A vivd image comes to mind when I think of Virginia. We were on our way to North Carolina and South Carolina on a spring break trip in 2001 that would ultimately bring us to Florida. It's not a particularly remarkable memory, just a simple, peaceful one of driving through a forest of tall, slender trees while the sun shone through, its rays pushing their way into the forest while Dave Matthews Band played on the radio. I always think of Virginia as a beautiful, relaxing and serene state, and this memory perfectly exemplifies the sentiment in my mind.
My most recent pass through the state provided a quick and delightful addendum to my already high opinion of Virginia. Mrs. Tires and I were driving down the highway from Washington DC to the Great Smoky Mountains during our great American road trip in the summer of 2012. As we stared out the window and enjoyed Virginia's subtle hills and leafy views, we saw a sign for Shenandoah Caverns Park. Curious, we pulled off the highway to check it out. While approaching the visitor parking lot, another attraction caught our eye - a replica of the Statue of Liberty.
The statue was parked in front of a large building, and with our newfound excitement for the bizarre overtaking us, we pulled in there instead. After we parked, we noticed an even more strange and spectacular sight, a giant kootie. You might remember these from the children’s game. This ten-foot high statue brought huge smiles to our unsuspecting faces, so we wandered over there for a closer look and some photos.
There were a few more statues outside. We photographed them mercilessly before heading into the business that hosted these marvels, American Celebration on Parade.
The inside of the building was thoroughly decorated with festive streamers, beads and sparkles which drew us towards a huge, Mardi Gras-style court jester.
Enchanted but slightly confused, we approached the counter to inquire about what we'd stumbled upon. Turns out it was a parade float museum. For a fee of twelve dollars per person, we could enter the museum and witness huge floats that were on display in some famous parades. Intrigued but budget conscious, we wavered on whether we'd go in.
TRAVEL TIP: Not sure if an attraction will be worth the dough? Check out the postcard stand in the gift shop. The postcards will show you the highlights, and you can decide from there whether it will be worth it.
|From the postcard collection|
I followed my own advice, and we decided to skip the parade floats and save the twenty-four dollars. Our appetite for the bizarre had been satisfied by what we saw for free.
As we exited, we noticed a strange sight across the street, a cowboy hat-wearing frog looking through a magnifying glass.
Maybe we weren't done with novelties after all. We headed over there and found The Yellow Barn, a strange Americana-themed museum. This one was free to enter, and it offered wine tasting and a general store in addition to several odd collections.
The true highlight of The Yellow Barn was the overhead model train set, which operated on several tracks perched above the wooden support beams of the building. A quarter made the trains run around the track for five minutes. Best quarter I spent all trip.
The Yellow Barn offered another fun diversion, a petting zoo featuring many roosters and some freaky goats.
After some petting and more photos, we got back in the car and hit the road again. We ended up skipping the caverns entirely. This unintentionally funny postcard showed us all we'd need to know about what we missed.
Many more surprises and delights were in store for us on that road trip, but our findings in Virginia will stay with us forever. It was fantastic to randomly stumble upon these roadside treasures. Our encounter made me love Virginia that much more.
Washington DC, Part 2: Tourist Edition
Tennessee, Part 1: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Tennessee, Part 2: Nashville and Memphis
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