When it comes to the weird and strange, the U.S. does it better than most. With over 2,680 miles from coast to coast, there’s a lot of space for small towns to develop a few… eccentricities. From alleged UFO sightings to strange art installations, anything goes in America’s wild countryside. Put on your tinfoil hat for protection and let’s dive into the strangest towns in the U.S.
Roswell, New Mexico
Fancy coming face-to-face with an extraterrestrial? Roswell, New Mexico’s claim to fame is a mysterious UFO crash that allegedly occurred here in 1947. Known as the “Roswell Incident,” locals claimed that the debris found near the crash site was from a flying saucer and that the U.S. government covered it up. Although this myth has largely been debunked, there are still frequent sightings of unexplained flying objects in the night sky near the town, drawing UFO enthusiasts to visit each year.
Roswell’s location in the middle of the New Mexico desert means that visitors can enjoy not only UFO watch towers and the International UFO Museum but also scenic wilderness areas. Fanatics can attend the annual UFO Festival held every year on the Fourth of July. Get your picture with the famous welcome sign to prove to skeptical friends that you really did visit the “Alien Capital of the World.”
Monowi, Nebraska, population one, might be the strangest little town this side of the Mississippi. Elsie Eiler, the town’s only resident since the passing of her late husband, Rudy, is the librarian, mayor, treasurer, clerk, and of course, the sole bartender. This is the only incorporated town in the U.S. that only has one resident and the town’s infrastructure reflects this. There are only two public buildings in Monowi — the Monowi Tavern, owned and operated by Elsie herself, and Rudy’s Library, a personal collection of 5,000 books and magazines. You can still check them out on the honor system.
When you drive into Monowi there isn’t a post office, school, or police station. Even stop signs seem pretty pointless in a town with only one local. The only movement is the wind blowing through the prairie grasses and Elsie manning her station in the Monowi Tavern’s kitchen or bar. Monowi wasn’t always so desolate though. In fact, it was once a bustling town on the Elkhorn Railroad in the 1930’s when 150 people called this pipsqueak city home.
Have you ever been to a town where everyone lived under one roof? Almost all of Whittier, Alaska’s 200 residents call the same building home. Instead of log cabins, a fourteen-story high rise known as The Begich building is where most residents live. If that isn’t unusual enough, there’s only one way in and one way out of Whittier, Alaska unless you're willing to travel by boat. A 13,300 foot long, one-way, combined rail and highway tunnel is your only means of transportation to this remote town.
Despite Whittier’s strange quirks the city is surrounded by stunning Alaskan scenery. Tucked away on the Prince William Sound on the northeast shore of the Kenai Peninsula, Whittier’s natural beauty is literally at your doorstep with waterfalls, glaciers, and wildlife galore.
Casey, Illinois is a tiny town that packs a big punch. Twelve of the world’s largest things call Casey home including a 55-foot tall wind chime and a 56.5-foot tall giant rocking chair. But the town’s penchant for the gargantuan doesn’t stop there, they also have a collection of over 20 “Big Things” like a cob of corn, crochet hook, and, of course, a taco. While the town itself is rather small with only 2,000 residents, thousands of visitors pour in to see the largest things every year.
Most of the world’s largest things are centered around the town's only stop sign but some are spread out a bit further afield. The Golf Tee for instance is at a nearby golf course. Casey’s dedication to the big and bold was the grand scheme of local Jim Bolin, who wanted to give back to his hometown. He constructed most of the world’s largest things with recycled materials like telephone poles with the help of his employees. Located between Indianapolis, Indiana, and Saint Louis, Missouri, all the attractions are free to visit making it an incredible stop on an iconic American road trip.
Hidden within plain sight in Yavapai County, Arizona, is an alternative architect's paradise located only an hour north of Phoenix. With a population of about eighty people that fluctuates throughout the year, Arcosanti doesn’t want to be known as an art community or a hippie commune. The town has dedicated itself to architect Paolo Soleri’s nirvana, a blend of architecture and ecology he dubbed arcology.
Although the city was originally meant to house up to 5,000 residents, there are no roads in Arcosanti and it’s thought that only 5% of the original architectural plans were achieved. Over 50,000 visitors come from far and wide every year to witness the Arcosanti community’s unique architectural presence and community living ideals. The town’s distinctive architecture and preference for using as few resources as possible while maintaining direct access to the natural environment are two of its main ethical pillars. Some 7,000 volunteers have devoted their time and resources to developing this unique community since its construction began in 1970.
Slab City, California
Featured in the movie Into the Wild, Slab City is an enigma in California’s Sonoran Desert. A true testament to the wild, wild West, The Slabs enjoy the “peace and love” mentality of the hippie communes of old while also maintaining a bit of an unfortunate reputation at times. Free spirits and vagabonds have been finding refuge in this alternative collective since the original military base was removed following WWII. While it may be tempting, it’s probably best to stick to pursuing the funky art installations rather than roaming about the settlement itself.
While Slab City might be unsavory to some, to others it is an ever-evolving work of art and humanity where the convergence of the two is celebrated. Salvation Mountain, the whimsical art installation that made Slab City famous, was created over 30 years by local Leonard Knight who hoped to spread the message of “God is love.” to passersby and tourists alike. Stop in to witness his menagerie of fantastical colors and sculptures created out of adobe clay and gifted paint.