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Must-See Roadside Attractions in Northern California

Must-See Roadside Attractions in Northern California

By California.com
November 09, 2020

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.

The quirky, weird attractions may not be what call visitors to the Golden State, but they definitely make for interesting road trip stories. When navigating your way through Northern California, don't neglect the roadside attractions. Although it's quite easy to lose yourself in the glimmering waters of the alpine lakes, majestic mountains, and old-growth redwood forests, you should set aside time to stop along the way and take in the interesting sights.

From haunted ghost towns and film locations to peculiar homes and natural wonders, there are numerous unusual spots in Northern California that belong on your bucket list. So call your friends, pack up the car, and take a ride to the must-see roadside attractions in Northern California.

Things To See In Northern California

Don't miss the vibrant hues and cartoon-like sculptures of the Flintstone House. Photo courtesy of The Flintstone House.

The Flintstone House

Location: 45 Berryessa Way, Hillsborough

Meet the Flintstones—the iconic Stone Age family. Yes, The Flintstone House is named after everyone’s beloved cartoon show and is bound to capture your attention. Built as a private residence in 1976, the house was designed by architect William Nicholson and was one of several experimental domed buildings using new materials. This colorful, strange roadside attraction features life-sized statues and a staircase inspired by an ice cream cone. Trust is, it is definitely worth the visit.

Pacific Pinball Museum

Location: 1510 Webster Street, Alameda

Take your kids on a trip back in time to the golden era of your teenage years by visiting this roadside attraction in Northern California. The Pacific Pinball Museum is home to good old-fashioned video games, hand-painted murals, jukeboxes, and rotating exhibits. With over 90 playable pinball machines from the 1940s to the present-day, the youngsters will be in seventh heaven. This museum is truly a place where you can spend hours, if not the full day, and still leave craving more. And if you really want to take one home, you're in luck; many of the games are for sale. 

Step inside this cozy, unique home that was literally built inside a giant redwood tree.

One Log House

Location: 705 US-101, Garberville

The One Log House is one of the weird road trip stops you must experience. This tiny home with wheels was constructed from a 2,100-year-old redwood—which weighed four tones and took eight months to hollow out—and toured the United States before finding its permanent home in Garberville. Now, you can enter the home for merely $1 and step back in time to the 1940s. The log house features two beds, a dining table, old books, and photos. There is also a gift shop and the One Log Cafe, which serves BBQ sandwiches, grilled paninis, and delectable pastries.

Brigadoon Park

Location: Brigadoon Way, San Jose

Traveling with kids? Have a South Bay adventure and make a quick stop at Brigadoon Park to let them expend energy. The 5.5-acre park is known for its giant, concrete slides scaling the side of a large hill. Without a doubt, it's a favorite amongst kids and adults alike. Make sure to pack a picnic or bring your barbecue fixings for a lovely afternoon roadside stop.

Drive through the famous Chandelier Tree when road-tripping across Northern California.

Drive-Thru Tree Park

Location: 67402 Drive Thru Tree Road, Leggett

The Chandelier Tree in Drive-Thru Tree Park is a 276-foot-tall redwood with a six-foot-wide hole cut at its base. This hole allows cars to drive through and view the inner sections of the giant tree. There are at least three other similar trees located along the Redwood Highway.

Pygmy Forest 

Location: Van Damme State Park, Little River

If your bucket list of weird roadside attractions includes a forest full of 100-year-old trees less than a few feet tall, then the Pygmy Forest is a can't-miss stop. Tucked away in Van Damme State Park, this coastal gem spans 0.25 miles and showcases low, stunted trees and shrubs; they're able to survive—but not thrive—here due to the lack of nutrients in the soil. After strolling through the pygmy forest, continue on to the lush, fern-filled forest down the road. 

Experience the baffling, gravity-defying attractions of the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz.

The Mystery Spot

Location: 465 Mystery Spot Road, Santa Cruz

The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz is a strange roadside attraction and a well-known tourist stop in California. First opened in 1949 by George Prather, the Mystery Spot is a place where guests can actively take part in defying gravity; it's recognized as a "gravity house" because the area has the ability to make the laws of physics disappear—balls roll uphill and people can lean over, well past their toes, without falling.

Bird In Hand

Location: 320 Broadway Street, Chico

Bird in Hand is a must-see spot when exploring Chico. Since 1981, the small store and museum has served as an ideal place for family-friendly fun. Given the huge collection of books, games, clothes, puzzles, and toys here, you'll be able to pick out Christmas gifts for the entire family in no time. Bird in Hand is also home to the National Yo-Yo Museum, which displays a working, 256-pound wooden yo-yo.

Wave hello to Paul Bunyan and his loyal companion, Babe the Blue Ox, when wandering through the Trees of Mystery.

Trees Of Mystery

Location: 15500 US-101, Klamath

Trees of Mystery is one of the quirkiest roadside attractions in NorCal. This forest features awesome hiking trails through giant redwoods and unusual tree formations—think cathedral-like trees and lightning bolt-shaped trees. One of the most famous trails is the Trail of Tall Tales. where you'll be surrounded by 50 sculptures and carvings representing the famous logger Paul Bunyan. Glide through the forest canopy via the SkyTrail before enjoying a delectable meal at the Forest Cafe. 

The Westport Whale

Location: 37060 CA-1, Westport

The Westport Whale is the epitome of a weird roadside attraction—be prepared to see the construction of a huge whale sitting in an undersized pool outside of a house. The whale was originally created to act as a roadside attraction, and it's definitely served its purpose. The concrete sea creature spouts water every day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bring your camera to capture the magical moment every hour and snap a photo with the sculpture for the 'Gram.

Take a tour of the Winchester Mystery House and learn the ghostly story behind this bizarre mansion.

Winchester Mystery House

Location: 525 South Winchester Boulevard, San Jose

The Winchester Mystery House will intrigue horror enthusiasts and eccentric-architecture fans alike. Sarah Winchester, the widower of firearms magnate William Wirt Winchester, built this strange mansion without any intention of stopping. As the ghostly story goes, Sarah was haunted by her dead husband and the people who were killed by Winchester rifles; in an attempt to ward off the neverending ghouls in her house, she constantly had the mansion under construction and demanded workers create various oddities: There are doors that open to nowhere, staircases that lead to brick walls, glass windows built into the ceilings, and more. Book your tour to get into the mind of Sarah Winchester and discover this amazing maze of a mansion.

Head to Glass Beach to admire the colorful glass pebbles scattered along the shore.

Glass Beach

Location: Fort Bragg

Travel to Fort Bragg to view one of the most unique beaches in California. Don't worry, you won't find super-sharp shards of broken glasses scattered about a gorgeous beach—rather, you'll see beautiful sea glass. Glass Beach was initially a dumping ground where locals would dispose of glass bottles and containers, but Mother Nature worked her magic over the years; the constant pounding of the waves transformed the broken pieces of glass into smooth stones (sans the sharp edges) that are a spectacle to behold. 

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