Roadtripfilter: Midwest/Southern edition
December 28, 2017 8:39 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are driving Forth Worth, TX, to Milwaukee, WI. What should we stop at along the way? Extra points for weird, offbeat, and tacky.

We're going Forth Worth --> Oklahoma City --> St. Louis --> Milwaukee. We'll be leaving Forth Worth on the 6th and don't have a specific plan for how long we'll take to get to Milwaukee.

Things we're interested in:
- Architecture
- Animals, especially birds (the American Pigeon Museum is going to be closed during our trip and we are SO SAD!!) and cats
- Books
- Tacky/old school tourist trap stuff
- Weird stuff in general
- Science (especially space)

Things we are not interested in:
- General museums/art galleries that aren't specific/unique in some way
- Any sort of hiking/parks unless they are traversable by wheelchair and don't take extensive energy
- Sports
- Military/aviation
- Bars/alcohol

Things already on our itinerary:
- Museum of Osteology, OK
- Myriad Botanical Gardens, OK
- Pops Soda Ranch, OK
- Fantastic Caverns, MO
- World Bird Sanctuary, MO
- Saint Louis Science Center, MO
- Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, MO
- Dana Thomas House, IL
- Route 66 Arcade Museum, IL
posted by brook horse to Travel & Transportation around United States (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The City Museum in St. Louis is an AskMe favorite. A number of parts aren't easily accessible for wheelchairs but there's enough cool stuff there that it would still be worth it.

While you are in Atlanta, IL for the arcade museum, the Palms Grill is a lovely place for lunch, and "Tall Paul" across the street (a "muffler man" holding a giant hot dog) makes a good photo.
posted by AgentRocket at 9:09 AM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

A quick clarification: I can walk, just not long distances without rest--indoor attractions don't need to be wheelchair accessible!
posted by brook horse at 9:16 AM on December 28, 2017

The Museum of Osteology is great! OKC also has a couple of unique museums that might also be of interest: the American Banjo Museum and the Oklahoma Museum of Telephone History.

If you take I-44 from OKC to St. Louis, you'll pass by Tulsa, which has lots of interesting Art Deco architecture (especially the Boston Avenue Methodist Church). More info here and here.
posted by neushoorn at 9:24 AM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also in Forest Park in St. Louis (where the Science Center is) is the Saint Louis Zoo, which is one of the best anywhere and also free. It has a flight cage from 1904.

Seconding the City Museum — it'll definitely scratch your tacky/tourist trap itch, and there's a lot of old architectural details to be found as well.

If you've got the time, maybe check out our Central Library downtown for books/architecture. It was designed by Cass Gilbert, built in 1912 and significantly renovated/restored/updated in 2012. They offer architectural tours of the building.
posted by brentajones at 9:33 AM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

A couple that are worth a stop:

Steamboat Arabia museum in Kansas city: 1850's steam boat sinks in mud, is perfectly preserved until dug up 130 years later. Lots of stuff to look at, indoors. website

House on the Rock, Spring Green, Wisconsin: weird architecture, lots of kitsch and tacky stuff, and extensive oddball museum collections in a beautiful, park-like setting. Call ahead to be sure they'll be open, as they close down for parts of the winter. Featured in Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" book. Mostly indoors. website
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:48 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Museum of the Dog, before it relocates from St. Louis to NYC
posted by TravellingCari at 9:53 AM on December 28, 2017

And if you go to Tulsa, you'll be very close to Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper building in Bartlesville OK. Price Tower (link seems to have some auto audio - sorry)
posted by MovableBookLady at 10:03 AM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


Three locations. The Charleston store has an aisle of bins full of various dried meats that have to be seen to be believed. Incredible tourist tat, and an absolutely huge fireworks warehouse. I’d scheduled two hours for showing the warehouse to my sister; we were there all day.

Lambert’s Café (Home of the Throwed Rolls) - Sikeston, MO
A Missouri institution. Plain food and plenty of it, and when the rolls come out of the oven piping hot, the servers walk through the restaurant and pitch them to diners holding their hands up.

Hannibal, MO
Mark Twain's home town. A fine tourist trap.


Guttenberg, IA
The prettiest little town on the Mississippi River. Lock and dam, car ferry.

The Field of Dreams site (Dodge County, IA)


The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle
(Collinsville, IL)
The Hippie Memorial (Arcola, IL)
If you’re into wood products for the kitchen – cutting boards, chopping blocks, etc. - hit the John Boos Factory Outlet (Effingham, IL)

Southwestern Wisconsin is a little bit of God’s country, even in the winter months. Very, very scenic.

The National Mustard Museum is a real hoot
(Middleton, WI)
Mount Horeb, WI – see the Trollway and have lunch at the Grumpy Troll brewpub
Spring Green, WI – the very definition of tourist trap, the one and only House on the Rock!
Also Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin
New Glarus, Wisconsin - A charming little Swiss town in the high hills of southwestern Wisconsin, home of the New Glarus Brewery, famous for Spotted Cow beer


The Spice House THE original Penzey family spice business, started by the Penzey parents, now run by their daughters. The son went off and founded his own business, called Penzeys – but The Spice House still does the spice business the way their parents taught it to them: fresh spices and herbs, freshly ground and mixed every single week.

Usinger’s Deli If you like German food, stop here. In fact, the neighborhood in which The Spice House and Usinger's reside is full of interesting little shops and businesses to prowl around in.
posted by Lunaloon at 10:28 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

In Racine, WI you can tour the SCJohnson campus designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The tour is free but you need a reservation.
posted by get off of my cloud at 10:52 AM on December 28, 2017

If you're going to the World Bird Sanctuary, you should also drive through Lone Elk Park (it's right next to it...) .. You can see Elk, occasionally Bison, white tail deer, etc...

The Endangered Wolf Center is also nearby and worth a trip. Make sure to get reservations.
posted by Jacob G at 11:42 AM on December 28, 2017

Adding my voice to cosmicbandito and Lunaloon: you have to see the House on the Rock! Don't expect to zip in and out; I'd count on at least 3-4 hours there if you can. This is your perfect trifecta of weird, offbeat, AND tacky! It's amazing!

For top-notch science (and animals, like a herd of American Bison), you could stop at Fermilab. Visitors page!
posted by spelunkingplato at 4:26 PM on December 28, 2017

Cahokia Mounds, on the Illinois side of St. Louis, is well worth a visit. They have an excellent visitor center and the Plaza tour trail is wheelchair accessible. You can also easily see Monk's Mound from the road, even if you can't climb up it. It is one of only a handful of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the US. Bonus - it's not far from the World's Largest Ketchup Bottle! It is also right off Interstate 55, which you'll be on to get from St. Louis to Milwaukee.

For quirky architecture, you can't go wrong driving by the Gold Dome while you're in OKC.
posted by Preserver at 7:43 PM on December 28, 2017

That sounds like such an awesome adventure! You might like the Museum of Natural History in Iowa City. My favorite exhibits are Rusty the giant sloth, the outdated but delightful dioramas, the Laysan Island Cyclorama, and relevant to your interests: the Hall of Birds. And just on the other side of I-80 is the Raptor Center at Lake MacBride. The center is close to the parking lot. As I recall, the paths between enclosures are dirt, but generally wide and smooth.
posted by MrBobinski at 5:26 PM on December 29, 2017

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