Every once in a while, you see something that makes you ask “what is this doing here?” or “why is this a thing?” In most cases, these are two perfectly legitimate questions. Sometimes it’s better to shut that part of your mind off and simply appreciate what you’re seeing. As it turns out, the Lone Star State is full of many of these kinds of oddities that appeal to our universal love of the weird. This is best shown off by the many wacky roadside attractions in Texas that you can go see at just about any time. In fact, there are so many that we couldn’t possibly list them all here. However, the list below should get you started on your path to the weird side of Texas.
Dalmatian Fire Hydrant
In a city full of strange roadside attractions (like a 135-foot-long alligator), the Dalmatian Hydrant stands out. Planted right outside of the Fire Museum of Texas in downtown Beaumont, this 24-foot-tall white and black-spotted fire hydrant is considered to be the largest of its kind in the world. At this point, you might be wondering “why would anyone build such a large fire hydrant?” As it turns out, truth is stranger than fiction. The hydrant was donated to Beaumont in 1999 by Walt Disney to promote the re-release of the animated flick “101 Dalmatians.” Fun fact: the spots on the hydrant are copyrighted by Walt Disney, adding a touch of Hollywood to this wacky roadside attraction.
Before 1968, the Beer Can House was an unassuming abode on the western side of Houston. Then John Milkovisch, a retired Southern Pacific Railroad worker, started creating unique (and reflective) landscaping features by inlaying marbles, rocks, and metal into concrete and redwood. Eighteen years later, his entire house was covered in more than 50,000 flattened beer cans and featured other touches such as metallic garlands that lowered the family’s energy bills. Today, the home is a beloved Houston attraction that is a fine testament to the kind of odd folk art you see created by spectacularly creative people. To visit the house, simply stop by in the afternoon on any given Saturday or Sunday.
At first glance, the enormous blue crab hovering outside of Rockport Beach just might look like a malevolent beast that somehow climbed out of a 1930’s monster movie. Before you run away screaming, you should know it’s just the Big Blue Crab, a.k.a. the World’s Largest Blue Crab. The hulking behemoth, measuring at 25 feet wide, welcomes visitors to the beach from its perch atop four wooden pylons. This version is in fact a larger recreation of a statue that was removed (and buried!) in 1976. Just like its predecessor, the new Big Blue shares the same oddity: although it’s a male crab, it has red female claws.
Drive through the scenic environs of downtown Hutto and you’ll pass charming storefronts, one-of-a-kind restaurants, and … wait, is that a hippo statue? Yes, and its name is Henrietta. But why? Like any good superhero, Henrietta’s origins are shrouded in myth and mystery. The most popular tale goes like this: a hippo escaped from a circus train that had stopped at Hutto’s depot in 1915. This hopeful hippo trapped itself in the mud of a nearby creek, and the locals were so amused by the efforts to recapture it that they adopted the hippo as the high school mascot. These days, Henrietta isn’t the only hippo in town. Cruise around town and you’ll see dozens of hippos large and small outside of homes, schools, and business. No wonder Hutto is known as the “Official Hippo Capital of Texas.”
That’s right folks. Who needs to go The City of Light, to see the Eiffel Tower when you can just go on a road trip to Paris, Texas? At about 70 feet tall, the Texas version is about 10 times smaller than the original. However, thanks to its highly fashionable red cowboy hat, we believe ours has more style. The Eiffel Tower replica in Paris, Texas, sits outside of the Love Civic Center on the south side of town, and you can roll up to check it out at just about any time.
In his heyday, Paisano Pete was the largest roadrunner in the world. Although he no longer holds that title (thanks, New Mexico), Pete is still a pretty big bird. At 22 feet long and 11 feet tall, he’s easy to spot as you drive through the intersection of North Main Street and East Dickinson Boulevard in Fort Stockton. Since 1979, ol’ Pete has been a talisman of this dusty desert town, as well as one of the most recognizable roadside attractions in the southwest. You can visit Pete at any time, but if you stop by during the holidays you just might see him decked out in his very best Santa outfit. And really, does it get any better than a giant roadrunner dressed like Old Saint Nick? We don’t think so.
There are two things to understand about Texas. First, the Lone Star State is massive. Secondly, you can find just about anything here. The Stonehenge replica in Odessa just about proves this. Located on the campus of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, this roadside oddity was made using limestone sourced from a quarry near Big Spring. What sets this replica apart from others is that it’s just one of a handful of astronomically-aligned recreations in the world. All that’s missing is a little bit of height; Odessa’s Stonehenge is just 14% shorter than the original.
Everyone knows about toilet humor … but toilet art? At Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum, it’s a refined art form of its own. This unusual museum in San Antonio is full of more than 1,000 toilet seats adorned with cassette tapes, shells, magnets, light switches, flags, and just about anything else you can imagine. All of this is the work of Barney Smith, a retired master plumber who started using toilet seats for art because they reminded him of plaques used to mount hunting trophies. Over the years, Smith’s collection took over his garage that eventually became the museum. If you want to visit, you’ll need to make an appointment. Admission is free, but donations (even of toilet seats) are welcome.
If you’re a fan of classic TV, you’ve probably heard of The Munsters. You know, the 1960’s-era sitcom that followed the hilarious antics of the Munsters, a clan of monsters that thought of themselves as a perfectly normal working-class family. One of the notable parts of the show was the Munster’s home, an arresting Victorian-style house with all sorts of design flairs. That home has been painstakingly recreated in Waxahachie, including all the small touches like some of the interior furnishings that were actually used in the show. Despite looking like a tourist attraction, The Munster Mansion is actually a private home. However, the owners do offer private tours throughout the year, which you can arrange via their website.
They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and nowhere is that more apt than the Cathedral of Junk in Austin. This awe-inspiring three-story monument is essentially a hodgepodge of anything that could be used to build something. Metal fences, poles, wheels, neon signs, creepy doll heads, signs with generic inspirational quotes, and much more form the structure that would look right at home in a post-apocalyptic movie. Part of the structure has even been overtaken by some of the native plant life, making the whole place feel oddly organic. The Cathedral of Junk is only open to visitors by appointment, so make sure to call before stopping by.