Lower your expectations enough and any roadside attraction is a good excuse to stretch your legs, lose a couple bucks, and see a genuine slice of Americana you'll likely never visit again.
But some of these destinations have become kitsch institutions. You might even make a trip just to see them. Or at least you won't regret adding the extra time to your journey.
Salvation Mountain Niland, California
Some people use churches, sidewalks or subway cars. Leonard Knight chose to build a 50-foot technicolor adobe mountain in the desert of Southern California in order to spread his message that "God is Love." Knight passed away on Monday at age 82, according to the Los Angeles Times.
For nearly three decades, Knight built the mountain out of adobe and hay, and he painted it with swerving colors and messages, with the hope of sharing that simple message in a big way. And he's succeeded. At least 50 people visit this giant example of outsider art each day. Knight used to greet visitors until he was hospitalized in 2011.
A group of volunteers now maintain the site. Paint donations are always welcome.
Prada Marfa Valentine, Texas
You've seen the pictures on Beyoncé's Tumblr and your trendy Austin friend's Instagram. No, it's not a Prada store. It's not even in Marfa. The "store" is actually an art installation about a half-hour drive northwest of the small west Texas town that has become a pilgrimage destination for artists and hipsterati.
The $80,000 sculpture was created by Elmgreen & Dragset in 2005. The art duo of Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset wanted to leave it alone forever so that it could decompose into the high desert surroundings, providing a commentary on materialism. But when vandals broke in and stole all the shoes three days after it was finished, the artists decided to make repairs and add video cameras. Don't worry -- you can still be as ridiculous as you want when you hold your photo shoot.
US 90; Valentine, Texas
Ruby Falls Chattanooga, Tennessee
While we've come to fear sinkholes, Ruby Falls is proof that they're not all bad. (Although we sure wouldn't have wanted to be walking over Tennessee's Lookout Mountain around 30 million years ago.)
Located 1,120 feet underground, this 145-foot waterfall -- one of the largest publicly accessible underground waterfalls -- was caused by this natural phenomenon.
Stalactites, stalagmites and other cave formations are also explained on the guided cave tours. Tickets are $17.95 for adults, $9.95 for kids ages 3 to 12.
1720 South Scenic Highway, Chattanooga, TN; (423) 821-2544. www.rubyfalls.com
Biosphere 2 Oracle, Arizona
What, you didn't know that earth is Biosphere 1? Well, that's what the developers of this gargantuan lab, known as Biosphere 2, in Oracle, Arizona, consider it. Oil millionaire John P. Allen funded the project hoping it would help us better understand how to colonize Mars.
The 3-acre glass temple included a rainforest, ocean, corral reef, wetland and fog desert. Seven scientists entered the bizarre ecosystem melting pot in 1991 for the first mission. For two years they ran experiments on how to sustain life in a contained environment and when they left two years later, the $151 million project was largely considered a failure. The team had extreme difficulty keeping themselves or the environment healthy.
The University of Arizona took over the property in 2011 and uses it for experiments and classes, and provides daily tours from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Admission for adults is $20; $13 for children ages 6 to 12.
32540 S Biosphere Road, Oracle, AZ; (520) 838-6192. b2science.org