Tired of the same old sights? Try these Western Pa. roadside attractions
If you’re tired of showing your guests the same-old, same-old, as it applies to local landmarks — no offense, Fallingwater and Mt. Washington — here are some strange and wonderful roadside attractions you may have skipped in your Western Pennsylvania travels:
UFO “space acorn”
5123 Water St., Kecksburg
Something strange happened over the skies of Kecksburg on Dec. 9, 1965. Residents cried “UFO,” and reports say the military found an alien object and quickly hauled it away. Reminding people of this unsolved mystery are this acorn-shaped monument and the yearly UFO festival.
The Kecksburg space acorn. It was built in the 90s for the TV show ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ based on 30yo accounts of a supposed UFO encounter in the town. pic.twitter.com/R0RHP2RMdX
— Gretchen McNeil (@GretchenMcNeil) January 5, 2018
1501 Arch St., Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, as evidenced by artist Randy Gilson’s North Side Pittsburgh property. Since 1995, Gilson has painted the entire building in bright colors and created a garden of delightful debris.
— IkeKligermanBarkley (@IKBtweets) January 4, 2018
Great Cross of Christ
887 Jumonville Road, Hopwood, Fayette County
Erected in 1950 on Dunbar’s Knob, the 60-foot steel cross is visible from seven counties, three states and 50 miles on a clear day. It’s a popular pilgrimage site from nearby Jumonville Christian Camp and Conference Center.
Jumonville Cross pic.twitter.com/BsbtFkqK6G
— John Valari (@john_valari) August 8, 2017
Mars flying saucer
100 Pittsburgh St., Mars, Butler County
The town of Mars pays homage to its celestial moniker with a silver flying saucer, looking straight out of a 1950s science fiction movie, in the town square. At about 3 feet tall and 6 feet across, the diminutive UFO makes a great photo op for locals and visitors alike.
— Αugustus Superbus (@augustus0221) June 17, 2017
Singing statue of Perry Como
68 E. Pike St., Canonsburg, Washington County
This statue of Canonsburg native Perry Como stands right outside the borough building and actually croons 24/7 at passersby.
2708 Route 30, Schellsburg, Bedford County
What started in 1988 as a hobby with four animals on a Juniata County farm has expanded to the Bedford County location, with fields of animals to observe. Gift shop offerings include bison-themed gifts, authentic Native American crafts and bison meat.
— Lincoln Highway (@LincolnHighwayH) April 1, 2015
Bethel Hollow Road near New Paris, Bedford County
A gravity hill is an optical illusion where a car in neutral, or other objects, appear to roll uphill. Though not unique to Pennsylvania (or other states), Bedford County’s gravity hill is the best-known in the state and features spray paint on the pavement so you know where to start and stop.
Sundae-shaped ice cream shop
462 E. Main St., Everett, Bedford County
Igloo Soft Freeze might be the only ice cream shop shaped like an ice cream sundae, right down to the cherry on the top.
The Coffee Pot
108 Telegraph Road, Bedford, Bedford County
Built in 1927, the 18-foot-high Coffee Pot was originally a lunch place adjoining a gas station, a welcome rest stop along the busy Lincoln Highway (Route 30). The structure housed various businesses before being preserved as an iconic example of “programmatic architecture” by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor.
About Photo: The Coffee Pot Restaurant in Bedford, PA. was built in the 1920s as a luncheonette, then fell into disrepair. In 2003, the historic larger-than-life Roadside Attraction was restored to its Jazz Age glory.The Backroads https://t.co/QoUppG1NRI ~TravelerOntheBackroads pic.twitter.com/kDHRVn4iqu
— Helen L Hollers (@hollers_l) February 23, 2018
Johnstown Inclined Plane
206 Johns St., Johnstown, Cambria County
Open April through December for commuting and sightseeing, the almost 900-foot funicular railway is branded as the steepest in the world. It was built to connect downtown Johnstown with homes in Westmont Borough after the devastating 1889 flood.
— Lauren Petrelli (@LPetrelliTV) December 12, 2017
Punxsutawney, Jefferson County
The cartoonish groundhog statues have been a highlight for Groundhog Day visitors and others since the first one appeared in 2004. Each is decorated by a local artist to depict a historic or cultural aspect of the region.
Catch whimsical 6 ft. tall fiberglass groundhogs, aka Phantastic Phils, scattered throughout Punxsutawney, Pa! Each one is an individual work of art created by artists from across #Pennsylvania . #GHD2018 pic.twitter.com/TA9baBY6Qd
— visit PA (@visitPA) February 2, 2018
Home of the “world’s largest hamburger”
1452 Woodland Road, Clearfield, Clearfield County
Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub serves a massive 125-pound burger — just give the pub 72 hours to prepare it for your party. Challenge yourself to eat other burgers from 2 to 25 pounds — but don’t worry, the biggest are meant for two people. If you finish in the allotted time, you get 50 percent off the price and a T-shirt (size XXL, we hope).
Giant Zippo lighter
1932 Zippo Drive, Bradford, McKean County
A 40-foot replica lighter welcomes you to the 15,000-square-foot Zippo/Case Museum, and lighter-shaped street lights line the roadway. Admission is free to view historic models, a repair shop and store and exhibits highlighting Zippo’s roles in World War II, Hollywood, music and more.
— Eric Fisher AIA (@fisherarch) June 19, 2017
5 Lighthouse Island, Tionesta, Forest County
The 75-foot-tall lighthouse stands 60 miles from Lake Erie, the nearest navigable body of water. Completed in 2004 by Tionesta native Jack Sherman, the structure has 76 stairs and seven floors that display items of Sherman’s family heritage, his collection of lighthouse miniatures and artwork.
The local Lions club opens the lighthouse for tours a few times each year.
Breath taking view of the lighthouse in Tionesta, pa pic.twitter.com/U9Z67CWH5C
— Screwloosejr (@LeeaCoryea) July 22, 2017
101 Decker Chapel Road, St. Marys, Elk County
Michael Decker built this tiny chapel in 1856 after being injured in a fall from an apple tree. He vowed to build a chapel if the injury healed. Generally viewed as one of the smallest chapels in the United States, the building made the National Register of Historical Places in 1998.
Check’s Radio Museum
660 Hillville Road, Karns City, Armstrong County
Retired KDKA engineer Mel Check opened his private collection to the public in 1999, in a room above his detached garage. The museum features about 1,500 radios, ranging from 1920s speakers to 1980s cartoon character radios.
The museum is open 1-6 p.m. most Sundays from May to October and by appointment at 724-526-5202.
“Read Between the Signs”
18492 Smock Highway, Meadville, Crawford County
This 1,200-foot long sculptural relief wall made of repurposed road signs decorates the perimeter of the local Pennsylvania Department of Transportation maintenance office. There are also flowers made of reclaimed signs on the lot.
Avenue of 444 Flags
2619 E. State St., Hermitage, Mercer County
Hillcrest Memorial Park owner Tom Flynn called attention to the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979 by raising a U.S. flag in the park. As the crisis wore on, he added another flag daily. By the time the hostage situation ended on Jan. 21, 1981, he had erected 444 flags. Since then, the park has been renamed America’s Cemetery and also contains Vietnam War and War on Terror memorials.
— Weekly Villager (@WeeklyVillager) November 10, 2017
Coudersport Ice Mine
176 Ice Mine Road, Coudersport, Potter County
This geological oddity forms icicles during warm weather. Ice formations appear in the shaft during the spring, continue through the hot weather, and disappear in winter. The mine is open Memorial Day through Labor Day.
#DidYouKnow the Coudersport Ice Mine here in Potter County is a 40-feet-deep ice cave? You’ll have to wait until the summer to visit because of the cold temperatures. #PotterCounty #PA #NorthernTier https://t.co/T4aFk3f8BA
— NorthernTierDev (@NorthernTierDev) February 24, 2018
World’s oldest continuously producing oil well
Waitz Road, Oil City, Venango County
The McClintock No. 1 well began pumping crude oil in 1861 and continues to produce to this day. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission acquired the site in 2000, and the Drake Well Museum, which maintains it, pumps the well occasionally to ensure its historic status. The well yields one to two barrels a day, which is used at the museum or bottled and sold as souvenirs.
America’s oldest gas station
3205 Sixth St., Altoona, Blair County
In continuous operation since 1909, the present-day Reighard’s garage and office occupy the original cinder-block structure, thought to be the oldest gas station still in service in the United States. The Reighard family operated the station until 1978, when Martin Oil Co. took over.
And if you’re heading eastward, this list from penn.live has more attractions on the other side of the Allegheny Mountains.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter @shirley_trib.