Top 5 Atypical Attractions

The world is not all diners, drive-ins and dives. There are way more ways to enjoy this world than eating your way across it. Try gobbling up a different kind of roadside attraction, like these, for instance. (Caveat: I have not visited all of these sites, so I can’t verify that they are as great as they look.)

1) Ice Rinks, from Vegas to Vienna.

Figure 8s, here I come!
Figure 8s, here I come!

There’s probably a charming ice rink serving up hot cocoa somewhere near your ‘hood. But does it have a view of the Chicago skyline, Moscow’s St. Basil Cathedral, or Vienna’s City Hall Square? If it does, lucky you. If it doesn’t, check out Conde Nast’s 10 Ice-Skating Rinks with a View, and pack your bags before the ice melts. Alberta, Canada’s Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise has some gorgeous Canadian Rockies views calling my name. Here’s a word of advice for ice-skating newbies: if you lose your balance, grab your knees.

2) Libraries
You might believe that libraries are the hangouts of schoolchildren, senior citizens and people without home computers, but libraries remain havens for learning, a sanctuary of knowledge. When you have  a library card, you have access to the world — for free. (Well, if you pay property taxes, it’s not really free. You’re paying for it, another reason you might as well enjoy them!) Some budget cutters have been trying to close as many as they can, but thankfully the people rise up, and that’s when you know the real significance of libraries. Fuck “the Cloud.” The only thing more glorious than the books contained within these walls, are the walls themselves.

The New York Public Library. If it's good enough for that ghost librarian in Ghostbusters and the people to seek refuge in the Day After Tomorrow, it's good enough for you!
The New York Public Library. If it’s good enough for that ghost librarian in Ghostbusters and the people to seek refuge in the Day After Tomorrow, it’s good enough for you!

3) Markets
Farmer’s markets are a hot thing, but they’re not a new thing. “The first farmers markets technically originated in Egypt over 5,000 years ago when farmers along the Nile brought their fresh produce to be sold,” according to RedmondFarmersMarket.com Make sure your journey includes Buffalo’s 125-year-old Broadway Market, New York’s Chelsea Market, New Orleans’s over 200-year-old French Market and the famous fish-throwers at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

Easter Eggs from Buffalo's Broadway Market. Credit:http://www.pinterest.com/pin/70016969178984149/
Easter Eggs from Buffalo’s Broadway Market. Credit: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/70016969178984149/

4) Theaters & Venues
Seems like the 1920s was the golden age of movie palaces in America. Check out the Shea’s, opened in Buffalo in 1926 to show silent movies, it still features a working Mighty Wurlizter organ made to do all the music and sound effects for silent films. Pretty cool. Today it hosts concerts, big Broadway shows and family events. The Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor was built in 1928, and it’s now an indie movie house and performing arts center, and also features the original 1927 Barton Theatre Pipe Organ. Miami’s Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for Performing Arts is another treasure from 1926. There’s some spectacular nature beauty to be enjoyed, too. If you want to rock out and get your mind blown at the same time, Washington State’s The Gorge, which has already booked Arcade Fire for 2014, and Colorado’s Red Rocks are a couple of spectacular venues that could be worth the trip to the middle of nowhere.

"Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a geological phenomenon – the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world. From Sting and The Beatles, to opera stars and U2, every artist aspires to play on this magical, spiritual and emotional stage." redrocksonline.com
“Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a geological phenomenon – the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world. From Sting and The Beatles, to opera stars and U2, every artist aspires to play on this magical, spiritual and emotional stage.”
redrocksonline.com

5) Some Of The Gothic-est Abandoned Mental Asylums in America
(Thanks to Eugene for this very cool suggestion.)
In action, these were some heinous, barbaric places on the inside. On the outside, however, these Victorian Gothic structures are America’s castles. Respect these beasts for their sublime beauty. Located in West Virignia, “The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, constructed between 1858 and 1881, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and is purportedly the second largest in the world, after the Kremlin,” according to its website. In Ohio, most of the hospitals look like a senator’s house; it’s the same thing in Connecticut, but in between those two, New York State was on some shit. These are some goth-tastic sites: Buffalo State Hospital (Buffalo, again??), Binghamton State Hospital, and the Hudson River State Hospital, “the first significant example in the United States of the high Victorian Gothic architectural style applied to institutional construction.”
(I’m not promoting touring the inside of places where people suffered immensely; these recommendations are for their architectural value only.)

Hudson River State Hospital, Route 9, Poughkeepsie, NY Just sold to an anonymous buyer. So see it while you still can.  Photo: http://obsoleteman.blogspot.com/2012/11/hudson-river-state-hospital.html
Hudson River State Hospital, Route 9, Poughkeepsie, NY.
Just sold in Nov. 2013  to an anonymous buyer, so see it while you still can.
Photo: http://obsoleteman.blogspot.com/2012/11/hudson-river-state-hospital.html
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