Roadside Attractions: Caves, Crypt Of Curiosities, Shoe House, Lotus Temple, & A Giant Strawberry
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed my Friday adventures. Joe and I are both really into roadside attractions, unusual nonsense, abandoned structures, spooky stuff, urban myths, etc. so we’ve been scheduling an entire day every week for exploring all different types of things in Maryland and the surrounding states. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the places we’ve been visiting, so I’ve decided that every month I’m going to do a round-up of five more roadside-y attractions we’ve explored, and then a separate one for urban myths/spooky stuff.
My goal is for you to get to vicariously get to explore the areas, too, and if you’re able to visit to have some insight into what you can expect (and maybe some insider’s tips). Let me know if you have any questions or if there’s any way I can make this better/easier for you. And don’t forget there are Highlight reels on my Instagram for you to check out whenever that I’m always adding to!
1. Indian Echo Caverns
This has been one of my favorite discoveries so far. I was really wanting to go to a cave, but Luray Caverns is a really long drive, so this was such a wonderful find/alternative! The caves themselves are made of limestone, and are very different than something like Luray Caverns, but as you can see in the picture below, you do get the stalactites hanging from the cave ceiling. There are seriously beautiful areas to see inside, including this Crystal Lake area and extremely old graffiti from old explorers.
Your ticket for a tour comes with an expert guide and the tour lasts around 45 minutes. There’s some water on the ground, so I recommend athletic shoes (and they don’t allow backpacks, probably for balance). You can take as many photos/video as you’d like, and you can use the flash, but you’re not supposed to touch the walls.
Fair warning: In order to get down to the caverns, you have to walk down a lot of stairs, and then you have to walk back up them to get back to your car. So if that’s a limitation for you, be aware of that before you go. There are places to take breaks and sit on benches, etc. but it’s quite a walk.
The cavern tour isn’t all there is to do here, though! There are alpacas, goats, peacocks, chickens, and other fowl to check out and feed. They are super cute and you can easily spend a ton of time watching and petting them.
There’s a pretty stellar gift shop where you can purchase gemstones, interesting relic replications from things you learned about in the cave, and other kitschy/touristy stuff. But one of the coolest purchases you can make is a bag of your choice (gemstones, fossils, or “treasure”) which is full of said thing mixed with a bunch of dirt. You go out to the Gem Mill Junction, get a sifter, and the water mill pumps water through the trough as you pour your bag into the sifter to reveal your gems, fossils, treasures, etc. Check out my awesome haul!
There are a bunch of cute things to take photos of, a playground, and even an robotic train to take a ride on. We spent quite a long time at Indian Echo Caverns, and I absolutely thing it was worth the drive/would recommend it to anyone looking for a day trip.
- Location: 368 Middletown Road, Hummelstown, PA 17036
- Distance from Baltimore: 1 hour, 50 minutes
- Indian Echo Caverns Website
- Atlas Obscura Entry
- Roadside America Entry
- Visitor Info: Open 10-4, Tickets are $18.50 (discounts for children and seniors), Free parking
2. Giant Strawberry
This is probably the most “roadside-y” attraction out of the bunch that I’ll share in today’s round-up. An actual side-of-the road, absurdly big strawberry. That’s all we were expecting to find, though, and we were pleasantly, surprisingly met with a quaint Amish Market and BBQ stand with outdoor seating called “Grumpy’s”! The strawberry is also pretty awesome on its own, and if you’re driving on Route 50, you kind of have to stop. It’s awesome.
FYI – The address listed on the Roadside America entry isn’t super exact on the GPS. You want to drive a little further than it tells you. But it’s on the Westbound side of 50, 1 mile south of 404. Honestly, if you go 2 miles in either direction of 404 you’ll find it. It’s huge, you can’t miss it.
They also have all these giant plastic eggs they painted to look like watermelons for their roadside display, which is adorable. (We saw the backroom of how they make the watermelons, which was so weird looking!)
Since it’s Autumn now, they also had a huge pumpkin display outside the market, which was really nice to see because when we went it wasn’t even the Autumn Equinox yet!
Inside the Amish Market you’ll find a ton of yummy snacks, specific drinks, and carefully handmade and packaged items for you to purchase. Check out this wall of rainbow powdered gelatin! It just looks so cool.
Also of note, there are people inside who are super ready to help you find what you need and there are port-a-potties around the corner for you to use if you’re mid-road trip (and if you’re on 50, you probably are)!
- Location: 13685 Ocean Gateway/Route 50, Wye Mills, MD 21679
- Distance from Baltimore: 1 hour, 5 minutes
- Mill Creek Farms Yelp Page
- Roadside America Entry
- Visitor Info: Since the BBQ place is outside and a lot of this is produce based, I can’t be sure that the actual market is in business year-round, but I’m sure the strawberry itself will be waiting for you no matter when you decide to go
3. Crypt Of Curiosities
This is literally down the street from my house, and I have no idea how I didn’t know it existed until this summer! So first of all, it’s located in the back of an already amazing store called Protean Books. They sell an amazing assortment of books, records, DVDs, CDs, etc. Oh and toys! They have a whole witch section, babes. Seriously. But then you go to the back and you see this threshold, I mean come ON.
You walk in and there’s so much to look at in what is actually a pretty small room. It’s just jam-packed with awesomeness. Everything is labeled with these urban myth stories. Hmmm. Maybe I should have saved this for the Urban Myth Round-Up. Oh well, you get it now! Mwahahha. Anyway, just check out these pictures. They kind of speak for themselves, and I don’t want to give too much of the experience away because you really should just go and check it out.
You are allowed to take pictures back there, but beware that you’re on video surveillance! Don’t worry, though. The guy who runs the place is great. This would make a great date for Halloween-time!
- Location: 836 Leadenhall Street, Baltimore, MD 21230
- Distance from Baltimore: In Baltimore
- Protean Books Facebook
- Atlas Obscura Entry
- Visitor Info: Free entry; Open 10-8
4. Shoe House
This is a super kitschy attraction with a lot of history! This used to be a hotel and it’s way bigger inside than it appears. It’s free to just come up to the house and look around it/take pictures. You can find some cute things on the property I shared pictures of below, like the old time-y car (that used to be the original owner’s), and the dog shoe house! But if you want to actually tour the house it’s $5 a person, which is actually really cheap.
The people who currently own it are really sweet people (also super emphatic about Halloween, ask to see their past costumes!). And they also run an ice cream business inside the shoe house downstairs. You can also buy shoevenirs (possibly the best pun ever) and learn about the history of the house. It’s even on Shoe House Road! How cool is that.
- Location: 197 Shoe House Road, York, PA 17406
- Distance from Baltimore: 1 hour, 15 minutes
- The Haines Shoe House Website
- Atlas Obscura Entry
- Roadside America Entry
- Visitor Info: Open Friday-Sunday most of the year, Wednesday-Sunday in summer from 11-5; Tours are $5/person
5. LOTUS Temple
This is something that I’ve always wanted to visit, but due to how far away it is I never made the trip (just shy of four hours from Baltimore) out there. But we had a chance to go to a friend’s lake house this summer, and this was basically on the way, so we had to go! Actually, we technically went twice because the hours on the website are kind of confusing because they close in the middle of the day for a few hours so we pulled up to the temple as they were closing for break and were turned away and had to come back on our way home. I can’t stress knowing the hours before you make this journey enough.
It’s basically a giant commune, and as you make your way down the main road you will suddenly be greeted with this giant entryway. Go through it and follow the signs (that might seem counter-intuitive) to drive through the woods all the way to the temple. Park, get out, and go to the gift shop on the right hand side. You need to check in with the person working. They will tell you the history of the LOTUS Temple, and let you know if what you’re wearing is appropriate, remind you of the rules of the temple, give you a map of the rest of the grounds, etc.
LOTUS stands for Light Of Truth Universal Shrine, and is actually shaped like a pink lotus flower. It was created by Swami Satchidananda. He believed in supporting all religions and beliefs and wanted to celebrate them all and create peace among them, because he believed we were all worshiping the same thing just in different ways and didn’t want to see the world destroy itself in the name of religion any further. His goal was to reach out to leaders of the major world religions and get quotes and symbols of their ways of worship that he could present in a museum-like fashion inside his temple, proving how similar we all are. The results are pretty damning. (Below is him talking at Woodstock in ’69; look how happy he is.)
This is the inside of the temple on the ground floor. Inside each of these cases is a shrine to a different religion, with important symbols of their worship (i.e. a Bible for Christianity, a Menorah for Judaism, etc.), as well as quotes from leaders of those religions. It’s pretty crazy how similar the quotes are and how everyone really just wants everyone to be happy, to find peace, and to connect to something greater than themselves.
Upstairs is incredible. Check out that ceiling! There’s also a balcony to look off of. And around the perimeter are even more quotes from various religions. People come here to meditate often.
If you’re in the parking lot and you turn around, this is the view. These stairs lead all the way up to where Swami’s burial shrine is. We decided not to walk up and down four million stairs, so we drove up to check it out.
This is the view from his shrine down to where we started. How beautiful is that? The lake you see was created when they dug out the dirt to create the temple.
- Location: 1 Unity Place, Buckingham, VA 23921
- Distance from Baltimore: 3 hours 45 minutes
- LOTUS Website
- Atlas Obsurca Entry
- Roadside America Entry
- Visitor Info: Very specific hours that change month to month and there are mid-day closures, please check website before going; If you wear a short skirt or “revealing” clothing you will be asked to wear a piece of fabric to cover up; No shoes allowed in the temple; Free admission to the temple, but you have to check in at the gift shop and listen to the history before you’re allowed in
So which one of this round-up is your favorite? I can’t wait to share more of my adventures with you. Stay tuned for urban myths, up next!