Illinois might not be one of America’s most popular vacation destinations, but it’s arguably one of its quirkiest. If your tastes veer left of center, make sure you don’t miss these offbeat tourist attractions when you’re visiting the Prairie State.
Railsplitter Covered Wagon: World’s Largest Covered Wagon
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, you’ll never find a covered wagon as large as the Railsplitter Covered Wagon in Lincoln, Illinois. The enormous wagon is driven by an equally ginormous statue of the American president that shares the town’s name.
The Railsplitter was created in 2001 by David Bentley, a local man seeking a project to occupy his time as he recovered from surgery. He built the wagon, which measures 25 feet high and 40 feet long, from steel and local oak. The 12-foot Abraham Lincoln, who seems distracted from driving duties by his law book, was crafted from fiberglass.
Bentley finished the Railsplitter to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Route 66. It originally sat outside his Pawnee home, but was moved to its current site in Lincoln in 2007, after the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County purchased it for the princely sum of $10,000.
The 2 Celled Jail: Tiny Gardner Lockup
From the very large to the very small, make sure you don’t miss the 2 Celled Jail when you’ve driving through Gardner, Illinois. The tiny slammer, built in 1906, is just one room separated in two by its cell bars. The cells have nothing but basic cots and buckets where prisoners could relieve themselves. The small guard’s section isn’t flash either, with a small desk and wood-burning stove.
Despite its small size, the 2 Celled Jail held prisoners until the 1950s. Locals didn’t have the heart to tear the quirky building down, so they restored it and turned it into a tourist attraction. Tourists love snapping photos here, so make sure you take along a device like the iPad mini 3 with iOS 8 using your high-speed T-Mobile connection so you can quickly share the snaps with your friends on social media.
Rockome Gardens: Amish Theme Park
There are no roller-coasters or friendly mascots wandering around Rockome Gardens. This Arcola, Illinois theme park with a difference is one of the only Amish theme parks on the planet.
Rockome Gardens was built in 1937 to introduce Amish life to the wider community. It’s run by members of the nearby Old Order Amish Community, who take guests for buggy rides and man the cheese store and blacksmith’s workshop. It’s also likely to be the only place in America where you’ll see a horse-drawn buzz saw or be able to play a game of tic-tac-toe against a chicken. The petting zoo and playground make a day at Rockome Gardens fun for the whole family.
Rockome Gardens was closed for renovations during the 2015 season, but it promises to return with a host of improvements, including the addition of two new historic homes from the nearby Amish community, in 2016.
Two-Story Outhouse: Historic Bathroom
Most of us only stop at public bathrooms on the way to other more interesting tourist attractions, but in Gays, Illinois, the historic toilets known as the Two-Story Outhouse, or the “Skyscrapper” to locals, may be one of the most interesting things in town.
The outhouse was built in 1869 as part of a general store with apartments attached. The upper story was meant for apartment residents, while the lower section was available to shoppers. The upper and lower toilets sit on opposite sides of the outhouse, and waste from the top story falls to a septic pit below, behind a false wall on the first floor.
The general store and apartments were dismantled in 1984, but the property’s owner decided to keep the bathrooms because they’re so unique. Sadly you can’t go inside the Two-Story Outhouse anymore, but it’s so offbeat that it’s worth stopping by and snapping a few photos during your Illinois adventure.
With odd attractions you won’t see anywhere else, your Illinois vacation is destined to be a getaway you’ll never forget.