I am, here are a few off-the-beaten-path stops for your next vacation — things to visit just to say you’ve been there.
• Minneapolis: You’ll probably see the Mall of America, sculpture garden, or a Twins game at Target field (and if you’re lucky, they’ll be playing the Chicago White Sox). But I suggest also making a stop at the Spam Museum in Austin, Minn., on the way home. Even though it seems like the Mall of America has everything, the Spam Museum — just a few miles east of I-35 on I-90 — is the only place I know of to buy merchandise advertising Spam — an interesting vacation souvenir.
• St. Louis: Many people have seen the arch. I have, too — I’ve been there a few times. But how many have seen the “world’s largest catsup bottle,” in nearby Collinsville, Ill.? I think I’m one of a few.
• Northwest United States: If you’re driving up to Seattle or Spokane, Wash., Yellowstone National Park in Montana, or anywhere else that direction, you might find yourself winding through North Dakota…bored out of your mind. At least, my family did. Have no fear! The enchanted highway is a delightful break from the monotonous landscape of that never-ending state. The attraction features the “world’s largest tin family” — that’s right, of all the tin families in the world, North Dakota has the largest one.
• Chicago: It has the Sears Tower (I will never call it the Willis Tower; it makes me think of Different Strokes). It also has plenty of sports teams, Navy Pier, and really good pizza. But if you want something a little different, venture underneath Michigan Avenue, near the Tribune Building, to the original Billy Goat Tavern: home of the “cheezborger” made famous by Saturday Night Live and the goat that cursed the Cubs.
Of course, that’s not all of them — there are plenty of interesting little stops in all states. There’s South Dakota’s Corn Palace and the elusive blue lobster in Maine. Right here in Iowa, besides the crooked street, you can find the world’s largest popcorn ball (Sac City) or the world’s largest bull (Audubon). The world’s largest Holstein cow is surprisingly not found in Iowa…that one’s in North Dakota, somewhere east of the tin family.
If you hear of similar attractions, let me know. I’ve never been to one that didn’t interest me — although, I suppose there’s a first time for everything.