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11 Places Where Trash Has Turned Into a Tourist Attraction

Take a garbage road trip to these magnificent tourist attractions across the United States, all made from stuff saved from the scrap heap.
Cadillac Ranch Credit: mikenan1, flickr
Cadillac Ranch Credit: mikenan1, flickr

Creativity takes all forms. Some people write sonnets, decorate cakes, or paint landscapes. Others follow a different path: they flatten beer cans and nail them on their homes, embed found objects in mazes of concrete walls, bury cars in fields, and build giant sculptures in the desert. Here are 11 places where a person’s creativity took the form of turning trash into a one-of-a-kind tourist attraction.

 

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Beer Can House

You may hear this Houston house before you see it, as even a slight breeze causes a loud tinkling sound from thousands of garlands made of cut beer cans hanging from the roof of this small home. In 1968, retired upholsterer John Milkovisch began placing metal, rocks, and other objects into concrete in his yard so he wouldn’t have to mow grass any longer. That naturally led to him flattening an estimated 50,000 beer cans and nailing them to the exterior of his home, then stringing curtains of garlands, slowly turning it into the Beer Can House. His wife, Mary, good-naturedly went along on the condition the inside of the room remained beer-can free. The couple has passed away and the home is now owned by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art.

 

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Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

It’s not your typical garden. Rather than vegetables, flowers, and herbs, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens has mazes and small rooms made of concrete walls embedded with objects like tiles, mirrors, bicycle parts, doll pieces, bottles, and broken pottery. Instead of walking on grass, visitors stroll down colorful tile-and-mosaic embedded lanes. It’s all the work of artist Isaiah Zagar, who took over vacant lots near his run-down neighborhood and began constructing the concrete walls over a period of 14 years. It opened as Philadelphia Magic Gardens in 2008 and is now an event facility, museum, and gallery space.

House on the Rock

Imagine an Infinity Room that projects 218 feet from the house and soars 156 above the Wyoming Valley; the world’s largest carousel; a 200-foot sea creature; and an entire life-size street that’s a recreation of a 19th-century village. These oddities and much more make up the House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin. It all started in the 1940s when Alex Jordan began constructing a home on a 60-foot chimney of rock to house the varied items he obtained from his travels around the world. The house opened to the public in 1960. The result is a carnival-like (some say nightmarish) complex of odd-shaped rooms filled with objects.

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum

Described as a “junk Dada electronic wasteland,” the Outdoor Desert Art Museum in Joshua Tree, California, is a 10-acre attraction made up of more than 100 large-scale sculptures created of junked electronics like barrels, televisions, bicycles, and tires. Los Angeles artist Noah Purifoy moved to the desert in Joshua Tree and spent the last 15 years of his life creating the sculptures. The museum and a cultural center are now run by the Noah Purifoy Foundation.

 

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Old Car City USA

This 40-acre junkyard in White, Georgia, filled with 4,400 classic cars has a special appeal to visitors from around the world, as well as photographers who bring models here for photo shoots among the rusted old ruins of decaying car carcasses. But there’s more than just classic cars: Old Car City USA has a small indoor gallery filled with thousands of Styrofoam cups covered in ink. Owner Dean Lewis calls this his “Doodle Room.” He started creating the cups after a doctor told him to give up smoking 38 years ago and estimates he has made more than 4,000 of them, including one he worked on for more than 14 hours.

For the rest of the most incredible treasures built out of trash, like the Cadillac Ranch car art museum in Texas, visit Fodor's.