June 23, 2006 7:50 AM   Subscribe

Name some big things in the continental US. Examples of the sort of thing I'm looking for are inside, but if I had to sum it up it would be: man-made or natural objects that are awesome in size, scale, ambition, or displacement from their surroundings -- and which I can drive to without needing special permission or lots of advance preparation.

Some of the things I've thought of already are the Lightning Field, Spiral Jetty, Devils Tower, the Very Large Array... Go ahead and list obvious stuff like Mt. Rushmore or Yellowstone or Niagara falls if you like, since I'm sure I've forgotten about at least some of them, but I'm most interested in hearing about obscure or weird locations that maybe only locals would have heard about: abandoned airforce bases, maybe; stripmines; weird or obsessive shrines in the woods, whatever you can think of.

This isn't for a book or photo project. I just have some time, a car, and a need to recapture a sense of wonder.
posted by ook to Travel & Transportation (90 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Hoover Dam may be too obvious.
posted by pmbuko at 7:52 AM on June 23, 2006

Mt. Zion National Park. crazy beautiful.
posted by pmbuko at 7:53 AM on June 23, 2006

I don't know if trees count but I was amazed at the size of them in the RedWood Forest near San Franisco (maybe 2 hours drive - i don't remember exactly).
posted by bingwah at 7:55 AM on June 23, 2006

Big Tex.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:58 AM on June 23, 2006

Grand Canyon
Bryce Canyon
(and I second pmbuku - Mt. Zion rules)
posted by inigo2 at 8:00 AM on June 23, 2006

Ball of Twine
Tons more here.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:02 AM on June 23, 2006

Carhenge. "Official site of the replica of Stonehenge created from vintage American-made automobiles."
posted by Atom12 at 8:02 AM on June 23, 2006

The Crazy Horse Memorial.
posted by chrisege at 8:04 AM on June 23, 2006

Meteor Crater in Arizona.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:08 AM on June 23, 2006

A few off the top of my head: The Grand Canyon is a must, also Dead Horse Point State Park (UT), Canyon De Chelly (AZ), Chaco Canyon (NM), the amazing cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde in Colorado, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Las Vegas (bizarre but you've gotta see it once), the rugged coast of Maine (make sure you take a trip out to Monhegan Island, or any island for that matter), New York City (though I admit it may not be the easiest place to take a car), the aforementioned Zion, plus of course Bryce Canyon (UT), the Badlands and Carlsbad Caverns, the beautiful adobe city of Santa Fe, NM (take an evening trip on the Santa Fe Railroad, stop at the Los Golondrinas living history museum and be sure to visit the Tsankawi ruins on the way to Los Alamos; they're magical). I'm envious of your journey ahead!
posted by kayzie at 8:09 AM on June 23, 2006

Response by poster: God I love AskMe.

These are all great; keep 'em coming :)
posted by ook at 8:09 AM on June 23, 2006

Mount Shasta -- drive north up I5 and you see it floating on the horizon 100+ miles away, and it just gets bigger and, well, yes, more awesome as you approach. (Allow three days if you want to climb, unless you're really pro -- and you'll need to be in good condition in any case.)
posted by anadem at 8:11 AM on June 23, 2006

Not exactly awesome in size, but I found the the Natural Bridge in Virginia interesting and there is quite a bit of American history surrounding it.
posted by Yorrick at 8:12 AM on June 23, 2006

Obvious: Pickup the Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson video at the video store. The size, the scale, the ambition, it's all there.

My other recommendation for regaining a sense of wonder would be driving through BC, Yukon Territory, into Alaska.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 8:15 AM on June 23, 2006

Death Valley National Park is bigger than the state of Connecticut.

I'm assuming the lat/lon in your profile is correct, so I'll keep the rest in the Northeast.

Practically next door to you there's the 4.75-mile-long, 130-year-old Hoosac Tunnel. Though there's not much to see unless you like looking at a hole in the side of a hill, it was quite the product of hubris when it was put together.

The North Maine Woods is 3.5 million acres (again, bigger than Connecticut) of private land and roads (accessible for a fee) in the beautifully unpopulated heart of the state.

The Saint Lawrence Seaway was one of the great engineering feats of the 1950s.

A little further: Niagara Falls (slowly I turned...) Go to the Canadian side and be totally blown away. Bring a date and you will get lucky.
posted by Opposite George at 8:16 AM on June 23, 2006

Crater Lake, Oregon.
posted by Rumple at 8:16 AM on June 23, 2006

Stone Mountain (Atlanta)
posted by candyland at 8:19 AM on June 23, 2006

I can't find any good pictures of it, but the King's Park Asylum on Long Island (near Huntington) is amazing. Not only are some of the buildings gigantic, but it's abandoned. It's incredibly creepy, no matter what time of day you go up there.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:23 AM on June 23, 2006

Response by poster: I'll keep the rest in the Northeast.
Good point, I should've specified a general area...

I'm actually starting in Seattle -- long story -- then from there to the far southwest, then by whatever circuitous route feels right wandering home to MA. So really anything in the continental US, excepting possibly the deep south, is fair game.
posted by ook at 8:24 AM on June 23, 2006

Oh, here are a bunch of photos.

This is a good one.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:25 AM on June 23, 2006

Sorry, reread your original post and saw Niagara Falls in there. You'll still get lucky, though.

There's an abandonded (actually, never-used) military airstrip [scroll down] in Galeville, NY that's been turned into a bird refuge. You can walk the length of all the runways. Parent page is chock full of abandoned bases and airstrips.

Also check out -- they have a lot of the "local knowledge" type stuff.
posted by Opposite George at 8:28 AM on June 23, 2006

Mt. Rainier, since you're starting in Seattle. Mt. St. Helens is another one not too far away. The desert in New Mexico is really stunning.
posted by sbrollins at 8:28 AM on June 23, 2006

Should have previewed!
posted by sbrollins at 8:29 AM on June 23, 2006

Yay on the Mt. Shasta. I grew up in Redding and it was always on the northern horizon.

If you're in Bryce/Zion area of Utah, you can go south to Page AZ and there's Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. It is a similar design to Hoover Dam [smaller, newer with maybe .01% of the tourists] but it looks odd in the middle of the desert with a narrow canyon on one side and a giant lake on the other. If I recall the earth is red there and there's little vegitation outside of the little town of Page so it looks like Mars.

Monument Valley which is in NE AZ has some awesome scenery. From PAge you can take the highway down to Flagstaff and see the Grand Canyon, then go east toward the Meteor creator, Monument Valley and the Petrified Forest.

That part of the world has incredible scenery and the beauty in the starkness is stunning.
posted by birdherder at 8:31 AM on June 23, 2006

The only thing in America that's given me a genuine "fuck that's huge" is the Sears Tower from the top. From the bottom amongst the Chicago skyline it doesn't look very tall. For that, you need the Williams Tower which is in the middle of nowhere (next to Houston Galleria mall, in fact). Also, now I think about it, the Mall Of America in Minneapolis is also pretty incredible.
posted by cillit bang at 8:31 AM on June 23, 2006

Two of the largest wooden buildings in the world are located in southern California. They were built as blimp hangers in 1942.
posted by jvilter at 8:34 AM on June 23, 2006

Rumple's spot on with Crater Lake, one of the most mind-blowingly beautiful things in the world, esp. on a clear cold day. Wow.

I'll chime in with Monument Valley - remarkable and unmistakeably awe-inspiring.

On preview, yeah, mentioned already. Whatever, then, I second it.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:36 AM on June 23, 2006

Enchanted Rock is especially cool if you camp there under a full moon.
posted by notbuddha at 8:37 AM on June 23, 2006

You can check out Giant Rock in Landers, CA. It's reputed to be the largest freestanding boulder in the world and the site of of annual UFO conventions.

And no trip to Landers is complete until you visit the Integratron.
posted by buggzzee23 at 8:39 AM on June 23, 2006

Go to the post office and buy the current pane of 39 cent stamps titled "Wonders of America -- Land of Superlatives."

"The United States is a land of superlatives, rich in natural and man-made wonders. Forty of the most remarkable places, structures, plants, and animals in America apear on this stamp pane."

The pane features the tallest monument (Gateway Arch), longest covered bridge (Cornish - Windsor Bridge), longest cave (Mammoth Cave), etc.
posted by partner at 8:42 AM on June 23, 2006

At the Glen Canyon Dam area, I'd say cruise a few miles over the nearby Utah border to take some day hikes down into the Slot Canyons of Paria Canyon. I did a 5 day, 35 mile hike down the canyon in 1999 that was totally and utterly amazing and puts you in your place (there are sections of canyon with 500 foot stone walls towering over you and you can almost touch both sides of the canyon with your arm span).

You can do some day hikes of 2-5 miles down into the side canyons that are near the start of the big hike I did. I saw lots of day hikers in the first side slot canyon taking amazing photographs. (google image search for slot canyons to see what it looks like, it's a classic photography subject)
posted by mathowie at 8:45 AM on June 23, 2006

Wonder for me looked like the stars above a cabin on Clear Lake in the North Maine Woods about 40 miles west of Presque Isle.

Best accessed by sea plane, not Nissan Altima.
posted by UncleHornHead at 8:48 AM on June 23, 2006

Harper's Ferry, VA
The St. Louis Arch (view from the top if you go inside)
posted by galimatias at 8:49 AM on June 23, 2006

If you make it as far south as Tucson AZ, consider touring the ASARCO copper mine and the Titan missile museum (they're only a few miles apart). This is awesome of a different kind, I think. The copper mine is unbelievably huge, and the effort expended for such a small payback is astounding.
For someone who grew up in the 60's with duck-and-cover drills, the Titan missile museum will put a face on the nebulous nuclear demon. Several of the docents there were stationed at the site when it was active, and have some fascinating stories about life with the big red button.
posted by ChromeDome at 8:51 AM on June 23, 2006

The World's Largest Ball of Paint in Alexandria Indiana (also claim to have once had the world's largest hairball) check it out at
posted by Gungho at 8:51 AM on June 23, 2006

Groom, Texas: 2nd largest cross in the Western Hemisphere.
posted by nyterrant at 8:52 AM on June 23, 2006

Airship hangars. There's a pair in Tustin, down in Orange County, one in Oregon; and three at Moffett Field -- and the big one may be torn down soon. (It's difficult for civillians to get at the one at Lakehurst, and now it's surrounded by other buildings.) Also, the Vehicle Assemble Building, at the Cape.
posted by Rash at 8:53 AM on June 23, 2006

Also, even bigger cross in Illinois.
posted by nyterrant at 8:53 AM on June 23, 2006

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge in New Orleans. At 24 miles long, it's the longest bridge in the world. If you've ever flown over it, it certainly stands out in contrast to the water below it.
posted by galimatias at 8:54 AM on June 23, 2006

Ahem, even bigger cross in Illinois.
posted by nyterrant at 8:54 AM on June 23, 2006

Wall Drug for the worst coffee you can buy for 10 cents.
posted by hobgadling at 9:00 AM on June 23, 2006

The Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Everything is huge. The launch pads for the shuttle, the rocket garden, the transporter, and especially the building where they have the Saturn-V sitting on its side.
posted by bondcliff at 9:04 AM on June 23, 2006

Big Brutus.
posted by LarryC at 9:08 AM on June 23, 2006

I've never been there, but the Longaberger Basket Co. has a giant building shaped like a basket. Probably not much to see, but I'm sure they have a shop with lots of their neat products in it.
posted by bristolcat at 9:11 AM on June 23, 2006

Possibly out of your way, but the Mackinac Bridge is impressive. It's either the third1, sixth2, or tenth3-longest suspension bridge in the world. You can walk across it on Labor Day.

1between anchorages
2total suspension
3main span
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:14 AM on June 23, 2006

If you're in California, Hearst Castle is amazing. The Winchester Mystery House is not quite as amazing, but still pretty damn weird.
posted by equalpants at 9:16 AM on June 23, 2006

The New River Gorge Bridge near Fayetteville WV. On the third Saturday in October, they close one side of the bridge for a fall festival. You can actually walk out to the center and hang over the rail to look all 876 feet down to the river. They also open the span to BASE jumpers and rappellers. It's worth the trip just to see the gorge in the fall.
posted by cyclopz at 9:17 AM on June 23, 2006

The Boeing manufacturing facility up in Everet is huge. I've just seen it from one of the roads when a door was open.

Bingham Copper mine is a huge open pit mine (still the hugest, I think) southwest of Salt Lake City. Its a working mine, with all the dangers and economics involved, so they don't let you into it. The scale is a bit difficult to appreciate from the visitors center on the rim, especially since the equipment in the mine is itself totally outsized, but if you sit there a while and use the telescopes, it starts to become clear.

In the same area, I'm not sure I was impressed by the size of Spiral Jetty, but it was cool to see. Cooler was the vast expanse of shiny white salt crust that stretched out around it.

Also worth a visit to Temple Square, the home office of a relatively young and dynamic religion.

New York City from the top of the Empire State Building has a truly huge feel to it. There is the thrum of the city, and as you peer into the darkness, you can make out the faint outlines of the buildings that hold all those twinkly lights and imagine all the people, all the lifetimes that have been lived there, all the lives still being lived.
posted by Good Brain at 9:21 AM on June 23, 2006

The Columbia River Gorge is pretty amazing and it should be on your route. If you drive far enough down it you can visit Sam Hill's Stonehenge.

Also, just south of Portland is the world's largest wooden plane - Howard Hughes HK-1, also know as the Spruce Goose. It's truly gigantic and worth seeing.
posted by Staggering Jack at 9:35 AM on June 23, 2006

Mackinac Bridge linking the Lower Peninsula in Michigan with the Upper.

The USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial in um... North Carolina.

(Wow, both of those sites use that shimmering image thingie.)

And last but not least, The Thomasville Big Chair. The (disputed) biggest chair in the world! Located in Thomasville, NC. If you see this one, drop me a line and I'll have a beer ready for you.
posted by lyam at 9:38 AM on June 23, 2006

Damn, I can't believe I got beat on the Mackinac Bridge!
posted by lyam at 9:39 AM on June 23, 2006

If you go to Mackinac, then you should stop at Frankenmuth for the "World's Largest Christmas Store" - huge and shiny (and more than a little disturbing). It draws tourists from around the world. Also, on the outskirts of Detroit, maybe the world's largest tire? Used to have the world's largest nail in it. For something less kitschy - Letchworth Gorge in western upstate NY, and Watkins Glen park - waterfalls, and truly beautiful.

For one of the prettiest urban views anywhere in the US, drive through the Fort Pitt tunnel at night - come out on a bridge to Pittsburgh at the Point - then park & take the incline up to Mt. Washington.

Take a ride in the St. Louis arch. A lot of people don't know it has an observation deck at the top. I second Enchanted Rock in TX - it's a fairly easy climb , but a pretty impressive rock. If you are in TX, go to the Whole Foods headquarters in Austin - one large, fancy grocery store. Go around the corner to the Treaty Oak - an old, old tree that has managed to survive urban blight and poisoning.
posted by clarkstonian at 9:42 AM on June 23, 2006

If you're going to be in Maine for our magnificent woods, Eartha - the largest revolving scale model of the Earth, on Earth, is in Yarmouth and right off I-295 (Directions).

It's a little staggering both in size, sheer detail and the weirdness of seeing a gigantic globe rotating inside a box of a building.

So, there's another "man-made" stop for ya, although you will have your time filled very nicely with all the natural wonders already mentioned! Sounds like a great trip!
posted by nelleish at 9:53 AM on June 23, 2006

(Harper's Ferry is in WV, not VA, though it's right on the border.)

I'll second the New River Gorge bridge. It's breathtaking. If you can, head down into the gorge itself (maybe to do a little whitewater rafting) to get a better sense of the scale of the bridge.

Also in West Virginia is the Green Bank Radio Telescope. (See also.)

I found Red Rocks (both the park and the amphitheater) near Denver to be pretty impressive, but it's not on the same scale as some of the other suggestions.
posted by arco at 10:09 AM on June 23, 2006

Ruby Falls in eastern Tennessee is huge, though it's underground.
posted by joannemerriam at 10:16 AM on June 23, 2006

Any of several aircraft carriers turned museum --Intrepid in NY, Yorktown in Charleston, or Lexington in Corpus Christi (but beware -- Corpus sucks).

Maybe the USAF Museum in Dayton? They have a B-36 and an XB-70, both of which are Big.

Definitely a Saturn V. There are two more in IIRC Houston and Huntsville AL.

The Tetons are the biggest, most pointiest mountains you are likely to see. Something like 8000' of vertical rise from the approaching area with no foothills to get in the way.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:27 AM on June 23, 2006

America's Stonehenge
Mystery Hill, also known as "America's Stonehenge", is a site that has puzzled amused archaeologists for almost a century.

Carlsbad Caverns

White Sands

The smokestack on any given coal-burning Ohio power plant, designed to transfer the pollution load to New England

The Bunker Hill Bridge

Donald Trump's ego
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:37 AM on June 23, 2006

Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas panhandle is the second largest canyon in the U.S.
posted by davcoo at 10:45 AM on June 23, 2006

Salvation Mountain in Niland, CA
posted by sarahnade at 10:48 AM on June 23, 2006

Twice a year, White Sands Missile Range opens up its gates to Trinity Site for visitors. There isn't anything spectacular or monumental on the site except for its history. A somewhat unimpressive lava rock obelisk marking ground zero bears a plaque reading, "TRINITY SITE Where the world's first nuclear device was exploded on July 16, 1945."
The next open house is scheduled for October 7,2006.
posted by leapfrog at 10:49 AM on June 23, 2006

If you're going to be passing through the Mojave desert consider the US Borax Visitor Center in Boron, CA, home to California's largest open-pit mine -- that is, a huge hole in the ground with lots of huge trucks and other huge equipment (did I mention how huge everything is there?)

Not far to the west is the Mojave Airport Spaceport, the launch site for SpaceShipOne, and home to a respectably large aircraft graveyard (I'm sure there are bigger ones elsewhere.)

Also not that far away (for that part of the country, i.e., -- 150 miles or so) is the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm just west of Palm Springs. 3500 turbines on the desert floor. Those bad boys are each a couple hundred feet tall or so.

Not too far from Barstow (east of Boron): Solar Two in Daggett, CA. 1800 heliostat mirrors on 72 acres arranged around a 300-foot high solar tower. It was initially built as a power project demo but converted in 2001 for gamma ray research.
posted by Opposite George at 10:50 AM on June 23, 2006

Best answer: What you want to do is browse the Center for Land Use Interpretation Database.
posted by euphorb at 11:12 AM on June 23, 2006

I second the Tetons. Even the view of them from the Jackson airport is amazing. And really, how can you skip seeing something named for breasts?

Also, Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Colorado has the highest suspension bridge in the world, among other attractions. Simply breathtaking.

Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado has the ancient cliff dwellings. And the sense of wonder is heightened (no pun intended) because these ancient peoples literally lived on the SIDE of the mountain. One wrong step, and ....

At the Field Museum in Chicago, you can see Sue, the largest T. Rex ever discovered.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:19 AM on June 23, 2006

I was impressed by craters of the moon national state park in Idaho. Otherworldly.
posted by ejaned8 at 11:33 AM on June 23, 2006

Little River Canyon, the Blue Ridge Parkway (or just the last 105 miles near Washington, D.C. aka Skyline Drive), the Bay of Fundy, Mammoth Cave, Rock City (atop Lookout Mountain), White Mountain National Forest, Monteagle Mountain, the Narrows of the Harpeth, and Pikes Peak are some of my favorite road trip destinations.

But if you have the time, and the ambition for something of real continental scale, you could do a lot worse than spend a couple of weeks, on the blue highways, seeing the Great Plains. Almost nobody does that anymore, and I'm sorry for those that never do, because you haven't lived until you've seen weather on the Plains, or stood on a hilltop, watching wind flow over 50 miles of grain and grass.
posted by paulsc at 11:34 AM on June 23, 2006

>>awesome in size, scale, ambition, or displacement from their surroundings

man-made, but ANYTHING Gehry. That asshole just doesnt get the harmony of architecture within its natural environment.
posted by naxosaxur at 12:32 PM on June 23, 2006

For the "awesome in ambition" portion of your question, the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo is an unquestionable must. And though they're out of print and only cover CA and NYC, the Mad Monks' Guides have excellent suggestions for this kind of trip if you can get your hands on 'em.
posted by kittyprecious at 12:40 PM on June 23, 2006

This mansion
is amazing. It was built by the heir of the Winchester gun fortune. This woman had a seance after her husbands death and was told she would be haunted by the ghosts of the people that were killed by Winchester guns. She was instructed she needed to build a house to house all of the ghosts. What followed was 38 years of construction with no plans at all. It's in San Jose.
posted by andywolf at 12:50 PM on June 23, 2006

I second the Boeing Widebody plant, especially since you will be starting in Seattle. Right now, the tour is 777 (or was a few months ago), which isn't as interesting as the 747. Depending on when you are doing this, the Large Cargo Freighter will be here, doing type-certificate activities.

Caveat: I love the factory, but I have general access to it, not the fairly resticted tour.
posted by printdevil at 1:28 PM on June 23, 2006

Mono Lake, CA. Weirdness.

Great Salt Lake, UT

Mammoth Cave, KY (short, boring detour to look at the window at Ft. Knox on the way)

Breaks Interstate Park, VA/KY

Another vote for New River Gorge, WV. Red River Gorge, KY is also pretty cool, lots of natural bridges.

The Washington Monument. Far more impressive than it looks in pictures.

The Smithsonian and the Library of Congress.

South of the Border, SC
posted by dilettante at 2:09 PM on June 23, 2006

Look out the window at Ft. Knox, damnit. Not at the window.
posted by dilettante at 2:11 PM on June 23, 2006

Response by poster: Resisting the temptation to mark almost all of these as 'best answer'; euphorb's link wins for sheer quantity of desolate and strange -- my main problem now is going to be cacheing the site on my laptop :)

Thanks, everyone; this'll be a better trip because of you.

(But don't let this stop you if you have more ideas; I don't leave for another week :)
posted by ook at 2:22 PM on June 23, 2006

Response by poster: You can tell I'm happy because I used not one but two smilies in a single post. I've really got to train myself out of that habit.
posted by ook at 2:23 PM on June 23, 2006

So you're going to keep lots of documentation and take loads of pictures on this trip, and then report back here, right?
posted by dilettante at 3:18 PM on June 23, 2006

The Fort at Dry Tortugas National Park. It's allegedly the world's second largest masonry structure. It is slowly, um, sinking. There is no phone service except by satelite phone. There are some park rangers who get to live there. It's great camping. They even have rats (if you're into being freaked out like that).

Drive all the way down to Key West, park your car in the garage. Walk to the Stars and Stripes Ferry, which is (still, I hope?) near the restaurant, Turtle Kraals. It seems expensive to get out there, but it's a 4 hour boat ride. Bring a tent and whatever you want to eat or drink for the night. You can come back the same day, but the sunset out there is magical.
posted by bilabial at 4:31 PM on June 23, 2006

I've done this kind of trip across the country 10 or 15 times. I suggest an askmefi post for soundtrack suggestions.
"Blacklight" album while driving thru the desert is a moment frozen in time 9 years later for me.
song "hoover dam" from "Copper Blue" while pulling up to said dam is rad. That kind of thing.
posted by andywolf at 5:15 PM on June 23, 2006

Book Derail: Flashback, by Nevada Barr, is another in her great national park mystery series and is set in Dry Tortugas National Park.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:58 PM on June 23, 2006

What about Stonehenge at Maryhill Museum? It's in Eastern WA.
posted by Amanda B at 6:28 PM on June 23, 2006

If you're starting from Seattle, you really ought to see Snoqualmie Falls (a little over an hour's drive east on I-90). If you were ever any kind of Twin Peaks fan, you'll recognize it from the opening sequence. (The little town of Snoqualmie has the T-Mar cafe, too, where you can enjoy some coffee and pie.) If you kept going east from there, over the mountain pass and beyond, you could visit the town of Rosalyn, on which the set of Northern Exposure was modelled. There are more things to see in eastern Washington, like the Gorge Amphitheater, Dry Falls, the Stonehenge replica and Maryhill Museum, many wineries, etc., but if you do that, I would recommend backtracking along the Columbia River to Mt. St. Helens, as that's a must-see. (And the drive through the canyon along the Columbia River is quite a sight as well.)

Oh, and before that, you might try some whale watching tours on Puget Sound, through the San Juan Islands (you'll have to get out of your car and onto a boat, but it's very much worth it).

Another scenic route would be around the Olympic Peninsula and down the coast -- there's a rainforest on the coast that's supposed to be impressive.
posted by Marla Singer at 7:22 PM on June 23, 2006

But if you have the time, and the ambition for something of real continental scale, you could do a lot worse than spend a couple of weeks, on the blue highways, seeing the Great Plains.

Excellent answer, paulsc.

Also, the London Bridge in Lake Havasu. Not the biggest bridge by any definition, but surely the biggest anachronism in the U.S.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:09 PM on June 23, 2006

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah.

The House on the Rock, Spring Green, Wisconsin. (Side note: if you do choose to go here, Spring Green also has an amazing outdoor amphitheater where they put on all kinds of plays, mainly Shakespeare.) And there's Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, too.

I second Hearst Castle. Oh, and the Grand Canyon. My (well-traveled) father visited for the first time this year, and he hasn't been able to stop talking about how big and amazing it was.

Let us know where you end up going!
posted by anjamu at 8:24 PM on June 23, 2006

Response by poster: So you're going to keep lots of documentation and take loads of pictures on this trip, and then report back here, right?

Damn straight. Might even blog it from the road, like the good little webgeek that I am.

Actually this whole post was just a ruse to get somebody to look at my vacation photos.
posted by ook at 9:10 PM on June 23, 2006

There are a lot of big things just within the state of Washington. I can't believe no one has mentioned Grand Coulee Dam, on the Columbia in eastern Washington -- it's the largest concrete dam in North America, largest concrete structure in the U.S., largest producer of hydroelectric power in the U.S., twice as high as Niagara Falls, capable of containing the Pyramids of Giza.

The Boeing wide-body plant in Everett, mentioned here several times, is the largest building in the world by volume (almost half a billion cubic feet).

The Evergreen Point Floating Bridge is the longest floating bridge in the world (over 7500 feet).

Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, is the 2nd largest island by area in the lower 48 states, and either the 2nd or 3rd longest (depending on where you start measuring, I guess).

(Though it's far from "large," the Northgate Mall in north Seattle is regarded as the world's first shopping mall...that's gotta be worth something.)

And the concrete base of the Space Needle was apparently the largest concrete pour west of the Mississippi...
posted by lhauser at 10:59 PM on June 23, 2006

If you are starting in the NW, then pop up to Vancouver Island and see the World's Largest Hockey Stick (what else?)
posted by Rumple at 11:10 PM on June 23, 2006

If you're coming to San Jose for the Winchester Mystery House, check out Hangar One at Moffett Field.
posted by JDC8 at 1:23 PM on June 24, 2006

Oh, forgot the Biltmore house, another NC attraction..
posted by lyam at 9:46 AM on June 26, 2006

El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park, is supposedly the "largest monolith of granite in the world."
posted by DakotaPaul at 10:46 AM on June 26, 2006

if you're going thru Colorado see the biggest pile of sand in the Rockies
posted by iurodivii at 7:13 PM on June 28, 2006

Response by poster: If anyone's still watching this thread: I'm about halfway through the trip now, and have been posting photos here whenever I get hold of an internet connection.

The layout gets kind of borked on the larger panoramic photos -- sorry about that, but I'm not going to spend road time twiddling html templates; that's part of what I'm trying to get away from...
posted by ook at 7:55 AM on July 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

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