10 of the World's Most Unusual Attractions

A tourist looking at a wall of gum

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Most tourist attractions are popular for obvious reasons. They are defined by superlatives — the biggest, oldest, most beautiful — or they benefit from heavy promotion by a city or country's tourism stakeholders. And then there are those attractions that have gained fame for less obvious reasons.

Some of these offbeat places are so odd or unusual that you can't help but want to see them. Social media has certainly helped their causes, but Facebook and Instagram aren't the only influencers. The popularity of many strange and unexpected attractions predates the rise of YouTube and Facebook when promotion consisted of word of mouth, physical guidebooks, and perhaps the occasional feature in a magazine or newspaper.

Here are 10 of the world's most-unexpected attractions.

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Nicolas Cage's Tomb

Photo: Nelo Hotsuma/Flickr

Star of both acclaimed films and box-office flops, Nicolas Cage is known for his eccentric behavior away from the screen. One of the more noticeable examples of his quirks is his tomb in New Orleans. Back in 2010, the year that he turned 50, Cage purchased two plots in the famed St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans. He used the space to build a white, 9-foot-tall pyramid. Cage fans might recognize the Latin phrase on the front of the structure: "Omnia Ab Uno" ("Everything from One"). The words were featured in his action movie, "National Treasure."

The grave was a popular attraction in the cemetery, which is one of the most crowded burial grounds in the city, until authorities restricted access to the area in 2015. If you don't have a family member interred in the cemetery, you need to join a guided tour to visit. Theories about the tomb abound: that Cage hid money from the IRS inside, that he is counteracting a voodoo curse, or that the grave is somehow connected to the Illuminati.

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Fremont Troll

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The Troll Under the Bridge, more popularly known as the Fremont Troll, is an intimidating-looking sculpture in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, under the Aurora Bridge. There have been numerous "troll sightings" under the bridge since the 1930s, when the span opened, and the artists who sculpted the monster in 1990 chose the subject after local residents overwhelmingly voted for it.

The troll is 15 feet tall and made from concrete. It is a popular spot for visitors who take selfies, and it gained notoriety among tourists after being featured in the 1999 movie, "10 Things I Hate about You." Seattle residents also like the troll. Some celebrate Trolloween on Oct. 31. During this event, people in troll-inspired costumes meet at the statue before walking through Fremont, past other art installations and street performances . Another reason the troll is attractive to tourists and locals is that you can climb on it. The concrete material is durable, and there is space behind the troll to scramble up for an elevated picture.

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Bude Tunnel

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The Bude Tunnel is in its namesake town in Cornwall, England. This acrylic glass tunnel is next to Bude's Sainsbury's supermarket. The 70-meter (229-foot) passage is transparent, so people can see the town as they walk along the street while protected from the elements. Its purpose is to keep customers dry as they walk between the supermarket entrance and its parking lot, so you would not expect it to be the main attraction in this pretty Cornish seaside destination.

However, when the Bude Tunnel was rated as Bude's No. 1 attraction on TripAdvisor, the U.K. media took notice, and the site earned a fair amount of viral attention. Perhaps the attraction is due to the length and transparency of the tunnel or its holiday lights show. During the holidays, the long corridor is lit with LED lights that change in rhythm with holiday music.

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Haserot Angel

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Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery is an historic site that has the tombs of some of America's most famous industrial-age figures as well as the grave of U.S. President James Garfield. One of the most-well-known figures here, however, is the Haserot Angel. It is a statue that marks the burial place of food industry mogul Francis Haserot. The dramatic, life-size bronze figure, created by artist Herman Matzen in 1923, is officially titled the Angel of Death Victorious. The angel is seated, and its hands rest on an extinguished torch.

The most unusual feature of this melancholy-but-thought-provoking statue is that it appears like it has "tears" running down its cheeks and onto its neck. The tears are not actually liquid; they are a discoloration caused by the aging of the bronze material that Matzen used to make the statue. The cemetery is open daily, though groups of more than 12 people need permission before entering.

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Seattle's Gum Wall

Photo: Diego Delso/Wikimedia Commons

The Gum Wall is in Post Alley, a lane under Seattle's Pike Place Market. The tradition of sticking gum on the wall here started in the 1990s when patrons of a local theater stuck their gum on the wall while waiting to get inside. At first, theater workers scrapped off the gum, but they gave up after people persisted with the practice. Eventually, the colorful additions stretched up and down the alley. Pike Place Market officials even started calling the strange decorations a tourist attraction, and Washington's governor, Jay Inslee, once said the spot was one of his "favorite things about Seattle."

City officials scrapped the wall and steam-cleaned it in 2015 because they were concerned about the gum eroding the old brick structure. During the cleaning, they removed more than 2,000 pounds of gum. Almost immediately after they finished, people began adding new gum.

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Island of the Dolls

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Isla de las Munecas, the Island of the Dolls, seems like it should be in a hidden, remote location. It is actually in the Mexico City metro area, not far from the famous Estadio Azteca soccer stadium. This unusual, undeniably-spooky place is defined by hundreds of dolls. The dolls (many of which have been disfigured by weathering) hang from the trees around the island, which is within a labyrinthine network of canals in the Xochimilco district. The property, now run by the family of the original owner, is a major tourist attraction for people who cruise the canals.

The story of Isla de las Munecas is disturbing or tragic depending on your viewpoint. When a man named Don Julian Santana Barrera moved to the island to live as a hermit, he found a girl who had recently drowned in a nearby canal. Barrera felt haunted by the experience and began hanging scavenged dolls in the trees as a kind of memorial meant to appease the drowning victim's spirit. Barrera lived on the island for 50 years, collecting and hanging dolls the whole time. When he passed away (some say he drowned in the same spot as the girl he discovered 50 years earlier), members of his family opened the island as a tourist attraction.

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Hell, Michigan

Photo: Danielle Walquist Lynch/Flickr

Hell, Michigan, has embraced its strange name and the attention that has come along with it. The town's official website has clever catchphrases such as, "More people tell you to go to our town than anywhere else on Earth." A large number of tourists descended on the southern Michigan village on June 6, 2006 (6-6-06), the date that reminded many of the biblical "sign of the beast." Others come when they are in the area, not far from Ann Arbor, so that they can say that they have been to Hell.

Actually, the name "Hell" may not refer to the place of eternal damnation. Some theories about the origin of Hell, Michigan, contend that early German settlers in the area described it as "hell," which means "bright" or "light" in German. ("Hell" in German is "Hölle.") Others say that the name refers to the English word "hell" because early residents had to contend with extensive wetlands, numerous mosquitoes and generally harsh conditions. The name is now embraced for tourism purposes, but the U.S. Post Office uses the name of neighboring Pinckney for addresses.

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Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks

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The Hin Ta and Hin Yai rocks are on the popular Lamai Beach on Samui Island, Thailand. If you did not know what you were looking for, chances are you would miss these rocks, which are located amidst other formations on the shoreline. The names of these two particular formations, which translate from Thai as "Grandpa Grandma rocks," come from the fact that they resemble, somewhat vaguely, male and female sex organs.

This might seem like a good site for a chuckle, but it is actually one of the most popular places on Samui, which is one of Thailand's most popular island destinations. The popularity might have more to do with the central location of the beach and the great views of the sea and neighboring islands from the area near Hin Ta and Hin Yai. Locals have embraced the interest, even placing a board explaining the legend of how the rocks came to be known by their names. According to the story, an old man and his wife were traveling to a neighboring island to finalize marriage plans for their son when they drowned after their boat capsized. They were swept to the shore, where they turned into rocks. The over-sized genitalia was supposedly a sign to tell their families to go ahead with the wedding.

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World's Largest Catsup Bottle

Photo: Andrew Keith/Wikimedia Commons

The World's Largest Catsup Bottle, in Collinsville, Illinois, does not actually contain ketchup (or catsup). It was built to provide water for a nearby ketchup plant in the late 1940s. The water tower eventually became a landmark in this southern Illinois town. Actually, it became so well-known among locals that when the company that owned the factory decided to sell the tower, a group of people came together to save it. They were even able to raise money for renovations and a fresh paint job.

In 2002, the tower earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Collinsville is along historic Route 66, so the bottle is a landmark for people taking that road trip. The tower even has its own fan club and annual festival, which takes place in June. (Ketchup bottles are hardly the only culinary-related roadside attraction. From doughnuts to bananas, apples to hot dogs, buildings that look like food can be found all over the country.)

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Fairy Glen

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Fairy Glen is on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. This fairy tale-like landscape is above a small village called Uig. The area consists of gentle green hills with round tops that rise up in between small ponds. There is even a rock formation on the top of one of the hills that resembles the ruins of a castle, though it is actually just a rock formation. Some visitors think that if you press coins into the rocks in a small cave near the castle, you will enjoy good luck in the future.

The odd thing about this site is that it has absolutely no connections whatsoever to fairies or fairy legends. Though the Isle of Skye has some legends involving fairies, none are related to this particular place. Tourists simply decided that this area was "Fairy Glen" and the idea took off. Tour guides have apparently added stories about various rituals involving making spiral shapes with rocks and placing coins in the middle (also for good luck). Again, these rituals have no connection to traditional legends (and locals frown on the practice and remove the rock spirals).