Pennsylvania is a state known for its iconic cultural institutions, like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and for its important role in our history, but the state isn't afraid to show off its quirky side, either. From a house in the shape of a massive shoe, to a teeny-tiny model of America, this offbeat guide to Pennsylvania's quirkiest roadside gems will certainly fill your road trip kitsch quota!
If the odder creatures of the animal kingdom are your favorite, then a trip to Clyde Peeling's Reptiland is in order. From mambas and iguanas to crocs and frogs and everything in between, this reptile-centric zoo is definitely on the offbeat side. They have nearly 40 species here, including some rare and totally wild animals like fierce red-spitting cobras, super-old galapagos turtles, exotic green anacondas, and more. Attend a talk to get up-close and personal with these strange and magnificent beasts.
Some of the most fascinating museums are the most niche, like the Zippo Museum in Bradford. It's 15,000 square feet dedicated to the iconic lighter brand, including a huge display of historic Zippos, a store, and a Zippo repair shop where you can learn just what quality means to this company. Keep your eyes peeled for the Zippo-shaped street lights lining the drive up, and the giant, 40-foot lighter on top of the building.
When it comes to kitsch, it doesn't get any better than Dr. Doolittle’s Roadside Cafe. It’s got mini golf, train cars where you can eat the best 50-cent hot dog of your life, laser tag, a petting zoo, and crazy milkshake flavors... and that's just the beginning. It's a true local business with friendly service that’s always adding quirky new attractions, so stop by, grab a snack, and enjoy the old-school fun.
Welcome to the weirdly named Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania! This hunting preserve is most famous for its annual Groundhog Day celebration, where Punxsutawney Phil, the legendary groundhog, comes out every February 2nd to look for his shadow. If he does see a shadow, according to folklore, it means that the country is doomed for another six weeks of winter. If not, spring will, allegedly, arrive early. Fun fact: there's a secret society, called the Inner Circle, that cares for Phil year-round and decides whether or not he'll see his shadow in advance.
If you visit Gobblers Knob during the Groundhog Day offseason, they still leave all the Punxsutawney Phil decor up, so you can grab a photo op!
You don't need a rocket ship to defy gravity... in the town of New Paris, PA, at least. On the appropriately named Gravity Hill Road, you'll find a strange phenomenon known as a gravity hill. Park on the white line on the hill, and watch as your car appears to roll uphill. Is it a simple trick of the mind... or is there something stranger at work? Okay, fine, it's probably just a trick of the mind, but the only way to know for sure is to visit and try it yourself!
Mister Ed's Elephant Museum is a pachydermal palace dedicated to all things elephant. Featuring a collection of 12,000 elephant figures, vintage circus souvenirs, cute toys, and plenty more, it's a display that's as adorable as it is impressive. Their gardens feature an enchanted forest, birds, a fish pond, and, naturally, more elephants, and they sell delicious homemade fudge, freshly roasted jumbo peanuts, and old-fashioned candy as well. Stop by to stretch your legs and grab a snack!
Road Side America has been enchanting visitors since the 1930s. It's a breathtakingly detailed miniature village and railway that clocks in at 7,450 square feet, and the whole thing is fully landscaped with 300 tiny buildings, 10,000 hand-made trees and 4,000 miniature people. Weaving throughout the replica are up to 18 trains, trolleys and cable cars. Activate animated scenes as you view the village from different vantage points, each revealing new scenery, and peek inside this small world that's bursting with activity.
The Choo Choo Barn is another model train display that will blow you away with its size and attention to detail. In fact, new animated scenes and features are added every single year! They also tweak scenes to match the seasons and holidays, so every visit is a new experience. Plus, tons of local businesses make appearances in the display, so you can see an amazingly accurate tiny version of Dutch Wonderland, an Amish barn-raising, and the Strasburg Railroad!
You know the nursery rhyme, "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe...?” It's actually not that absurd of an idea... at least not for the couple that lives in the Haines Shoe House in York! The house is modeled after a work boot, commissioned by Mahlon Haines, who owned a boot-making business in the late 1940s.
He had the home built as a kind of an advertisement for his company, and even though he only lived in the shoe for a short time, he was able to rent it out; anyone who stayed there had access to a butler and a maid, and got a free pair of boots when they left. Today, it's owned by a real estate agent and his wife, who has touched up the house and runs the ice cream shop that's located in the arch of the boot. Stop by for a one-of-a-kind photo op and a scoop of peanut butter ripple!
Pennsylvania is a gorgeous state to road trip around, and it certainly has its fair share of odd roadside wonders to enjoy. So, pull over for some offbeat fun and experience the weird side of the Keystone State.
Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. In Pennsylvania, these are not only American ideals; they are the very keystones of our way of life. Find your own piece of happiness, whether it’s in our iconic historic sites, our natural beauty, our bustling cities or our charming small towns.