Now that we’re already a few days into 2021, you’ve probably already started planning at least one of your family road trips for the year. However, whether you’re still looking for ideas about taking a road trip for families , couples or even solo, you’ve come to the right place as Stuckey’s presents this list of places to visit in 2021 that really rock. However, don’t look for Plymouth Rock or Jefferson’s Rock in this list because, though we appreciate a look back at America’s history and a place that affords us a spectacular view, respectively, we like to visit places that tend to offer something a little more quirky. So, with that in mind, let’s get rocking!
Hole N” The Rock // Moab, Utah
We’re sure many of you have toured the likes of Elvis’ Graceland mansion or even Prince’s Paisley Park estate, but you haven’t really seen a rock star’s home (albeit a different kind of “rock”) until you’ve visited Hole N” the Rock on U.S. Route 191 near Moab, Utah.
In the early part of the 20th century, Hole N” the Rock was just a small cave that the occasional passing cowboy would catch a few Z’s in while moseying his doggies along, or whatever they called what they did back in those days. However, that would change one day when the Christiansen Brothers, Albert and Leo, expanded the little cowboy grotto and opened the Hole N” the Rock Diner there in 1945.
It was a pretty good spot to be in as people coming to the area to strike it rich mining plutonium would stop in along their way to their supposed riches; more often than not, however, they would come back to the Hole N” The Rock broke and hungry at which point Albert would give them a hot meal and a couple of cold beers. After they ate, they would be pointed in the direction of an area of sandstone in which to excavate to help with the home expansion. 12 years later, Albert and his wife Gladys had a 50,000 foot sandstone home complete with a 65-foot chimney.
Unfortunately, Albert died in 1957, but according to his wishes, Gladys had an artist paint the familiar white letters that spelled out it’s now famous moniker, opened a gift shop, and started tours of the now famous abode until she, too, died in 1974. Both she and Albert are buried in a nearby cove.
Hole N” the Rock is now owned by another great couple, Erik and Wendee Hansen, who will gladly give you a tour through the home and show you Gladys’ doll collection along with Al’s paintings and terrible attempts at taxidermy. Also don’t miss the homage to Franklin Roosevelt carved by Albert himself into the homes façade.
Rock City // Lookout Mountain, Georgia
If you think that you can’t get any kitschier than Hole N” in the Rock, then you haven’t seen Rock City. Atlas Obscura described it as “a place of intense natural beauty which, over time, was systematically transformed into what is one of the single greatest examples of American kitsch in existence” and we couldn’t find a better way to describe it ourselves. Literally. That’s why we used the quote. After all, where else in this beautiful land of ours can you walk along an Enchanted Trail, try to make it through Fat Man Squeeze, stroll across a 100- foot high waterfall, see seven states, explore a Fairyland Cavern and view a psychedelic black-light Mother Goose Village all in one place? Nowhere but Rock City Gardens, that’s where!
Native Americans were the first to live on Lookout Mountain as late as the early 19th century when missionaries came to the area to convert them to Christianity, with one of the missionaries writing about how the native village was a “citadel of rocks” and added that the rocks were arranged in such a way “as to afford streets and lanes.” However, it was Garnet and Frieda Carter that made Rock City Gardens the world premier roadside attraction that it is today.
Like the earlier missionaries, Garnet also saw Lookout Mountain as a place where he could build his own little city. The residential community would be known as “Fairyland” due to his wife’s curiosity about European folklore, and it would include, among other things, a golf course. However, realizing later it simply took too long to a regular golf course, Garnet instead built a much smaller course he dubbed “Tom Thumb Golf”, thus inventing the first miniature golf course in the country.
In the meantime, Frieda decided to also lend a hand in developing the 700-acre (2.8 km2) property by making it one huge rock garden. She took some string, attached it to the entrance, and then began making her way up to the mountain; all the while she wound her way around giant rock formations creating a trail all the way up to Lover’s Leap. Along this trail that planted flowers and statues of gnomes she had sent from Germany to give it more of that “Fairyland” feel. After Garnet saw Frieda’s creation he knew that the public would pay money to see it, and Garnet and Frieda Carter opened Rock City Garden to the public in 1932.
However, things didn’t really take off right away, so Garnet came up with an excellent advertising scheme. In 1935, he hired Clark Byers to travel throughout the Southeast and Midwest and paint “See Rock City” on the roofs and walls of barns he came across. By the time he retired in 1969, Byers had painted “See Rock City” in one variant or another on over 900 barns in 19 states and helped make Rock City, Lookout Mountain, and Chattanooga the national tourist destinations they are today.
Devil’s Tower National Monument // Devil’s Tower, Wyoming
We like big buttes and we cannot lie, and one of the biggest and perhaps most famous buttes in the US has got to be Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower (Sorry Mrs. Kardashian-West). Located in northeastern part of the state, it majestically rises from a verdant, tree-dotted hillside in the Black Hills to a height of 867 feet high. However, unlike most other buttes, Devil’s Tower wasn’t formed by a volcano, but rather from welled-up magma that cooled inside surround rock which eventually eroded away leaving what today looks like a giant tree stump that was clawed by an even bigger bear. In fact, there are a couple of Native American legends that explain exactly how those claw marks got there.
The first legend is that of the Lakota Sioux where six girls were out picking flowers when they were suddenly attacked by bears. Calling out for help, the Great Spirit heard their cries and started raising the ground beneath their feet. Scratching and clawing, the bears tried to climb the newly formed tower only to keep sliding down, leaving claw marks in the side of the monolith.
A similar story appears among the Kiowa, only their story has seven girls out playing when they were suddenly chased by several giant bears. Again, the girls called out to the Great Spirit who lifts the ground beneath their feet to the heavens above. The bears tried to climb the rock to no avail, leaving claw marks in the side as they slid down and the girls continued to rise and rise until they finally turned into the constellation Pleiades.
Though these stories are really interesting, they’re not the reason Devil’s Tower made it to our list. And it’s also not because it was America’s first national monument. No, it’s actually because of its kitsch factor brought to us by Steven Spielberg in the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind where Devils Tower was an integral part of the film’s visual and thematic atmosphere. (We won’t tell you any more about the film so that we don’t offer any spoilers, but we do suggest you watch it before your next family road trip to Devil’s Tower.)
Speaking of road trips, many online travel sights advise against going into the kitschy roadside souvenir places that lay outside of the national park. However, to that we say “Pshaw!” because they’re exactly the type of places we road trip for. After all, there are not many places where you can take a picture with an alien wearing a t-shirt and sunglasses while you purchase your very own Devil’s Tower salt and pepper shakers for that big pile of mashed potatoes.
Natural Bridge // Natural Bridge, Virginia
Worshipped by the Monacans as the “Bridge of God”, surveyed by George Washington, and eventually purchased by Thomas Jefferson, Virginia’s Natural Bridge is a 215-foot tall natural limestone gorge that was carved millennia ago by Cedar Creek which still runs below it today. The bridge remained private property until 2015 when it and 1,500 surrounding acres were purchased by the State of Virginia and turned into Natural Bridge State Park. Unfortunately, after the government purchased it, the place lost some of its kitsch factor. Gone are the wax museum Professor Cline’s Haunted Monster Museum, and the civil war dinosaurs that once roamed the property.
It’s still a pretty amazing place, however, and there’s just enough quirkiness still hanging on to make it worth the trip. For example, as you walk under the bridge, look across Cedar Creek for the initials of a young surveyor named George Washington. Walk along Cedar Creek trail and take your picture in the Salt Peter Cave that was used in the American Civil War to make gunpowder for the Confederate Army. Walk a bit further down the trail and ponder at the mysterious “Lost River” – Where does it start? Where does it end? Nobody’s sure.
Stay until dusk and witness the “Drama of Creation” sound and light show that was inaugurated by President Calvin Coolidge in 1927 as a nighttime destination to attract more people (the Natural Bridge Hotel is also on still on the premises).
And of course, the large gift shop is still full of the kitschy souvenirs you would expect to find at one of the largest tourist attractions in the Shenandoah Valley. In fact, Natural Bridge even has its own post office where you can get all of those fun postcards you picked up in the gift shop postmarked and sent back home as a reminder of your trip.
Ringing Rocks County Park // Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania
We’ve heard of rock and roll, but rock and ring? Yet, in a clearing in the woods in Buck County, Pennsylvania, there is something magical about a field of rocks you can visit. Now, a field of rocks may not seem like such a magical place to plan the ultimate family road trip to, and to be honest, it really isn’t much to look at. However, people don’t visit Ringing Rocks County Park to look at these rocks; rather they come here to listen to them.
That’s right – bring a hammer and make your own rock music because when you tap these rocks with a hammer, they resonate like a bell. There are all sorts of fancy-shmancy scientific theories on how these rocks got there and why exactly they ring like they do, but that would take all the fun out of being a member of the oldest rock band in the world. (Unfortunately, there’s no rock concert t-shirts to take home as a souvenir either.) Don’t miss Bucks County’s largest waterfall while you’re there.
Speaking of all of these places that rock, did you know that Stuckey’s still sells rock candy in a variety of flavors including Watermelon, Blue Raspberry, Grape, Cotton Candy, Cherry and Blueberry? What better treat than “rocking” and rolling down the highway on your next adventure?
Of course, you can always also get that icon of American road trip snacks – our famous Stuckey’s Pecan Logs to put the “roll” with your “rocks” as you travel around this great country of ours. And don’t forget some of our other road trip snacks for adults and kids alike including our Pecan Divinity and other handy pecan goodies like our bags of flavored pecans or our mouth-watering popcorn treats including the one-of-a-kind delicious Hunkey Dorey.
And don’t forget that Stuckey’s memorabilia makes great souvenirs for you and your road crew. From t-shirts and caps to mugs and rubber alligators, Stuckey’s helps make it a trip to remember, so make sure to include in your stop at any of the Stuckey’s locations family road trip itinerary.
No Stuckey’s along the way? Then order some from our website to take with you. After all, Ethel Stuckey practically invented the road trip snack when she made her first pecan log roll nearly a hundred years ago! However, you don’t have to wait that long to get our world famous pecan log rolls and other fine pecan candies delivered right to your front door just in time for your next road trip. Visit us at stuckeys.com to find out how.
Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!
Whether your next road trip is by car or by rail, it’s not really a road trip without taking Stuckey’s along. From our world famous Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls to our mouthwatering Hunkey Dorey, Stuckey’s has all the road trips snacks you’ll need to get you where you’re going.
For all of the pecany good treats and cool merch you’ll need for your next big road adventure, browse our online store now!
Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!