by Marisa LaScala, Condé Nast Traveler
An homage to Stonehenge made of classic cars. A museum devoted to instant noodles. A gnome reserve. We track down some of the world's wackiest tourist attractions.
1. China's Upside-Down House
If you've ever felt like dancing on the ceiling, head to the China Folk Painting Village in Fengjing Ancient Town, just south of Shanghai. Once inside, you'll have to look up to see the furniture; everything from a kitchen table set for dinner to a child's bedroom is arranged in a way that appears to defy gravity.
2. Thailand's Hell Garden
The sign that greets visitors entering this sculpture garden pretty much says it all: "Welcome to Hell." The Wang Saen Suk's "hell garden" depicts, in garish detail, the punishments in store for those who transgress in life. If the statues are to be believed--with impaling, transfiguration, and disemboweling all represented--the tortures for sinners are pretty gruesome, so you might want to bank a few good deeds before you visit.
3. California's Life-Size Dinosaurs
With just two life-size residents, the World's Biggest Dinosaurs don't exactly rival Jurassic Park. But if you ever wanted a T. Rex's-eye-view of California, climb up into Mr. Rex--all four stories--and gaze through his teeth to the world beyond. Mr. Rex's counterpart is Ms. Dinny, a 150-foot-long, 150-ton model of an Apatosaurus. Claude K. Bell designed the pair, and since his death in 1988, the World's Biggest Dinosaurs have been taken over by a religious group who also set up a Creationist museum at the site.
4. England's Gnome Reserve
There's no place like the Gnome Reserve: Fans of the cheeky lawn ornaments can travel here to see more than 1,000 gnomes and pixies in their natural outdoor habitat. (There are also more than 250 labeled species of wildflowers.) The Reserve hosts an on-site museum with a collection of antique statues. The dress code? Pointed hats and fishing rods are loaned out to visitors for free, "so you don't embarrass the gnomes."
5. Japan's Ramen Museum
Those inexpensive instant noodles got you through those college all-nighters--surely they're worthy of their own museum, right? The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum pays tribute to the Cup Noodles founder and his creations. Visitors can see a reproduction of the shack where Momofuku Ando first invented Chicken Ramen, explore an exhibition about instant noodles all over the world, and, of course, visit a tasting room of different Nissin products, giving visitors a sampling of flavors that might not be sold in their region.
6. Australia's Big Lobster
Australia has its fair share of giant kitschy monuments--including an oversized park bench that holds eight people and a huge tennis racket honoring player Evonne Goolagong Cawley. But none have as much personality as Larry, the Big Lobster. (How big? About 56 feet.) Larry was built in 1979 to promote the region's seafood, wine, cheese, and timber industries. At its base is a tourist complex, complete with restaurant and gift shop.
7. Iceland's Phallus Museum
It's "members only" here: The Icelandic Phallological Museum hosts a collection of more than 200 phallic specimens representing almost every mammal in the country. Simply put, if you ever wanted to see a whale penis in a jar, this is the place to do it. The museum is currently the subject of a documentary, The Final Member, about two (brave?) souls competing to be the first human specimen.
8. Nebraska's Carhenge
No one knows who built Stonehenge, or why, but we do know who built Carhenge (artist Jim Reinders and his family) and why (as a tribute to his father, and because it's cool). The Stonehenge replica uses 38 classic cars, all painted gray and arranged in the same proportions as the original. Since the dedication of Carhenge--on the summer solstice in 1987--other works of car art have been added to the site, including Reinders' Ford Seasons, inspired by Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
9. South Africa's Big Pineapple
There's no better place to look out over the Eastern Cape's pineapple industry than from the top-floor observation deck of this nearly 55-foot-high fiberglass pineapple. After checking out the 360-degree view, visitors can watch a film about the area's agriculture, or head to the ground floor to buy pineapple jam and chutney.
10. England's Petrifying Well
Legend has it that Mother Shipton was a witch with the power of prophecy, predicting many events, including the Great Fire of London in 1666. At Mother Shipton's Cave, you'll discover her stony dwellings as well as the Petrifying Well, also said to have magical properties. Early on, some claimed the waters had healing powers; others feared that touching the cascade would turn you into a rock. Today, science may have demystified the petrifaction process, but that doesn't make the cave any less fun. The cheeky Brits have tied up everyday objects in the stream, waiting for them to turn to stone.
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