By Marianne Schwab | Best Travel Deals Tips Blog



Arizona's Weirdest
Roadside Attraction - The Thing


Arizona's Weirdest Roadside Attraction is advertised for miles along Interstate-10. You'll see billboard after billboard with just two words, "The Thing?" and a Dairy Queen logo plus the exit number...Exit 312.





But what is "The Thing?" My sister, Trina, and I were on a road trip from Albuquerque to Tucson just after Thanksgiving. This is a drive that my sister does frequently and she told me about "The Thing." She's seen the signs for this Arizona roadside attraction, but has never actually stopped to see what the mystery of "The Thing" is.

Was it a crazed, caged creature? Was it like the Blob in the 1950's Thriller? The intrigue was intense and we decided that on this trip, and armed with my digital camera, that we would document whatever "The Thing" was that lived in the Arizona desert at the Johnson Road exit -- and get a chocolate soda at the Dairy Queen.


We entered the exhibit through a souvenir gift shop after paying the modest admission of just one dollar to see "The Thing." Kids under six can actually see it for free. Needless to say, this is one local attraction that will not blow your travel budget.

After we entered through the gift shop, we followed the bright yellow foot prints painted on the pavement out of the main building and along a long walkway.

The foot prints led us into a small building with nothing in it and then back out to another walkway as the hot Arizona sun beat down on our most unusual trek in search of the elusive "Thing."

At this point it was clear, whatever the "The Thing" was, it must need to be kept away from the people and I started to wonder if it was dangerous or even some sad sideshow freak.

The mystery continued as we stayed the course and followed more of the yellow foot prints painted on the ground like Daphne and Shaggy following clues in a Saturday morning Scooby-Doo mystery.

Soon, the mystery was solved and intrigue was over. We discovered what "The Thing" was once and for all. It wasn't a creepy creature. It wasn't a sideshow freak. It wasn't even dangerous.

You see "The Thing" is an eclectic museum in the middle of the Arizona desert masquerading as a roadside attraction.


Trina and I could not believe the collection of "The Thing" throughout the ages of the history. So "The Thing" is a collection of all sorts of items and inventions that changed every day life because it was "The Thing" for its day and time.


In 1849, covered wagons were "The Thing" and the only way to get cross country. Covered wagons like this one provided both shelter and transportation for our forefathers who traveled 3000 miles through uncharted wilderness to settle the west. Current models are called, "campers."


In 1860, this fringed-top surrey as "The Thing" when it came to transportation. The surrey you see here (above) was fashioned entirely by hand and was built by Robert Smithfield around 1860. This was used in President Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural parade. Who would think that you'd find this historic relic in the Arizona desert instead of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.


In 1932, this antique car was really "The Thing" for transportation when the Buick was quite popular in America.


"The Thing" museum was full of amazing surprises and artifacts of history. Perhaps this 1937 Rolls Royce was the most surprising of all since this antique car was believed to have been used by Adolph Hitler. "The Thing" is, it can't be proved.


"The Thing" museum was not just loaded with antique transportation vehicles since it had lots of "things" that revolutionized every day life...from phonographs, books, wine presses, and more. This mummy was on display although there was not information about why it was there. It was perhaps the only creepy creature at "The Thing," but certainly not dangerous.

I'm glad Trina and I stopped to unravel the mystery of "The Thing." Although you now know the answer to the mysterious billboards, the examples here are just a few of the hundreds we discovered at one of Arizona's weirdest roadside attractions. You should definitely stop at Exit 312 and see "The Thing." It'll be the most bang you'll get for your buck anywhere.





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