The best roadside attractions – the ones worth a visit instead of a smirk – are quirky and compelling instead of kitschy and quaint. Here are several just a stone’s throw from Noble House properties around the country.
Whether it’s a multimillion-dollar car collection in the canyons of western Colorado or a public art installation lurching off a seven-story building, some of the best attractions in Noble House destinations are also the most unlikely and unheard-of finds.
Fallen Star Art Installation [La Jolla, CA]
You’d think the baby-blue cottage at the end of the garden-lined brick walkway was a coastal New England vacation home. That is, until you see the view beyond to Torrey Pines State National Reserve and the seven-story plunge to the street below. Teetering off the top of the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, this permanent installation is part of the college’s 18-sculpture Stuart Collection of public art and symbolizes the displacement its Korean creator, Do Ho Suh, felt upon arriving in the US. On Tuesdays and Sundays, visitors can explore the tiny house–sized home, fully furnished with a couch, television, chimney, and chandelier.
Where To Stay: Kona Kai Resort & Spa
Gateway Auto Museum [Gateway, CO]
Highway 141 in western Colorado isn’t just home to winding, traffic-free roads and craggy joyride scenery. It’s also where you’ll find Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks’s collection of classic cars and automotive rarities at Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa. Housed in a
pueblo-style building with an interior decorated with vintage road signs, old gas pumps, and road maps dating to the 1920s, the museum’s five galleries showcase 52 cars. Some of the most notable include a 1906 Cadillac Model H coupe, the oldest automobile in the collection; a
1967 Shelby GT500 convertible that was racer Carroll Shelby’s daily driver; and the 1954 Oldsmobile F-88, the collection’s crown jewel and a one-of-a-kind concept car purchased for $3.24 million.
Where To Stay: Gateway Canyons Resort
A Sound Garden’s Sculpture [Seattle, WA]
A dozen 20-foot steel towers sprout from a hill at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Western Regional Center in Seattle, resembling something like a boneyard for robots. But these structures are actually a 1983 creation by sculptor Douglas Hollis, one of six public artworks on the NOAA campus. The towers’ mounted weather-vanes catch the breezes blowing off Lake Washington and rotate organ pipes, generating haunting symphonies with tones that never repeat – the only catch is that you’ll have to pass through a security checkpoint to hear them for yourself. And yes, flannel-wearers, this is where the eponymous grunge band got its name.
Where To Stay: The Edgewater Hotel
The Turtle Hospital [Marathon, FL]
The mint-green buildings of the old Hidden Harbor Motel & Efficiencies in Marathon have served a different clientele for the last 30 years: sea turtles, a species that dates back to the age of dinosaurs. It’s the first licensed veterinary hospital striving to rescue, rehabilitate, and release turtles that have been infirmed or injured in the waters around Key West. Along with state-of-the-art medical and surgical facilities that have helped successfully treat and release more than 2,000 turtles to date, a 100,000-gallon saltwater pool that was originally one of the motel’s selling points now houses permanently disabled residents. See them up close (and feed them) with an educational tour, offered daily on the hour.
Flamingo Gardens [Davie, FL]
Hunters erased wild populations of flamingos from the state more than a century ago. But you can still see the pink, stilted birds at this 90-year-old wildlife sanctuary at the edge of the Everglades, where 15 Caribbean flamingos wade in 20,000 gallons of fresh water. For an extra fee, visitors can join a zookeeper for a behind-the-scenes visit with the nonbreeding birds, and feed them from their hand while learning their quirks – for example, if not for the beta-carotene in their algae-rich diets, their feathers would be white.
Where To Stay: Pelican Grand Beach Resort
Lands End Lookout
At 35 feet wide, with 11 concentric circles, the elaborate rock design on a promontory with an epic vantage of the Golden Gate Bridge looks like a crop circle etched into some of the most prized real estate in the Bay Area. In reality, however, it was San Francisco–based artist Eduardo Aguilera who constructed the labyrinth in secret 12 years ago, mimicking the floor pattern in the Chartres Cathedral in France. Since then, it’s become a beloved – if unofficial – landmark off the Coastal Trail within Golden Gate National Recreation Area. And whenever ne’er-do-wells have dismantled the serene space, volunteers have quickly pieced it back.
Where To Stay: Argonaut Hotel
Ancient Spanish Monastery [North Miami Beach, FL]
It’s a scene you’d expect of a hillside town in Europe instead of the neon shades of South Florida: towering stone walls, a chapel with vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows, an ancient well made of Roman granite, carved fourteenth-century friezes. The monastery’s Romanesque and Gothic buildings were originally built in Spain by monks in the twentieth century, but their cloisters were purchased by newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst in 1925, packaged in more than 11,000 crates, and eventually transported to Florida and reassembled in the 1950s. Today, the monastery grounds are open for daily tours, while the chapel hosts Sunday mass for The Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux.
Where To Stay: Solé on the Ocean