9 Must-See U.S. Weather Roadside Attractions

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Making Weather Your Destination

Sculpture titled The Drop at Vancouver Convention Centre West, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
'The Drop' is a popular weather-themed landmark right across the US border in Vancouver, Canada. Michael Wheatley / Getty Images

Part of the fun of road trips is taking in the bizarre and wonderful sights along the way. And while those sights are often of super-sized animals and objects, or retro blasts from the past, you'll also find the occasional weather-related landmark too. We've saved you time and gas with this list -- a roadmap to some of our fave weather attractions and landmarks across the continental U.S. 

Go ahead, stop by and tell them About Weather sent you!

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World's Tallest Thermometer (Baker, California)

world's largest thermometer-2
Kent Buckingham / flickr / https://flic.kr/p/2Q7odL

Along Interstate 15 and located in the Mojave Desert, is Baker, California, home to one of weather's most mammoth monuments: the world's tallest thermometer. Built in 1991, it commemorates the hottest temperature ever recorded -- 134 °F (57 °C) in nearby Death Valley on July 10, 1913. Its 134-foot (41 meters) height and ability to measure air temperatures up to 134 °F are both nods to this record. 

The electric thermometer suffered several bouts of wind damage, including being broken in half by 70-mph winds in the early 1990s and vandalized by strong winds which swayed the structure and burst its bulbs out of the steel frame in the mid-1990s. The thermometer was non-operational from 2012 to 2014, thanks to a nearly $10k monthly power bill and being listed for sale. However, in mid-2014, the original family recovered ownership, restored it, and re-lit its bulbs for all passersby to once again enjoy.    

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Umbrella Garden and Plaza (Portland, Oregon)

umbrella sculpture
Oregon artist Michael Maiden's "Four Umbrellas" sculpture. Michael Maiden Studios, LLC

We find our next attraction at the most unlikely of places -- outside the Administrative offices of Portland, Oregon's Providence Hospital. The plaza where the attraction is found is made up of a walkway, landscaping, and outdoor seating areas. Sound pretty ordinary so far? It is...until you lay eyes on the four bronze umbrella sculptures included in that landscape. We're not talking ordinary-sized umbrellas, here. Each measures an impressive 10 feet across, 12+ feet high, and weighs 1.5 tons!

This design isn't just fun, it's functional too. Three of the umbrellas provide shade at picnic tables, while the fourth serves as a fountain that collects rainwater that runs off of the office building exterior and then drains and purifies it.   

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Totem Pole-Rain Gauge (Lake Quinault, Washington)

Lake Quinault Lodge Rain Gauge
Jasperdo / flickr / https://flic.kr/p/qaFRnN

Located on the southern side of the Olympic Mountains in the Olympic National Park, Quinault is no stranger to rainfall. In fact, it has some of the wettest weather in the United States. Averaging nearly 12 to 14 feet of precipitation a year, it's a bona fide rain forest!

When you need to measure that much rainfall, only a massive rain gauge will do, and it just so happens there's one at the town's Lake Quinault Lodge. The lodge's exterior chimney is decorated with a totem pole-shaped rain gauge that measures rainfall not in inches, but feet! Up to 17 feet to be exact! 

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Walker Center Weather Tower (Salt Lake City,Utah)

Walker Center Salt Lake City, UT
Amanda Steggell / flickr / https://flic.kr/p/4DVCsP

Atop the Walker Center, the weather tower is a 64-foot weather beacon that provides the public with a basic local forecast based on the color of its lights:

  • Blue signals clear skies.
  • Blue, flashing signals cloudy skies.
  • Red signals rain.
  • Red, flashing snow.

(Hundreds of years ago, weather offices used to raise colored flags to warn those within eyeshot of local weather conditions. Salt Lake's Weather Tower pays homage to this practice.)

As unique as the tower is, apparently non-weather enthusiasts didn't share this sentiment -- the city ordered it be taken down in the 1980s. Much to our luck, it was replaced in 2008 and is now one of roughly 30 still functioning weather beacons in existence today in the U.S.

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World's Tallest Snowman (St. Paul, Minnesota)

world's largest snowman
Meg J / flickr / https://flic.kr/p/8SUk97

Standing at 54-feet tall and made of concrete stucco, is the world's tallest (non-snow) snowman. How did the city of St. Paul come to build such an icon? As the story goes, the St. Paul chapter of the JCs (a national organization of youth leaders) used to build a snowman every winter in celebration of the annual "Snow-Daze" festival. However, after a couple of winters with lean snowfalls, they got the idea to build a permanent snowman for the city.  

While the snowman can be seen while driving along Minnesota's Highway 36, for an up-close view, visit the corner of Highway 36 and Margaret Street in north St. Paul. Best of all, because this snowman isn't made of real snow, you can visit no matter the season

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Largest U.S. Weather Vane (Montague, Michigan)

largest US weather vane
The largest weather vane in the US and second largest in the world. Lesley Ann, theoffbeatpath.net

Unlike other weather vanes which sit atop buildings, the Montague weather vane is a free-standing structure. It measures 48 feet tall with an arrow 26 feet long. Its ornament or shape is that of a ship by the name of the Ella Ellenwood which is a nod to the historic ship that once carried lumber between Montague and Milwaukee, WI.   

Interested in visiting the world's largest weather vane? The next time you're in Jerez, Spain, visit Tio Pepe's.    

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Largest U.S. Hailstone (Preshno, South Dakota)

Vivian, SD hailstone
Meteorologist and CoCoRaHS National Coordinator, Henry Reges, holds the largest hailstone on record to date. Henry Reges

​In July 2010, a whopping 8" diameter and nearly 2 pound hailstone fell in Vivian, SD during a strong supercell thunderstorm. Today, we know this hailstone as the largest (in terms of both size and weight) ever recorded in the United States. 

While the actual hailstone has long since melted away, you can still feast your eyes on it. A three-dimensional plaster replica is on display at the Lyman County Historical Museum in Preshno, SD. 

A hailstone that fell in Aurora, Nebraska in June 2003 is still on the books as the largest by circumference. (At 18.75" around, it beats the Vivian hailstone's girth by 0.15 inch.)   

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Tornado Fingerprint and Mural (Fort Worth, Texas)

Cultura Science/Jason Persoff Stormdoctor/Stone/Getty

This landmark's location within a major metropolitan area isn't the only thing that makes it unique. The fact that it was partly created by Mother Nature herself makes it even more so.

Created in 2008, this monument's beams are billboard supports that were twisted into their artistic shape when an EF-2 tornado hit downtown Fort Worth in the year 2000. The mural, which sits behind the steel beams, was added during the city's revitalization. It depicts a thunderstorm crossing the Texas prairie along with text that reads:

"Neither storm nor rain nor gloom of night stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

If this quote sounds vaguely familiar, that's because it's based on the unofficial motto of the U.S. Postal Service. Wondering what the USPS has to do with this monument and mural? Why, located on the other side of it is Fort Worth's Cultural District post office branch! 

This sculpture not only reminds us of the untamed power of nature, but is a testament to the human ability to join together and rebuild in the wake of destruction. 

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Walt Disney World "Hidden Mickey" Solar Farm

Solar Panels In Ferrisburgh, VT
Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

If you (like me) are a weather geek and a Disney fan, you won't want to pass up seeing one of the world's most uniquely shaped solar farms -- Duke Energy's Walt Disney World Solar Facility.

Completed in 2016, the 5-megawatt solar farm is the ultimate "hidden Mickey!" While aerial views are best, you can snag a ground-level glance at the 22-acre, 48,000-panel farm when driving along the east shoulder of World Drive near its intersection with Epcot Center Drive (just west of Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts).     

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Your Citation
Means, Tiffany. "9 Must-See U.S. Weather Roadside Attractions." ThoughtCo, Jul. 21, 2016, thoughtco.com/us-weather-roadside-attractions-4064869. Means, Tiffany. (2016, July 21). 9 Must-See U.S. Weather Roadside Attractions. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/us-weather-roadside-attractions-4064869 Means, Tiffany. "9 Must-See U.S. Weather Roadside Attractions." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/us-weather-roadside-attractions-4064869 (accessed November 24, 2017).