When you start planning a road trip across the Great Plains, what image comes to mind? Long, straight interstate driving, maybe a scenic old highway detour or two, and a whole lotta flat land, right? While this is certainly one way to do a Great Plains road trip, you can also make that drive much more interesting if you take advantage of the many weird, wacky, and wonderful roadside attractions in this region.
Interstate 35 runs north-south; the northern half of the interstate is not in the Great Plains but stretches from Duluth, Minnesota to Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas and crosses Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri. The southern half of Interstate 35 is within the Great Plains region, and connects from Kansas City to Loredo, Texas. This post, which is about the best roadside attractions along I-35 in the Great Plains, only covers the southern half of the road.
Despite only covering half of I-35, as you’ll see, there are some incredible roadside attractions along Interstate 35. From a metal chicken named after a famous action actor to a metal armadillo reminiscent of the extinct ones that once wandered across this region, you’ll find it all among the roadside attractions on this list: giant animals, giant bugs, and even a giant slice of pie.
Curious to learn more and decide which of these roadside attractions along I-35 you want to stop at on your road trip? Let’s hit the road and discover each one.
In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are the traditional lands of the Washtáge Moⁿzháⁿ (Kaw / Kansa), 𐓏𐒰𐓓𐒰𐓓𐒷 𐒼𐓂𐓊𐒻 𐓆𐒻𐒿𐒷 𐓀𐒰^𐓓𐒰^(Osage), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Kaskaskia, Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Gáuigú (Kiowa), Wichita, Tonkawa (Oklahoma), Nʉmʉnʉʉ Sookobitʉ (Comanche), Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Jumanos, Tawakoni, Waco, Ndé Kónitsąąíí Gokíyaa (Lipan Apache), Coahuiltecan, and Sana peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
1. Chick Norris
You can’t call it a road trip if there’s no quirky attraction along the way. Chick Norris is just that, a weird and fun pit stop along I-35.
Built by breakfast caterer Steve Hamilton, Chick Norris is a 15-foot-tall metal rooster overseeing daily commuters on 199th Street. It is one of the most popular roadside attractions along I-35 and even has its own Facebook page. Locals dress the rooster up for holidays, like Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc.
2. World’s First Batwing Gas Station
The world’s first Batwing Gas Station is one of the sights along I-35 that merits a stop. Batwing gas stations were famous for adopting futuristic design concepts. These gas stations featured a triangular-based layout and a roof shaped like a slanted canopy that resembled a bat’s wing – hence the name.
Built in 1954, this station was not only the country’s first-ever Batwing-style gas station but the first venue Vickers Petroleum opened. The design was the work of John Hickman, an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright.
Its unusual shape earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places. While the gas station doesn’t repair flat tires or pump gas anymore, it’s a wonderful place to snap a couple of pictures before hitting the road again.
3. Upended 18-Wheel Truck
Not many roadside attractions along I-35 will make you think you’ve lost your mind and question your vision like the upended 18-wheel truck.
Located in Oklahoma, this semi-trailer truck is actually a billboard and juts out of the ground in front of Wilkins Oklahoma Truck Supply. The upended truck has been there since 1988, when Wilkins and his son, Brett, were thinking of a way to call the attention of passing truckers – we can’t say it was a brilliant marketing move.
Trucker or not, everybody is welcome to stop by and take a photo under the 50-foot, 20,000-pound billboard.
4. Large Dog Statues
Halfway between Oklahoma City and Wichita, there are two gigantic dog statues, one of a Bulldog and the other of a Labrador.
You’ll find the large statues at an On Cue station, which is famous for putting up dog statues at the entrance of their stations. It has become one of the most popular road trip stops along I-35 for families and dog owners. While it’s not fenced, the field is large enough to let your puppy and kids stretch their legs before resuming the road trip. Moreover, the gas station sells dog supplies!
5. Grave of Elmer McCurdy the Sideshow Mummy
You know how some people rise to fame after their death? Well, that’s the case of Elmer McCurdy, whose dead body finally sits in Guthrie’s Summit View Cemetery.
Elmer McCurdy was a 31-year-old drunken bandit who a posse shot dead after robbing a train. Since no one claimed his body, Elmer’s corpse was embalmed and propped in a mortuary in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, for five years.
Visitors could see him by paying a nickel. Then, a couple of men who passed themselves as Elmer’s brothers claimed the body and made it a freak attraction at fairs. The traveling corpse was a hit, drawing hordes of visitors day in, day out. After numerous comings and goings, the body was lain to rest in Guthrie’s Summit View Cemetery.
6. Spider VW Bug
Is it a bug? Is it a spider? Whatever you call it, the Spider VW Bug is a large-scale reproduction of one of humanity’s deepest fears. Built in 1973, artist Monte Bodine took a VW Beetle, added six pointy legs, painted the eyes (headlights) red, and turned the iconic car into the Spider VW Bug.
Today, it has become a landmark in Lexington. A fantastic photo opportunity, the spider, sits next to Wilson’s VW Parts, once the world’s largest stock of Volkswagen parts.
7. Munster Mansion
If you grew up watching the classic TV show “The Munsters” or caught the reruns, then you’ll love Munster Mansion.
Sarah McKee was, and is, a huge fan of “The Munsters”. In 2001, Sandra and her husband bought a Victorian-style home in Waxahachie and turned it into an exact replica of the Munster’s house, which she did to a T.
The furniture, the staircase, the electric chair, and even the Munster car is there! Stopping by Munster Mansion requires a bit more preparation. The house isn’t open to walk-ins and offers tours by appointment only.
8. World’s Largest Caterpillar
Yes, bugs seem to be a common theme for roadside attractions along I-35. Named Bruco, the world’s largest caterpillar is a series of interconnected domes located in Italy, Texas. Bruco is more than a gigantic larva, though.
The connected domes are actually the home of Monolithic Dome Institute, and the caterpillar is their manufacturing plant. You can take a photo in front of the bug’s flirty eyes or next to glow-in-the-dark cowboy boots painted on the sides.
9. 20-Foot-Tall Wooden Nickel
Built by Texas artist Bob Wade, the 20-foot-tall wooden nickel is an artistic creation found in the front yard of Carl Cornelius. It features a lovely depiction of the side profile of an Indigenous leader. The structure sits on private property, and visitors can only take photos from a distance. Drive up to the backside of the nickel, on Rohwer Road, for a closer look.
10. Dr. Pepper Museum
The Dr. Pepper Museum is a fun little museum in Waco. It is a must-go place if you enjoy drinking Dr. Pepper and enjoy random history bites.
The museum covers the history of Dr. Pepper: how it started as a medicine, it’s marketing in its early years, and how it evolved to try and compete with Coca-Cola and Pepsi. You’ll find lots of interesting memorabilia, from advertisements, commercials, and old bottling equipment. Even the original well where they drew the water for the soda is still there!
11. 80-Foot-Tall Tin Soldier
The 80-foot-tall Tin Soldier in Waco is a fine example of how everything can become a piece of art. Affectionately named the Tincinerator, the incinerator was part of Smith Furniture Manufacturing Co, which used it to burn scrap wood while fabricating new furniture.
In 2007, the company closed its doors and abandoned the towering incinerator. Seven years later, someone bought paint buckets and painted the incinerator to resemble a Tin Soldier. It is identical on both sides, and visitors can enter the parking lot to get close-up pictures.
12. Harley-Drawn Covered Wagon
On your way through Austin, take some time and stop by the Harley-Drawn Covered Wagon. This art installation features the classic prairie schooner immigrants used to travel to the American West.The main difference is that four real Harley-Davidson motorcycles pull the covered wagon instead of horses. It has been there since at least 2010 and is a popular spot for pictures, especially if you’re a fan of Harley Davidson.
13. Big Slice of Pie
You know how the saying goes, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” The giant slice of pie perched on the roof of Texas Pie Company is a testament to that! A highly convincing – and mouthwatering – design, the pie features a perfectly flaky crust and what seems like delicious blueberries as filling.
It is a fun stop and offers multiple angles to get a great, silly photograph. Moreover, make sure to visit the bakery and indulge in one of its mouthwatering pies.
14. Giant Armadillo
The giant fiberglass armadillo is Bussey’s Flea Market’s mascot. It’s been guarding the entrance of the popular market in Schertz, Texas, for over decades now. The giant armadillo welcomes visitors at the front of the parking lot. However, anyone can easily spot it while driving on I-35.
Beware that the market only opens on Saturdays and Sundays, and you’ll have to open the gate and ask for permission to take pictures if you happen to visit during the week.
Which of these roadside attractions along I-35 will you be stopping at? Let me know any questions in the comments below!