So summer’s almost over, and the most exciting thing you’ve done was hang out at the local pool, catch a movie (or two or three!) in air-conditioned comfort, or beat the heat by staying in.
Don’t worry, there’s still time to fit in one last trip that’ll make for a great “What I did on my summer vacation” story for your friends or coworkers.
We chose two quirky destinations from each of eight regions of the country, with destinations ranging from the spooky to the old-fashioned to the downright odd.
Looking for family-friendly entertainment? We have a live mermaid show, ice cream factory tour and the world’s largest maze.
Pop culture junkies, we’ve got you covered, too. SPAM Museum, anyone?
Get an education at the Camlann Medieval Village in Washington state, or the Very Large Array in New Mexico.
Perhaps best of all, our destinations are very affordable, with almost all attractions $10 or under for adults, and $5 or under for kids. Many of them are the best price of all: free!
Check out the list, gas up the car and go!
New England: Museum Of Bad Art
Think the pinnacle of bad art is the “Dogs Playing Poker” series? Well, you haven’t seen bad art until you’ve visited any of the Museum of Bad Art’s three galleries.
The Boston-area museum specializes in “art too bad to be ignored,” displaying the cream of the crop from the public refuse system, thrift stores and flea markets, artist donations and attics and basement finds, according to Permanent Acting Interim Executive Director Louise Sacco.
Shown here is “Charlie and Sheba” by Anonymous, purchased by M. Frank at a Boston thrift store
See the bad art for yourself at the museum’s three locations:
1) The basement of the Somerville Theatre, open when films are running;
2) The lobby of Brookline Access Television, 46 Tappan St., top floor, next to the Brookline Hills T station; open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Labor Day.
3) The Pop Up Marketplace at 2 Brookline Place, Brookline, MA 02445, across from the Brookline Village T Station. Here, you can see permanent collection favorites and buy items from the MOBA Rejection Collection These are pieces donated to MOBA, but deemed not museum-worthy by the Curator-in-Chief. Each piece comes with an official MOBA Certificate of Rejection. Open Monday through Friday from 2-7 p.m. and Saturday from 12-5 p.m. Closed Sunday.
Phone: (781) 444-6757
New England: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory
Beat the last of summer’s heat at what’s possibly one of the happiest places on earth: The Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory.
Factory tours include a short movie on the history of the company, a view of ice cream production in action from a glassed-in mezzanine, and a sample of the day’s flavor at the end of the tour.
Afterward. stop by the Flavor Hall of Fame, featuring favorites like Cherry Garcia and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Missing a favorite flavor? Stop by the Flavor Graveyard to pay your respects.
Hours (Mid-August to early October)
9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; last tour leaves at 6 p.m.
Children 12 and younger: Free
Location: 1281 Waterbury Stowe Rd., Waterbury, VT 05676
Phone: (802) 882-2034
Mid-Atlantic: Mount Trashmore Park
Live in or near Virginia Beach and need a place for a Labor Day picnic? Head on over to Mount Trashmore! The 165-acre park has two man-made mountains, two lakes, two playgrounds, a skate park with vert ramp, and multi-use paths for Labor Day fun and games.
As you might guess from the name, the main mountain is made of trash. The 60-foot high and 800-foot long Mount Trashmore is a former landfill made from compacted layers of clean soil and solid waste.
Admission is free, and the park is open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Location: 310 Edwin Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Phone: (757) 473-5237
Mid-Atlantic: The Mütter Museum
If your entertainment tastes run a bit more toward the macabre, a visit to Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum is a must. View all varieties of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments at the museum, displayed in a 19th century “cabinet museum” setting.
Shown here is “Compare and Contrast: Giant, Dwarf and Average Skeletons.” The Mütter Museum’s collection began as a donation from namesake Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter as a way to improve medical education.
The Mütter Museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: 19 S 22nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: (215) 563-3737
Southeast: South Of The Border
South Of The Border’s mascot Pedro welcomes visitors to the sprawling roadside pit stop in Dillon, S.C. – the perfect definition of “tourist trap.”
The complex includes a 300-room motor inn, campground, two gas stations, six restaurants, several attractions and a plethora of shopping and souvenir options – worth a stop alone.
Take a break from the road and check out the Reptile Lagoon, Pedroland Park and the Sombrero Tower.
South Of The Border is open daily around the clock, with most shops and attractions open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Location: 3346 Highway 301 North, Dillon, SC 29547
Southeast: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Treat the Ariel in your life to a live mermaid show! The Weeki Wachee Springs State Park mermaids have entertained and amazed visitors since 1947.
Visitors can take photos with mermaids, and even swim in the spring with them. Weeki Wachee’s Sea Diver program and summer Mermaid Camps for kids let them become a little mermaid or merman.
After the show, take a dip yourself at Buccaneer Bay, check out the Misunderstood Creatures animal show, or cruise down the Weeki Wachee River and into Old Florida on a riverboat.
Children 6-12: $8
Children 5 and under: Free
Admission includes access to Buccaneer Bay, mermaid and reptile shows and river boat ride.
Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
The Little Mermaid: 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Fish Tails Mermaid Show: 1:30 p.m.
Animal Show: 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.
River Boat Cruise: First cruise departs at 10 a.m.; last boat departs at 4:30 p.m.
Location: 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606
Phone: (352) 596-2062
Southwest: Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch
Feed ostriches, deer and lorikeets, get a kiss from a goat and take a monster truck tour through the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch, between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona at the base of Picacho Peak.
The family-owned and operated ranch got its start in 1986 in Guthrie, Oklahoma, moving to its present location in 1993. Dedicated to education and development of the ostrich industry, the ranch offers plenty of fun and educational activities for young and old.
The Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Stop by Labor Day to take one of the Monster Truck Tours, which also run on Saturdays and Sundays. New this year is a prairie dog exhibit.
Ostrich feeding area: Kids 6 to 106 yrs. old: – $5 (includes feed and nectar) Kids 5 and under: Free (without feed or nectar)
Feed or Nectar Refills: $2 each or any 3 for $5
Monster Truck Tours: $10 for everyone 6 and over; $5 for kids 5 and under.
Location: 17599 E Peak Ln,Picacho, AZ 85141
Phone: (520) 466-3658
Southwest: The Very Large Array
If the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array looks familiar, it is. The VLA has appeared in several movies; “2010,” “Contact” and “Terminator Salvation” for example.
The VLA is used by astronomers worldwide to study the solar system and beyond, to the outer edges of the universe. The array is made up of 27 dish antennas that combined make up a single radio telescope system.
The VLA Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 to dusk, and admission is free. Everyday tours are self-guided, with guided tours offered the first Saturday of each month at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Other guided tours are offered twice a year at the same time the Trinity Site is open.
Location: 50 miles west of Socorro, N.M. on U.S. Highway 60
Phone: (575) 835-7000
Northwest: Camlann Medieval Village
Missed your local Renaissance Festival? Fear not! Just hie thee over to Camlann Medieval Village to experience life in rural England circa 1376.
Once there, you’ll get to experience demonstrations of medieval blacksmithing, textile production, animal care, candle making, shoemaking, spinning, weaving and other household skills. Browse the village shops for clothing, books, crafts and homemade cider.
Hungry? Stop by the Bors Hede Inne for meals prepared from authentic 14th-century recipes. Listen to minstrel songs and stories while you dine for an unforgettable experience.
Camlann is open Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend, from 12-5 p.m. Admission is $5 for all.
Location: 10320 Kelly Road NE, Carnation, WA 98014
Phone: (425) 788-8624
Northwest: Oregon Vortex and Mystery House
Shift your perceptions at the Oregon Vortex and Mystery House, where brooms stand on their own, golf balls roll uphill, and you can grow or shrink, depending on where you stand!
According to the attraction’s site, the Oregon Vortex is a “spherical field of force, half above the ground and half below the ground. ” Reportedly, magnetic forces at the site cause the oddities, which attracted investigators from the SyFy reality show “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files.”
See for yourself seven days a week, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. during August, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. in September.
5 and under: Free
6 – 11: $7.00
12 – 61: $9.75
62 and older: $8.75
Location: 4303 Sardine Creek Left Fork Road, Gold Hill, Oregon 97525-9732
Phone: (541) 855-1543
Western Midwest: Wall Drug Store
If you’ve traveled anywhere near South Dakota, you already know about Wall Drug, thanks to the store’s ubiquitous billboards.
Shop for just about anything you can think of in the 76,000 square-foot store, from Black Hills gold to books, candy, jackalopes, and T-shirts.
Tired of shopping? Wall Drug has plenty of activities, including the Backyard with a branding Iron arcade, an animated T-Rex,
Pan for fossils and gemstones, check out the Train Station Water Show and take your photo with fun picture-taking props in a picnic area.
Gourmet coffee shop, pizza parlor and more
Location: 510 Main Street, Wall, SD 57790-0401
Phone: (605) 279-2175
Western Midwest: Carhenge
Can’t afford to jump the pond to see Stonehenge? Check out America’s tribute to the monument, near the western Nebraska city of Alliance.
38 cars make up Carhenge, with a 1962 Cadillac serving as the heel stone. Jim Reinders built Carhenge in 1987 as a memorial to his father, who passed away in 1982.
Carhenge is free to visit, and is open around the clock, 365 days a year. Donations are gladly accepted to help fund maintenance and preservation efforts.
Location: 2141 County Rd. 59, Alliance, NE 69301
Phone: (308) 762-7820
Eastern Midwest: A Christmas Story House and Museum
Relive the best Christmas movie over the holiday weekend, or any time of the year, at Cleveland’s A Christmas Story House and Museum.
See toys from the Higbee’s window, Randy’s snowsuit, the chalkboard from Miss Shields’ classroom and the family car. Don’t leave without your very own Major Award leg lamp from the gift shop!
A Christmas Story House and Museum is open Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend, but is closed on Labor Day.
Children 7 to 12: $6.00
Children 6 and under: Free
A Christmas Story House and Museum are located across the street from each other. The House is at 3159 W 11th St., Cleveland, OH 44109, while the Museum is at 1103 Rowley Ave., Cleveland, OH 44109.
Phone: (216) 298-4919
Eastern Midwest: SPAM Museum
SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, lovely SPAM! Monty Python loves it, and so do you. Get your fill and then some at Austin, Minnesota’s SPAM Museum!
Learn about the history of SPAM, play SPAM trivia, check out vintage advertising and more. Grab some special SPAM souvenirs for yourself and your loved ones at the gift shop, too. They’ll love you for it.
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays 12-5 p.m.
Location: 1937 Spam Blvd., Austin MN 55912
Phone: 1-800-LUV-SPAM (800-588-7726)
Alaska: Hammer Museum
Who knew this basic household tool would have such a fascinating history? Hammer Museum founder Dave Pahl did, and created the world’s first museum dedicated to man’s first tool.
Opened in 2002, the Hammer Museum shows visitors hammers from as far back as 200 A.D. to the Civil War and modern era.
Hours: Open May through September; Monday through Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. through August 10
Admission: Adults: $3; children 12 and under: Free
Location: 108 Main St. Haines, AK 99827
Phone: (907) 766-2374
Hawaii: World’s Largest Maze
Take a leisurely stroll through almost two and one-half miles of paths made from native Hawaiian plants at the World’s Largest Maze at the Dole Plantation.
Eight secret stations throughout the maze point you closer to the heart of the maze, where a mysterious surprise awaits. Want to make history at the maze? The fastest finishers get a prize and their names added to a sign at the entrance of the maze.
Also at the plantation, be sure to check out the Garden Tour and Pineapple Express train.
Children 4-12: $4
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Location: 64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy., Wahiawa, HI 96786