When Michelangelo began work on his statue of David, the block of marble that he was given had already been abandoned by two other artists. Michelangelo then worked on the discarded block for over two years to transform it into the masterpiece that is known around the world today. While the statue itself is a beautiful work of art, the story behind the abandoned block of marble helps add to its greatness. The attractions on this list are similar to the Statue of David in that although they are beautiful and popular today, they were once either trash, abandoned, or abundant materials that nobody wanted. Over time they were transformed into the popular attractions that they are today.
Standing as a monument to lost love and human ingenuity, the Coral Castle in Miami, FL is a stone sculpture garden made entirely of coral rock. Upon seeing the castle and the many sculptures found inside its walls you might think, “Oh, that’s cool”. But, after learning that the entirety of the 1,100 tons of coral rock on the property was moved, placed, and carved by a single man who only weighed 100 pounds, you will experience a wave of shock and disbelief. The castle features a nine-ton gate that was once able to be operated with a touch of a finger, a three-ton version that is still operable, a megalithic Polaris telescope, and functional rocking chairs all made of coral rock. With no help from modern construction equipment or power tools, every feature of Coral Castle is an impressive feat that baffles scientists to this day. The Castle was constructed by Edward Leedskalnin from 1923 to 1951 after his fiancé canceled their wedding just a day before the ceremony. Ed was a small man from Latvia who did all the work on the castle at night. Because of this, nobody ever saw how Ed was able to create what he did. When he was asked, Ed would always answer that he just had a good understanding of the laws of weight and leverage. Ed died in December of 1951, taking the castle’s secrets with him to his grave.
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The aptly named “Mystery Spot” in Santa Cruz, California is another attraction that will leave you with more questions than answers. Situated on a steep hill in the redwood forests, is a small cabin that looks to be on the verge of falling over. The cabin marks the center of a 150-foot circle that is considered to be a “gravitational anomaly”. Upon entering the cabin, visitors sometimes experience some queasiness as their brain tries to figure out how and why the gravity in the area seems to be malfunctioning. Theories attempting to explain the phenomenon include metal cones buried underground to guide alien spacecraft, an actual alien spacecraft buried underground, carbon dioxide permeating from the earth, a hole in the ozone layer, a magma vortex, or the highest dielectric biocosmic radiation known anywhere in the world. The actual explanation is that the site is an optical illusion that successfully tricks the mind, but that ruins the magic of this place. Even if there isn’t an alien spacecraft buried underneath this house, the Mystery Spot still provides the over 600,000 guests that visit every year with a fun time and a great place to take unique pictures. Where else can somebody get a picture of themselves standing at a 45-degree angle in an otherwise normal cabin?
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If you know what Stonehenge is and you know what cars are, then you probably have a good idea of what Carhenge. The Stonehenge replica was created by Jim Reinders and his family in 1987. Jim’s father had passed away in 1982 and while the family was together to honor his death they got to talking about ideas for a memorial. The idea to recreate Stonehenge with cars came up and the family decided they were going to come together again in five years and make it happen. Then in 1987, about 35 members of the family came down to Jim’s father’s farm to begin work on Carhenge. 39 cars were used to replicate Stonehenge with the same proportions and layout. The cars’ trunks are buried five feet deep, and, to recreate the arches, cars are welded onto the top of two others. There is also a 1962 Caddy buried away from the circle acting as the heel stone. Every car is spray-painted gray to further mimic the look of Stonehenge. Every year, Carhenge attracts over 100,000 people to the Alliance, NE area to see the replica of the prehistoric monument. Hopefully 5,000 years from now people will be just as perplexed by Carhenge as we are by Stonehenge today.
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In 1969 Jim Bishop started constructing a one-room stone cottage for himself and his wife on land he had bought in the mountains. After running into problems with getting running water to the property, Jim’s dad suggested he use the large metal cylinder they got from a welding job to act as a cistern for the property. Using the abundance of rocks found around the property, Jim started to cover the outside of the cistern with rocks to blend in with his cottage. After several people joked with Jim about how it looked like he was building a castle, Jim decided to do just that. Now, after working on the castle for over 50 years, Bishop Castle features wrought-iron bridges, spires, stained glass windows, towers, a grand ballroom, a 160-foot steeple, and a fire-breathing dragon chimney. Go back and read that again, but this time with the knowledge that Jim has done it all on his own. Supposedly, several people offered to help Jim in the beginning but after Jim accepted their offers nobody ever showed up. After eight years of people offering to help and then no-showing, Jim decided that he would just do it all on his own.
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While the previous tourist attractions on this list were made of abundant or abandoned materials, this one is made of trash. The beach was used as a water dumping site starting in 1906 and quickly started to pile up with trash, including many glass bottles and even some abandoned cars. When the trash pile grew to be too big, they would burn the trash. After several years the only trash that was being left behind from the fires was glass and pottery. The waves crashing on the beach would break down the glass and pottery shards into small, smooth pebbles of “sea glass”. As word got out about the “Glass Beach”, more and more visitors started to show up. In 2002, the California Department of Parks and Recreation purchased 38 acres of Glass Beach and added it to the MacKerricher State Park. Now Glass Beach gets over 1,000 visitors a day during the summer months. Because of its popularity, most of the sea glass has been stolen from the beach by visitors who wanted to bring home a souvenir. Removing sea glass from the beach is now illegal, but the beach won’t be able to get back to what it looked like in its heyday without replenishing the beach with broken glass and allowing the waves to work their magic.
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From mysteries to masterpieces, many unique tourist attractions across America entertain and perplex visitors. Many are born from a simple idea and are grown to the size they are today through hard work and determination. Some are popular due to sheer chance. But each one tells a story about a place or a point in time, and they continue to serve as a monument to their creators. If you are traveling through any of these areas, be sure to check out these attractions because some are much less permanent than others.