The Best Roadside Attractions in California

The Best Roadside Attractions in California

California’s diverse landscapes and rich history make it an ideal state for road trips. As you traverse the Golden State, you’ll encounter an array of unique and quirky roadside attractions that capture its eclectic spirit. Whether you’re driving along the Pacific Coast Highway or exploring inland routes, these must-see spots add charm and excitement to any journey. Here are some of the best roadside attractions in California that you won’t want to miss.

The Best Roadside Attractions in California
The Best Roadside Attractions in California

Salvation Mountain

Located in the Colorado Desert near the Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain is a vibrant, colorful art installation created by Leonard Knight. This man-made mountain is covered in murals and messages of love, painted with gallons of donated paint over several decades. The site is a testament to Knight’s dedication and creativity, and it’s a fascinating place to explore. Visitors can wander through the labyrinth of painted pathways and admire the intricate artwork up close.

The Mystery Spot

Nestled in the redwoods near Santa Cruz, The Mystery Spot is a gravitational anomaly where the laws of physics and gravity seem to be defied. Discovered in 1939, this popular tourist attraction features a tilted cabin where visitors can experience bizarre visual and physical effects. Balls roll uphill, people appear to grow and shrink, and standing at strange angles feels oddly natural. Whether you believe in the supernatural explanations or chalk it up to optical illusions.

Cabazon Dinosaurs

If you’re traveling along Interstate 10 near Palm Springs, the Cabazon Dinosaurs are impossible to miss. These enormous roadside sculptures, Dinny the Dinosaur and Mr. Rex, have been delighting travelers since the 1960s. Originally built to attract visitors to a nearby restaurant, the dinosaurs have become iconic symbols of American roadside kitsch. Today, visitors can explore the small museum inside Dinny and even climb into the mouth of Mr. Rex for a panoramic view of the desert landscape. The Cabazon Dinosaurs offer a whimsical pit stop and a great photo opportunity.

Bubblegum Alley

In the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo, Bubblegum Alley is a quirky landmark that’s both fascinating and slightly gross. This narrow alleyway is covered from ground to ceiling with chewed gum, contributed by thousands of passersby over the years. While its exact origins are unclear, Bubblegum Alley has been around since at least the 1950s and continues to grow as visitors add their own colorful additions.

Watts Towers

The Watts Towers, located in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, are a stunning example of outsider art. Created by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia over a period of 33 years, these 17 interconnected structures reach up to 99 feet in height. Rodia constructed the towers using scrap metal, broken glass, pottery shards, and seashells, creating intricate mosaics and patterns. The Watts Towers are now a National Historic Landmark and a testament to Rodia’s unique vision and determination.

Winchester Mystery House

In San Jose, the Winchester Mystery House stands as one of the most bizarre and fascinating mansions in the country. Built by Sarah Winchester, the widow of the inventor of the Winchester rifle, this sprawling Victorian mansion features a labyrinthine floor plan with staircases leading to nowhere, doors that open onto walls, and windows overlooking other rooms. According to legend, Sarah Winchester believed she was haunted by the spirits of those killed by her husband’s invention and continuously built onto the house to appease them. The Winchester Mystery House offers guided tours that delve into its history and the eccentricities of its construction.


California’s roadside attractions reflect the state’s diverse culture, creativity, and history. From the vibrant art of Salvation Mountain to the eerie mystery of the Winchester House, these stops offer unique experiences that enrich any road trip. As you explore California’s highways and byways, be sure to take the time to visit these fascinating sites. They not only provide memorable moments but also showcase the eclectic spirit that makes California so special.

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