1.Giant Ronald McDonald
7352 E. OH-37, Sunbury
Not much is known about the first attraction on our list. But hey, this is probably all we need to know: There’s a giant Ronald McDonald statue (and a handful of anthropomorphized fast food friends) next to a Sunbury McDonald’s location. It’s fun, and a little weird, like all good roadside attractions. If you’re ever headed north on I-71, it’s a one-minute pit stop off the highway, and is worthing seeing in person. Just not if you’re afraid of clowns.
2.Brown Pet Cemetery
5031 Sawyer Rd., Columbus
You can keep this one in your back pocket until Halloween if you want, but it’s truly one of the strangest (and most interesting) curiosities in Columbus. On the outskirts of Jon Glenn International Airport is the Brown Pet Cemetery. Created in the 1920s by local veterinarian Walter Brown, the site is the resting place of nearly 500 different pets, with headstones dating back as far as 100 years.
3.Circleville Water Tower
Just off OH-23, south of Downtown Circleville
Believing there’s no such thing as too much publicity, the town of Circleville painted its
downtown water tower to resemble a pumpkin – complete with a decorative green stem. The quaint town 25 miles south of Columbus has been known for decades as the home of the country’s largest annual Pumpkin Show. In recent years, the free, four-day event has drawn upwards of 400,000 attendees a day to the downtown street festival.
The free-to-attend event offers everything from prizes for the largest locally grown pumpkin (the biggest so far being almost 2,000 pounds), to the crowning of Miss Pumpkin Show and pumpkin-related foods ranging from traditional pumpkin pie to pumpkin doughnuts, hamburgers and brownies.
To draw even bigger crowds, townspeople in 1997 decided to paint their 21-year-old water tower to resemble a giant pumpkin. Thirteen-hundred gallons of paint later, Circleville now has a unique, year-round advertisement to their signature event.
–John M. Clark
4. Giant Golf Ball Sculpture
1860 Hebron Rd., Heath
A unique advertisement for AA Pro Shop, a golf supply store located along Hebron Road in Heath, this giant golf ball–complete with a giant tee–remained after the shop closed its doors. The attraction is difficult to miss if you’re heading north on OH-79 (Hebron Road) to Downtown Heath.
5. World’s Largest Basket
1500 E. Main St., Newark
We’re certain it seemed like a good idea at the time.
In the mid-1990s, Dave Longaberger broke ground on a seven-story, basket-shaped office building for his namesake basket company. Sporting a marble entryway, a winding staircase of solid cherry and a 30-thousand-square-foot atrium, it was one of the classiest basket-shaped office buildings around.
When the slumping Longaberger business closed in 2018, the future of the East Newark landmark was thrown into doubt. Efforts to turn it into a luxury hotel were thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and today the building sits empty. But it still makes for a great photo op.
–John M. Clark
6. World’s Largest Apple Basket
5563 Raiders Rd., Frazeyville
Believe it or not, the world’s largest basket sits less than 20 miles from the world’s largest apple basket. This 20 foot tall sculpture–with giant, fake apples spilling out of it–was also constructed by Longaberger, and stands today in the now-abandoned grounds of the Longaberger Homestead. This context makes the pair of giant baskets a bit less mysterious, but these two still stand as some of central Ohio’s most unique, and likely the largest, roadside attractions.
7. World’s Largest Washboard
4 E. Main St., Logan
The fact that I’ve never used a washboard–I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever actually seen one in person–doesn’t take away from the mystique of this enormous one. In fact, it adds something: World’s largest pencil? Boring. Largest orange? Next. Not saying washboard are inherently thrilling, but this generates even more mystery, and mystery is a critical component of any good roadside attraction.
At 24 feet tall, this antiquated instrument is nothing to scoff at. It hangs off the side of the Columbus Washboard Factory, which also happens to be the only washboard factory we’ve ever heard of.
This oddity is such a point of pride for Logan residents that the city holds a festival every June centered around it, aptly named the Logan Washboard Arts & Music Festival.
8. Big Muskie’s Bucket
4470 OH-78, McConnelsville
When the coal mining industry in southeast Ohio was grinding to a halt 25 years ago or so, there was no shortage of suitors for the giant bucket of the Big Muskie, the then-largest-ever dragline earth mover. While the entire machine couldn’t be saved, American Electric Power, whose subsidiary Central Ohio Coal Company, had operated Big Muskie, received proposals for sites for the bucket.
Gary Kaster, who had world for Ohio Power (later AEP) for many years as a forester, leading efforts to reclaim once-mined land, supported by many miners and their families, convinced the company to install the relic-turned-tourist attraction on a plot of that reclaimed land as part of a memorial tribute to those who had worked in the mining industry in Ohio.
Kaster, now 76 and retired, called it one of his proudest achievements.
“It’s more than just a place to see the bucket,” Kaster said. “It’s a living memorial. The bucket makes you stop but it also brings you to the story not only of that bucket but of the men who operated the machine and many others who did the work and did a good job.”
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