Can’t-Miss Southern Roadside Landmarks

On a Southern road trip, you often don’t even have to leave your car to see some of the region’s most curious oddities. Novelty architecture, creative advertising, and imaginative works of art dot interstates and backroads. Whether they’re meant to memorialize distinct pieces of local culture or evoke fun and intrigue, these eight Southern landmarks have stories to tell. 

View as Slideshow

SA-211 Rocket
28232 Upper Elkton Road, Elkmont, Alabama 

Three miles from the Tennessee border on I-65, a real Saturn 1B rocket—dubbed SA-211—towers 224 feet over the Ardmore Welcome Center. NASA developed the rocket in the 1970s in Huntsville for orbital training missions, never launched it into space, and donated it to the rest stop in 1979. Although motorists can see the rocket from the interstate, a quick pitstop will get you a closer look and more information about Alabama’s contribution to space exploration. 

Photo: Courtesy of the Alabama News Center

Big Betsy
86700 Overseas Highway, Islamorada, Florida

Happening upon an average-sized spiny lobster, with its spiky carapace and spindly antennae, is enough to send shivers down a spine, so imagine glancing Big Betsy, a forty-foot-long, thirty-foot-tall crustacean on the side of the Florida Keys’s Overseas Highway. Sculptor Richard Blaze spent five years constructing Betsy out of fiberglass, and she now stands guard over the entrance to the Rain Barrel Artisan Village. Hurricane Irma devastated this part of the Keys in 2017, but Betsy survived undamaged.

Photo: Courtesy of Rain Barrel Village

Big Chicken
12 Cobb Parkway SE, Marietta, Georgia 

After Stanley R. “Tubby” Davis commissioned a seven-story steel chicken to stand atop his Johnny Reb’s Chick-Chuck-‘N-Shake in 1963, the mechanisms were so shoddy that when the beak opened and the eyes rolled for the first time, the restaurant’s windows shattered. The Chick-Chuck-‘N-Shake is now a Kentucky Fried Chicken—and the structure moves without damaging the building—but the Big Chicken remains a Marietta landmark, used by locals to give driving directions and even by pilots as a reference point as they fly into Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

Devil’s Crossroads
599 N. State Street, Clarksdale, Mississippi

Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson’s life story is poorly documented, but legend has filled in history’s gaps. Lore says the celebrated musician made a deal with the devil at the intersection of Highways 49 and 61 in Clarksdale, trading his soul for prodigious guitar skills. Today, a sign stands on the median of the intersection, a well-trodden stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail, with three guitars and a marker designating it simply as “the Crossroads.” 

Photo: Courtesy of Mississippi Blues Traveller

World’s Largest Pieces of Furniture
In and around High Point, North Carolina 

After World War II, more than sixty percent of the country’s furniture was made within a 150-mile radius of High Point, North Carolina. To honor that proud history, the Tar Heel State erected giant furnishings across the Piedmont. In Thomasville, a thirty-foot-tall concrete and steel Duncan Phyfe chair has sat by the railroad tracks in the center of town since 1951. Nearby in High Point, the world’s largest chest of drawers, a Goddard-Townsend block front chest that doubles as the façade of an office building, stands nearly forty feet high—and two six-foot socks dangle out as a nod to the area’s hosiery industry. Five miles east, a massive 1,300-foot-tall highboy marks the entrance to Furnitureland South—fittingly, the largest furniture retailer in the country. 

Photo: courtesy of Visit North Carolina

294 Peachoid Road, Gaffney, South Carolina 

Standing 135 feet over I-85, the Gaffney Peachoid is one of the most recognizable water towers in the country. Created in 1981, the tower represents Gaffney’s place as the “peach capital of South Carolina.” With a façade painted to mimic fuzz and a seven-ton leaf dangling from the stem, the tower is tall enough to be seen for miles down the interstate and big enough to hold one million gallons of water. It’s made appearances in books, movies, and television shows including Netflix’s House of Cards.

Photo: Courtesy of Gaffney, South Carolina, Board of Public Works

Big Boots

60 Northwest Loop 410 #18, San Antonio, Texas

Perhaps nothing personifies the old adage that everything’s bigger in Texas more than the world’s largest pair of cowboy boots stationed outside San Antonio’s North Star Mall. Designed by Bob “Daddy-O” Wade in 1979 for an installation in Washington, D.C., the thirty-five-foot-tall, faux ostrich-and-calf skin boots found a permanent home in San Antonio the next year (after being strapped to the back of a truck for transport, one was slightly creased when it got stuck beneath a highway overpass. It had to be unwedged with a crowbar). Wade has claimed the boots can hold 300,000 gallons of beer, although that theory has yet to be proven. 


Photo: Courtesy of North Star Mall

15621 Braddock Road, Centreville, Virginia 

Inspired by Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument in the English countryside, Foamhenge is, as its name implies, a life-size replica made entirely out of Styrofoam. While Stonehenge’s builders took roughly 1,500 years to complete their work, fiberglass artist Mark Cline and his crew spent six weeks in 2004 hauling foam blocks down from Winchester, Virginia, to install Foamhenge on a hillside on U.S. Route 11 in Natural Bridge. In 2016, Cline sold the sculpture to Cox Farms in Centreville, where it now rests alongside a corn maze and farmers’ market.

Photo: Caroline Todd