Roadside Attractions in Wisconsin
Sep 08, 2013 12:16PM
By Julie Henning
Claire' d Loon, Mercer, WI
Welcoming visitors to the Loon Capitol of the World, Claire d'Loon sits proudly at the Mercer Chamber of Commerce. Sixteen feet tall and a grand 2000 pounds, Claire no longer makes the unmistakable loon song. Ensconced by lakes and woodland beauty, it's no wonder so many loons have made Mercer their homes.
Old Abe was the mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry in the Civil War. Known as "Old Abe the War Eagle," legends surround the patriotic bird from both sides of the battle. Surviving several battles, Old Abe returned to the Wisconsin State Capitol building only to die from smoke inhalation in the fire of 1881. Some research discloses Abe's true identity as a "she."
A legendary Northwoods Wisconsin photo opportunity, giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox welcome visitors to the entrance of Paul Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty, a popular restaurant/bakery/gift shop with locations in Minocqua and the Wisconsin Dells. A folktale known well in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, chances are by the time you reach Minocqua, you too will be as hungry as a lumberjack. Wisconsin Concrete Park, Phillips, WI
The kind of place where time stands still, the Wisconsin Concrete Park in Phillips is worth planning a day trip around. A maze of sculptures made with concrete and broken glass, the park was built by now deceased Phillips resident Fred Smith. Using broken beer bottles sourced from his tavern (visitors today can still enjoy a beer or a root beer at the tavern adjacent to the park property), Smith's creations have been preserved by the Kohler Foundation and are enjoyed by park goers all year round.
Comprised of several shrines in a Grotto garden, Catholic or not, The Dickeyville Grotto is one for the ol' bucket list. On the main drag in downtown Dickeyville, the Grotto is really quite literally off the beaten path. The main shrine houses the Blessed Virgin and is the centerpiece of the attraction, featuring meandering paths in the grounds adjacent to the Holy Ghost Catholic Church. Constructed using an ecclectic mix of stone, glass, shells, gems, and broken porcelain (among other things), the Grotto and Shrines are the works of Father Matthias Wernerus between the years 1925 and 1930. If you visit, make sure and visit the six additional shrines and the gift shop (open daily 9AM-4pM, April 1 through October 31).
The official symbol of Rhinelander, the Hodag is a mythical creature responsible for strange occurrences in the area; not limited to raiding unwatched coolers, lost golf balls, and pulled boat plugs. Originally described with the "head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end," the giant fiberglass Hodag located outside the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce draws visitors from near and far.
The World's Largest Penny commemorates a 1953 fund-raising initiative in the town of Woodruff, Wisconsin started when Dr. Kate Pelham Newcomb encouraged local school children to save their pennies so that Woodruff could build a hospital (1.7 million pennies arrived from around the country once the story was aired on television). The penny sits at the corner of 2nd Ave. and Hemlock St. (to the delight of the local nursing home residents who watch tourists pose for a photo and leave a few lucky pennies where the coin meets the pedestal). Woodruff also has a museum featuring more memorabilia and artifacts around the world-famous penny. As you can see, early morning makes for a shady photo. Wisconsin's Largest Tree, Montello, WI
A fun photo op located along the main drag in Montello. The tree is a cottonwood and is clearly impressive. In doing some online research, there seem to be a few other people/places that question the validity of the "Wisconsin's Largest" claim. Read this web page for more information.