Unusual roadside attractions such as snake farms and caverns and fossil museums used to be a mainstay of the American road.
Drivers looking to give their families interesting breaks along dusty two-lane highways welcomed these diversions.
But these days, video games and multimillion-dollar theme parks make many of these places seem archaic and boring. Besides, Americans are in too big a hurry, zipping along high-speed interstate highways, to pull off to see some pickle museum.
So, many of the old-time attractions have closed or are for sale.
If you show up at the “Prehistoric Forest,” located in the Lake Erie tourist town of Marblehead, Ohio, you won’t be able to see the giant dinosaurs made of fiberglass, or the enormous mastodon that squirts water at visitors, just for fun.
The place closed for good in 2010, and every attraction inside - from the fierce-looking stegosaurus to the giant three-toed sloth creeping scarily through the woods - is for sale at liquidation prices.
Paul Bunyan, a folklore giant lumberjack of unusual skill, and his companion, Babe the Blue Ox, were first introduced in 1916 in a logging company’s advertising campaign.
Although visitation to the park was down, owner Len Tieman says he would have kept going "because kids just love dinosaurs.” But he and his wife, Denise, decided to retire and enjoy the four hectares [10 acres] of wooded property that the park occupies.
Tieman says he understands why other mom-and-pop roadside attractions are closing - there’s no business. “Computers, video games.” he says. “Plus, the economy’s tight.”
Among the hundreds of other attractions closed for good are an upside-down house, a peacock farm, something called “Skull Kingdom,” and Cypress Gardens - all in Florida. Cypress Gardens featured costumed southern belles strolling the grounds, and acrobatic shows starring more beautiful women on water skis.
Not all roadside attractions have disappeared. You can still see the world’s largest prairie dog in Kansas, and visit the pencil-sharpener museum in Ohio and Gatorland in Florida - which even has a petting zoo. Think about it: a petting zoo at an alligator park. Even in these days of video games, that sounds kind of exciting.