A trip to Paris, for example, could include a stop at the City of Light’s Roman amphitheater. (Yes, a real amphitheater from Roman times. Kids enjoy using it for impromptu football games.) Or enjoy a sunny picnic at the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Looks nice now… but it was the city’s favorite site for offloading trash, including executions, for centuries. Find out more unusual stops in Paris when you read the ‘Lost Paris’ articles at the Culture and Stuff blog.
Good friends never forgot their trip to Austria, when they visited Hallstatt’s ‘Bone House,’ a building behind the local Catholic church that houses hundreds of painted skulls.
Catacombs are famous for housing bone collections similar to the Hallstatt version. Sometimes it’s done for veneration – a group of people who were together in life, and choose to go on doing so in death. (Monks are famous for this.) Sometimes it’s because of space – dig up the old bones, pile them in collections (decoratively, of course) and you’ve got more room!
Sometimes the bones are moved for more prosaic reasons – the city’s grown up around the area, and it’s wanted for a park. (I suspect that’s what happened in the case of the Buttes Chaumont.) Many open spaces, like Denver, CO’s Cheesman Park, started out as cemeteries; in fact, hundreds of bodies may still be there, due to careless retrieval.
Knowing your destination’s quirky spots and unusual gatherings gives it that extra flip of interest, especially if you’ve got kids along. (Teenagers just love weird stuff.) One good place to look is the Atlas Obscura, a compendium of all things odd and intriguing, arranged by state, region and country.
What About Florida?
Headed south? You could visit Florida’s Solomon’s Castle, a sprawling home in Ona; slug down rum at the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa; or admire the Volkswagen Graveyard in Dade City. (There’s also the Presidents Hall of Fame in Clermont, if you’re so inclined.)
Skiers in Vermont, on the other hand, might want walk through Emily’s Bridge in the Stowe area, a lovely covered bridge said to be haunted by the girl who hung herself there. Better yet, visit the Bread and Puppet Theatre in Glover; reflect a moment at the Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury; or hang out with the Flying Monkey Sculptures in Burlington. (While you’re there, you can also visit Ted Bundy’s birthplace nearby. Ew.)
Take a moment to research more about your vacation plans. Include the words “odd,” “off the beaten path” or “weird” in your search for interesting results. Not only will it give you travel ideas — you’ll get to anticipate your destination’s pleasures in advance. What fun!