5 Small Towns with Big Roadside Attractions in Oregon and Washington
Whether it’s an eccentric world record or abnormally large version of something that should be small, roadside attractions give distinctive character to the towns they draw your eye to. But these small towns have much more than just a memorable photo-op. If you want to take a unique trip along the westernmost region of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, here are five small towns with big roadside attractions in Oregon and Washington. The list begins at the mouth of the Columbia River on the Pacific Coast and follows the LCNHT through Eastern Washington.
1. Long Beach, Washington
Long Beach is the modern-day town occupying the northernmost reach of Lewis and Calrk’s exploration of the Pacific Coast. Visitors can trace Lewis and Clark’s path by hiking or biking the North Head Discovery Trail. Along the trail is a sculpture commemorating the tree that Clark carved his name into at the end of his trek.
Roadside Attraction: World’s Largest Frying Pan
If you are looking to see some record-setting roadside attractions in Oregon and Washington, Long Beach is the town for you. On the corner of 5th Street and Pacific Avenue, Long Beach has the World’s Largest Frying Pan, the World’s Largest Spitting Clam, and the World’s Largest Chopsticks. Both the Pan and the Clam have roots in the annual Long Beach Razor Clam Festival. The 14-foot-tall pan is from the original festival in 1941, while the 5-foot-tall clam was updated in 2014 so that it spits out water on the hour, or on demand for one quarter.
What is there to do in Long Beach?
- Marsh’s Free Museum: This museum has been displaying a collection of oddities since 1921. After looking through antiques and playing in the vintage arcade, don’t forget to buy some postcards and stickers of Jake the Alligator Man, Marsh’s nightmarish yet enamoring cult figure.
- Go Horseback Riding on the Beach: Trotting down the sandy coast might just be the most memorable way to see the World’s Longest Peninsular Beach. The Long Beach Horse Rides and West Coast Horse Rides offer horse rentals and guided rides for all ages.
- World Kite Museum: With more than 1500 kites from 26 countries, this museum details the beautiful and unusual uses for kites throughout history. Admission includes an opportunity to make your own kite, which you can fly on the windy peninsula beaches.
For a full Long Beach Peninsula itinerary, see our Long Beach and Southwest Washington State guide.
2. Scappoose, Oregon
Sitting across from Sauvie Island Wildlife Area on the wetlands of the Columbia River, Scappoose is known as a prominent birding location. Before the town became a nineteenth-century fur trade hub, the land was home to the Chinookan people, including Chief Kiesno–the most well-known Indigenous leader in the region.
Roadside Attraction: Peace Candle of the World
As The Weather Channel’s 2015 Oregon Pick for “Most Incredible Roadside Attraction in Every State,” the Peace Candle of the World is the signpost of Scappoose. Darrell Brock, owner of Western Candle Ltd., began constructing the 50-foot candle in 1969 using an old silo. In 1971, Brock and Oregon Governor Tom McCail lit the candle with a 6-foot match and celebrated the lighting as a symbol of the town’s desire for world peace. While the original candle had a natural gas flame on the inside and 45,000 pounds of wax on the outside, the current candle has a more durable coating and an electric flame that shines brightly on Highway 30.
What is there to do in Scappoose?
- Historical Walking Tour: This self-guided walking tour takes you to 11 of Scappoose’s most interesting sites, including the 1902 Watts House Pioneer Museum. Each site has its own informational YouTube video that you can use to turn your stroll into an audio and video tour!
- West Coast Shoe Company: As one of the town’s largest businesses for over 100 years, West Coast is a true Scappoose staple. Get custom-made boots or take a free private tour to see why these hand-made shoes have been a favorite of motorcyclists and foresters for the last century.
- Crown Zellerbach Trail: Once a logging road between Scappoose and Vernona, this 21-mile trail is a scenic place to hike, bike, or horseback-ride. Starting at Trtek Trailhead in the north of town, you can also take a short 1.3-mile trip to Chapman Landing Trailhead for views of snow capped mountains.
3. Umatilla, Oregon
Umatilla occupies the peninsula between the Umatilla and Columbia Rivers. In the 1960s, the entirety of this town was either purposely destroyed or moved south, to its current location, because of a predicted flood that never occurred. The land of the original “Old Town” is a designated National Historic Place, as archeological digs have confirmed it is the largest prehistoric site in Oregon.
Roadside Attraction: Giant John Wayne
This Giant John Wayne hovers over the Columbia Harvest Foods parking lot off of U.S. 730. The flat metal figure has been in Umatilla since 1954, and has moved throughout the town as the location of the grocery store has changed. Thus, the figure is an Umatilla essential, well-known and loved by residents for generations.
What is there to do in Umatilla?
- Annual Umatilla Landing Days: Umatilla annually celebrates being the longest standing community in Eastern Oregon. This two-day summer festival includes a parade, fireworks, food and craft vendors, and other family fun activities.
- Umatilla Marina and RV Park: Whether you want to take a lunch break at one of the picnic tables, spend a day catching trout in the Columbia River, or camp overnight, this park has it all.
- McNary Wildlife Nature Area: This 15,000 acre stretch along the Columbia River is a great spot to fish, photograph wildlife, or simply enjoy a tranquil walk. McNary is suitable for any kind of hiker, with trails of varying difficulties winding around its several streams, ponds, and islands.
4. Dayton, Washington
Dayton is another record-holding town along the LCNHT, with Washington’s oldest train depot and its oldest continuously-used courthouse. The city preserves and restores nineteenth-century structures all along Main Street, earning this area of town status as a National Historic District.
Roadside Attraction: Hillside Jolly Green Giant
At 300 feet tall, Dayton’s Jolly Green Giant is one of the largest roadside attractions in Oregon and Washington. Employees of the Green Giant vegetable company planted the original Giant in the 1970s using colored grass. In 1993, the company used colored paving blocks to create a new Giant half a mile east of the original in order to ensure its visibility year round. Today, there is a smaller 5-foot version of the mascot with panels detailing this history at a roadside pull-off. It’s the perfect place for a photo-op hugging the mascot, with the football-field-sized Giant on the hill in the background.
What is there to do in Dayton?
- Boldman House Museum: Built in 1880, this house remained in the Boldman family until 1999, when Miss Gladys Boldman donated it to the Dayton Historical Depot Society. Between February and December, you can tour the historic house and enjoy the garden during daylight hours.
For more sites, events, and activities in this unique town, read our complete Dayton guide.
5. Pomeroy, Washington
Last on our list of small towns with big roadside attractions in Oregon and Washington is Pomeroy. Located between Clarkston and the Tri-Cities on U.S. 12, Pomeroy is a convenient stop for travelers on a LCNHT road trip. With historic roads built by convicted bootleggers and a stretch of 10 streets designated as a National Historic District, this town has centuries of stories for you to explore.
Roadside Attraction: Rainbow Guy and Uniroyal Gal
At the east end of Pomeroy on the south side of U.S. 12 stands a 22-foot tall hippie couple. The tall cowboy has a soul patch and rainbow t-shirt to match the “Rainbow Gasoline” station he towers in front of–be aware that the vintage station no longer sells gas! Rainbow Man stands next to an equally tall blonde woman. The two giants are part of a family of fiberglass “muffler men” scattered throughout the United States. The figures were only manufactured between 1962 and 1976, so the Pomeroy pair hold a special place in fiberglass sculpting history!
Bonus: From the center of Pomeroy, drive around 5 miles east on U.S. 12 and you will find a pit stop with informational panels detailing the Corps of Discovery’s path in relation to the modern road. Along the way, you’ll find some large creatures sculpted out of metal, including a dinosaur and a landshark.
What is there to do in Pomeroy?
- Garfield County Museum: Operating since 1977, the museum is filled with antiques donated directly from the people of Garfield County. One popular rotating exhibit is the quilt display, set up to look like a Victorian era bedroom. Continue exploring the county’s history by taking a short walk over to the 100 year old county courthouse, which is free for visitors when not in session.
- Eastern Washington Agricultural Museum: Housed in two red barns, the Agricultural Museum displays the nineteenth- and twentieth-century farming equipment that ultimately supported the town’s economy. While you’re there, catch one of the demonstrations of the old machinery with real work horses!
- Pataha Flour Mills: Another way to learn about the town’s agricultural history is by visiting one of the oldest remaining fully intact mills. Explore four stories of antique machinery and even grab a bite to eat at the main floor restaurant. You’ll really feel the small-town charm, as the entire experience is donation-based.
Why you should visit small towns with big roadside attractions
If you’re road tripping through northwestern America, you will likely see many long roads and green forests. Quirky roadside attractions can add some excitement to your travel days, and help you discover a few of America’s hidden gems along the way.