If you’re anything like me, you’d rather see the world’s largest ball of twine than catch a glimpse of a run-of-the mill skyscraper. Because seeing such attractions is not just about the creation itself, but imagining the minds behind such strange endeavors. Oregon has no shortage of ambitious artists and entrepreneurs, giving us lots of unique road trip destinations. Perhaps this list will prompt you to build the world’s largest [fill in the blank] right here in Corvallis. Read on to get inspired.
In the 1960’s, founder Roger Tofte had the idea for a theme park. He purchased 20 acres off I-5 and began construction, one storybook figure and building at a time. Having worked for the Oregon State Highway Department as a draftsman and artist, Rogers had both the creativity and persistence needed to make this park a reality. Since it opened in 1971, Rogers and his family have continued to add new attractions like the Tofteville western town, haunted house, and Comedy Theatre. They would later add the Ice Mountain Bobsled roller coaster, Old Europe Village, and animatronics, among other things. Even if fairytales aren’t your thing, seeing it is like witnessing the manifestation of a man’s strange and beautiful dream.
Located at 8462 Enchanted Way SE, Turner, OR 97392
Peterson Rock Garden, Redmond
Much like the Enchanted Forest, this next attraction is the brainchild of one folk artist. Danish immigrant Rasmus Peterson spent the last 17 years of his life collecting rocks, petrified wood, glass, and shells, using them to build replicas of famous structures until his death in 1952. You’ll find the Statue of Liberty, U.S. Capitol Building, Independence Hall, and other famous sights. In 2013, Peterson Rock Garden was added to the National Register of Historic Places. A plaque in front of the Statue of Liberty reads, “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.” So, waste no time and check out this unusual place.
Located at 7930 SW 77th St, Redmond, OR 97756
The Fun Farm
Described as “the far-out park & playground of reuse and recycling” on Roadside America, the Fun Farm was created by artists and antique dealers, Gene Carsey and Mike Craven in 1977. Here you’ll find a lot of Wizard of Oz inspired structures—including a large dollhouse—as well as a bowling ball garden, and many other strange pieces of art. In its heyday, people claim they were greeted by fainting goats, as well as an old dog next to a sign that read, “Hi. My Name is Bear. Buy me a hot dog.” Though it sounds like it has lost some of its luster, if you’re lucky, you may still get a chance to see this artist’s haven, including its odd antiques and impressive costume shop. Though, from the chattering online, it sounds like it may be hit or miss.
Located at 64975 Deschutes Pleasant Ridge Rd, Bend, OR 97701
In 1953, a former CPA who owned his own mill machinery supply business moved to Port Orford and started building a dinosaur park. E.V. “Ernie” Nelson took three years to research and begin constructing his life-size replicas. He finally opened the Prehistoric gardens in 1955, and would create 23 dinosaurs over 30 years. Starting with a metal frame, Nelson used mesh-like metal lath and concrete to sculpt his life-like creatures. The result is the interception of art, science, and history. Sculptures like the Brachiosaurs took four years to finish and stand 46 feet tall and are 86 feet long. To top off this impressive feat, the rainforest of the Southern Oregon Coast serves as a convincing backdrop.
Located at 36848 US-101, Port Orford, OR 97465
Oregon Vortex, Gold Hill
According to the Cooper family, a small office built for a local mining company started sliding down a hill in the early 20th century. Thus, begins the Oregon Vortex and the largely debated House of Mystery. Claiming that the house slid due to a magnetic force—a vortex if you will—they also assert that this vortex causes paranormal activity where visitors can see balls appear to roll uphill and broomsticks stand on end. People also appear to grow in size as they walk across the Ames room. Optical illusion, or mysterious forces we can’t see? SyFy reality show Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files had the same question and concluded the former. Nevertheless, the Oregon Vortex is a pop culture phenomenon and just one of those weird spots in Oregon you should probably experience for yourself.
Located at 4303 Sardine Creek L Fork Rd, Gold Hill, OR 97525
Oregon has an impressively long list of strange attractions, so believe me when I say there’s more where that came from. There’s the World’s Largest Dream Catcher in Charleston, which is pretty self-explanatory. In Aloha, you’ll find Harvey the Giant Rabbit—a 26-foot-tall mutant rabbit-man inspired by Harvey, a film starring Jimmy Stewart and a giant, invisible rabbit. Naturally. Then there’s the Giant Green Space Alien in Bandon which stands at 20 feet in a silver suit. It hangs out next to the Something Awesome Wood Mill and Gift Shop because, why not?
Of course, you can’t turn a corner without finding something weird in Portland, so if strange attractions are your thing, you are definitely in the right state.
By Anika Lautenbach