When my friend Megan and I decided to take a trip together from her hometown of Cleveland, we chose our destination based on driving distance. We basically looked at a map, saw that Louisville, Kentucky was a reasonable distance away, and then booked our hotel. We had no idea what to expect in Louisville, nor what kind of adventures we could get ourselves into along the way.
If you’ve been following along on my journey for a while, then you know that I’m a big lover of road trips; they’re one of my top ways to travel. The feeling you get when you roll the car windows down and crank the tunes with one of your best friends is unmatched, and pulling the car over every hour or so to see all the quirky roadside attractions is pure bliss in my books.
So, the night before we were set to depart for Louisville, Megan and I sat on her front porch in Cleveland scouring the internet for the best things to see on our way to Bourbon country.
Because, as Clark Griswold likes to say, getting there is half the fun!
America’s Great Roadside Attractions: Cleveland to Louisville
America’s Creepiest Ronald McDonald (Sunbury, Ohio)
Address: 7806 East State Route 37, Sunbury, OH
The first stop on our road trip was a couple of hours out of Cleveland in never-heard-of-it Sunbury, Ohio. A non-negotiable must-see if you’re heading along the I-71, this jarring monument exists right beside an actual McDonalds and is even creepier than it looks in the photos. Apparently, nobody knows the reasoning behind why this Ronald McDonald and a bunch of his stare-into-your-soul happy meal friends are hanging out in this field….but, does it matter? When something is this creepy, does it need a reason to exist?
We felt Ronald’s soul come alive as soon as we stepped out of the car and began to make our way over to him. So, to honor his obvious demon possession, Megan and I decided to make it look like I was giving her an exorcism in the photos…. sorta.
Field of Cement Corn (Dublin, Ohio)
Address: 4995 Rings Rd, Dublin, OH 43017, USA
After our emotionally-taxing Ronald McDonald experience, Megan and I hit the road again, this time gunning for a giant field of 109 six-foot-tall cement corns just a half-hour drive away. Located in Dublin, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus) these cement corns were originally erected as an ode to a man named Sam Frantz — the godfather of hybrid corn — and sits on his former cornfield.
The installation was commissioned by the Dublin Arts Council in 1994 who brought in artist Malcolm Cochran to bring the vision to life. In creating the cornfield, Malcolm used three different molds of corn of a variety he called a “double-cross hybrid called Corn Belt Dent Corn.”
Over a hundred clones later and you have the scene we see today.
While it’s not too far of a stretch to understand why this giant field of corn exists in a town called Dublin, it does feel rather out of place among its neighbors — corporate offices, parking lots, and bland suburbia. I’m not sure exactly where I would have expected the corns to be, maybe out in an actual field somewhere, but it felt strange parking in an office lot and walking out to the corns.
That said, I have no regrets. The corns delivered in a way only a field of human-sized cement corns can.
Inniswood Metro Gardens (Westerville, Ohio)
Address: 940 S Hempstead Rd, Westerville, OH
A stop that was less “wtf” and more of a peaceful retreat than our previous ones, Inniswood Metro Gardens was a breath of fresh air, literally, during the mid-day southern Ohio heat. Located just on the other side of Columbus, Inniswood Metro Gardens is situated on 123 acres of lush land and is home to rolling streams, thick woods, and more than 2000 species of plants.
We grabbed our water bottles and wandered through the twisting paths of the gardens for over an hour, stopping to smell the roses as we went.
World Peace Bell (Newport, Kentucky)
Address: 425 York Street, Newport, Kentucky
After our hour of frolicking in the shade of the gardens, we were on the road again, this time headed towards our penultimate stop of the day — the World Peace Bell in Newport Kentucky. Our only roadside stop past the Kentucky border, Newport is located just across the river from Cincinnati and is a town brimming with history. Just on our walk from the parking lot to the bell alone, we passed beautiful old churches and courthouses, barber shops that looked like they stepped right out of the 1950s, and the house of the man who invented the Tommygun.
Is it ironic that we passed that house on our way to the World Peace Bell? Maybe in an Alanis kind of way. I’ll let you answer that.
The World Peace Bell in Newport weighs 66,000 lbs, is 12 feet wide, and was the largest swinging bell in the world from 2000 until 2006. The bell features engravings paying tribute to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as important events marking the social progress of humanity over the past 1000 years. The bell was dedicated on December 31, 1999, and its first swing marked the beginning of the new Millenium right as the clock struck 12 on January 1.
The World Peace Bell is one of more than twenty Peace Bells scattered around the world and swings at 5 minutes to noon every day.
Once we got our fill of the bell, we were on the road again, this time headed straight for our hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. Stay tuned for a rundown of all the fun had in Bourbon Country!
What are some of your favorite roadside attractions?