The World of Crazy Tourist Attractions
Tourism boards go to great lengths to reel travellers in, making the most of both natural and man-made wonders. Some places even go to extreme lengths to try and make the most of natural beauty with some added “enhancements”.
Popular beaches like Waikiki in Hawaii, for example, have been know to import sand due to either erosion, discolouration or both. Meanwhile, skiing destinations that experience less-than-ideal snowfall have been known to ship snow in or turn to snowmaking machines for help. And yes, there are even companies (plural) that make money creating snow for ski resorts, such as Snow Gun Snowmakers and CHS Snowmakers.
Australia’s own Mt Buller has even made snow making a permanent part of its attractions. The skiing destination has a huge snowmaking system that can cover an area 36 times larger than the MCG arena.
“Mt Buller guests wake to fresh snow more often thanks to our snowmaking system, which gives mother nature a helping hand,” the Mt Buller website says.
“When temperatures are suitable, Mt Buller can make snow on our most popular runs, including Bourke Street, Little Buller Spur and Wombat, the Summit area, Chamois and northern runs including Burnt Hut Spur and Shakey Knees.”
While it might seem strange to create snow or ship in sand for tourists, these strategies are tame compared to the collection of clever (or crazy) tourism ploys we have rounded up below.
A real “Jurassic Park”
Tucked away in Cuba’s Baconao National Park is the closest thing you will get to a Jurassic experience. The Valle de la Prehistoria (Prehistoric Valley) covers 11 hectares of land with 200 life-sized prehistoric creatures.
The Santiago de Cuba tourist attraction includes everything from brontosaurus and pterodactyls to cave men, and is divided into three different eras: Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic.
There is also a natural science museum for anyone who wants to learn more about the paleontological side of things. But unlike Spielberg’s famous Jurassic Park, the Tyrannosaurus Rex here won’t come to get you – every creature is made out of sturdy cement to withstand the elements.
Remember when everyone thought 2012 would be the end of the world? Well Caribbean country Belize decided it would literally make the most of the years leading up to 21st December 2012.
The tiny English-speaking island was home to the ancient Mayan civilisation, whose calendar ended on this particular date in 2012. So Belize decided to offer travellers a “Maya 2012 passport” – a souvenir booklet that allows the holder single entry into a number of participating archaeological and historical Mayan sites.
It was the centrepiece of Belize’s countrywide effort to enhance the 2012 experience for travellers interested in experiencing Mayan culture and history during this enigmatic year. As well as the tourist passport, Belize businesses ran a number of other traditional events and promotions, including group weddings, music, arts and food festivals and a night’s stay in a Mayan ghost town.
Some hotels even offered complimentary traditional Maya outfits to guests. But since the world didn’t end in 2012, the Belize Tourism Board now suggests visitors “discover the past culture that still thrives today”.
The name says it all, really. This tourist attraction is literally an alley covered in bubblegum in San Luis Obispo, California. The city’s Chamber of Commerce estimates there are over 1.7 million pieces of gum along the 21-metre alleyway in the downtown area.
According to the San Luis Obispo Vacations website it is one of the “strangest and most popular landmark attractions”, but adds that it is an “anomaly” when compared to the rest of the downtown area.
“Begun at least as early as the 1960s in what is thought to have been an unofficial graduating student ceremony or school rivalry, this is a grassroots prank that has really stuck,” the local company says.
“And since there is no stopping the organic growth of the bubble-blowing movement, you may as well join it. Grab a gum ball at local Powell’s Sweet Shoppe (and perhaps some hand sanitizer for afterward), head over to Bubblegum Alley, appreciate the communal art form for what it is, and stick your unique stamp on SLO.”
The UK has Stonehenge and the US has this: Carhenge is a replica of the popular monolithic Wonder of the World but – as the name suggests – it’s made completely out of cars.
It was designed and built by artist Jim Reinders as a memorial to his father, and sits just outside of Alliance, Nebraska. According to the Carhenge website, 39 cars make up the sculpture, all sprayed grey and matching the proportions of the original Stonehenge.
“Some autos are held upright in pits five feet deep, trunk end down, while other cars are placed to form the arches and welded in place… The honor of depicting the heel stone goes to a 1962 Caddy.”
Take a dip in your favourite drink
Have you ever wished for an everlasting cup of coffee or tea? What about wine, or something stronger? At Japan’s Yunessun Spa Resort, you can get more than a cup’s full of any of these drinks – by bathing in them.
The resorts spa menu offers 25 different experiences and includes sake, wine, green tea and coffee, so you can really find a spa to suit your tastes. Each of the spas is also complete with a drink-relevant centrepiece: a bamboo barrel for the sake, a teapot for the green tea, an oak barrel and bottle for the wine spa and regular performances of pouring real coffee into the coffee spa.
Yuneesun says it also has a “wild side”, with “dynamic water attractions including huge waterfalls and water slides”; a shopping mall, and an optional cashless payment system using wireless digital wristbands.
Metropolis in southern Illinois, USA, was named well before the Superman comics first came out, but it has been known as the “hometown of Superman” since 1972. The tourism board has also gone to great lengths to get fans flying in by building a 15 foot (4.57 metre) bronze monument in Superman’s honour.
This incarnation of Superman has stood tall in the town since 1986 and was joined by a Lois Lane statue in 2010.
Visitors wanting to get more for their money in Metropolis could also time a stay around the annual Superman Celebration in June every year, with talks by celebrities connected to the famous comic book hero, competitions, games and film screenings all part of the fun.
The Paris sewer museum
While the French name might fool you, the Musée des égouts de Paris
really is a museum for the city’s sewerage networks. The official Paris Info website describes it as “a unique way to discover Paris, an exhibition showing the water cycle in Paris and its history”.
“You can follow the history of the sewers, from the days of Lutèce to the present day, through a 500m underground path.”
But travelers hoping to see a different side of Paris have more mixed reviews of this particular museum. Reviews on sites like TripAdvisor range from “disgusting but interesting” to the (inevitable) opinion that “it stinks”.
“Maybe if you are an engineer or work in the sewer system in your home town you will find this tour interesting. If you like the smell of raw sewage and seeing someone else’s excrement then maybe you will find this place nice,” one review says.
Another suggests it would be “suitable for Les Mis fanatics”, as there are images of the sewer trip taken by Jean Val Jean. Regardless of the mixed reviews, however, this museum still gets a lot of attention from tourists throughout the year.
Tourism plans may range from the cute and quirky right through to the totally bizarre, as these destinations clearly demonstrate.
But at least you know there are all kinds of adventures and activities you can choose from no matter where you are in the world.
Images: Dinosaurs at Prehistoric Valley in Baconao National Park, source: Wikimedia Commons; Carhenge screenshot from YouTube video (above).