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When it comes to tourist attractions in North Carolina, you probably think of some of the obvious ones like Biltmore Estate in Asheville, the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk or the sandy beaches of the Outer Banks. But, if your idea of fun includes the slightly more obscure or unusual, than boy, does the Tarheel State have some awesomely weird things for you to check out on your next vacation. From a giant metal head and the world’s largest frying pan, to whirligigs and a road that leads nowhere, you will definitely want to schedule in some time to check out these wacky attractions.
Located in the middle of a rather unassuming office park in Charlotte, “Metalmorphosis” is a work of art by Czech artist David Cerny. Made up of 40 giant rotating pieces of steel, it is shaped like a giant head with a mouth that spits water into the surrounding pool. To add to the piece’s uniqueness, all of the segments move independently, creating constantly changing shapes that are mesmerizing to watch. If you can’t make it out to see the sculpture in person (or you just get hooked on watching it change), you can also watch it online 24 hours a day via a webcam.
Do you remember the little “camera” you used to make out of a shoebox when you were little? Well, the Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky in Raleigh is like a giant version of that. What looks on the outside like a squatty little hut or a house for a hobbit, is actually a giant “camera obscura.” When you enter the hut and close the door, it becomes light-tight, with only a small hole in the roof. Just like the shoebox camera of your childhood, that small hole acts as a camera obscura and projects images of the surrounding trees, clouds and sky onto the interior walls of the hut. It’s something you truly have to see in person to believe. Make sure to snap a photo or two with your real camera while you’re inside!
The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in Wilson is a weirdly awesome creation by artist Vollis Simpson. The “whirligigs” (as he called them) resemble giant, reflector-covered windmills and reach more than 50 feet in the air. Although the more than 30 whirligigs exist in a field in rural North Carolina, parts of the display have been featured in everything from a New York City department store window to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
The small town of Rose Hill is home to the world’s largest operational frying pan. At 15 feet wide and 176 square feet, it weighs a whopping two tons and can hold up to 200 gallons of cooking oil. Which it does, every fall during the North Carolina Poultry Jamboree, when it can hold up to 365 whole chickens at one time! During the rest of the year, it’s mostly just a novelty but it still makes for a great photo opp with the family.
If you’re a fan of unusually large things, then you’ll want to head over to High Point next, where you can see the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers. Standing nearly 40 feet tall, the dresser is intricately designed with Queen Anne-style accents, metal handles and four large drawers, and even features a giant pair of mismatched socks hanging off the front. It’s a nod to the town’s furniture history and also houses usable office space in the back. Perfect for visitors driving by, it’s a super cool spot to stop for a picture.
In the 1930’s, a half dozen Shell stations were built in the shape of giant yellow clamshells to promote the brand and draw in customers. Unfortunately, the idea didn’t last and only one of these stations remains, located on the corner of Peachtree and East Prague Streets in Winston-Salem. Although it’s no longer a functioning gas station, it now is a museum unto itself, with newspaper articles, photographs and other forms of memorabilia lining the interior walls.
If you’ve been in the car for a long time on the family summer road trip, you may feel as if you’re going nowhere. Fortunately, this road in Bryson City will literally take you nowhere. Located in the Great Smoky Mountains, the road was originally supposed to run from Bryson City to Deals Gap. But only a small portion of the road, about seven miles long, was ever completed. So, it now ends with a quarter mile long tunnel that leads to nothing.