For those addicted to road trips across the USA, tourist traps are as common as utility poles and boring as Kansas. The question is to stop– or not?
There’s a world of difference between a gaudy tourist trap and bonafide tourist attraction. One is a gooey, sticky, over-the-top, billboard-invested mud puddle on the side of the road, the other is Disney World– and the like. A world of difference. Both attract tourists like they’re giving away money, but one group attempts to make your stop worth something more than a potty break.
There’s a small third class here as well. The attraction that is so clique-ish, soooooo happy, sooooo smiling, soooo friendly that you can’t help but fall in love, at least temporarily.
Wall Drug and South of the Border are on every traveler’s radar. Everyone ought to see these spots once– maybe only once. And I recently discovered another tourist spot in New York, Big Moose Deli and Country Store in Hoosick Falls.
If you have an urge to visit tourist traps, or at least another site’s definition of a tourist trap, click here to find the biggest trap in each state. In Pennsylvania, the site lists Philadephia’s Liberty Bell as numero uno. Somehow, comparing a historic bell that signaled freedom is a giant leap to Washington state’s Wall of Chewing Gum or the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. The site also lists Wall Drug and South of the Border.
New York City’s Times Square as the most outrageous tourist trap in that state. Trust me, Big Moose doesn’t compare and probably has no desire to try.
Anyone who has driven west of the Mississippi River has seen billboards for Wall Drug in — where else?– Wall, South Dakota. It crows that it is one of the “world’s most well-known tourist attractions”, and it’s spot-on. It’s maybe the second most famous attraction is South Dakota (Mount Rushmore has more visitors), and it became famous by giving away free ice water.
Remember, this is South Dakota, once called the Sunshine State (Florida may have had an issue with that), which claims more shoreline than Florida and the highest point in the US east of the Rockies. Really. The most famous person to leave South Dakota is Tom Brokaw. Oh, and Bob Barker.
Wall Drug began as a drug store. Just a plain old ordinary store that has grown because of mass advertising and location– where else is there to stop?– to a place visited by more than two million people a year. Travel gifts galore cover every square inch of wall and floor to present to your favorite sister. And Wall Drug boasts a restaurant that seats more than 500 people.
If you ever screamed southbound on Interstate 95 on the way to Florida, you have probably seen one of the 175 billboards South of the Border uses to invite visitors. And Pedro, a 97-foot caricature is The Border’s mascot and waves ‘howdy’.
Six restaurants stay open to serve the thousands of guests who pile in to see the South Carolina site and to buy souvenirs. If you want a Tshirt or fireworks, this is the place. And an indoor reptile zoo.
Not bad for a place that opened in 1949 selling beer to North Carolinians who traveled south of their dry border to celebrate. At one time, SOB encompassed 300 acres.
Big Moose’s place is a more relaxed and cozy place than The Border or Wall Drug. And it’s small, but whoever does inventory here has a never-ending job.
It sits quietly on the corner of Route 7 and South Street in Hoosick Falls, New York, just north of the Hoosick Fire Department and the Hoosick Baptist Church.
About the only advertising we saw was at the corner, when we spotted a spotted moose, spotted goose, spotted horse and spotted llama, most mounted on the building’s roof. Captured our attention…
Oh, this place was fun. Campy. Relaxed. And loaded.
The building apparently has been added on to a few times, and just when a visitor thinks he’s reached the end, there’s another ‘wing’.
There are Tshirts, of course. But if you can’t find a gift here to take home to the friends who are watching your dog…
In one of the back rooms is a two-foot tall, brightly colored parrot that is eager to hold your roll of toilet paper. Or a duck. In another room is a downspout extension for your favorite fisherman — imagine a largemouth bass with rainwater streaming out of its mouth. Signs or mottos for every house are hanging everywhere, one saying “Drink coffee– do stupid things faster, with more energy.”
All this searching through the endless aisles– you might have to squeeze sideways to get through– might make you thirsty, so enjoy a dirt soda or a grass soda. Or even a bacon soda with maple syrup flavoring. Wait– wasn’t bacon good enough on its own? Might need it after sampling the cranberry jalapeno jam.
Parking is somewhat limited, so be aware that your monster motorhome or trailer might find it tough to rest.
Hoosick Falls is about 300 miles from York, but on the way to plenty of ski and winter recreation areas in New York and Vermont. The Falls is only 15 minutes from Bennington, Vt. The Bennington Museum houses the largest collection of Grandma Moses art in the world.