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Offbeat, Unique New England Roadside Travel Attractions

Gillette Castle, East Haddam, Connecticut
Gillette Castle, East Haddam, Conn.

by Eric Hurwitz. Updated 12/07/16.

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With all due respect to some of our revered and beloved famous New England travel attractions, sometimes we need to take a vacation break from the ordinary and seek out something entirely delightfully offbeat, strange, weird or unique. New England has its share of unconventional and often eccentric travel attractions. You might not read about them in your ordinary travel guide, but, believe us, some of these "outer limits" elements can be found around our otherwise predominantly quaint, traditional region. In the upcoming months, we'll be adding to this fun section.

Connecticut
American Clock and Watch Museum, Bristol CT
American Clock and Watch Museum, Bristol, Connecticut. Photo source: American Clock and Watch Museum web site at http://www.clockandwatchmuseum.org/

The Traveler Restaurant in Union offers three free books with each meal. The menu and book selection are vast. Book some time there, we say! Read the article

Gillette Castle in East Haddam looks and feels like a real castle with a spectacular stone exterior, 24 rooms, 47 doors (each one different), white oak woodwork and carvings, stone stairways, built-in couches and a movable table on tracks, an inside porch fountain. Touring this castle will make you feel like a king or queen! Read the article

The Pez Visitor Center in Orange offers a self guided tour of the history of that beloved mechanical candy dispenser. Sweet! Read the article

The American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol features an amazing display of American-made clocks and watches. For sure, a good "time!" Visit the American Clock and Watch Museum web site

The New England Carousel Museum in Bristol has the "largest collection of antique carousel pieces in the country." Definitely a museum where it's good to be taken for a ride! Visit the New England Carousel Museum web site

The Waterbury Button Museum is located in the Mattatuck Museum (an arts and history center) in Waterbury and features the city's prominent button making history with 10,000 hand and machine made buttons on permanent display. From military to fashion, this museum is right on the button with its unique presentation! Visit the Button Museum web site

The world's largest Jack-in the-Box is located in Middletown, Conn. If you have been searching for a 600-lb clown head that peaks its head out of a 33-ft. tall silo, then this is your travel attraction. There's something about this one that gives me the creeps, but in a great way. The Jack-In-The-Box is located right next to Wild Bill's Nostalgia Center. Wild Bill's Nostalgia Center, 1003 Newfield St., Middletown. Tel. (860) 613-0061

Maine
A 37-ft. tall statue of Paul Bunyan resides in his reported hometown of Bangor, Maine. I always thought Paul Bunyan came from Minnesota, but am grateful that Bangor's claim to his birthplace has brought the statue closer to home. Seeing this large structure kind of amplifies the books I read of this mythological lumberjack. Just to let you know, there's another Paul Bunyan statue located at the Timberland Treasures Gift Shop on Pulaski Blvd, Bellingham, Mass., but he looks a little gaunt. Now that's a travel attraction that stands tall! Paul Bunyan Statue,519 Main St., Bangor, Maine. Tel. (207) 947-0307

The Maine State Prison Showroom in Thomaston features 600-plus wood products handcrafted by Maine prison inmates. According to the State of Maine Department of Corrections web site, "This highly regulated program enables participating prisoners to earn money which goes toward reimbursing the state for their room and board expenses, as well as paying victim restitution and child support." Hope you can do some time there! Visit the Maine State Prison Showroom Facebook page

The Umbrella Cover Museum, Peaks Island, Maine, is dedicated to umbrella covers. No "cover" charge here! Call 207-766-4496 for hours. Visit the Umbrella Cover Museum Facebook page

Massachusetts
Milk Bottle restaurant, Raynham MA
Milk Bottle restaurant, Raynham, Massachusetts.

The Museum of Bad Art
, relegated to the basement of the Somerville Theater in Somerville, Mass., features some of the world's worst art. Collected from some unknown amateurs, dusty attics, thrift stores, yard sales and trash cans, The Museum of Bad Art truly lives up to its slogan: "Art too bad to be ignored." The Museum of Bad Art is located at 55 Davis Square, Somerville MA. Tel. 781-444-6757

A gigantic milk bottle structure sits on top of the Milk Bottle Restaurant on an otherwise mundane strip of Route 138 North in Raynham, Mass. With no sign out front, this unique-looking restaurant features very friendly service and excellent lunches, breakfasts and yummy ice cream for dessert. Now this is what you'd call a restaurant in the "Hood!" Read the article

A humongous "Leaning Tower of Pizza" structure at Prince Pizzeria on Route 1 in Saugus, Mass., creates a truly offbeat version of the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy? Once inside, the restaurant's look becomes more typical, with its large, family-style dining rooms and some excellent Italian-style pizza and pasta with homemade sauce. The Castrberti family has run this local landmark since the early 1960s with its quality still intact -- as well as the Leaning Tower of Pizza. A true slice of Americana roadside travel attraction! Read the article

The Fall River Historical Society features the world's largest collection of artifacts pertaining to the rather infamous Lizzie Borden -- accused of exe muders but ultimately acquitted of the charges. We have no axe to grind with the Historical Society's exhibits! Visit the Lizzie Borden web site

New Hampshire
Chutters, Littleton New Hampshire
Chutters in Littleton, New Hampshire.

The world's longest candy counter
at nearly 112. ft. long is located at Chutters in Littleton, N.H. We're not just talking about one row of candy, either -- three rows of new and hard-to-find flavors will make you feel like the ultimate version of a kid in a candy store! Sky Bars, Necco wafers, Goobers and Raisinettes, and Sour Balls, anyone? You'll feel like a kid in a candy store here! Read the article

Ruggles Mine in Grafton has been around forever. I ought to know, I was there as a kid! Ruggles is actually the oldest mica, feldspar, beryl and uranium mine in the United States. This open pit mine with giant rooms and tunnels makes for fascinating explorations -- and the mountain views are spectacular. Mineral collecting (over 150 minerals on the premises) is allowed. Hope you have a Gniess time here! Visit the Ruggles Mine web site

America's Stonehenge in Salem features an intricate 30 acre network of chambers, walls, astronomically aligned rock formations and ceremonial meeting places that date back up to 4,000 years ago. That not only means this site could be the oldest man-made construction in the U.S.A, but also that it was probably very hard to access with no Route 93 back then -- or Canobie Lake Park, to round out a wonderful southern New Hampshire Bronze Age family travel day! No one really knows who built this place, but educated archaeological-based guesses center on Native Americans or migrant Europeans. Whatever the case, this is truly a fascinating place to explore (it's a self-guided tour with an into video), especially during the warm weather season. Stonehenge America is also home to several alpacas as well as good snowshoeing opportunities in the winter. So save the airfare for that visit to Stonehenge in England, and opt for the southern New Hampshire version -- and enjoy the "structure" of this interesting local attraction. Visit America's Stonehenge's web site

Rhode Island
Mr. Potato Head, Pawtucket Rhode Island
Mr. Potato Head statue in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

The Mr. Potato Head statue
stands outside the Hasbro Headquarters in Pawtucket (Exit 2A, right off Route 95). This famous toy icon is surely a "eye" catcher! Read more about the Mr. Potato Head statue

Some say the Flying Horse Carousel at Watch Hill in Westerly, might just the the oldest carousel in the United States. A seasonal summer favorite dating back to 1884, the carousel runs on an operational ring and the horse fly out of the structure. Truly a "mane" attraction! Read the article

The Beef Barn in North Smithfield is a one-of-a-kind restaurant with a silo out front and on the inside a huge stone wall as well as mock chicken coops within the wall. The roast beef is amazing here, and at retro prices. We have no "beef" with that! Read the article

The Spring Lake Arcade in Burrillville is the world's oldest penny arcade located at beautiful Spring Lake Beach in Glendale. The summer-only arcade dates back to the 1920s with many exceptionally well maintained older arcade games (and some good new ones, too!). We're always "game" for that! Visit the Spring Lake Arcade web site

Vermont
Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory Tour, Waterbury VT
Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory, Waterbury, Vermont.Photo source: Ben and Jerry's web site at http://www.benjerry.com/about-us/factory-tours.

The Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory Tour
in Waterbury Vt. offers an intro video, tour of the manufacturing process and free samples of delicious Ben and Jerry's ice cream. A tour with great local flavor! Read the article

The Rock of Ages Granite Quarry Tours in Barre features electronics kiosks, a theater and historical exhibitions that educate and entertain on the history of granite. There's also what might be the world's only outdoor granite bowling alley (other than in The Flintstones, but, hey, that was a cartoon) for you to try out. The guided shuttle tours allow you to look down into the deep, expansive granite pits. You also get a free sample of granite from the grout bin. This places rocks -- and don't take the experience for granite! Visit the Rock of Ages Granite Quarry web site


Related article:
Find the best family travel attractions in New England

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